Living in the Present

By CarrieBeth Sherwood

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There are lots of negative aspects of social media, I admit. But ever since Instagram became popular (2012, 2013?), I have found the online community of Christian women to be life-changing for me.

At any given time, you would find about 150 screenshots on my phone of inspiring posts that I don't want to forget. Now, of course, my main direction and instruction is found in the Bible; in studying God's precious word. But I feel like God has put social media in my life so that I can have access to wisdom from women who are going before me, and pointing me and others to Jesus.

There have been times in the past when I was drowning in babies, work, and responsibilities and I didn't have many opportunities to be with other women. I could have felt so alone in those times. However, social media allowed me to feel connected and spurred on, even in those seasons.

My most recent inspiration came from Jess Connolly; she lives in Charleston, South Carolina where she is a mom, author, artist, and pastor's wife. She recently posted:

"I almost made a huge mistake. I've had this idea that I'd pick a date on the calendar that would feel 'normal' and I'd count down to that's the truth for me and for you.

ABUNDANCE IS HERE. Joy is a promise from our Father in the busy, broken, beautiful, easy, boring, stressful-ALL THE DAYS. Abundance is here. This is it. This is life. Now is where I get to worship, to love, to rest, to talk to Him, to laugh, to trust, to smile. Abundance is here."

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This spoke to my soul because I feel like I LIVE in the in between. I have had three different jobs in the past five years and am even looking to transition to a new job in the near-ish future. I am 8 1/2 months pregnant and patiently waiting for our new baby to arrive. We have lived in 6 different houses in the last 6 or 7 years. There is always something I am looking towards where I can finally settle in and just BE. But this post inspired me to do what Jess says and worship now. Right here. Love now. Be with Jesus.

The Bible says that the enemy's plan is to "steal and kill and destroy" but Jesus came so that we may "have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) It would thrill Satan for us to put our worship on hold until we "arrive."

But there is no ARRIVING until we get to heaven. Until then, my lifelong goal is going to be to live in the middle, worshiping and serving and being until I see Him face to face.

Relying on the Fruits of the Spirit

By Brittany Rust

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It had been a long day before 3PM even hit. Roman woke up on the wrong side of the bed and my full time job that afternoon seemed to be keeping him from spiraling into one long temper tantrum. I wasn’t doing to well at it, though, and after an hour, I snapped. Reactively, and with frustration on my face, I yelled at my toddler to just stop.

You probably guessed it; the outburst didn’t help. Crocodile tears welled up in his already puffy eyes and my mama heart was overwhelmed with guilt.

In that moment, I became very aware that I was trying to mother from my own strength. And often did. I kept trying to muster up patience and gentleness only to fail. I was longing for the fruits of the Spirit and wondered why they weren’t bearing in those moments.

Known by Your Fruit

Matthew 12 says this about our words and actions,

For a tree is known by its fruit...For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

The fruit of my speech wasn’t good. In fact, it was pretty rotten. I craved the fruits of the Spirit to produce good fruit but rather I noticed the works of the flesh responding to my son rather than the former. I was desperate to be the Spirit-filled and grace-filled mom Roman needs and deserves but I was burnt out, depleted, and at the end of myself; venturing to believe in my moments of weakness that I wasn’t cut out to be a mom.

Have you ever felt this way, friend? Been in this same hole of depletion and feeling like you’re at the end of your rope?

I knew I needed to look inward and examine the condition of my soul so I turned to Galatians 5:16-26—let’s go there together:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The Fruits of the Spirit

I had been spinning my wheels trying to produce good fruit in my life. I had been relying on my own (very limited) strength to be gentle and patient and loving towards my strong-willed toddler. Which is exactly why I was failing. My source was myself—my flesh—and no good fruit can produce from such a source. I needed to recalibrate and reconnect to the Vine (John 15).

What I’m learning about the fruits of the Spirit is that you can’t muster them up. Wanting them with good intentions isn’t enough either. The honest truth: you can’t access them.

The fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control—are only produced by the Holy Spirit.

In my She Reads Truth bible there is a devotional on this passage and one sentence completely shifted my pursuit of this good fruit: ONLY by abiding in Him, resting in His goodness and trusting Him to do that hard work of redemption on our behalf can we bear fruit.

Do you long for the good fruit of the Spirit to produce in your life?

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1. Abide in Him (John 15).
2. Rest in His goodness.
3. Trust Him to do the hard work.

I’ve noticed such a difference in my response to frustration since I’ve stopped trying to produce these qualities on my own and instead, have connected to Him. Such wonderful freedom is found when you let go and simply connect with Jesus. Connect with the Vine. John 15 says that when you abide in Jesus he will abide in you.

Here’s how it works:

You abide (remain) in Jesus and he will abide (remain) in you.

The Father is the Gardner and He will go to work cleansing you.

And the Holy Spirit will produce good fruit in your life you can’t produce on your own.

“Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

Mama, if you’re feeling weary and struggling to respond to your child like you want to, perhaps it’s time to recalibrate. To stop mothering from your own strength. And to attach yourself to the Vine.

Abide in Jesus and he will abide in you. Connect with Him often, rest in knowing He is good, and trust Him to do what you can’t—produce good fruit in your life.

Mama Bear in Warfare

 By Brittany Rust

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I’ve never been under spiritual warfare when it comes to health. Let alone, that on top of a mountain of battles. And boy, when the body is weak time and again, it seems the spirit can become weak as well if not diligent.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to share this weekend because I’ve felt so beat down. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to give. But then, why not speak from my battlefield. Spiritual warfare is so very real for all of us so let’s go there. And honestly, looking at the last several posts I can’t help but see God is wanting to speak intimately to some weary moms out there. 

I’m going through one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been through. It started about fifteen months ago and about a month ago, I thought it would get easier. Instead, it got harder. WAY harder. The kind of hard that beats down with one thing after another. The kind that attacks all areas of your life and family. The kind that hits so hard you want to tap out. 

Right now, I’m sitting in bed, barely getting this out, alone. I’ve moved states but my husband is still back in Colorado for the time being. I’m without my partner and best friend, working full time and taking care of our little guy. All the things I assumed would come so easy because “God is in this” aren’t coming so easy and I’m doubting. We’ve been in urgent care two out of our three weekends here because with Roman it’s been one thing after another. Then I got sick this week. Like, so sick I haven’t been this sick maybe ever. And then tonight, as if our health wasn’t being attacked enough, Roman got pink eye...again. 

As a mom, I see my little man suffer and mama bear comes out. I want to fiercely protect him—to make him better. But I can’t. All I can do is help him along the best I can. 

Here’s how I’ve been feeling this week: I can take a long, spiritual battle. I’ve done it before. But my kid—not so easy. My perseverance is limited and my patience thin. Mama bear doesn’t like waiting for the storm to pass for her little guy who can’t kick sickness and misses his dad like crazy. I feel helpless. I feel guilty.

I’ve been pretty upset with Him this week. I’ve questioned and doubted. I told my friend this week, “I assumed it would be an easy transition because I thought God was in it. But it’s been so hard and now I’m questioning everything. Does this mean God isn’t in it?” 

She encouraged me so well (thank goodness for sisterhood, right?!). She said,

”Because it isn’t going easy does not mean God isn’t in it. It means things like that are just hard. Peace does not always come in the journey because journeys are a struggle with ups and downs. Peace will come later. Kinda when you go on a hike and it’s hard but when you are done it’s that moment you take a breath.”

She’s right—the right path isn’t always going to be easy; life is just hard sometimes. And then I was reminded, also this week, that God uses hard times to call out our perseverance. It’s something I’m struggling to have as a mom but that doesn’t mean I get a “get out of jail free” card because my kid is involved. Perseverance just needs to go to a whole other level! 

