How to Stand in Faith for Your Children | alyssajhoward.com

How to Stand in Faith for Your Children

The moment my little girls were born, I was overwhelmed. I never knew it was possible to feel so many different emotions all at once. But I found myself mesmerized by their innocence and purity. Sure, they cried a lot, but they were so incredibly… perfect and untainted. I wanted to protect them at all costs, but I didn’t know where to start. Our culture is far from perfect. My children are growing up in a world with reasons to fear at every corner and sin so readily available. I knew I needed to learn how to stand in faith for my girls. Continue Reading

How to Stand in Faith When Things Don’t Seem to Change

Are you battle weary? Is your shield becoming heavy as you continue to stand in faith for what God has promised?  You’ve searched the scriptures, and you’re certain that what you are praying for is His heart for you.  He has made it clear that it’s His promise, yet as the weeks, months, and even years pass you are yet to see the manifestation of it.  Does it seem like some prayers are answered with no wait at all and others must be contended for?

I understand. I’ve been there.  I’m there right now, in fact.  If you’ve been a Christian very long you’ve probably experienced this in your own life by now.  How do you keep going when it seems like your answer is nowhere in sight? Continue Reading

When You Face the Impossible: Faith is Worth the Risk | alyssajhoward.com

When You Face the Impossible: Faith is Worth the Risk

No one likes bad news. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly enjoy hearing about something negative on the horizon. But the truth is that we all face the impossible at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s a job situation or a financial struggle. Or perhaps you’re facing an illness of some kind. Regardless of the situation, we’ve all felt like David facing Goliath… a seemingly hopeless battle. Continue Reading

Trust vs Worry: 4 Practical Ways to Rid Yourself of Worry | alyssajhoward.com

Trust vs Worry: 4 Practical Ways to Rid Yourself of Worry

Why do we worry so much? Honestly, I worry about the craziest things sometimes. I worry about my relationships, my safety, my finances, what to make for dinner… I seriously don’t know why I devote so much of my time and attention to worry. Well… maybe I do know. Worry is simply a lack of trust.

 

There are certain things my children never worry about. They never worry if they’ll have food to eat for breakfast or if they will have clothes to wear tomorrow. They never worry about finances or getting good grades in school. At 3 and 5 years old, they have no idea what it’s like to worry about these things. Why? Because they trust. They trust that mommy and daddy will take care of them. And if they experience sadness or they fall and hurt themselves? We are there to pick them up and nurture them back to health, both physically and emotionally.

 

As adults, we worry much more than our children. We suddenly have responsibilities. We have bills to pay and mouths to feed. After experiencing heartache and brokenness of our own, we learn that sometimes people can’t be trusted. We’ve been let down, and we ourselves have let others down as well. So needless to say, there’s much more to worry about. Continue Reading

Praying for a Baby: A Story of Refinement | alyssajhoward.com

Praying for a Baby: A Story of Refinement

A big thank you to my amazing mother for sharing her heart in this guest post. I knew for most of my life that my parents longed for another baby. I remember the journey well, and I can honestly say that my entire family grew in the process. Thank you, Jesus, for refining each member of my family as we learned to seek You first in all things.

 


 

I was a young mother, marrying my husband at the tender age of 19 years old.  Our family was started immediately with a baby girl born 1 month after our first wedding anniversary, and a baby boy to join her 17 months later.  What more could I ask for?  Two perfect healthy children, relatively easy pregnancies, I was content.  My husband and I also had another daughter from his previous marriage that was 5 years old when we started our own little family.  Life was busy and full.

 

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Armor of God: The Shield of Faith | alyssajhoward.com

Armor of God: The Shield of Faith

When it comes to armor, the shield is an extremely vital piece – something I definitely wouldn’t want to go into battle without. Sure, I may be wearing body armor, but it’s my shield that allows me to protect the most vulnerable parts of me. I can maneuver it to guard me from all angles. And while my body armor can prevent me from being injured in an attack, my shield can keep me from getting hit in the first place.

