Advice to New Christians

I've enjoyed going along side women and encouraging them in their personal relationship with Christ.  I have met so many women that want this personal and intimate relationship, but aren't sure exactly what to do.  That is the beauty of it.  There's not a list of rules to follow and not to follow.  It's your own.  It's your personal daily communion with God. 

Many of these women are enjoying the new beauty of turning their life to Christ - those first years of salvation.  This transformation is a funeral to yourself the day you surrender.  The word funeral is scary really, but it is truly the best description of what happens.  And trust me, if you were/are anything like me, I was ecstatic to die to myself because I was screwing up everything on my own anyways!

I've been researching about advice for New Christians, what to expect, recommendations and I loved this blog post by Frank Viola from  "Beyond Evangelical".  http://frankviola.org/2013/07/17/advice-to-new-christians/

This is a list of 12 recommendations that go beyond read the Bible, pray regularly, join a church for you new sisters in Christ.  Since I am in my early years I will also describe how I have implemented these recommendations in my own walk with Jesus.  My prayer is they will be helpful to you as you continue on your journey.

1. Christians will break your heart. The greatest pain you will receive will be at the hands of fellow and professing believers.

Heartbreaking.  How sad but true.  I have had more Christians hurt and reject me personally and professionally than non Christians.  Judgmental, holier than thou attitudes, self righteous Christians exist in packs.  It is not a representation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you have experienced this, my best advice is always respond to evil with good.  Look to Jesus in how to respond:  love, love, love.  If you think that is weak.  Try it - it's harder than you think.   

On the contrary, I have also found Christians to be the most forgiving and loving people.  A time in my previous marriage, I returned home and my family didn't just open the door and welcome me home - they ran and met me in the driveway.  I had hurt them all.  They would have every right not to open the door.  Truly, it was the story of the prodigal son (daughter in my case) in current times.  I will never forget the way they greeted me, hugged me, didn't ask questions.  Only crying, "How can we not forgive you as God forgives us?"  My life changed, I came to know Jesus, this blog was birthed and is helping hundreds of women all because my family gave me the same grace Jesus had given them.  I witnessed an unconditional love that I knew didn't come from them - it came only from above.

2. Not everyone who professes Christ knows Him. The fruit of real faith is love – treating all others the same way you want to be treated.

I accepted Christ in 9th grade but didn't know Him until 3 years ago.  I didn't know Him.  I didn't know His word.  And from an outsider looking in, it was obvious, because I bore no fruit.  I loved, but not if you did me wrong.  I never had joy - only happiness.  Joy is much deeper and based on faith not circumstances.  Peace was only after I finished a bottle of wine and the list of my unfruitfulness goes on. 

Matthew 7:16 says you will know one by His fruit.  Now, I hold tight to "Love your neighbor as yourself".  Not just your best friend and family but the person that drives you nuts at work, the mom that you cannot stand to be around, the sinner that doesn't need more judgment but to be loved.  Not just the people it is convenient for you to love.  Treat ALL others the same way you want to be treated.  No exceptions.

3. God will not meet all of your expectations and will sometimes appear not to fulfill His own promises.

Ok, God...I have surrendered.  I confess with my mouth and believe it in my heart.  NOW, can I get what I want?!  God's ways are higher than our ways and thoughts higher than our thoughts.  Thank goodness - maybe now, but definitely not when you are going "through" the yuck.  If I would have gotten everything I was praying, more like begging or even telling God years ago - I now know - it wasn't His BEST for me and HE was preparing something better during the storm.  Maybe He is doing the same for you now.  There is no storm so deep that the arm of God can not reach you out of and set you in a better place than you were before.  NONE.

4. You will experience dry spells where there is no sense of God’s presence. Learn to live by faith, not feelings.

For months I heard, "Be Still and know I am God".  It is fine for a day or two, but when you feel forgotten you become unsettled and lose trust.  During recent dry spells I think, what was the last thing God pulled me out of or saved me from.  Or maybe reflect on the last answered prayer.  Living in His faithfulness will help us step over our feelings and live by faith.  God saved me from myself and I will never ever forget it.  Mine was so dark that anytime I go through dry spells...I Know - that I Know - that I Know...God is always listening and is FAITHFUL.  He is always present in our lives.

5. Build a library and read the best Christian books in print. Don’t waste your time on “pop” Christian books. Go for depth.

I'm always reading a book with Christian teaching that relates to what season in life I'm in.  I've also found I love reading books to prepare for future seasons.  I've ordered some mothering books recently.  I'm not sure how God has planned me to be a mother:  maybe my own, maybe adopting, or maybe raising kids at church, in the neigborhood or loving my nieces and nephews.  His will - not mine, but if I'm going to be a Godly mother in any role - I need some Christian education now.  =)

6. Write your goals down (goals = dreams = prayer requests). And document when a prayer/goal is answered/fulfilled

I have loved the prayer section of the Journal of Intentional Living for this very reason.  I can write down what's on my heart and write in His answers when they're fulfilled or maybe not fulfilled.  One of my greatest joys is to read prayers from days or even years ago and see God's faithfulness in it.  It is a beautiful beautiful thing.  Living in a mind frame of His faithfulness brings contentment.  Contentment brings Joy.  And Joy is the place He calls us to live from.

