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Welcome to the CMWF Blog! We hope you'll find some encouragement and comfort here through stories of military life and truth from God's Word.


He Isn't Mine To Give

By Molly Huggins

 


“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1, NKJV).



I hate the word “well.”

As in, (August of 2010), “Well, I might have to go to Pakistan.” He did, two weeks later, while I was pregnant, after we had sold our house in preparation for moving to Germany. But that is another story for another day.

So he came home around the beginning of September (of 2012) and said, in THAT voice, “Well, I got an email today…” I almost threw up in the dishwater.
They needed one man. ONE MAN to go to Afghanistan--in two weeks--and he just might be that man.

I preach and preach about being content with God’s will for our lives. I say that my life means nothing without Christ, that so much of what I value is wheat and chaff, that I surrender my plans, confident in His loving kindness and mercy.
And then He tests me.

Husband came home and said, “Well … “ and I choked down sobs at the prospect of more goodbyes. And more tears pooled on my cheeks because my womb was empty, and now there would be more months of not being pregnant. But, I breathed in slowly and looked hard at my handsome man, and I knew, I know still, that the Master Planner will give us the grace we need in the moment we are desperate for it.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t angry that he had to leave. Debating the politics of the situation in the moment is a luxury we forgo when we choose this life. Logistically, I have leaving down to a science, and we are perpetually prepared. This is his job and he’s willing to do it.

Additionally, there was a not-small part of my heart that was grieving at the thought of another family living out this same abysmal waiting. If we didn’t go, there would be another pregnant “well …” being spilled out in someone’s kitchen. Is that weird? It’s who I am.

I felt completely divorced from the civilian world.

This one is hard to admit. I felt immense guilt over not being angry at the situation, of looking him in the eye and loving him more for the man that he was in that moment, of being proud of the choices he makes. I felt like I should put up a fight, I should rage and scream and cry because he’s leaving us again.

The world tells me that romantic love feels good and I should be happy and how could he do this to us? And I love him fierce and hard and true, and yet this, this did not feel good. Do I not love him enough because I was not mad at him? But oh, I do, I love this man.

Something about this reeked of sanctification.

This one is even harder to admit because in my fear, I lost sight of real, hard, truth.
This would have been deployment number four. And after the first year, I cannot shake the feeling that every time he walks away - after every goodbye - the odds markedly decrease that he returns whole, or at all. I cried hot tears at the thought of losing him. It wasn’t rational, but it was real.

He was never mine to give, but in my fear I clung desperately to the falsehood that he was mine to keep. This is how I felt … but what did I do? What did I do two weeks later when yes was an ugly, heavy word and we planned our goodbyes? {We had a reprieve, he wasn’t supposed to leave until mid-October}. How did I calm the storm, the wind and waves boisterous around my sinking feet?

The circumstances in which they chose my husband aren’t necessary to relate here. Suffice it to say I was proud of this husband of mine. He is an honorable man and I loved him even more, if possible, throughout these events.

So this is what I did. I wiped away the tears. I bought him some new underwear at Wal-Mart. I bought him some fancy headphones to keep the music piping in, the loneliness at bay. We updated the will. I winked at him a little more from across the room and I held his hand a little tighter in church.

And I surrendered him.

But, they fought for our family, his bosses, they fought for us. If he had gone, our home life would have been predominately daddy-free for 21 months … six months deployed, two months of training post-deployment, four months home, and nine more months gone. I am weary just writing it down. It wasn’t terribly unusual for us, these staccato bursts of time … together, apart, together, apart … but it. is. so. hard.

And so, there were more weeks of not knowing, of surrender and fear and worry, of uncertainty. And who could I tell? It’s unfair to get people worked up about maybe, even a maybe of this magnitude. I whispered it in asides to a few dear friends in the beginning. I was more careless as the time dragged on and on, fatigue loosening my tongue. I was consumed by this. I was a reluctant, recalcitrant child of God, shaking my fist at a Heavenly Father who, even still, works His plans for good.

And, well - after all that - he didn’t have to go.

I was eternally grateful for his command team. And for an Architect who designs us to live right where He would have us. Which sometimes is in uncertainty. But right then, was still in Tennessee. Together.

