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On Ministry, Faithfulness & Focusing

A New Ministry
In January of 2016, my sister-in-law and I embarked on a new ministry for moms. Our hope was to see God use our voices and conversations to reach moms with Gospel-minded encouragement. We saw our brokenness, imperfection, and inadequacy for the task, but by faith, we hit "record" week after week. In short discussions, we began to tackle the topics impacting our everyday lives - potty training, mom uniforms, messy houses, anxiety, birth experiences, and more. We did all of this without knowing what this ministry would need from our lives and hearts, or even how long it would remain beneficial for others.

By God's grace, this week we will release our 38th episode in 2016, with steadily growing listenership month after month. We are beyond humbled and amazed as we've expanded from just a podcast to a website, along with multiple social media platforms. What we've discovered is a group of moms who are also eager and hungry - even desperate - alongside us. Who can't sweep up another mess from under the table, or wipe another bottom, or be awake another hour in the night, without drinking the life-giving water that Jesus offers.

We are overwhelmed with joy to be behind a mission that so many others want to be part of: Motherhood in light of the gospel. 
Motherhood in God's way for God's glory. 
Motherhood in light of our eternal hope. 

Desiring Faithfulness 
All of this has been a cause for rejoicing, but it's also been a cause for change in the way I approach ministry in this season. With faithfulness to the gospel as my ultimate goal, I'm starting to close doors (knowing I can't effectively disciple others when I'm spread painfully thin).

So in August of 2016, I snuck away for a couple of days to be alone with the Lord and better understand what this next season looks like in terms of my outside-of-the-home ministry investments. Some conclusions were unsurprising (i.e. my relationship with God and personal growth must come first, and being faithful at home is of the utmost importance). But a couple of changes also came to the forefront:

  • God has laid on my heart a greater desire for ministry in the local church. Although my capacity will vary from season to season, I want to make sure I'm not so slammed with other things that I can't say "yes" as God leads. The body needs my gifts, and I desperately need the local body!
  • God has also laid on my heart the pressing need for my personal engagement in discipleship and evangelism within my own community. While the internet has opened up incredible opportunities for ministry, it has also become an easy place to hide. In some ways, typing behind a glowing screen can be easier for me than loving on our adopted-college student or talking to the mom in the waiting room at the doctor's office. I hope that my online ministries never become an excuse to neglect flesh-and-blood gospel ministry.
  • Finally, God has laid on my heart a desire to be "all in" with Risen Motherhood!!! For many months, I was trying to juggle many personal social media accounts along with my blog, my blog's social media platforms, and all things Risen Motherhood. I knew this level of complexity was unsustainable with a house full of little ones, but it was hard to let go of something I'd invested time in for so many years. But as soon as I made the decision, it was a huge burden lifted! I'm so excited to move forward with Risen Motherhood, and invest my efforts there with an undivided heart.

Finding Focus
So with all of that being said - it's not farewell, but "come find me over here!"

Here's where you can find me:
  • PODCASTING weekly at Risen Motherhood: Check-out the website to see the archives, keep up-to-date with new shows, and connect with us on social media.
  • MICRO-BLOGGING & CREATING STORIES on @Risenmotherhood's instagram: For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, micro-blogging is exactly what it sounds like...mini-posts! These are much faster for me to churn out, and still exercise the writing muscle. 
  • CURATING CONTENT & CREATING VIDEOS for Risen Motherhood: On both Facebook and Twitter, Laura and I are regularly sharing our favorite resources for motherhood and even occasionally do a live video to supplement the podcasts.
  • CONTRIBUTING CONTENT to other websites: As I have time, I hope to continue contributing original articles to other websites. I'll keep all of that up-to-date on my "Other Writing" page!
Here's what's changing:
  • For the foreseeable future, I won't be updating this blog (Emily Jensen Writes). I'll keep the archives for reference, and a the website as a landing zone for those who want to know where I'm producing new content!
  • I'll also be letting my "Emily Jensen Writes" social media profiles go dormant. You can interact with me on social media through Risen Motherhood, or if you know me (online or in person), feel free to friend request me on FB / Instagram! 
Thanks for all your support, and I look forward to interacting with you through Risen Motherhood!