7. Never judge another Christian unless you’ve walked in their shoes. Always think the best of others (Matthew 7:12).

I heard Joyce Meyer preach not to judge and only give an opinion when asked.  This advice has done me well over the years.  I fall short often and when I'm quick to judge the person that cuts me off in traffic my initial reaction that God has taught me to do..."She/He is a child of God.  Made in Your image and I am called to LOVE and not judge."  It turns my limited judgmental prideful mind back to truth and right thinking. 

8. Choose a mentor, but never choose one who is insecure, speaks negatively about others, and has an inflated ego.

Jenny, or I call her my soul sista' is my sister I call on to pray and for advice on the daily.  She is a constant encouragement and faithful prayer warrior.  We both grew up in the same town and didn't know each other until we moved a city 60 miles away and ten years later.  There was no mistake God knitted our hearts together.  She is a huge blessing in my life.  I also listen to many other older women teachings:  Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Christine Caine, Lisa Bevere, Lysa Terkeurst, to name a few.  My other mentor, is my pastor Lisa.  Once you've joined a church get to know someone on staff that you can go to.   They are educated in theology and can help you in real life circumstances using truth.  I call on her so much for advice and guidance in everyday life.

9. Some of the things you struggle with now you will struggle with when you are old. Resist condemnation (Romans 8:1).

Anything God is working in you and through you is by the power of the Spirit and comes through conviction.  Conviction should bring awareness, but only lift you up higher.  It should not bring you down.  Recently, I was convicted of backing out of things I had on my calendar based on my feelings at the moment.  I canceled at least one thing a week because I was tired and didn't feel like it.  It might have been Bible study or workout or dinner with a friend.  I sat with God and really worked out my schedule with what He was calling me to do.  I was overscheduled and it was no wonder I couldn't do it all.  Now, if it's on my calendar - I've talked with God about it and unless I am sick or a last minute emergency - I am there.  This could have condemned me, "Why can Sally Sue do all that she's doing and I cannot".  We all have different rhythms of life and God is helping me find mine.  I signed up for 3 Bible Studies this Spring.  When I began them, each was getting a little bit, but none were getting my best.  God convicted me and I had to drop one of them.  I could have felt like a failure, instead when you struggle in an area with God on your side, it should only encourage you and lift you up.

10. Many of the answers you have now will prove inadequate later in life. Always be a student and a child in is the Kingdom.

We are God's children.  He wants us to continue to come to Him with childlike faith.  The only way to continue to mature in your sanctification is to learn and grow in the Bible.  I have a Study Bible - I've had it for years.  I have scribbled, highlighted, and wrote notes all over it.  It is my favorite possession I own.  However, when I start a new Bible Study or go to a conference I bring a new clean Bible so I learn the material in a new way.  Scripture can mean something to you in one season and mean something completely else in a different season.

11. Never bluff an answer to someone’s biblical or theological question if you don’t know the answer. Learn to say “I don’t know.”

We aren't called to know everything.  I was so thankful, when I began Living Joy, a woman told me - you don't have to know everything Mary.  I don't and I never will.  And I'm ok with it.  The best thing you can do is be honest.

12. Discover who you are in Christ and learn what it means to live by His indwelling life.

I had such low self esteem when I first began my walk with Christ.  Mainly due to my self worth coming from self accomplishments and outside beauty.  Learning who I AM in Christ was one of the first things God did with me.  I recited these scriptures every morning and out loud, looking at my image in the bathroom mirror.  I noticed when negative thoughts came to mind during the day - I would cast them out with the I AM's.  I started believing these on the inside and living them on the outside.  Oh, it is a beautiful thing to know who God made you to be!  I would encourage anyone that suffers from negative self talk, depression, anxiety, people pleasing - to write these truths on your heart!

 

I've had so much fun sharing my personal advice for new Christians.  I pray for you to continue to walk closely with Jesus and live the life He died for you to live.  If you ever have any questions or need guidance please send me an email at livingjoytoday@gmail.com.  I would love to hear from you!  It is a blessing and my honor to serve you!

Love,

Mary

 

 

 

 

Why "DO" Lent and how do I start?

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays).

So why "DO" Lent?  How do I start?

Are you searching for something more?  Tired of running rushed, in endless circles but not really living life with direction, intention, or passion?  (I'm frantically raising my hand).  It's pretty easy to get distracted in the drama of  classes, relationships, family, children, work, or just everyday life.  Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ.  Personally, my distractions are mindless TV, social media scrolling, meaningless gossip, comparison,  shopping, laziness, excuses, self pity, blaming others, prisoner of unforgiveness, too many glasses of wine, rushed schedule with one activity after the next, goals related to better outward appearance or other fillers that end in the end - always leave you empty.  I run away from life and from God! 

