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Faith Over Fear

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Faith Over Fear. Over the last couple of years that phrase has been a mantra for several believers in the Christian community. I recently used it while visiting an eye doctor. 

Just to give you a little bit of background, a few months ago during a routine visit with my optometrist, my eye pressure was “through the roof.”  Panicked, she exclaimed, “You need to see an  ophthalmologist right away; you have glaucoma.” Following her instructions I made the appointment (I had to wait a couple months – you all know how that goes). I also did what I normally do when I have a “concern.”  I reached out to my inner circle and asked for prayer. I say “normally” because I recently shared a situation where I did not ask for prayer.  https://nextlevelmoms.org/2022/02/28/i-didnt-even-pray-about-it-but-he-heard-me/

When I finally saw the ophthalmologist, my pressure was just slightly lower. He performed 8 million tests (maybe that is a slight exaggeration). After all those tests and being there for more than five hours, he came to the conclusion that nothing was really wrong with me other than a slightly elevated eye pressure. He prescribed eye drops to be taken at bedtime. Being a good patient and someone who “trusts” doctors, I took my medicine. 

Bear with me while I continue this eye saga. Fast forward a couple more months to my kids’ annual eye checkups. I ask their ophthalmologist about their eye pressure. He said, “It’s fine. Why do you ask?” I explained about my recent high reading. “Wait a minute,” he said, “that doesn’t necessarily mean you have glaucoma. There are two or three other factors that would have to be present.  Taking eye drops for the rest of your life is not necessarily good, unless you know you have glaucoma.” He suggested that I see glaucoma specialist. Again being a good patient and “trusting” the doctor, I took that to heart, I researched online, and found a glaucoma specialist that same day.

I waited four weeks to see the specialist.  During that visit they conducted several tests, including eye pressure — which was lower — because I had been taking drops. By the end of the examination the specialist came to the conclusion that I have a thick cornea (which is my normal). He explained, “If you have a thick cornea, it is hard to accurately measure eye pressure. Your pressure may be normal.” He continued, “Some personality types would say, ‘Keep me on the drops just in case because they want to be sure or are fearful.’” To which I responded, “Faith Over Fear. I am going to trust that you went to school for this and you are a specialist.” Oh my goodness. He looked at me and he said, “Faith over fear? I’ve never heard that before. Did you make that up?” With a smile I responded, “No. I am pretty sure Jesus came up with that!” And y’all – he wrote it down on my chart! 

Could it be … all this for him to hear those three words? I do not have the gift of evangelism but at that moment I felt like I was Billy Graham bringing the Good News. I will be praying for my glaucoma specialist. You can bet on that. I will have faith that not one part of this eye drama was a waste of time. But rather, trusting that God uses anything and everything and believing in Faith Over Fear.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 ESV 

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

I Didn’t Even Pray About It, but He Heard Me

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Have you ever had a situation that really concerned you? Something that you didn’t know what to do about it? You thought, “How am I going to handle this?” 

Recently God came through for me in a big way for something that I needed a solution. Honestly I hadn’t prayed about it. I talked about it with my husband, I talked about it with a couple of my friends, but I didn’t actually pray about it. Yet… God heard me. 

I say this to my kids all the time, “God hears you and He sees you.” Well, He sees me and hears me too. This reminds me of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, who were sent away by Abraham.

Genesis 21:17-19 “God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” For context, read the entire passage here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=genesis%2021:8-21&version=NIV

The passage doesn’t say if Hagar prayed or if Ishmael prayed. It simply states that Hagar was so distraught that “she put the boy under one of the bushes” (Genesis 21:15).  Hagar could not bear to watch her son die. My situation was not as dire as Hagar’s, but it did have to deal with my child and I was concerned. 

Oh, by no means am I saying, “Don’t pray. God will work it out.” Please pray! If you haven’t yet, I encourage to read our blog post “Watch and Pray” at https://nextlevelmoms.org/2022/01/31/watch-and-pray/. I’m just saying — He hears us and sees us! 

I don’t mean to keep you hanging or be “cryptic” about what God “solved for me.”  Basically, two years ago I started homeschooling, but that’s a whole other blog. We attend a great university model program, but from my perspective it seemed there was a “gap” in the middle school English classes. For a year, I researched how to fill this gap (I really did not want to do an online program). I feel a tremendous responsibility in educating my children, so this English “issue” was really weighing on me. As I said earlier, I talked about this with my husband, my homeschool mom friends, and even my sweet middle school girl! At a social gathering I even whispered to my daughter’s English teacher from last year, “We need another middle school English class!”. But y’all – I never prayed about it. Don’t ask me why. I mean… I pray about getting a spot in front at the grocery store. When I go to HomeGoods I pray about being successful in finding the perfect bookcase. Get the picture? But, not this English class problem. 

