Crosses of Womanhood

Janie Wagoner touched on several different crosses we face as women, including marriage, singlehood, and loss of health.

However, the crosses we face in life are not the end. A quote from her experience with her daughter’s death from a heart defect, “God chose not to heal [my daughter’s] heart, but He can heal our hearts.”

Janie shares personal experiences relating to different crosses women bear in an uplifting and tangible way that people in different walks and stages of life can all relate to.


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Transcription:

Introducing sister:

Wow! What a lot of beaming faces!  I am so excited to see you. We are welcoming you to this wonderful ladies’ time this afternoon on a sort of warm Saturday, and we are very blessed to have a very good sister with us, Janie Wagoner. She will be sharing some wonderful things with us.

And I just want to welcome you all. It’s such a blessing to be together. It’s such a blessing to be encouraging each other. It’s such a blessing to love each other the way Christ wants us to love each other. And then to see ways to reach out and love those around us.

Before we start, we’re going to sing a really complicated song, and probably just one verse, because that’s really the only verse I know. I am not a big song person. I try. I don’t know shaped notes. I’ve had a tremendously varied musical background. So, I’d love all the help. You all can start it, and it is very core. “Jesus Loves Me.” Who does not know that? And we even have some youngsters back here, and they can help us.

So as the final people get seated, let’s almost start. But think about what we’re saying. This is not just purely a children’s song. This is so core to our being. And if we really take this in, we know the love of the Father, because Jesus is exactly like His Father. He is of the same nature; He does His Father’s will, and we are His children. What a privilege!  So, on a count of three – one, two, three –

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. 
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.

That was beautiful! And I think it made our Father rejoice. Let’s go ahead and pray, just to start this time together.

Father God, we just come to You in Your Son’s name, thanking You for this opportunity to learn, to be receptive to Your words. We pray just an extra hand on Janie as she shares with us, and we have the privilege of being together at this conference. We love You. Help us always be Your children. In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Just so you know a little bit more about Janie. She is from western Ohio. West Alexandria, specifically. She’s going to be speaking about the crosses of womanhood. She has been married 43 years. She has four living children, 20 grandchildren. Her husband Curt has been a minister 37 years. They’re in the New Conference of the Old German Baptist Church. We’re really, really blessed to have her here, because not only does she work and help her husband, but she also helps one of her daughters who has – take a guess how many children. Five? Ten? Hey, we’re getting there – thirteen!  And she helps tutor these children and homeschool these children with her daughter.

I have three grandchildren. That’s a blessing right there, but wow! I’m so delighted for her, and I’d love to invite her to come up. I should have had her come up here, but anyway. Come on up, Janie. It’s almost your turn. I’m just so glad you’re here, and I just want to pray again specifically for you.

So, Father God, may Your hand be upon Janie as she shares. May our hearts be attentive, our ears be listening, our minds be processing. May we want to hear what we should learn, as women, as Your children. May Your hand be upon her as she shares. May she have calmness and peace. We just thank You again for the privilege of having her here, and help us just carry our cross with joy. And we do thank You for her. In Your Son’s name, Amen.

Love you. Thank you so much.

Janie:

Thank you. Welcome, everyone. I feel really – well, I’ve been prayed over so much. If you believe in prayer, then surely this is going to be ok. I feel very weak and unworthy, and as I told a couple people, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And the heart is pounding! I’m trusting in the Lord, and it is only as He pours in that I can pour out.

So my topic is “Crosses of Womanhood.”

I suppose a starting place would be a mutual understanding of what a cross is. In Matthew 16:24 Jesus said,

If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.

From that we can understand that our cross is a place where we first of all deny ourselves. In verse 25, He goes on to say,

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.

Those words would suggest that not only is a cross a place to deny ourselves; it’s also a place where we lose our life for Jesus’ sake. We die. A cross is an instrument of death. I think we’ve been hearing that all this weekend, that a cross is an instrument of death. And doesn’t that seem right? Isn’t it the cross where Jesus died? It very much involves our wills. That verse also suggests a cross as being something we take up and carry, just as Jesus carried His cross before He laid down His life to die. I believe in the Garden when His sweat became as drops of blood, the weight of the cross was very heavy upon Him.