 

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When God Proves Who He Is: The Power of Your Story

Does Christianity have a future? I recently read an article asking that very question. Our world is rapidly changing. We are taught to question everything. And everyone wants proof. Does God exist? Are the stories of the Bible real? Was Jesus truly who He claimed to be?

Unfortunately, tangible proof is hard to come by when it comes to Christianity. Our faith is just that – faith. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of historical evidence for Christ, the Bible, the early church, etc. But there is also a lot of controversy. This also doesn’t take into account the very existence of God. For many, the God of the Bible is simply a fairy tale. Everyone has their reasons for skepticism, but in the end it usually comes down to a lack of proof. We can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that God exists. (On the flip side of that, we also can’t prove that He doesn’t…)

 

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Victory at the Finish Line: Building Endurance in Our Faith

One of my favorite things about running is that the results are tangible. Growth can easily be measured by time and distance. Just five months ago, I competed in my first half marathon. This weekend, I will be racing in my second. I can’t begin to tell you how different it is training for this race versus my last one.

In my first half marathon, my goal was simply to finish. When beginning my training, 13.1 miles seemed like an incredible distance…one that seemed nearly impossible. I achieved my goal, but not without my fair share of physical and mental exhaustion. It was hard. Not to say that training for my second half marathon has been easy, but it has certainly proven to be less exhausting. 13.1 miles doesn’t seem quite as daunting this time around. Continue Reading

When You Feel like a Grasshopper in a World Filled with Giants | alyssajhoward.com

When You Feel like a Grasshopper in a World Filled with Giants

No one enjoys feeling weak or vulnerable, yet it is inevitable to feel this way at some point in our lives. We all feel small at times…especially when it seems like the cards are stacked against us. When it came time for the Israelites to finally enter into the Promised Land, God commanded Moses to send 12 spies into the land to survey the scene. After forty days, the men brought their reports back to the Israelites. Needless to say, there were mixed reviews.The land was exactly as God had promised. It truly flowed with milk and honey, and it was everything the Israelites could ever need or want. There was just one problem…they would have to fight for it.

 

When You Feel like a Grasshopper in a World Filled with Giants | alyssajhoward.com

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Wasted Years: A Lesson in How God Lets Nothing Go to Waste

What comes to mind when you think of Moses? Maybe the phrase “let my people go” comes to mind. Or perhaps you recall how he parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross over to safety. We remember the great moments of his life, but what about the not so great moments? Moses wasn’t always the great leader of the Israelites that we remember. He began his life just like you and me, and he had his fair share of ups and downs.

 

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Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action | alyssajhoward.com

Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action

As Christians, we hear a lot about faith. But what is faith exactly? Many of us equate it with belief. I have faith when I believe in something or someone. But I have to think that perhaps faith is more than simply believing in something. The Bible tells us that we are called to walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) It isn’t a feeling or an emotion; it’s a way of living.

 

Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action | alyssajhoward.com
The book of Hebrews gives us a glimpse into history in order to demonstrate what faith truly means:

 

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. …By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. – Hebrews 11:1-2, 33-35 (NLT)

 

The great men and women of God mentioned in Hebrews 11 all have two major things in common. First of all, their faith moved them to do great things for God. All of their stories involve action. Many of them accomplished what most would believe to be impossible.

 

Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. – James 2:21-22 (NLT)

 

The second thing they all had in common was their hope of a better life after the resurrection. None of them had the chance to serve Christ the way we do now as believers. After all, Christ had not come yet. They trusted in God, however, to have a plan of redemption for His people, and they lived their lives accordingly. They chose to look ahead at the big picture of what God was trying to do through them, rather than to focus on their own personal lives and what He could do for them.
As Christians, we often have to trust in God’s bigger plan. We serve Him even when things don’t make sense. We can easily look back at these great men and women of faith and see how God was using them at the time. These men and women trusted God even without seeing the whole picture. I’m sure that there were many times when they had no idea what God was trying to do in their circumstances. I personally would have been awfully frustrated with God if it had been me sitting there in that lion’s den. We need to trust God in the same way these men and women did. God gave them to us as examples for a reason.

