For Audrey and Eden

This is a heavy post. I’m going to write about our experience with stillbirth, so if that topic is difficult for you to read about right now, you might want to skip this one and that’s okay. I understand and I’m right there with you. 

Today is our 8th wedding anniversary and I wanted to post something, but it’s hard to find the words. Writing has always been a source of comfort to me, so I’m dusting off my blog site in an attempt to form some coherent thoughts. I’ve been pretty absent on social media lately because honestly, we haven’t felt like celebrating or sharing much of anything. When we made our wedding vows eight years ago, we promised to be there for each other through the mountaintops and valleys of life. We just didn’t have any idea how deep the valleys could be. 

Our precious twin baby girls, Audrey James Brown and Eden Jean Brown, were stillborn at 24 weeks on March 24, 2023. The last few months have been a terrible blur of tears and questions. There just aren’t words to adequately describe the loss we feel. Nothing could have prepared me to give birth and not hear our babies’ cries. Nothing could have prepared me for the emptiness I would feel as we drove home from the hospital without them. Saying goodbye to our children in the place we were supposed to begin our lives together was the hardest thing I have ever done. This grief is so heavy and loud. The simplest tasks seem impossible. Going out in public is terrifying. Every moment is filled with the enormity of what and who we have lost.

This loss doesn’t make sense to us, but we are doing our best to trust God and place the pieces of our broken hearts in Jesus’ hands. My faith has been shaken to the very core, but of this I am certain: God is still good. He is still sovereign. He still loves us. He is near to our broken hearts and crushed spirits (Psalm 34:18). Through Christ, death is not the end. We are not okay right now, but we are trusting that we will be. We are grieving right now, but we know a time is coming when there will be no more tears, sorrow, or suffering. It hurts right now, but we believe God will eventually make something good out of this season. I will never understand why our babies died, at least not until I get to heaven. But it’s not my job to understand. My job is to remain faithful to my God who has never failed me.

Instead of looking for anniversary well-wishes, I write this post to ask for your prayers as we continue to walk through this painful season. We have a long road ahead of us. Please also pray for Sutton, as she’s still processing the loss of her little sisters. So many of you have been praying for us, and we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are so thankful for our people who have pointed us to God and reminded us of who He is. 

Audrey and Eden are so loved, and we desperately wanted to live life with them here. They were so beautiful, so remarkably and wonderfully made. Though their lives here on earth were so much shorter than we planned or wanted, they deeply mattered. One of the truths that has proven most comforting during this season is something our pastor said during Audrey and Eden’s funeral service: God knows and loves our babies.

While we will carry this grief with us forever, we are thankful to be able to grieve with hope. It brings me hope to know these precious babies, who I love so deeply, are in the presence of the One who loves them with a love greater than I am even capable of. Because of Jesus, we know where our babies are, and we know we will get to meet Audrey, Eden, and the baby we lost last year in heaven one day. I am so thankful for salvation and I’m clinging to that promise as hard as I can. Until then, I will do my best to honor my children’s lives and lean on Jesus. I will tell our story with hope that it might provide comfort to other grieving parents one day. And today, I’m thankful for a new perspective on our wedding anniversary – one that serves as a reminder that God gave us each other to make it through life’s valleys together. I can think of no better way to honor Audrey and Eden than by allowing their lives to bring Jimbob and I closer to one another in our marriage and closer to our Heavenly Father in our faith – one day at a time.

Personal Discipleship

Personal discipleship should be at the forefront of every believer’s heart and mind. Christians should always be learning and growing in their faith. When you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you signed up for a lifelong journey of continuous spiritual formation. As I have worked on my own personal discipleship, the Lord has made a few requirements evident to me. I have found, for me, the main requirements of personal discipleship are humility, dependence, faith, consistency, and intentionality. There are certainly more elements that are included in personal discipleship; these are just the ones the Lord has been laying on my heart the most lately. It’s my prayer that, as you live out your own faith, some of these ideas might benefit your walk with the Lord.

Being a disciple requires humility. You have to lay down your pride and accept you cannot do life on your own. You have to give up all control and completely allow the Lord to guide and direct your steps. You must choose to “walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) every day. You have to be able to admit God’s plan for your life is better than your own. You have to be willing to submit to the Lord’s authority in every area of your life. Proverbs 3:34 tells us “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” God blesses humility, and being a true disciple of Jesus requires it.

