Purposeful Faith

Category - Regular Contributor

Pray Without Multitasking

By: Angela Parlin

We are two weeks into the new year, and I’m ready now to declare my word.

Near the end of last year, I thought it might be strength—as in living in God’s strength and not my own. I wrote it on the front page of a new journal, but it didn’t feel like “the one”.

As I studied strength, it took a backseat to prayer.

Because there’s no living in God’s strength without wholehearted, earnest prayer.

So this year my commitment is simply to Pray–in a consistent, intentional, wholehearted way.

I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but I think some prayers are easy. Many years ago, I read about practicing the presence of God, and started a habit of talking to Him throughout the day, believing He’s near.

I whisper lines of thanks or requests for help to God throughout the day. I ask Him regularly for wisdom, especially as a Mom. I keep a list of family and friends’ needs, knowing He waits for us to come to Him, and He listens.

I trust that God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine. 

We have needs, and God is able to meet them. Furthermore, we are busy, so these throughout-the-day, on-the-go prayers work for us.

But other times, prayer feels hard, even unnatural. Other times, prayer requires us to put down everything else we’d like to do at the same time.

That’s the kind of prayer I struggle with. To put that more honestly–that’s the prayer I often don’t pray. The one where I close the door to my world, and enter the presence of God, with only God and nothing else.

What about you? Do you regularly slow down to be with God alone?

I don’t think it comes naturally to most of us, to make a full stop in our lives and stay with Him a while.

We tend to do everything in our power, first.

We rely on ourselves instead of relying on God.

We value self-sufficiency, and pride ourselves on independence.

Or we’re rarely alone, and when we are, we turn on something noisy, so we don’t feel alone.

In my quiet times, I love studying books of the Bible. But the hard part? Pouring out my heart to God and listening for Him through the silence. Which is to say–I like to learn about God, to get to know Him through His Word, but I struggle to just sit with Him.

Back in December, I wrote down a few goals for this year. Since then, I’ve realized my goal above all goals for 2015 is to spend time each day, praying without multitasking.

I commit to daily adore God, thank Him, confess my sins, and lay my requests before Him. And then to wait in the silence for His Holy fire to fall upon my heart.

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart. Psalm 5:3, Passion Translation

Will you join me? If the Spirit is calling you to spend time daily, praying without multitasking, let me know and I’ll be praying for YOU. Come, Holy Fire…

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Angela Parlin

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

Counting Gifts Instead of Problems

Good gifts from above

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

Christmas vacation came to an abrupt end as my husband and I listened to water gush underneath the bathroom floor. It wasn’t just coming out of the drainage pipe. No, it sounded like a waterfall beneath our feet.

The longer we stood there waiting for the noise to stop, the more dollar signs I saw adding up in my head. This was the second plumbing issue we’d encountered during Christmas break, and we still had not received the bill from the first service call.

As my mind raced with endless possibilities, I sent up a frail prayer hoping the damage would be minimal. Although I avoided complaining outwardly, I inwardly assumed the posture of punished child.

Why did this have to happen right after Christmas, when we’d just spent money on travel and gifts? Why did these types of things always happen in multiples?

Potty training a high-maintenance, strong-willed child added to my list of stresses. A struggling family member kept me awake at night.

As my inner monologue rehearsed all of these things, it sounded like a six-year-old whining. But the thought that disturbed me the most was one I’ve seen countless times from followers of Christ when times get hard: Why was God punishing me? What had I done?

Had we missed a tithe check, neglected acts of service or turned a blind eye to someone in need? As my mind sunk further into a downward cycle of self-pity, I knew my thoughts were not from the Creator. I was in the midst of a battle of the mind, and I needed to grasp onto the light of Truth.

I stole a few moments by myself and counted gifts. I thanked God that I have a husband who is handy and able to make repairs when times get rough. I thanked him that we live in an area where we have resources available to us. As I walked our dogs, I praised God for the beautiful weather we came home to the previous day. But the further I went down a rocky, uneven path, the more one question kept repeating itself in my head.

Why do I perceive negative circumstances as punishment from God, but often fail to recognize blessings as God’s love?

