A Matter of Focus

A Matter of Focus

Sometimes I get distracted.

Sunday night, hubby came home from a week-long business convention in Pennsylvania. We stayed busy while he was gone – the big kids went to STEM camp each day, our littlest enjoyed several play dates with her besties, and I wrote lots and lots of words. When the weekend rolled around, we were all more than ready for Daddy to be home.

Except that I wasn’t ready when he got home.

alyson-mcphee-499812-unsplash.jpg Dinner wasn’t done. The bathroom deep clean that had exploded into our bedroom wasn’t… well, cleaned up. The laundry sat where I’d left it, waiting to be put on hangers and hung in the closet.

How I wanted everything to be perfect when he walked in the door. But alas, real life got in the way.

And guess what? He didn’t care.

He just wanted to be with us. To hear about our week and tell us about his. To snuggle up close and enjoy the evening together.

As I bustled about the kitchen trying to hurry the cooking along, I remembered the story of another woman with whose life I so often relate.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:38-42.

I so get Martha! She loved Jesus and wanted everything to be perfect for Him. That meal in the oven was an expression of her affection. She longed to make Him comfortable, to help Him feel at home.

Yet all Jesus wanted was her.

Her heart, her focus, her devotion – not shown through works done in His name, but through responding to His loving pursuit.

In contrast to restless Martha, there sat Mary — the picture of a quiet heart.

Yeah, there were unfinished chores to be done. But Jesus had arrived, and she had to be near Him.

Serving from a distance just would not do.

If He was sitting in the living room, that’s where Mary wanted to be. If He went to the dining room, you’d find her there. If He walked outside, she’d join Him there, too.

Mary was preoccupied with Jesus.

The Bible mentions this Mary several other times – once at Lazarus’ tomb, where she brought her grief to Jesus just before He raised her brother from the dead, and again at a dinner party, where she anointed His feet with expensive perfume as an act of worship*.

In both scenarios, Mary went where Jesus was. She loved Him and needed Him, so she ran to Him with zero hesitation.

Oh, God, give me such a heart! May I never be content with days full of service yet absent of connection with You. Teach me to cultivate Your presence, both in my “daily quiet times” and in middle of my everyday crazy. servicewithoutconnectoin

How about you? How do you practice the presence of God? In what ways do you cultivate a quiet heart? I’d love to hear – please leave a comment below!

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*John 11:32, John 12:1-3

Knock Knock

Knock Knock


Knock, knock, knock.

Inwardly I cringed just a little. Outside that door, my husband was caring for our kids so I could spend some much-needed time with Jesus before starting the day. I relished the stillness as I quietly sipped my coffee.

But my preschooler was awake and she missed me.

I answered her knock. “Come in.”

All smiles, she opened the door and climbed up on the bed beside me. After a good morning hug and kiss, she said, “Can I stay in here?”

I hesitated, then said, “You’ll have to be quiet. Can you do that?” She promised she would.

Then she noticed the gratefulness journal sitting next to me. She’d seen it before and knew that’s where I record lists of things for which I’m thankful. “Can I write in it?” she queried.

Perfectionism reared its ugly head….

But that’s my journal. I’ve carefully arranged my lists of blessings in orderly columns, each bullet point lining up neatly under the one above. I don’t want four-year-old handwriting to mess it up!

But she wanted to add her own list of blessings. And thankfully, the Holy Spirit within me is stronger than my perfectionism.

I handed her a pen with instructions on where to write. She immediately set to work creating her own gratitude list. The first item on her list was God Himself.

She’s thankful for God.

Me, too. I’m thankful He patiently teaches me that times with Him don’t have to be interruption-free and gratitude lists don’t have to be perfectly formatted.

I’m thankful He set aside heaven’s perfection to enter our untidy, broken world. To walk among us and show us the Father’s heart.

And I’m thankful He’s teaching me to love my kids with His “people over projects” kind of affection.

That quiet time was far from quiet. My journal is no longer perfectly arranged.

But my little one and I remembered to give thanks. Then we knelt by the bed and talked to Jesus together. She caught a glimpse that day of what friendship with God looks like.

At its core, this is what Christian parenting is all about – modeling for our kids the treasure of knowing God and living in sync with Him.

As we seek to carry out this eternal mission, let’s keep the following in mind:

  • Invite them in

When we allow our kids to join our personal prayer times or share something God taught us recently, they see God actively involved in the big and small details of daily life.

  • Choose humility

Inevitably, we’re going to fall short, despite our best intentions and well-laid plans. In those moments, we have the opportunity to humble ourselves and ask their forgiveness, expressing confidence that God is still working on us. Someday, when they’re faced with their own failures and shortcomings, they’ll have our example of how to walk with Jesus through the struggles of life.