I won’t lie, it was hard to be grateful for this process. And I was weary on the other side, more weary in this Army life than I’ve ever been. Weary of the toll this life takes on our family, on our marriage, and on this husband o’ mine. But God is good and He promises us rest. And so, I kept winking at the husband from across the room and holding his hand a little tighter in church.

He isn’t mine to give … and so, I am grateful for every gift of a moment with this man I love so fierce and hard and true.

And, even in the midst of this exhausting Army life, I am flat on my face, grateful to the Lord for drawing us closer together, for strengthening our marriage in the face of uncertainty. He did the first year, and the third, and the fifth, and September 2012, and even now.
His mercy endures forever.

(And friends? The sad truth is that not every story has a happy ending. Please know that it is by God’s grace that our marriage survives--we are wholly unqualified to make it on our own! If that was not the case for you, it does not mean that His grace and mercy have abandoned you. My heart aches for you and your loved ones, and I pray you will know peace and comfort from our Heavenly Father.)




Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.







When God Provides Family: On moving, loneliness, and trust
Editor’s Note: We are so excited to welcome another new contributor this month- Brandis Trionfo! Thank you for sharing your heart with us, Brandis. We can’t wait to hear more!

---

There’s a framed sign in my living room that says, “Family. A gathering of folks you love, hand chosen by God above.”

I believe that’s true in so many more ways than one. In military families, it’s not just our real family; it’s other families, friends, co-workers, church families, people who are thrown together after a PCS to live life together.

When I first moved to Florida, I was alone with two kids- two and four years old- and I was about 6 months pregnant, by myself. My husband’s training was lasting longer than we’d originally planned and our house had sold, so rather than rent a place, I packed it up and left.

Man, was it lonely. There were days it was more than the unbearable heat that bothered me. I didn’t know a soul, had a hard time finding a church, and in general was too tired to try to go out and meet people. I kept thinking to myself that I just needed to wait until my husband got there, then I’d be able to meet people.

One day after (another) trial of a church that just didn’t feel right, I was done. Once we got home, I broke down crying in my living room, asking God what I should do. I was lonely, tired, scared, afraid of the choice I’d made to move alone--if I couldn’t handle a few months alone while my husband was safely in school, how would I handle a deployment to somewhere unknown?

Somewhere a voice whispered, “You’re not alone.” I thought I imagined it and I looked up from my spot on the couch to see my boys watching Disney Jr., and I heard it again, “You’re not alone.”

Of course! Silly me to think all this time that I was alone. See, in my fear of branching out I forgot to call on the one who is my refuge. I forgot to call on the one who gives me strength.



Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.” (NLT)


I’m safe in the arms of the Lord.

With that comfort, I was able to reach out to our pastor in Wyoming, who was able to recommend a church that was a perfect fit for us. In that church, I found a new family--a family that could help me, guide me, and show me that even with my husband gone, I wasn’t alone.

In the military life we’re alone a lot. We move away from our families and we’re forced to live out of our comfort zone. But take heart, friends. We may feel lonely and scared and wonder what we’re thinking--but our Father is always one step ahead of us. He reaches out to us, calls us by name, and gives us what we need WHEN we need it. It’s not on our time, it’s on His.

Don’t be scared of the lonely. Don’t be scared of leaving.

Once I was able to branch out and give it to God, I gained a new perspective. I was able to help other military wives, who were even newer at this than me, to see that they aren’t alone either.

He is with us.

 

Reflection
How can you allow God to meet you in your lonely times?
What would it look like for you to fully trust God with the season of life you’re in?

Prayer
Father, thank you for showing me that your ways are always right and that you are my fortress. Help me to not be scared. Help me to know that you are with me no matter where my fears take me. Help me to see where you would have me go and to know that you lead the way. I ask that you give me “family” to help comfort me along with your word. I pray in your name, God. Amen.




Brandis is a former Sailor turned Air Force wife, a stay at home mom to 3 kids, and a lover of rustic country decor. She misses the Navy almost daily but is so very thankful for the time she gets with her family, dogs, & friends living near the beach. She occasionally blogs but mostly forgets at Anchored in the Air Force Life.


For the military spouses: When freedom costs you, too

By Molly Huggins



Dear Military Wife,

It’s July, and there is a whole lot of flag waving happening here and everywhere, and being from the south, (and in a military town), we get an extra helping of gratitude for our Soldiers and the job they do. And I am so thankful for that. But not today. I want to talk to you, about what the cost of freedom is to YOU.

Yes, you.

Camp followers. Army wives. Household 6 ... and all the other nicknames they’ve assigned us over the years ... some of them not so nice!

The 5 am coffee makers, and the ship waver-offers, and you who slog your way to the post office twice monthly to send him his favorite barbeque sauce and the extra Xbox controllers and a stack of drawings from the seven year old.

The stoic ones and the hot teary messes (THIS GIRL).

Yes, I’m talking to you, the temporary single parent, and the frazzled momma at the grocery store in her yoga pants, who may not have showered in days and just fed her children bologna straight out of the package. (DON’T JUDGE ME!)

Or worse, you who want nothing more than to be a mom but can't seem to get pregnant because it’s impossible to do even just a little bit of life together.

Or you there, who dusts off your resume and starts job hunting again, because we go where he goes, which isn't always where the jobs go ... And my Guard girls (sorry, women;) who are foreigners at home, military wives a long way from a military town.

We don't wear the rank and we didn't slog through the mud in basic training (most of us, anyways) but we sure are putting our families on the line. And you try telling me when my seven year old is sobbing for her daddy that we don't sacrifice for freedom.

And I bet a fair number of us could pack a duffel bag like a professional. We’ve been sending them off to war for a good twelve years now.

I used to demure and say we aren't brave, it's just a life, etc. And still, I won't go shouting from the roof tops, “Look at me!”

But you? That's another story.

You ARE brave, and oh, do you sacrifice. And eyes open or squeezed tight shut, you stand with your Soldier Husband.

“But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” ~ Ruth 1:16

Ruth is committing to the family of her husband in this passage, but the idea here, to be a family wherever we land ... well, it fits, it does. I mean, it’s almost like, well, you know, OUR WEDDING VOWS.

And we make a life, and a home in clapboard boxes and dilapidated base housing. We make a life in the suburbs, and in the big city. Year in, year out. And yes, most of my furniture is neutral because you never know what the walls will look like in the next place, and I scratch my decorating itch with a never ending supply of accent pillows. And at the end of the day, month, or year, we made a home ... and next year we will pack it up and do it all over again.

This life, it doesn't define us. We claim citizenship in a heavenly kingdom and hold fast to the power of the gospel and our identity as a new creation in Christ.

But there are camouflage shapes carved out of my heart and it's okay to say that the carving hurt, and we sacrificed to get them.

So you. All of you.

Ecclesiastes tells us, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”

One commentary (Gill’s Bible Exposition) breaks it down for us like this ...

“If a family, community, city, or kingdom, are divided against themselves, they cannot stand; but, if united, in all probability nothing can hurt them.”

Be brave. Be proud. Bear one another up. Us camp followers need to stick together.


How can you encourage a fellow military spouse today?
Find a spouse whose soldier is deployed and seek out ways to bless them. We know better than anyone what helps!


Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.


Freedom to Choose

By Heather Tabers


 


“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

It is easy to begrudge the hand that life has dealt us.

Often times, our life’s circumstances were thrust upon us and we had little, if any, say in the matter. Our parents. Our physical features. Our talents. Our physical ability. Our socio-economic status. These things often define who we are despite our ability to control them. It seems unfair that we are called to live a life we did not choose to live. We didn’t choose the disability. We didn’t choose the illness. We didn’t choose the abusive mother, the diabetes, the bankruptcy, or the limp. We didn’t choose it.

It is easy to feel trapped by the lack of choices you may have in your life. The enemy wants nothing more than to rob your life of joy and any feelings of hope that you may have.

The problem, for him, is that you DO have a choice. And so do I.

We have the freedom to choose joy in the midst of our less-than-joyful circumstances. When we are hated, we have the freedom to choose love. When we are sick, we have the freedom to choose gratitude for life. When we are slow, we have the freedom to choose to keep going. When we are deprived, we have the freedom to choose to trust God’s provision.

We have the freedom to choose, because our infinite, mighty God holds it all in His hands.


 

Reflection
In what areas of my life am I not choosing joy and gratitude?
Am I taking the time to thank God daily?
How can I trust more deeply in God’s provision for me and my family?

Prayer
Father God, as we look at the circumstances surrounding us, may we choose to never take our eyes off of You. Give us the strength and the courage to choose life in an environment of death. Help us choose to be lights in a dark world. Help us choose to point others to you. Thank You for giving us this freedom to choose that NO ONE can take away. Amen


 

Heather Tabers is the wife of a wounded warrior and the mother of five children. She is also currently a full time student, a specialty cake baker, and a volunteer with the VA Public Relations office. She writes about her life and her faith to encourage other women on her blog, Wives of War.



Alive With Grace

By Molly Huggins


 


How do I tell you my story and still make it about His Story? How do I give a voice to one snapshot, hoping the echoes will glorify the Master Planner?


I’ve pondered this a lot lately, and I’ve written much of our story on my personal blog, so I wrestle with this on a regular basis. Today, I might just tell you a little about how I came to be in the Story.

For the better part of two years, I hid in the library. For thirty precious minutes in the midst of my day I would tarry there with the piles of books. It was a brief respite from the torture of eighth and ninth grade, the years when I would step off the bus in tears, unable to navigate the halls without torment, to sit through a class without snickers. I hovered there, in that library, peeking into the unchanging lives of beloved characters--virtual friends before there was such a thing, whose existence was wholly unaffected by my scabby knees, tomboy looks and utter social ineptness. I was lonely in the stacks, but I was safe.

But somewhere around my junior year, between Nancy Drew and the impossibly long walk down the main hall-- you know, the one where you have to step over the legs of the popular kids lounging against the wall and you just know they are laughing at you and your second-hand clothes and sad attempts at following a trend, and not even a cool one at that ~ I came alive.

I was at a church camp. Of course, right? Not what you think, though. My youth pastor taught me to love the Word. He was bold, and he loved the Lord fiercely. He challenged us to do the same. And our youth weekends were wild and adventurous, as befitting a former Marine.

So on this wild and adventurous weekend, digging deep for the Truth, I learned to look at myself through the Savior’s lens. I discovered the redemption of the gospel and the freedom of being His creation. I was known, and loved. All those things that seemed SO IMPORTANT-- my scabby knees, second-hand clothes, and sheer awkwardness, and the acceptance I secretly, desperately wanted-- they melted away in the arms of my Savior.

And so I pick up the weave in His story, somewhere around age 16--me, who is known, who is knitted together in my mother’s womb, me, whose name is written in the Book of Life.

It’s a long story; I’m just giving you a peek at the beginning. We have valleys behind us, and more ahead. Of that I have no doubt. But I will fear no evil in the shadows. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”

Me, who is tattooed on the hands of the Maker. Alive with grace.

 


Reflection
Where did your part in His Story begin?
What prompted your search for meaning and significance?
Who could you be sharing your part in His story with today?

Prayer
Jesus, thank You for making me a daughter in Your Kingdom. Thank You for inviting me in, to be a part of the story with you. Help me to live each day worthy of the calling I have received. I trust You with my story, Lord, knowing that it is truly Yours. I trust that You hold all of it in Your capable hands. Amen.



Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.



Words, Words, Words

By Mary Parker

 

 

Words. The basis of our language. The focal point of my career as an English teacher and marketing editor. We use them every day. Write. Speak. Post. Text. Tweet. Words are a beautiful gift that can foster communication…or tear relationships apart. But how often do we consider the effect of our words on others, ourselves and our relationship with God?

For me, the answer is not enough. I can usually find the perfectly precise word to punctuate a point, but when my emotions run high, I use hurtful words against others, often in my mind but sometimes aloud. As Jesus demonstrates in Luke 6, words are a direct result of an overflow of emotion. I say things that I don’t mean, often to the people who mean the most to me and are not in the slightest way deserving of such malice. I always regret my thoughts or actions.
My misuse of verbal ammunition has bothered me for a long time. I try to steer away from profanity, but it’s so easy to use and sometimes it just feels cathartic. Although I curb my misuse of words around most people, I save it for the people closest in my life who are bound to forgive me. Sometimes I let inappropriate language slip in a less familiar group of people, and the pangs of guilt nag me into over analysis and self-depreciation.

Last night, God used a Bible study to help me realize two things:
Although I use language inappropriately at times, God does not condemn me for this. I am not lowly or despicable to Him, but a child who keeps foolishly making the same mistake. I accept His tender grace and resolve to do better. Although God loves and forgives me, it is time to deal with this sin issue head on.
In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul, arguably one of the Godliest men to ever live, expresses grappling with sin in a similar way: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me” (7:15-17).

Ultimately, my abuse of language can negatively affect others and definitely affects me. So why would I continue to pursue such momentary pleasure? Although it may feel good to release emotion in the moment, the sensation is fleeting. Ultimately, if it doesn’t bring joy to my life or glory to God, I don’t believe He wants it for me. I remember that God’s ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9). Because He loves me, He wants good for me and constantly pushes me to make my life better by seeking Him.

With these beliefs in mind, I commit myself, my thoughts and words to glorifying God in all I say and do. Each time I am tempted to speak out in anger or frustration, I will think twice about the impact and purpose of my words, and question whether these articulations benefit my life. Although this will be hard, and I’m certain to stumble along the way, I know that God is reigning grace over me and helping me to pursue Him, happy to see me seeking His strength over my lips.

 

Reflection
Do you have sin habits that secretly bother you? What do you need to do to honestly seek conviction for these actions?
What thoughts, actions or words do you need to commit to God today? What will this process involve?

Prayer

Lord, thank You for Your grace and forgiveness. I fall short in so many ways, and yet, You stil love me. You still choose to work in me and through me. I confess the sin habits in my life, and I ask You to change my heart. Mold me to be more like You through the work of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 


Mary Parker is an Air Force wife who works as a public relations writer. A South Carolina girl at heart, she and her husband have recently relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska. Mary spends her spare time honing exercise and cooking skills, and is a self-proclaimed DIY addict. You can read about how faith and hope shape military family life, and check out Mary's latest projects at her blog, Mary's Mischief.



Philippians 4: Rejoice, Always

By Molly Huggins

 

Greetings to you my friends. I’m sure you’ve noticed our theme this month, and I am humbled to talk to you about Philippians 4. And friends? Please pray for me as I share my heart with you. It is always with much trepidation and a steadfast desire for the Truth that I parse Scripture for you. As always, hold my words up against the Word.

Philippians 4 can be divided into three sections. In verses 1-9, Paul encourages his brethren in the church of Philipi to remain steadfast in Christian duties - unanimity, joy, prayer and thanksgiving, etc. In the second section, verses 10-19, Paul acknowledges their kindness to him while expounding on his own contentment. He closes this portion with a desire to see their own well being, and ends the chapter (v. 20-23) with praise, greetings, and blessings to his friends.

There is much meat here, and some of the better known verses are in our collective memory bank. But I am not going to talk about those. I have limited space and so will highlight what ministers to me on a daily basis.

I mentioned joy- it’s rejoice, in fact. Verses 4-7 tell us this:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”


Rejoice in the Lord always. Such a simple word, such a monumental command.

Always: every time, each time, at all times, all the time, without fail, consistently, invariably, regularly, habitually, unfailingly.

Always: continually, continuously, constantly, forever, perpetually, incessantly, ceaselessly, unceasingly, endlessly.

Always: forever, for always, for good (and all), forevermore, for ever and ever, until the end of time, eternally, for eternity.

Always: no matter what, in any event, in any case, come what may.

Matthew Henry describes it in this way:

“Observe, It is our duty and privilege to rejoice in God, and to rejoice in him always; at all times, in all conditions; even when we suffer for him, or are afflicted by him. We must not think the worse of him or of his ways for the hardships we meet with in his service. There is enough in God to furnish us with matter of joy in the worst circumstance on earth.”

 

We must rejoice in God when we have nothing else. When what we feel is not we know. This all consuming fire, this God who palms the oceans, He is omnipotent and all powerful and my every breath in, every breath out, is engineered, impeccably designed, to showcase His glory.

Rejoice in the Lord always. And this rejoicing? It breeds peace (v. 7), contentment (v. 11), and continued reliance on a God who moves the mountains, and clothes the lilies (v. 13.)

 

The joy letter, indeed.

 

Reflection
Is rejoicing a daily part of my life right now?
What things hold me back from fully rejoicing in the Lord?
What could I do to share joy with others today?

Prayer
Almighty God, You are the author of life and beauty. Everything holds together in You, and Your creation shouts of Your glory to the ends of the earth. Today I surrender all the things that hold me back from joy- my worries, my busy schedule, my selfish complaints- I lay them all down at Your feet in repentance. Fill my heart with joy today, the joy that only comes from You. I will rejoice in You because You are good, always. Amen.



Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.




Philippians 3: Pressing On Toward Christ

By Mary Parker

 

Have you ever been devoted or deeply committed to someone or something? It may be work, school, family or even a hobby or a cause you adamantly support. Being dedicated to your passion is one thing, but being driven by salvation through Jesus alone is a completely different story.

In his letter to the people of Philippi, Paul writes that he once had every reason to have “confidence in the flesh.” He was circumcised according to Jewish law, was a well-known Pharisee and even proclaimed to be a zealot for God, and under the law, “faultless” (Philippians 3:4-6). In short, Paul has more reason than anyone to be committed to his faith through good works and the law.

Faith in himself however, didn’t save him from the temporary blindness he experienced through a personal encounter with Jesus. Because Paul was so dedicated and committed to the law, Jesus had to take extreme measures to meet him and change his life according to the real will of God, not just by abiding the law. Once Paul recognized Jesus’ holiness, he submitted himself and completely turned his life around, literally changing the world for God by taking the gospel across the Roman empire. Pursuing a relationship with Jesus often means changing our commitments, and- more importantly- your direction.

Even though Paul endured great trials of faith for his commitment to Jesus, he lovingly writes that everything he once prized, his good works and commitment to the flesh, seem to be “garbage” compared to a life following Jesus (3:8). I’m not suggesting that your family or hobbies should be discarded, but perhaps we all should take a minute to compare the temporary, worldly possession and pastimes we enjoy to the eternal salvation we have in Jesus. He has rescued us from the murk and mire so that we don’t have to endure suffering forever! That’s something to really prioritize and value.

As Paul experienced a transformation of the heart upon meeting Jesus, he turned his commitment from worldly pursuits to Jesus and “the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9). Paul works diligently throughout the New Testament to help people, walking firmly in the direction of Jesus. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (3:12-14).

God used Paul’s gifts, especially his passion and thirst for righteousness, to change the world. But the biggest shift was Paul’s focus from worldly desires to relentlessly and unapologetically pursuing Jesus.




Reflection


How can we follow Paul’s example and use our gifts to reach others for God?

What things in your life overshadow devotion to God? How can we relinquish the hold on us and give in to faith in Jesus alone?



Prayer

Lord, You are so holy and mighty. You are eternally loving, sovereign, and gracious. I am so quick to lose sight of who You are, and how much greater You are than anything else in my life. Help me to set aside all else for the sake of knowing You. Remind me of Your goodness and mercy today. Amen.



Mary Parker is an Air Force wife who works as a public relations writer. A South Carolina girl at heart, she and her husband have recently relocated to Fairbanks, Alaska. Mary spends her spare time honing exercise and cooking skills, and is a self-proclaimed DIY addict. You can read about how faith and hope shape military family life, and check out Mary's latest projects at her blog, Mary's Mischief.


Philippians 2: United in Spirit

By Heather Tabers



When I study instructional passages of Scripture, I love to look at these three concepts: What, Why, and How. Let’s use these concepts to look at Philippians Chapter 2.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

I love that in the first two verses of this chapter, Paul opens up a sermon on unity with one simple if/then statement. IF there is any encouragement (help, exhortation, counsel) in Christ, IF there is any fellowship (partnership) of the Spirit, IF any affection (the Greek’s strongest word for compassionate love) and compassion, THEN we are to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. IF we are blessed with encouragement, help, exhortation, counsel, fellowship, partnership, affection, compassion, and love, THEN we need to be united.


To break it down, IF God is compassionate towards you, THEN you need to share that same compassion with your brothers and sisters.



Paul offers no exception to this rule, only further encouragement to strengthen the bond among Christians. In one sentence, he gives us the What of the passage: Be united. Now, the Why- Why is it so important for Christians to be united? Why is it so important that we be of one mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose?
Because God chose to be united with us.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


God, in all His perfection and righteousness and holiness, came to earth in the form of a lowly man through His Son, Jesus. Despite being sinless, He obeyed the Father and allowed Himself to be crucified horrifically in our place. The most compassionate love ever displayed was bestowed from a perfect Creator to a sinful creation, all for the sake of being united. Sin no longer separates me from God. He bridged that gap on the cross so that I can be His for all of eternity. That’s the Why-because Christ chose to be united with us.


But how we can be of one mind, one love, one spirit, and one purpose with all Christians? We’re so different!


3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.


Putting others before ourselves does not usually come naturally, this is why Paul breaks it down for us. To be united in the body of Christ as one, we need to put away our selfish habits and conceited ways. We need to stop thinking that our needs and wants are more important than someone else’s. We need to look for opportunities to bless others- not just the others we want to bless, but all others. That’s the How in this lesson- choosing to humble ourselves in unity with one another, just as Christ did for us.


Reflection
Who in my life do I lack unity with?
How can I humble myself and seek to put that person’s needs before mine?
What would this world be like if Jesus had put His needs before ours?

Prayer
Lord Jesus, thank You for the humility and sacrifice You demonstrated on the cross. You put Your glory aside and chose to die for me, because of Your deep love for me, even when I was far from You. Thank You, Jesus. In light of Your love and Your sacrifice, I choose to surrender my pride and my wants, my needs. I choose to love others above myself. I know I can’t do it on my own, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Open my eyes to the people around me who need to be loved and served today. Amen.


Heather Tabers is the wife of a wounded warrior and the mother of five children. She is also currently a full time student, a specialty cake baker, and a volunteer with the VA Public Relations office. She writes about her life and her faith to encourage other women on her blog, Wives of War.



Redemption

By Molly Huggins




I heard tell of King David’s first wife once: Michal, a woman both unloved and, in the end, unloving. It’s not a pretty story, and the ending leaves something to be desired.

We know she loved David; he may have loved her in the beginning. Somewhere in David’s power struggle with Saul, she- the king’s daughter- became an ugly pawn. Michal stayed when David fled and lied to protect him. David, instead of returning for her, took two other wives and Michal was given by Saul to a man who, by all accounts, truly loved her.

But politics prevailed, and as a condition of further peace with the house of Saul, David demanded his bride back from a man who wept at her departure. Michal had no love left for David and is depicted as scornful of his behavior and subsequently barren for the rest of her days.

And yet--her story is still included in the books of I and II Samuel. In THE Story. That’s the point, isn’t it? Of this season of Lent, of sacrifice, of a good, ugly, dark Friday.

Sometimes redemption tells ugly stories. We have to weep at the foot of a splintered cross to rejoice in a barren tomb.

And we all have them, these ugly stories, whether we are the wounded or the wound-makers.

And redeemed though we are, like Peter we take our eyes off Christ. And oh, the wind and the waves they are boisterous, and we don’t feel redeemed.

But the gospel, it is built on rock, The Rock. And our ugly stories become an exclamation point to The Story, finished in an echoing, empty grave.

We may not know the particulars of Michal’s story. We certainly don’t know the ending of ours. But we know when our sin swirls around us, eddying in the dark places; when the ugly seems the most real, and our wounds are aching- we are the redeemed. The named and chosen ones, tattooed on His palms. We who were once dead are now alive through the alchemy of Christ’s death and resurrection.

We are new creations, washed clean.

It’s spring here now. A perfect complement to this season of Death, slowly turning to Life. A Good, ugly, dark Friday and a Resurrection.


Reflection
What stories are you telling?
How is God using the hard ugly things in your life to show the story of the Gospel?

Prayer
Father, thank You for making all things new. You are always redeeming us, reclaiming us, forgiving us. Help me to see Your light shining in the dark places. Remind me of Your promises and who you are, that I might trust You more deeply. Amen.




Molly Huggins (All The Grace Between) is an Army bride, one-time helicopter pilot, compulsive writer, friend seeker, and lover of color and all things textile. Her current occupation is ringmaster of the Huggins family circus (party of five). She has a B.A. in English from Covenant College and a passion for meeting other women right in the middle of their own messy stories. Pull up a chair at her virtual beat-up kitchen table, listen to her stories, and maybe even tell her yours.