Personal discipleship requires dependence. You have to understand your own desperate need for a Savior. Without Jesus, all that’s in store for you is death. You have been given the free gift of salvation, and this is a gift you could never earn or achieve on your own. You are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8). This means you can’t take credit for your salvation. You were dead in your sins and completely dependent on Jesus to save you. As you continue your journey of personal discipleship, you have to hold onto that spirit of dependence on the Lord. You must continually feel the weight of your need for Him.

Personal discipleship also requires faith. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone, especially when you can’t see what’s next. When Jesus called the first disciples in Luke 5, the disciples had to have faith that Jesus was who He said He was. They were experienced fishermen, but still trusted Jesus enough to move their net to the other side of the boat when He told them to. Jesus blessed their faith. The disciples then left everything behind to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11). Following Jesus cost the disciples everything, and it’s the same for us, too. When you are growing in personal discipleship, you have to have faith to be willing to leave everything behind for God. You have to value Jesus more than His provisions for you. You have to be willing to go where He tells you. You must have faith to be okay with not seeing the whole picture, and trust in the One who does.

Being a disciple of Christ requires consistency. As I’ve previously stated, personal discipleship is an ongoing process. You can’t choose to be a disciple only sometimes. Personal discipleship requires you to wake up every morning and consciously decide to follow Jesus. You have to consistently choose to practice spiritual disciplines in order to grow. If you wanted to get better at any particular skill, you would have have to be consistent with how much you practiced that skill. You couldn’t decide to only practice when it was convenient or when you felt like it, and expect to see much growth. In the same way, personal discipleship requires consistency. When you choose to follow Jesus, you have to be His disciple on days when you don’t feel like it. You have to be a disciple even when it’s hard. You must consistently walk with God and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit every day.

Personal discipleship doesn’t just happen in the life of a Christian. It requires intentionality. You have to make a conscious effort to read your Bible, pray, and worship. This means you have to be intentional with your time. You might have to say no to certain things in order to make time for your own discipleship. You can’t go to church just once a week and not spend any other time focusing on God. You can’t pray only at meal times and expect to grow in your faith. You have to intentionally put Him in front of everything else in your life. Don’t live your life on auto-pilot. Be intentional about your relationship with God.

Personal discipleship is not easy. It is an ongoing process. It’s a lot of work – but I promise it’s worth it. There will be days when you want to give up, but press on. When you mess up, ask for forgiveness, give yourself grace, and do better the next day. Keep leaning on the Lord and trusting Him. When you are walking in step with God, allowing Him to reveal more and more as you grow, you will truly be able to live the abundant, full life He intends you to have (John 10:10). You will never be alone. You will have peace living in God’s will.

If you have somehow stumbled on this post and you aren’t a Christian, I’m so glad you’re here! Please reach out to me if you have questions about what it means to give your life to Christ and start a journey of personal discipleship. Choosing to follow Jesus is the best and most important decision you could ever make, and it would be an honor to talk to you more in depth about it.

Ways to Disciple Your Kids (Even When You’re Busy!)

Family discipleship is so important in the life of a Christian family. Parents, you are the primary disciple-makers of your children. If you are not already intentionally pointing your children to Christ often at home, I want to encourage you to start now. If raising tiny disciples sounds like a big job, that’s because it is. Guiding your children to choose to follow Christ is the most important thing you will ever do for them. But let me tell you this: There is no one more perfectly suited for the job of discipling your children than you are. Not your children’s ministry at church. Not your child’s Sunday School teacher. You. God made you their parent and that was no mistake. He has equipped you and will sustain you as you train them in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). You can do this – not on your own – but with the help and guidance of your Heavenly Father, who has already set you up for success.

I know what you’re thinking: “Please don’t tell me I need to be doing more. Our schedule is already jam-packed as it is and I can’t take on one more thing.” I know. I know your family is busy. But the beauty of family discipleship and devotional time is that it can be woven into the routines of life your family has already established. It comes down to being intentional with your time. Family discipleship doesn’t have to be fancy or time-consuming, but it does need to be purposeful and consistent. I know discipling your kids sounds overwhelming, but friends, you can’t afford not to be your child’s spiritual leader. We, as Christians, have been given a commission to “go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19). This discipleship mission has to start in your own home.

These are a few ideas on how to implement family discipleship and devotional time into activities that you are probably already doing with your kids. It might take a little creativity, but I think you will find discipling your children truly can become a natural part of your routine.

