New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by James Brannan

Have you ever had one of those Sundays where things did not exactly go as planned? I am not talking about the normal weekly battle to get everyone to stop arguing, get dressed, eat breakfast, and out the door to get to church on time. I am talking about when you think life is going in one direction, but God has other plans? In April of 2017, God had one of those divine appointments lined up for our family.

I was sitting in church with two of my children getting prepared for worship when a woman named Cindy sat on our row. Now, as a brief side note, Cindy was affectionately known as the Foster Lady in our church because she and her husband, Joe, had fostered and/or adopted 99 children! Yes, 99! And true to form, she had a wiggly little 6 year-old boy with her whom she was currently fostering (#98). She introduced us to Skyler and asked us to be praying for anyone interested in A-D-O-P-T-I-O-N. She actually spelled it out. I thought she was trying to spell doughnut and didn’t want my kids to hear and create a stampede to the lobby. But then a light bulb went off, I felt a door open and I was reminded of a prayer made long before this day.

The prior year, in February, we had attended a Promise686 adoption celebration event at Perimeter Church. It was encouraging to hear the stories of forever families and God’s faithfulness. We left that day feeling like God wanted us to do something, but we honestly felt completely overwhelmed. At the time, we had five biological kids plus one adopted (that is another story for another blog) all under one roof, so we had a pretty full plate. But we agreed to pray and see how God would use us. I think you can see where this is headed.

It turned out that Skyler has a younger brother, Luke (#99), who was also in foster care. When I told my wife, Carolyn, about the encounter, we both felt the Spirit moving and began to pray. It was crazy because pursuing adoption at this point of our lives would mean that we had eight children. It would mean our finances and our time would be stretched thinner. Everyone in the family would have to make sacrifices. And not to mention, it would mean seven additional years with a school-age child under our roof! 

So contrary to conventional wisdom, we committed to obediently follow the call and began wading through the mountain of paperwork to pursue adoption. This is normally a very slow, tedious process with more questions than answers. But God is faithful to accomplish that which glorifies his name. In May of 2018, Luke and Skyler were placed in our home as our foster children. In May of 2019, one year later, they were officially adopted into our forever family! As I sit in my office and write this today, Carolyn is with the boys visiting Cindy and Joe, their foster grandparents in Minnesota for their summer vacation. Sounds like a fairytale ending, right? Well truth be told, it has not always been easy, but God is faithful and has taught us much through the process.

Adoption was God’s idea, and thank goodness it was! Ephesians 1:5 says “he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” What a mind blowing concept – He adopts us into his family because He wants to! No other reason, just his pleasure and will. But it gets better. It isn’t a cold, impersonal relationship. We read in Romans 8:15 that “the Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  We get to call him Abba, which I have most often heard translated as “Daddy”.  He is a loving, personal God who adopts us into his family. Wow!

Another thing we have learned is that adoption is a calling and He honors those who answer the call. God does not expect us to have all the answers, only that we walk in obedience to his calling. Psalm 68:5-6 reads “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” Here is a clear sense that God is a protective dad, defending the orphans and widows. But we also see that it is God who puts the lonely in families. He does it.  This verse is actually the inspiration for the adoption and foster care ministry Promise686. Psalm 6:86 = Promise686. Clever, right? Check them out here.

God calls all of us to take up the cause of orphans and widows. We read in Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless…” What does “taking up their cause” look like? For Carolyn and me, this looked like adoption. For Cindy and Joe, it looked like fostering their “Flock of 99.” For our biological children, it looked like learning to love, sacrifice, and share. For our friends and family, it has looked like blessing us with prayers, meals, and much needed respite. There are many ways that we as the body of Christ can take up this cause.

Adoption has been the boldest, craziest, and most difficult thing we have ever done. If you have ever seen the 2018 film, Instant Family, you have a glimpse of what our lives have been like as an adoptive family. The headaches, the heartaches, and the blessings are all there in a funny, heartwarming movie. I can honestly say that my family has been blessed in so many ways because of our willingness to be obedient and just say yes to providing a forever home. Not to be perfect, not to be sinless – just to say, “yes,” and allow God to work in our lives.

