Sneak Peak – Fall Online Study Tools

Our Fall Online Bible study “He Calls Me Loved” is an 8 week study. You decide how much time you can commit to each week. Every option is designed to get you into the Word and to create community around the Word! The study begins Monday, September 12th, right here. Subscribe to the blog by email to join us!

I Love My Shepherd studies are intensely theological, and intensely practical, every time.

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If you have 10 minutes a day….

Read the study post 5 days a week. Each day will take you about 10 minutes to complete. Get behind? Catch up on the weekend or skip a day or two! You will not feel behind in any way if you miss a day or more.

 

If you have 30 minutes a day….

Add community!

Join in the discussion by commenting on the blog posts or by creating a Facebook small group discussion page with friends or members of your church. Post links to the study posts in your group and discuss when you’re available.

Want something more…

Download and print off the Scripture engagement tool that goes with each week’s study. Jot down notes while you read the Scripture passages and posts, write down a Scripture reference or word that sticks out to you, share your prayer requests in the artwork, color and pray to the God who hears every request of your heart.

Now, for the sneak peek – A giant thank you to Peggy Thibodeau at www.peggyart.com for designing and creating our Scripture Engagement tools for this study! They are beautiful and each one is truly unique.

BELOVED
Beloved – Week One of He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah
AWAKE
Awake – Week Seven of He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah

Looking forward to studying with you!

Halfsies – Mixed schooling at its best

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At the end of every summer, I get education anxiety.

When I first had a baby, people told me my sleep would forever be changed, my heart would walk around outside my body, and all kinds of information about breast is best, child led weaning, and cloth v. disposable. #weuseboth

No one ever told me that education was going to be my biggest concern. No one told me that I would lose countless night of sleep, not to hungry babies, but to endless mind rants of the educational choices available to my child. #firstworldproblem

When we carefully selected a private Lutheran preschool for my oldest child, I thought,

“Oh good. Educational choice made. Check that box!”

I mean, that was hard enough. We toured schools, we googled what to look for to find the best education, we prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

Three years later, we discovered it wasn’t working for us. It wasn’t working for her, it wasn’t working for our family.

We solidified our homeschool philosophy, figured out a system, and did something new, something alternative. It was good for three of us. Three of us were miserable. #backtothedrawingboard

I internalized every single article I read and every voice of the external debate…

Homeschool, public school, private school, some of each – the choices abound. #againfirstworldproblem

I wanted every member of our family on the same page. I wanted one system that would just work for everyone, for the love of Pete! Is that too much to ask?!

“Just give me a system, God! Give me a system!”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think so many of us, whether in schooling, parenting, our marriages, goodness, even life itself, want a system.

This is what God has taught me…

“Do you believe in individuality, Heidi? Do you believe that I, your Lord and Savior, value each and every one of your children, as individuals, knit together carefully, lovingly, tenderly?”

Why, yes I do, God. Yes, I do.

So, this year, we are going rouge. One in homeschool, with maybe some public school classes, three in private Lutheran education.

This may work forever. We may need to change it up next year, or the year after that, or not at all. As much as I value stability, I’m beginning to learn that there is no life system. There is only Jesus.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.   Psalm 18:1-2

He is our rock. He is our stable ground;Christ Jesus for us, and for our kids. When we walk willingly into the unknown and imperfect, resting in Him, we stand as witnesses to His strength and not our own.

So, here’s to no system!

I still have some education anxiety, but at least I know where to turn. Casting it on Him, who cares infinitely.

Praying over every momma, every child, and every teacher. May His faithfulness pour out to each of you as you go along your way.

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How homework changed my life

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Standing at our front window one rainy Tuesday morning, I knew something needed to give. I had a baby on one hip and a toddler pulling on my leg. I loved my kids. I loved this life of mom and wife. But what I really wanted to be called was friend.

Moving had created a kind of loneliness in me that I hadn’t really experienced before. We had moved so many times, but this time it was for real. It was for keeps. My family was miles away, my high school and college friends scattered across the country, and it seemed that everyone in our new town already had friends. They didn’t need one more.

So when someone gave me a church bulletin from a nearby church, announcing a women’s Bible study with childcare, I was in like Flynn. I’ll be overly honest – I went for relationships, not for Jesus. I loved Jesus, but at this point, I probably would have shown up for a raucous drink fest if it would have offered childcare and adult conversation. The fact that this Bible study had coffee was just icing on the cake.

I showed up with my baby boy’s list of allergens, explained his intense dislike of anything stuffed or carpeted (sorry, there, childcare providers…you really do rock), and peeled the toddler in princess garb off my right leg, promising a mommy-date that involved nuggets and fries if she would just sample the fun to be had in the childcare room.

Free of extra appendages, I headed into Bible study, my typical yet embarrassing 3 minutes late, and was met with the jovial smiles of women of all ages who understood and were just happy I was there. I took a seat and they handed me a book.

Ooooo, pretty! I love fresh books, I thought in my mind, until I was brought back to planet earth by the voice of the study leader saying, “We’ll watch the video and then there will be five days of homework that you complete.” She eagerly flipped pages, clearly chomping at the bit to put pencil to paper. Me? I was stuck with my mouth ajar…wait a minute, did she just say homework, five days of it? What did I sign up for?

Holy Toledo, who has time for homework?

I came for coffee and to meet people who might want to hang out at the play land and swap stories of sleep deprivation and husband’s who still wanted to eat food off of ceramic plates, when paper was clearly the better life option at this point requiring so much less personal commitment.

“If you don’t get to the homework, don’t worry about it. Just come anyway. We’ll have a good discussion no matter what. Don’t let that stop you from being in Bible study,” the leader was saying, while her co-hort nodded emphatically.

“Whew,” I thought, with no intention of dedicating time to “quietly digest the Word” and all that. (There goes my overly honest gene again.)

Bible study itself was a smashing success for me. We discussed everything from what brand of toothpaste we used, for sheer silliness sake, to what church looked like for us growing up, even if it had never looked like anything at all. We talked about marriages and singleness and our favorite restaurants. When the leader turned on a video of a woman leading Bible study, I began to dutifully fill in my missing blanks. I loved looking up the Scriptures in a room full of women who didn’t care how long it took me to find the page. This was doable.

The workbook sat on my dining room table staring at me the next morning. I could hear that little flutter in my heart –
“Do the homework. Just try it. Try it.”

Ugh, fine. It was loud enough that it could not be ignored, so when naptime rolled around that afternoon, I took my Bible off the shelf and spread my workbook out on the table. 10 minutes in
I found myself taking notes in the margins. I was transfixed. I flipped through the pages in my Bible and found my nose about an inch from the text. I couldn’t believe how the Word connected to itself and to me, Old and New, Judgement and Grace, Law and Love.

I kept doing my homework. I went to Bible study for the fellowship and kept going for the growth. I needed that Word like I needed breath for my lungs or water on a desert trek.

My anxiety was better, my tongue was nicer, and my home was happier. Life was far from perfect, but loneliness lifted and was replaced by the knowledge that if all this passed away in an instant, Jesus would still be the Lover of my soul and the Filler of my heart.

Homework changed everything.

I didn’t just need Jesus in my life, I wanted Him in everything, in every place and every crack. He seeped in and mended brokenness I didn’t know I had, and slathered grace everywhere I hadn’t realized was parched.

I’m not sure where you’re at in this life. I don’t know your story, but know this: Christ in everything makes all the difference. Reading the Word every day changes things. It puts light in dark places and brings hope – fresh and undaunted.

Try it. Join a study local to you, hop online for our upcoming study, or grab a friend, even a stranger, and do both.

He is in that Word, girls. He loves us enough to pursue us. He speaks directly to our hearts and our minds every time. Crack it open. Aim for consistency. Learn from Eternity.

Always, always rest in His grace.

And do your homework. 😉

Clergy and mental health

 

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Once upon a time, the world was perfect. There was no sin, no evil, no disappointment, no sorrow. That time, my friends, has been long gone.

I sat in my therapists office and let the question stuck in my throat for weeks on end, finally come tumbling out…

“But when will it get easier. I keep waiting for life to be easier.”

I knew life wasn’t made for easy. That even before sin in the world, easy wasn’t the goal.

So, why in the world was easy suddenly my goal?

Maybe because life had been hard, really hard. We had some junk. We had marriage junk, mental health junk, kid behavior junk, family junk. In fact, if there was a form of junk in existence, we probably had some connection with it. Or at least that’s how it felt.

I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Pastors were not supposed to have junk. Pastor’s wives were not supposed to have junk. Deaconesses weren’t supposed to have junk. Our families were not supposed to have junk spilling out our back pockets. We were supposed to hold it all together so that we could help other people with their junk. “Above reproach” in the depths of my mind, hidden from even myself, meant keeping it together, being above turmoil, above struggle…above the junk.

Then I opened my eyes.

This world- it’s been filled with junk since the tree in a garden and the fruit that changed everything. I am a part of that world. God, in fact, in John 17:15-17, asks me to hold on tight and walk fully immersed in this world bearing His Truth. Bearing His salvation.

You see, your pastor has some stuff. Every member of our church has some stuff. This is the world we live in, far from perfection, never easy, but full of people walking around bearing His salvation.

Above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2-6) isn’t in being the person without any junk, the pastor without any real life stuff to deal with, whether in himself, in his marriage, in his home, or in his family. It is about how we deal with those things. Do we ask for help? Do we take the time we need to get help? Do we avoid keeping secrets? Are we willing to take the risk to help our marriages and our families and our ministries, by admitting we have some stuff?

The devil loves destruction. Don’t for a minute pretend that he doesn’t want to eat us up and spit us out. He would love nothing more than for a church work family or even a whole congregation to implode because he convinced us to let darkness reign over the struggles of our lives.

1 Timothy 3:5 tells us – “…if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”

How does he manage? By asking for help. By admitting that he’s not perfect and making sure he gets the help he needs.

There are certainly instances in which someone can not be a pastor, it isn’t the best choice for him, or the church. And we need to be honest when that is the case, but the majority of the time only good things come from church workers and their families seeing a counselor, getting needed medication, and placing boundaries around their time and energy.

Surprise – your pastor has some stuff, your deaconess has some stuff, your dce has some stuff, your children’s ministry person, your teachers, your youth director…all have stuff.

Let’s build one another up and normalize the act of getting of help, asking for what we need. How much more likely are our parishioners to come for care, confession, and counseling if we, ourselves, utilize what’s available to us?

Life is full of junk – God promises to make all of it beautiful in His time. He restores us with His salvation, not just for a place called heaven, but for His kingdom today. Anything we have, Jesus Christ can handle. Run to Him. Ask Him for help. Let the Church be the place that loves us unconditionally and helps us rise up from the ashes of whatever Satan throws at us.

Need resources or help with something? Send me an email. This is what I do and I’m happy to help. Brothers and sisters, I’m praying as we minister and reach this fallen world together.

Fall Online Study – Sign up now!

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He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah

Let’s do something different this fall…

School begins in 3 weeks. I do my yearly pep talk to myself.

“This year is going to be great. We’ll get up on time.

The kids will actually get out of bed before I threaten life and limb.

There will be hot breakfast. And freakishly healthy bento box lunches made with love and care by yours truly.

Instruments will be remembered, folders checked with joy and zeal. Writing assignments completed with vigor.

Husbands will be kissed before work and on their return home. Nothing will stand in the way of this goal, least of all small things, like preschoolers hanging off legs and pots boiling over.

There will be no yelling, particularly of the mom variety that scars small children for life.

No one will be rushing out the door with tears streaming down their face.”

And my personal favorite.

“I will do a daily devotion. This is happening, people. This is happening.”

It’s like the start of a scholastic year gets in my blood and I think my sinner-saint-self will magically manage all of life better with the introduction of tabbed folders and a new pack of washable markers.

It’s a good thing. The breath of a new season in our lives is a great time to make some change, adjust some habits, but I need real tools. And mostly I need some community. I need people to ask me, “How’s that no yelling going?” and women who will offer me forgiveness and mercy enough to help me dust myself off and keep on keeping on.

This is why I created Fall Online Women’s Bible Study. Are you looking for an easy to access but consistent and thorough way to get the Word into your day? Do you need something new, something fresh, something that adds life and joy to your day? This is what Fall Study is all about. It’s not meant to replace any study you are in, but it is meant to get us into the Word everyday in a different way.

Let’s gather. From our own place, in our own time – whether over our cup of coffee, in the quiet before bedtime, while we throw some lunch down mid day, or while we wait in line at the grocery store.

How does it work?

Our online study offers 5 days of devotion a week for 8 weeks. You read the studies right here, from your phone or computer, in about 5-15 minutes a day. You can start some discussion by commenting or you can rest in the Scripture just for yourself.

Each devotion reads like a blog post, but they dig deep into the Word and into our hearts and minds. They ask one or two questions to ponder for your own insight and growth. They can be easily shared with a friend or even a group.

We start, right here, September 12!

Sign up today by following the blog by email. This assures you get each study post in your inbox and it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and busyness of life. Miss a post? No problem! Use Saturday and Sunday as a catch up day, or simply skip it with no worries that you’ll feel behind or “missed something”.

The Book of Isaiah is overflowing with God’s realness, God’s passion, and God’s unrelenting affection for His people, for every one of us. Throughout this Old Testament book God speaks truth into our lives by sharing with us His vision of who we are. His vision is oh so different from what the world tells us.

Loved

Redeemed

Holy

Child

Clay

Ransomed

Gathered

Sought Out

Awake

8 weeks of study, 5 days a week. We can do this. 🙂

I hope you’ll join us. Invite a friend along! Let the Word seep in and bring a little more grace into everything. Everything.

 

*study graphic designed by melissasphoto.com

Crews, squads, and friendship- the fight for genuine community

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One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.                                                Proverbs 18:24

Returning from the National Youth Gathering this week, I have like 400 post ideas in my head. I was blessed to spend the week with four of the most precious girls I’ve ever met. I’m missing them already. We went to sessions and heard speakers on a zillion different topics, from purity to Islam to body image. We ate a lot of nachos and considered how in the world beignets could be so much better than donuts. We talked about identity, humility, and community until the cows came home, or rather, we came home to the cows. (Literally, some of us have actual cows. They were very much missed, right Sarah?)

One conversation rises up above the rest. It keeps surfacing on my mind and demands attention. The topic – who is your squad, who is your crew, what is community?

The girls’ immediate answer to this question was a list of people they hang out with.

“My softball team.”

“My agriculture people.”

“My church youth group.”

“My lunch table.”

I had a list too.

But as I started to give my list, I realized that my list sounded a lot like individuals and a lot less like groups of stuff I did.

I glanced around at my girls. “Who would you go to if you really needed help? If you were sad, if you were hurting, if you needed a good cry, or if you really needed good advice?”

One by one they began to name people that mattered more to them than softball, than band, than youth group and lunch tables. I watched as lightbulbs went off in their heads.

The Disney channel gives us one idea of friendship. It looks like slumber parties and besties and shared interests. This idea isn’t invalid, but it certainly isn’t enough. It’s time to call out the Disney channel version of friendship. We were made for more and our youth were made for more.

Let’s be honest…

Sports, music, clubs, and activities are great. Authentic relationships develop in these arenas, but we have to seek it. It doesn’t happen without work. It doesn’t happen without gut wrenching self-discovery of what matters most to us, which is also work. It doesn’t happen naturally and it doesn’t happen overnight.  We need good parents and mentors showing us what to look for.

Community is sharing burdens, not just having fun. Community is people who put marbles in our jar, as Brene Brown would say. It’s people who love us for us and not an idea of what we might be for them. It’s people who help you ask the hard questions of whether you are living the life God intended you to, helping you determine whether your hopes and dreams are congruent with what you do with your time day in and day out.

I hear from pastor’s wives all the time that genuine friendship is their greatest desire. Someone who sees them as a real person, not an outsider, not a pious woman, and not a facade of I-have-it-all-together. What I have discovered in my own journey is that there are hundreds of women, thousands of women, millions of women across cultural groups, economic statuses, and geographic regions that want the same thing.

The best answer I have to the friendship problem is to love one another.

It sounds pat and a little ridiculous and like no solution at all, but loving deep and wide, authentically loving in the good and the hard draws some kind of boundary line. People that aren’t up for the challenge will walk away, and that will be sad and difficult. But 1 in 100 will stay. They will cross that boundary line and hug you. They will ask to be invited in further by sharing themselves with you. They will weep with you and laugh with you and tell you to knock it off and eventually they will hold your babies for you and rock them to sleep when you are just done.

They will be so worth the effort.

In doing this we can also teach the next generation of girls – real friendship is worth all of it. It’s worth the fog of adolescent discovery, the sting of rejection, the tears of loneliness.

Worth all of it to find the genuine, to find the real, to find…community.

We have a friend who sticks closer to a brother. Let us pray to Him, present our hearts to Him. Lord, we need a friend! We need a crew, a squad, some peeps! We need to love and be loved, really and truly in return. Jesus, hear our prayer!

And He does.

It may take time. It may take way longer than we would like. But He always sticks close. He has those real and authentic people planned for us. I promise you they are out there, girls.

Genuine community is being surrounded by broken authentic people who love Him so much that they love a broken authentic sinner like me, as is, no returns. Can I be that person for someone else? Yes, yes, I believe I can.

Authentic community…worth the trouble. #squadgoals