Utilize your time in the car together.

Everyone is always on the go – especially families with children. Why not use your time getting from Point A to Point B to disciple your kids and help them grow in their faith? You can listen to worship music or audio versions of Scripture passages together. Or, you can turn off the radio and have conversations about what they are learning from God lately. Take advantage of the 10 minute drive to baseball practice or dance class. Spend time discipling your little ones in the pick-up line at their siblings’ school. Talk about what you see in God’s creation as you drive around town. You can make the most of this time you are already spending together. Car rides are one of the most perfect places to have spiritual conversations with your children, because no one can get up and walk away!

Turn bath time into Bible time!

Most kids, especially preschoolers, love playing in the bath. Well, guess what?! There are so many Bible stories that have to do with water in one way or another. The next time your child is in the bath, tell them how Jesus’ washed his friends’ feet as you wash theirs. See if they can make the water in the tub split in half as you tell them about Moses and the Red Sea. Talk about baptism and what it means to publicly proclaim your commitment to the Lord. The possibilities are endless!

Add a devotional time to your bedtime routine.

Establishing a solid bedtime routine is such a great way to help your kids get to sleep. Consider adding a little bit of discipleship time before bed. You could read a Bible story or go over a verse you’re trying to memorize as a family. My husband and I ask our 3-year-old daughter the same question every night before we tuck her in: “What do you want to thank God for today?” Sometimes we get silly answers, but other times it is an opportunity to really get a look into how the Holy Spirit is speaking to her heart. Ending your day by asking questions and praying together can bring forth some of the sweetest, most Christ-filled moments.

Be intentional with your meal-time conversations.

When everyone is seated at the table, it can provide an opportunity to have some deep and lasting conversations with your kids. You can bless the meal together and model what thankfulness looks like. You might remind your children that just as God provides for your physical needs, He also provided the salvation from our sins that we so desperately need. You could even find a family devotional book you read through together as you enjoy your meal. It can be easy to talk about whatever happens to cross our minds at mealtime, but do your best to direct some of the conversation to be focused on what it means to follow Jesus.

Adopt a Bible Buddy.

Give your kids some responsibility in their faith journey by adopting a new friend. Take your children to pick out a stuffed animal (or grab an old favorite), and explain to them that this friend will now be their “Bible Buddy.” They get to adopt their new friend on one condition: they promise to read their Bible to them every day. You could even go all out with an adoption ceremony! Doing something like this can help motivate kids to read their Bibles and remind their parents to engage in family discipleship time. For children who are too young to read, the parents or older siblings could read while the child listens with their buddy. I’m fairly certain your kids are already playing with toys and stuffed animals, so why not have one that has a deeper purpose behind it?

Make regular church attendance a part of your family’s routine.

The Bible tells us that Christians are meant to live in fellowship with other believers. We are not to give up meeting together (Heb. 10:25). This is true for your kids, as well. Regularly connecting with friends in a church environment can help them to discover more about who God is and who they are in Him. They might see another child accepting Christ or getting baptized and wonder what those steps look like for them. When going to church is a normal part of your family’s routine, your kids will consistently be seeing others grow in their faith. They will also see you, their parent, model life-long learning and spiritual growth for yourself. Participating in corporate worship together allows the Holy Spirit to move. Because of regular church attendance, you will be able to have conversations with your kids that you wouldn’t have just at home.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of resources that are already available to you.

I have good news for you: You don’t have to come up with everything yourself! There are so many resources out there to help you disciple your children. There are all kinds of family devotionals, discussion starters, and Christian life books out there. Your church’s children’s ministry leaders and staff can help you get started with discipleship at home. You don’t have to do this alone.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This verse encompasses the heart behind family discipleship. You can sprinkle in discipleship moments for your children anywhere.

I hope this might have given you some fresh, new ideas on what discipleship can look like for your family. I also hope you feel encouraged to do the job the Lord has given you. Remember to give yourself grace as you parent and disciple your children. There will be days when you miss the mark. That’s okay. Don’t give up and try again. Every family is different, so not all of these ideas will work for your family. You don’t have to do everything, but you do need to do something to disciple your children. As your family grows closer to the Lord together, I think you will find He brings you closer to one another, as well.

What would you add to this list? Do you have any methods of family discipleship that work really well for your family? I would love to hear about how God is working in your family’s life!

