This is Erica.
Her drink is a maple syrup latte with extra whipped cream.
And you know you’ve got a couple of moms together on Zoom when one utters “So… my kid threw up like six minutes ago. He’s in the bath now, and I can hear him making animal noises, so we are good for a little while.”We moms are used to fitting our ministry work into the small little pockets of time that we can, and it doesn’t always go exactly as planned. But God sees our efforts.
Erica is a mother of five who is currently writing a manuscript for her upcoming book about praying with children. Her working title is Pray With Me: Help Your Children Engage in Authentic and Powerful Prayer. So we made the most of our sick-kid-in-bath time, and tackled the topic of developing prayer in children.
THE IMPETUS FOR THE BOOK
I asked Erica what led her to write a book on praying with children and she responded that it was a combination of things.
“I spent years in children’s ministry, and I discovered that kids didn’t seem to understand the power of prayer nor how to engage in prayer in a meaningful way.
Also, I am a speaker, and I am asked to speak on praying with children more than any other topic. So this tells me there is a demand—a hunger—out there for parents to help their children engage in prayer.
And, of course, my own personal relationship with God fuels me to help my children develop that kind of prayerful relationship. I want my kids to know that prayer isn’t just a ritual. Prayer guides our every move:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying ‘This is the way; walk in itIsaiah 30.21, NIV
Prayer has the power to change events on earth.”
PRAYER LIFE IS THE ROOTS TO THE TREE
“Our prayer lives are a lot like roots to a tree. Hidden. Not always elegant. But they are what make a tree sturdy and stable. The time we spend alone with God is what makes us sturdy and stable and helps us produce good fruit.
I have a core verse for my prayer life and for my book project, Jeremiah 17:7:
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water. It sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes, its leaves are always green, it has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
This kind of trust doesn’t happen overnight. This kind of trust is grounded—it comes from regularly trusting Him, from knowing God, from relying on God over and over again.”
MODELING PRAYER TO KIDS
“One of the most important practices for developing prayer in children is modeling prayer in the home. Consider how we model our belief in the power of seatbelts; we refuse to drive without them buckled. This kind of belief modeling helps our kids understand that seatbelts are valuable and important to us. So, we show our kids that we are called to sit before God’s throne and petition him to help with problems on earth by letting them see us pray—by inviting them into our prayers.
Right now, my brother-in-law is in a medically-induced coma. And yes, we are helping the family physically. But more than that, we are actively and continually praying for them, and our kids are part of this.
We teach our kids to pray as if we hold the outcome in our hands, but we also maintain that God is the one who answers prayers in His own time and manner.”
UNANSWERED PRAYERS AND TOUGH CONVERSATIONS
“My young son came down all dressed up to go to grandma’s house. I asked him why he thought he was going to grandma’s house. He told me that he prayed for four sleepovers at grandma’s, so he got himself ready for them. This promoted a conversation about the nature of prayer.
There isn’t going to be one easy answer when kids ask why their prayer wasn’t answered. It will take multiple conversations about God’s sovereignty, and how God’s timeline may be different from the one we expect, in order for kids to understand that prayer requests are not like asking a genie in a bottle. Just because the conversations may not land the first time does not mean we should give up on them.
But we shouldn’t shy away from the fact that we don’t always know why our prayer goes unanswered. There is still a mystery to the way God runs his kingdom.”
GIVING KIDS A PRAYER TOOL
“I am a big fan of teaching kids to pray within a structure. One might object that we should be able to pray whatever we want, whenever we want. While this is true, I hypothesize that we adults don’t actually vary our prayers very much. We have probably a dozen or so templates of prayers that we vary. Giving kids a structure for praying actually allows them to relax into the process a bit more and not freeze up without knowing where to start.
So, for getting kids started with prayer, I like the acronym PRAY:
P praise– we adore and worship Him
R repent– we confess our sins
A ask– we request he help us
Y yield– we yield ourselves to Him and listen for His promptings
The original ‘Y’ stands for ‘Your will be done,’ which I still encourage my kids to end with, but I changed the Y to ‘yield’ in order for the kids to leave a space for God to speak to them.”