This time of Lent is a great time to "repent" of these distractions - to return to God and refocus our lives to be more in line with Jesus.  SIGN. ME. UP!  It's a 40 day trial run in changing your lifestyle and letting God change your heart.  It is NOT a set of rules or giving up something to receive a gold medal on how great you did.  This isn't about us or the victory of what we give up -  instead it is so much bigger!  It is about turning our hearts and our lives to God!

This Lent season comes after the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3.  Jesus went into the wilderness by the Spirit where He fasted and prayed for 40 days.  During His time there He was tempted by Satan and gained clarity and strength to resist temptation.  He was now ready to begin His ministry.  Scholars speculate that maybe He needed this time to get away from all the distractions and see God more clearly.  He needed intentional time with God as He searched for direction and answers for His life.

This grabs my heart!   Oh how I need and crave this time to get away from the distractions of life!  Ladies, I am so excited for this Lent season.  Here's how I got started.

I spent time with God - praying about what these forty days look like in my life.  Ladies, this is different for everyone so get alone with God and agree on it together.  What do I mean by that?  Go to a quiet place.  Invite God into your time and when you ask Him specifically for what distractions you should give up to turn closer to Him - it is usally that first thing that comes to mind.  It's the conviction that you feel.  He speaks in a small still voice.  It's a knowing that brings peace within you.  My first "knowing" was simple -  I need to go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier! 

Try doing one thing in each of the falling areas:

Fast - You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God.  What do you need to let go of or "fast" from in order to focus on God?  What clutters your calendar and life?  How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do?

Service - Take something on for Christ.  You can commit to help a different stranger, coworker or friend everyday of Lent.

Prayer - A time of intentional prayer and becoming more in tune with God.

 

Here are my changes for the next 40 days: 

Fasting - I'm giving up 2 things.  1) My morning sleep and my tendancy to hit the snooze button for two hours!  My time with God will be 4:30am - 5:30am.  It is not my Bible study time.  It is not my Living Joy time.  It is not my social media time.  It is not my email time.  It is my time to sit still with God.  A time for forgiving, a time for repentance, a time for conversation, a time for prayer, a time to discern His will for my life.  It is my God time.   2) No electronics on Sunday period. Service - My intentional living, from my daily Quiet time section in the journal, will be doing or loving for someone else.  Serving others is a great way to serve God! Prayer - I'm going to pray for the person before I send  them a text message.  I love this way to add intentional prayer for the people close in my life! Sweet friends, if you read this and think this is too much for you - because you don't have it together like this chick does.  That is just a lie from the thief and simply not true!  The struggle is going to be real for me - but my heart craves more of God and less of those empty fillers I so easily get distracted by.  God is and will be the only perfect fulfillment for the heart with a love that has NO GAPS!  Time with Him will never leave you feeling empty.  That is where true joy, peace, love, purpose come from and I must spend more intentional time with Him.  You're not going to know your children if you don't spend time with them and it's just the same with your relationship with God.  You will not know Him if you don't spend time with Him. Now, beautiful lady reading this with a heart that wants more time with God - how will you use this Lent season to grow closer to Him?!

Fasting - I'm giving up 2 things. 

1) My morning sleep and my tendancy to hit the snooze button for two hours!  My time with God will be 4:30am - 5:30am.  It is not my Bible study time.  It is not my Living Joy time.  It is not my social media time.  It is not my email time.  It is my time to sit still with God.  A time for forgiving, a time for repentance, a time for conversation, a time for prayer, a time to discern His will for my life.  It is my God time.  

2) No electronics on Sunday period.

Service - My intentional living, from my daily Quiet time section in the journal, will be doing or loving for someone else.  Serving others is a great way to serve God!

Prayer - I'm going to pray for the person before I send  them a text message.  I love this way to add intentional prayer for the people close in my life!

Sweet friends, if you read this and think this is too much for you - because you don't have it together like this chick does.  That is just a lie from the thief and simply not true!  The struggle is going to be real for me - but my heart craves more of God and less of those empty fillers I so easily get distracted by.  God is and will be the only perfect fulfillment for the heart with a love that has NO GAPS!  Time with Him will never leave you feeling empty.  That is where true joy, peace, love, purpose come from and I must spend more intentional time with Him. 

You're not going to know your children if you don't spend time with them and it's just the same with your relationship with God.  You will not know Him if you don't spend time with Him.

Now, beautiful lady reading this with a heart that wants more time with God - how will you use this Lent season to grow closer to Him?!



Loving God's Way

1 Corinthians 13 The Message (MSG)

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

HAPPY VALENTINE's WEEK!!!! 

Love Mary

Inside the Journal of Intentional Living!

