Finding Your Rest

By Joy O’Neal

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Summer, summer, summertime…the song I’m sure every teacher is singing right now. I surely am! It’s summer! Us moms have a love-hate relationship with summer, don’t we? If your children aren’t school-age yet, then it’s just a warmer part of the year with more opportunities to play in the sun, but if they are school-age, then your entire world just changed for the next twelve weeks into beautiful chaos. The game of tug-of-war between relaxing vs. go has already begun. For me, summer has already whispered a beautiful soul lesson of restoring peace and surrendering to God’s presence inside of motherhood.

The school year ended, and the excitement for a much-needed break was rising throughout my home, but I continually heard the shout of one word, STOP! I knew where it was coming from. I knew why this four-letter word was all I could hear. I knew that my soul was weary, but I resented the wrestling match that would follow. A collision I’ve felt many times as an ambivert. I was empty. I sat the kids down and explained to them that this summer, our theme was rest. I told them other than a few local attractions we wouldn’t be doing much. I was extremely surprised when each one met me precisely where I was. It was clear. We all needed rest.

Cue wrestling match. Each morning I would sit and attempt to usher in the silence. Only a few days passed, and my mind battled between the thoughts of how many tasks I could complete this summer and resting. I would enter my office and see all the lesson plans and books and for a moment contemplate diving into the space. Again, STOP! I knew I needed to go the extra mile. I began to pack up my office and remove everything that called me into teacher brain. I searched Facebook Marketplace for an oversized chair. Once I cleared out my office and found my chair, the word shifted from STOP to SIT. I don’t know about you, but as a mom sitting is hard! Doesn’t it seem like once our bottoms hit a chair our children have an inner alarm system? Then the most beautiful thing happened—it rained! And I love the rain. Growing up in South Carolina afternoon summer rainstorms were a daily occurrence. Each evening it rained, and each evening I would sit.

Once I started to get the hang of sitting the word quickly switched to SEARCH! This beautiful rest and peace that was being restored caused me to search for the deeper why behind its previous exit from my life. How did Jesus manage to stop when He was being pulled? How did He choose to sit when He was sent to this world to spread a message? As I searched through Scripture, I found beautiful similarity between the life of Jesus and the cry of my heart. Verse upon verse, it was clear. Even Jesus knew He needed to slip away. Scripture refers to these places as a Solitary place (Mark 1:35), Lonely place (Luke 5:16), Quiet place (Mark 6:32), and Certain place (Luke 11:1). Jesus knew the importance of having a spot.

How as mothers and professionals do we maintain a quiet spot? How do we bring this certain place into the school year? How do we acquire time of solitude amid so much activity? We can’t. We can’t until we let go of the fairytale quiet place we’ve mentally created and replaced it with Susanna Wesley’s prayer apron.

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Susanne Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley. These two men grew up to lead millions to Christ. Now there’s a mom goal! John and Charles weren’t her only children, though. Susanne had 19 children, but only ten lived through infancy. Studying her life feels a bit like a chapter out of Job. Her marriage was in constant conflict; one of her children was crippled, and another couldn’t speak until they were six. Susanne’s husband couldn’t manage finances and provoked the anger of his congregation, which lead to multiple attacks on their home and livelihood. Finding time to stop, sit, and search would seem impossible in Susanne’s life. When Susanne was young, she made a vow with God that she would never spend more time in entertainment or leisure than she did in prayer with Him. A house with ten kids doesn’t seem like a setting for a quiet place, but Susanne created her own spot by telling her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, they were not to bother her. Two hours a day, Susanne would meet with God in her apron tent and pray.

Just like Susanne, we have to be creative with creating our places of solitude and quiet. Maybe it’s the car ride to daycare? Maybe it’s waking up 20 minutes before the house gets busy? Maybe it’s folding the towels or creating a ‘Do Not Disturb’ apron moment of our own? One of my favorite songs right now is “You Are My Hiding Place” by Selah and each time I hear this song I am reassured that it’s in our moment with God when we are restored. However this practice of stopping, sitting, and searching looks for you, I am convinced that when our hiding place is in Him, then our peace can be anywhere. Cheers to summer!