LISTENING FOR GOD
“I make sure my kids know that God won’t automatically start speaking to them every single time they get to Y; he speaks in different ways and in moments that we can’t control. Sometimes, he speaks to us through a memory or a feeling.
Like unanswered prayers, the topic of hearing the voice of God is a very difficult concept to teach children. But again, we parents shouldn’t avoid trying to explain it just because it is complex.
Lean into the tough conversations, parents.”
ERICA’S BOOK ON PRAYER
I asked Erica what she is most excited about in terms of her new book. She broke it into two parts: excitement for her family and excitement for the reader.
“For me personally, I am excited for something in my ministry to benefit my children. I am a public speaker, and I used to host a radio show—neither of which brought in tangible benefits for my family. Though first books don’t pay all that well, I am hoping this book may become a stepping stone to other opportunities. Of course, they understand that ministry is service and that I don’t do it simply to receive something in return. But I have been putting so much of my time and myself into these endeavors, and there really hasn’t been much that has directly benefited my family so far.
For the reader, I am excited for my book to offer tools and inspiration for mothers to start the practice of praying with her children. Praying with kids not only makes important memories, but it offers these sweet kids a chance to know Christ for themselves.
Knowing God and discerning His voice has never been more important than now– we exist in a culture that is very messy and moving further away from Him.”
CONNECT WITH ERICA
Erica’s book will come out in April 2023. Make sure to give Erica a follow, so that you can follow her journey through writing this incredible book.
To follow Erica on Instagram click @erica.renaud
To follow Erica on Facebook click @EricaRenaudSpeaker
Visit Erica’s website: click EricaRenaud.org
I, for one, am so grateful that I found Erica and her beautiful mission of prayer.
with His love,
This is Carina.
Her drink is a decaf black coffee (french-pressed).
Though my internet refused to be helpful during our Zoom chat, Carina and I still got a chance to connect and learn about one another. From the moment I clicked onto her website and saw a gorgeous photo of an autumn leaf, I knew we were two peas in a pod (or, rather, two acorns on a stem).
What I knew about Carina, prior to our chat, was that she is a regular contributor and devotional writer for the Joyful Life Magazine—where we were introduced. What I didn’t know about Carina was that she once was a licensed professional counselor and spent years as a mental health therapist.
So she and I have yet another thing in common: our schooling and training led us to careers that were right for a season in our lives, but that God has called us in slightly different directions since then.
And so it is with a rucksack full of personal experience that Carina dedicates much of her online presence to helping others discern their callings in Christ as well.
CARINA’S BEEN THERE
“My passion for helping people with their callings came out of my own personal experiences.
In my career as a counselor, I felt unfulfilled in many ways. I pushed aside the dissatisfaction for a while, thinking, Maybe this is just how it is—maybe serving God is meant to be a sacrifice and I’m not necessarily supposed to feel super passionate.
I pressed on in my job to the best of my ability, but one day I was talking to God about the discouragement I’d been feeling and the struggles I’d been having with my career, and I just got really honest with how I’d been feeling. And in the midst of that conversation, I had an epiphany—I realized that God was telling me that I wasn’t meant to be a counselor. It was such a relief !
But then I started wondering: If I’m not a counselor, what am I? I started asking myself, What is the raw material that makes up who I am? What am I naturally interested in and gifted at? Through that process, God made it very clear to me that He was calling me to be a writer. I had dreamed about being a writer for a long time, but I never thought it was practical, so to realize that’s what God was actually calling me to do was very exciting.
When we invest time and schooling into something, we can often get trapped there; it can be hard to let that go. But if God is calling us to something new, He will always make a way. And while we will all likely experience difficulties in each of our callings, I do believe that God wants us to feel fulfilled and full of life, and He can help us find fulfillment when we pursue whatever it is He leads us into.”
THREE ASPECTS OF PURPOSE
“I think it’s easy to feel like our purpose is something big and outside of us, something that’s somewhere over the horizon and out of reach, and that, if we’re lucky, one day we’ll find it. But I’ve found that it’s much simpler than we think. Our purpose is rooted in who God created us to be, and because of that, we can express it wherever we are, no matter what season we’re in. And we usually don’t have just one calling but rather several. Sometimes we have callings that last a lifetime, and sometimes callings are only for a season.
To help explain purpose, I like to use the analogy of a tree.
