What if this is God? { guest post & GIVE*AWAY }

A door opened in my work that, while wonderful and exciting, would be way over my head to accomplish. Without even a single prayer, I headed to my office to write the email. Fearful to how hard the task would be, I didn’t have the kind of confidence it would take to say yes.

Then I stopped. What if this was God? Would God ask me to do something that was beyond my normal strength?

Yes, that did sound like it could in fact be a plan He would create. He would plan to put me in a place beyond my ability, so He could be fully seen.

There was a group of women in the Bible who also had every reason to also be fearful, yet they found the confidence they needed to make their move.

In Numbers 26, The Promise Land is being divided up among the sons of the tribes of Israel. This where we meet the daughters of Zelophehad (or the daughters of Z as I call them). Their story begins with their problem. Tradition dictated that only men were land owners. During the passage to Canaan, their father had died … with no sons. This would mean when the five daughters entered the Promise Land there would be no promise land awaiting them.

If they didn’t do something, they would be homeless.

They had a choice: listen to the voices of their culture’s tradition, the voices possibly whispering in their own minds or make their move.

In Genesis 17:8 God had said to Abraham, the daughters’ ancient grandfather, “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you.” I believe the Daughters of Z knew this promise; the land was for all of Abraham’s descendants, even his granddaughters.

Confidently, they made their move. 

They “… approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said, “…Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” Numbers 27: 2 & 4

Look at these gals!

Did they shrink back because that is “just the way it was”? Hiding behind their problem, this rejection? Allow it to paralyze them?

No. They were bold and confident.

The daughters of Z claimed what was theirs’s because they knew who they were and whose they were. They didn’t allow their confidence to be in doubt because of who others said they were.

What have you faced, what are you facing, that is blocking the way of you being a more confident you? Standing in the way of you making your move?

Maybe like the daughters of Z, it has been what you haven’t had. You’ve felt that in order to be confident, you needed more. You see others experience the success you want, but you don’t have the self-worth it takes to step out, take a risk. Daily, you compare yourself to her. You know who she is. The one you wish you had her life: her job, her family, her husband, her body. No wonder she’s confident. I would be too if I had what she’s got. If I just had more.

I get that. I, too, have faced situations where I felt I needed more; more education, more connections, more creativity, more opportunities, more favor.

Perhaps you have felt confident in the past, but it just doesn’t seem possible any more. Your someone is gone, your someplace you no longer are or your something you no longer have … and you no longer have your confidence.

But you want it! You want to be brave, bold and go after the desires in your heart.

The daughters of Z knew what belonged to them as granddaughters of Abraham and daughters of God. This knowing gave them the confidence they needed to do what they needed to do.

I’m discovering, as I learn of and believe what God says about me, confidence comes!

My thinking is switching from what I think about me and my circumstances to what He says. Putting down confidence-crushing thoughts allows us to pick up Christ’s Confidence.

  • He says He is my confidence.” for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:26 (ESV)
  • He says I am blessed when my confidence is in Him. ““But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)

These are messages we have to tell our heart: His truth.

Today’s our day to get the confidence we desire – Christ Confidence.

We can choose not to build our confidence on someone, someplace or something – things that we can lose or have taken from us. Unshakable confidence is built upon our unshakeable God! We can choose to dig into God’s word for ourselves and discover His promises. We can stand on those promises, becoming wise and confident women like the Daughters of Z!

ENTER TO WIN LYNN’s GIVE-AWAY
Has there been a time when your confidence was shaken? Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Lynn’s Make Your Move Bible study book and DVD bundle. (Due to high shipping costs, we can only consider U.S. entries.)

In Make Your Move, Lynn Cowell explores how confidence-in-question keeps us from boldly experiencing what God intends for our lives. Learn more about her new Bible study and download 10 Verses to Build Your Confidence here. 

My friend Lynn Cowell is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and the author of several books, written for women of all ages. Her new Bible Study Make Your Move: Finding Unshakeable Confidence Despite Your Fears and Failures for women empowers us to find our confidence in Christ. Lynn calls North Carolina home, where she and her husband Greg, and the occasional backyard deer, are adjusting to life as empty nesters. Along with their three adult children, Lynn and Greg love hiking, rafting and anything combining chocolate and peanut butter. You can connect with her on Facebook at Lynn Cowell.

