When you want to live on purpose


Bible study ideas for the new year

It’s mid-December, which means in the past ten days alone, our family has had middle school orchestra concerts, piano recitals, a kindergarten Christmas performance, kindergarten crafting, two elementary school auditions, three basketball games, a church Christmas party, an out-of-town Christmas party involving a night away, family visiting from out of town, a youth group event (at our house!), a Christmas worship service, a kids’ choir performance, nursing home caroling…plus, you know, school and work and dirty-floor mopping and food-eating and just life. I bet your life has run at similar holiday-fueled warp-speed! This time of year is so hectic, it’s tough to remember your own schedule for the day, let alone your entire last year of life! If we’re not careful, life flies so fast we barely have time to eat, much less stop to think. But what an opportunity we miss if we don’t make time to stop. To think. To pray.

New Year's devotions

Last week Kevin and I were looking for a way to help our little mission church to look back on the past year and truly see all God has done in their lives as individuals and in our lives as a church family. December—especially those precious days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when school is out and the shopping and parties are finally done, praise the good Lord—is the perfect time to look back and reflect…and look ahead and dream. To help our church do this, Kevin and I came up with a list of 25 thought questions to help us look back on the last year with gratitude and intentionality—to actually process the things we experienced and put them into spiritual perspective, instead of simply surviving them and moving on to the next thing. (Spoiler alert: scroll down to find the questions!) And then we included a few questions to prompt us to look ahead to next year with purpose and faith.

We started working through them at one of our midweek services, and I plan to think through the rest in my early morning times with God over the next week or so. Journaling my way through these questions has been such a faith-building and even healing process! It’s reminded me of prayers I had prayed and forgotten all about, of gifts God has given that I still want to celebrate, of hard things we suffered and how God brought comfort even through heartache and delay. I share this list of 25 questions here in the hopes that sometime over the next few weeks you can steal a few moments to ponder these questions and write down your answers. I hope it helps you to put words to lessons you’ve learned that you didn’t even realize you’d learned, ways you have grown that you didn’t realize you’ve grown. I hope it helps you to remember all God has done. To see ways He has worked, gifts He has given, and prayers He has answered that you might not have noticed until now… and then to step into the new year confident that the God who saw you through last year will do the same next year.

If you’d like to download printable worksheets with these questions and space for journaling, click here!


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How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard


Looking Back with Gratitude, Looking Ahead with Faith

Reflections on the Past Year

1. Name some of the greatest blessings you are grateful for this year.

2. What are some of the hardest things you experienced this year?

3. How did God use some of your hardships or losses to help you grow?

4. In what other ways did God bring good out of your hardships?

5. What are a few of your favorite memories from this year?

6. Name a new friendship(s) that you made this year, or an old friendship(s) that was made stronger.

7. Who have you learned from this year and what did you learn from them?

8. How did God use you to help someone else this year?

9. How did God surprise you this year?

10. Name a few scriptures that have meant the most to you this past year.

11. What have you cried about this year?

12. How has God comforted you?

13. Who were you able to comfort this year?

14. What have you laughed at this year?

15. What have you celebrated this year?

16. Who were you able to celebrate with?

17. What songs, books, films, or shows have drawn you closer to God this year?

18. When do you think God was especially proud of you this year?

19. How has God called you higher in the past year?

20. Name some things, events, or people that inspired you this year.

21. What have you accomplished that has brought joy both to you and the Lord?

22. Who are some people God is calling you to touch in the coming year?

23. What are some projects you believe God is calling you to accomplish in the new year?

24. What are some weaknesses God wants you to grow in this coming year?

25. What memories do you want to make or experiences do you want to have in the new year?

Download your printable worksheets—these 25 questions, plus room to journal your thoughts: Lizzy Life Year in Review Worksheet. Merry Christmas from my crazy house to yours! 


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

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When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

how to find confidence and courage in God

When You Need to Remember

When Your Life Feels Wasted

When It’s Okay to Tell God What You Want

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

When You Can’t Fix It for Your Kids

8 Scriptures to Read When You’re Anxious

**Don’t forget to sign up to receive 7 free family devotions and a free ebook! (Click here.)** 


When God Shows Up


This Sunday at church, we enjoyed a casual, family-style service in which we expressed our gratitude by sharing our God Moments—stories about times when God has shown up to reveal His love or to see us through hard times. I cried like 18 times, because our God is so good. It was one of those wondrous times when you can actually feel your faith growing. We heard about…

how to find faith in hard times

-God sending strangers to encourage and strengthen a young, scared couple as they arrived at the hospital to witness the birth of their soon-to-be adopted child.