Tuning into God's Voice in Motherhood

By Brittany Rust

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Washers and dryers running. Kids yelling as they chase each other around the house. Hungry baby cries. The inner to-do list for the day running through your mind. There’s no shortage of noise in the life of a mom. And that’s just the practical. You might also struggle with cultural distractions to mother with a certain finesse and play supermom. Comparison, fear, doubt, and insecurity clamor for your attention. You’re bombarded with voices all the time—and it can be both overwhelming and exhausting.

Elijah was bombarded with great acts that many assume God would be in. Yet, God wasn’t in the fire or wind—He was in the gentle whisper.

And he said, ‘Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
— 1 Kings 19:11-13
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In motherhood, it’s easy to be distracted by all the things. However, it’s never more important than in parenting to silence the noises and tune into one: His. It’s this intimate connection that gives you strength when you are weak. That gives you the tools to parent in grace. That sustains you in the exhaustion and discouragement. And it’s this connection that leads you in wisdom when it comes to discipling or correcting or leading your child. It’s vital to your role as a mother.

So, how do you tune into God’s voice and push away all the others? They are practical and may seem obvious, but these three practices are foundational to hearing His voice.

How to hear God’s voice

1.Read the Bible.

The Bible is God’s only definitive word we have and by reading it, you can learn about His character, discover what He cares about, and uncover His revealed will for your life. There is no doubt that if you aren’t in Scripture, you will have a hard time hearing from Him.

Even is it’s a few verses at a time, try to get something in you each day. This will help you in hearing from Him and lend to you flourishing in parenthood.

I know when you’re chasing kids around it can be a challenge to carve out a devotional time but it’s also the single most important thing you can do each day. If you’re not in His Word to be refreshed, you’ll start operating out of your own strength and in that limitation, struggle in your parenting. You need Jesus! And your kids will be better off with a mama who prioritizes her spiritual walk with the Lord.

2. Pray.

Regular communication is necessary for any healthy relationship and it’s no different in your relationship with God. Conversation helps to know one’s voice. When you take time to communicate with God regularly, and listen in return, you will be cultivating an ear for His voice.

3. Practice.

If you feel the smallest inkling to step out and act, do it. Put your faith into action. By practice, you will learn what is and isn’t God’s voice. Maybe you step out and find it wasn’t God’s voice—that’s okay. In that experience you’ll learn what isn’t God’s voice. You can learn from what worked and what didn’t work—and the more you practice, you’ll discern what God’s voice sounds like.

If you will start implementing these three practices in your daily routine, I am confident that you’ll cultivate a greater intimacy with God, learn to discern His voice, and have His guidance in the matters of motherhood.

** This blog is based on a portion of Brittany’s new book, Here I Am: Responding When God Calls Your Name. Grab your copy to further learn to discern His voice, how you can overcome doubt and fear, and learn how to step confidently into your calling.


Caring for Your Weary Family

By Brittany Rust

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Last week it was Memorial Day and the weather was finally nice, praise God! My husband and I decided to take a bike ride to a nearby park and enjoy the morning weather with our nearly two-year-old, Roman. We were having a wonderful time. That is, until, while sitting on Ryan’s lap down the slide, his little foot got caught between the zig zag in the slide and Ryan’s leg. The worst in my mama mind happened: Roman broke his leg.

Caring for a strong-willed, always on the go toddler with a leg cast is no easy task. It’s like having a newborn who is awake most of the day and constantly wants to be busy! I can’t leave the room, have carry him everywhere, and there’s little he can actually do.

Broken bones, pink eye, colds, and the stomach flu (just to name a few!) are all unfortunate events we experience in parenthood. Not to mention, some illnesses can take down a whole family for a week. Caring for a sick or injured child can be some of the most emotionally and physically exhausting days—taxing parents to the very brink of sanity.

Surviving When Your Kid is Sick or Injured

How do you navigate these difficult, weary days? Here are 5 thoughts to keep close when compromised health comes knocking.

1. Pray for the Fruits of the Spirit on the regular.

Kindness, patience, and self-control are just a few of the fruits you will desperately need when exhaustion kicks in. And exhaustion will likely kick in when health fails in your kid(s). They might be a little extra needy for you. Sleep might not come as easy for you or them. However it interferes with your daily life, exhaustion can lead to lack of patience and chip away at your flesh. Be diligent in inviting the Holy Spirit into your heart and home to produce fruit only He can produce. You’ll need them to make it through these tiresome seasons well.