But. God. Only Him. As I spoke to my daughter’s current English teacher about a question I had, she brought up in the course of the conversation that she thought there was a gap in the middle school English classes! What the what?! In fact, she and the director of the program talked about it last year. When we were wrapping up, she encouraged me to do what I should have been doing all along — pray

I am sure you can guess how this ends. Yes. There will be a middle school English class added and this sweet teacher is willing to teach it. Hallelujah! 

Again, I am not saying, “Don’t pray.” I AM saying that just like He saw Hagar and Ishmael … He sees and hears is too.

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

Watch and Pray

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Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41 NKJV

When I read Matthew 26:40-41, it’s hard for me to imagine that Peter would not listen and obey Jesus. Then I think, “Am I so different?” Do I always pray when the Lord leads me or when circumstances around me demand prayer? This verse took me back six years ago when my daughter entered her teen years. During this season in my life, I had a deep desire to take steps to really change my prayer life with the Lord. I wanted to be intentional with my prayer walk as my children were entering critical years where they would be exposed to many voices. My prayer was that the voice of Jesus would be the loudest in their life. 

I entered a commitment that my days would have many moments of prayer. As I embarked on this journey, I was prompted to ask myself this question, “When my children look at me and my life, do they say ‘My mom is a Jesus follower?'”

The Lord was telling me to watch my steps before them and examine whether my walk with Him was aligned with His words. When you have teenagers (or really kids of any age), they pay more attention to how you act than what you say. They constantly question whether your words match your actions. In your prayer walk with the Lord, lead with asking God to show you where in your life as a mom you need to be more authentic and transparent. It’s easier to look outward and get distracted by the wrongdoing of our kids, than pay attention to ourselves and whether we are walking in the Spirit or flesh.

Who are you watching, and what are you praying for?    

Prayer is surrendering our thoughts and feelings, allowing the Spirit to transform us. Prayer sharpens our senses, molds our heart, and unravels the truth so that we can adapt to the circumstances. 

As we rely on the Lord, He will show us how to parent as He parents us with mercy, grace, and unconditional love. This type of parenting evolves from our personal relationship, daily walk, and worship of the Lord. Every time I choose to chart my own course rather than leaning into His wisdom, I am impulsive in my responses. Or worse, I get caught up in a parenting fad. Parents can experience peer pressure as intensely as teens. In my daily conversations with parents, I always ask them, “Where did you get this advice?” I always get the same response, “From another parent.” I am by no means suggesting that we should not listen to peer advice; just proceed with caution. Watching ourselves closely will also show how our children may be different or similar. 

When I find myself upset or emotional about something in my children’s lives, one habit that has served me well is pausing to pray and share my concerns, fear, burdens, or hurt with the Lord. A new perspective comes from that prayer, allowing me to share my concerns with them in a different tone and insight. This is the verse that I use to prompt me to seek the Lord in my parenting journey: 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 NIV

In my life, my dependency on prayer has been transformative in my relationship with my children. Often we hear that children do not come with an instruction manual. I disagree. We have unlimited access to our Father that can lead, equip and show us to parent as He parents us. 

Here is a prayer I often pray for my children. Please take and use it as your own:

Lord, redirect my eyes, heart, and mind to you. Open my eyes to my child’s needs. Lord, prompt my Spirit when a necessity in their life requires divine intervention. Give me the courage to surrender to you those matters in their life that require your power. Remind me of your unconditional love, grace, and mercy for all your children. 

Watch and see all the Lord will do through your prayers!

Ana Anselma is founder of the Social Mind Center providing cognitive-based intervention to equip children and families with social communication skills to connect with peers and build relationships for life. Ana coaches and trains parents to be their child’s most influential advocate. She is married to Jon and has two teenagers Gabriela and Nicholas. Her greatest joy is her family and parenting both of her children.

Make sure to check out the Social Mind Center website: http://socialmindcenter.com

A Special Christmas Blog

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The words penned by Nancy W. Gavin in “For The Man Who Hated Christmas” sum up my heart for Christmas. More importantly this story challenges me to do a “white envelope” this year not just for the recipients of the gift, or my family but also as an expression of the gratitude for the goodness that comes from knowing the Savior of the World!
May it inspire and challenge you too!