What I’m trying to say is this: Spiritual warfare will happen. And when it effects your kids, it will poke the mama bear within and perhaps cause you to fight or flight. But what if God just wants you to stick close and keep going? One foot in front of the other, wearily trudging ahead. 

Stand firm and keep fighting the battle, mama. Don’t lose hope. Keep the faith. Choose to endure. 

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
— Hebrews 6:18-19

How do you and I keep our head above water until relief comes? Flee towards Jesus. Have confidence in Him, not the surroundings. Trust the anchor to hold until the storm passes. We aren’t guaranteed an easy, breezy life. But we are promised a steady Savior in the midst of our chaos and uncertainty. Are you anchored by Him? Tethered to his unwavering love and care for you? He won’t leave you alone in the storm. His door of hope is just ahead. Don’t give up, friend. This too shall pass.

Why I Don't Want to be a Great Mom

By Brittany Rust

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Roman has been teething the big guns (molars), which is much more challenging than the other teeth, let me just say. It's teething on steroids, which is no fun for anyone, baby or parent! I'll be honest--it's been some of the hardest parenting days I've had so far. Produced moments when I wasn't sure if I could keep it together. Frazzled, frustrated, and fatigued, I've been reaching my "keep it together" limit.

Part of me feels guilty for expressing such hidden thoughts, yet I can't imagine being the only one. If this be true, then let this be a release to myself and other moms: we all have such moments and it doesn't mean we're cray cray. In fact, it's normal to experience nights when our husband walks in the door after a long day and we throw our arms in the air in defeat, "you're up!" whilst taking a bubble bath and sipping a glass of wine.

So, I was in the throws of teething last week. When Roman went down for his first nap, I did what I always do that first nap: I pulled out my Bible to get in some much needed sweet Jesus time. I was already exhausted from the morning and needing a little refill in the mama tank, and tapping into Him always gives me that much needed boost.

But then I realized something, as I began to pray. Here's how my prayer started:

"Jesus, please help me to be a good mom today, for Roman. Actually, Lord, help me to be a great mom!"

Then I stopped. There wasn't anything inherently wrong with praying to be a great mom, but I felt the Holy Spirit give me that gentle little nudge to realign with Him. Sure, I could strive to be a great mom that day; giving my all and trying to hold it all together. But that would mean operating out of the flesh and out of my own strength, which would be exhausting. I realized I didn't want to be a great mom. No, Roman needed more than that--than just me at my best.

That's when my prayer became: "Lord, I want to be a Spirit-filled mom."

Being a Spirit-filled mom meant access to a strength and power I never could muscle up on my own. If I would walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh, I wouldn't be on my own. I'd have access to God's unlimited strength, patience, and kindness. More importantly, my little guy would experience the power and presence of God to a greater degree.

Motherhood is beautiful, but it's also hard. It's even harder when we try to be a supermom, bouncing around to fix all the problems and do all the things. And being a woman trying to be a good or great mom is exhausting. In fact, it's down right defeating because you'll end up coming to the end of yourself and have nothing left to give. 

I’m learning how to stop pursuing the idea of a great mom and embracing my weakness to find His strength in being a Spirit-filled mom.

I'm learning how to stop pursuing the ideal of a great mom and embracing my weakness to find His strength in being a Spirit-filled mom. If you're with me, here are 3 prayer points you can weave into a Spirit-filled day.

  1. Pray for Him to increase as you decrease (John 3:30). A key to a flourishing life is learning to lean into your weakness so that His strength might be made perfect. It's giving up your control for His perfect will. It's seeking your own decrease so that Christ can increase in your life. Imagine how the atmosphere in your home will lighten; imagine the peace that will fill your house. Your kids will be forever impacted by that kind of presence of God in the home.
  2. Pray for humility, gentleness, patience, and love (Ephesians 4:2). I'm constantly praying this verse as a mom. I crave the Holy Spirit would fill me up with these attributes so that I can extend them to my son. Will you, too, acknowledge your deep need of all four in order to parent well? Ask Jesus to help you in these areas on a regular basis.
  3. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How many times a day do you realize the need for Jesus?! For me, a ton! But let me undo any pressure you might feel to pray unceasingly because it can cause some anxiety for people. Praying without ceasing doesn't mean you can't stop praying, but rather, it means carrying a prayerful spirit. It's inviting Jesus in on a regular basis and asking for His wisdom, strength, and patience. Essentially, it means you'll make it a habit to ask for help in the trenches of motherhood at every difficulty and express gratitude for every win He empowers you to experience. Develop a posture of prayer as a mom and your child will be impacted both momentarily and eternally.