2. Lean into His strength.

You might often find the end of your rope in these difficult times; your weaknesses become evident. But the wonderful refuge found in weakness is the endless strength God provides. When we are weak, He is strong. Turn to prayer often, confess your weakness, and ask for His unlimited strength to flood in.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

3. Take care of yourself.

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As a mom, it’s easy to neglect self-care. This can be especially true when sickness or injury knocks down your kid. But I would encourage you to find some outlet for self-care before you go crazy! It can be as simple enough as a hot bath and glass of wine at the end of long day. Perhaps it’s asking your husband for help (for those whom asking comes hard for). Maybe it’s napping when they rest instead of doing laundry or dishes. Honest truth: there are times when sleeping is one of the most spiritual things you can do. Remember, you are better for your kids when your heart is taken care of as well.

4. Be an extravagant giver and receiver of grace.

Being a giver of grace to your restless child may be hard at times. And receiving it when you get frustrated with their demands is necessary as well. Pray for grace in these hard times. Remember its incredible value. Just when you think you can’t do it anymore, pray for grace. He sure does love to extend it!

5. Remember, it’s only temporary.

And remember: all of this is temporary. It won’t last forever. Persevere through this trial as a light to your family. Show your kids and husband that perseverance is a godly and beautiful attribute to possess as a believer. You’ll be pointing your family to Him in the weariness and that, my friend, has significant value in the Kingdom.


6 Stay-at-Home Date Night Ideas

By Sarah Parsons

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Whether you've got a little one or not, going out for date night can be tricky. Maybe you don't have a babysitter, maybe you had a long week at work, or maybe you're on a tight budget this month. Whatever the case may be, date night goes to the wayside...again. 

But let's not accept defeat so easily! Investing in your marriage is so important. Without intimacy, your relational flame will dwindle. You may even feel like it's blown out altogether. But there are ways to keep your spark alive! Some good, old-fashioned quality time may be just what the Love Doctor ordered. So, here are six stay-at-home date night ideas that will help put the pep back into your marital step!

Creative Date Nights at Home

1. Drinks by the Fire.

I don't know about you, but firepits make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The flicker of the flames, the sound of crackling wood, the smell of campfire on my sweater. Mmmmmm. Add a glass of wine and my honey, and the scene is set for the perfect evening! (Coffee, tea, or hot cocoa also make perfect campfire sips.) 

Enjoy the peace and quiet just being close to each other. Relax, you deserve it. 

2. Board Games

Come on, give board games a chance; they are an awesome way to connect. A little healthy competition is great between couples. Personally, we tend to take the competition to an extreme. And when I say "we," I mean "me."

But we still have a great time. 

One of our favorite games to play together is Gin Rummy. It's a card game, so it takes up minimal space and is super easy to clean up! A win win! If you've never played Gin, you can check out the rules here.

3. Take Personality Tests and Compare the Results.

This is a fun one! It may sound a little weird, but give it a try. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised to discover new things about your spouse. 

Ryan and I both took this free test based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory. It was really neat to compare our personalities and see where we work well together and where we might clash a bit. 

4. Make Milkshakes or Sundaes Together.

Myyyyyyy milkshakes bring all the kids to the yard, but they're asleep! So the shakes are all ours... *mom dance for the win.*

You really can't go wrong with ice cream! Unless you're lactose intolerant... then this could really ruin your night.

But for the rest of you this takes the cake! Take a trip to the grocery store and load up on all your favorite ice cream, toppings, and cookies, then come home and GO NUTS! This is a NO SHAME date night. Throw caution to the wind and eat away all the stress of the week. 

If you're up for a challenge, try out a milkshake recipe. We love Oreo's in our house, so this is our go-to recipe.

5. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane.

This one's my favorite and we do it often. I absolutely love looking through our old pictures together and hearing Ryan tell me how he remembers the moments. Even though I've heard the stories a hundred times, for some reason, hearing him tell them again and again never gets old. 

Talk about a way to rekindle some love!

6. Take-Out by Candlelight

There's only one thing better than a romantic, candle-lit dinner at home, and that's a romantic, candle-lit dinner at home you didn't have to make! So have fun dressing up your table. Grab any candles you've got lying around the house, pull out your wedding china (or even some cute paper plates for easier clean-up), and order your favorite take-out.

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We’ve found “favorites” to be a fun conversation topic. We’ve been married for almost 5 years now, but sometimes it’s fun to get back to the basics with questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” “What’s your favorite song? “What’s your favorite Bible verse?” Ryan started asking me these and more today while we were on our way to lunch. It feels so nice to have your spouse interested in your likes and dislikes. 