Think about a tree in its most basic sense: a tree has roots, a trunk, and branches with leaves. The three parts are distinct but interlinked.”
“The roots represent our relationship with God: our ultimate purpose. We were created first and foremost to have a relationship with Him—to experience His love and to love Him back. This is the foundational purpose of our lives, similar to the way roots create the firm foundation of the tree.
The trunk represents the core of who we are—our individual gifts, personalities, and interests. The second part of our purpose is to be an authentic expression of who God created us to be. So for me, that might look like expressing myself through writing or through art.
The branches and leaves represent the act of sharing who we are. As Bruce Wilkinson says, “If the God of heaven loves you infinitely and wants you in His presence every moment, and if He knows that heaven is a much better place for you, then why on earth has He left you here?” We’re here on this earth for a reason—to love God and be who He created us to be, and also to share His love with others. So I want to use my writing, my art, whatever it is, to love others and share God’s love and hope with them.
As I mentioned, calling is often seasonal. Just as the branches and leaves of a tree look different in different seasons, so our callings are probably going to look different in our different seasons of life. For example, I believe God has called me to write books, but just because I have yet to publish a book doesn’t mean I can’t share my writing now. So, in the season prior to my book publishing season, I can still share my writing and encourage others through devotions, blog posts, articles, and courses, etc.”
MY CREATIVE BEST, YOUR CREATIVE BEST
“I created a course called Your Creative Best, which is based on Paul’s letter to Galatia:
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.Galatians 6: 4-5, MSG
And that’s what this course is all about—it’s about helping people explore and discover who they are and what God might be calling them to do in their current season.
Currently, the course is set up on my website as a stand-alone e-course in the sense that a reader can purchase, view, and work through the course on their own. But I’d love to do a live version of the course again.”
CARINA’S CURRENT SEASON
I asked Carina what her “leaves” look like during this current season.
“My current season feels like a recalibration. I’ve needed to pause certain goals, like writing my book proposal, while I address some more pressing family and home issues.
I’ve also been trying to make more time for rest. God does call us to do good work, but He also doesn’t want us to strive in our own strength, and He still wants us to rest and take care of ourselves. I read An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling this past spring, and it really encouraged me to slow down and trust God with the journey I’m on. I really believe God has called me to write this book, and while I certainly have a role to play, burning myself out is not the way to make it happen.”
“As far as what’s next, one thing I do think God is prompting me to do sometime in the next six to twelve months is to create a new course based on my book idea. This will help me serve people now while I grow my email list, and it will also help me refine the idea for the book as well.
Whatever I do, I always try to keep in mind that our purpose is always rooted in our relationship with God . That must always come first. I try to remember that God doesn’t call us to do things for Him, rather He calls us to do things with Him. It’s all about relationship.”
It takes bravery to listen to God’s directions and make sacrifices in order to follow them. Saying “yes” to God sometimes means abandoning some of our culture’s notions of “success.” But I know that God is watching Carina use her spiritual gifts for the Kingdom, and I believe He will one day say to her “ well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
with His love,
To connect with Carina:
This is Deidre.
Her drink is a medium roast coffee (with a dash of heavy cream on special occasions).
And how fitting that Sips & Scripts involves two people sitting down for a chat with mugs when Deidre’s blog is named “The Second Cup.”
When I asked her about the name “The Second Cup,” she offered this explanation:
“You know in your quiet time with the Lord in the morning when you’re reading your Bible and you finish that first cup of coffee but you’d rather stay with Him than start the day?
Or when you are catching up with an old friend at breakfast and the conversation is so good you just need to keep asking for warm-ups?”
Deidre’s “second cup” symbolizes the deep stuff. It is the unhurried, intentional presence given to something – or someone – of importance.
Deidre and I were essentially strangers when we set up this chat, having only connected briefly through the Joyful Life Magazine’s contributor group. But I can tell you that by the end of the chat, if we were in person, we would have stayed to enjoy a second cup.
This is not to suggest that we didn’t have a conversation about tough issues— we did. But Deidre was able to cradle the conversation about suffering with such hope and with such grace that it didn’t feel unbearably heavy.