-The night before the first day of school, a nervous kindergartener and her even-more-nervous mom ask God to help the girl find a friend before the mom drops the child off the next day. The next morning, they walk up to the school hand in hand, join the back of the registration line, and are immediately greeted by the girl standing in front of them. She spins around, flashes a grin, and says, “Hi! I’m Sophia! Can I be your friend?”

-A ten-year-old girl announcing, “I am going to be a missionary in Africa one day.” She feels it in her heart like a promise from God. But years pass. She has no idea how she could ever end up ministering in Africa—she’s from the Midwest and she’s not in the full-time ministry—but the promise and dream never leave her. And then in her fifties, God opens up a dream job…in Africa. She and her husband spend years there strengthening a small church.

-And this one—this from a faith-filled 11-year-old boy who had us all in a puddle on the floor: When he was three, he asked God for a dad because his own father had abandoned their family. He also asked for a brother and a sister. Within two years, God gave him all three.


Let’s keep in touch! Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you 7 family devotions and a free ebook, How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard


What’s your story? We all have them—those moments big and small where God shows up to whisper (or maybe shout), “I’m here and I care.” He shows up in myriad ways: through small kindnesses from other people, through crazy turns of events we never saw coming, and even—every once in a while—through surprise checks in the mail when our need is most dire! This week as we continue to thank God for blessings big and small, I encourage you to take a moment to look back on your life. To remember. To look for God’s hand in the pages of your life. To thank him again for his countless kindnesses over the years. To share them with others who may need a boost in their faith.

Then I encourage you to watch for more God Moments. They happen every day, if we’ll only keep our eyes and hearts open enough to notice. To rejoice. To savor. And then, like the leper who came back to Jesus, let us come back again and again to thank and to praise.

Want to give God glory by sharing a God Moment in the comments? How has He shown up to reveal His love for you? I’d love to hear!


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

My books:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

how to find confidence and courage in God

When It’s Okay to Tell God What You Want

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

When You Can’t Fix It for Your Kids

8 Scriptures to Read When You’re Anxious

**Don’t forget to sign up to receive 7 free family devotions and a free ebook! (Click here.)** 

 


Writing Can Help You Through the Pain of Pregnancy Loss


Christian help for miscarriage and infertility

Image courtesy of congerdesign on Pixabay. 

I have a forever place in my heart for other women who have shared in the suffering of infertility and pregnancy or infant loss. Today I am honored to share a post from my friend Sarah Philpott, author of Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy LossWhen Sarah suffered two miscarriages, she wrote and prayed her way through the pain, and as God brought healing to her heart, she turned her loss into a ministry to help other women who have loved and lost. How I wish I’d had Sarah’s book to comfort and guide me when I lost my little one six years ago. I couldn’t agree more with her encouragement to take the time to write through pain—in the days after I lost my little one, I wrote a poem, “Still,” that somehow brings me comfort even now. I know Sarah’s post will be an encouragement and comfort to all who have suffered miscarriage and infant loss—and indeed to anyone who is grieving any loss. Life is filled with griefs of all kinds, and writing and praying through our pain is a powerful way to heal. Sarah has generously offered to give a signed copy of her book to one blessed reader—please join us on Instagram this week to enter the giveaway!


Mourning is an expression of sorrow. And sometimes our sorrows are so sacred that we don’t necessarily want to speak our inner thoughts.

And our sorrows stay put. Simmering in our minds.

Simmering can be good. A steaming pot of soup perched atop the stove. Chopped carrots circling the diced potatoes. Basil releasing its aromatic magic.

But simmering can also be bad. Especially if words of negativity or sadness bubble within our souls. Brewing. Fermenting.

Do you ever let thoughts brew in your mind for too long? Thoughts of shame or anger. Thoughts of fear and disappointment.  Thoughts of sadness and longing.

Dear Soul, can I encourage you to do something? To help release your pain.

Write through the wreckage. Admit your pain. Mourning is a must.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

Why write about grief?

Writing forces us to acknowledge truth. Even if that truth is painful. After my two miscarriages I started writing my story. Putting into words “My baby died in my womb” was no easy task, yet it helped release me from the bondage of minimizing my pain. Death is worthy of grief. And grief must be mourned.

Writing also provides us a place to process our internal dialogue. To make sense of the madness. To grieve. Many people, myself included, report that writing helps us to finally know how we feel.

If you keep a closed pot simmering on the stove it eventually boils over. The same is true for our thoughts. If we repress our internal dialogue long enough we eventually erupt.