True Freedom

New City KidsNew City Kids1 Comment

by Megan Johnson

What if the greatest lie that Satan whispers to us is: ‘prove yourself’?
~ Ann Voskamp

It’s officially summer! Summer brings freedom. Or does it?  

I don’t know about you, but for me, how I parent can be a major proving ground, an idol, and an identity maker. What a burden to live under! Just when I think I’m free from some of that, during the summer months, I’m quickly overwhelmed with ideas for activity charts, chore schedules, and ways to make this summer the most amazing one ever. Whew! All of this drains me pretty quickly and I’m left wondering: am I enough to be my kids’ Mom if I can’t even *think* about all these things without panicking? 

If you’ve been around me lately, you might have heard me talk about the rhythm I have each morning to anchor my soul in truth before the day begins. Because I know my heart (that it will bow to many idols and I will quickly seek to find worth, identity, and approval from created things rather than the Creator), I get down on my knees, every morning, before King Jesus. Each morning, I climb down on the hard, cold floor to confess that I am not the Creator, Judge, King, or Savior. I have a small, wooden gavel and I literally hold it over my head as I speak aloud God’s true verdict over me. I remind myself I do not need to live in the courtroom of comparison and condemnation today. I need a physical reminder of what I get to live under (and out of)!  I kneel and confess that God is my Father, my King, my Judge, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Savior. AND… He delights in me – overwhelming so!!! (Zephaniah 3:17, Romans 8:1)

I no longer have to strive or prove myself. But I repent of this daily. 

I no longer live in the courtroom of comparison or condemnation. Although, by my negative thoughts about myself, you wouldn’t know that.  

I am not locked in a prison cell. Although, I place myself there through guilt and shame too often.  

Oh, how I am prone to believe lies – to put my value in what I think about how I am doing at “fill-in-the-blank”, and to live for a verdict instead of out of the verdict.  

Maybe you can relate. 

If you are a son or daughter of God, then it is for freedom that Christ has set you free. You don’t have to go back to the yoke of the slavery of proving yourself by doing all. the. things!   (1 Corinthians 4:3, Galatians 5:1, John 8:31-36)

There are all kinds of great ideas for things to do over the summer. If it is life-giving and freeing for you to look at all those ideas (and make the lists, and the banners, and the schedules, and charts, and all the things), go for it! But if that drains you of energy and abundant life, lay it down! Does it feel like a heavy burden or does it feel light and easy? (Matthew 11:28)

Your kids need you to be you. God gave them YOU with your imperfections, flaws, unique wiring and gifts, and personality. Do you live under the verdict of “not _____ enough”? The best gift you can offer your kids is to daily receive grace and live under the verdict of “this is my beloved son/daughter, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) 

We can’t offer to our kids what we are refusing to receive. I wonder how our refusal to receive grace from our Elder Brother, who died for us to be his Beloved, affects how we see, love, and parent our kids… 

That verdict has nothing to do with my successes or failures during the day. When I hope in my success (and place my worth there), that just means I have to do it better tomorrow; and the risk of failure is even greater. The truth is, God will do more with my weakness than my apparent strength. He will use my failures more than my successes. When I believe this, then I’m free to parent from abundance and rest.   

When we wake up in the morning, before we’ve accomplished anything – the verdict is in. When we go to bed at night, no matter what the day held (or how well we think we did) – the verdict is in. We can ask Jesus to let his verdict over us speak louder than our own verdict over ourselves.  Our most authentic and truest identity is that of a beloved son or daughter of God. Receive it. Live out of it!  

I am praying for you.  

PS – Summer is a time when we tend to get out of our normal rhythms, and that’s okay! It’s a good time to intentionally pick something different to anchor our souls in the truths of the Gospel. I’m switching to using a daily devotional (Truth For Life by Alistair Begg), instead of a more intense study (or *thinking* I’ll make a plan for myself and then – honestly! – not doing anything intentional and purposeful.) I also recommend New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. Text, email, call, or come find me if you want more ideas for encouragement, want prayer, or hearing about my weaknesses and God’s provision!

