ATTN ★ I have grown so much in the last few years, and with that, I know that much of what I have previously written (2011-2018ish) may not be as Christ-centered or sound as I would have it. That's a bit embarrassing, but evidence that the Holy Spirit is growing me closer to the image of Christ. I will be going back through my writing and either deleting entirely or editing those articles. Writing is a humbling hobby that grows as you do.

ATTN: ★ Updates of these resources coming soon.

Back to School Encouragement

8.23.2021 | No comments

Nostalgia as thick as perfume. I cried as the school buses paraded through my neighborhood announcing the first day of school. As a product of Indiana’s public schools who passionately taught in the Mississippi public high schools, the ‘Back to School’ atmosphere is one that I have always enjoyed breathing in: the smell of new school supplies, the anticipation of new teachers, the colorful and student-specific decorations, the shrill of the dismissal bell. There is so much beauty in the ordinary school day, and I don’t believe we appreciate the impact of those years until much later.

I married a man who has walked (and is still walking) through nearly every schooling option: home, public, magnet, private; and this has been extremely helpful in helping us decide a plan for schooling our own children. This year, we have chosen to homeschool our children. Next year, we will reevaluate and again ask the Lord to help us. Some of my friends opted to go the public school route. And still other close friends are sending their children to private schools. There are so many options, so many wonderful blessings in having the freedom to choose the mode of education for your children.

And what we believe is right for our family in this season, may not be what is right for your family in your season. But I wanted to give school-aged parents some encouragement as they embark on another school year.

As you seek to honor the Lord in all you do (Colossians 3:17), teach and train your children in righteousness and godliness (Deuteronomy 11;19), confidently pray for your children (Hebrews 4:16), do all things without grumbling (Philippians 2:14-15), and do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), you can rest knowing that nothing is outside of God’s sovereign, good hand—not even your decision in schooling. Your call as a Christ-follower is to walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1). Seek the Lord (Jeremiah 29:13). Abide in Jesus (John 15:4) Obey his commands (1 John 5:3). Let God’s word renew your mind (Romans 12:2). Be convinced of your own family’s decision (Romans 14). Keep your mind on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:18). Rest in the goodness of God (Psalm 34:8). And trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).

Are you teaching math to your children at the kitchen table today?
Honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you send your children on a big yellow bus this morning?
Honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Is your child wearing an emblazoned uniform today?
Honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s a day that is filled with a mix of emotions for so many. New transitions. New beginnings. But we can be confident that Jesus loves our children so much more than we can comprehend. He demonstrated that on the cross (Romans 5:8). And our job, regardless of our schooling choice, is to be a beacon of light pointing our children to the eternal hope found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:14). Jesus “welcomed the children, testified to their eternal value, prayed for them, and spoke to their legitimate place in his kingdom. We bring our children to the same Jesus today” (Megan Hill, Partners in the Gospel, 73). So whether your schooling looks similar or different than everyone else’s, we can and should and are called to be united in the unchanging truths of the gospel (Romans 12). Honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy 2021-2022 school year, everyone.

These Hands

6.27.2021 | No comments

There’s a temptation to think that there’s no one left. That there’re no godly teenagers in our schools, streets, workplaces, and neighborhoods. That there is no one wanting to follow in the ways of the Lord. That the next generation is worse off than the last. That the sins of yesterday are too big for the grace offered today. That our churches are failing and the youth of tomorrow are nonexistent.

Because that is what we hear. That is what we tell ourselves. That is what we start to believe.

It’s the buzz in our churches and the headlines on TV. When we take our eyes off Christ and look to the side, it can be a great cause to despair. A pit of despondency. An opportunity to clinch our control-freaked hands to pull the reigns tighter and choke out any glimmer of hope.

But let me tell you what I see. Because it’s nothing what the world would have you believe.

These hands represent hearts transformed by the kindness of Jesus. Each of these hands represent the Holy Spirit working in ways we may never understand. Each of these hands represent faith on display. A hunger for God. Made new by the blood of Jesus. Changed by the Father of mercies. A desire to be more like Jesus. An acknowledgement of the struggle. A propensity toward sin. A hatred of iniquity. An evidence of sanctification. The blossoming of fruit. A longing to belong. A sure future secure in Christ.

So do not feast on lies that would have you believe you’re the only one standing firm.