I reflected on everything I love about my life on a given day. A song that comes on the radio at just the right time. The way my three-year-old throws himself into hugs, his whole body wrapped around you. A beautiful sunrise that turns the entire horizon a deep shade of orange.

How could I not look at each of these gifts and think, “Wow, God must really love me”? And if I recognized each of these blessings as an expression of love from my Creator, how would it change me?

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

He does not change, friends. He doesn’t have a mood swing and decide to clog up your drain. He doesn’t get hormonal and decide not to listen to your prayer. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

When he allows us to face trials, it is not because he is angry with us, but to draw us to Him and refine us. Each struggle we face is an opportunity to build character.

Tonight, as I sit in the soft glow of the Christmas tree, I’m still counting. I’m counting not only the gifts he’s given me, but the ones I know will come. Because he’s that good.

As the list grows, I feel his love swelling up inside of me. He loves me so much. And he loves you, too.

So today, as your brewing your coffee and listening to your favorite tune on the radio, remember he created this day just for you. Let truth of that realization sink in and fill you with a love so deep it overflows.

 

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is mom, wife and southern girl who fell in love with writing at a young age. She started Fearfully Made Mom because she felt God gently pushing her to share her writing with others who may feel alone in their struggles with self-doubt, accepting God’s grace, and finding their identity in Christ. Her desire is to show women they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who will relentlessly pursue them, even during their darkest times.

When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, Abby enjoys hiking, photography, reading, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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The Gift of God-With-Us

Post by: Angela Parlin

For a couple months, we’ve looked forward to hosting two sisters, who are orphans, in our home this Christmas. We selected clothes for them to wear, rearranged bedrooms, stocked up on groceries, and scheduled outings. We shopped for Christmas gifts, wrapped them all in red and black glittery paper, and hid them in a closet.

It’s been great fun, preparing for Christmas and getting ready to welcome these little ones into our family for a month.

But then, this week happened, the last week before they arrive. You wouldn’t believe how many things went wrong. (As in, not according to plan.) My stomach feels knotted up. I’ve had to remind myself to breathe. I’m having a really hard time slowing down, especially enough to pray.

We’ve known all along that this could be an amazing month–or it could be a very difficult month. But it’s like this news just now caught up to my insides, for the first time. All the concerns, what ifs, and fears floated to the surface.

I want to look forward with faith, to anticipate great things from God. I don’t want to feel so incapable, or worry about details. I don’t want to give fear some big, shouty platform in my life.

But I don’t feel I have much control over my anxiety right now. So last night, I put myself to bed early. But first, I read a chapter of Luke, where an angel tells Mary she’ll give birth to Immanuel (God With Us). And then I fell asleep thinking about something he told her:

The Lord is with you.

We need that reminder, don’t we? Because sometimes, we know it in our heads, but we live as if we’ve completely forgotten.

Today, I’m still fighting anxiety, so I looked up some places where the Bible repeats this truth, The Lord is with you.

I read about Jacob, who dreamed of a stairway between heaven and earth, where the Lord stood and clearly said to him, I am with you. He woke up and realized, The Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. (Genesis 28)

I can relate. Can you? I have not felt the Lord with me this week. I’ve fixed my eyes on my concerns and to-do lists, more than I’ve fixed my eyes on Jesus. But the Lord is in this place, in this week, even when I don’t feel that way.

I read about Moses, when he considered himself unqualified to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God said, I will be with you (Exodus 3), and then showed Himself to Moses in so many visible and miraculous ways.

I found numerous reminders of God’s nearness in the Psalms. The Lord is near to His children; The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. (34) God is an ever-present help in trouble. (46) The Lord is near to all who call on Him. (145)

I read parts of Isaiah, where the prophet shares these words from the Lord—So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41)

I read about when Jesus arrived in this world, as God-With-Us in the flesh. And then before He left again, He told His followers–Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28)

I could keep going, keep on finding this truth repeated.

The Word of God offers us this beautiful gift—The Lord is with you. It’s a truth we need to remember, and a truth we need to act on.

Whatever your struggle this Christmas, whatever your anxiety, whatever your pain, whatever difficulties you face, please remember this, friend–the Lord is with you. So take your concerns to Him!

God’s Word promises:

  • He will give you rest.
  • He will fill you with peace.
  • He will help you.
  • He will strengthen you.
  • He will give you what you need.
  • He will uphold you.