The Gift of Discipling Our Children

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Kelsi Drake

Recently I’ve been reminded of just how simply incredible the gospel truly is as I’m seeing my kids absorb it for the first time. As someone who grew up attending church, it’s easy for me to gloss over the value of my salvation and God’s love for me, almost as if it’s running in the background of my mind. It sometimes stops me in my tracks when my kids ask me a basic question like “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?” (which is a question on repeat from our 2 year old right now), and I get to again remind him that Jesus died for us so that we can be saved from our sin and no longer be separated from God. 

Other truths that feel so complicated to my adult self are so simple to them, one example being evangelism. I can recall a conversation with our four year old where I mentioned that not everyone follows Jesus, and he shockingly asked why someone wouldn’t follow Him. I told him some people know about Him and choose not to follow Him, but that sometimes people just sadly don’t know about Him. Without a second thought he responded “Well we should tell them!” He is quick to share with friends that his family follows Jesus without shame and embarrassment. What an example children are! 

Their enthusiasm for Christ and desire to know more (so.many.questions) pushes me to remember the gift and incredible honor it is to have the opportunity to disciple them in our home. If I’m being honest, it can often feel overwhelming. I get stuck in the cycle of overthinking and wondering if I’m doing enough. Am I praying with them often? Why do I always forget to do our scripture memory? How is it so hard to remember to read them a daily Bible story? 

First and foremost, I have to remind myself that there is grace and that God alone has the ability to save my children. I can disciple them all I want and be the “perfect” parent and they still may never follow Him. Keeping that in mind, I’ve recently been thinking through how to build some of these discipleship moments into our day so that they become a habit. I was specifically encouraged to do this while reading Justin Whitmel Earley’s book, Habits of the Household, wherein he describes building in these “habits” so that they become routine. As he says “To steward the habits of your family is to steward the hearts of your family.”

One example for our family is building in scripture memory. I taped a verse to be memorizing on the inside of the cabinet I know I will get dishes out of for breakfast. This way, we will be more likely to remember to go over it as we eat in the morning. We’ve also been building in more prayer times, one being holding hands and saying a quick prayer together before the boys leave for school in the morning. As we do these longer and longer, it becomes so a part of the day that the kids will remind us if we happen to forget. Obviously we don’t do this perfectly, and there are days where a preschooler will proclaim he doesn’t want to join us for prayer that morning!

For as long as I’ve been a parent I’ve often thought I need to pray more frequently for my children. It’s always a nice thought, but never something that has necessarily pushed me to action or changed my habits. Instead, I’ve mostly relied on sporadic prayers as they’ve come to mind. Recently, at the end of the day just before I get into bed I’ve been standing outside each of their rooms and praying for them (an idea from the book I quoted above). I find that regularly praying for them changes the way I interact with my kids. I am daily reminded of my humble reliance on The Lord to parent my precious children. 

What a blessing it is that The Lord allows us to come alongside our children in their discipleship. May we each be thinking and praying through the ways He can be using us in that regard, and be open to the work, time, and inconvenience it may require. 

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Walking All Over Satan

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Caroline Adobah

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Romans 16:20

Towards the end of my twelve hour urgent care shift, my husband, Mel, texted, “Nora just took about six steps.” You parents know that feeling, “She can walk!” I was sad I wasn’t there for those first steps but grateful to hear about my 11-month-old baby’s healthy development. My job as a PA (in the urgent care during the demands of winter) is stressful, but the news lightened the rest of my shift. It made me so happy because this is the beginning of great growth. I hope one day Nora and I can run a marathon together, I can teach her to ice skate, and we hike some of the AT. The first step in these adventures is being able to take steps. As I was driving home, I was crying with joy that this child God gave us is walking and I was thinking about the joy our Heavenly Father feels towards us as we grow and develop.