When Concern Consumes Me

 

As we drove home from a weekend away in the mountains, I felt a heavy sense of dread and sadness. Laying my head back on my seat, I told my husband, JJ, “I don’t want to go home.”

The stress and strain of countless commitments at home and at work were taking a toll on me. If only I could return to that little mountain town where no one knew me or needed me. 

J.J. asked some clarifying questions, and then suggested I make a list of everything on my plate so I could ask God what needed to be cut back. At first I resented the fact that he had just added one more thing “to do” on my already-overwhelming-list of things I’d never get done. But I knew he was right.

Later that week I wrote out all my commitments and concerns, along with a list of deadlines and dates on my calendar, including every appointment, event, conference-call, and meeting I could think of for the next six months.

And I prayed: Please, God, show me where I need to make changes.

I assumed the Holy Spirit would suggest big adjustments in my schedule, but that’s not what happened. God didn’t tell me to make cutbacks at work or in ministry. He didn’t show me our family had too many activities. He didn’t challenge me to take a sabbatical, although I was hoping He would.

Jesus showed me it was worry, not my workload, that was making me weary.

During the weeks leading up to my “meltdown,” I let my thoughts dwell on the possible negative outcome of several different circumstances and decisions, all at the same time. And without realizing it, I spent as much time thinking and worrying about concerns, commitments, circumstances, and deadlines as I did working on them.

It was not only how I spent my time, but how I spent my thoughts that left me depleted.

But, it wasn’t until I brought it all to God and wrote it all out, that I recognized what was happening.

Instead of escaping to the mountains where no one knows us or needs us, Jesus invites us to come to Him so He can give us:

Rest for our weary hearts and minds.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)

Freedom from the captivity of our concerns.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a)

Are there are worries that are making you weary? Jesus is gently inviting you to come to Him, seeking and trusting Him, no matter what. Over at inCourage we’re sharing how we can remember this truth:

God’s heart is big enough to care and strong enough to carry all that concerns us. 

Lord, when concerns consume us, help us remember You are there inviting us to come to You and talk about all of it. Everything that’s weighing us down. Show us if it’s our commitments or concerns, our worries or our workload, and help us trust You more with both. Amen.

Join us over at inCourage, and share a concern that we can pray for, for you. 

He Bends Down

It had been a hard day, running too many errands with two small children. My three-year-old didn’t understand why we couldn’t buy every toy his tiny hands could touch. And he insisted on climbing in and out of the grocery cart, which led to whining when I stopped him.

I was not a happy mama and wondered how all the other moms in the store seemed to know what they were doing. Their children listened when they told them no, and they had on cute matching outfits too.

I wondered how in the world those women pulled it off with a smile. I could barely get a shower, get my kids dressed, and get us out the door before lunch. When we got home that afternoon, I put my boys down for an early nap and searched for pink construction paper so I could write “I QUIT” on it and turn in my “pink slip” to my husband when he came home from work.

I was tired of feeling like such a failure as a mom. But ironically, I couldn’t find pink construction paper, so I decided to pull out my journal and file a complaint to God.

Filling blank pages with scribbled thoughts, I wrote:

I hate who I have become. I’m such a horrible mom. Why didn’t someone tell me how hard this was going to be? I’m frustrated with my kids and myself. I have no patience and I don’t know what I am doing! I feel guilty all the time. I couldn’t wait to be a mom and now I want to quit.

Just as I finished writing that sentence, I sensed God whispering to my heart: Renee, you are so critical of yourself. You focus on your mistakes and beat yourself up with accusation and condemnation but those are not My thoughts.

That afternoon, I sat before God and choked out the words, “I can’t do this.” (Read what happened next over at inCourage.me

Being Present Always Trumps Being Perfect

 

I had it all planned:
when they would all arrive
what I needed to do beforehand
how I wanted my heart to feel when they got here

Not wanting to become “the frazzled friend” I turn into when hosting a get-together, I banned myself from Pinterest and my own desire for perfect.