In life, we too have crosses that we are called to bear or to carry with Jesus as our fellow Yoke-Man, our Burden-Bearer. Other times we are simply called to just die upon the crosses we are given. I believe there is a slight difference in those two crosses. When we are called to die upon a cross, there is a crucifying of our fleshly nature, and also a coming forth a newness of life, and something better! When we carry a cross, it is a burden that we are called to bear, even joyfully with Jesus.

As you read and perhaps memorized 1 Peter 4 and 5, what stood out to you? The word “suffer” and its various forms are seen repeatedly in these two chapters. 1 Peter 4:1:

Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

What is the purpose of suffering? That we no longer live in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. When does this journey begin? Very early in life. And when does it end? It doesn’t. It goes with us all through life to our grave.

The same event can happen to an ungodly person (an unbeliever) as happens to a believer, and it’s not their cross. It actually might be viewed as a curse. It’s just something that they deal with or resist or fight against. Such as, any tragedy or health – and here, I’m talking about the type of cross not where we lay down and die, because I don’t think an unbeliever even experiences that type of a cross. But they do experience the type of cross where there are burdens in life. And so an unbeliever may actually become angry at God or doubt His existence when life imposes upon him things that are not to his liking or choosing. But to the child of God, it becomes a cross as he surrenders his will and dies to self, and peacefully accepts through the grace of the Lord Jesus God’s unfolding in his life.

I want to quickly say that in many parts of the world, taking up a cross and following Jesus means to literally die a physical death through persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom. While that may be on the horizon in America, it has not been our common experience.

Let’s look at some various crosses where we as women in this culture are called to lay down our own wills, deny ourselves, to suffer and to die.

It has been said that one of man’s biggest temptations is lusting after women, whereas women have a desire to be lusted after. That might sound rather horrifying to us, so I’ll put it in milder terms.

1) Have you ever found yourself wanting to be admired or thought of as attractive by men?

Have you ever sought to dress in a way that would draw attention to yourself? I’m aware that most of us are Christians dressed in modest attire. The gift of that Biblical principle handed to us has been a great blessing and protection. But perhaps there are some in our midst that still struggle with this. Perhaps I struggle with it. Perhaps you struggle with it. And it doesn’t always have to be the young. Sometimes it can be those in midlife as they face the reality of old age descending upon them, they can make a desperate attempt at grappling a hold of youthful appearance to retain it somehow. Proverbs 31:30 says,

Favor is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman that feareth the Lord. She shall be praised.

What about Jesus and His appearance? We read in Isaiah 53:2,

He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.

I like how John puts it in his Gospel. John 1:14,

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

It is ok for others to look at us, and it’s good for them to look at us, and see grace – the grace of the Lord Jesus. That is so much better than any physical beauty of face or form. Of course, we can’t have the glory that Jesus had when the Word says that He was “FULL of grace and truth,” but there is a glory that radiates when we are filled with His grace. I challenge you to have that be your desire for beauty, from a sincere and seeking heart, the beauty of His grace and truth lived out in your life.

2) Another cross may be Marriage versus Singlehood.

Mothers, are you raising your daughters to be married, or to serve the Lord – perhaps in another calling? I was raised in a culture that put a lot of emphasis on marriage. That has changed some, but when I was a young girl, there was a term called, a “hope chest.” Girls were expected to busy themselves with embroidering pillow cases or making quilts or comforters for their hope chests. Many of my friends were married soon after high school. What if this doesn’t work out? It can leave your daughter feeling like she has failed in some way. We want our girls to be prepared to be useful in God’s Kingdom, whether that is as a wife, or as a teacher, or a nanny, or a nurse, or a missionary, or whatever the job might be.