When we start walking, we can start crushing Satan under our feet, as Paul wrote in the end of his letter to the Roman church. John writes multiple times in his letters about “walking in the truth.” He says in his last letter that he has no greater delight than to hear that “my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4) John also defines the Christian life in terms of a walk:

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

2 John 1:6

The joy we feel watching our kids develop can be matched by an even greater delight: watching them (and other disciples God gives to you) walking in the truth, growing in grace, running after Jesus. Isn’t the inverse also true? There is no greater sorrow than to see our kids (and our brothers and sisters in the faith) walking in lies? I just read John’s account of Christ’s life – where Satan enters Judas at the Last Supper – a culmination of Judas’ lie-walking alongside Jesus’ ministry. Right after that supper, the Apostle Mark records that Jesus says his heart is “sorrowful to the point of death.” Walking in truth will bring sorrow, but Satan, the father of lies, can be crushed by simply walking over him with the truth of God’s Word.

In our generation, we have the truth in the midst of “new” lies about marriage, gender, and even life itself. We get to show our kids, in 2023, how we walk in the joy and peace that comes from possessing the Spirit of Truth – the Spirit who deposited within us the mind of Christ until we become one with Jesus. This mind of truth makes us fearless and focused. What would it look like in our lives today, if our greatest joy was others’ journeys of truth-walking? What horrible substitutes are we buying into that we think will bring us joy? How slow are we to confront children who are walking in lies? My baby walking means lots more messes, more costs, more dangers that I have to protect her from, but it also means more excitement. Growing pains are real in life – even in spiritual life. Paul talks about the maturing that we long for in our kids (and should long for in our church family):

… until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:13 

Crushing Snakes
by Crowder

We’re not afraid
A promise of God can never be torn away
Walking on hands of angels, crushing snakes
Safe under the shadow of his wings
Our fortress and our strength
Our fortress

We’re taking back our freedom
Our battle has been won
We have been liberated
Back from the dead we’ve come

Do you see him? King of Heaven
Champion of all creation
Eyes of fire, voice of thunder
Tearing through the sky in wonder
Dressed in light, we see him coming
On a horse that’s white like lightning
Do you see him?

What I Have Been Learning

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Britta Campbell

Luke 6:45 says, “…. for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” This verse has been impressed upon my mind recently as I have seen it play out in my life and the lives of my children.
Have you ever been reading a book to your child, for what feels like the hundredth time, and suddenly they are reading it to you? Have you accidentally said a bad word (only once!) to sadly discover it has been repeated half a dozen times by your child over the next week? Our minds, and those of our kids, are extremely impressionable, soaking up what they hear or see, good or bad, like a kitchen sponge! The books, songs, and conversations that our children hear again and again shape not only their vocabulary and verbal skills, but also their values and thought patterns. God tells us about this reality in his Word, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure proceeds evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Good and bad are stored up in our hearts, affecting our feelings, our thinking, and ultimately produce the words that we speak. 
God graciously provides wisdom for us in how to navigate this fact of life: “Finally, brothers, whatever is good, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). 
As a parent, I have been challenged to be more thoughtful about what I say and what resources (books and songs) that I choose for my children. God encourages us that, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). “And so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). In other words, if we memorize the truth of God’s Word, He will help us internalize it that we may better battle sin. What a great promise! I have had the opportunity to see God fulfill this promise to our family whenever I hear Kiersten and Alten singing hymns or repeating Bible verses when they play by themselves. What a great joy this is!
As we start this new year, I challenge you to consider how you can help your children build up “good treasure” in their hearts by recognizing and celebrating things which are “worthy of praise”, namely, God Himself! Would you consider trying one of these ideas with our family in 2023?

  1. Start each breakfast or dinner with the same verse, Proverb, or Psalm and repeat it each day until everyone in the family knows it;
  2. Prioritize music playlists with worship songs or hymns;
  3. Read particularly Christian books or stories at bedtime.