I hope something here has sparked your interest! Date night should be a priority and hopefully, this makes it seem a little more possible. God loves marriage and wants to see yours thrive—don’t let this busy life go too fast. Cherish the time you have with your spouse once your kids are down for the night. Don’t let yourself get wrapped up in tomorrow’s to-do list, the bills that need to be paid, or the groceries that need to be purchased. Just be present. 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:25-26, 34

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Sarah Parsons found an online outlet for her gift of exhortation when she started her mommy blog. She writes from her home in California for the sole purpose of encouraging and inspiring women. Married to Ryan and mother of Harley Wren, Sarah shares adventures and advice to make family more fun. 

Website: theparsonspack.com, Instagram: @mrs.parsons


Mystery Thursdays

By Molly Kennedy

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Summer is coming and with school about to let out, it’s time to get creative with many open days that lay ahead.

Jen Hatmaker has some great articles about surviving summer with her five kids which have resonated with me. I have adopted one fantastic idea called “Mystery Thursdays.” Jen has this to say about the activity: “Thursday is not a sacred cow, it is just the day of the week I’m about to snap. The kids know we’re going somewhere fun, somewhere cool, but it’s a surprise. We’ve gone to every lake, river, park, exhibit, concert, and attraction in a 150-mile radius.”

I adopted this practice in the summer of 2015 when my girls were 12 and 9. Four years later and it continues to be so much fun! We have done the following (if you are looking for adventure ideas):

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  • Celestial Seasonings Tour

  • Denver Trolley and Little Man Ice Cream

  • Denver Cat Company

  • Bowling at Lucky Strike in downtown Denver

  • South Park in Fairplay and then Beau Jo’s for lunch

  • Touring the University of Colorado in Boulder with my parents who graduated from there

  • A concert by a local orchestra

  • Riverwalk in Golden and the Golden Library

  • Coffee and journaling at Barnes and Noble

  • Swimming

  • Restaurants

  • Hikes

  • Picnics in parks

  • Movies

The only rules are...it’s a mystery, so they can’t find out beforehand! They can ask yes or no questions once we are in the car and en route. Sometimes friends come with us so the girls have fun guessing who we are meeting as well.

Now that they are teenagers, our schedule has become more complicated, but we still try to do mystery adventures when we can. We also switch things up. Last summer, the girls planned a Mystery Thursday and then put it on my GPS so I would know where to drive.  It was a restaurant, and they still allowed me the honor of buying lunch.

Sometimes our schedule works better for a Mystery Friday or a Mystery Tuesday Night. Last fall, I put Kennedy Mystery Vacation on our mutual online calendar, and it blocked out a few days for us to escape at Thanksgiving.

The next mystery adventure that is sitting on our calendars is dropping the first week of June--heading to the Toby Mac concert at Fiddler’s Green!

More than the activities themselves, I think the fun is in the mystery and in doing something together that is out of the norm. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be done at a certain time of day. (I’ve got you, working mamas! I am one of you!)

Psalm 118:23-25 says,

This is God’s work. We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it! This is the very day God acted—let’s celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life!

Going into summer and praying for FUN for you this year; fun in the mundane, fun in the extraordinary, and fun in the mystery.


The Middle: Where He Promised To Be

By Jennifer Edewaard

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The Middle: Where He Promised to Be

It was a moment that changed everything. The list of all that could go wrong with just a small piece of what could go “right” in the end would leave a life of unknowns. It was here I found myself in the middle of a space--a gap really--that I didn't fully comprehend.

Shortly after this moment, my son was born at 23 weeks and with that came so much unknown. There was a middle ground I couldn't see and in the darkest of moments, where I didn't know where to plant my feet, He was there, in the middle where He promised He would be. Right where He promises He will always remain.

I found myself in the middle: a point that is defined as the equal distance from the ends of something. It was a place where years of infertility finally brought life smack dab in the middle of His plan for my life. Where I had to make the choice to release my need for certainty so that I could live in Him.

As I pleaded in prayer with Him to save my son's life, I remember hearing Him whisper, “I will always meet you here. Step up and stand firm where I place you, and I will surely step in.