There are many who are submitting themselves to Christ and resisting temptation (James 4), who are walking in a manner worthy of their calling (Eph 4:1), who are always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58), who are not being conformed to the world (Rom 12:2). You are not alone in taking up your cross (Luke 9:23), in holding fast to sound doctrine (2 Tim 1:13), in letting the Word dwell in you richly (Col 3:16), and in putting on the hope of salvation (1 Thess 5:8). There is no reason to despair for those who have been set free by the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we keep our gaze transfixed on the nail pierced hands of our risen King Jesus, we see the life he lived in our place (Heb 4:15), the punishment for sin that we deserved (Rom 6:23), the wrath of God poured out on Jesus in our place (2 Cor 5:21), the defeat of sin and the removal of death’s sting (1 Cor 15:55).

Do not entertain the tempting voice.

You are not alone in following the one true God. Breath in the gospel deeply day in and day out. The blood of Jesus is still effective today to save anyone who calls on his name. He will by no means cast out those who come to him (John 6:37). Those who call on the name of the Lord for salvation are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Sealed. Indwelled. Kept. Preserved. (Eph 1) God is still in the business of saving those who are his own (Rom 10:13). We can trust that God’s purposes have been, and are being, and will be accomplished (Phil 1:6). Even if it appears that no one is following the Lord, we can trust that the good hand of the Lord will hold you fast until the day you see him face to face (Jude 24).

These are the hands that are nudging me closer to the heart of Christ (Matt 11:29) and encourage me to love and good works as the Day is drawing near (Heb 10:24). We are not alone.

Jesus, strong and kind

6.16.2021 | No comments

It really wasn’t anything big. The song, I mean. It was the song that often pointed to me to the cross of Christ in the twilight of my angst. But here I was, sitting down having my thrown together lunch, enjoying the few moments of solace that a mother of 5 usually only dreams of, when it wrecked me, in all the best, commemorative ways.

“Jesus said that if I fear I should come to him”

About an hour earlier, I had just finished what 2 Corinthians 1 presses into. You see, I have been faithfully comforted in all my affliction by the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort for the purpose of comforting those who are, too, afflicted. It’s been 2 years now. Strange to think of it in a time line. But it’s been 2 years since the shadows of the night and the movies of the mind plagued my restless and feeble heart. The wave of despondency crashing without warning, the helplessness made obvious. Wrestling in faith with the goodness of God, my heart was stretched paper thin. But what she said was an echo of the past.

“No one else can be my shield. I should come to him.”

When she expounded her experiences, it was like looking into a mirror that was 2 years the younger. The same mental reel of worst case scenarios. The same loop around the block because the rear view showed the same car for a touch too long. The same explosive anger that comes out like a volcano. But it’s been two years now. Only by the grace of God.

“For the Lord is good and faithful he will keep us day and night.”

While I grappled through the conviction of God’s grand goodness in the saturation of the psalms, the more convinced I became, not in theory but by honest trial and fire. That God ordains all that comes to pass. That God purposes all for the good of those who are his. That God’s concern is for his glory and will do what he wills to make it known. That God’s definition of “good” doesn’t always align with my finite understanding of the word; but that he is trustworthy, even whilst sleeping with the lights on and chronically watching out the windows.

“We can always run to Jesus…”

I wouldn’t sign up to suffer and despair again. I would not voluntarily walk through mental distress and physical anguish . But glory to God for his good hand in my life—and lest you be confused or misunderstand me—glory to God for his good hand in not only taking away my affliction, but for his mightily affectionate, good hand in allowing, purposing, using, giving, causing, ordaining the affliction in the first place. For now I know more intimately that my God is good, and he is for me, and he is for the preservation of his great name in me.

“…Jesus strong and kind.”

Temptation to Trust in Lesser Things

5.30.2021 | No comments

Last night during our family worship time, we sang. Singing is nothing unusual, but it was the balm God used for my weary soul. A reminder that “may it be, come what may, that I rest all my days in the goodness of Jesus.”

You see, I have been tempted to trust in lesser things, and far too often have I functionally given in to those temptations. Good things, mind you, but things that were never intended to save me, try as they may. Simply distractors. Diverting my focus. Stealing my affections when I—for even a moment—consider their worth to be paramount to Christ. These good things meant to point me to the unfailing promises of Christ and given by a good God, but I settle for what those things provide on the surface. Certainly a faulty substitute for which no substitute exists. And chances are you, too, have been lured by similar images and voices you digest on instagram, interact with on Facebook, consume on blogs, and entertain on podcasts.

It’s not the removing of chemical substances from my products that renews my youth like the eagle’s.
Or partaking of a particular medicine that can save me.
It’s not allegiance to a political party. Or politician that restores my soul.
It’s not intentionally resisting certain medications that can forgive my sins.
It’s not following notable accounts that covers all my iniquity.
It’s not science. Or holistic wellness. Or therapy.
It’s not a specific diet that can heal all my diseases.
It’s not a customized workout routine that redeems my life from the pit.
It’s not aligning with a theological camp that can crown me with steadfast love and mercy.
It’s not obtaining more educational degrees that holds my hope.
Or reading more books. Or writing more blogs.
It’s not homeschooling my children that can save me.
Or doing, saying, being a part of, or avoiding of all the thousands of other things vying for my affections.

None of those things were meant to satisfy the deepest longing for my soul. And day in and day out, we feast our eyes and set our hearts on things that make promises they can never keep. And while those things may in fact deepen my love of the Savior who satisfies and may even, by God’s grace, prolong my physical life a few days or years; hope that is rooted in those things will fall miserably short and leave me unsatisfied still.

“Come and find what this world cannot offer. Come and find your joy here complete.” Nothing but the blood of Jesus can save. “Come and find you hope now in Jesus, He is all He said He would be. Grace is overflowing from the Savior’s heart. Rest here in His wondrous peace.”

So weary soul of mine and like mine—turn your eyes upon the goodness of Jesus. He is the only One that can satisfy. He is the only One that can save. He is the only One where unfailing and unfading love is true. Rest all your days in the goodness of Jesus.

It's been a long time

3.03.2021 | No comments

It's been a long, few years since I have regularly written.  Instagram has posed as my holding cell for my deep thoughts, but in so many ways, Instagram has helped shorten my attention span and added to my satisfaction of lesser things. These past few years, it's been a mixed bag of emotions and too many events to recount; yet through it all, I know that God has sovereignly worked each minute detail for my ultimate good: irrational anger, a pastor husband pursuing a PhD, 5 kids in less than 5 years, homeschooling, debilitating anxiety, a cross-country move. All working for my good, all for his glory. I cling to that.

A dear friend and mentor told me yesterday to remember God's goodness, to remember what God is doing in my life, remember what he has done in my life. She asked me the hard, uncomfortable questions you'd rather not be asked so you can continue in complacency.  Then she said I should do what it is that I love to do...that brings God the most glory.

So what is that for me?

The question sort of stumped me. Before Jesus redeemed every part of me, I misplaced my identity in all the things, albeit good things: relationships, running, academics, physical appearance. There was no shortage of the molds I could fit and the cast of worth I created. Yet even on this side of salvation, I still find myself tempted to grasp at that which does not fulfill.  A chronic case of misplaced identity.  And so restarting this blog after what feels like an eternity of back and forth, on and off feels passably scary.

It is intimidating not because I can't do it, but because I fear falling into the black hole of worshipping a lesser god. In this case, the approval of man and inspiring words. Oh the depths of my sinfulness know no bounds. I know I could be, as culture preaches, "anything I want to be," but I deeply just want to be faithful in whatever it is I do.

I have worn many hats that have brought me immense pleasure, but ultimately ended with a self-serving worship and vainglorious uses. But all those titles I can remember, and sometimes look back on with sadness, are nothing. Worthless. Unfulfilling. Inferior. They fail me, they leave me condemned, they turn on me and leave me more empty than when I picked them up. They are not my identity.

But that is what is nerve wracking about resurrecting this space-- there remains the potential to descend into the dark abyss of sin.  Placing my hope in, my treasure in writing. O Lord help me, for I am weak.

But if I do what I love, if I do what others have confirmed are my giftings, then I writing is where I will spend more time during this season of my life. Alongside baking delectable breads and devouring books like candy, writing is where I love to sit.  I can look back and see the thread of writing woven into my earliest memories. From my emotive and poetic high school days of filling numerous journals with my broken heart (journals that I still have) to filling blogs with endless monologues as a new Christian, writing has been a constant outlet that has been used to shape who I am today.

So if you are reading this because you somehow signed up to get "new post notifications" when I started this particular blog like 10-ish years ago, hello and hi again. But this restart of my blog will remain relatively quiet as I attempt to kill the approval of man.  Whether 829 people or no people ever read what I write, I will write simply because I love to write. Faithful in the little things.

Here's to wearing the only title, the only hat that is embedded into my very self and can never be removed, the banner that will wave forever. I am Renee, the redeemed.

** Also, I have grown so much in the last few years, and with that, I know that much of what I have previously written I can no longer standby. That's a bit embarrassing, but humility is a good thing to wear I have heard.  I will be going back through my writing and either deleting entirely or editing those articles. Writing is a humbling hobby that grows as you do. 

Jesus, Our Empathetic High Priest

12.01.2018 | No comments

The other day, I walked into my son’s room to see him holding his bloody hand in his blanket.  I panicked because I had absolutely no idea what had happened.  He plainly told me that he cut his hand on a broken piece of glass, but then (probably because I was freaking) he immediately started crying. But I mean the cut was significant, I thought we might have to go to the ER.  (Anyway, why there was even broken glass is a completely different story)

As I tried to help, Ezra fought me tooth and nail.  He didn’t want me to look at it, or touch it, or help him at all.  He didn’t even want a band-aid.  But I knew that cleaning it, wiping away the blood, applying pressure for a good long while, and putting a band-aid on it would really be the best thing for him, even though initially it would hurt.

He continued to fight me, and eventually I had to use a very stern voice and finagle my way around his squirming body.  Toddlers are strong y'all.  I asked him if he knew that mommy loved him.  I asked him if he trusted mommy.  Finally he relinquished control and let me help him. He looked at me, sighed, and  said “ahh, much better mommy”.

If me and you are Ezra, this is a picture of our relationship with God a lot of times. 

After a few minutes of having a paper towel and 3 bandaids (which were probably wrapped too tight) I asked him if he was okay & he said that he was.  He also said, “I am sorry I got cut.”  It wasn’t his fault that he got cut; it was just an accident.  But I was still there to help him with his cut, his injury, his boo-boo.

About 20 minutes after getting bandaged and back to playing with his trains, he looked at me and said “Jesus got cut too.”  Ezra wasn’t asking a question, it was just a statement that, in fact, Jesus had gotten cut before.  So right there, I thought of how Jesus probably did get cuts, and scraps, and boo-boos as a child, and his mom probably bandaged him a few times (except Jesus was super compliant and perfect and all, but still, in his humanity he felt all the physical pain of a boo-boo).

So I told Ezra that Jesus is our empathetic high priest. I know, I know, he has no idea what the words “empathetic” and “high priest” even mean, but it was a wonderful reminder to me that Jesus understands every thing we go through. From boo-boos to loneliness, and broken relationships and loss, Jesus understands.

Jesus, who was God in the flesh, became a human and lived a perfectly obedient life that we were meant to, but couldn’t because of our sin.  Any hardship or struggle we find ourself in in this broken world, Jesus can empathize because he suffered in the ultimate way—bearing the wrath of God on the cross, on our behalf because of our sin, our disobedience against a holy God.  

Jesus even understands the successes and victories, because he conquered death.  

When I told Ezra that Jesus understands the pain that he feels in his finger, I really meant it, Jesus does understand the pain that Ezra is experiencing right now because what could be more painful than absorbing all the wrath of God for all of mankind from past, to present and future.

So this is good news as we enter into this holiday season, or maybe for you tonight.  Because whatever hardship, frustration, pain you are facing, Jesus understands.  And I totally get that things might be smooth sailing and nothing is wrong, but something might happen soon, and you need to know that even then, Jesus understands.

Hebrews 4:14-16 says: 
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
So Jesus, our high priest who has suffered on our behalf, can understand all our hurts and weaknesses and pains and struggles and temptations.  We can be confident when we call upon our God we will receive exactly what we need in these trying times.  

I don’t know what is going on in your life.  Things might be all around great, but they might not.  Chances are there are things through out the week that just don’t seem to work out the way you thought they would. 

So if you are in the midst of any type of physical pain, Isaiah 53 says that Jesus’s physical body was actually pierced for our transgressions and completely crushed for our iniquities. 

If you’re hurting from the loss of someone your love, remember in John 11 how that Jesus grieved and wept because his friend Lazarus had died.  

In 2 Corinthians 8,  Paul reminds us that though Jesus was rich, he became poor for your sake.  He became poor so you might be rich in him. So this is incredibly good news if you are feeling the weight of finances and struggling to see how ends will meet.

As I go through this list of real life situations, I am sure you can think of times in Jesus’ life that he would have experienced them: loneliness, abandoned by friends, betrayal, humiliation, physically violated, cheated, physical stress, excluded from things.

As Jesus experienced the greatest broken relationship in the world — being separated from the Father on the cross “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” we can rest in the truth that because Jesus endured the separation and brokenness from the Father, we now can have a restored and whole relationship with God himself.

Jesus understands.  
Jesus is our great, empathetic high priest.  

Whatever strain in your life there may be—even a little boo-boo like Ezra—Jesus calls us to draw near to his throne, cast our cares on him because he cares for us, and he will give us his real grace in our time of need.  That is demonstrated by the cross.  Thank you for the cross.

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