Here are some resources that Jared and I have found to be helpful – we hope you find them helpful, too as you endeavor to press truth into your and your children’s hearts and mind this year.
Getty Kids Hymnal: SPOTIFY LINK            
Hide ‘Em In Your Heart (by Steve Green): SPOTIFY LINK
Bible Memory Verse Resources (Perimeter Church): LINK 
Baby Believer Primers (Catechesis Books): LINK

A Reflection of God’s Love

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Halle Sexton

Once, I heard a preacher spend a few minutes talking about how sinful we all are and how we daily forsake God. Very Romans 3:10-18. I was already well aware of my sin nature, but he really laid the conviction on thick. Then he told us he had a question that might trick us. He asked how we thought God felt about us.

I’ve always been taught that God loves me. It’s always the “correct” Sunday school answer. So I thought that surely that was the answer the preacher expected of us. Except he had said there was a trick.

It was probably only a few seconds, but I still remember, years later, an endless moment where I realized just how terrible all the things I had done were. It felt like the world went dark and the room closed in on me. How could God possibly love me? “That’s the trick,” the Devil whispered. “He couldn’t possibly love you.” I had always been taught wrong. It was devastating.

Then the preacher responded to his question, telling us that God does, indeed, love us! Despite everything! The world brightened again, but the doubt had sunk into the depths of my mind. I clung to the sliver of hope woven into the rest of the message, but I couldn’t shake the fear. I couldn’t see a way that I could be loved by someone I spent most of my time defying. How could the perfect being who created everything be anything but completely disappointed in an entirely imperfect, habitual sinner that can do no good without him? I tried to believe what I was being taught – that God does love me anyway – but the shadows hung on, frequently trying to pull me away.

Then I had a son. He’s beautiful, and perfect, and can do no wrong. Just kidding! He’s a little sinner and makes life far more complicated. But still, whenever I look at him, or think about him, I only feel joyful love. In the middle of him throwing a tantrum because I won’t let him play with knives, I adore him completely. When he pulls my hair or steals my glasses and laughs when I tell him “no”, I still want to hold him close. When he pushes me away because he doesn’t want to be snuggled, I let him, because I know he doesn’t understand.

And I think of how I must look to God. Tiny, defenseless, selfish, ignorant of so much, difficult, rule breaking, hurtful (sometimes on purpose!), and so much more.

I always thought I understood love really well. I didn’t think there was a kind of love I didn’t know the feeling of. But God is showing me daily that this love I now have for my baby boy is barely a hint at what He feels for us. If I—an imperfect, selfish human—can feel such unconditional love, how much more can God—the absolute image of perfection and creator of all—love his children?

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:5‭-‬8

Got Rhythm?

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Billy Eutsey

If you were a fly on the wall of the Eutsey home lately, I think you’d leave with a few take-aways:

1. I think you’d probably roll with laughter if you could hear some of the things Charlotte says to us, and you’d melt when Hunter waddles around and blows kisses to everyone.
2. You would definitely admire the kindness and grace Sarah Beth extends to me when I act more like Jackie Gleason than Mr. Cleaver.
3. And, you’d probably recognize that our life is characterized by arrhythmia and clutter – we’re often exhausted by it.