  • Love Jesus together

Be intentional about spending time with God together – reading and discussing the Bible, praying for needs as a family, talking about how God’s Word applies to everyday situations we face.

As refreshing as it is to enjoy truly quiet times with God, sometimes He offers the equally beautiful gift of togetherness when our little ones join us in conversing with Him. Eternity exists in those moments. Let’s embrace them and celebrate together the beauty of loving and being loved by God.

Subduing Sin

Subduing Sin

fork-207410_1280By Meredith Mills


Why can’t I just say “no”?

I was a slave, bound by my own desires and cravings. Food was my master and I regularly did its bidding. Hungry or not, it didn’t matter. Delicious food or mediocre, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop myself. I was powerless to change.

And I hated it.

Guilt, shame, even despair, clung to my soul like my kids’ backpacks on the first day of school.

Here’s the crazy thing – I knew Jesus. This isn’t a pre-salvation story. I’d been a Christian for years. I knew the right answers:

  • Christ in me is greater than the evil one (1 John 4:4).
  • I’m more than a conquerer through Jesus who loves me (Romans 8:37).
  • Sin shouldn’t have dominion over me, since I’m living under grace now (Romans 6:14).

But that’s where it stopped – in my head. New year’s resolutions, diets, shaming myself…none of it worked.

Finally, in desperation, I literally cried out to God. I remember two different nights, sobbing on my knees before Him, admitting my helplessness and begging Him to set me free.

And He did.

Not in an instant, but over time. He taught me to think differently and began transforming me on an emotional and spiritual level. I learned to recognize His voice as He talked to my heart, saying things like “You’ve had enough food” or “That’s a healthier choice.”

He satisfied me with Himself as He broke the chains of addictive sin.

And that’s what He’s willing to do in each sin struggle we face.

“You will again have compassion on us, and will subdue all our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depth of the sea” (Micah7:19 NKJV).

He takes captive those things that once held us captive. He makes them subservient to Himself.

animal-18719_1280And He flings those sins into the deepest depths of the ocean.

Kinda takes the sting out of temptation, doesn’t it?

It’s nice to know when we feel like we have to give in, our feelings are lying to us.

If we’re being real, though, we’d probably all admit victory is not an everyday reality. The above story happened years ago and honestly, I still struggle to obey Jesus in the realm of eating, though the addictive hold has been broken. It’s a battle I’ll most likely take with me to the grave. (I think of it as my ever-present reminder that I still need Jesus.)

But I know now that I don’t have to sin.

I know that “freedom to do whatever I want” isn’t true freedom at all.

And I know I want Jesus to be my Master – not self and sin. Jesus is good and kind, unlike the sin that seeks to destroy me. Jesus carries my burdens with me. He equips me for this spiritual battle and doesn’t leave me defenseless or alone.

He never meets me with condemnation, even when I fail, but rather with the mercy that triumphed at Calvary. He is instantly ready to pick me up, to redeem the mess I’ve made and help me move forward.

This life of freedom is a process. We must learn to walk with Jesus, to recognize His voice and trust that His heart for us is good. It takes practice to rely on Him for the strength (and sometimes the desire) we need to step out in faith.

There are no methods that can take the place of relating to Jesus – not even the spiritual disciplines.


Reading my Bible didn’t set me free.

Praying didn’t break sin’s hold on me.

Telling lots of people about Jesus didn’t inoculate me from addictive sin.

Nope. All of those things are empty when we look to them as our source and hope.

The Pharisees did all those things, but they missed Jesus and remained unchanged.

Walking in victory isn’t a matter of mustering the strength to obey or setting up strong enough “fences” to keep us on the straight and narrow. Nothing but an ever-deepening walk with Jesus can transform our hearts.

And yes, that does include the irreplaceable spiritual disciplines mentioned above. These and other disciplines are essential tools for knowing Him. But they are not the source of change – Jesus is.

subdued sinWhat are you facing today? Does a particular sin hold you in its grip? May you find freedom in the nearness of Jesus, in acknowledging your powerlessness and in surrendering anew to the love of Jesus.

In what areas has Jesus set you free? I’d love to hear – please leave a comment below!

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In Search of Treasure

In Search of Treasure

by Meredith Mills


Don’t you love a good treasure hunt?

My tween daughter wanted a detective party for her birthday last year, so my husband planned the treasure hunt to end all birthday party treasure hunts. It was incredible.

mystery-1773200_1280The clues were crazy hard, but the girls embraced the challenge and finally deciphered them all by working together.

One final clue led to the birthday cake, which Hubby also made. (If I’d been in charge of the cake, we’d have picked one up from Costco.) The treasure, a bag of chocolate coins, was hidden inside the cake. (He’d baked a hollow spot into the cake and hidden the coins inside before frosting it.)