I had to surrender this idea of marriage in my early twenties. I came face to face with the reality of Isaiah 54:5 “Thy Maker is thy husband.” I remember realizing that if God was going to be my husband, then I would have to talk to Him, communicate with Him, like I would my husband. That means more than just times of concentrated and committed prayer. It means whispering a “thank You” to Him, or casting a care, or imploring some guidance, literally practicing His presence throughout the day. Isn’t that something we could all do better on?

I remember the thrill of being at the national park of Yosemite in California, and looking at the majestic mountain formations, and thinking, “My Husband made this.” Can you think of anything more exciting than that? A Husband that can create like our Creator God? If you are single and haven’t taken Him for your Husband, I challenge you to do that. It will change your life!

3) What about the Cross of Control?

Do you think that might have been Eve’s problem back in the Garden? When she saw the tree was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, do you think perhaps she was just wanting a little more control of things that God had control on? What are you wanting to control in your life? Your husband? Your children? Your finances? Your health? What about all of this?

Why do you think Ephesians 5:22 says?:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

I think that’s because that might be where our cross is, where our own will is met face to face with God’s will. It is His will that we submit “as unto the Lord.”

The phrase “as unto the Lord” is also a wall of protection. We are not to submit or be a partaker in evil behavior. Neither are we to be a voiceless mindless shadow of our husband. As Ruth Bell Graham said,

Regarding differences of opinion or thinking between a husband and wife, if two people always think alike about everything, then one of them isn’t needed.

The godly example is that of Queen Esther where she respectfully made her petition or presented her information within her knowledge, and then let the ultimate decision upon King Ahasuerus. In your common day to day experience, are you honoring your husband? My husband says there’s nothing more damaging in a marriage than when the wife seeks control. Are you a blessing to your husband? Are you a helper, suitable for him? Or are you trying to control him? Is this a cross where self needs some crucifying?

Perhaps you are married, and you are submissive, and it seems like every day you die a little more in your marriage because of sin in your husband’s life? The rosy girlhood dream of a happy marriage is not your reality, and it seems very unlikely that it ever will be. That would be a very heavy cross to bear, but it is a fairly common cross. It is not in the wife’s power to change her husband. Nor is she to be his Holy Spirit. And neither is she given license to preach to him.

1 Peter 3:1-4 says we are to be in subjection to our own husbands.

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the Word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation [or manner of life] of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 

Those verses may be something you will have to live on, almost as your daily bread and butter, while you realize the blessing of a meek and quiet spirit being valuable in the sight of God. Again, prayer is the place of refuge and release for the heaviness of the burden.

It may be that you have a very godly husband, but your circumstances in life require that he work in an interactive way with other women. This can stretch our trust and play on the jealous nature of us wives. The weakness of the flesh will want to grab every opportunity to plant fears or things of a carnal nature and bring tension into our relationship as husband and wife. We don’t want to be blind to any behavior that is not appropriate, nor do we want to be suspicious and controlling. Hedging your husband about by prayer and giving this to the Lord, while continuing to build a happy close marriage is the best way.

At a stage of life when my husband Curt worked alongside other women, I would pray Proverbs 5:18-19 every day for him. That verse is the one that talks about rejoicing in the wife and bride of thy youth and “let her be as a loving hind and the pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” (That wasn’t verbatim, but you get the idea – praying that daily for your husband.)

Just as a little side note of warning – and I haven’t really done a study on this, so I can’t offer it with any certainty, but it just seems as though marriages are tested the most severely when the children are teenagers. Things can roll along pretty smoothly when the children are younger, but when they become teenagers, it feels like Satan pulls out some of his most devious tricks. He knows that if he can bring some damage, the opportune time is when the children are in the vulnerable crisis of the teenage years, just beginning to form their own opinions and ideas and make some choices. Keep in mind who the real enemy is. It is not your husband. It is the one who is come to steal, kill, and destroy. Don’t let him do it in your home.