Through life as a mama of a special needs son--my Red Sea that He has and continues to part for me--I keep placing one foot in front of the other as He parts the way. I tell myself and my son that in this beautiful yet sometimes unbelieving world, we will experience trouble, pain, and sorrow but because He has conquered the world, we get to be courageous.

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Over the last few years, we have worked on many different goals, benchmarks, and therapies. We try one new thing and start over with the next. Ahead lies a lot of work to be done on my part and it has required a “whatever it takes” mindset. I have stayed close to this middle place because no matter what He is orchestrating behind the scenes, He's always working and providing what we need, which is so different than what I want. In the middle of my special needs mama walk, there is one constant and it's Him. And because of that, even in the really hard days, I have His joy. It's a joy that fills me up with the biggest sense of gratefulness. And I wouldn't change any of this. I wouldn't have it any other way because when I lay my head down at night, He is there parting the ways and carrying me.

For a long time, I thought that whenever God needed me, wherever He called me, that I would surely feel equipped and qualified for the task. I had my ideas, and maybe you know the feeling. We think we know what the plan is--we think we have control over a situation. But He is so much more powerful than that; He has His way of doing things and He always has a reason. I am learning each day, really in each moment, that He has gone ahead and prepared the way. Life as a special needs mama is one that I never planned on because I looked at my capacity and knew my qualifications were lacking. He has quickly taught me that I just need to continue to be open to what He wants to show me--what He wants to take and use for His good. So I cling to this verse in Proverbs, when I have any doubt, fear, or anxiety.

A person may have many ideas concerning God’s plan for his life, but only the designs of his purpose will succeed in the end.
— Proverbs 19:21

We are overcome with peace because His peace lives in us. We move forward with the Truth because the Spirit of the Lord is powerfully upon us. We surrender dependency on self because we abide in our faith instead. It's not about what I think I am qualified or equipped for because He never meant it to be that way— it’s up to Him to fulfill and up to us to walk obediently in.

He knew exactly what He was doing when He gave my son to me, with every need that He might have. He knows today as He did in all the days past, and all the days to come, how much I really do need Him. How much you really do need Him. And He doesn’t break us. No, He weaves Himself into us, giving us grace so that we can go and tell others about His glory.

Sweet friend, I don't know where it is He has you planted. Where He might be pruning, growing, or pausing in your life right now. What I can encourage you with is a truth that will remain and that is Christ. Can I challenge you to invite Him into your middle today? I don't know what your walk in motherhood looks like but would you turn to Him? Would you pray and ask Him what He wants you to do, not why? What it is He wants to do here in the middle? What it looks like to live, seek, and stand in His abundant grace, truth, and glory?

The abundance that overflows from the imperfections is not for our comfort but for those passing by or staying for a while--so that they would know and see Jesus. It's this part of self-sacrifice that sheds light on the biggest sacrifice--Him-where we don’t have to fight the friction because we can trust His intentions are, in fact, steadying us.

I stand on these truths, His words, His power and capacity, many times when I feel like I might be fighting the friction where I am planted. Of what is to come.

Friend, He is right there, in the middle with you, where He promises to be.


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Jennifer Edewaard is a wife, mama, and friend passionate about living our His perfect purpose ok making Him known, even in her own imperfection. She writes and speaks while stepping daily into God’s mission to bring Him glory. Jennifer is married and has two sweet little ones, living in beautiful Colorado. She writes over at www.jenniferedewaard.com and you can find her on Instagram.


When You Give a Kid a Smart Phone

By Lindsey Racz

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When you give a kid a smartphone, he’s going to want Instagram. When you give him an Instagram account, he’s going to want all the other social medias. Once he has the other medias, he won’t be able to put his phone down. When he can’t put his phone down, you will wonder where your kid went. When you try to get your kid back, he will demand you give him back his smartphone… and this is what happens when you give a kid a smartphone.

The above scenario plays out in countless homes across America every single day. At least some version of it. Personally, I’m ticked. I’m ticked at what smartphones are doing to our kids. Or rather, what peer pressure is doing to parents of tweens and teens regarding the usage of smartphones. I write to you today from a clinical and professional stance based on what I see in my counseling office, as well as what I know about the current research on this topic. I also write to you as a parent of a 9-year-old and step-parent of a 14-year-old. A parent who very much feels all the pressure to keep up with social norms and wonders if it’s possible not to be swept away in the cultural undertow. There’s no judgement here. I get it. But today we need to talk truth.      