*headshot courtesy of Libby Assay Studio

When You Just Want Your Kids to Leave You Alone

I've been there.
Recently, I was trying to complete a few meager chores (namely cleaning up from breakfast before it was time for lunch), when my three oldest boys broke into a fight. I heard shrill screams and offensive banter through the kitchen window, and whipped my head up to see what the commotion was all about. You know what it was? Worms. They were having a verbal sparring match over who was holding the longest worm.

After I dealt with the worm incident, the breakfast mess was still calling my name. But I didn't get more than three steps closer to the sink before muddy feet pushed their way through the door to tell me something else that was absolutely urgent.  Okay, hold on again dishes. Looks like I'm not ready for you yet. Nearly twenty minutes later, I was still responding to issue after issue.
This is the stuff that makes me want to mutter, "Why can't you guys just leave me alone?"

These "interrupting" moments make up more than just late-morning sibling rivalries. It's the feeling of laying your head on your pillow, snuggling in perfectly after an exhausting day, only to hear a piercing cry the exact moment you close your eyes. It's the way you suddenly have magnets on your knees when the phone rings and you actually need to have an adult conversation for less than two minutes. It's when you just want to use the bathroom in peace without hearing something fall over in the other room.
I just want to get my clothes changed.
I just want to talk.
I just want to finish this one thing.
Why won't you just leave me alone?!!

But do we really want our children to leave us alone? Not exactly. We just want some healthy space. The lack of which drives us to irrational comments and extreme emotions.

Did Jesus want children to leave him alone?
Jesus experienced similar needs and demands. Throughout most of his ministry, he had people following him around with odd bodily functions and illnesses. People who demanded his attention at that very moment. People who pleaded for him to touch them, hear them, and heal them as soon as possible. While he did go to a quiet place to retreat to commune with his Father in prayer, he still engaged the crowds.

And one day, we have on record that Jesus' disciples were standing around as children approached. Loud, pushing, worm-fighting, task-interrupting children. Just how he loves them.

His disciples responded exactly how I would have. "No. Leave Jesus alone. He is busy and you are being an annoyance." (my paraphrase) But that wasn't Jesus' response.  In fact, the disciples made him indignant. He said "Let the little children come to me. Do not forbid them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14)

Jesus gets something that we don't. It's not the task masters, the strivers, the controllers, and the prideful adult spirits that dwell with him forever. It's the needy, the dependent, the cling-on's, and the childlike. It's the ones that can't leave him alone that ultimately come with him.

Who we worship determines who we welcome
If we worship ourselves, our task list, our comfort, our quiet, our needs, and our control, we will demand to be left alone. We will take it up as our right, because our goals are not rooted in a desire to shape hearts for the glory of God. Our goals are rooted in a need for temporal relief.

So I still understand the desire to use the bathroom without the fear of a domestic war breaking out. It's okay to expect your children to do something productive and patient while you use the phone. But let us be cautions in our murmuring about being "left alone." Let us hear the hard-hearted sound of the phrase "leave me alone,"  and exchange it for "come to me." In this we image Jesus, we honor him, and we point our little ones to the cross.

For a look at how we can disciple and bless our children as we train them to wait patiently, contribute, and play independently - read this

Speak the Truth in Spite of You Fears

After I finished recording that morning's episode of Risen Motherhood, I felt the all too familiar feelings of fear. My stomach was in knots, and my thoughts ran wild with phrases like,

  • "You said the wrong things."
  • "This is a stupid project."
  • "You don't know what you're talking about, and people are going to hear that."
  • "You should be embarrassed."
  • "No one wants to hear this."

When this first started happening years ago (around the time that I started writing more gospel-centered content on my blog), it took a while to get used to. But now I know that whenever I'm in the heat of pouring out truth about Christ and giving glory to God, I'm also going to experience a string of lies, attacking that desire. There is a real spiritual battle happening that I can't see, and a real enemy that wants me to talk about anything but the good news of Jesus Christ.

However, knowing this is going to happen and having the strength to resist it, are two different things! On too many occasions, I've let fears, accusations, and hesitations keep me from sharing things (in person and online) that might have encouraged someone to look to Jesus. I'm confident these experiences aren't unique to me.

Maybe you can recall a time when you wanted to speak boldly about the gospel, and you stopped yourself out of fear...
Maybe you have friends or family members who you would like to disciple more intentionally, but your insecurity gets the best of you...
Maybe you want to serve God by walking in your giftings, but you feel like you aren't qualified to share simple truths about Jesus...

