Vet The Voices

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As a new mom, I constantly find myself bending the ear of more seasoned mothers than I. How did you handle sleep training? What brand of diapers worked for your little? Is this rash normal? Thank God for veteran moms that help newbies like me.

Not only is it instinctive and natural to ask others for advice, it is Biblical. (I knew I was on to something!) King Solomon wrote that in a multitude of counsellors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14) There have definitely been seasons of life where I've needed a multitude of counsellors - my college days, my dating years and this time of early motherhood - to name a few. I am thankful for voices that have helped to guide me when my own lack of experience left me indecisive.

Where we can stumble is when we forget to put this passage of King Solomon's in context. King Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs attempting to lead a younger generation in the pursuit of wisdom. In reference to a "multitude of counsellors," he was therefore referring to wise counsel. It is not a case of quantity over quality.

We see Solomon's own son, Rehoboam, fall into the trap of taking in a multitude of counsel from the wrong advisors in the book of 1 Kings 12. Listening to the advice of his peers over the wisdom of his elders, caused Rehoboam to lose 10 of his nation's 12 tribes to a rival kingdom.

What can I, as a young wife and mother learn from Rehoboam's lack of judgement? In a world where everyone with a free blog site and knack for writing can be an expert, how can I filter through the noise and ensure I'm guarding my heart?

Do not ask people for directions to places they have never been.

There was a married couple that often gave me relationship advice. One day, I realized that I did not admire the manner in which they treated each other. I was not willing to one day have a marriage that reassembled their own, so why would I let them influence my decisions regarding relationships? I can not receive influential advice from people who have never been where I am going.

Ask for advice from people that have "skin in the game."

There are individuals that have given of their life to benefit my own. My parents, my pastor, and spiritual advisors that have loved me for decades. I want to give weight to the voices of my life's "investors" - those that will feel my successes and failures much more deeply. Those are the voices that will tell me the truth, even when it is not something I want to hear. My success is theirs as well. My failures hurt their hearts. They have a personal stake in my choices.

Listen to THE voice.

It is almost a reflex, isn't it? I'm having a bad day, so I pick up the phone and call my bestie. But how often do I instinctively drop to my knees and speak to the Lord? How often do I listen? John 10:27 says that we can hear the voice of our Shepherd and follow. And when His audible voice is silent, I can go to his voice on the page. Psalms 11:105 says His Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. When my path seems dark and my footing unsure, His Word will ALWAYS shed light on the situation.

When it is all said and done, I have a responsibility to "vet the voices," helping to guide my thinking and influencing my choices. Perhaps not every voice deserves clout in my life. Perhaps not every blogger is credible. Perhaps not every Instagram influencer is trustworthy. We need spiritual awareness to the noise we hear through social media, entertainment, our friends and work environments. Let us live alert and pray for discretion as to what opinions we allow to seep into our daily living. Most of all, let us live listening for the voice of our Shepherd.

Thank You for Lifting

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It is hard to believe that only a month ago, we brought our first baby girl into the world. It has been a wonderful journey and we've enjoyed every coo, smile and snuggle. Looking back on my birthing experience, so much is a blur. The one thing I knew when going to the hospital that early Saturday morning, was to expect the unexpected. Experienced moms had advised me that each birthing story was unique and mine was no exception.

I will never forget one moment in particular where Ella's heart rate dropped very low. Half a dozen nurses rushed to my side with worried expressions on their faces. They explained to me, quite hurriedly, that I had to be repositioned to reduce the stress on my baby. Due to an epidural I was completely unable to assist them in their efforts. With tears in my eyes, I prayed as they lifted and flipped me from side to side. After what felt like an eternity, my baby's heart rate rose and I saw the caregivers surrounding me, breathe a sigh of relief.

When the room returned to a state of peace and the nurses seemed content, I had a moment to reflect. I thought to myself, 'That must be what it felt like for the lame man mentioned in the Bible at the pool of Bethesda.'

When Jesus saw him lying there... He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up...