So, are you with me, mama? Are you ready to stop striving to be a great mom and ready to start embracing the life of a Spirit-filled mom?!

Patience Over Power

By Brittany Rust

Love is patient and kind.
— 1 Corinthians 13:4a

My precious, adorable, and loving 10-month-old had just hit me--his dear mama--in the face. I couldn't believe it. I thought, certainly he was too young to be doing such a thing!

"No!" I exclaimed in my half astonished and half outraged reaction. He looked at me with those big blue eyes and instantly, crocodile tears began to form. Also instantly, my mama heart felt guilty for the hot reaction and I knew I was entering a new season of motherhood.

Parenting has a way of testing your patience unlike anything else, no matter what season you are in. It's an incredible and painful avenue of pulling out the selfishness deep within you. When you start to experience impatience with your child, it's because something they are or are not doing is poking at something inside of you that doesn't want to be poked at.

  • Their struggle to go down for a nap is a poke at your time.
  • Their early morning wake up call in a poke at your rest.
  • Their hit in the face is a poke at your power.
  • Their lack of follow through on a command is a poke at your pride.
  • Their temper tantrum is a poke at your quiet mental state.

The list could go on. We all--and I mean ALL--face pivotal moments when patience is tested. How will you respond? With a short fuse or steady hand? Because how you choose to respond will have ripple effects in your child's life.

Now, let's be honest: none of us are going to get it right 100% of the time. We are imperfect, and as we looked at last week, our weakness leaves room for God's strength. Thank goodness for that! Sweet friend, stop pressuring yourself to have it all figured out or to nail parenting every single time. If you live under constant pressure, you'll break. So let go of those expectations and live in the sweet area of Jesus'strength.

However, let's circle back to patience over power. Your kiddo(s) are looking to you to guide them well with both tenderness and strength. It's our jobs as mama's to take our selfish inclinations out of the equation in order to parent from a place of love and gentleness.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another.
— Ephesians 4:2

I know patience is one of those attributes that can be hard to wrangle in because you don't often know it's going to be a problem until you're in the moment and losing it already. Which is why it's one of those things that will require prayer and time and you know, patience.

Start practicing more calm, delayed, and kind responses with your children. When you're poked, take a deep breath, remember who they are and who you are in this relationship, and choose a more humble and gentle response. You won't bat one hundred but with some practice and a commitment to prayer, I truly believe God can help soften your responses towards your child(ren).

Here are a few practical ways to practice patience over power:

  1. Take a deep breath before you respond.
  2. Get proper perspective. Remember, your child looks up to you and is looking for guidance and support. For me, I remember that my son can't communicate and often throws a tantrum because he simply can't express to me what he wants or need.
  3. Pray often! Whenever you can get in those sweet moments with Jesus.
  4. Make time for yourself. Every mama needs a little space to be herself and rest.
  5. Have realistic expectations. Children will be children so don't expect them to follow your perfectly executed timeline 24/7. Leave room to be flexible with the ebbs and flows of your child's needs and wants.

For those moments you do lose your patience, pray you'll respond better next time. Also, tell your child you are sorry and ask for their forgiveness. It's amazing what this model will teach your kids and how that grace in between will strengthen your relationship with your them. The transparency and humility in that moment will be huge in how your child develops as a person.

Now, as soon as you see your little mini me, scoop them up into your arms and smother them with mama kisses!

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.
— Romans 12:12

Yes and Amen!