THE HEAVIEST OF HEAVY YEARS
“The last year and a half has been tough, with one difficult thing after the other, it seems. When our first child was only 6 months old, and we were finally beginning to come out of the newborn stage, we found out that another baby was on the way. I was just starting to adjust to being a new mom and caring for an infant. I remember crying to my husband, ‘I feel like I will never feel rested again.’
I struggled with a lot of emotions after that, and looking back, I wonder whether I was just downright exhausted, or if I had some postpartum or prenatal depression.
In the midst of this pregnancy, the pandemic and lockdown hit. I’m a Title 1 Teacher who provides math and reading interventions to elementary students. So, like every teacher in our nation, I had to quickly adjust to a completely new way of educating. While it was the best option available to us during the pandemic, it’s not natural for kids that young to be educated on Zoom. Being home with a baby, dealing with pregnancy sickness, and teaching online full-time was certainly a challenge.
When our baby girl Vivian was born in August, it was a very bright event in the midst of a grey season. My mother-in-law came to stay and help us for a week after Vivian was born, and it was a time that I cherished. But only a month later, she received a diagnosis that we would never expect: a tumor in her brain.
During her time receiving treatment, and later in hospice care, our little family spent many weekends traveling up and down the state of Maine to visit her. My husband and children ended up getting COVID during this time, and we had to cancel a much-anticipated vacation as a result.
And just last month, my mother-in-law passed away.
Although it’s been a heavy season, it’s been a catalyst for my contemplation about God’s goodness.”
WHEN GOD’S GOODNESS IS HARD TO FIND
“In thinking about the search for God’s goodness when it isn’t easily recognizable, I am reminded of a feeling I get when reading the Old Testament. There are some passages where our loving God is hard to understand–when he expresses his wrath by destroying entire nations of people or makes seemingly impossible commandments- and I have a hard time coming to grips with this. Not only does it make me uncomfortable and confused, it also creates an internal struggle because I want to be sharing the approachability and compassion of God– especially with people who don’t know Jesus yet. I fear these passages will make them turn away rather from God than press into him.
Don’t get me wrong— I love the Old Testament—but when I am reading it, I tend to gloss over the parts of God as the source of destruction because I don’t like them.
I also had the habit of manipulating these parts to make them more palatable, trying to convince myself that the author didn’t really mean that or that the given passage doesn’t apply to me or that it isn’t really true. But I’ve made a commitment to myself not to do that any longer.
This year, I’ve challenged myself to read these passages with eyes wide open and instead of dismissing them; I ask God: ‘How does this part of scripture reflect your goodness, even though I interpret it as something bad? How do these parts exemplify your good character?’
I’ve been trying to look at the last 18 months in the same way.
Instead of glazing over this last year and assigning it a cliche (what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger), I am challenging myself to dig into my trials and instead ask the question: ‘How do the events of this past year reveal Your glory and goodness, God, even though I don’t like them?’
“I ask God: How does this part of scripture reflect your goodness, even though I interpret it as something bad? How do these parts exemplify your good character?”
MAKING SENSE OF GOD WHO ALLOWS DESTRUCTION
“Last night, I was thinking about the idea of finding God in the heaviness when I opened my Bible to the date in my reading plan and it fell to this verse:
I form the light and create darkness
I bring prosperity and create disaster
I, the Lord, do all of these thingsIsaiah 45.7
My former reaction would be to ignore the parts of the verse that describe God as the source of disaster.
But in my effort to lean into the confusion, I started giving it more thought.
Darkness and disaster? Doesn’t that come from the enemy?
So I stopped to ask the question ‘Why? Why do you create darkness and disaster, God?’
As I read on, the next section answered my question:
Your heavens above rain down my righteousness, let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it. I, the Lord, have created it45.8
He follows the section on disaster with a reason for creating adversity: salvation and righteousness spring up from the disaster site.
With this verse in mind, I began to reflect on the bad things that happened in the last year. Was God using these obstacles to cultivate righteousness in me?
Everything I went through this last year has been so challenging that it has forced me to release the idea of control. It has forced me to abandon comfort. Very few of my fleshly desires were met.
And as an end result, I have given over so much of myself to the Lord. I have relied on him, and trusted him, and followed him more.
To reiterate— I am human and would never elect to suffer. How many people prefer to be uncomfortable, or grieving, or exhausted?
God removed stillness from my life and comfort from my flesh, but would I have abandoned them willingly? Not likely.
My discomfort creates a dependency on God that I would not have otherwise known.”
DESTRUCTION CREATES SOIL FOR SALVATION
“And now I can share my experience. My trials have opened up connections with people that may not have otherwise existed. And some of these people have been nonbelievers.
People can be won to the Lord by observing our peace in these trials.
Take my mother-in-law for instance: during her entire battle with cancer, she was joyful. She would say: ‘This is a win-win situation. Either I am going to be healed and so many people will see that God performed this miracle, or He will call me home and I will be in heaven with Jesus. Win-win.’
Her suffering became a testimony for others. She used her situation to talk to many people about Jesus.
Does He allow disaster to make soil for salvation?
Based on my mother-in-law’s story, how we react in adversity might just be the seed for someone else’s salvation.”
LETTING GO OF NEEDING TO UNDERSTAND IT ALL
“God sees things much more intricately than we could possibly see them. I’ve always known that, but now I understand it differently.
The book of Job has always been one of my least favorite books of the Bible. I’d rather not spend time meditating on such suffering.
But I became interested in the book of Job in an unlikely way— through Johnny Cash. I’m a Johnny Cash fan, and I love his book Forever Words—a collection of his unpublished poems and song lyrics. Cash was really interested in the book of Job and became an amateur scholar in the book of Job later in his life.
The book of Job reminds me that our human brains see very little of God’s masterful plan.
It reminds me that when I ask the question “Why, God?’ there is not usually an answer that will satisfy us in our limited scope.
So I let go of needing all of the answers and remember that He always knows what He is doing. And I remind myself that it is not my job to explain God fully because no one can.”
I love Deidre’s revelation that our God is He who allows the living to die in order to create richer soil for new growth.
And a comfort to me when I experience suffering is that our trials refine us to be more like Him. If there were only goodness and light in the world we would never have the occasion to grow; we would never need His strength in supplication.
In her 18 months of difficulty, Deidre has become more dependent on Jesus than she has ever been in her life. And as life eases up, she looks forward to connecting with other mothers or those grieving losses and offer her experience as a testimony to the goodness of God in all circumstances.
with His love,
To connect with Deidre:
This post may contain affiliate links. You are never required to use my links, but by doing so, you will be supporting my blog at no additional cost to you.
This is Vicki.
Her drink is a lady grey tea like a proper Brit.
And I can’t go any further without pointing out Vicki’s adorable mug. She was gifted this mug which comes from a smallshop called I Am So Many Things. And if you look at the detailed picture here, it is filled with beautiful affirmations to take in as you sip.
Vicki is from Scotland, which means I have now had two Sips & Scripts in a row with women who have the most enchanting accents (I recently chatted with Aimee Walker from New Zealand on “Discerning One’s Life Season”).
And before the end of our chat, Vicki and I decided that we are kindred spirits, because as we chatted along, we realized just how much we type-A, anxious-types have in common.
VICKI IS NO STRANGER TO ANXIETY
“I wrote a piece recently for The Joyful Life Magazine about finding peace of mind in the midst of anxiety and fear, but once I was faced with some unsettling health problems, I fell back into an anxiety spiral and felt like I failed my own test. How can I sit here and offer advice on anxiety and then not take my own advice in the midst of the anxiety?
But I felt the Holy Spirit answer: of course you can talk about it. All humans approach anxiety from a place of weakness. You need to talk about this because you need to show people that My strength is needed in order to overcome these things.
No matter how much I know about anxiety in my brain, it takes God to help me along through my spirit.”
BREAKING THE PATTERN
“I’m becoming very aware of the generational pattern of anxiety and the self fulfilling prophecy that can result. When you constantly hear yourself described as an anxious person, it’s easy to believe it—and allow yourself to be defined by it. Subsequently I grew up with the understanding that I was an anxious person, and there was nothing I could do about it.
As a mum myself now, I am very aware of the words I use regarding my daughters’ identity and mental wellness because of the impact they can have.
My daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was four. Though she is high functioning, anxiety is a common symptom for many with an autism diagnosis.