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

“For the Man Who Hated Christmas”

By Nancy W. Gavin

It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas–oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it–overspending… the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears.

It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids – all kids – and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition–one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.

You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.

To learn more about honoring a loved one through this special tradition, please visit www.WhiteEnvelopeProject.org

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. The story inspired a family from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving101, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.

Why Do We Observe Thanksgiving?

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Late this summer I had the privilege of traveling through Central Europe. While sightseeing in several beautiful cities, local guides escorted us to a monument, a statue or a church and referred to it as a “thanksgiving memorial” while recounting its accompanying history. The memorials often commemorated a plague, an invasion, a great national victory or an impactful person in that location and culture. Most of the thanksgiving memorials pertained to events that affected the whole population of a nation or region.

As I listened to the historical accounts of great tragedy and victory and saw the effort and expense communities took to create a thanksgiving memorial, I thought about the power of such an act. Decades and centuries later, people are still viewing the monuments, reading the dedicatory inscriptions and hearing the history of WHY this particular piece of architecture, sculpture or artwork was created. Why was it important, after an intense season or event, to create a memorial expressing thanksgiving? While enjoying the beautiful edifices, I wondered if people today approach memorials with gratitude to God for His work in the events of mankind.

The Bible gives us several precedents for these kinds of memorials and their purpose. In the book of Joshua, the people of Israel needed to cross a large river with thousands of families including children, babies, animals, a worship tent and all of its holy articles, with priests and banners for each family tribe to follow. The massive crossing promised to be a daunting undertaking.

As the Israelites began their crossing, God graciously and miraculously pushed back the river’s flow to allow millions of people to walk across on dry ground. God literally ushered the twelve Hebrew tribes across a riverbed and into their new homeland with dry feet! As part of this dramatic event, God told Joshua that each tribe’s leader should collect a boulder from the riverbed and bring it out of the river with them. Joshua assembled the twelve stones into a thanksgiving memorial in a place named Gilgal. He spoke these words of instruction about the memorial:

“In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over… This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty and so that you may always fear the Lord you God.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible, Joshua 4:21-24)

As Joshua commemorated this event that would become a pivotal part of the nation’s history, he explained why there was a memorial built in Gilgal. The memorial would provoke future generations, who did not personally experience this miraculous crossing, to ask about the significance of the memorial. The memorial would give opportunity for God’s blessing story to be told to those who saw the memorial decades and centuries later.

Most memorials carry a story of loss and suffering but also a story of God’s help, perseverance, and survival through difficulty. Joshua’s memorial in Gilgal followed forty frustrating years of travel to this new homeland and the death of an entire generation before they safely crossed the Jordan River. Memorials can bring hope to those who are facing difficulties and challenges because the memorial’s presence recalls God’s faithfulness in times past.

America’s Thanksgiving holiday memorializes the history of Europeans coming to North America in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. Over half of the Plymouth pilgrims did not survive the voyage and first winter in Massachusetts. Suffering and death was a constant companion of these families. Yet, a year after landing at New Plymouth, their first harvest festival was purposed to give thanks to God for a good harvest before the winter, due to the aid and goodwill of Native Americans who taught them how to survive. Thanksgiving was named a permanent holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Our memorial is a day set aside for giving thanks to God for His blessings in our land, reflecting back to the pre-colonial days of William Bradford, Samoset and Squanto. Such a significant meaning should be remembered and practiced on Thanksgiving for it is far more than a day of favorite foods, family, friends, parades and football. It is important to recall God’s goodness, even in difficult seasons, and to express our thanksgiving in the presence of our children, our loved ones and our God, being certain that we have not forgotten Him, His grace and His blessings.

In Joshua 4:7 the Hebrew word for “memorial” is translated into English with several similar words and meanings. The translations are:

  • A memorial
  • A sign
  • Something to mark the occasion
  • A reminder
  • A record
  • A memento or memorable thing, day or writing
  • (And if I could take license to add a word to this list, it would be “a witness”)

Thanksgiving 2021 will occur almost two years after the beginning of a world wide pandemic. Many have suffered, a multitude has died and the amount of stress and suffering is incalculable. Yet, God has sovereignly overseen humanity through it all. We have an opportunity as families to create a memorial to thank God for how He has walked alongside us, especially in the dark times of Covid-19.