I’m not here to shame you if your child has a smartphone or if you’re planning to give them one for their next birthday. What I am asking is that you reconsider.  I am asking that we all be reminded of one simple fact:  we don’t have to give in. Give in to what? The temptation to feel guilty. To feel like you’re the only one not getting your child a smartphone. To feel like your kids are somehow deeply deprived of meaning and acceptance because you haven’t caved in this area. And like you’ll ruin their lives drastically and permanently if you don’t allow them to be part of the in-crowd and get the latest iPhone. For crying out loud, our kids can be the worst culprit in trying to convince us of these things! However, they simply are not true. But what is the truth?

The truth is, in my counseling office, I cannot begin to report to you the number of tween and teen clients who are there because of something related directly to unmonitored use of their very own smart phone—social media bullying, social media drama, body image issues, depression, sleep issues, anxiety and lots of pornography addiction. These are just a few of the issues that stem from the combination of kids and their smartphones. It seems that it’s become the norm for anyone age 9 or older to be walking around with their very own personal computer—keys to the world, so to speak. And yet, we wouldn’t give a 9-year-old keys to a car, would we?

You see, until about age 25 the pre-frontal cortex—that is the part of the brain in charge of decision making and impulse control—is still developing. I’m not suggesting we wait until our teeny boppers hit their 20’s to hand over a cell, but I am suggesting we really examine the age our culture has deemed appropriate. At age 14, children’s brains are making more neural connections per second than at any other time in their lives (aside from the first year of life). Their norms are forming—social, sexual, body and moral norms. Now ask yourself, how does the internet swamp contribute to that development? How about social media usage? How about addictive feedback loops that are intentionally engineered by social media managers?

The truth is, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be set apart from this world and have renewed minds that seek Him. Romans 12:2 says,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God.

Is it a sin to have a smartphone? Absolutely not. Do smartphones usher in a lot of sin when not used responsibly? Absolutely. And it’s tough for someone with an undeveloped brain to know what responsible use of this device looks like.

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When is an appropriate age for a teen to have a smartphone? My professional suggestion is 16—and even then, you don’t just give them a phone and walk away. You give them a phone along with frequent conversations about the responsibility they must practice when using it. You give them a phone along with parental controls and accountability software. You give them a phone with a list of understood rules and a contract they sign stating they understand the rules. Giving our teens a smartphone without standards is equivalent to handing them a bottle of Tylenol and telling them to wash it down with some Jack Daniels. It’s not okay!

Here’s the bottom line. Tweens and teens do not have adult brains and they need our help and protection to become healthy, functioning adults who love the Lord. They need our help to avoid a world chalked full of the enemy’s traps for them. With that in mind, I suggest the following bare minimum guidelines for those who choose to let their teens or tweens own a personal smart device.  

1.     Set parental controls so that adult content may not be viewed.

2.     Do not allow a social media account on their phone. If your child simply MUST have social media accounts, set it up so they can access them only on a family computer.

3.     Do not allow phones to stay in their bedrooms.

4.     Keep phones locked from 7pm- 7am.

5.     Do frequent and random content checks.

6.     Install accountability software.

One final point: I know we don’t all have complete control over what our kids do. As stated above, I am a step-mom, which means I don’t control if my step-son has a smartphone or not. But I can still encourage him to live a life of godly standards. A life that’s set apart. I can encourage him and I can encourage all of us. When we choose to protect our kids hearts and minds from the multitude of dangers lurking on a very dark and adult world wide web, we say yes to living a life that’s set apart for Jesus. No matter how hard it seems, no matter what fight we’re up against, it’s worth it.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
— Galatians 6:9

Fearing Failure

By Brittany Rust

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For a long time, I was afraid to be a mom. Terrified that I'd pass on my baggage or project my past struggles onto a little human being. That my insecurity, anger, and selfishness would make me a bad parent. Honestly, I didn't believe I deserved the honor of being a mom. 

I'm so thankful God brought me through and past that fear because being a mom is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. But it hasn't always been easy and I certainly have so much to learn.

I still feel like a hot mess most days. Feel like I'm dropping the ball somewhere or that I'm not a good enough mom. Shame often creeps in and whispers how I've failed my son. Oh boy, does that cut to the deepest parts of my soul.

Maybe you've been there or facing it right now?