And what about controlling your children? It’s easy to control them when they are young. You are bigger, you are stronger, and you are scarier. Perhaps you don’t have much time, and threatening them and ordering them around is the quickest way to get them out of your way. Is that how you want it to be? And then what happens when they are older, and they are bigger, and they are stronger, and you don’t have their hearts?

Control is not the answer with children. Of course, out of control is not the answer either. Having their hearts through relationship is the only way. And that way, yoked with Jesus, is a beautiful way. Notice, I said, “yoked with Jesus.” That’s because godly parenting is so much bigger than we are. Preparing and guiding young souls to have hearts aflame for the cause of Christ is a torch that we can’t light. It must be through God’s grace, His wisdom, and His blessing, as we walk with Him each step of the way. It requires the great sacrifice of our time. Is your time something that you’re ready to nail to the cross? Or are you still claiming it as your own?

4) [Wayward children.] Our second daughter Rachel brought us much joy in life. She was a vibrant and fruitful vessel for the Lord. About 13 years ago, she came under the influence of strong manipulation and control, not unlike that belonging to cults. Through this strong deception, she made many ungodly choices. I believe she is suffering for it today. The epistle of 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Conversely, I think there is no greater sorrow than that realization that our children are not walking in truth. This is a reality in our life. I’m certain it must be a reality in some of yours also. This is a different kind of cross in life. We don’t actually change our will or change our desire for her salvation, but we do give the burden over and over again through prayer to our great Burden-bearer.

It is not God’s heart that these things would pull us down. Satan would love to trip us up with discouragement or condemnation, but God’s way is the way of peace – of peace and of release. We release it to Him. When He calls us to be a co-laborer in His work of salvation, we obey. There are many times that He calls us to be a co-laborer. But when He calls us to quietly pray and wait, we also obey. There have been times in my folly when maybe I thought God was taking too long, or not doing enough. I’ve tried to help God. – Can you imagine that?! God needing my help?  Have you ever tried to help God? Maybe that’s another cross you need to die on.

5) The fruitful womb can also be a cross in a woman’s life. Perhaps there are no children, and your heart is still crying for the opening of your womb. This is a very natural desire, and one that is placed within us from the Lord. In Genesis 30:1, did not Rachel cry out to her husband, “Give me children or else I die”? She must have felt like it was unbearable to not have children, and that she couldn’t even live that way. That’s how hard it felt to her. In 1 Sam. 1 you can read the story of Hannah, and how she was “a woman of a sorrowful spirit” and “poured out her soul before the Lord” because of her desire for children.

I was not given a barren womb, but when our fourth child was stillborn when I had 2 ½ weeks before my due date, my arms felt very empty. I was a woman of a sorrowful spirit, and I poured out my soul before the Lord. When I had a miscarriage 5 months later, I felt like emotionally nothing was left of me, like I had been run over by some sort of earthmoving machine and was now flat on the ground. It was not easy, but I remember standing and looking out the window after we had our stillborn and thinking, “Now I know the Lord loves me because He chastens those whom He loves.” It wasn’t that I had doubted His love before, but things had happily gone my way, and I was just coasting along. This brought a sudden halt to my happy coasting.

A further test came 5 years later when our beautiful 8 lb. little girl only lived 19 days because of congenital heart defects. Although she had open-heart surgery, technology just wasn’t quite there yet, and she slowly lost the fight for life. In my flesh, I thought it was more than I could bear. Yet I marvel I was given words to speak to another parent whose child was likewise in the hospital. Speaking of the Lord, I told this young father, “He didn’t heal our Deborah’s heart, but He will heal our hearts.” I rather look back at those words now as almost prophetic, something that was given to me. I can’t even tell you how very weak my flesh was in those moments right after death. Those words didn’t come from me, but somehow, they were spoken through me. “He didn’t heal our Deborah’s heart, but He will heal our hearts.”

Sometimes a circumstance can be a real attack from Satan on our faith. This one definitely was on mine. Before Deborah was born, we had gotten one of those weird chain letters in the mail telling about all the wonderful things that had happened to the people that pass the letter on: riches, etc. And it went on to tell the bad things that happened to the people that didn’t pass it on. Of course, that letter went straight into the waste basket where it belonged. But after Deborah’s death, somehow, the evil spirit that was in that letter visited me in a strange way, telling me that it wasn’t God’s will that Deborah died, that somehow Satan had the power to overrule what would have been good in our lives, and to squelch it with the ugliness of death. Of course, that was a lie. God is sovereign! People had prayed. We had prayed. God hadn’t for one moment become less than what He is and helplessly allowed Deborah to die.

Death, disease, accidents, war, and sufferingare all a part of our world that is broken because of man’s sin. They aren’t because of some powerlessness on God’s part or because He isn’t completely good. When He returns as King to reign, only then will this broken world be made right. But today, we have the privilege of letting Him reign in our hearts and in our lives to bring His healing and His comfort and peace in these hard situations – these crosses here in this life.

So the size of our families is another place of surrender in a woman’s life. A place of self-denial and of dying to what our will might be. Whether it be that we aren’t blessed with children, or that we have one or two, while we would like five or six.

Or maybe we find ourselves overcome with morning sickness, and we still have a nursing baby in our arms, and young toddlers, and a mountain of work. Every time self dies, there is no more sufficiency in self. Our sufficiency is in Him. As the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 3:5

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.

Truly He is worthy of that, and we are blind any time we think we are sufficient of ourselves.

There is great promise and comfort in Christ’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

How is that for an attitude? I believe it is one worthy to adapt or to strive for. I want to add that sometimes the sufficiency of God is fulfilled through the hands and the feet of His people. We need to be aware of what God is calling us to. And He might just be calling us to help that young mother.

6) [Sickness.]  I mentioned earlier about having a daughter that came under the power of manipulation and deception and became the victim of mind control. Through this she has made many wrong and sinful choices. She has been the focal point of much fasting and many fervent prayers. I reached a point in my crying out to God that I told Him, “Whatever it takes for her redemption, I am willing. If it takes my life for hers to be saved from destructive path, I am willing.” I told the Lord this more than once in all sincerity, and with passion.

Then one morning, a little less than two years ago, I woke up to a new-found lump where you’re not supposed to have lumps. It was breast cancer. My first response was, “I told the Lord I was willing to give my life for Rachel if that’s what it takes, and I do not plan to withdraw my offer.” It was easily said, but I meant it.

I was anointed. Then I began to find out how badly I really did want to live. I went to doctors, underwent fifteen months of chemotherapy, had surgery, and thirty radiation treatments. I did a complete change of diet and did some natural treatments. All this, just so that I might live. I think that is probably pretty normal and something that God has put within us – a desire to live. When King Hezekiah was told that he was going to die and not live, he besought the Lord, and he also wept sore. And the Lord heard his prayer, and saw his tears, and healed him (2 Kings 20:2-5).

Deep down I want the Lord’s will. I trust Him to know best, and to make things beautiful, even crosses that we don’t want to lay down on. I have no idea what the Lord has in mind for me, whether it’s 20 years or 20 days. I want it to be for His glory, however long or however short. There’s a lot of uncertainty once you’re on the cancer journey. You realize that just because you experience health today doesn’t mean you will tomorrow. And that’s for any of us.

I had an MRI on my brain a couple weeks ago. The results came into my phone as I held my phone in my hand. I tried to be prepared for whatever the results were. Curt prayed with me, and with some trembling in my hands, I put in my password, and the results came up. Could I really be prepared for the results to say, “Suspicious of metastatic brain cancer”?  I didn’t feel like I was prepared. When the report came up otherwise, it was so easy to just be thankful and relieved and go on with normal life. But I realize that may be a cross I’ll be called to lay down on some day.

Early in my journey I took a verse as kind of my motto. Psalm 127:1 says,

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

I was doing chemo and also doing juicing – a lot of carrot juice and beet juice and cabbage juice, and all that. So my motto was, “Except the Lord heal the body, they labor in vain that do chemo and do juicing.” So I believe that very much – that I can do everything in my power and the doctors can do everything in their power, but I’m in the Lord’s hands.

I like how a friend said it in a letter we just received last week. Their teenaged son was diagnosed with cancer about the same time I was. At this time, he appears to be clear, and she stated in her letter, “If there is anything that we have learned from this last year, it’s that tomorrow is not guaranteed, so be thankful for the gift of today. Take the time to make a memory today. Say, “I love you” today. Give the Gospel today. Make a difference today. Forgive, forget, repent, redeem – oh, and take pictures with the ones you love.” That is what she wrote. Aren’t they beautiful words. But she had to experience the pain of her son being diagnosed and treated for cancer before she could frame those words.

As we begin to wind up our little talk, our look at crosses that are common to us as women – crosses like marriage or singlehood, too many children or not enough children, or maybe just wanting to bring glory to our personal appearance as a woman instead of the denying of self, crosses like giving up our time or our health, yielding control where it does not belong to us, or having wayward children – these are some of the crosses we have talked about.

Now what is the bread that you will take home in your basket today? What can we all learn from this? Does life just happen? Are we to just lay down and die, and limply let life happen? Many things we have no control over. Is this all that life is? Crosses, heaviness, dying, suffering?

No! After the cross, the ____? You say it. Resurrection! Yes, life! Abundant life! Let’s look again at Matthew 16:25,

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.

This is all about finding life.  Finding life, even in the midst of the crosses we bear.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 30:5

I used to think that meant that the weeping part was the earth part, and the joy part was the heavenly part. And it does mean that. I’ve also thought that it meant that sorrows pass. Weeping passes after a season, and joy comes, and everything is made right or better. And that is true also.

But now I believe it’s more than that. Weeping endures for a night, but yet joy comes in the morning. In the midst of our sorrow, in the midst of things not getting fixed, joy comes because of life. Life in Jesus, because Jesus is with us!

We can have joy because we have hope. Have you ever noticed that when we are tired, sometimes things look worse?  We can even lose our hope for the circumstance. But with the refreshment of a night’s rest, and the brightness of beginning a new day with Jesus, we have new hope! And joy does indeed come in the morning.

Walking with Jesus, finding life in Jesus, isn’t a formula that you follow, an ABC and then you have it. It is a gift that He gives, and one that we don’t deserve. Nevertheless, even this gift given to us out of His mercy and His grace and His love – this gift of the abundant life is a result of our seeking Him, and of our asking, and of our obedience.

Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.

James 4:8

Matthew 7:7 tells us to ask, to seek, and to knock. He is faithfully waiting for our move as He draws us.

I want to encourage all of us to Intentional Purposeful Living.

Let’s look at some areas where we must be intentional and committed, or it simply may not happen.

The first area is intentional daily Bible reading. I have heard excuses made for busy mothers. I want to have compassion for that, but at the same time, I have found that life doesn’t stop being busy. If I didn’t have time when the children were young, would I have time when they are older? When the family is young, the busyness is all pretty much under your roof. As the children grow, your world of responsibility and involvement grows likewise. It is no longer busyness under your own roof so much; it is busyness in a much bigger realm. I want to offer this for whatever it’s worth. But when our children were preschoolers, I set this boundary for myself: It was ok to have breakfast over, and the children dressed and ready for their day of play before I had my time of Bible reading and prayer, but I was not to start my day’s work, such as begin the wash or the cleaning. Many times, the children would be playing around me while I would be on my knees at the couch or reading my Bible.

I realize this is not a workable approach as the children get older, especially if you’re a homeschooling mom. The only alternative is a discipline of getting up on time. If you can’t do it, pray about it. The Lord will help you. I’m sure He wants you to have time with Him. He wants to be your priority. I don’t consider myself to be the Bible student that I desire to be. And I will confess that too many times, my Bible reading has been a checkmark off of my list of things to do. Nevertheless, I feel I have experienced the blessing of Isaiah 28:10, “Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, here a little, and there a little.” When we give ourselves to daily Bible reading, it becomes a part of who we are. It builds our convictions, solidifies our faith, and fortifies us in the day of battle. It calls us back to the image of Christ, to the person that God wants us to be. If you want your soul to be nourished, you must feed on God’s Word.

Another area where we must be intentional is in daily prayer. When we jump into our day without first seeking the Lord, can we expect His blessing? Isn’t it folly to think that we can make it through one day without His help, His guidance? It is such a blessing as we pray, to really meditate upon who we are approaching. It goes way beyond our comprehension when we begin to meditate on the Triune Godhead as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of all things. When we think of God as all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, unchanging, completely good, completely holy, completely just, all love, mercy, compassion. Do you feel your perspective on life beginning to change? When we meditate on the Lord, it does change our perspective.

I want to encourage intentional meditation on the Godhead as you approach Him. One way I have found for doing this – and as your children are older, it’s a lot easier than if you have young children in the home, but prayer walking has been very meaningful to me. When you’re out under God’s canopy, His beautiful canopy, and just surrounded by nature and the things of God, then worship can just fill you before you approach Him, or as you approach Him, in prayer. So I would recommend prayer walking if you’re at a stage in life where you can do that.

We must also be intentional about our thought life. I don’t know if I can quote John D, but this morning he said something like, we aren’t what we think we are, but what we think, we are. So I don’t know if you can get that, the emphasis is that what we think, we are. So our thought life is very important. So many of our battles begin in our mind.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Philippians 4:8 says we are to think on the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. 

I know it’s hard, and we won’t always be victorious, but it should be a goal, and definitely, these are not things I have attained to or become victorious in. It’s for me as much as it is for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16,18 instructs to “rejoice evermore,” and “in everything give thanks.”

Thanksgiving must be intentional,or we will only be thankful when we feel like it, and we might even forget to then. There aren’t conditions put on those verses in Thessalonians such as “when circumstances are favorable, then these verses apply.” They are verses for us in the midst of our weeping, when the cross is its heaviest. In Acts 16:25, Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God at midnight in prison. We can read very similar testimonies today in newsletters from “Voice of the Martyrs,” and similar places, where those who are persecuted continue on in the joy of the Lord.

Purpose to be intentional in your service to others. We are selfish by nature. We want to claim our time as our own. But is it really our own? I think we all know the answer to that. When you hear God whispering for an area He wants you to minister in, obey Him. It may be something very simple such as giving someone a call, or sending some food, or dropping a card in the mail. But it can make a difference to that person and also to yourself. If we aren’t faithful in small matters, will the Lord entrust to us that which is greater?

Be intentional that you want to bless the people closest to you in life, whether it be your husband, your children, those on your ministry team, or your co-workers. It has been said that sometimes we treat the worst those we love the most. Be intentional that this won’t be said of you.

We have a Helper. Jesus has promised in John 14:23

If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and my Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.

We have the power of Christ within us. He will abide with us. He has sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Who will teach us all things, and bring all things to our remembrance (John 14:26).

And lastly, be thankful for the crosses the Lord has given you in life. Think what kind of person you would be if everything had gone your way, and there had been no adversities, no crucifying of the flesh in life. Our nature is to be consumed with pride and self-sufficiency. Our tendencies are toward wretchedness. It is through God’s loving hand of chastisement “that we might be partakers of His holiness.” (Hebrews 12:10). Conformed to the very image of Christ.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank Thee, Lord, for Your love. We thank Thee, Father, for that love that even brings hard things into our lives. Father, help us as weak women to embrace these hard things, to welcome them, and to allow Your beautiful work to be done in us. Father, we want Your will. We want Your purposes. We want Your fruitfulness in our lives. So we pray a blessing on each dear sister here, each mother, each grandmother, each young girl. Just be with each one. And bless us as we go forth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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