Over the last few years, I have tried to focus on building habits, so I don't have to make decisions throughout every single day of my life.
I've worked on building habits in all areas of life: home, health, physical wellness, career, and spiritual growth.
Admittedly, my prayer habit has really changed over the years.
After reading the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer and watching The War Room, I began to be more intentional in my prayer life, thinking about my prayers as a strategy against the enemy. At that time, I began to write out prayers about specific subjects -- our marriage, our children, our siblings, the rest of our family, our church, our minister & his family, our careers, health needs, struggling friends, and so many other topics. When something came up that someone needed prayer for, I wrote out a prayer for them and began praying it out loud.
This method was very effective. However, it also became difficult to manage when I had hundreds of notecards with prayers written out on them. I wanted to have an effective prayer strategy, but I felt like I was missing important topics and I felt like I was missing out on some of the "relationship" part of my prayer time.
I started to research what other people were doing in their prayer lives.
I talked to friends, surfed the internet, and of course, prayed.
I have learned a few things about myself over the years:
I'm going to be brutally honest here, this month has been extremely overwhelming for me. As a school administrator, dealing with the end of the school year amid COVID-19 concerns and regulations has brought on unprecedented decision-making requirements for school districts. On May 4th, like I talked about in my last blog post, we had straight-line winds that destroyed our barn and damaged our roof & two other buildings. We've been cooped up (like the rest of our country) with almost no outside contact for the girls with friends and family.
So many of my prayers during May have been spontaneous whispers for peace and calm and protection.
I have no doubt that these prayers were effective and heard and appreciated, but I feel like this time we have spent in the valley has been "survival mode".
As the school year has come to an end, I'm ready to get back to growing and thriving in my prayer life, not just surviving alongside Jesus.
So for June, I've created a prayer template for each day of the month. This will hopefully keep me grounded and focused, as well as help me to rebuild my morning prayer habit.
I have created this two-page template for every day of June.
I'm going to take this weekend to add in daily scriptures for each day and to write down my "specific daily prayers" that I pray about each morning.
I've outlined these prayer topics below, if you're interested in doing something similar.
Specific Daily Prayers
Each day, I have specific topics that I cover. This is something I started a few years ago when I was trying to come up with an effective method of covering all of the "regular" topics I wanted to be in prayer about.
Here is my schedule for my daily prayer topics.
So that's what I'm going to do to strengthen my prayer habit this next month.
This might not be the right prayer method for you, and that's okay.
I would encourage you, however, to find a method that works for you. Schedule in some prayer time and be intentional with how you use that time.
Making prayer a priority here at the farmhouse,
Every single Sunday, I find myself worrying that people think I'm texting or checking my Facebook during the sermon.
Granted, I do reply to a text message here and there.
But usually, I am looking up the scripture that Brother Matt is referencing or taking notes on my phone.
I started taking notes on Google Docs in January of 2017 and it has been amazing.
Brother Matt is in the middle of a sermon series entitled "Second Chances" right now.
He preached his first message on Easter.
It was amazing. You can check it out here.
Today was week 2.
The message was from Acts, Chapter 2.
Acts Chapter 2 was after...
the betrayal in the garden,
and 40 days of traveling and teaching.
In Acts 2:38, we read these words that Peter had said when the people asked him what they needed to do to make Jesus Lord.
"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
I grew up in the Church.
I can't even tell you how many times I have read that passage or heard that passage read aloud during a sermon or Bible study.
And yet today...I got a fresh perspective on it.
Repent means I'm turning AWAY from my sin.
Baptism is when I'm turning TO God.
When we choose to leave behind those behaviors that are not pleasing to Him, we choose to leave behind those feelings of guilt and remorse.
The feelings of not being good enough.
The feeling that we are "broken by our own mistakes" (good words, Brother Matt!).
We choose to turn towards Jesus and the feeling of hope that He brings.
So we stop repeating our bad behaviors, turn towards Jesus, and He sends us the Holy Spirit to help us to keep ourselves out of the situations we have been in for so long.
It's like a lightbulb popped on for me.
So I took notes and journaled about it this afternoon.
Sometimes, my pages are a lot more detailed.
But today, this was fine.
Turn away from sin.
Turn to God.
The stain will be removed and a Helper will be sent to you.
If you enjoy art and would like a creative way to connect with God's Word, I would recommend the art of Bible journaling.
Happy Sunday from the Farmhouse, friends.
I've been listening to the audio-broadcast of a conference called "Masterful Leadership: Leading Like Jesus" on my Audible App as I drive to and from work each day.
It's been enlightening...encouraging...and challenging.
I've paused the "book" to take notes.
I've pushed the "back" button to listen to a specific segment again more times than I can count.
And I've said "yes", "hmmm...", and "preach" right out loud to myself in my car several times.
I listened to one particular section three different times.
This section was on the concept of the "mood elevator", which was developed by a man named Larry Senn.
Larry Senn is a leader in the field of corporate leadership and has written a book called, Up the Mood Elevator to describe and teach this decision-making concept.
The Mood Elevator is a book that, admittedly, I haven't finished yet.
But when I heard the mood elevator concept in the message from the "Lead Like Jesus" conference, I just had to share it because it was mind-blowing to me!
I mean...what mood is there that would be higher on the elevator than joy???
Joy is "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness".
That seemed like the top option, as far as mood is concerned.