The Journal of Intentional Living will help encourage your quiet time and live intentionally with God daily!  Here are a few pictures of what's inside! 

The outside cover.  Simple and inviting for your quiet time.  Psalm 16:11 "You fill me with Joy in Your presence."

The outside cover.  Simple and inviting for your quiet time.  Psalm 16:11 "You fill me with Joy in Your presence."

Journal of Intentional Living just for you and your relationship with Christ.  The next page is a place for your Name and Date and Moments/Thoughts you never want to forget.  A keepsake for years to come!

Journal of Intentional Living just for you and your relationship with Christ.  The next page is a place for your Name and Date and Moments/Thoughts you never want to forget.  A keepsake for years to come!

8 Tabs to separate your times with God:  Prayers, Quiet Time, Favorite Scripture, Worship, Bible Study, Conference/Retreat, Journal, and Clear Your Mind.  All your God moments in ONE place!  Throw away your ten different journals!  YES!

8 Tabs to separate your times with God:  Prayers, Quiet Time, Favorite Scripture, Worship, Bible Study, Conference/Retreat, Journal, and Clear Your Mind.  All your God moments in ONE place!  Throw away your ten different journals!  YES!

Heart of Living Joy is a relationship with Christ is the only perfect fulfillment for the heart!  Encouraging daily joy based on faith!

Heart of Living Joy is a relationship with Christ is the only perfect fulfillment for the heart!  Encouraging daily joy based on faith!

Your different prayer topics for each day of the week.  Deepen your prayer life!

Your different prayer topics for each day of the week.  Deepen your prayer life!

The prayer section.  A place to write out your prayers and HIS ANSWERS!  God is faithful!

The prayer section.  A place to write out your prayers and HIS ANSWERS!  God is faithful!

Quiet time section includes a verse for each day, a place to write your intentional living moment and what you are grateful for.  A grateful attitude always brings Joy!

Quiet time section includes a verse for each day, a place to write your intentional living moment and what you are grateful for.  A grateful attitude always brings Joy!

Each tab includes a pretty JOY scripture!

Each tab includes a pretty JOY scripture!

Clear Your Mind section is for all those distracting thoughts that you are reminded of *ONLY* when you finally sit down for your quiet time.  When they come up, jot them down here, and these pages are perforated so you can take them with you and make sure they are completed later in the day!  Love these!!!!

Clear Your Mind section is for all those distracting thoughts that you are reminded of *ONLY* when you finally sit down for your quiet time.  When they come up, jot them down here, and these pages are perforated so you can take them with you and make sure they are completed later in the day!  Love these!!!!

Thanking God!

My favorite time of the year has arrived!  I love this week - gathering with family, friends and loved ones to give thanks!  As you try and make everything perfect - from the table top to the pumpkin pie.  Remember, the most beautiful moments in this life are those felt with the heart!  Here at Living Joy Ministries, we will be thanking and praising God this week - on purpose!

thanksgiving and praise.JPG

Join us as we live in a posture of thankfulness!  Psalm 103:1-5 is a lovely Thank you note from King David to God.  Praising God for His mercies!

We adore and thank you God for all your personal blessings this day!  Thank you, GOD.  Thank YOU!

Inside the Journal

Hi!  I'm working on getting professional pictures of the journal on the website, but for now here are a few from my camera phone - so please excuse the quality/blurriness.  This is only a snapshot of what the journal holds!

I have loved having all of my communication with God in one place!  Prayers, Quiet time, Memory Scripture, Bible Study and prayers for other ladies, Journal, Worship, Conference/Retreat, and a place to write all those distracting thoughts!  This journal will help encourage your quiet time and on your faith journey!  We have sold more than 70 copies in 2 days!  If you are looking to deepen your prayer life and time with Jesus - I promise you will LOVE it! 

IMG_0682.JPG


Verse of the Week - 1 John 2:15-17 (The Message)

1 John 2:15-17 The Message (MSG)

15-17 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

Join me this week?!  This is the Bible verse I have on a index card that I carry around in my purse.  My hope is a few times instead of picking up my phone to scroll social media I will pick up this verse and write it on my heart.  There is so much more life in God's word than any other place I tend to go.  More of the Father and less of the world is my prayer this week!  I do not want anything of this world to squeeze out love for my Heavenly Father.  Join me!

Happy Veterans Day!  To my brother Will, Dad, Uncle Frankie and Uncle Jimmy, cousin Jonny and Marty, granddaddy, and all the brothers and sisters who have fought for this country - We honor you and THANK YOU for your service to this country and its people!  You are true American heroes!

Love Mary  

Why I love Journaling!

This is a picture of previous journals I have used.

Girls, I was OVER. IT. when my “Super Awesome Ideas” Journal lost its back cover and the mere fact I was writing my deepest thoughts in anything that said “Super Awesome Ideas”…I couldn’t handle it and was determined to make a Journal that I would enjoy writing in and want as a keepsake for years to come!