None of them were perfect, but they chose to trust God and to trust that He had everything under control.

 

Faith requires action. We often hear the phrase “love is a verb.” I believe that faith is a verb as well.

 

As Christians, we don’t just believe in God…we live for Him.

 

In addition to living out our faith, we are also called to see the bigger picture. Faith moves us to serve God and obey Him even when things don’t make sense.

 

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. – James 2:14-17 (NLT)

 

Faith is a Verb: Putting Our Beliefs into Action | alyssajhoward.com

 

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Milestones: Crying Out for Spiritual Growth

The day our first daughter was born, it all began…milestones. We documented everything. It’s crazy how many “firsts” there are in the first year of life! Every holiday was a first (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, etc.) There’s also the first time she ate solid food, her first words, her first tooth, etc. And don’t get me started on the biggest milestone of them all…the day she became mobile! It was time to baby proof the house!

I also love how my youngest daughter is starting to communicate. She only has about 5 or 6 words that she uses correctly; but between that and hand gestures, I’m starting to get a little glimpse into her personality as well as her wants and needs. Did I mention that her words are incredibly cute? She asked me to go “nigh nigh” this afternoon. Yes, you read that right. My one-year-old asked if she could take a nap. Too cute!

 

Milestones: Crying Out for Spiritual Growth | alyssajhoward.com

 

Does God get as excited about our milestones as we do for our children?

I believe He does. For one thing, the Bible tells us that there is great rejoicing in heaven when someone repents and gives their life to Christ. (Luke 15:3-10) In the parable of the prodigal son, the father is overjoyed and throws a party when the lost son returns home. As God’s children, I believe with all my heart that He rejoices over our milestones, both big and small.

 

Milestones equal growth. Every time I take one of my daughters to the doctor, they check to make sure particular milestones are being reached. They do this to make certain that my daughters are growing properly. In the same way, spiritual milestones are a clear indication that spiritual growth is taking place.

 

When a baby learns to walk, they become mobile and can do more things. When they learn to talk, they can communicate their thoughts, feelings, and desires. These are all important steps when it comes to growth and development. These milestones are what eventually lead them to independence and effectiveness as adults. Spiritually speaking, we can’t be effective without hitting certain spiritual milestones as well. We can’t be born again, and then choose to remain a helpless infant for the rest of our lives. We have to choose to grow.

 

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. – Hebrews 5:12-14 (NLT)

 

I believe that God delights in us as His children, just as we delight in our own children. I look forward to my daughters’ milestones. As much as I love the stages of life they are currently in, I desire growth for their lives. I look forward to the day when I can have long conversations with my girls. As they grow, we get to do more things as a family as well. I love my babies, but I don’t want them to be babies forever. I want to see them grow into young ladies. In the same way, God longs for us to grow in Him.

 

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. – 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NLT)

 

I love how this verse tells us to “cry out” for nourishment. Just as a baby cries when she is hungry, we are called to crave the things of God in the same way. So what does the Bible mean by “pure spiritual milk”? I believe 2 Peter gives us a clear succession of growth. It starts with faith in Christ and ends with us being “productive and useful” as Kingdom builders:

 

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NLT)

 

As someone who has been a Christian for as long as I can remember, I know how easy it is to become spiritually dull and inactive. Know that God is looking forward to your next milestone. Just as we pull out the video camera every time our children do something new and exciting, God rejoices over our progress as well. Let’s choose to learn and grow and be effective in our walk with Christ.

When was the last time you experienced a spiritual milestone?

 

Milestones: Crying Out for Spiritual Growth | alyssajhoward.com

 

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Training for the Hills: When Life Feels Like an Uphill Battle

As a runner, it is important to never give up on the hills. Stay steady, maintain your form, and you will reach the top. The same is true in life.

Hill training can be very intimidating for the novice runner. Because I spend most of my time running indoors on a treadmill, I sometimes forget about hill training altogether. Training is essential, however, when it comes to tackling hills. Whether going uphill or downhill, both present a new set of challenges. And these challenges help us to grow as athletes – both mentally and physically. Continue Reading