NKJV John 5:6-7

In that crucial moment of labor, I needed desperately to be moved, yet had no strength in my legs to reposition myself into a place of healing. My heart felt overwhelmed with gratitude for those six women who literally stepped in to be the hands and feet of Jesus. They lifted me when I could no longer lift myself.

How many fellow moms and friends do we know that are likewise numb from an injection of life's pain and disappointments? How many of our gal-pals need to find themselves in the healing waters of God's Presence, but no longer have enough strength to walk there alone?

My prayer today is to be the legs for those who have none. Maybe with an encouraging note or even a small smile, I can be a force of movement in someone else's motionless situation. Perhaps just by offering a humble prayer on my sister's behalf, I can be a lifter.

We can help to reposition our co-workers, church family and neighbors into a position of promise. Let us start each morning by asking God to open our eyes to "lifting opportunities." If we walk in this hope, it could be that one day someone will look to us with a heart full of gratitude and say, "Thank you for lifting."

The Paper Fireplace

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We are a mere few weeks away from bringing our first baby into the world. While she may miss Christmas day, I have a new found respect for what parents face each year to ensure their little families have a magical holiday. I see dads on ladders hanging Christmas lights and moms baking in the kitchen. I understand the pressure to buy just the right gifts and the chaos of parties, programs and hosting family. As a child you do not always see the bills, the exhaustion, and the pressure to produce a Hallmark experience for your loved ones. You just see the sparkle.

One Christmas that I look back on with such warmth, was when our family was very young. My parents could not afford gifts that holiday. As a matter-of-fact, the only present my two sisters and I received, was a new dress to wear to our church's Christmas service. There were no packages delivered or tinsel and garland to behold. All that mom was able to produce that year was a small, paper fireplace. I can see the image clearly in my mind's eye. She sat on the floor of our tiny living room and rolled out a large piece of white paper. Using colored pencils, she carefully shaded in orange and yellow flames atop brown logs. Each brick was hand-drawn and meticulously placed. Using tacks, she pinned the finished image to our wall and hung small stockings from the paper mantle. On Christmas day, instead of opening presents, we found candy inside the tiny stockings. I still remember their tangy, sweet flavor.

That year, while my parents may have witnessed lack, I only saw the magic. It was not until I was much older that I even realized there were no gifts that December. All I honestly remembered was the most beautiful picture of a fireplace and the excitement of getting candy on Christmas morning from our very own little stockings.

As I bring my own daughter into the world, I want to always remember the innocent spirit of a child. I want to remember to see the holidays though her eyes. If the tree is crooked and the presents are sparse, maybe it is only I who will notice. Truth be told, I do not remember many of the Christmas presents I have received through the years. What I remember are the dinners with family, walks through the snow, laughter, games played, and one paper fireplace crafted with the love of a mother.

Take a deep breath newlywed. Let your heart rest, tired mommy. Let your spirit be content my anxious friend. Use gift-bags this year. Buy your hot chocolate pre-made. Do not put so much pressure on your fragile soul. I promise, no one will notice. Your secret is safe with me. Give yourself a break and give yourself a chance to feel the joy. They may not remember what you bought them, but they will remember the experience you create. Do not let them see your furrowed brow over homemade cookies. Let them see a mess, but a twinkle in your eye. That is what Christmas is all about.

Luke 2: 11-14

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Zoom In

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I have always wondered if it would be better to excel in one specific activity or to be mediocre at several. This is the conundrum of a creative soul that enjoys an array of pastimes. I love event planning. I am passionate about music. (Even have a degree in it!) I spend hours practicing hand-lettering and calligraphy. I enjoy fashion. I am decent at graphic design and social media management. But what do all of these innate talents amount to?

I've often been distracted by the possibilities. Should I start up my own local event planning company? Should I run a music studio? Should I create an Etsy shop and sell my hand-lettered artwork? Should I facilitate a fashion blog?

Just because you can, does not mean you should.

I feel I finally got my answer. To borrow from one of my favorite books, "The Best Yes," by Lysa TerKeurst, life is about reserving your time and energy to say YES to the best possible situations. I have come to the realization that HOBBIES are not always simultaneously CALLINGS. While I enjoy all of the diversions mentioned, I had to take a good look at myself and ask some hard questions. At the end of the day, what has God called me to? If I can uncover this truth, then the venture worth throwing myself into is revealed. Everything else is a fun distraction, but not meant to be my life's work.

Once I have this clarity, I can pursue. I can stay up all hours of the night and press towards that mark. I can pour my finances and resources into that field. I can zoom in.

When taking a photo, if you fail to focus your lens on the subject on hand, the entire picture is blurry. Suddenly your main object has lost its definition and potency. I have to give myself direction and learn to "focus in" on my passion... my calling. If I try to capture it all, surely it all will become a blur.

So during one of the busiest seasons of the year, I have a newfound commitment to focus. Yes, I am about to give birth to our first child in January. Yes there is a nursery to complete and presents to wrap for Christmas. Yes, there are parties to throw and a new year to consider. But my challenge to you and to myself, is to zoom in. Finish 2018 with a fresh mind. Consider 2019 now instead of later.

What is God calling you to? Maybe it is to start a new project or simply to refocus on an old, neglected one. Whatever it may be, let us both experience the power that comes from a focussed, zoomed-in mind. We can do it!

The Tiny, Big Gift

We were little girls with the big dream of owning our very own "Toys R Us" Pioneer Barbie doll. At the time, our parents were home missionaries and could not afford to buy my little sister and I the toys. Instead, they suggested we take our allowance of 25 cents a week and save up for them. So we did just that.

Each week we would fill empty Gerber baby food jars with our coins. Soon enough we had quite a collection of change, and the promise of those coveted toys was within our reach.

However, one Wednesday evening our church had a visit from missionaries to Honduras. I remember hearing the burden of that family and being pricked in my heart as a little child, sensitive to God's spirit. When the plea for financial support went across the pulpit, my little sister and I turned our wide eyes towards mom. We wanted to give all of the change we had saved up, to those missionaries.

During the offering, our little feet ran to the church parsonage we called home. Minutes later, the lids from those petite glass jars were twisted off and the sound of clinking pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters was heard as they slid into the offering plate. My mother wept.

How could two tiny girls with such a tiny offering, give so much? We went home that night with no chance of getting our toys.

But God has a way of rewarding the innocent heart. The following Sunday, it was service as usual. My father studied in his office and then locked the door on his way out. When service had been dismissed, my entire family convened to his study as was our custom. Dad took out his keys and turned the big door knob. As we walked in, our eyes all shifted to see two white envelopes lying on his desk. With a bewildered look on his face, Dad reached out his hand and opened one of the mysterious letters.

Inside? Two "Toys R Us" giftcards in the exact amount we needed to purchase those Pioneer Barbie Dolls. To this day, we do not know who did such a loving act for two, small girls. My parents had not told a single soul about the incident. I still believe it was an angel.

Years later, I now realize what God was teaching us in that destiny moment. It is not that God wants to strip you of your dreams. It is simply that in the process of fulfilling them, He wants to know if you trust Him enough to put your little jar of coins in His hands... He wants to take us on a faith journey.

2 Corinthians 1:20 - For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

So what is the "Barbie" in your life? Is it the dream of a happy marriage? An illustrious career? A ministry opportunity? Whatever your hope may be, I want to encourage you to place it in God's hands. It does not mean it will never happen. Quite the contrary, my sweet friend. It just means that one day, not only will your dreams come to pass... but you will have a beautiful faith story to share in addition.

Ugly, Beautiful Scars

Scars are ugly. So we do to scars what we do to all ugly things - we hide them. Scars tell us a story of injury. They speak to the time you crashed your bike. They boast of the disease that led you to a surgeon’s operating table. They let the world know that something tragic was done to you - and now there’s a blemish to prove it.

However, what we fail to see in those ugly scars is that as much as they speak of hurt, they also speak of healing. Scars are not ugly – they are simply storytellers. And while you cannot have a scar without harm, you also cannot have a scar without restoration. You see, scars form when the skin begins to mend itself. A scar is only a scar, after the wound is no more.

Jesus had been crucified and then resurrected for several days. He had shown himself to all of the disciples, save one (John 20:24). “Doubting Thomas,” as we unjustly label him, was skeptical of the resurrection reports he had heard. So Jesus, in His loving kindness, made yet another appearance just for him.

When Jesus finally showed himself to the broken Thomas, he did not prove His resurrection with fanfare or miracles. Instead, He simply showed Thomas his nail-scarred hands and wounded side.

John 20: 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Rev. Charles Spurgeon once said, “I wish to draw your attention to the ample fact, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when he rose again from the dead had in his body the marks of his passion. If he had pleased he could readily have removed them.”

Jesus understood, that while his scars spoke of crucifixion and death, they also spoke of the resurrection power of Christ. So he chose to leave them visible. Yes, you may have some hideous heart scars. They may speak of divorce, failure, abuse, abortion, a falling away…. the tragedies of life’s mistakes. But a scar is not a scar, until the wound is no more.

Your ugly, beautiful scars also speak of the resurrection power of Christ. They shout out the story of how God breathed life back into your dead dreams, how he washed away your sins, how He healed the brokenness, and how He took you back… every time. How many “Doubting Thomases” could we convince, if only we stopped hiding our scars? What if we found the courage deep inside to admit the wound, so that God could receive glory for the recovery?

So in a world obsessed with airbrushing, concealing and removing imperfections, I extend an opposing invitation to you. Will you join me in removing the mask and sharing your testimony, so that others can be free to believe? It is time to wear our scars with humble boldness, professing the resurrecting power of Christ.

The Little Girl in Me

I am convinced that inside of every woman, there is a little girl. Sometimes if you look very closely, past the tired eyes and wrinkled lines, you can see her. She often escapes in the form of a high-pitched squeal or a sparkle in the eye. She loves to be delighted in and hates to disappoint. She crumbles from heartbreak when her sweet little hopes are dashed.

I married a man that brings out the little girl in me. He allows me to escape being a grown-up ever so often. With his unconditional delight, he encourages a part of my heart that is still childlike.

Sometimes I can tell when he has seen her. It may be after I get an ice-cream cone or buy a pretty new dress. But when I look up at his smiling face, I can tell… he just witnessed the little girl escape from somewhere deep inside.

'Little Shenae' comes to the surface when my childhood friends surround me: when we talk about memories, visit a familiar restaurant or just saturate ourselves in girly, fanciful fun. She hasn’t been scarred by disappointment or hurt. She skips and sings. She’s the little girl hidden inside of an aging captor – the older me.

Yes, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:11, that we should put childhood behind us as we grow and mature in our walk with God. But there are some ‘childish things,’ that should never be put away. Matthew 18:3 reminds us that unless we have faith like children we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven.

I know you’ve had to be strong and brave to survive. But that little girl inside of you is just as brave. She just isn't cynical or broken by what you have been through.

So my prayer for you and I, my friends, is simply this:

Lord, let the little girls in us never be put away. Let them have child-like faith that is undamaged by the things we’ve seen. Take us back to those moments of unbridled trust that only an innocent can know. Wash away the brave, strong demeanors that are the invulnerable product of grief and hurt. Return the pitter-patter to our hearts – the sparkle of hope. And let that little girl in us stay very much alive and resilient.

For our bodies may age, but we must fight to ensure that our souls never do…


Shenae Andrus

Hand in Hand

As young girls we have so many questions about our future...

Will I be brave and brilliant? Will I be successful and strong? Who will I marry and what career path will I choose? Will I be happy?

We embark on this grand adventure of discovery, trying to find the answers to those very questions.

We have an idea of what it means to be this perfect Proverbs 31 woman – and while we may never become this lady in her entirety, as time goes on, we learn that it’s never really been about the arrival. It’s always been about the process.

Slowly the silhouette of a godly woman begins to take shape in our lives.

The most important lesson that we could learn throughout this course, is that we are not alone in our quest.  We are all driven by the same power and consumed by the same questions. The struggle is not unique to any of us. We are surrounded by an army of sisters all over the globe... So hand in hand, with Christ as our guide, let’s walk this path together.