May we remember, the Lord is with us. Let’s unwrap the gift of God-With-Us this Christmas.

~Angela Parlin

ang3

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos. 

When You Feel Like You’re Running in Circles

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

On a cool afternoon in late fall, I mow straight lines across our long expanse of lawn. I’m surprised by how much I enjoy it.

I see the neat rows of freshly cut grass growing with each trip across the yard. It is obvious when I miss a spot. As the strips freshly manicured section gets increasingly larger, I view my work with satisfaction.

Why do I enjoy this so much? It’s simple, really. For one, I get some quiet time of reflection without listening to kids bicker or ask me for snacks every five minutes. But second and perhaps more importantly, I see visible results.

I know when I haven’t done the job well because the results speak for themselves.

Other roles in my life are not this simple. They are complicated, and often leave me wondering whether I’m making an imprint.

I explain a complex subject to my six-year-old, but I’m not sure he understands. My husband and I make efforts to instill strong morals and character into our boys, but there are days when it seems as though everything we’ve been striving towards is falling apart.

On a bitter cold morning, I attempt to capture thoughts that go deep into the core of me on the page, but can’t quite grasp them. The cursor blinks mockingly and self-doubt creeps in before I’m able to type a single word. I wonder if I’m wasting my time.

I wonder if what I say resonates with anyone.

I see a pile of laundry looming in the corner and think, “Didn’t I just tackle that yesterday?” Before the day has even begun, thoughts of defeat overtake me.

Then, as God often does, he sends a reminder that strikes just the right chord. I realize my current state is temporary, but so much of me longs for the eternal.

My yearning for results often reflects a glory which will not be realized in this lifetime, but in the next.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

I am a planter of seed. I am a light in a temporary casting. I am a mere reflection of the One whose glory I will behold. A glory I long for so deeply at times it aches.

So often, I believe we become discouraged because it seems as though we are moving in circles. Saying the same things to our loved ones and kids over and over. Teaching the same lessons.

But friends, the truth is always worth repeating. People forget because it is their nature. We are still living in a flesh that continually pulls us away from what is true, what is eternal, what is lasting.

We continue to fight because the fight is worth it, even if we don’t see the result right away or even if this lifetime. We fight because we are more than conquerors through him who loved us first.

We long for that which we cannot see because of Him in whose image we were created.

Do not give up. Do not lose heart. You were made for more than anything this world has to offer.

As you lay your head on the pillow tonight, ask yourself this: Did I love? Did I open my arms in grace? Did I help someone who needed it?

If the answer to any one of those questions was yes, it was not in vain. Keep pressing forward, dear one. Your reward will be great.

 

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is mom, wife and southern girl who fell in love with writing at a young age. She started Fearfully Made Mom because she felt God gently pushing her to share her writing with others who may feel alone in their struggles with self-doubt, accepting God’s grace, and finding their identity in Christ. Her desire is to show women they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who will relentlessly pursue them, even during their darkest times.

When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, Abby enjoys hiking, photography, reading, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

 ***Don’t miss Kelly Balarie & Friends blog updates by email. Subscribe here (plus, as a Christmas gift, get the chance to win an Amazon Gift Card).

 

From Complaints to Thanks

Post By: Angela Parlin

I stood beside their beds in the dark, praying for each of my 3 little ones while they slept. Every night on my way to bed, I whispered thanks to God for the gift of being their Mommy. But often tears fell, because I knew the truth of that day. And the one before.

I was discontent with that season of my life, and I had become an under-the-breath complainer.

I didn’t always like that this was what God had called me to do. Because it looked like endless wiping. Wiping counters, spills, bottoms, floors, always wiping.

With a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby, my days looked like finding messes by the handfuls, like potty training and nursing and living chronically behind in housework. It was harder than I’d expected. I loved my babies so much, and yet I wished away the hard parts of those days.

One day, after lunch, I stepped in a huge blob of strawberry jam on the kitchen floor. When I grabbed for a dishrag to wipe it up, I ran my arm through more jam on the edge of the counter. I looked up to see this little trail of jam, smudged across the kitchen cabinets, and started to cry.

