One of the hardest relational dynamics to deal with is that of the manipulative controller. So often they have a way of exerting their will, their wants, their desires in a way that seems to cast a spell over others. Tantrums, putting others down, threatening to walk away, are just some of their tactics. 
When it comes to raising my kids, I take moments to teach them when their leadership strengths, words, and strong wills cross the line into attempts to control or manipulate. As their mom I tell them I’ve failed to train them well if I allow their strengths to go the wrong direction. I also want them to know the signs in order to be aware of friends in their lives who treat them this way. Just last year, Kylie had to walk away from a friend, who turned bully on her and toyed with her emotions. 
In the same way, we need to be wise in dealing with adult controllers in our world. Healthy boundaries and calling their bluff are ways to help them see their tactics as unhealthy so they can grow or so we can put space there if they refuse to change. How we address it is on us, how they handle it is on them. 
Praying for you moms and dads today to have wisdom in shaping your future leaders, and for all reading this to have strength to stand firm against attempts to control, knowing your worth. You are worth being treated with respect. You are worth having healthy relationships!


Weakness to Strength

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! We probably recognize these lyrics to a popular song, but they speak truth. The battles God allows in our stories serve a higher purpose. When we press in to him in the midst of them we are strengthened. Just as the rest of this verse from Hebrews 11:34 says, “Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle…” 
Lets ponder that last part– THEY BECAME STRONG IN BATTLE. It doesn’t say God lead these great heroes of faith to gain strength before he lead them into battle. It says that it was in the battle that they grew in strength. 
If you are walking through some things today that test your faith, I encourage you to press in and allow God to grow you through it. And if you’ve been through some battles, pause for a moment and look back to who you were before them and who you are now because of them. Then give God praise. It changes our perspective when we recognize we wouldn’t ask for the things we’ve walked through, at the same time we wouldn’t change them because they made us who we are today.

Amy O’Donnell 

Run Free into 2017

It only takes a little bit of debris to cloud the waters of a flowing stream. In the same way, carrying pain forward clouds perspective and joy; it murkies the waters of your heart. 

As you look ahead to 2017, and the beautiful, victorious, long awaited things God has in store–determine to leave behind anything that could rob you of the thrill of it. Perhaps the journey to the impending God victories was rocky and came at the expense of great pain & suffering. Perhaps some of your questions about your experiences may not get answered this side of Heaven, even as you see God deliver you and shower you with his favor. But God is big enough to carry your murky so you can flow in the clear fullness of who he is and his gifts on your life. 
With the new year looming, believe there are wonderful things ahead. Set out to walk forward into them in wholeness, with a pure and undivided heart and a mind at peace! For God’s victories and blessings warrant your full praise and wholehearted yes that flows from a heart that runs free in him.

The Greatest Gift

I keep a Christmas wish list on my phone. I start it months before Christmas. Each time someone in my family says they want something — I pull out my phone, open my notes, and type it in. I keep track so when I’m out shopping I can look at the list and remember. With four kids and others to shop for beyond my immediate family, there’s no way I’d recall every heart’s desire without my list!

Yet with all my planning ahead attempts to track my family’s requests, it’s rare I get much, if any Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. As that beloved day comes to a close, I begin switching gears to thoughts of decking our halls – and trees, and banisters and mantle; as well as getting going on that list.
I am the kind of shopper that wants to get in, find what I’m looking for at a reasonable price, and leave. I don’t like lines, crowded parking lots, or the stress the holidays tend to bring out in shoppers around me! I recognize quick, in-and-out, stress-free shopping is less likely to happen when I wait until after Thanksgiving to get started. However, since my schedule before turkey day doesn’t typically allow me time to shop ahead, I try to make the best of it. And the bottom line is, no matter how much time it takes and how many lines I have to stand in or grumpy people I may encounter, I really do want to get gifts for my family they will “ooh” and “aah” over. I want to see their smiles and squeals of delight on Christmas morning. So I brave the shopping, and the lines, and the stress given off by others, to get it done.

As I headed out the door to go Christmas shopping recently, on a Saturday no less — because my daughter’s stomach bug had foiled my plans to shop on Thursday and Friday, I was less than excited. Saturday’s promise bigger crowds, more traffic, and more time. As I drove to the outlets I thought of the people I would come across, but this time from a different perspective. I thought about how for some, Christmas is a time of sadness. I thought of those who’d lost loved ones, of those who might feel alone, as well as of those who don’t know Jesus is the reason for the season. I made up my mind as I pondered these things, to see the shopping frenzy as an opportunity to shine His light and share His love. Lines became tools for conversation. People around me became targets for smiles and small talk. Instead of looking at my lists as things to knock out, I saw them as opportunities to be placed in situations where I could be fully present and tuned in to the people around me. I had great conversations and moments with people around me that day because my mindset was different.

When Jesus came into the world, an angel visited a ragtag group of lowly shepherds to share the good news. The angel said, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:10).” Those shepherds were some of the first to visit the new born Messiah. From there they went to spread the word concerning what had been told to them about the child, and all who heard it were amazed. Their eyes were some of the first to gaze upon the greatest gift ever given to mankind. Their message transformed lives and hearts.

We are still carriers of that message today. This Christmas, let’s go out remembering every encounter with those around us in an opportunity to share the good news of great joy. In the midst of all the gifts that will be exchanged this Christmas, there is none that can measure up to the gift of life we have to offer; the gift of Jesus – The Savior born for all mankind.

Hit Pause this Christmas 

Throughout this Christmas season, I want to make room for Jesus and reserve time to reflect on His faithfulness. I want to press in and ponder this gift of life given. I want to feel fully immersed in the true spirit and meaning of Christmas. I want to make memories with my family centered around these things.

But life goes on. The schedule fills up. There is always much to be done.

It dawned on me if I don’t find times to hit pause on it all, Christmas will happen all around me and I will miss it. So I’ve set aside my daily reading plan to read advent devotionals. I’ve locked in family dates on the calendar so they carry equal weight with all other scheduled demands. What I get out of this season is in my hands to determine.

Maybe you too have struggled to get in the Christmas spirit. If so, what can you do, how can you carve out time to sit at the saviors feet and simply adore him? How can you hit pause and find time to savor, enjoy and be fully immersed in this moment?

Let Adoration Overflow

When Jesus came, He wasn’t the leader people expected. He wasn’t a valiant warrior riding in on a white horse. He wasn’t from noble birth. He was born in a stinky, animal laden stable. They laid him in a manger. 
He came in the simplest way yet his coming was heralded by the highest Heavens. I can’t help but wonder would I have been captivated then as I am now by this precious gift? Would I bow down and worship at his tiny little baby feet like we see in our nativity scenes? 

That God chose to enter our mess in such a lowly way, speaks of his love. 

Jesus, help us internalize these things and worship you. Help us adore you as you adored us when you came that day. As you adored us when you took our sin on the cross. Help us guide our families in adoring you. Let adoration overflow. Fill us with your love and let love overflow. Thank you for this gift. This blessing. This moment. This love. Amen

Secrets & Revelations

I read through the Bible every year. There are books I love, books I dread(hello Leviticus), and books that I don’t anticipate getting as much out of after reading several times already. Deuteronomy is one of those books I just thought I’d read through and check off my list. I’m reminded with this years reading that The Bible is always full of surprises. It’s living and active. That means God bring fresh revelation at any point from even the most unexpected places. Like this verse.. It jumped off the page to me today. It’s saying God reveals to us with expectancy that we will act on that revelation in response. And not only does he expect us to act, he holds us accountable for what he’s revealed. 
That means, when he brings someone to mind or gives us a dream about them, we need to seek the Holy Spirit to determine what to do with that information. He may lead us to just pray, or reach out.
That means when he’s opened our eyes to an injustice we have the power to make right, he expects us to respond.
That means when he gives us a promise he holds us accountable to stand firm and believe he will deliver.
That means when he provides direction and guidance, he holds us accountable to follow it.
So here I am again this morning, as I’ve been though out this years reading of this book of preparation, readying God’s people to enter the promised land — camping out and relishing the wisdom found in this most unexpected place!