When it Feels Like God is Silent

If you are a follower of Christ, you know how important prayer is in the life of the believer. When we pray, we grow in our faith and we grow closer to the Father. Prayer is essential for everything we do. The Bible tells us not to worry about anything, but instead to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6). It also tells us that our Heavenly Father hears us when we pray (1 John 5:14). We can trust these promises are true. But what happens when you are praying and it feels like God isn’t answering you? What about the times when God is silent? We live in a broken, sin-filled world. Sometimes we are left feeling helpless and hopeless. Sometimes it feels like no matter how much we pray, God is just not going to answer.

When it feels like God isn’t answering your prayers, it is extremely isolating. It can cause you to doubt Him. When you pray, it can feel like you’re talking to a wall. It’s discouraging and frustrating. Friends, I get it. I’ve been there. But I want to remind you (and myself, honestly) that even though we might not always hear God’s voice, He is working. During the stormy seasons of life, He is with us and watching over us. We have a promise that God will never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). As hard as it might be, we have to trust in that promise. We have to keep our eyes fixed on Him, even if our vision seems blurry right now.

Being a Christian is not easy. In fact, Jesus told us that we would face troubles in life (John 16:33). We will have stormy seasons where hope seems lost. Parts of life will be messy and hard. But we can also rest in the fact that Jesus has already conquered the hard stuff. He’s beaten sin. He has defeated death so that you and I might have life – both here on earth and eternally in Heaven. When it feels like God is silent in your troubled times, trust that He’s working in the silence. If you are in a stormy season right now, the Lord is right there with you. You’re not alone.

Even if it feels like God is silent, keep talking to Him. Keep talking until you hear Him. When you are praying and praying and praying and you end up feeling more overwhelmed than before, keep talking to God. I promise eventually, you will see Him answer. He won’t stay silent. Your Heavenly Father holds you and your entire world in the palm of His hand. He is your Savior and that will never change. The Lord is sovereign and in control over all. Who God is does not depend on whether or not you see Him moving in your life at the current moment. Push on. Don’t lose hope. Lean on your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray big and pray hard.

Praying Your Kids Through the 2020-2021 School Year

September is here and it’s pretty weird. I don’t know about you, but for me, this year has felt like it has flown by and lasted forever all at the same time (and I’m not even sure how that’s possible). Here in Burleson, our schools are starting off the year this week. COVID-19 has completely changed how schools will be operating this year. Some students will be learning virtually completely from home, some will be in class on campuses, and others will be attending school both in-person and online. Even families who have always homeschooled their children are having to make adjustments this year. With all of the new procedures and policies put in place, it’s no wonder that kids, parents, teachers, and administrators have been feeling some stress and anxiety from starting this year.

As I have been praying for all of the teachers I know, my kids at church as they start back to school, and the parents that are learning how to deal with all of this, God has been revealing a few main points of prayer. I wanted to share them with you.

  1. Pray for guidance.
    All of us are navigating through uncharted territories right now – especially those involved in the school system in any capacity. Parents, one way you can be praying your kids through this year is to ask the Lord for guidance. Seek Him and what He has planned for your family, instead of focusing only on what you want your school year to look like. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s promptings in your day to day lives. Parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, and so many others have had to make difficult decisions already. There will be more hard decisions to make in the future, but take comfort in knowing you do not have to make them alone. Psalm 105:4 says “Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.” God will guide you as you look to Him.
    No matter how the children in your life are attending school this year, they are looking to you for direction. This means it is imperative to be pointing them to Christ and looking to Him yourself for guidance. There are tons of people throwing out advice right now (including me!), and while a lot of the advice you’re given might be great, it is important to look at everything through the lens of the Bible. Base the decisions you make about school and your children on what God is speaking to you through His word and your time spent in prayer.

  2. Pray that God would grant you more grace and patience in this season.
    Everyone needs a little extra grace and patience this year. Parents, this means you too. Give yourself grace as you juggle working and teaching your child at home. Give yourself grace when your family doesn’t stick to the routine or schedule at all. Give yourself grace when you order pizza for dinner again because you are too exhausted to think about cooking. Be patient with yourself. Ask God to help you focus your time and energy where it is most needed. Give yourself grace and ask the Lord to help you do so.
    Secondly, it is also important to pray for grace for the children in your lives. Ask the Lord to help you give them grace when they fail. Pray for patience when they are struggling with something at school. Your children are learning new concepts in entirely new environments.
    Finally, pray for grace and patience for the teachers and administrators this year. Remember that they are all navigating the same uncertain territories as your family. Some teachers are having to teach virtually when they have never done so before. Some are having to teach both online and in person simultaneously. Some are teaching in a classroom full of children, trying to keep everyone safe and healthy while helping them learn something. Ask the Lord to help you have grace and patience with the teachers in your child’s life.