We were created for rhythm and order. The creation story in the first couple chapters of Genesis teems (see what I did there?) with rhythm and order:
“And there was evening and there was morning, the first day,” the second day, the third day, etc.
“God said, ‘Let there be ____.” And it was so…and God saw that it was good.” (Over and over)
God worked six days and rested on the seventh – a rhythm He set for His people until Jesus returns to usher us into an eternal Sabbath.
God gave creation over to the stewardship of man and told him to keep it and to subdue it – to cultivate it and to master its inherent order.
After the fall, life became cursed and toilsome and chaotic because Adam’s sin destroyed our harmony with our creator. That’s a hard life to live – it’s supposed to be, and that curse is pervasive in every area of our life here on Earth. It severely affects our parenting. It makes sleeping hard. It makes waking up hard. It makes it hard to eat well, hard to be on time, hard to be patient, and hard to be present.
Our God is one of order and justice, and He is also one that loves His creation and patiently sustains it while his plan of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration is revealed and accomplished. The curse of sin affects everything, but it’s been restrained by our creator from consuming everything entirely. We still enjoy the patterns He set into motion at the beginning of time. There is still evening and morning like there was the very first day, gravity still keeps our feet planted firmly to the ground, the rain still waters our crops, trees provide oxygen for us to breathe. It’s all so ordinary and mundane that we take it for granted.
The word “ordinary” has become a theme in the Eutsey home over the past few years – it started with a book by Michael Horton that uses the word as its title, and more recently has been in the advice of good friends to “celebrate the ordinary.” It has popped up in podcasts – specifically one episode entitled “What is the good life?” (Surprise! The “good life” is one characterized by appreciating the ordinary things God has given us). Even the church reformers referred to the “ordinary means of grace” to describe what happens when we pray, take part in the sacraments, hear scripture preached, and read it for ourselves. I firmly believe that God uses “ordinary” means to accomplish his purposes so that, when extraordinary results arise from ordinary means, there are no questions about His supernatural superintending work.
The reformers called those things means of grace because they are the vehicle (the means to the end) by which God intends for Christians to experience His grace and have a taste of the harmony and rhythm that once existed prior to the fall and that will exist forever after Christ comes back. Over time, as we “attend the means of grace,” we’re formed more and more into Christ’s image (the end that justifies the means). This is definitely what the great theologian, Johnny Cash, was referring to when told us to “get rhythm when we get the blues!” The more our daily rhythms of thought, word, and deed reflect the rhythms of our creator, the more joy and harmony we’ll experience. It’s a foretaste of Heaven!
Parents in our society are being crushed under the pressure to be extraordinary parents (while also being extraordinary people on our own) who raise extraordinary kids that grow up to do big, extraordinary things. I know you feel it. I do. We’ve got our own set of “means” to live by now. For some it’s success or recognition – maybe (like me) just to “be well-liked” like Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman. For others, it might be something else entirely, but regardless, every effort to “attend” those means forms us into the likeness of whatever end is in sight. Inevitably, we’ll exhaust ourselves pursuing those things because there’s no true end to those paths.
We’re urged in scripture to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author (pioneer) and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).” He’s the end we need to keep in sight – He said it’s finished, and we can rest in that. I don’t think I’m crazy to suggest that our daily activities, when steeped in the word and in prayer, can be means of grace as well. It’s entirely feasible to be growing in grace while you’re drinking your morning coffee, repenting to your wife for being checked out, brushing your kid’s teeth, disciplining your child, or repenting to your wife for being checked out (did I say that already?).
The means of grace aren’t just for us though, they’re for the people participating with us! As parents, we have the special opportunity to raise our children in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” like our church’s baptism vows state. While we’re learning to fix our eyes on Jesus, we get to take them along with us on that journey and point them to Him as well!
Everything we do points us and them to something. It’s either Jesus or it’s something else.
Would you join me by trying to “get rhythm” by making every ordinary moment an opportunity to point ourselves and our progeny to Christ? We’ll be better for it. That’s a promise.
“We always need a reminder of Grace: God’s love inspires our actions, but our action does not inspire God’s love. Our family habits will not change God’s love for us, but God’s love for us should change our family habits” – Justin Whitmel Earley, Habits of the Household.

Refreshed in God’s Presence

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by JJ Nelson

Sarah and I are excited to know that God has been preparing us and is present with us in this most important responsibility of discipling our children. Our son Rawlin is two years old and we can’t wait to meet our beautiful daughter Hannah due in September! Life is full as we navigate new areas of parenting with Rawlin, learning together as he is learning and developing so much. 