As her mom, I want to model to her how we can manage (as best we can) the symptoms of anxiety. She is old enough now to be able to see when I am struggling.
For instance, when we received the diagnosis, I felt myself starting to spiral: what will this diagnosis look like for her life? What will happen to her when she is an adult?
An anxious experience for me is like being caught in the whirlpool of water as it empties from a tub. The spiral of thoughts gets tighter and tighter until I am literally circling the drain. This is the point in which I get the physical symptoms of anxiety like panic attacks.
When I hit this point, I reach up my hands to God and say, ‘Heavenly Father, I can’t get fully on top of my own anxiety, and I need your help. Help me and, also, help me help my girl.’”
RECOGNIZE, REFRAME, RELEASE, REFOCUS
Last summer, I did a great Bible study on stopping the spiral of toxic thoughts called Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen. From there, I started to adopt a process to help me manage my anxious thoughts which can be summed up in four parts:
- recognizing the thoughts I am frequently having
- reframing these thoughts in light of the gospel
- releasing these thoughts to God
- refocusing my attention on worthy thoughts and actions
STEP 1: RECOGNIZE
“Jennie Allen suggests that we make an inventory of the thoughts we are having in a given length of time, and then examine them, which becomes the first step in the process of managing anxious thoughts. So I asked myself: What are the thoughts that I am thinking? What are the patterns? What am I noticing in these thoughts?
So, really, what we are doing in step 1 is capturing our thoughts for examination, just as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it to obedient to Christ.NIV
In doing this exercise, I was able to identify the triggers to these thoughts. I would look at a social media post and spiral, or I would find myself comparing myself to other mothers.
The key is to keep the thought captive and not allow it to take hold. Similarly, Ruth Chou Simons has a book based on the premise that we become what we behold (Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship). What we pour into our senses become the things that begin to seep into our souls.
This practice of capturing thoughts really allowed me to take stock of what ideas I was feeding myself on a regular basis.”
STEP 2: REFRAME
“Next, I take the captive thought and reframe it. I am afraid of X,Y,Z can be reframed in the light of our Savior: I have nothing to fear because God is in control.
I am not enough can be reframed as He is enough.
Reframing takes strength, and another line from Allen’s companion study guide to her book that is revolutionary to me is this one: As God’s children, filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ already in us. The issue is whether we are using it to think the thoughts that Jesus would think.
God has given us the tools we need by His power, by His spirit. And so, if I have His spirit inside of me, I can choose to think the way Jesus would think.”
STEP 3: RELEASE
“The next step is releasing that initial anxious thought.
Because, in truth, I can reframe the thought in my brain, but I really need to release it from my heart. Some fears and thoughts are so heavy that we can’t even reason with them; we can’t carry them on our own. We have to give them over.
Often, in my attempts to find peace of mind, I sometimes still slip into the practice of seeking peace by the world’s definition (i.e. Googling symptoms for reassurance). But in fact, He is the source of our peace. We can only attain that peace if we are surrendering that which we can’t control to the One who has control over all of it.
One of the best examples of the need to surrender is my daughter’s diagnosis. I was very active in getting my daughter evaluated and advocated for her in light of her diagnosis, and my involvement was a means of asserting some semblance of control. If I am actively working towards something, then the anxiety is kept at bay, but only for so long.
I just had to release her, and her diagnosis, to God: I cannot carry this, God. I know you created her, and this is part of your plan for her life—whatever that looks like.
When I release these things to God, I can literally feel the tension leave my body.”
STEP 4: REFOCUS
“There is a beautiful verse on refocusing our minds on God:
Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done.Philippians 4.6-9, NLT
This verse becomes the guidebook for lessening anxiety.
It reminds us to offer up our fear in prayer (both big things like a child’s diagnosis, but also the small things). And that the type of prayer matters. I need to forego the prayers of Why? Why me?! Make it stop! and instead ask God for His supplication, His provision.
I often pray about the big things, but I am guilty of neglecting to release thousands of small things to Him. The small things are the ones that idle in the corner of my mind and eventually build up in a big way.
The verse also implores us to thank Him for all he has done so far and to praise His name.
Intentional gratitude, especially when it manifests in the act of praise, forces us to take our eyes off what is making us fearful and fix our gaze on Him instead.
Another part of the verse spoke to me in light of my recent backslide into an anxious spiral:
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me… then the God of peace will be with youPhilippians 4.9, NLT
These words act as a reminder that the skill of managing anxiety is like any other skill: it takes practice.”
THE POWER OF PRAISE
“My daughter experiences intense night terrors. If any parents have gone through night terrors with their children, they know how troubling they can be. The child is very distressed, but they are not fully awake nor responding to typical methods of soothing.
The only thing that has worked to bring her out of her night terrors is to recite scripture over her or sing worship songs until she slowly and steadily comes out of it.
Here are some of my favorite songs to sing to her
- ‘The Battle Belongs to You’ by Phil Wickham
- ‘By the Grace of God’ by Bethel Music
- ‘It is Well’ (so many versions but Kristene DiMarco has a powerful one)
There is power in praise.”
WHAT WE CAN AND CANNOT CHANGE
“It is important to mention that there are definitely genetics at play when it comes to anxiety; not all anxiety is a reflection of a poor prayer life. What we don’t hear enough from Christians is that it is perfectly ok to use medicine to solve the chemical imbalance while still putting the powerful spiritual tools into play. Though I am not currently on medication, it is always an option for me should I need it.
I simply don’t know how nonbelievers navigate fearful and trying times. At the end of the day, I can have all the anxiety tools in the world, but I still need God. No matter my circumstances, He is the ultimate Source of my peace.”
In listening to our recorded chat, I discovered just how many times I jumped in to agree with Vicki; all that she describes about anxiety I have experienced myself.
It’s amazing how when we open up about our struggles we realize how much we all have in common.
with His love,
CONNECT WITH VICKI
This is Aimée.
Her drink is a strong black coffee made from freshly ground beans (she says it is the Turk in her).
I met Aimée through The Joyful Life Magazine, but I got to know her through the launch team of her first book, But I Flourish. Aimée and a few of the gals from the team and I hit it off so well that we now schedule regular Zoom meetings to chat and laugh and encourage one another.
Though Aimée lives continents away in Auckland, New Zealand, her warm personality always makes me feel like she is just round the corner and about to pop in for a coffee.
Listening to the recording of our Zoom chat brought me such a smile because of how many times Aimée and I laughed at the Kiwi-American differences. Aimée taught me what it means to “shout someone a coffee” (buy it for them), and we giggled about what it is like for her to try and edit American writing when she is used to British-based, New Zealand spelling.
Frivolous topics aside, Aimée knew exactly what she wanted to share, and in true writer form, she wove in verses beautifully, and left very little work for me to do as the curator of her powerful and important truths.
A NEW YEAR, A NEW SEASON
“God gave me the word filled at the beginning of the year. I heard Him tell me ‘I am going to fill this year: you, your family, and your home.’ And what immediately followed was a stark juxtaposition to filling: opportunities changed or were stripped away.
But my book was about to launch, so I assumed the filling He promised would occur from the harvest of my labor on the book. The book launched in March, and it was such a high! I am incredibly proud of the book, and it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm on the launch team and the words of encouraging people.
But come April, I was exhausted and discouraged. The book sales had slowed and I had no energy to continue the level of marketing that I was undergoing.
Confusion followed: wasn’t I supposed to feel filled?
I expected a season of harvest after all that work. I expected bounty and joy, and I was met with tiredness and discouragement.
In my time in the Word during this period of discouragement, I felt my attention directed to Psalm 1.3:
(the person who meditates day and night in God’s word) is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither whatever he does prospers.context added by Aimée
God reminded me through the words ‘in season’ of the importance of recognizing our seasons and leaning into what that season looks like and being faithful in it.”
RECOGNIZING MY CURRENT SEASON
“There is a little-known passage in 1 Chronicles about the sons of Issachar who discerned the season and knew what to do in it:
From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.1 Chronicles 12:32, NLT
Understanding the signs of the times to determine one’s course…
This verse gave me pause to whether I had truly considered my current season. Having just completed the “harvest” of my novel, I decided to Google what occurs immediately after crop harvest in terms of farm life, and what I found gave me such wonderful insight: after harvest, the soil is fed with nutrients and allowed to rest.
God had given me a beautiful picture: harvest is about both fruitfulness and rest. It was such a live-giving, ‘Aha’ moment.
In the busyness of getting the book launched, I hadn’t allowed for any rest. I hadn’t factored in any down time. I worked on my book and on editing another book throughout our entire summer holiday (January and February here in New Zealand).
God reminded me that energy and capacity only goes so far without rest. Of course I was exhausted–I had neglected one entire half of the season.”
WHAT DOES A POST-HARVEST REST SEASON LOOK LIKE?
“The kind of rest to which God is leading me doesn’t mean shirking my responsibilities or abandoning my commitments, but rather an intentionality in protecting my down time. I have begun to implement several different ways to rest, post-harvest:
“Rest is so much more than taking breaks from the hustle.
True, it means lightening my workload, but it also means to institute rest in other areas like going to bed earlier and eating nutritious food. During the book launch, I was so frantic during each and every day that I would just grab a slice of cake for lunch. I wasn’t putting nutrients into my body like the farmers do with the soil.
I need to create a routine that allows the Holy Spirit to minister to me and to refresh me and to help me tend to this soil of a good heart that God has given me through Jesus.”
I need to tend to this soil of a good heart that God has given me through Jesus.
LETTING GO OF MARKETING MY BOOK AND LETTING GOD
“God has invited me to rest. He is helping me recognize when I have done my part just as Paul writes to the Corinthians: one plants, one waters, and God brings the growth (1 Corinthians 3.6). So in terms of the book, I have done everything in my capacity and now I have to rest and let God do what He is going to do with it from here.
If I am faithful to what he asked me to do, then I don’t need to worry about all the other things. God’s Word will accomplish what He wants it to: “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11 NLT).
Now, naturally, I would like the book to sell so that it can fund the next book, but the Amazon numbers are not what this project is about. I wrote But I Flourish because I felt so alone in those difficult seasons of my life and I wished for someone further down the path to come alongside me and speak the truth that I needed to hear. I want to reach women who don’t have a spiritual mentor around them.
If I am tending to the soil of my heart and keeping it healthy, surrendered, and yielded to Him, and planting myself in the Word and in His living water, then I can rest just knowing that He will cause that seed to accomplish what He intended. It’s not actually my job to work around the clock trying to accomplish everything myself.”
PROTECTING MY DOWN TIME BY PULLING BACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA
“Part of holistic rest means giving myself permission to not perform all the time—especially when it comes to social media.
I had gotten into a pattern of posting on social media simply because I hadn’t posted in a while, not because the Holy Spirit prompted me. I am no longer forcing myself to post on social media just for its own sake or because I know the algorithms favor that kind of activity.
In fact, when we rush out a post, we sometimes share things prematurely before God has fully worked it out in our own hearts and our own lives—it’s like picking fruit before it is fully ripened. I am asking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in knowing what to share, when to share it, and how to share it.
In fact, some nights, I delete my social media apps around dinnertime, and I am far less likely to pick up my phone. The goal is to not add them back onto my phone after until the kids are off to school the next day. This practice gives me greater margin for abiding in Him.”
THE REST REVEALS WHAT IS NEXT
“Reducing time spent in marketing and social media means that I can make the time to go deep in the Word and listen to what He wants next for me.
In these reflection times, He has reignited in me the drive to write Biblical content rather than try to master social media. He reminds me that my “lane” and my gifts are writing things like Bible studies and ministering to smaller groups, in-person.
In this age of social media where value is often assigned to numbers of likes and followers, I worry that we undervalue what can grow in small groups and the conversations that can happen over coffee with a friend. These are small harvest fields with small seeds, but often where the truly meaningful stuff occurs.”
Have you discerned your season, been reminded of your gifts, and recognized what God is asking you to do in it? Aimée provides such a beautiful example of the permission we need to give ourselves to rest after a busy season. If we are not taking time to “tend to the soil of our own hearts” as Aimée puts it, then we don’t have a fertile foundation to grow good fruit for Him.
I am so grateful for Aimée’s wisdom here, and in our friendship, as she continues to offer me holy guidance when I need direction.
When Aimée does make it to the states at some point in the (hopefully not too distant future), I am going to give her a hug and the coffee will be my “shout.”
With His love,
To connect with Aimée: