New Year: Thrive (Day Thirty-One)

a-new-year-thriveWhen I was young, my mother told me at least once a day that she loved me “bigger than the whole wide world and more than all the tea in China.”

I thought it was silly and responded with the same sentiment. I also thought she was strange when she opened her prayers with “Abba, Father.”

I finally asked her what that meant and why she said a name of a band while praying. She said she was His (Abba’s) daughter, loved her heavenly Father, and emphasized how great His love for her and hers for Him.

I didn’t think much more of how my mom prayed until I grew older and had children of my own. Now that I am a mom, I often think of the amount of love I have for my three crazy boys and how they could do nothing to take that away.

You see, we don’t think about the unsurmountable love when we think of our relationship with our heavenly Father. We realize it and acknowledge it, but to truly know His love is something we cannot comprehend daily.

Or I can’t at least.

I think of the ways that I screw up and forget to take things to Him and try to handle them on my own. I think of my goals and don’t check to see if they are what our heavenly Father wants for me. I plan towards things selfishly and feel guilt and shame later…sometimes, much later.

But then I see my children and how they can make poor choices, and see the guilt and shame they experience.

I want nothing more than to take it away and hold them tightly.

I want to tell them and show them just how much I love them.

I want the pain and all the negative feelings to disappear.

I feel this must be a piece of what our heavenly Father wants for us too. He must want to hold us close and remind of us of just how greatly we are loved. And how beautiful He thinks we are.

As I close the day with telling my sons that I love them “bigger than the whole wide world and more than all the tea in China” and they yell “China” while laughing before I can finish saying it myself, I think how great I love them. I pray some day they will understand the love of our Abba, Father just a little bit more.

Nidal Pascoe


New Year: Thrive (Day Twenty-Five)

a-new-year-thriveRecently the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman” has been the only music playing in my house. In fact, as soon as we left the movie theater over Christmas Break, one of my kiddos pulled up the album on Spotify and “Project Learn All the Songs” commenced.

I have a tendency to completely immerse myself in an album if I am drawn in and love the music. Sometimes my family grows weary of hearing the same songs over and over and over again, but that’s how the music seeps down into the marrow of my bones. I turn the lyrics over slowly and repetitively on my tongue like a piece of ice on a hot summer day. The music melts in and becomes a part of me.

Most of our memories are wrapped up in some kind of sensory marker. If we see a picture, smell certain food, or go to a certain place, we can uncannily retrieve a memory attached to the sense engaged.

Music is the marker of my life and my life is full of musical Ebenezers (1 Samuel 7:12).

I remember the music from times of triumph and times of defeat.

I remember the music from times of joy and times of sadness.

I remember the music from times of love and times of heartbreak.

Just hearing certain music sets off a chain reaction of emotional memory and usually awakens a beautifully satisfying spiritual pilgrimage to past experiences.

I am currently going through the study, “Uninvited” by Lysa Terkeurst, a study I highly encourage you to go through!! Why? Unpack this statement, one of many nuggets of wisdom to take hold of memorize from the book:

“The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or the breaking of my identity.”


How true is this?! I want to feast on the commands of God designed to bring me fullness of life and fullness of joy.

Knowing how I’m wired means 2018 is a year I am planning to immerse myself in songs that speak of God’s principles. And this spiritual discipline isn’t only for musicians. It’s biblical baby.

May the words of Psalm 119:54 ring true for ALL of us in 2018 as we journey on, singing songs along the way:

Thy statutes are my songs
In the house of my pilgrimage.”


Only by songs of grace,

Sara Danielle

Pastor’s Wife & Director of Thrive Women’s Ministry


New Year: Thrive 2018 (Day Twenty-Four)

a-new-year-thriveIf you’ve spent much time in Christian women’s circles, you may have noticed that we have devoted many gatherings to exploring our identity.

Retreats, conferences, and topical Bible studies rush to assure us that we are redeemed and treasured, that our lives have purpose, that our actions carry eternal significance. If we just understood who we are — the message goes — we would turn from our sin patterns and our spiritual low self-esteem and experience the abundant life of which Jesus spoke.

Recently I attended a women’s conference at which this message predictably took center stage. One after another, all three keynote speakers took us to Psalm 139:14, urging us to see ourselves the way God sees us, as fearfully and wonderfully made. It could have been just about any women’s event, with just about any typical speaker. Christian women ask Psalm 139:14 to soothe us when our body image falters, or when we just don’t feel that smart, valuable, or capable. We ask it to bolster us when our limits weigh us down. But based on how frequently I hear it offered, I suspect the message may not be “sticking to our ribs” very well.