We have been on a difficult journey the past 7 months with a high risk pregnancy that has humbled us in many ways. This season has required countless trips to hospital, new medications, extra monitoring, etc. Our hearts are full of gratitude for our community surrounding us with all kinds of support and love in the way of prayers, encouraging texts, babysitting, meals, among other things. Although this is not how we had envisioned, we are so grateful that Sarah is healthy and baby Hannah is also healthy. We can’t wait to see her and hold her for the first time. 

During a recent vacation and time of reflection, Sarah and I realized that in many ways we were exhausted overall and running on empty spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The Lord revealed to us that we had been functioning this way for a while and operating in what felt like survival mode, desperately needing a recharge. Although the temporary refreshment of a vacation was great in itself, we asked the Lord to help us build this into our normal way of life. The Bible calls this Sabbath and it’s part of God’s design to sustain us and restore our joy in worship. Our ultimate and greatest rest is in Him. Although we haven’t been perfect, this marked a significant turning point understanding that it’s not just okay but necessary to prioritize our well-being and to find what refreshes us in the Lord. This involved taking a step back from some commitments. We try to reserve our sabbath for Sunday and take some moments throughout the week as well. We have found that when we take steps toward this that God grows us to be more dependent on Him and we are better spouses and parents and are more present with each other and our son Rawlin as a result. 

As God teaches us new lessons and reminds us of old ones, we pray for continued renewal in our faith, renewal in our marriage, and His wisdom and patience in parenting. 

My Highest Calling

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Caroline Almand

I often think, “I didn’t focus enough on Scripture memory this week. I should have used that recent situation as a teachable moment to point to Jesus. We need to be doing more family Bible studies, family devotions, and family journals. I am missing opportunities to encourage serving others and missions because I’m not finding community-based options for my family. Why haven’t I read aloud more missionary biographies at bedtime?” On and on this goes… “Why am I not doing more to show my family Jesus? My parenting is a failure!”
All of these parenting tasks are so important and feel desperately necessary. And, all of these things are so good! Yet, all the striving to do more puts me squarely on a roller coaster of “should haves” that leads straight to shame, regret, guilt, and fear.
“I should have… What if my failure to do so leads to…”
I can concoct some pretty awful scenarios in my mind based on my failures of not doing more as a parent.
Lately, I have been trying to slow down and think about this a bit more. Are these the things my family actually needs the most? If I do these things, will I feel more confident that my parenting will lead to Jesus? Is it my accomplishment of these parenting tasks that will lead to my child’s salvation?
This brings me to two reminders. First, I am reminded that I have no ability to draw a child’s heart to God. It is pride that causes me to think that my actions may result in the salvation of another. In humility, I can pray toward that end and wait in hopefulness. God does the rest!
Second, I am reminded of a book that was recommended to me years ago. This book is called “Parenting is Your Highest Calling: And 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt” by Leslie Leyland Fields. I am embarrassed to say that I have not yet read the book. Nevertheless, the title really sticks with me and causes me to pause. Isn’t parenting supposed to be the most important thing I do? Aren’t I supposed to lay down my life for the one I parent? If parenting isn’t my highest calling, what is?
I am learning that all of the parenting tasks, while obviously important, are not actually my highest calling. God has been using this realization to reshape who I am as a person and parent. What I am learning is that following Jesus, sacrificing for Him, obeying Him…THAT is my highest calling! Everything else, even parenting, is secondary to the calling upon my life to be his! He must be utmost; He alone is to be worshipped! My new hope and prayer for myself, and for the families of our church, is that we rest in our true highest calling. I pray that I can rest in knowing Jesus and spending time with Him. I pray I can let all the other things fall into place behind my calling to be his disciple. As I spend time with Him and obey Him, the rest comes more naturally and I live in freedom rather than fear. Certainly, my child will see more fully and hear more clearly who Jesus is when I allow my devotion to Him to be preeminent in my life, my highest calling!