I felt mad about the mess, about the way I couldn’t stay on top of 6 sticky little hands, mad at my kitchen, mad at jelly, just mad.

And then, I noticed a verse I had taped onto the fridge, written in beautiful calligraphy:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV

The phrase, “this is God’s will for you” wouldn’t leave me alone.

His will for me then included days full of messes, all waiting for me to clean them up.

His will included a jelly-coated kitchen some days, and jelly-filled hands to clean.

His will included loving and serving three little people, much of which would be done from the ground, on bended knees.

His will for me also included giving thanks, even in never-ending, sticky-mess moments.

It’s easy to thank God when life feels good, when the house is tidy and the days go as planned. But thank God in the middle of the mess? I didn’t even know how. I hated messes.

I decided right then, to try, even though I didn’t really feel it. So I thanked God for the day He made, for the home we lived in, for three little people with small, sticky hands.

The more I thanked God, for both big and small things, the less I complained. And the more I enjoyed being a Mom.

I have to admit, I sometimes fall back into a spirit of complaint. But whenever I realize this and confess it to God, He is faithful to change my spirit, from being full of complaints to repeatedly giving thanks.

When we practice giving thanks in all kinds of circumstances, He fills our hearts with peace and makes us light with joy.

Do you need to confess a complaining spirit today? Will you begin to make a habit of thanking God in every situation?

Thank you Lord, for changes in perspective, for the ability to offer You thanks, even in jelly-smeared kitchens.

I would love for you to connect with me at my blog, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

~Angela

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ang3

The Key to Freedom

Blog Post by:  Abby McDonald

“It’s not about you.”

The words hit me with a palpable force. My pride wanted to take over and convince me that the statement was a lie.

But deep down, I know it was the truth. How long had I been running from God? Months? Years? I couldn’t remember the last time I just rested in the comfort of his presence.

Like so many young adults, my feelings toward the church had become jaded after high school. Leaders who I looked up to had let me down. I’d been hurt by people I trusted, and projected their faults onto a perfect God. I turned my back on Him and the church and for many years, I ran.

Now I had a new baby and a husband, and I knew I needed to somehow get it together. I was trying so hard to behave, to be the perfect wife and mother, but I knew I was failing miserably.

We had recently moved to a new area and begun attending a church, and I attempted to play the role I thought I was supposed to play. I abandoned destructive habits. I watched my mouth. But my heart was still guarded and hurting.

A bitter root had planted itself deep within me, and I didn’t know how to displace it.

As I was sitting on the couch one chilly fall evening, I read those words in the opening chapter of a book about our life’s purpose.

“It’s not about you.”

Something inside of me unlocked. I realized that all of my focus for so many years had been inward, but freedom comes when we fix our eyes upward.

When I turned away from God my focus was on myself. When I strove to behave and be the model church attendee, my focus was on myself. Suddenly, instead of fixating on me, I centered my thoughts on the One who gave me life.

Our sacrifices will never replace what God desires from us the most: a surrendered heart.

James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

Humbling myself begins when I say, “God I may not understand everything that’s happened in my life or what you’re doing, but trust you.”

I trust that He is God and that if I love him, he will work it out for my good. (Romans 8:28) I trust that his thoughts are higher than my thoughts and his ways higher than my ways. (Isaiah 55:8)

With a surrendered heart, I see that God is sovereign even in the midst of uncertainty, turmoil and heartbreak. I see that because we live in a fallen world, suffering is inevitable but also a means of growth.

As I focus upward and outward instead of inward, that bitter root begins coming undone, and what was once resentment turns into gratitude.

Is there an area of your life where you’re holding on to bitterness toward God? Can I encourage you to take the following steps?

Pray. Ask God to give you clarity. We serve a big God and our questions do not scare him away. You may receive answers and you may not, but presenting your requests to him will bring peace.
Be honest. God already knows your heart. Don’t be afraid to tell him.
Thank. Thank God for all the blessings in your life. One of the best ways to displace bitterness is with a thankful heart.
Read. Immerse yourself in God’s word. His Spirit will speak to you and bring you understanding.

Friend, as you read this today, I am praying for you. I believe that God is going to do amazing things through you. There’s only one step left to take: Surrender.  Find the Key to Freedom.

Until we meet again,

Abby

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