Why is that?

I believe it is because we have misdiagnosed our primary problem. As long as we keep the emphasis on us instead of on a higher vision, we will take small comfort from discussions of identity — and we will see little lasting change. Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self-worth, not that we lack a sense of significance or purpose. It’s that we lack awe.

Awe and Wonder

On a recent visit to San Francisco, my husband and I had the chance to hike Muir Woods. Walking its paths, we halted, slack-jawed, to gaze up at 250-foot redwoods that had stood since the signing of the Magna Carta. Towering and ancient, they reminded us of our smallness.

Muir Woods was a place to be awestruck. But not necessarily for everyone. I can still see the eight-year-old playing a video game while his parents took in the view. I’m not judging mom and dad — I’ve been on vacation with young children myself — but the irony of the image was compelling.

Research shows that when humans experience awe — wonderment at redwoods or rainbows, Rembrandt or Rachmaninoff — we become less individualistic, less self-focused, less materialistic, more connected to those around us. In marveling at something greater than ourselves, we become more able to reach out to others.

At first, this seems counterintuitive, but on closer examination, it begins to sound a lot like the greatest commandments: Love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (marvel at Someone greater than yourself), and love your neighbor (reach out to others).

Awe helps us worry less about self-worth by turning our eyes first toward God, then toward others. It also helps establish our self-worth in the best possible way: we understand both our insignificance within creation and our significance to our Creator. But just like a child on an iPad at the foot of an 800-year-old redwood, we can miss majesty when it is right in front of us.

True Self-Awareness

We have done it habitually with Psalm 139:14. It’s easy to hear it as a “pink verse” when a woman is reading it aloud to a room full of women. It is harder to hear it that way when we consider who wrote it. Imagine King David writing it to give himself a pep talk about his appearance or his self-worth. No, Psalm 139:14 is not written to help us feel significant. We have only to zoom out and consider the entire psalm to see this. Without question, the subject of Psalm 139 is not us. Rather than a reflection on me, fearfully and wonderfully made, it is an extended and exquisite celebration of God, fearful and wonderful.

Awe yields self-forgetfulness. When we emphasize self-awareness to the omission of self-forgetfulness, we have missed the mark. You can tell me that I am a royal daughter of the King. You can assure me that I am God’s poem or his masterpiece. You can tell me that I stir the heart of God, that I am sung over and delighted in, that I am beautiful in his eyes, that I am set apart for a sacred purpose. You can tell me these things, and you should. But I beg you: Don’t tell me who I am until you have caused me to gaze in awe at “I Am.” Though all of these statements are precious truths, their preciousness cannot be properly perceived until framed in the brilliance of his utter holiness. There can be no true self-awareness apart from right, reverent awe of God.

Lift Up Our Eyes

So I implore you, women teachers, lift my eyes from myself to him. Teach me the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 31:30). Finding our identity in the wrong places is a symptom of succumbing to the fear of man. We measure ourselves by a human standard instead of a divine one. But the solution to the fear of man is not repeated assurances that we are loved and accepted by God. It is fear of God.

  • When I ask, “Does he delight in me?” Teach me, “He delights in those who fear him.” (Psalm 147:11)
  • When I ask, “Does he call me friend?” Teach me, “His friendship is for those who fear him.” (Psalm 25:14)
  • When I ask, “Is he for my good?” Teach me, “His goodness is stored up for those who fear him.” (Psalm 31:19)
  • When I ask, “Will he grant me wisdom?” Teach me, “It begins with the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 111:10)
  • When I ask, “Can I turn from my sin?” Teach me, “Yes, by the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:6)
  • When I ask, “Does he see the way I take?” Teach me, “The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him.” (Psalm 33:18)
  • When I ask, “Does he love me?” Teach me, “His steadfast love is for those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:1117)

The fear of the Lord is linked to contentment (Proverbs 15:1619:23), to confidence (Proverbs 14:26), to blessing (Proverbs 28:14), to spiritual safety (Proverbs 29:25), and to praise and adoration (Psalm 22:23). It is no wonder, then, that the much-referenced Proverbs 31 woman is called praiseworthy because she fears the Lord.

Teach Us Awe

As Ed Welch has rightly diagnosed, we must fight fear with fear. We cease offering reverence and awe to a human standard by instead offering it to its true object: God himself. This is worship. And when we “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” (Psalm 96:9) an interesting thing happens: we do rediscover our true identity — as sinners redeemed by grace, in a manner that defies human understanding.

In that moment, the one in which we tremble and stammer, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful woman,” our hearts are ready to drink in the good news that we are daughters of the King. The priceless pearl of his love for us can at last be properly valued. The miracle of our acceptance through Christ can at last be properly savored.

It’s time for women teachers and authors to abandon the thin gruel of self-reflection for a message that sticks to our ribs. Women desperately need to be discipled into the joyful practice of self-forgetful worship. Help us lift our eyes to towering majesty. Help us learn awe. Teach us the fear of the Lord.

 is an author and Bible teacher. Jen and her family are members of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, where she serves on staff. She is author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds and most recently None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing).


(Originally Posted Here:

New Year: Thrive 2018 (Day Twenty-Three)

a-new-year-thriveDo not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”

Philippians 4:6

I tend to worry…a lot.

I have worry verses underlined and highlighted in every Bible that I have.

If I am not careful and focused on praying about my worries, then I let them take control of my spiritual and physical health. I have literally made myself sick thinking and pondering over worries in my life…my kids, my students, whether I might have hurt someone’s feelings, flying (or when someone I love is flying)…

The thing is, I know I can’t change situations by worrying! But if I am not focused on God, then I let worries control my thoughts.

This is the best analogy I have heard for worrying:

Worrying is like a rocking chair…It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

I have to constantly give my worries to God and let Him handle them.

He is in control, and I am not.

So let us truly not be anxious about anything and pray about everything.

Kelly Rhodes



Thrive: New Year 2018 (Day Twenty-Two)


It’s 2018.

It’s the year my firstborn child will leave home. Today, she turns 18 years old.

And lemme tell you, if turning 45 doesn’t make a girl feel old, 18 candles on the cake of your child —will. I started this blog when she was 8, and if you remember that, you probably feel old too now.

Her senior year has been a sweet one and I’ve become a walking fortune cookie of All The Things I don’t want to forget to tell her. It feels like I’m trying to give her a crash course in everything.

A few nights ago we both dissolved into a puddle of tears as our conversation turned from dorm room to missing her brother and sister. So, yes, we are handling it well.

We’ve talked a lot about purpose. I think it’s a hot word for this generation and it’s been a focus for our family for as long as I can remember. But it’s also easy to feel pressure and panic when you aren’t quite sure what you were created to do.

Here’s my advice for her (and you) and a reminder for the rest of us: If you’re not sure of your purpose, follow your passion. It will lead you to the right place.

When I found my sweet spot–that place where our passion, what we’re good at (our skill) and God’s timing collide, it was divine.  I love how my dear friend, Ann Voskamp puts it, “You were made for the place where your real passion meets compassion, because there lies your real purpose.”

Saying yes to our purpose is more about courage and faith than opportunity and success. I don’t think we always recognize our God-sized dream for what it is, especially when it’s wrapped up in our normalcy.

My sweet spot wasn’t exactly a success story. I think we often confuse glory with something glorious. Nothing really changed, not for a long time. But I had changed. I was pursing my passion. I was living authentic. I was satisfied and that changed everything.

I discovered that one thing we are called to do—our purpose—is really secondary. It’s only found after we pursue the primary, the ultimate goal of our lives which is to bring glory to God. This is our foundational, primary mission and purpose for living. It is what we were created for. Isaiah 43:6-7 says, “We were made by God for His glory.”

There aren’t two paths we’ve been given—one for us to pursue our dreams, the other to serve God. When we divide our lives up into those compartments, we work for our glory not His. But when our lives flow with the central purpose of shining His light, it gives us to deep satisfaction and contentment, and leads us directly to the secondary. I have found John Piper’s statement to be true: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Our primary job is to have a relationship with Jesus. It’s the only way to discover the contentment in life we all crave. And when we focus on intimacy with God, He provides the right timing, couples it with our hard work and skills, and passion is born.

So, my dear 18 year old girl– believe this truth: where you are today is the place He has put you and who you are is how He created you and what you’re good at is a gift. Follow your passion and whatever you find yourself doing—being a student, chasing a career, becoming a wife or mother one day, pursuing your passion—do it unto God. And your purpose will collide with your passion and you will thrive.