Can I challenge us to create personal Thanksgiving Memorials this year? Use the words above to help your family memorialize gratitude to God for who He is. And WHY is this important? In the words of Joshua, “This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty and so that you may always *fear the Lord you God.” The HCS Bible explains *fear the Lord your God as, “No single English word conveys every aspect of the word fear in this phrase. The meaning includes worshipful submission, reverential awe, and obedient respect to the God of Israel.”

Our thanksgiving memorials can be a perpetual witness that God is good, powerful, omnipotent and faithful to the people of the earth and that we can trust Him and worship, revere, respect and obey Him. Our prayer at Next Level Moms is that Thanksgiving 2021 is a blessed and meaningful memorial for you and yours!

A final note. An excellent children’s book about God’s sovereignty and Thanksgiving is Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving authored by Eric Metaxes, published by Thomas Nelson.

Cynthia Thompson enjoys living in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, Larry. They have two daughters, two sons-in-love and two grandsons. She loves prayer journeys, coffee with friends, and mentoring early career pastors and their wives.

Becoming a Waymaker

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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

I think we are all collectively ready for a “new thing” in our world. You may be a mom of a little and you are ready for a new season of toddlerhood. You may be suffering loss incomparable right now and you need a stream of water running through your wasteland to sustain you. Drink deeply of this passage, let this living water sustain you. He will meet you right where you are this very moment and fill you. And after you are filled, get ready. He has plans for you! 

As a Missions Minister I have the privilege of hearing firsthand stories of God making paths in the wilderness all over the world. I’d like to share one of those stories with you today from Moldova. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. A young Moldavian woman named Victoria became a nurse to make a difference in her village. To make enough money to support her family, Victoria got a nursing job in England. She would travel to England and work for 6-8 weeks at a time, then return home to Moldova to see her family. She became increasingly aware of the discrepancies in care that those with disabilities received in England and Moldova. Moldova lacked resources like wheelchairs and walkers. The disabled people in her village were left alone to sit with little hope of living a “normal” life. During one of her stints in England, Victoria noticed that the hospital was throwing away used and “worn out” equipment for the disabled. Victoria approached the hospital management and asked if she could have the equipment for the disabled in her village. She was denied because the hospital insisted the equipment must be thrown away. Victoria prayed for God to make a way. She thought she had found the perfect solution, but she was met with an impossible obstacle. Then Victoria did what any Waymaker would do. She obtained a waste removal license! Now the hospital in England paid her to come and pick up the very same equipment she had requested! She then used the money to have the equipment delivered to the neediest in the villages in Moldova. 

I love this story because it clearly shows how God provides and how He makes a way, but it also distinctly reveals God’s plans to use us, His image-bearers, as Waymakers. My prayer for us is that God would open our eyes to what He is doing around us and help us press into our circumstances to be the Waymakers He’s called us to be!

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.

Jesus Is Always Running With My Kids!

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Wannabe Omnipresent.” It’s an interesting term, don’t you think? It’s the title of chapter three in a book I am currently reading, Surrender Your Junior God Badge by Jackie Kendall. It is a great read. And that’s coming from someone whose first choice of a downtime activity is not reading.  But this past summer, the Lord convicted me that if I was going to be used by Him on any sort of level in our ministry — that I need to read more. Therefore, I made a commitment to read 15 minutes every day. 

I found this particular chapter so encouraging. Let me give you some background. My son is a competitive runner and there is nothing that I love to do more than to watch him run, especially when he runs really well. Last fall, I missed his best race of his freshman year (in my opinion — he might say differently). It was his regional meet and he out-sprinted two seniors in the last 800 meters of the 5K course. My husband caught a portion of last few seconds on video, so I was able see it over and over and over again. But there was this part of me that was sad that I missed it live. 

You see, I always try to go to his meets. But that particular race was rescheduled. Since the date was originally “open” on the calendar, I planned a retreat with some amazing moms that had just finished a study together. When I received the email from the coach with the new date, I felt I could not miss the retreat. Almost all of the women could go, and God had laid out the weekend retreat plans so perfectly. I made the decision to miss the meet and attend the retreat. My son was “OK” that I would not be able to be there for him. He understood the situation. It turned out to be an amazing retreat.  One that I won’t soon forget. Yet, there was a small ache that I missed that meet. 

I am so thankful for this chapter in the book because it’s shown me that I cannot be nor should I be a “Wannabe Omnipresent”  mom in my children’s lives. There are going to be scheduling conflicts with what God has for me and what God has for them.