I have used the journal over the past few months and LOVED it!

My thoughts are your Journal of Intentional Living will be similar to the latest photo album you made.  In life we go through many seasons and we document them through pictures - so we never forget them.  Your wedding day, child’s first day of school, parents retirement party, vacations, birthdays, family Christmas cards and so much more.  Our photo albums display memories in pictures.  Similarly, our journals record our most inner thoughts and deepest moments with God – memories we never want to forget!

Gordon MacDonald, pastor and author of “Ordering your private world” describes journaling in his book this way:

(1) "I began to realize that the journal was helping me come to grips with an enormous part of my inner person that I had never been fully honest about ... I became aware ... that God's Holy Spirit was directing many of the thoughts and insights as I wrote. On paper, the Lord and I were carrying on a personal communion ... this began to happen only when the journal was employed" (p 131).

(2) "twenty years of journal keeping [as of 1984] ... Hardly a morning passes that I do not open the journal and record the things I hear God saying through my reading, meditation, and daily experience. When the journal opens, so does the ear of my heart. If God is going to speak, I am ready to listen" (p 132).

(3) "a beautiful example of a man listening to God in his private world through the use of a journal ... as he perceived the divine whisper, he transformed into print the still, small voice of his Lord" (p. 133).

 (4) "the main value of a journal is as a tool for listening to the quiet Voice that comes out of the garden of the private world. Journal keeping serves as a wonderful tool for withdrawing and communing with the Father. When I write, it is as if I am in direct conversation with Him. And there is that sense that in the words that you are led to write, God's Spirit is mysteriously active, and communion at the deepest level is happening" (p. 136).

 

Today, I am taking my niece and nephew to Disneyworld.  I have packed my camera, Bible and Journal for sure.  I do not want to miss taking pictures of them on the Tower of Terror and I don’t want to miss recording this sweet answered prayer in my Journal.  What moments with God do you not want to forget?!

Lots of love and BIG hug to you sweet friend!  God is so so good!!!

Mary =)

 

 

Next Tuesday, November 18th - Mark Your Calendar!

The Journals will be available for YOUR heart and home - next Tuesday, November 18th!

 

Sneak peek below of the journal laid out by sections...

FullSizeRender4.jpg

Quiet time with Jesus changed my life.  During my quiet time I noticed I had so many journals and "stuff" that I needed a tool that could organize it all.  God placed on my heart the Journal of Intentional Living.  This journal is divided in to 8 sections:

Prayers - Different prayer topics for each day of the week so you don't get stuck in your prayer life.  A place for His answers beside every prayer.  A place to pray for the nation and world.

Quiet Time - A scripture from every book of the Bible will help encourage time with the Holy Spirit.  I use this area with other devotionals such as She Read Truth app, Jesus Calling, In Touch by Dr Charles Stanley to name a few.  Should last a super user 3 months.

Bible Study - Record any answers and thoughts from Bible study.  I am doing the "Best Yes" study by Lysa Terkeurst right now and will do the Advent study by Louie Giglio in a few weeks.  Also, an area to write down prayers for other Bible study members in this section.  My Bible study group believes so much in prayer!

Worship - I LOVE church.  I attend an average of 2 or 3 services from different churches a week and love writing everything I learn.  I attend Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, NC and will call it my church home in January!

Memory Verses - You can write different Bible versions and translations of favorite scripture.  Its always good to have a verse that you relate to during every season of life.  Mine right now, for this very season, is John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come so that you would have life and have it to the full". 

Conference/Retreat - Have you ever been to a retreat, took lots of notes, felt really good and then came back to the real world and couldn't find all of those points you wanted to implement in your daily life.  My most recent retreat was She Speaks with Proverbs 31 Ministries.  I love having my favorite takeaways in my journal so I can apply them to my every day living.

Journaling - Everyone can use this section different.  Maybe your thoughts, feelings, emotions or a letter you want to write someone.  I use this for my extra studies.  I like to learn meanings of words people throw around assuming I know the meaning:  Protestant, Evangelist, Catholic vs Christianity, King David are a few I've studied in the last few weeks.

Clear Your Mind - Do you ever come to your quiet time and its the ONLY time you remember to make the dentist appointment or send the birthday card?  The thief wants you to be distracted and not grow or have your quiet time.  This section is made up of perforated sheets of paper that you can record all those distracting thoughts and once you are DONE with your time with Jesus you can tear it out of your journal and take it with you in your purse so you don't forget to them.

 

There is so much more to this journal and what it holds!  The Journal of Intentional Living will help you love and serve others better and encourage you during your quiet time.  But the truth is - this journal will not change your life.  Jesus is the change agent and the only source for joy, peace, love, and hope.  However, you will never regret investing in this time!  My quiet time and personal relationship with Jesus, truly, changed my life!

Love love love,

Mary

Journal of Intentional Living

Why intentional living?  This is a question I get asked often and you might be curious too.

During my 20’s I drifted through my everyday life – living each day based on my rapidly changing hormonal feelings and with no focus at all.  It was an up and down, exhausting, selfish, all over the place, never satisfying, shallow existence. 

I lived for Friday and everything in between didn’t matter.  Friday evening at 5pm felt like Christmas morning as a child.  It was the feeling of sitting at the top of the stairs – anticipating mommy and daddy waking up - so then I could sprint downstairs and tear open my new shiny presents from Santa.  I lived for this same Friday evening moment each week.  And each week it came.  And each week it went.  The weekends were filled with friends, partying and drinking away the miserable work week behind me.  Church on Sundays was a check off of my “good person” list and Sunday afternoons were ruined from the dread of Monday.    

There was fun and a lot of amazing people in my life, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with God.  It was a dead life with no meaningful purpose for me.  In my late 20’s it was drastically turned upside down - like a rotted trailer home uprooted into the deadly winds of a category four hurricane’s eye.  Everything crumbled. I lost my marriage, job, home, friends, dog – I lost everything I had known.

In my darkest hour, when I was finally tired of this less than meaningful way of life, I surrendered myself to Christ.  My personal life was missing the most important person, Jesus.  I can still feel the sweet beauty and freedom of surrender. Through it all - God never stopped pursuing me with His great love.  God’s grace flooded my heart in a way I will never be able to express.  It’s a grace that rescues, restores, heals, forgives, blesses and loves you back to a new and better life.

I would never only live for Friday evenings again.  I no longer wanted to let life just happen and aimlessly drift through each day unfocused.  I had Christ in me now.  I wanted the little moments to matter.  We only have one life and I wanted mine to count.  I desired to live a focused purposeful life.  I wanted to live intentionally - every single day! 

Wikipedia defines Intentional Living as any lifestyle based on an individual or group’s conscious attempts to live according to their values and beliefs. 

The core beliefs of Christianity are summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was resurrected, and thereby offers salvation to all who will receive Him in faith.  Unique among all other faiths, Christianity is more about a relationship than religious practices.  The goal of a Christian is to cultivate a close walk with God rather than adhering to a list of “do’s and don’ts”.  That relationship is possible because of the work of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Christian’s believe that the Bible is the inspired, “God-breathed” Word of God and that its teaching is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1: 20-21).

The Bible warns about living an unfocused life.  Paul said in Ephesians 5:15-17, “Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Paul lived with intention and I choose to do the same sweet friends.  I fail a lot but God is always there to pick me up.  I no longer have Friday evening tunnel vision, and have changed my direction, to keep my eyes focused on the goal of God’s plan for my life.  My hope is when I stand before the Lord and give an account of what I have done – I can confidently tell Him what I did with all He blessed me with.  What is your hope when you stand before God?

I look to Jesus as the perfect example of intentional living.  His greatest two commandments are found in Matthew 22:37-40 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

I want to live out these great commandments in my every day.  I like to begin each day sitting in God’s presence.  Often, I imagine I am sitting at His feet.  During this time I pray for intentional ways to love my family, friends, and neighbors or people I meet throughout my day and record them in the journal.  See some examples from my own journal below.

This is how intentional living was introduced into my life.  The moment I began to get my mind off of me and onto other people I had more joy and purpose than ever before!  And you can too!

I watched Lysa Terkeurst “The Best Yes” webcast earlier this week.  Check it out at www.lysaterkeurst.com. 

Intentional Living - Lysa.PNG


I love at the thirty-one minute marker in the video, she shares the following about intentional moments during her day:

“We all have different roles that we play but we all have those moments where we lay our head on our pillow and say, Wow did I just blow it at everything today?  Having intentional moments woven throughout the fabric of my day - you can think back that no I didn’t blow it at every moment of my day, because I had this great moment!”

I agree, Lysa!  Intentional moments can look different for everyone.  Whether it’s putting a love note in your kid’s lunch box or tucking them in at night.  Sending a care package to a child at college or mailing a Jesus Calling devotional to a friend that’s walked away from Christ.  Maybe it’s encouraging your server at a restaurant or buying the meal for a family behind you in the local drive thru.  Or maybe it’s simply taking your significant other a coffee at his office job.  Pre-decided intentional acts look different for everyone, but they bring purpose and meaning to your life.

Why intentional living you ask?  Because at the end of your day when you’re replaying your moments in your day.  You will know that you had at least one great moment.  In fact, it was one great INTENTIONAL moment.  Most importantly, it is the life Jesus died on the cross for us to live.


Love,

Mary

Secret to Being Happy.....

.....Is being content exactly where we are.  Paul writes from prison in Philippians 4:11 "Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."

It is easy to compare and feel lack with our "in your face" social media apps, but be reminded - God didn't equip us with the grace for someone else's life.  You are meant to be exactly where you are today.  He is using your current circumstances for His divine plan, sweet friend.   When you begin to want and compare, remember Paul's words about peace with self in Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."  Live intentionally today - if you think any other thoughts than these - IT IS OK - but throw them out, and dwell on the promises of God.  Trust Him with what He has planned for your life.  It is good!

I love and trust God so much that I only want what He wants for me.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.




She Speaks Conference Recap

DISNEYLAND

“This feels like Disneyland!” I hear women squeal as the ballroom doors of the Concord, NC Embassy Suites swing open to welcome its newest guests for the weekend.
700 women from 42 states and 5 countries all with the same passion – Jesus - attending Proverbs 31 - She Speaks conference.  548 there for the very first time.  

The sterile ballroom had been transformed with the flawless touch of drift wood centerpieces, birdcages, white hydrangeas perfume and graceful vintage furniture filling our hearts with a Welcome Home sensation.

Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31, greeted us - “Unrush Me, Lord”.  Challenging us to not set our heart to a rhythm of rush.  When we rush through life and say “yes” to everything we are left living an overwhelmed schedule aching with an underwhelmed soul.  I have reread this last sticky statement over and over - “Unrush me Lord - so the best of who I am comes out.”
My next two breakout sessions were Be You and Overcoming Stage Fright.  I’m commanded to love but I have a desire to please.  Be you!   The most important things I learned in both sessions – It’s not about me and it’s all about Jesus.  It’s so about Jesus.  Here are a few takeaways that I cannot wait to study in depth:
-    Free yourself from the cancer of comparison.
-    You were made for a God sized dream.
-    The gospel is a change agent.  Not you.
-    Jesus was the ultimate communicator.
-    I’m robbing my audience if I focus on me.
-    Build your God confidence.
-    Every “I” story must have a “you” message.
-    Change perception to rely on God.  Not on I.  Desperation into total dependence.
-    Drink OJ before public speaking.
-    Learn to laugh at yourself.
-    Pray more than you prepare.

Lunch time!  I met a great group of ladies each with their own story and footprint.  I went to the beach recently – seeing all of the thousands of sand footprints captured my heart.  Some small, some long, some wide, some narrow.  Each different.  Each special.  Each loved.  Every footprint is a person with a unique heart and their own story loved deeply by God.  When I listened and met new friends I thought about each new face and name similar to the beach footprints. 

It was time for my first publisher appointment with Discovery House!  I was greeted by a sweet face with a reserved smile.  I took a deep breath and dove into telling her about the journal.  “Spending time with God will change your life!” Like she needed me to tell her.  Editor in chief of Discovery House Publishing and Christian lady herself – really Mary?  Time raced by.  I illustrated with all my stuff what my quite time used to look like before I had the journal.   Then I showed her what my quiet time looks like now with the journal.  After a fifteen minute passionate and enthusiastic pitch - she handed me her business card and said she would “be in touch.”  I wonder how many others heard these empty words.

The next few hours were filled with laughs with my small speaking group.   I provided most of the laughs sharing my sweaty situation during my publisher meeting.  Sweaty situation you ask?  During my publisher appointment I had soaked my blouse.  I’m talking the after hot yoga type sweating -- covering most of my arm, stomach and entire back.  The kind of sweat you know is happening but hope no one else can see.  It was not pleasurable and deathly embarrassing but God is freeing me from the bondage of perfection.  In the past – my simple sweat episode would have become, “Mary, you’re such a bad writer.  You are not good enough to be here with all these perfect women.”  Instead, I simply changed my shirt and went on with my day.  Glory to glory!

Dinnertime.  I met my new best friend Sarah, with an “h” just like my sister.  It was so nice to have a friend in a sea of new faces.  I was SO looking forward to this evening!  I attended Passion conference a few years ago and God put on my heart the unimaginable issue of human sex trafficking in America and in the world.  There are 27 million sex slaves in hostage - more than any other time.  Read more at a21campaign.com.  Tonight’s speaker is Christine Caine, founder of A21 campaign.  I cannot explain in words - God did a deep heart surgery in me through her this night.  I focus on myself so much.  I forget who my life is ultimately about:  Jesus.  She challenged us, “Make sure the light that is in you, is greater than the light that is on you.”  Oh, how this is my prayer and my heart cries for this!  Jesus it is You, not I, that I want to make famous.  Not me!  I did not take one note during her talk.  I wanted to soak it all in for me in hopes that it would ultimately transform me.  I’m dying for transformation.  “Get off Facebook and get your face in the BOOK!”  YES!  My ultimate heart’s desire is to die myself and live for Him.  

Late that night I face planted in the bed.  Exhausted but changed.  A heart change.  All of the money spent and journal preparation time invested for this conference just paid off many times over.  The heart transformation I received this night was life changing.  I will never be the same.  
The next morning I woke up with a new heart!  No shower, yesterday’s hair, some fresh makeup and I skipped to the first session.  I’ve discovered a new me!  Yes!  Renee Swoop!  I was so thrilled.  I just completed her Bible Study, A Confident Heart.  No longer living in self-doubt but on the promises of God!  Her message was simple, Girl you already have what It takes.  Believe it and Bring IT!  Bring IT!

My next Breakout sessions were Finding your Niche and Getting over your Past.  A few takeaways:
-    What sets YOUR heart on fire?  
-    Your purpose: not too broad and not too narrow.
-    Identify your rhythm of life.  It’s not the same as anyone else’s.
-    In a sea of noise what makes me stand out?
-    Your book is for “her”.  Define “her.”
-    If you’re like Mary at the feet of Jesus there is no critic that can take you down any further.  You are already at his feet.
-    When it involves someone else, never write out of pain, write out of healing.
-    God can use us not despite our past but because of our past.
-    I am transformed through the blood of Christ.
-    God has been divinely designing our life all along.
-    Let God turn your past into purpose and there will be complete transformation.
-    God never wastes our pain.
-    Go with your heart and not your resume.
-    Low self-esteem is #1 issue with Christian women.
-    Move from safe zone to faith zone.
-    Coincidences are God incidences.

We grabbed boxed lunches and were scheduled to be with our speaking groups the next three hours.  We all prepared a five-minute sermon to be critiqued.  I cannot tell you the peace that was in me.  I’ve done a lot public speaking recently as I’ve given my testimony different places and led chapel at Raleigh Rescue Mission.  Each time I’ve been terrified - almost paralyzed.  Today was different.  Today my mind was off my own insecurities and how maybe - just one lady - might see the hand of God in my story and be forever changed.  My talk was on Romans 8:28.  God through all the trials and my own mistakes has truly changed my life for good.  I had to rush out and head to my last publisher appointment with Thomas Nelson.  No sweating today.  If God wants to use me and this journal it will succeed.  God had taken the pressure off of me to make it succeed.  It was about quiet time and how much it changed my life from the inside out.  Pressure is off.

photo 5.JPG

Last dinner and last message from beautiful, Lysa TerKeurst.  She spoke so clearly.  Girls, we are called but this is no joke.  “THIS – IS – NO – JOKE,” she cried.  We must go and share.  Go and share the name of Jesus to all nations.

What a weekend?!  Heart changing time - growing with Jesus - for Him to be glorified in everything- and let’s GO AND SHARE HIS name!
And Girlfriend, “It was better than Disneyland!”




THANK YOU!

THANK YOU sweet family and friends!

 

I have tried and failed miserably, to record the perfect thank you video message, and there is just no other way to describe my attempt – T*E*R*R*I*B*L*E!

I think its because there’s not a perfect thank you message to express my gratitude for the countless emails, texts, phone calls, Instagram comments, Facebook messages, personal struggles shared, testimonies, encouragement, praise and prayers.  I have read all of them and cannot thank you enough for all your support!  Truly, it has been an overwhelming experience and I am so thankful for each and every one of you!

Today, I’m leaving for Proverbs 31 – She Speaks conference and cannot wait to share all about my experience and publisher appointments for the journal next week on the blog.  Hosted in Concord, NC with 700 amazing women from all over the world - all wanting to share and experience the love of God!

Going with an expectant heart and really looking forward to disconnecting and having this special time with Jesus! 

Thank you again for your love and support! 

Have a great rest of your week and weekend!

 

Love,

Mary

Spending Time with God First Thing

Compare your days spent with God in the morning to the days you try to do it all on your own?

I am nothing without God but everything with Him. That's why I must spend time alone with Him every single day. I have to take time before anything else to be alone with God, reading His Word, and talking to Him. 

God is not a religion. It's a relationship. Don't pick up the phone only on Sunday morning.  He wants to be a part of your everyday life. Right now, today. Yes, that includes giving you strength with the kids this morning, wisdom for your big meeting, patience with loved ones, love for strangers, joy in the ordinary, energy for the workout, kindness in the carpool lane, self-control over food, sound mind in your trial, forgiveness for an apology never received, help with your to do list, your today, whatever that looks like for you. 

 Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

 Everything in Scripture is written for our encouragement. Even the tough parts of God's Word are there to ultimately encourage our lives in the right direction. That's why we need to spend time alone with Him! 

 My alarm clock goes off at 430am. I get my coffee and spend the first hour of everyday with Him and reading scripture. We communicate and He speaks with me. Sometimes I don't hear from Him but I'm still trusting and believing. It is a relationship, like any other relationship in your life, time must be invested in it. How are you going to hear Him if you’re not sitting alone with Him? Today, I unpacked my heart to Him with prayer. I now have room to do his work knowing He is taking care of my hearts worries and desires. You must seek Him and ask for yours too. He is ready and waiting!

 The Bible says in Psalm 119:114: You're my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your word to renew me."

Spending time with God and his Word has the power to change your life. It has God's power in it. Nothing else does.