  3. Pray for the health and safety of your kids.
    As we all keep learning how to live with this virus, it is important to continually be praying for the health and safety of the kids in our lives. There is power in prayer, and God is bigger than COVID-19. This pandemic has not come as a surprise to Him, and He is still in control of it all. One of the most powerful ways that you can protect your children is to pray for them.
    Praying God’s protection over your kids does not guarantee they won’t ever get sick or nothing bad will ever happen to them, but it does help prepare you to be able to handle trials when they arise. By staying in tune with the Holy Spirit, you will be better able to take on the uncertainties that this year has to offer.

Your kids need you to pray for them. They are learning how to pray and follow God as they watch you. Take a breath, pray, and trust that God has complete control over the 2020-2021 school year. While this year might not be what we are all used to, I truly believe that God is moving and working through it all.
To all of my parent, grandparent, teacher, and administrator friends – I am praying for you and I love you! I’m also praying for the precious children in your lives. You’ve all got this because God’s got you. I’d love to hear from you. How else are you praying for your kids this year? Is there anything specific for you or your family that I can be praying for?

What does hope look like?

I think that we can all agree that 2020 has been pretty terrible. I don’t know anyone who has not experienced some kind of disappointment or grief this year. With everything that has been going on, it’s understandable for us to be feeling depressed or anxious about the future. I have to admit that there have been many times over the past few months where I have felt lost. I’ve been at a loss for what to do or where to go next. Changing plans over and over has been stressful. I have felt afraid and hopeless.

This got me thinking – what does hope actually look like? I think a lot of us have a picture in our minds that a hopeful person is strong and positive. They aren’t nervous about anything because they are confident in their future. When setbacks happen, they are able to take them in stride and keep going without missing a beat – because they have hope. Throughout all of the mess that 2020 has brought us, they have been able to radiate positivity. This has basically been my view of hope. I have felt as though having hope makes you some kind of superhero who can conquer anything. With this perspective of hope, I could never describe myself as a “hopeful” person.

However, throughout all of this year and my own struggles, God has remained faithful. He has been working on my heart. He has been giving me a new picture of hope. He is showing me that, even in my darkest hour, there is hope. God has been revealing to me the kind of hope that He offers is much different and deeper than my previous understanding of hope. When I have been in a place where all hope seems lost, He has shown me that there is hope that only He can offer. He can bring peace that surpasses all of my understanding (Philippians 4:7). The truth is that on my own, I can’t conquer everything the world throws at me. There will be trials that knock me off my feet. There will be circumstances I won’t be able to understand or see any good in. But this doesn’t mean that I won’t be able to have hope. Hope doesn’t always look like someone who has it all together. It doesn’t look like a superhero. Most of the time, hope looks like someone who is completely broken on their own. They are utterly weak and find themselves having to lean on the Lord to be able to take another step. Having hope doesn’t mean you are indestructible – it means you have faith and trust in the One who is.

If you are where I’ve been lately, feeling like you don’t have anything to be hopeful for, I want to encourage you. First, you are not alone. I have been where you are, and there are plenty of other Christians who have struggled during this season. It’s been rough and there have been moments where I have had a lot of trouble being able to stay positive at all. I get it and I’m with you.

Secondly, none of your trials are a surprise to God. He knows everything you have been through, are currently dealing with, and what is to come. He holds your world in the palm of His hand and is in control of it all. Jesus has already overcome the world (John 16:33). We can find comfort in knowing He will never leave us. God is with you through your moments of despair and hopelessness. You can trust that He is beside you when you feel like giving up. He will carry you when you can’t lift yourself up off the floor. The Lord wants you to rely on Him. When you can’t muster up any hope, He is there to provide it for you. He can bring you the hope, peace, and joy you will never be able to find anywhere else.