Mamas, there is freedom in knowing that you don’t have to be omnipresent because Jesus is Omnipresent. He’s the only one that can do it all … perfectly.  “God doesn’t miss a thing — He’s alert to good and evil alike.” Proverbs 15:3 – The Message

Sometimes, I think the Lord gave my kids a love for cross country to help me in a practical manner to realize I cannot be omnipresent. You see, cross country is not like other sports where they play on a basketball court, football field, or a baseball field. In cross country most of the time you don’t see them. You can’t help but wonder are they OK? Are they in first place? Are they last? It has been great training ground for me to experience that Jesus is always “running” with them! Be encouraged. Jesus is with your kids too whether they are in school, at a friend’s house, or off to college. He is with them. This is not an occasion to slack off on parental duties (it’s our job to keep tabs on them), but it is an invitation to peace.

I encourage you to read Jackie’s book. I have no doubt it will speak to you too. 

Get your copy:

Surrender Your Junior God Badge: Every Woman’s Battle with Control

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

Back to School

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New backpacks, a fresh box of crayons, the perfect “first day of school outfit,” 999 pre-sharpened (by me, because I refuse to pay the upcharge for letting the factory sharpen them) pencils. Sometimes getting my four kiddos ready for back to school can be overwhelming, but mostly I absolutely LOVE it! I love checking off the supply lists (who doesn’t love checking off items on a list?!). I relish the feeling of accomplishment. There is pure joy in setting my children up for success for that first day. Even as I take a step back, I feel an amazing peace knowing that I am doing everything I can to give my child the best education. I pray for them to form lasting, godly friendships. I trust that these early years in school will ultimately provide them with a foundation that will result in them making a difference in the world for Jesus. 

I have a feeling this is how God feels about us as His children. He provides us with EVERYTHING we need. He places us in the ideal environments for growth. He sets us up for success in every possible way so that our lives matter! He is not interested in us leaving our own mark of fame, but He gives us lives that point people to Him, the only one worthy of fame and glory! Don’t take my word for it. Read what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 23:1-3:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

He makes me lie down in green pastures. 

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

So, we’re all set! Our kids are ready for school, and we are firmly established in the plans God has for each of us while they are in school. There’s nothing left to do… but worry. We had everything ALL planned out, then the roughest, most aggressive kid in school has an assigned seat next to your child. Or your child is broken-hearted because her best friend is in another class and now, they’ll NEVER see each other. Or “Meet the Teacher” left you discouraged rather than hopeful. And even if none of those situations happen, we are still sending our kids back to school in the middle of a pandemic! There is plenty of worry to go around. There is plenty of reason to hold tightly to our fears and concerns. Here is how the psalmist continued in Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…”. This is our peace; the Lord is with us and He’s with our kids. 

As your kids head back to school with backpacks full and lovingly packed lunchboxes, pray over them. Trust the Lord. He is going with them! 

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.

Mommas, It’s Your Summer Too!

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Summertime is my favorite time of year, in fact, I think the most wonderful time of the year. I love taking a break from the routine of school, homework, and the daily grind. Since we started homeschooling last fall (that’s a whole other topic) we have had an extra month of summer! Whoa!

We recently posted a blog entitled “Eighteen Summers,” written by Kristen Peterson (make sure you check it out https://nextlevelmoms.org/2021/05/19/eighteen-summers/ ). Kristen stresses the importance of making every summer with our kids count. I could not agree more!  As the saying goes, “The days are long but the years are short.”  Summer is the perfect opportunity to really “cram in” fun, memories, and adventures. 

It’s also a great time as moms to refresh ourselves by taking longer devotional times, reading inspiring faith-based books or even doing a summertime Bible study. These are all good things. But lately they are not enough. I have to be honest, too often I find myself saying, “I need a break!” My daily “time-outs” are not enough either. 

When I have reached the point that I’m feeling and expressing out loud to my family (and sometimes not in the nicest way) my need for a break, it’s really past the point of a daily “time out.” I need something more. It’s time to intentionally apply my word for the year…”Refresh.” I make it a priority and I cannot feel guilty about it. 

In addition to soaking up great family time this summer, I purposefully prioritize restoring moments for myself. I wish I could say to you that I am an expert at this and have all the answers. The truth is – I am not. Many moms out there are great at this, but me, not so much.

Here are some of the changes I am implementing to take the pressure and stress off: 

1. More Prayer: When I connect with the Lord longer in prayer, I cannot help but feel more empowered. Side note to moms of littles: Praying throughout the day instead of one long block in the morning can be life saving when you are constantly on the move and still haven’t even found time to take a quiet shower. 