The Lord of My Life

New City KidsNew City KidsLeave a Comment

by Jessica Ly

In the Ly household, it feels like we have been in a season of change for years now. If I look back over the last 4 to 5 years, something huge has changed in our family almost every 6 months. We have gone through job losses, added children to the family, added international students to our family, lost loved ones, been isolated by the pandemic (like everyone else), and more. Most recently, we’ve gone through the biggest transition yet:  going from one-on-one defense to man-to-man defense with our kids. Adding our third child has been a transition that we truly love, but I can honestly say that I personally have struggled to keep my priorities in check as a follower of Jesus, a wife, and a mother. I mean, if Jesus is the Lord of my life, then why have I not given Him my time; not just the leftovers, but the first fruits? I have tons of excuses and I’ve skillfully convinced myself that I am justified in them. “Who has less time than a mother of 3 who is still nursing and barely gets sleep herself?” These victimized thoughts have left me in the pit of self-justification, and let me tell you… it’s an empty and lonely place to be. Now, don’t get me wrong; I do believe this season is challenging and I don’t mean to diminish the truth in that, but I have been convicted that I have not pushed myself to be holy in this time. My big “Aha!” moment came in a tender time with Jesus, when I realized that I have been idolizing my beautiful children above my Lord and Savior. I am learning that it’s easy for me to make excuses about things that are good in my life, even if they get in the way with my relationship with the Lord. Satan is so sneaky – he knows how much we love our kids – so he uses that to keep us from Jesus. Self-justification is making something seem right that isn’t right. And man I sure am good at it. I am seeing clearly though now, and I’m on to his game. 

One morning, when I was at the beach this summer, I woke up before sunrise, and I saw there were three storms on the horizon. I couldn’t see the sun rising, but I could see its light breaking through the clouds. Slowly, the storms got bigger, and combined into one huge storm on the horizon. As the storms increased, so did the light from the sun as it rose. I could not see the sun, but it was still there. In that moment, I heard the Lord tell me, “Even though you can’t see Me, and the storms in your life feel so big, just keep looking for the Light! I am here with you! Be in awe of Me, and don’t fear the storm. I have a plan that is more beautiful than you could imagine.” In that moment, I felt peace come over me and I knew Jesus had awakened me. The storms and circumstances have been heavy this past year. Adding Benny to our family right before my Father passed on to glory was a lot bigger than I realized. The grief I’ve been crawling through has affected more than I understood. But God, in his great mercy, has been with me every step. And I know now that He is gently calling me to see his light in the storms, and to be in awe.

So, how can I start living like Jesus really is the Lord of my life?

I know that Jesus sometimes woke up when it was still dark, and He spent time with the Father. And in that time, the Father prepared Him for everything He would need that day. He prepared Him to cast out demons, to love on women who were outcast, to confront self-righteous people with love and truth, to pull people out of the pit of their own victim mentality. He prepared Jesus for his works, because Jesus Himself gave God his time

I am in a moment now where I hear the Lord say, “I am here with you. I miss you. I want you near Me. Come be with Me so I can prepare you and give you everything you need. Stop trying to do it on your own. Let me prepare you. Not because you feel obligated, but because you miss and love Me; because you trust that I am all you need. Come be with Me.”

I may have times in my day when I listen to my Maverick City playlist or a podcast by a Christian teacher or pastor. I may have times in Spirit-led conversations with my D-group or friends. All these are great things, but they are not enough. Like Thor says, in the movie, “I need sustenance!” – I need the bread of life! I need Jesus. I need to give Him my time, and be immersed in Him alone. I need it and I want it. I’m hungry, and I can’t be filled without my Lord. 

I hope and pray that this is an encouraging reminder for the parents at New City. We are all so busy; we have all the excuses in the world to do anything and everything except just BE with Jesus. I don’t think that’s a coincidence – I believe the Evil One is working hard to build up strongholds in our lives so that we will deny our own true need – time with Jesus. 

I am making a decision now: to break down my victim mentality, idols, and excuses that I have been using to justify not having true time with Jesus. I am doing this because I do believe Jesus is Lord and I know He does have greater things for me to do in his Kingdom. I believe that He wants to prepare me for the battles and works ahead. I am making a commitment today to stop getting in my own way.

Will you join with me?