Can I tell you something? Writing my stories of pregnancy loss was emotionally taxing. It forced me to revisit painful memories that I would have rather numbed. But writing my story—and owning my emotions—helped me move forward. I’m not saying that I got over my pain, but I am saying that it helped me move to a place where eventually sadness and joy coexist.

It gave me comfort to relocate my thoughts from my head to the paper.

It’s not just my miscarriages that I’ve written about, but tragic deaths of loved ones as well. The paper was a safe place I could be vulnerable.  To speak the unspeakable.

This mere act of expressive writing is healthy for our souls. The American Psychological Association has published research chronicling the healing power of writing. In fact, expressive writing has been correlated with strengthening the immune system and mind.

So I am going to challenge you. To help you mourn. To help strengthen your mind.


Let’s keep in touch! Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you 7 family devotions and a free ebook, How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard.


I invite you to write through the wreckage.  

Unpack your mind and put the words down on paper. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s not a pretty story, is it?

So be raw. Be honest.

But your story also includes glimmers of humanity. Remember the goodness that other people have displayed. The sorrow they showed. The hugs they gave. The fact that you cradled a loved baby within your womb.

Write about the hope you have for a new day. The day when you will greet your baby in heaven.

Keep your words private or make them as public as you desire. Share them with a confidant or tuck the papers into a secret place.

Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This is just your truth.

I warn you…you will write about things that are tough to admit. Anger. Jealousy. Bitterness. Fear. But you must acknowledge those emotions so that they don’t spew forth in an avalanche of rage or depression.

It might take you a few hours, a week, or even a year to finish writing your story. You might not ever even finish. Your paper will be tear-soaked. Expect this challenge to be painful, but also expect it to help ease your mind.

If you want to discuss or share what you’ve written with other women, I urge you to join the private, online support group  Loved Baby: Christian Miscarriage & Pregnancy Loss Support for Women.

In this sisterhood, you can share with women who’ve walked and are walking the very same journey you have been forced to trod. It’s helpful to connect with women in a safe community and to read the stories of others.

I also invite you to read Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss. I wrote this book to accompany you on this journey. It’s full of real talk and compassion.

How can you write about your story? 

Use these prompts to get your mind focused. You don’t have to write it all at one time. Just write a bit if that is all you can accomplish. Perhaps you are reading this and have faced a type of grief other than pregnancy loss. Write through that trauma.  You won’t find the answer of why, but you will find out more about yourself and how you can find strength.

Prompts:

  • The day I found out I was pregnant I was so (happy, scared, surprised, angry) ______________.
  • I told _____________________.
  • The day my womb baby perished I felt so _________________.  I was ___________________.
  • Physically I felt ____________________.
  • Emotionally I felt ___________________.
  • I never expected pregnancy loss to be so __________________________.
  • My greatest internal struggle has been_______________________.
  • ____________________(person, activity, a book, a scripture) has helped me throughout this time of grief.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your MindChristian help for miscarriage and pregnancy loss

When They Can’t Find a Heartbeat

When All You Want for Christmas Is a Baby

The One She Needed to Write


Sarah Lewis Philpott, Ph.D, author of Loved Baby: 31 Devotions Helping You Grieve and Cherish Your Child After Pregnancy Loss, lives in the south on a sprawling cattle farm where she raises her three mischievous children and is farm wife to her high-school sweetheart. She is an award-winning writer and TODAY SHOW parenting team blogger. You can find her books on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere. Sarah is founder of the Loved Baby support group and #HonorAllMoms Mother’s Day movement. These days Sarah happily chooses to be a stay-at-home mom and spends her days cleaning up peanut butter and jelly off the counter, dreaming of traveling the world, and chasing her children around the farm. She doesn’t believe in sharing desserts. Life is too short to share chocolate! Sarah is a lover of coffee (black), rocking chairs, the outdoors, and Hemingway.

Connect with Sarah on Insta @SarahLPhilpott or FB @SarahPhilpott

sarah philpott headshot


When you can’t fix it for your kids


how to help preteens with depression

how to teach children to pray

You know those days when you send a sad kid off to school? Maybe it’s friend problems, or loneliness, or just the growing pains of life—but whatever the reason, they leave the house and it’s not better? Welcome to my morning. Everything in me wanted to pull her into my lap (though she doesn’t really fit anymore), tell her to stay home, then wrap her in spiritual bubble wrap so no one and nothing can ever hurt her. I wanted to fix it, to put on my Mommy Cape and swoop in and straighten out her whole world.

But of course I can’t.

So we talked for a while—I shared my stories of angst and loneliness and how God used those times to teach me what real friends are (and aren’t), and to help me find comfort and friendship in Him. To show me that He is the only One who is always reliable, never petty, never in a bad mood—but honestly, I don’t know if it helped much. In the end I did what my wise mother always did with me when I was crying and she couldn’t fix it: We prayed.