2. Less News, a Lot Less: I figure if it’s something I really need to know, then social media, family or friends will tell me.

3. More Adventure: For instance, I now choose to go into the pool versus just sitting by it. I make it a priority to see the sunset when visiting friends that live by the beach. Oh, and I now try new foods, since I am not super adventurous when it comes to ethnic cuisine. 

4. Less Kid-Centric Time: This is the most important one for me. Whether with my husband or a dear friend, I need to enjoy meals with no bickering at the table! Can I get an Amen?!

I am a work in progress when it comes to “Me Time” because I am a recovering overachiever and perfectionist. When these tendencies cross over into my parenting, it’s not healthy. A change is well overdue. If you are good at this I applaud you, but if you are not, let’s do this together!

I encourage you to refresh. Create more time to commune with God throughout your day, unplug, dive into new experiences, have breakfast with a friend, or if possible take a one or two day getaway. Maybe your list will look a lot different than mine. Pray and ask Jesus to help you make your list. After all, it’s your summer too! 

Faye Morgan, founder of Next Level Moms, has been involved in women’s ministry for more than 20 years. Her heartbeat is to connect, inspire and equip moms to a more fulfilling mom life.  She lives in South Florida with her husband Scott and enjoys being the mom of 2 competitive long distance runners, having lunch with friends, and watching movies in her spare time. 

It’s Just a Bird

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Today I want to share a story with you from my time as a missionary in Burkina Faso, West Africa:

As I sat with a group of children who came to visit, Sarata, a sweet, five year old little girl, joined us with a new found treasure in her hand.  She carefully sat down and revealed a tiny, baby bird nestled in the palm of her little hand.  It was so precious, but immediately my heart was sad because I knew it would die without its mother.  Since it was too late to help, I kept quiet and let Sarata enjoy her pet while it was alive. 

To my horror all of the children started throwing it around, pulling its wings, and torturing it.  I couldn’t stand it any longer.  With tears coming, I commanded the children to stop before they killed the innocent creature.  They looked at me like I was crazy and replied, “It’s just a bird.”.  “Just a bird?” I replied, “God loves that little bird!”.  Seeing that I was serious, Sarata took her little bird and left.  I felt proud of myself for saving the bird from further suffering.  That warm fuzzy feeling ended abruptly a few minutes later when Sarata returned with the baby bird in her hand.  This time she wasn’t stroking its feathers, she was pulling the roasted meat off of its wings and eating it with great delight.  My face spoke before I could hide it, and the children reminded me, “It’s just a bird.”.

My background and experience was screaming for me to advocate for that baby bird, but the reality was that Sarata had probably not eaten meat in months. Even though I never considered eating a baby bird, for Sarata this made perfect sense. I wonder how many times we as mothers see our children’s behavior and quickly scold to correct rather than ask questions and try to see the situation from their perspective? 

At my house I experience plenty of opportunities to practice the discipline of looking deeper. One major time is right before bedtime (especially if bed time has been pushed back because of ballgames). Often one of my kids will get angry and insist that they don’t want to read a book together and do not want to do our special five minutes of cuddle time and prayers. I could say, “Fine, there are three other kids waiting for their bedtime stories and cuddles, so you can go to bed by yourself.” Or I could give them some space and circle back around to that child and ask what’s really going on. Often being so tired means feelings get hurt easily and something has upset the child that is easy to work though if I take the opportunity to look beyond the surface behavior and try to get to the heart of the issue. 

James, the brother of Jesus, encouraged believers, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). This is a verse we need to take God up on! As mamas we need all the wisdom we can get and God promises to give us this wisdom GENEROUSLY! I’m praying for you today. I pray that you will come to the place that you long for God’s wisdom. Today’s top parenting experts and child psychologists cannot compare with the wisdom God can provide. Do your research and due diligence. Absolutely! But rely on the Holy Spirit to help you know how to parent YOUR child. God is FOR you. He sees you. He loves you. And He will equip you with everything you need to parent your child. 

Heather Carlton After being a missionary in Africa and South Korea, Heather Carlton is now a writer and speaker at women’s events. Her passion is to see women empowered, equipped, and mobilized to serve where they are and to the uttermost parts of the world. Heather lives in Saint Augustine, Florida, with her husband and four children (ages 5,7,9, and 11).  They are a beach family that loves surfing, paddle boarding, and life on the marsh.