Until the speaker shared with the audience that the top of the mood elevator is being grateful.
Gratitude. Thankfulness. Appreciation.
We make the best decisions when we are grateful.
It made so much sense to me that I spoke out loud and said, "Oh, duh!"
I think it's important here that we talk about how quickly we can take a trip up or down the mood elevator, if we're not careful.
We can hear one negative comment that, if left unchecked, can quickly take us spiraling into an irritated, anxious, insecure state of mind that eventually could lead to anger and depression.
It's so necessary that we keep our thoughts in check every day and focus on gratitude.
During this last sermon series at church, our minister preached a sermon called "Don't Forget to Pray".
In this sermon, he talked about staying alert to things in our lives that we need to take to the Father.
He talked about being devoted daily to prayer.
And he also talked about the importance of being thankful.
I deeply appreciated his admission that there are days where it's very hard to find something to be thankful for.
Sometimes we have to open our eyes and look hard to find opportunities to be thankful.
In every circumstance, we can find gratitude.
This attitude of being grateful in all situations goes hand-in-hand with the time we spend at the top of the mood elevator.
And the more time we spend at the top of the mood elevator, the more peace and contentment we will find in our daily lives.
So today and every day, let's be intentional about finding gratitude.
Let's give thanks in all circumstances.
Let's ride that mood elevator to the top floor and be the best we can be.
Giving thanks from the farmhouse tonight.
2017 was a wonderful year in so many ways.
But if I'm being honest, it was also a hard year.
In 2017, my mom lost both of her parents.
Of course, this would be a difficult situation for anybody...losing both parents in one year.
But it was especially difficult for us.
A strained family relationship can make loss seem so much greater.
Mom wasn't only grieving for the loss of her parents, but for the absence of a normal functioning family.
Grieving the loss of the chance at reconciliation and healing.
Someday I will tell her story in it's entirety.
But not today.
Today, I want to recognize some of the difference-makers in her life.
Mom can remember going to Vacation Bible School at a very young age with her Aunt Peggy's mother, Mrs. McIntire.
Mrs. McIntire always made Mom feel like she was thrilled to have her there. Mom still thinks of her when she smells koolaid...all these years later.
Mrs. McIntire was difference-maker.
When Mom was about five, she remembers starting to go with her grandma to her adult Sunday school group.
They met at each others' houses.
Mom has fond memories of spending time with her grandma's friends...serving punch and cake and just visiting with them.
These women were difference-makers.
Mom went to church every week as a child with her Grandma Hannah (great name, huh?).
When she was in second grade, she remembers wanting a Bible with her name on it for Christmas.
She got this gift and remembers reading it every night, loving every minute.
Grandma Hannah was a difference-maker.
When Mom's family moved to Adrian her seventh grade year, the Johnson family took her to church every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.
It was during this time that she went on a "Youth for Christ" hayride and committed her life to Christ.
Hal & Fern Johnson were difference-makers.
Throughout Mom's middle school and high school years, her friends' mothers became wonderful mentors to her.
These women helped her get through school.
They taught her about honesty and hard work.
They taught her character traits and Christian principles that continue to serve her well, over thirty years later.
Fern Johnson, Darlene Greenwell, Lila Gunn, Jeanie Brewster, Thelma Six, and countless others were difference-makers.
Mom got married in 1980 to my dear ol' dad.
Dad has supported Mom through many insecurities that came from a difficult past.
Together, they have raised two amazing children, if I do say so myself...ha...just kidding.
Because of the difference-makers in Mom's life, she has an amazing story of grace and generosity and love for others.
She and Dad have adopted another daughter and provided for countless other foster children throughout our lives.
She has a heart for children who have been mistreated.
She has served in the Church for in every way imaginable...for all age groups and many ministries.
She sees a need and meets it.
My mom is a difference-maker.
Despite a painful childhood, filled with neglect and abuse...she is a difference-maker.
Despite anxiety and insecurity that comes from her past...she is a difference-maker.
Despite the odds being seemingly stacked against her...she is a difference-maker.
THAT is the power in kindness and compassion.
THAT is the power in really seeing people.
THAT is the power in serving others.
THAT is the power found in the grace of Jesus Christ.
We CAN make a difference, friends.
I have been using the YouVersion Bible app (by Life.Church) for quite some time now.
For six years, in fact.
However, it was just over the last few months that I have begun making it one of the social media platforms I use to share my Bible study experience with friends and family.
And just in the last three weeks have I become friends with two of the most wonderful little girls you will ever meet...my oldest two daughters.
To be honest, I thought this would be a fun little activity that we could do to spend some time with Jesus and have good conversation about the Bible.
I wasn't prepared for the deep thoughts the girls would share on our shared Bible studies.
After reading her devotional, along with a few scriptures from Hebrews and Romans, my sweet Harlee replied profoundly that faith and trust in God is what makes life worth living.
Wow...what a thought for my barely 11-year-old.
And a wake-up call for her mama.
Since that day, I have taken my Bible study time with her (and her sister) very seriously.
God has used these words to speak to all of us...
To open up conversations on our Bible apps and in person...
To be able to have these teachable conversations through our day-to-day living.
If you are struggling with how to talk to your children, preteens, and teenagers about God's Word and Kingdom Work, I'd strongly recommend meeting your kiddos where they are.
Let's embrace the technology that is so prevalent today and connect with our kids on the matters of God.
Happy Weekend from the farmhouse, friends.