Let’s keep in touch! Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you 7 family devotions and a free ebook, How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard.


We sat on the couch and cried to God and begged Him to pay attention to her problems and give her comfort and wisdom and relief. We prayed as specifically as we could about all of her worries. And you know what? That’s the best I know to do for my beloved kids. That’s the greatest gift any of us can give our children, the gift that will outlive all our advice and intervention: Teaching them that God is real, a loving Father who is truly concerned about their everyday life. Actively engaged in helping them face their concerns. We can show them that when we bring problems—even preteen-drama-in-the-lunchroom problems—to Him, He cares. He listens. He draws near. So to all my fellow heavy-hearted parents out there, wringing hands over the growing pains we cannot fix, wondering what to say and how to help, let’s do this one thing for our kids: Let’s teach them to pray to the God who cares. The God who goes to school with them. The God who sits beside them in the lunchroom. The God who will walk with them every day for the rest of their lives. The Father who will be with them, comforting and guiding, even when we are long gone.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son….
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:1,3–5).


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

When It’s Okay to Tell God What You Want

On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love

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My books:

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

how to find confidence and courage in God

**Don’t forget to sign up to receive 7 free family devotions and a free ebook! (Click here.)** 

 


When You Wish You Had More to Give


Bible study about giving talents to God

Image courtesy of skalekar1992 and Pixabay

Bible study about giving talents to God

A young boy elbows his way to the front of the crowd and tugs on a man’s sleeve. Andrew looks down to see the boy holding out an open sack. Inside Andrew sees five small loaves of bread nestled beside two cooked fish. “I heard the rabbi ask for food,” the boy says with a shy shrug. “My mother packed this for me, and—she said I should share with someone who doesn’t have anything.”

Eyebrows raised, Andrew places a hand on the boy’s shoulder and walks him over to Jesus. Jesus turns and twinkles a smile down at the child; Andrew flashes Jesus a sheepish grin. “So…this boy has offered to share his lunch, but” —he casts a glance over his shoulder at the thousands of people milling around behind him, waiting to hear the rabbi’s next words— “how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus tousles the boy’s dark hair and gives him a smile and a wink. “Thank you, son. This is just what I need.” The boy looks down at his sandals, blushing with pride. Rubbing His palms together, Jesus turns to Andrew with an excited—almost  mischievous—glint in his eye. Andrew has seen this look before; a tingle of anticipation floods his veins. With barely contained glee, Jesus says, “Have the people sit down.”

He rolls up His sleeves.


Let’s keep in touch! Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you 7 family devotions and a free ebook, How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard


We all know the rest of the famous account in John 6—how Jesus goes on to turn a little boy’s lunch into a feast for thousands. He makes so much food that the disciples collect twelve basketfuls of leftovers!

We often look at our gifts—our talents, our possessions, our skills, our wisdom—and think, “They aren’t worth much. How far can they really go?” Let us never underestimate what God can do with our “small” offerings. We don’t have to give Him the biggest thing, the best thing, the shiniest thing—we just have to give Him whatever we have to offer. The smallest gift is still a treasure in His eyes. Our gifts may be small, but our God is big. And His powerful hands can take our small gifts and multiply them. Our mighty God can turn a little into a lot—more than we could ever imagine. What small gift can you offer to Jesus today?

Family devotion or small-group discussion application:

You could easily turn this into a family devotion or small-group discussion by reading this story alongside John 6:1–14 and Luke 21:1–3. Then ask simple application questions like:

  • Do we have to be rich (or grown-up or successful or…) to give to God? Does God care how big our gifts are?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. What does God care about in our giving? What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? What are some ways you can give more cheerfully and generously…at home? At school? At church? At work? In your friendships?
  • What are you good at? (Don’t just think about skills—think about character traits like encouraging or serving, too. See Romans 12:1–8 for a list of gifts.) How could you use those talents or traits to serve other people and honor God?
  • What talent or gift would you offer to God if you weren’t insecure or afraid?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

My books, When God Says, “Go” and When God Says, “Wait.” Every chapter begins with an extended Bible story like the one you read in this post!

When God Says Wait: Navigating Life's Detours and Delays Without Losing Your Faith, Your Friends, or Your Mind

how to overcome insecurity

When Your Life Feels Wasted

These Days of Small Things 

Starfish Wisdom

8 Scriptures to Read When You’re Anxious

Too Tall Too Soon

**Don’t forget to sign up to receive 7 free family devotions and a free ebook! (Click here.)**