Kristen Welch

Wife, Mom, Author, Blogger of “We Are That Family”, Speaker


(Originally Posted Here:

New Year: Thrive (Day Twenty-One)

a-new-year-thriveThe heart is such an important organ in our body.  It not only pumps blood through our body to help us live, but it also is the proverbial center of our emotions.  There are so many verses in God’s word that describe the condition of the heart – broken, hard, whole, pure, caring, soft, joyful, troubled, grateful – and so many more.

As I have thought about what to write, I wanted to talk about having a grateful heart.

Looking back over this past year, my heart has been many things – troubled, caring, joyful and grateful to list a few.  Being involved with missions at Taylors Valley Baptist Church, I can truly say “my heart is grateful” for the fellowship of our body of believers.

I sometimes feel like I’m always asking you to do something, spend something, or pray for something, and I can honestly say you have NEVER let God or me down. Whether it’s for our yearly Honduras Mission Trip, Backpack Buddies, scholarships for summer camps, our mission offerings or Operation Christmas Child, you have always gone above and beyond.  

My prayer for 2018 is to have servant heart for what God will use me for in His Kingdom.

What is your prayer for the year? Where is your heart today and for this new year?

Be ready for what God will put on your heart in order others might know Him and those who know Him may know Him better.

So, it is with a grateful heart that I look forward to what we as a church body will do to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.  

May God’s grace, mercy, and peace be yours this year.

Dianne Arwood

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New Year: Thrive (Day Twenty)


“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

Raising daughters afforded me many opportunities to train my girls to be brave, bold, independent, strong, responsible women. As I continue in this daily investment, I’ve realized that my early motherhood was missing a key ingredient:

I had forgotten to teach my girls the value of rest and the gift of help.

For two years, I struggled with a chronic illness that required weekly medical intervention. This affected my energy, strength and motherhood. I didn’t tell my children the truth about my physical trials. I preserved my brave exterior, but I was unable to do all the things I once did, and motherhood took a necessary backseat to rest and healing.

I was tired and weak, and everything I did for my family had to be put on hold. This wrecked me to the core. I felt like I was abandoning my post.

I experienced feelings of guilt and anger over the things that made me feel weary and incapable. My children deserved to know, because I needed their help, and God wanted to use this. I was getting in the way of receiving His Grace and their help and understanding.

When our kids see us put on brave faces and give more to everyone around us while barely holding on to our sanity and strength, they see women without boundaries, void of peace. Motherhood does not have to be drudgery or a source of pride, where we carry the banner of independence and espouse a false message of “doing it all.” When we’re honest and truthful about our circumstances, we allow an infusion of hope and help into our world.

The weakest moments in motherhood can be the catalyst for my children to seek God’s strength and see His power. When we keep our needs hidden from our children, how will they know our true source of strength? We need to introduce them to the true Redeemer in all our pain and weakness. I came to realize these questions deserved answers:

  • If our children can’t see God at work in their own homes, how will they learn to lean on Him when they leave our safe spaces?
  • If our children don’t serve one another and bear burdens of those closest to them, how will they live out this biblical principle later in life?
  • If our children haven’t seen our reliance on God, will they grow up to be overwhelmed adults, forgetting Who can rescue them from their lowest moments?
  • If we pretend to have it all together, how will our children know Who really holds us together?

If there’s one thing I would have changed in my motherhood, it would be this — I would have shared my weaknesses and asked for help. I would have been honest with my kids when I was worn thin and could barely hang on.

Just as the Lord instructed the Apostle Paul, He reminds us in today’s key verse how God’s power comes alive in our weakness: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We never want our children to see us as “strong women” who don’t need anyone or anything, while we fall apart at the seams in our private spaces. A truly strong, grace-filled woman loves Jesus more than her pride and invites others to be a part of her journey. Everyday motherhood requires daily prayer and an urgency to know God more. This is the gift you will pass on to your children daily.

Mothers, let your children see you need Jesus!

Lord, I’m tired and weary, and I feel alone. Grant me discernment and guidance. Will You help me be real, and send others into my life who can walk through this with me? I need this now more than ever. I know Your grace is sufficient, Lord. I believe this. You are my Redeemer and I trust in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

September McCarthy


Wife, Mother, Blogger, Speaker

(Originally Posted Here: