Prayer Strategy

As I have posted before, I’ve been involved with a powerful women’s ministry in Kansas called Women’s Encounter.  The first Women’s Encounter weekend event I attended was in July 2014 and had an immensely powerful impact in my life.  I’m forever grateful to this ministry and to God for giving me new eyes to see the true freedom that is found in Jesus.

Each Encounter weekend is followed up with a few weeks of Post Encounter, gatherings where we focus on various topics to help cultivate continued spiritual growth in women’s lives. One of those topics is prayer.  This past fall, our Post Encounter “Prayer” speaker gave us an “order” of sorts.  Her orders were to go out and develop a strategy for prayer!  This, of course, followed her viewing of the movie, “War Room.” There has been a resounding outcry among my circle of believers, and prayerfully ALL believers who have seen this movie, to start to fight again, on our knees in prayer.  As my dear Encounter sister shared the cry with us, I am developing prayer strategy in my life!

What is a prayer strategy, you might ask? A strategy, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.” With regard to prayer, a strategy is a PLAN. It’s a series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result.  The goal is to see prayers answered, to see lives changed, and to see God glorified. Now, don’t get me wrong. God is not a “genie in a bottle” who will grant my every wish.  I’m not talking about “wishes” or simple requests from God, although I know that He cares about every small detail of my life.  In looking at prayer in a deeper way, I have learned that I need to be more serious, more purposeful, more determined, and more committed than ever before.  

How can we do this?  We’re busy moms or dads or students or professionals who have many different things vying for our attention.  We may not have hours every day to get on our knees (and we may not even be physically able to literally get on our knees that long!).

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One of the easiest ways to start to develop a prayer strategy in our lives is to WRITE IT DOWN! Journal your thoughts and prayers.  Make lists. Jot down any requests that come to mind.  Keep a note on your phone or tablet to add requests as they arise. As you are writing, say a quick sentence prayer for each item.  Maybe a special scripture verse comes to mind that you might want to pray for someone else or even yourself.  Write it down! If you are tech-savvy, you might find an app for your phone or tablet that keeps track of prayer requests and even sends you scheduled or random reminders to pray.  I like the Echo prayer app.  Make sure you are also adding praises and answers to prayer!  Documenting these things gives you a tangible resource to rely on when you go through difficulties and need reminded of God’s faithfulness.  You can look through previous needs and praises and be reminded of all of God’s amazing goodness in your life and the lives of others.  He is faithful.

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Once you have begun this habit of recording prayer needs and answers to prayer, you can dig deeper into developing your strategy. Identify a TIME AND PLACE TO PRAY. Make a plan. Mark it on your calendar.  If you are like me at all, you may have clutter in the way, cluttered schedules, cluttered living areas, and sometimes just chaos. That’s easy to have in our large family. Make it your goal to clear a space–maybe it’s just a space by your favorite chair or maybe it’s a whole closet. Keep your prayer lists, Bible, extra paper/notebook, pen/pencil, and good lighting in your space.  Make this a sacred place.  Because it’s where you are going to meet God Almighty! He is God of the Universe, yet He will come to meet you in your chair or your closet.  Amazing, isn’t it?

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Accountability

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Now that you have your lists, your time and place, the last stage of developing your strategy is ACCOUNTABILITY. While not a requirement, it is a huge blessing to share life with others who are walking this same road.  Remember, we are going into a BATTLE! There is a very real enemy in this world who does NOT want us to be on our knees and talking to God. When you find a person or a small group with whom you can share your needs and concerns, you find powerful connection.  Share with them your prayer strategy.  Tell them you are working to develop a deeper prayer life and you know this is a spiritual battle.  Ask for them to pray with you for protection from the enemy, for diligence and commitment to your strategy, and for focus and clear insight into how God is leading you in this effort.  Knowing that others are praying for you is a powerful motivator to keep working at it.

There is so much more to prayer than these three simple points, but it is my prayer that these ideas will help you to get started in the right direction toward a prayer strategy that is powerful and productive.  May God bless you as you begin to fight your battles through prayer!

 

2016 Word of the Year

For the past few years, I have focused on one word to help me have a theme for my year.  At the end of each year, I spend time praying and waiting to hear from God about my “Word of the Year.” I have to say, the end of 2015 brought very little time for me to focus, however, God made it very clear to me what I should focus on in 2016.  Through some journaling time and chatting with friends, as well as watching a very inspirational new movie, “War Room,”  I knew that the area of my life that needed the most focus was an area that could be GREATLY strengthened by the focus on this ONE word.  SO…without further ado…

My 2016 Word of the Year is: PRAY!

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I’m excited to see what lessons God has in store.  In order to kick this year off right, I have started out with a 31 day Scripture Writing Plan on the topic of Prayer from Southern Melle. Some friends on Facebook have joined me, and we are sharing our progress in a group there.  It has been good accountability and motivation to see other’s writing and thoughts. Here are a couple of my own entries from my journal:

Do you choose a “Word of the Year”? I’d love to hear what you are focusing on in this new year!

Feeding Frenzy Friday 12-4-15

To reinstate this weekly series, I couldn’t think of a better way than to answer the pressing question for a family as big as mine. While it’s only one of MANY frequently asked questions for large families, the big one I’m referring to is this:

HOW do you feed that many people?

My answer is usually some sort of humorous or sarcastic remark about how that’s a ‘good question’ or how I ‘barely’ keep them all fed.  The real answer is obviously more involved than that. So I thought I would use the first FFF post to answer that question!

How do I feed 13 people?

How do I feed 13 people?

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How do I feed 13 people, 3 meals a day, 1-2 snacks per day, on a budget? It really comes down to three key tasks:

Task 1: I keep our meal choices simple.

While I love Pinterest and the plethora of recipes and ideas there for me to try, I do have a list of basic meals that we frequently use.  We repeat meals fairly often, at least monthly, if not even weekly in some cases.  We do as many “one pot wonders” or “dump meals” (as a friend of mine lovingly calls her dishes) as possible. These include soups, casseroles, stews, chilis, and pasta dishes.  Here’s one of our favorites: Skinny Tex Mex Bean Quinoa Casserole

Each time I go shopping, I have standard “pantry” items that I buy so that even if I’m not as prepared with my meal planning or shopping list, I know that buying these standard items I will be able to make many of our normal meals.  I buy similar snack items every month from nuts and trail mixes to string cheese and crackers. I shop for fruits, vegetables, fresh and frozen, all from the best sale prices and Aldi.  We use very few canned goods (only canned tomatoes and the occasional canned fruit or beans). I buy meat in bulk when possible and keep the freezer as stocked as it can be.  We try to eat seasonally as well, eating foods in season as well as taking advantage of colder months to eat more soups and chilis, etc. By keeping many of these habits, I can feed many people without going completely crazy.

Task 2: I buy as much as possible in bulk, generic, and markdowns.

This is a pretty standard task for most any family.  I shop at Aldi or other discount stores whenever possible.  I use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program for many items in bulk and hard to find items.  I find great markdowns at a neighboring town’s grocery store as often as I can, especially in fresh foods and baked goods.  I have a freezer and refrigerator which are usually more than full, I continually am saying “I need another” of either or both.  However, limiting us to one of each actually simplifies my mental “inventory” keeping, so for now we will stick with one.  I do not use coupons because I find that it results in buying more of items than we need or purchasing items that we would not normally use or need.  In the past, I have used Bountiful Baskets and have looked into ordering from Azure Standard, but the local drop-off points for both of these are 30-45 minutes from my rural community.  Another great idea is to order in bulk from companies like Zaycon Foods for bulk purchases of meats.

Task 3: I plan meals for several months at a time.

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It’s not neat or pretty, but it works!