Shame is ugly. Heartbreak is real. The ups and downs of motherhood are both wonderful and exhausting. Times flies by when you're having fun and yet seems to creep along in the hardship. It's why, as a mom, you have to rely on Jesus instead of yourself or your husband or even your kids. Nothing will make you whole, sustain you, and make up the difference in your weakness like Christ will.

The verse that has carried me through my darker moments is 2 Corinthians 12:9:

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Weakness is part of the human nature. And thank goodness it is or we wouldn't feel the need for Christ. It seems this is more apparent in motherhood than in any other role or season in life. Our weaknesses and failures are never more evident than here. It's also where fear can thrive if not careful.

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Fear of failing your family.

Fear will happen but it's not meant to stick around. God wants you to turn to Him in those frail moments and find solace in Him. He wants you to come with your weaknesses so that He can show up with His strength. Your areas of failure and lack of sureness create opportunities for God to move and be glorified.

It's why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians that he would boast in his weaknesses. He knew that where he failed God flourished. And he would rather God flourish than for him to feel competent.

Mama, I know this journey is emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. I know there are moments when you question your identity and worth; when you wonder if you can do it. That you experience lonely moments of shame and guilt.

We've all been there--struggled in our calling as a mom. Not because we don't love our kid(s) with all our heart because we do fiercely. But because we're human and none of us have it all figured out or are the perfect mom. We're not meant to be. Only Jesus is perfect and only he can lift you up to be the best mom to your kiddos that you can be.

Don't parent alone, friend. Lean into the Father, embrace His presence, and tap into His strength. In fact, welcome those moments of weakness as opportunities for Christ to shine brightly to those kiddos entrusted to you by Him!

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Faith, Hope, and Infertility

By Lindsey Racz

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Just under three years ago, I wrote a very personal post on a different blog about my behind the scenes struggle with infertility. At that point, I hadn’t yet shared the struggle with many at all. Writing that post and publicly declaring our infertile status provided more healing than I knew it would. So many people’s comments—both friends and strangers—poured in to say, "us too." Suddenly, although still hurting deeply, I didn’t feel so alone.

Today, 8 months pregnant with our SECOND child since that post was written, I share the original post along with HOPE. To my friends struggling with infertility, I say this: miracles are possible. I don’t know what your story will look like, but here’s where ours began.

Our Behind the Scenes Struggle with Infertility (published 09-2016)

Many of our friends know our story and have been rooting for us. Matt and I love the Lord with all of our hearts and desire to serve Him with our lives. We were both foolish in our youth and squandered blessings in different ways. Each of us survived the shattered dream of a divorce and lived as single parents for a season. And then, in a beautiful swoop of restoration, the Lord introduced us to one another. By this time, we had each grown in our faith and we knew that if we were going to do life together, it was going to be God’s way.  We had a beautiful courtship; one full of purity and hope. Yes, folks, we did save sex for marriage. Gasp. I remember one friend who said “Why are you waiting? I mean, you each have a child already so the cat’s kind of out of the bag!”  But we knew the Lord could restore our purity if we walked in obedience with Him, and again, this whole marriage thing was going to happen His way if it was going to happen at all.  We had a beautiful wedding complete with burlap and white lights strung from high hopes.

We each had a dream on our heart to grow our family. I brought a girl to our marriage. Matt brought a boy. But honestly, I pictured us having at least 2-3 more children together as being a mom is the greatest joy of my life. I came from a broken family and believe I’ve lived most of my life trying to put a family back together—right or wrong, this was our hope.  We were so excited and began trying from month one! Six months went by with no pregnancy. Each month I had a reason to think I was pregnant and in this time frame, I probably went through at least a hundred pregnancy tests. I had a growing sense that something was wrong, but I was calmly assured that these things take time.

After a year of deep hope for that little pink plus sign to show up but instead of ending in a puddle of tears, we decided to seek medical help.  We saw a primary care physician who ran an analysis. We waited to hear back hoping this would give us a clue to what we needed to do next. But the doctor called me a week later—in the middle of my work day—and spoke very matter-of-factly: “You two will probably not have children together. Have you thought about adoption?”

…. “what?”

This is not the kind of news you deliver to a woman at 3 PM on a Tuesday afternoon when she’s getting ready to sit down with her next client. But, there it was.  I responded in some robotic way and set the phone down and shut my office door and sobbed harder than I ever have.

I asked God if this was punishment for being divorced. If this was because of all the mistakes I’ve made. If He was testing me. I cried out to Him.  He was silent.

I went home to tell Matt the news (that the doctor should have called us into his office to share with both of us). I tried to maintain composure, but it was not a pretty night.  For several months after that, I cried daily and tried to imagine never having a child with my husband. Not a big deal, right? We both have a child. So what if we don’t have one together. We share these children with ex-spouses, which wasn’t exactly the original plan, but they are healthy and we are raising them together. It’s fine.

Except for that, it’s not. I can’t let this dream go. My heart aches to grow a family with my husband. To experience him holding my hand in childbirth. To see his gentle-giant hands pick up a tiny life that we’ve created together. To have this bond with one another that is part of God’s purpose for marriage.

We began looking for a second opinion. We met with a fertility specialist who put us on supplements. We tested again three months later, but the outlook was even bleaker. I cried some more. I read a 300-page book on conception and changed each of our diets in drastic ways for six months.

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Twenty-one. That’s the number of months we’ve been married– which isn’t long at all unless you’ve been hoping and praying and trying and crying out to God every month for 21 months to please have mercy on you and bless you with a life you know you don’t deserve.  In that case, 21 months feels like an eternity. We recently went to another specialist who gave a little more hope but stated a surgery would be necessary. Thankfully, this specialist found a problem area that others weren’t able to locate. And here we are. After much prayer, our surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. Neither of us knows the outcome. Matt has been brave and strong as an oak (he’s the one who has to go under the knife!) while I’ve just been an emotional wreck.

I haven’t been myself for at least the last year and a half. This is why. Struggling with infertility was never part of my formula. It took me by surprise and came at a time when I thought I was leaving the worst of my heartache behind. Matt and I are a stronger couple for it. In our first two years of marriage, we’ve survived the dynamics of a blended family along with this monthly roller coaster of emotion. We hit our knees in prayer each night and take it one day at a time. It’s hard to count it all as joy, and yet I’m thankful for a new understanding of what it feels like to face infertility. It gives me another “specialty area” in my counseling ministry; compassion that is only birthed from experience. But most of all, when and if God decides to give us another child, the glory will be all the more to Him because HE IS ABLE even when doctors say “not possible.”  That is the God we serve.

And although I know what I desperately want, I will continually declare that thy will be done.


He is Risen, A Special Easter Message

By Brittany Rust

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The two women didn't expect to find the stone pulled away, two angels before them, and certainly not the resurrected Jesus on this very early morning. No—they expected to find the body of a man they loved very deeply lying in a tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James, were amazed at what they saw when they arrived on the scene. The tomb stone had been rolled away by one heavenly angel while another was in the tomb.

The two women hurried into the tomb looking for Jesus, but all they found were the outer garments he had been buried in. This, a symbol that Jesus had left his earthly boundaries behind and was now risen [as he proclaimed he would]. The angel proceeded to speak some of the most powerful words ever uttered,

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”

Jesus, the man they knew as the Son of God now gone from his grave. A declaration not only to them and the Roman guards that stood by speechless, but to all that he was indeed God, resurrected from death. This...this was the very moment that changed everything for humanity.

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This weekend we celebrate what has become Easter, but more than any Easter basket or Sunday lunch with the family, we highlight this event. Easter weekend is all about him and what he did. Jesus didn't have to wrap himself in flesh and come to Earth, but he did. He didn't have to live in obscurity for 30 years, but he did. He didn't have to carry each of our sins and take our punishment of death at calvary, but he did.

Jesus did--for you and for me! He temporarily gave up the beauty of heaven to carry the sins of men from Earth, into death, and free us all victoriously back into Heaven. Now we get this incredible gift of grace, salvation, and eternal security with the Father if we put our faith in him. There is no greater gift or love you could ever receive than this.

When you wake up Sunday morning, you don't have to worry about the fate of Christ and carry any mourning. You get to wake up with eager anticipation that Jesus is alive and reigns victoriously, on Earth, in Heaven, and in your life. That is the hope you have and I pray you'll carry it like a flag you wave proudly in the streets of victory.

I encourage you to take time this Holy week to reflect on his final days. To pour through Scripture with your husband and kids about his life, death, and resurrection. To pray and give thanks for salvation. Easter eggs and family dinners are fun but they aren’t what this holiday is about—it’s all about Jesus!