Whatever your insecurity or fear, I know it feels real, but I want to encourage you to speak truth to yourself in those moments of hesitation.
Here are some of the common fears that can hold us back:

"I don't know enough."
We are each at different points in our spiritual journey. Some are new to the faith, and only know the basic message of the gospel. Some have been believers for decades, and come armed with lots of deep theology and memorized scripture. Regardless of where you are at, God wants you to share what you know and love about Jesus. He can use the humble to teach the proud. Just because you aren't a bible scholar or theologian, doesn't mean your voice is useless. In fact, imagine how much the kingdom might advance if every normal person shared what they are learning about trusting God in the midst of their everyday conversations? How many more would be reached with the gospel? You might not know everything, but you do know enough to share something.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ESV

"I'm going to say something wrong."
Yes. Yes, you are. The tongue can be a wicked thing, and out of the same well can come blessing and cursing. You won't communicate spiritual truth perfectly, and if people want to, they will find some error in what you say. But that still doesn't mean you should stay silent. We have to speak with wisdom, not proudly trying to explain doctrines that we're still working through, but we also need to trust that the Holy Spirit is able to overcome our weaknesses. When we speak the truth of the gospel from a heart that wants to glorify God, we have to believe that he is going to be faithful (even in our sad attempts). We have to believe that people are going to be amazed by the living and active words of God, and not be so worried about our fallible words.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind... - James 1:5-6a

"I'm not perfect."
In this life, we are never going to be sinless or "arrive" at some spiritual ideal of maturity. In fact, as we mature and grow closer to God, our awareness of our own sin becomes more heightened. But this can't stop us! Our awareness of sin keeps us humble, and allows us to share truth from a place of "me too" instead of "you're bad and I'm good". We can use our weakness and sin to relate to others, making the good news of Jesus more beautiful. If I let my failures in motherhood keep me from pointing other moms to Jesus, I would be completely silent. If I let my shortcomings as a wife keep me from encouraging a young bride to love her husband, I would never have a right to speak. At some point, we must accept God's grace, know that we won't ever be perfect, pursue authenticity, and go ahead and share!
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. - Luke 19:10

"I'm going to look silly."
You might. There are people (believers and nonbelievers) that think zeal for God is ugly and weird. They wish that Christians would keep their faith to themselves, and talk more about worldly matters. They aren't going to like that you keep turning the conversation to Jesus, because they would rather just discuss the latest article they read on Facebook. While we want to do our best to be relatable and easy to be around, we also are called to be bold in our sharing. There need to be more Christians who are willing to talk about the gospel in everyday conversation, even if it annoys some people. Besides, your boldness might astonish unbelievers and allow them to take a second glance at Jesus!
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. - Acts 4:13

"I might offend someone."
Yes, that's a given. The gospel is offensive,  it's foolishness to those who don't believe and Jesus is a stumbling block. Whenever you open your mouth or type words to share about him and his message, there are going to be people who hate what you're saying. This doesn't make it easy to speak, but don't forget that it's not really YOU they have a problem with, it's God. And he can surely take it. The more we find our identity in Christ and feel secure in him, the easier it will become to face the world's rejection.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, - 2 Timothy 3:12 ESV

So no, you aren't going to share perfectly, you aren't going to feel like you know enough, you probably won't deliver the truth as well as you could have, and you will offend someone - but talking about Jesus is still worth it. Satan is going to use every tool in his tool belt to keep you silent, including harsh accusations.

As time goes on, I pray that I'm growing in my desire and ability to speak boldly for the cause of Christ, but I still experience moments, days, and even entire seasons where I second-guess myself into complete silence. But sharing gospel-truth is worth the risks, and God can be trusted as our refuge - even if we mess up the delivery a little bit.

Whatever lies you are believing today, combat them with truth. Go forward and share with that hurting friend, ask to help out with that ministry, contact that woman you are hoping to disciple, and start using your time left on Earth for the advance of the Kingdom.

Even in your insecurities, I promise - you won't regret it someday.

Do your plans even matter, mama?