Last, but certainly not least, is the task that probably helps me tame the chaos the most.  I have been out of this habit for some time over the past few years, not consistently planning meals for various reasons.  Late this summer, I determined that I HAD to get back into the habit of planning because it was just NOT working to be inconsistent.  I grabbed a free blank monthly calendar printable from somewhere on the internet, printed enough for the rest of 2015, and I got to work.  We have a group of meals that we use frequently and I use Pinterest to supplement and come up with new ideas fairly often.  By taking the first month by planning each day’s main meal (evenings Monday thru Saturday, noon meal on Sunday) and using a “theme night” each weekday evening, I was able to fill in the first month’s calendar rather simply.  Because my family is not picky at all and most of us have short attention spans and memories (only slightly joking!), I was then able to take every meal from that month and shuffle them around or make variations to the meals/recipes to complete the following month. Mix, fill, repeat. In one short afternoon, probably less than two hours, I was able to plan meals for FIVE months! Obviously, I have to take into account holidays and vacations and plan for days when I know we will not be at home.  But THIS plan works!  I don’t plan for every breakfast, lunch or snack.  I have a standard few options for breakfasts and lunches and snacks that we shuffle each week, and it works well.

So, there you have it.  My family of 13 is well-fed and satisfied, even if the teenage boys don’t think so! It’s a lot of work and sometimes things don’t always work out as planned on the menu, but the great thing is I have a month’s worth of meals that I can shuffle and make it all work out in the end.  We are so blessed to watch God provide for and meet our every need.  I do not take feeding 13 people lightly OR for granted.  It’s a chore, and I am known to complain about it, but I am so thankful for God’s provision and guidance in this area.

What are some tips that you have for feeding large families?  I would love to hear them!

Advent Hope

I grew up in a Christian family attending a Baptist church most of my childhood.  We didn’t celebrate Advent as part of our Christmas season holiday traditions.  Then, I attended a Lutheran college, a whole new world! I remember bits and pieces of the Advent tradition sprinkled throughout my college experience and the years since (just a “few” years since college, but we won’t say how many!). As a family, though, we have never fully celebrated Advent.

This year, we decided to focus our minds and our family’s attention on Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day.  We began this Sunday with the lighting the first candle of Advent, the HOPE candle.

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What a sweet time with our family, talking about the meaning of Advent and the reason we should celebrate these weeks, watching some special videos about the occasion as well.  With 11 children at home, ages 3 to 20, it is hard to find something that will keep everyone’s attention.  There were moments in our time together that they were captivated by what they were hearing, particularly from Ann Voskamp’s video:  Light the Candles. Advent Devotionals. The First Sunday: Hope. [VIDEO experience]

I shared these thoughts on my Facebook page on Sunday:

Hope. Waiting. Expectation. Anticipation of our Coming Savior. Quiet hearts in the midst of chaos. A solid foundation on shaky ground. Confident trust in uncertain times. I may not be sure of many things, but I am anchored by this hope in Jesus and will not be moved. Advent. Take time to wait. It’s good for the soul.

I love that! “Take time to wait.” It IS good for the soul.  Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible.

“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.'” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

How amazing is it that in STILLNESS our God will be exalted?  I encourage you to take time this week to be still.  Remove distractions, read the Word, pray, journal, or just sit and listen in the quiet.  God will show up.  He will be exalted in all of the earth! There are so many things in this world taking our focus away from Him, busy-ness, tragic news and events, family obligations, fear, worry and more.  Will you focus on Him in stillness this week?

Baby Jesus came into a world that had many distractions as well, yet He came simply, quietly into the world, born in a lowly position so that one day HE could reign as Savior of the World.  This Baby in a Manger became a Sacrifice on the Cross who became the King of all Kings! From stillness, HE WILL BE EXALTED.

Wait in HOPE this week.  The Savior is coming. THAT eventual coming is why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate advent for the waiting.  “Take time to wait.”

How will you take time out to wait this week?  If you need ideas for advent readings or activities, visit my Pinterest board “Holidays-Christmas” for some great ideas. I will share more in the coming weeks as our family celebrates Advent together.

Follow Missy’s board Holidays-Christmas on Pinterest.

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