I wrote out a timeline and recruited help from a friend. Together we would be prepared. Simple appetizers and decorations. A few pretty touches. We could do everything ahead of time so I would be ready before anyone got there, with time to spare and room to breathe.

I wanted to feel calm and happy when friends arrived. I wanted to greet each one, face to face. I wanted to let her know, not only was she welcomed, she was wanted.

But even the simplest of plans don’t always go as planned.

A crisis at work kept my husband from getting home in time to help pick up the house clean. Traffic was horrible and my friend/co-host got stuck on the other side of town, unable to come early and help with setup. The food wasn’t ready. The kitchen was a mess. And my three hungry kids kept asking when dad would be home to take them out for pizza.

I was not calm. I was not happy. Things were not getting done, and I could feel myself coming undone…

Join me over at inCourage where I’m talking about my struggle and my shift from aiming for perfect to being fully present, mess and all. Click here to join us. 


 

I know I’ve been pretty quiet the past few months, so if you wondered why I’ve been missing on the internet, it’s because… summer. And we’re moving!  I didn’t see that last one coming but it’s consumed every bit of me. Despite the chaos, I see simplicity and goodness on the other side, and I can’t wait to get there.

Looking forward to being back in your inbox this fall, encouraging you each week! ~Renee

 

When You Don’t Know What to Say or Pray


I used to be hesitant to pray and kind of stumbled over my words when talking to God.
Yet, I desperately wanted to say the right things because I thought if I prayed the right way God would listen and answer my prayers, the way I wanted Him to. 

It took me a while, but eventually I got up the courage to talk with a friend about my fears and struggles. She assured me I was normal, and shared how she had dealt with the same hesitancies and misunderstandings about prayer. And she walked with me through Bible, showing me verses about prayer and encouraging me to talk to God in a conversational way.

As I think back on that time, over twenty years ago, there are two powerful lessons I learned:

Prayer isn’t about saying or asking the right thingsit’s about building a relationship with God by talking to Him. 

If you’ve ever struggled with what to say when you pray, take a deep breath and know you are not alone. There is no formula to getting prayer right and God isn’t listening for the perfect combination of words or measuring how well we pray. 

Yet there are still days like today when I want more power in my prayers. Days when I want to feel more confident in what I’m asking for from the One who rules our nations, the Maker of all things, the Shepherd of my heart, and the Creator of the ones I love.

And on those days, when I’m not sure what to say or how to pray, I turn to God’s word remembering “the confidence which we have before Him, (is) that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1 John 5:17 (NAS)

When we pray God’s Word, we pray God’s will.

When I long for my prayers to be filled with power and my heart to be infused with faith, I look for verses about God’s will and His ways. One is Hebrews 4:12, where God teaches us that His Word is “alive and active.” Some days I pray that truth, asking God to make His Word come alive in a situation and active in the person’s life I’m praying for, or my own.

Often times while I’m praying, verses in the Bible that I’ve memorized will rise up to the surface in my prayers. When it feels like plans are spinning out of control, Jeremiah 29:11-13 will come to mind. On those days, I’ll pray:

Lord, You know the plans You have for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a future and a hope. You say that if I come to You and pray, You will listen and will lead me. So, today I surrender my plans for Your plans. Please guide my decisions and thoughts to match Yours so I can experience hope and not harm. Even though things aren’t going so great today, I trust the plans You have for me.

I’m so grateful for the grace-gift of talking to my Heavenly Father without hesitancy. Now that the pressure to say the right things is gone, prayer feels more like a comfortable conversation. Sometimes I just sit still and let God whisper His promises into my thoughts, and then I ask for their fulfillment in my prayers.

What is a favorite verse of yours that you could pray for yourself and someone else today?  

Be sure to DOWNLOAD my FREE Scripture Prayer Printable.  Enter your email below, click “Please send me the prayer printable!” button, and you’ll go straight to my FREE Printable PDF page. ( I promise to never share your email with anyone.)

More Than A Mom

I love these people. They were so patient and sweet to take this photo with me for the “More Than A Mom” instagram series hosted by Fashion & Compassion. Once we finished outside, I knew I needed to write my post for my instagram page, so I asked Andrew, my 19-year-old baby boy on the left, what makes a mother “more than a mom”? Here’s what Andrew told me:

“A mom is the heart of her home. She creates a place where her kids feel like they belong; a place where they feel always accepted, loved and wanted. A place where they can be goofy and not be judged.”

I smiled for days, knowing this was the same son who told me he who couldn’t wait to move out, live on his own and go to college in a different state last fall. 

Whether we are mamas of little’s and big’s, or moms of a ministry we birthed, or kids and adults we didn’t birth but shaped through our prayers and love — our worth is beyond measure! Our role is beyond description. And what we do every day matters – so much more than we may ever know!

We are a safe place to come home to and a soft place to land when life knocks our loved ones down. We are the cheerleader they need and the coach they avoid. We are the one they want when they’re sick and when they feel lost.

We are heart-shapers, dream-encouragers, purpose-instillers, boundary-setters, prayer-warriors and memory-makers. 

And have you ever noticed MOM upside down spells WOW? (see Aster’s sign) It’s no wonder. I’ve said WOW more in the past 22 years than ever. WOW, I never knew I could love someone this much. WOW, no one told me how hard this would be. WOW, how did I get to be their moms? WOW, I have no idea what I’m doing! WOW, they’re so cute. WOW, this is overwhelming. WOW I love being a mom!

Why not WOW a mom or friend you love with the perfect gift, and bring dignity and beauty to the lives of women being empowered and equipped through the amazing ministry, fair-trade partnerships, and employment of Fashion & Compassion get FREE SHIPPING through this Friday, May 5th by using the code “MOTHERSDAY” at checkout. (Watch this video to find out more about ). CLICK HERE TO SHOP

 

 

Happy Mothers Day “month” to all you amazing moms – of children and adults, of ministries, of communities, of lives you may not have birthed but you’ve forever shaped with your love and prayers! WOW, you are amazing!

Never Unfriended: When Imperfection Becomes a Gift

I had it all planned. When the guests would arrive, how I wanted my heart to feel when they got here, and what I needed to do beforehand. Determined not to become the “frazzled friend” that comes out in me when I host a gathering at my house, I banned myself from Pinterest and my desire for perfect.

I wrote out a timeline and asked a friend if she’d help me host a little girlfriend get-together. Together we would be prepared. Simple appetizers and decor. A few pretty touches. We would get everything ready early, with time to spare and room to breathe. Imagining myself calm and happy when friends arrived, I’d be waiting at the front door ready greet each person.

But all my well-intended plans didn’t go as planned.

A crisis at work kept my husband from helping me get the house clean. Traffic was horrible and my co-host friend got stuck on the other side of town, unable to come early to help me with setup. I was on my own, with three hungry kids piling into the kitchen asking when dad would be home to take them out for pizza.

I was not calm. I was not happy. Things weren’t getting done and I felt myself coming undone.

The kitchen was a mess. Food wasn’t ready. And just as friends started arriving, my son told me our computer wasn’t compatible with our television, which meant streaming videos (a highly anticipated part of our evening) wasn’t going to work.  

Deep disappointment and a slight sense of panic came crashing over me. Why do I even try?  

In her new book, Never Unfriended” my friend Lisa-Jo Baker shares how “no one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman.” Ugggh. I hate that it’s true, but it was for me that night.

I wanted to have friends over, but insecurities tangled up inside me had convinced my heart I needed to be perfect and created the perfect setting and food so that my friends would want to be there, and maybe want to come back. How crazy is that? But it fell so real and true at the time.

The struggle is real, and I adore Lisa-Jo for writing a whole chapter about creating imperfect times and spaces together, because I needed to read it. She reminds us not to wait for our lives and houses to be perfect, because if we do, we might never let anyone come through the door.

Thankfully I took a deep breath and decided to let my “far-from-perfect” reality crash the party that night, and I learned two beautiful frienship truths:

  • Being present always trumps being perfect. The most important part of gathering some friends that night was to be “with” them. To be present. To create a place to connect and share our hearts, our stories, our lives. That was still possible.
  • Letting friends see my imperfections may be the best gift I can give them. Having a house, food and plans that appear like we have it all-together is not always inspiring; it can be intimidating. As women it’s easy to compare ourselves, our homes, and our party-hosting skills and feel less-than.  Maybe someone needed to see how not-all-together I really am. That night, they go to! 

Everything didn’t go exactly as planned, but what mattered most did. I got to enjoy my friends and they got to enjoy me, and each other. In the end, that’s all that mattered. And before everyone headed home at midnight, we talked about our next get-together. I even offered to host again – as long as they didn’t mind my house being a mess and me possibly being a lil bit frazzled.


In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, my friend Lisa-Jo Baker is convinced that choosing instead to believe the best about our friends —  is a radical gift.

Starting with the example of the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—in her new book – Never Unfriended Lisa-Jo offers a beautiful, authentic, real-life step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, you always wish you’d had. 

Join the inCourage Never Unfriended Book ClubStarting April 25, we’ll share a Facebook Live video at 9 p.m. ET (8pm CT/6 pm PT) every Tuesday. Here’s the schedule of who will be joining us as we unpack the book, Never Unfriended:

  1. April 25 – Ann Voskamp
  2. May 2 – Holley Gerth
  3. May 9 – Annie Downs
  4. May 16 – Crystal Paine
  5. May 23 – Chrystal Evans Hurst
  6. May 30 – Jamie Ivey

You guys, this is gonna be so so good! These women are fun and funny and smart and the dearest most incredible kinds of friends. It’s completely free to join this book club, all you need is a copy of Never Unfriended book and sign up here so inCourage can add you to the private Facebook group (where the weekly videos and other encouragement will be shared throughout each week)!

This is Love

It’s been a decade since Andrew told me, but I’ll never forget the words that spilled out of my little boy’s heart effortlessly. Words that changed the way I pressured myself into believing I had to be the perfect mom.

Driving through carpool line, Andrew held his bag of Valentine treats and asked when they’d be passing them out in class. What he meant was, Do I have to I wait ALL DAY to stuff excessive amounts of candy in my mouth or will the teacher let us eat all the chocolate we want during morning snack time?

He didn’t care that his treats weren’t decorated with cool cartoon characters, hearts, or any Valentine Day indications at all. But I felt like the biggest failure as a mom.

The night before, Andrew reminded me he needed treats to give classmates the next day, and I had none. After we put our boys to bed, I ran to Target where the Valentines aisle looked like a bomb had exploded. Mismatched candy and gifts everywhere. No appropriate elementary school cards or treats to be found.

Humiliated, I grabbed a few packs of mini Kit-Kat bars and decided my poor child could write, “From Andrew” with a Sharpie on the back of each treat. I would apologize profusely and promise to never forget again.

The next morning as we drove to school, I wondered if I could make up my for my mom-fail with a big Valentines Day surprise when Andrew got home from school. Realizing it could mean another trip back to Target, I tried to get a sense of  what he’d want, so I asked Andrew, what makes you feel loved?”

He thought for a minute and then he said, “THIS.”

This?” I asked.

“Yeah. This. You being with me. You driving me to school and talking to me about my day. You telling me you’ll be there when I get home. That makes me feel loved and secure. Thanks mom. I love you, bye!”

And he hopped out of the car.

This is love?

You mean, I don’t have to work myself into a tizzy shopping for a toy that will convince my child I don’t forget him, even when I forget important things to him?

I can just be here for him and that will be love. Even though I was a grouchy mom the day before, so much that Andrew asked if I was mad about something, more than once.

This is still love?

I stopped to wonder if God were to ask me what makes me feel loved, what would I say?…. 

Keep reading over at inCourage where I’m sharing this story and how my heart answered that day. I’d love for you to be part of the conversation. Click here to join us.