The girls had a blast searching for hidden treasure.

I’ve been on my own treasure hunt for the last few years.

During a particularly dark season of life (Confessions of a Good Girl), I realized many of my beliefs about God were flawed. Though I loved Him deeply, my life was driven by duty and ruled by fear. I desperately needed the rest to which Jesus invites us (Matthew 11:28-30).

Using a journal and my Bible (ok, actually I use my Bible app), I began recording everything God reveals about Himself in the passages I read during my daily Bible time. I’ve been doing this for about three years now, making notes about His actions and reactions, His promises and the names by which He describes Himself.

What I’ve learned has thrilled my soul and deepened my love for Him. Jesus is unlike any treasure earth can offer.

Here’s a verse I read recently:

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

A person’s names reveal various attributes of that person.

For example, when I say that my name is Meredith, you learn very little about me. But if I tell you that I’m also called Wife and Mom, Daughter and Sister, writer, reader, singer and traveler, coffee-drinker and chocolate-lover…you know a bit more about me.

So it is with our God.

Many people call their objects of worship god. What sets our God apart? His names help us answer that question.

He is the Most High, the Creator, the Lover of our soul, the Good Shepherd, the Father of the fatherless and Husband to the widow…

His various names minister to us in different ways as we walk through life. By faith, we can cling to God’s specific names and find security.

This looks different from one day to the next and from one season to another. Here are some examples of what it looks like in my life:

  • My husband is self-employed. Traditionally, summer is the slowest time of the year for us. One summer, work was scarce and money was tight. But bills were still due, so I ran to our Provider with a very specific request. The next day, He came through, miraculously meeting our needs.
  • Several years ago, I experienced a miscarriage. As I walked through that painful time, I relied on God to be my Healer. He brought both physical and emotional restoration.
  • Today, as I write, I’m asking my all-wise Creator for wisdom and creativity.
  • In a few days, we’ll begin another year of homeschooling. I’ll seek the Teacher to instruct me on how best to teach my kids.

Whatever you’re facing today, whatever you’ll face tomorrow and next year, God’s name is a strong tower, a hiding place of refuge and protection from the storms that assail. strong tower

Which name of God is your strong tower today? Please comment below – I’d love to hear! Let’s get to know Him better together!

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The Gardener

The Gardener

I have a garden this year. vegetable-garden-768342_1280

I love saying that. It feels so…earthy. So…natural. So…not me.

You see, I’m not really a gardener.

I want to be. I try to be. But I get a bit lost when plants don’t just…grow. I put the seeds in the ground, so now they should do their thing. Right? But when bugs invade or plants start dying, I don’t always put up a fight.

This year, however, I’m determined. I’m going to figure this cultivating thing out.

Last night I spent some time working in my garden – pulling weeds, pruning rogue cucumber plants, transplanting mint to improve its chance for survival. It was sweaty, prickly work. But it felt so good.

And then I saw it – a bunch of tiny green tomatoes growing in the middle of the tomato cage. I was so excited to see the plant I’ve been tending start to bear fruit.

It’s small, so far from ripe. But it’s fruit, nonetheless. It’s progress, the promise of more to come. And it thrills me.

God the GardenerAs I looked at those itty bitty tomatoes, it struck me that maybe God feels a similar joy over us. When He sees us growing, does His heart burst with happiness?

Sometimes I get so impatient with myself.

Surely I should be producing lots of mature fruit by now. I’ve known Jesus for so long, why am I not bursting with the fruit of His Spirit? Why, oh why, do I struggle with the same old sins? Why am I not more grown up in my faith? Why do I doubt? Why do I get irritable or angry with those I love?

Do you ever feel that way? Ashamed of yourself for not being…better? More productive? More mature? Closer to perfect?

And like the scorching sun on a mid-summer day, condemnation threatens to wither the fruit that’s growing, be it ever-so-slowly, in our lives.

I don’t think God looks at us that way. In fact, for those with faith in His Son, He declared us free from condemnation (Romans 8:1).

Like a patient gardener rejoicing over not-yet-ripe fruit, I believe God is okay with the process. More than okay, I think He’s excited to see us growing, responding to His master touch.

No gardener expects ripe fruit the same day the seeds are planted. There’s a whole season of tending yet to be done. plant-1474807_1280

In the garden of our hearts, our God is all about the process. Because, unlike me with my tomato plants, there’s a relationship being cultivated. In the tending – the daily watering, the pruning and pulling of weeds – we get to know the Gardener.

What do you think? How does the Gardener tend the soil of your soul? What are you learning about Him in the process? Please comment below! Let’s get to know Him better together!

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