I’ll end with this verse, which is on a plaque in my office that I look at every day (I am always amazed when I read the same verse over and over, and then one day it hits me in a different way – God’s word truly is alive). May you be filled with His hope today, friends.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.” Romans 15:13

Share Your Story

I accepted Christ when I was seven years old and was baptized when I was nine. My dad was a seminary professor and pastor, and we went to church every Sunday. Growing up, there was never a point where I questioned God’s existence or involvement in my life because my parents were intentional in incorporating biblical truths into our lives every day.

As I moved into adolescence, there came a point where I had to make my faith my own. For my entire childhood, I had grown in my faith and basic understanding of the gospel largely because I never considered any other options. I realized that I needed to be able to defend what I believed, and I needed to have a better answer for it than “My parents told me so.” Eventually, I grew to understand that I was not saved because I had great parents who trained me. I was not saved because of anything that I had done. My salvation was only given to me because of the grace and love of God.

This is my story. Honestly, I used to be kind of discouraged by it. When I would hear other people share their testimonies, I felt like mine didn’t compare. My story just seemed so boring. I didn’t have some epic testimony about how I was at rock bottom and found Jesus. I was a little seven-year-old who didn’t have it all figured out. I understood just enough to know that I wanted my life to follow Jesus.

Having what I thought to be a “boring” testimony often made me feel like I didn’t have a story worth sharing. Growing up, I backed down from several opportunities to share my story because I couldn’t see how God could use it. But there came a point where God showed me the value of my story. He helped me understand that even though my story may seem “boring” on the surface, it is actually the greatest story that I will ever have to tell.

I came to realize the most amazing part of my story is that because I found Christ at such a young age, He was walking with me through every stage of life. I believe that there were temptations and dangers along the way that the Holy Spirit was protecting me from. Growing up was not always easy or perfect, but I was very blessed – even in the rough parts. I am sure I won’t be able to comprehend the full picture of how God’s hand was in my life while I’m on this side of Heaven.

I have also realized that part of why God has given me a heart for Children’s Ministry is because I became a Christian as a child myself. A lot of the kids in my ministry are right around the same age that I was when I made the decision to follow Jesus. My testimony has really given me a perspective that sees every child as more than just a student at church. They are each a potential brother or sister in Christ. I am living proof that the Holy Spirit who speaks to the hearts of adults is the same One who speaks to the hearts of children. Even though they are young, they are still capable of making big decisions for God.

My story is amazing because it’s mine. Your story is amazing because it’s yours. No matter what our stories of how we came to know Christ are, each one is a beautiful, amazing miracle worth sharing. If your story is similar to mine, that’s great. If your story is completely different from mine, that’s great, too! Just as we are all uniquely created, we all have unique stories. Don’t take the story of your salvation for granted. Share it with anyone you can. Tell others about the best gift you’ve ever been given: your eternal salvation and relationship with your Heavenly Father.

Maybe you don’t have a salvation story yet. If you feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about becoming a Christian, I want to encourage you to talk to someone about that. Ask someone what their story is. When we share our testimonies with one another, God can and will use our conversations to bring us closer to Him.

Five Tips For When You’re Struggling With Comparison

For about as long as I can remember, I have struggled with comparison. For every stage of life that I have been through, there were always people who seemed to be doing a better job at <fill in the blank> than I was.

The truth is that I am not alone. There are a lot of people who have trouble with comparing themselves to others. There are countless blog posts and articles out there that focus on this topic. Out of curiosity, I did a quick, informal survey of those who follow me on Instagram about struggling with comparison. About 20 people responded – all of them admitting this was something they struggled with, too. Sometimes it is helpful to acknowledge that we are not alone in our struggles, and I believe every person will struggle with comparison at some point in life.

When I get caught up in comparison, I tend to put myself down a lot. I will be scrolling through Facebook or Instagram thinking things like, “Wow! This mom made a healthy dinner completely from scratch tonight. My kid is eating dinosaur chicken nuggets for the third night in a row. I need to get it together.” or “Look at that super engaging activity this children’s minister is doing with her kids! I am never going to be that creative.”

If you’ve had thoughts similar to these before (and I’m willing to bet you have), I want to encourage you today. I want you to know that you are not alone and that you are doing a great job. I want to encourage you to stop comparing yourself to others. The following five points are some of the things that God has been speaking to my heart when I find myself comparing myself to others. They have helped me, and it is my prayer that they might help you, too.

  1. Know who you are in Christ. Know who God says you are. 
    In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul tells Christians, “for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). Friends, if you are a Christian, God tells us that you are His son or daughter. You are a child of the almighty Creator of the universe. When Jesus died for you, He paid a price and your life has value. No matter how talented, put-together, or professional you may or may not be does not change the fact that Jesus died for you. We can find comfort knowing God doesn’t look at our abilities or social status to determine whether or not we are worthy of love. He loves you simply because you are His child and His creation.
  1. Social media isn’t giving you the whole picture.
    Understand that what you see on social media is that person’s highlight reel. You are only seeing the best parts of their life – not the messy outtakes that they don’t want others see. When you are comparing yourself to someone else based on what they put up on their profiles, it’s an unfair comparison. You’re looking at all of you and only part of them.
    I try to be real on social media, but oftentimes I fall short here. There have been many times when I have posted a picture of my daughter sweetly playing, coloring, or reading a book. Based off of pictures like those, you’d probably think that my home is always peaceful, clean, and happy. But what you don’t see are the tantrums and fits that my girl can throw. You don’t see my living room after it looks like a tornado blew through. I don’t take pictures of my kid watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for three hours straight (bless that mouse – it happens sometimes!).
    I’m not saying it’s right, but there is a need to put only our best and most polished selves out there on social media. Next time you see someone’s highlight reel and start to compare yourself to them, remember that there are a lot of messy outtakes in there, too. Nobody is perfect and has it all together all the time, so let’s give each other a little more grace and try to be a little more real. 

  2. Take a social media break.
    It is no secret that social media platforms play a huge role in how we view ourselves and others. When we start to be upset with how we measure up to others, removing ourselves from social media, even for a day or two, can help a lot.
    I did an experiment on myself recently. I found that I was spending too much time on my phone on Facebook and Instagram. If I got a notification from those apps, I would find myself stopping what I was doing to check them. I would then spend the next several minutes scrolling through my timeline, when I wouldn’t have been looking at the apps if my phone hadn’t gone off in the first place. I realized my problem, so I simply decided to turn off my notifications. Now my phone does not alert me when I have any kind of social media notifications. If I am expecting something, I just know to check for it. This way, I am not distracted when I am working on something or playing with my daughter. It has been a breath of fresh air to not feel like I am constantly being called away. I spend less time worrying about what other people are doing, and more time focusing on the things and people right in front of me.
    If you find yourself feeling down every time you check your social media accounts, it might be time to take a break from them. 
  1. Celebrate yourself.
    It’s okay to acknowledge the things you do well. Don’t be prideful about it, but appreciate the talents and gifts God has given you that make you unique. God has gifted us all differently (Rom. 12:6), and we need to be careful about viewing our gifts as lesser than someone else’s.
    We should always be striving to be better and challenging ourselves to be more and more of who God is calling us to be, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop and appreciate where we are at the moment. You can desire improvement in yourself while simultaneously celebrating where you are. Don’t settle when you know you can be better – but don’t miss the beauty of who you are right now. 

  2. Stay in your lane and focus on Jesus.
    When we are worried about the performance of others and how it compares to our own, we spend too much time looking to the left or the right. We neglect our lane and can lose sight of our goals. Keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t make life a competition with other people. Keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus.
    Galatians 1:10 says, “For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Friends, who are you trying to please? If you call yourself a servant of Christ, you have to measure yourself up to God’s standards – not the world’s. Staying in your lane and focusing on Jesus helps you to do this. 

The next time that you catch yourself comparing your life to someone else, I pray that these five ideas and tips will provide some comfort to you. Don’t fall into the trap of comparison. Find joy in all that God made YOU to be.

Your Kids Need You to Pray With Them

Children learn by observing the adults in their lives. Just as they learn to walk and talk by watching others walking and talking, kids learn to pray as they see the adults in their lives praying. Prayer looks different depending on the age of the child, but every child can learn to pray at a developmentally appropriate level.

Even very young children can learn to pray. While your babies and toddlers won’t comprehend the significance of what you are doing, they are still watching you and following your lead. We have been praying with our daughter since the day she was born. We are not perfect parents by any means, but God truly has blessed our efforts in teaching Sutton to pray. Just as she has grown in how she communicates with us and with other people, we have watched her grow in how she communicates with God. When she was a baby, she would lay there while my husband or I prayed. As she grew, she moved to folding her hands and bowing her head. Then she would repeat after us. It has been such a blessing to watch her grow in her prayer life. There is something so pure, sweet, and humbling about watching your toddler talk to the Creator of the universe.

In the picture below, Sutton was only 15 months old. I snapped that picture really quick as we were about to eat dinner. It was one of the first times that she folded her hands to pray before her daddy or I even did. Now, she’s 2.5 and says her own prayers. We ask her who or what she wants to thank God for, and she does. (Currently, the thing that she thanks God for the most is watermelon. It’s adorable and reminds me to be thankful for the little things.) Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your baby or toddler is too young to pray. Pray with them, no matter how tiny they are. God will bless your family because of it.

Prayer can be intimidating for kids (and adults) when they think they have to use certain words or phrases. Children must learn that prayer doesn’t have to be formal – it can simply be a conversation between them and God. Kids can learn that they can pray anywhere at anytime, and God will hear them no matter what. A prayer can take several minutes or it might only consist of a few words. When we model prayer by praying with our children, they will understand that their prayers don’t have to follow any certain kind of format.

We have to be training the children in our lives to run to the Lord with their needs. We need to teach them how to pray and seek Him with all of their hearts (Jer. 29:13). Whether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, guardian, etc., your children – even the youngest ones – need to see your example in how to pray. It’s a big job, but I promise you can do it!

I’d love to pray with you as you lead the children in your life! Please reach out to me if there is anything specific that I can be praying for.

Cultivating Peace

Sometimes it can be hard to hear God’s voice, but other times, I hear Him loud and clear. Do you ever feel like God is really trying to get you to understand something? Maybe there’s been a time when you have heard the same message from different people in completely different places within a short amount of time. That’s been happening to me recently. God has really been working on my heart and teaching me what it means to cultivate peace. There have been several instances in the past few weeks where the Lord has brought the topic of peace to my attention. The first was through a morning devotional, the second was through a conversation that took place in a staff meeting, and the third was through a book that I am reading with the ladies in my Life Group (it’s called Mama Bear Apologetics, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has kids in their life). I have also been involved in many small conversations here and there that have been about peace. In our world today, a lack of peace is so evident, and the Lord has really been laying on my heart how I can play a role in creating a peaceful environment.

One concept that has come up frequently – both in conversations and in the book I am reading – is the idea of being a “Peacemaker” versus a “Peacekeeper”. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God.” Did you catch that? The Bible doesn’t say “Blessed are the peacekeepers”. It says that those who actually make peace will be blessed. The Lord has been teaching me that there is a big difference in making peace and just keeping it.

I am a people-pleaser. I want people to like me. I want to make everyone happy and I really want to get along with everyone. You might be like me – I think there are a lot of us out there who desire to be friends with and please everyone. Because of this, I have a tendency to be a peacekeeper instead of a peacemaker. I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to have to have a conversation that could be uncomfortable. If someone upsets me, my first response is to internalize my feelings and not talk to them about it. If I wait long enough, I should get over it, right? I keep the peace by pretending that everything is okay, even if it’s not. While things might look peaceful on the surface, I’m not truly at peace. This is not how God wants me to live and it isn’t how He wants you to live either. He wants us to be at peace with Him, with ourselves, and with one another. To do this, we have to be peacemakers.

Being a true peacemaker means that sometimes you have to have the difficult conversation. Sometimes you have to tell someone that what they said or did was not okay. You might have to disturb that false layer of peace in order to make real, Christlike peace. We have to understand that peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace happens when conflict is resolved. Clarity brings peace. Conflicts are going to exist, and when they arise, it is our job to pursue resolution. This is how we make peace rather than just keep it. James 3:18 says, “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.” This verse has been on my heart and mind often the past few weeks. Those who cultivate peace will be made righteous. True peace doesn’t come by accident. It must be intentionally prepared and maintained.

I do realize that sometimes there are situations where another person might be unwilling to live at peace with you. Romans 12:18 tells us, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This means that I need to do everything in my power to create peace in my relationships. I have to do my part, but I can’t control someone else’s response. God calls me to take care of my actions and trust that He’s got the rest.

Friends, I want to challenge you to be a peacemaker today. If there is someone that you need to talk to, have that conversation. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Eph. 4:16). Be more than a peacekeeper; Be a peacemaker. Do your part to cultivate peace. I realize this is much easier said than done, but when you make the choice to not let conflict linger in your heart, you will experience the peace that only God can give. It’s worth it and it is what believers are called to do.