As a mom of young children, I often feel that my plans are in vain.  Regardless of the time spent, the lists made, or the thoughts laid out, I can't have ultimate control over our day.  I can recall a week this past winter where all of our children contracted a virus, and we spent everyday in the house nursing fevers and coughs, completely derailing our calendar.  The following Monday, I was excited to get my "plan" together and start homeschool, only to have a bad reaction to food put me on the couch with stomach pain for hours.  I can think of other days or weeks when I've had childcare arranged, only to have it cancelled or not work out because of an unexpected conflict.  It seems like life is full of moments where my plans fall apart.  Which can leave me wondering...what's the point of planning?

  • Why should I spend time laying out my calendar for the week if it's just going to get rearranged?
  • Why should I work to establish a daily routine or rhythm if it seems like most of our days are "exceptions" to the rule?
  • Why do I need to write goals when they are extremely difficult to accomplish with unpredictable little children in my life?
  • Why put "wake up at 6am" on my weekly plan, if I can't help the fact that my baby might wake up too many times to make that a reality?

It does seem that in the face of these challenges, we have a couple of common options:

We can get really really frustrated.  
Life can start to feel "out of control" when we can't force our plans to happen.  When people or tasks don't bend to our rule, we can become grumpy, bitter, and even downright angry.  This type of disruption reveals our heart of selfishness, and we punish anyone who threatens to take down our task list.  It's easy to see if we've reverted to this strategy, because our response to change is brutal.

We can give up on plans and structure altogether.
The opposite can also happen.  In the face of constant change and adaptation, we can shrug our shoulders and fail to make many plans at all.  We recognize the changing seasons of life, and say, "Oh well, let's just roll with the punches.", neglecting to take responsibility for intentional living.  We can tell we've reverted to this strategy if our home, life and hearts are continually in chaos.

So what does God expect of us?  Are we supposed to make plans or aren't we?  And how should we respond when the plans don't play out exactly the way we hoped? While I'm still working out these thoughts, here are some principles that seem to be evident in scripture. Initially, they seem to be in conflict, but I think they work together:

1.  Prudent planning is good. (Proverbs 14:8)
2.  We should work diligently to accomplish those plans in faith. (James 4:17)
1.  God is ultimately in control of our lives. (Proverbs 16:9)
2.  His plans are better than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

In light of these truths, we don't jump to either extreme.  We can look at our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly calendar without false hope or disdain.  We can set goals and expectations, without crumbling when those things don't come to pass.  If our children get sick, we can see that as part of God's sovereign will - which is ultimately for our good.  If our goals are reached, we can thank God for his provision of time and resources to make that happen.

If I dive much deeper, we'll be talking about theological issues that are more complex than the scope of this article. So for now, I will say that I believe God does want us to live intentionally and make plans, while still trusting his sovereign guidance in the process.

For the mama who feels like plans are pointless, here is some encouragement for you:

  • You can make plans and trust God with the way they ultimately work out. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • You don't have to be worried about what is going to happen with your day. (Phil 4:6)
  • It is smart and wise to make plans. (Proverbs 14:8)
  • You should invite God's wisdom into your planning process. (James 1:5)
  • Your life is going to reflect the intentionality you approach it with. (2 Cor 9:6)
  • God's words should guide your plans. (Psalm 119:105)
  • God has plans for you that are being worked out for your good. (Romans 8:28)
  • You should be a doer of God's word, and that's likely going to require planning. (James 1:22)
At the end of the day, planning isn't a way for us to exercise prideful or fearful control over our lives, but a tool that allows us to live more fully for God's glory and love others well. 

Lastly, I wanted to mention something about planning that I think keeps me (and I'm sure others) from making plans. Because sometimes, making plans means that things in your life seem to get a little bit worse for a while. In order to get those meals on the calendar, get a better handle on your discipline strategy, figure out how to manage your laundry better, or create a box of bible study materials you're going to have to give time to it. And yes, that might mean leaving the house on a weeknight when there are chores still to do. It might mean letting the kids have an off-day to research or map out a better routine. It might even mean that you order pizza one night so you can plan meals for a month. I'm not sure what it looks like for you, but every time I've pursued more intentional plans, I've also had to put up with a little more chaos in the meantime. 

Don't let that initial investment scare you away! Yes it will be hard. But it's worth it. 

Although God's plans prevail, planning still matters mama!

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