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Dear Mushka,

QUIET TIME: A ROUTINE THAT'S HELPED ME

QUIET TIME: A ROUTINE THAT'S HELPED ME

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished. -George Muller

For years, I'd sit down to spend time with God & then pause because I didn't actually know what to do next. I felt like I was wasting my time, staring at a random Bible page or throwing prayers up based on whatever popped into my groggy mind. 

After reading this book, I decided to come up with a consistent routine for how I spend my time with God in the morning. Do I stick to it 100% everyday? No way. But it allows me to come prepared and make the very best use of my time with the Lord.  

I hope seeing this written out helps you prioritize your own time in God's presence. I'm not superwoman, and different seasons of life allow me different availability. But what I know is that I will never, ever regret meeting with my Lord & Savior every day, and He is worth the very best I have to offer. 

6:00 Alarm goes off. I get up immediately; that snooze button is dangerous! If I'm feeling extra tired, I quickly pray for energy and joy. God is so faithful to give it! I go to the bathroom, feed the cat, and fill my bottle of water. 

6:10 Sit in a chair in my office with my basket that has everything I need in it. Bible, prayer notebook, memory verse box, pencil, post-its (for brain dumping), etc. Having everything there and ready for me is crucial. Also: water, a blanket, and kleenex! 

6:10-6:15 Work my way through my scripture memory box. I use the system I wrote about here; it's such a quick and effective way to store God's words deep in my heart. When I'm ready for a new verse, I'll also use this time to write it out on a card. 

6:15-6:45 Read my Bible. You can read about the chronological plan I'm using right here. Most days, this looks like 3-4 chapters at a time. After I read, I think through a few questions; sometimes I write the answers down and other times I reflect in my head.

What necessary context do I need to remember from what I just read? What does this text show me about God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)? What does it show me about myself (sins I need to confess, examples to follow, promises to claim, etc)? And then how would these answers change my life if I took them seriously (what false ideals could I throw off, why might God be showing this to me now)?

Thinking through these answers allows me to move from reading God's words to meditating on them. If you've never done this before, it's where I've seen the most transformation in my own life. God's words are living and active... and it really helps to reflect on them beyond zooming through the assigned chapters.

6:45-7:00 Pray. First, I pray the ACTS acronym regarding what I've just read in the Bible. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. It helps solidify what I've read and allows the information to go from my head to my heart.

For example, if I just read about God leading the Israelites out of Egypt, I'd praise His strength and power; I could confess the times I don't trust Him to bring me out of a hard situation; I may thank Him for His constant leading in my life or for the examples we have in Exodus; I could ask Him to deliver me from a hard time. Something like that :) 

Then I use these sheets for other specific needs; I talk all what that looks like for me in these Instagram story highlights. Basically, I have a few things I pray for daily and then I flip to my day-of-the-week page and pray for those things/people. 

It feels funny at first, but praying aloud is a great way to stay focused and alert. I find myself less distracted, and more aware of who I'm talking to when I actually say my words aloud. Try it! 

7:00+ My boys start to stir at 7:00 which usually ends my morning time, but if I have a few extra minutes I listen to a worship song and/or read a chapter of a God-focused book I'm working my way through. I may also evaluate my goals, write down wonderful deeds of the Lord (Psalm 9:1), or sit and meditate on a specific verse. These last three things are all in my prayer notebook so I have them there at the ready!

During the day: You can read about how I try to tie the Gospel into our days right here. Sometimes, I miss my quiet morning time and instead work the things above into my hours with little boys around my feet. It's valuable and God-honoring even in the chaos.

1:00pm: I usually sit down to work on Dear Mushka right after my boys head down for a nap. I start this time by saying/paraphrasing the Lord's Prayer. It's a great way for me to recalibrate and meet the Lord mid-day. 

9:15pm: I try to head to bed around this time so that I can read/pray and be asleep by ten (so I can restfully get up at six the next morning!). Sometimes I choose a Psalm to pray through, but right now I'm reading a chapter of this book. It's so good, I often read the same chapter a few nights in a row. 

And then I start the whole thing over again the next morning! For me, doing this 6-7 days a week is really helpful. My body clock knows what to expect and wakes itself up naturally. I let myself sleep in on Sundays if I need to, but truthfully it's become a time I don't want to miss if I can help it! 

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3

 

TEN WAYS WE PLANT GOSPEL SEEDS IN OUR CHILDREN'S LIVES

TEN WAYS WE PLANT GOSPEL SEEDS IN OUR CHILDREN'S LIVES

In our home, we use passages like Deuteronomy 6:5-7 to help aid in our parenting and daily rhythms. 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words 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. 

We certainly aren't perfect (far from!) but are frequently evaluating and adding ways to keep our home Gospel-centered.

Here are ten practices that help us.

1. The first is simple, and it's to let them see us reading our Bibles. I can tell them until I'm blue in the face that I value God's words, but they'll only really understand it when they see me physically choosing my Bible over other activities. Often times, I'll re-read what I've read in my quiet time (which takes place before they wake up) while they're awake so they can see me using my Bible in everyday life. Bonus: It also helps my reading sink in when I see the same words more than once.

This is the Bible I use, but I recommend most Study Bibles. The ESV is my favorite translation. 

 

2. We try to start our mornings off with a time of praise and devotion to to God. Right now, we're working our way through Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and have really enjoyed the simple thoughts that provoke good conversation. I read over breakfast, they ask questions, I try to give everyday examples.

Then I lead them in a prayer that relates to what we've just read so they can practice talking to God and sharing their hearts with Him.

Lastly, we sing a hymn together. Mostly, it's me singing and them acting crazy (real life), but they're seeing how to worship God and this practice helps to start our day off right. No matter what, we've worshipped together and that's a beautiful day. 

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3. We usually read a Bible story every night before bed, but we may move this to our morning devotion time when we're done with the above book. Regardless, The Jesus Storybook Bible is a favorite, but we've also used The Big Picture Bible and hope to use The Spirit of God Illustrated Bible this year to intentionally teach our children more about the Holy Spirit. We read one story at a time and point out characteristics about God.

As you choose a children's Bible, look for one that keeps God the main focus and not ourselves. After all, the Bible is a book about God! 

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4. We try to play scripture-to-song music at least once a day (usually during lunch). We love Seeds Family Worship & Sing the Bible. Often times, we find ourselves humming + memorizing scripture without even thinking about it. I still remember some of the scripture songs I learned as a child, and hope some of these will stick with our children, too. God says His words never go out void, and I pray the scripture they're hearing softens their hearts to God's truths. 

Having your favorite worship music on in the background is a great idea, too. 

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5. An older & wiser friend once told me that she used the Fruits of the Spirit to parent and something clicked in my mind. I didn't have to overcomplicate it or come up with our family values; they were already there for me to use! So now we talk about each one, point out when someone is acting in that way vs not, and pray for the Spirit to lead us towards these characteristics through His power. It's simple & helpful as we learn to love one another. 

I made this art print for Dear Mushka, really for my own self, and have it framed in our house where I see it frequently. 

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6. At dinner, we're working towards reading a Psalm together and then talking about it. We open up our "adult" Bibles and let them listen in as Robert and I talk about what we just read.

If you haven't caught on, mealtimes are are an excellent time for us to re-focus our thoughts towards Christ. They're expected and predictable, which helps all of us establish good patterns and habits. Do we do it 3 x day, 7 days a week? Of course not. But when we've worked 21 times into our week, we're much more likely to do it 10 or 15 times than if we'd casually tried to do it when we thought about it. 

We have a Psalm only Bible that stays at the table. I also love this guide to the Psalms to spark conversation or help me understand a specific Psalm. 

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7. Beyond our Bibles, we're growing quite the collection of Gospel-themed books to read throughout our days. Reading is a skill & passion I want our boys to develop, and I think it's important to put high quality, engaging, beautiful books in their path. Here are some of the ones we read over and over (and over) again!

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8. Scripture Memory is an area I want to grow in (for myself and my children!) this year. Last year, we started with Psalm 23, one verse at a time, until my four year old memorized the whole thing. We practice it a few times a month, but this year we're starting to use The Child Pack-- a scripture memory pack I created for Dear Mushka, just for children :) I tried to a year ago and we weren't ready, but now feels more right. 

One verse every two weeks. That's doable! And then I'm going to create them one of these boxes so we're constantly reviewing. I think I'll add this to our morning time together; it will only take a few minutes. 

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9. We'd also like to grow in the area of serving others together. James 2 tells us that faith without works is dead, which really means that we can talk the talk all we want, but the proof of our faith and love for Jesus will come when we walk the walk. I want my boys to see that this world is full of need, and that God has equipped us to help one another through our actions. 

One intentional act of service a month is my goal, but truthfully I pray it becomes a way of life for our family-- constantly looking for ways to serve and love our neighbors. 

Ideas: Taking meals to new mothers, visiting our elderly next door neighbors or local nursing homes, donating money to adoption fundraisers, volunteering at various organizations around town, putting together care packages for those in need, sponsoring more children though places like Compassion International, etc. 

10. Lastly, we want to be a family who prays together, always. We want to see a need and drop to our knees before our Father right away. Sometimes, this looks like praying when an ambulance zooms by. Other times, it means we ask for God's help as we learn to love our siblings instead of kicking them. 

We also want to be quick to give God all the glory when we have a fun day, see a beautiful sunset, eat a good meal, etc. 

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Of course (of course!) we don't do all of these things all the time. And the good news is that it's totally okay. We can rest assured that it is God who draws hearts to Himself, not our good actions. These are all ways we aim to intentionally plant seeds in our children's lives and set them up with lifelong habits to draw them close to God. But it is HIM who does the watering and growing. 

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. -1 Corinthians 3:7

LIFETIME GOALS: HOW TO MAKE & WORK TOWARDS THEM

LIFETIME GOALS: HOW TO MAKE & WORK TOWARDS THEM

So often, we make short term goals for our new year without looking multiple steps ahead to see where those goals are going to take us. Five years ago, at the encouragement of a spiritual mentor, I made ten lifetime goals instead. Rather than thinking about what I wanted to have done by the end of the year, I started looking back on my life from the very end. What sort of woman did I want to become? Which accomplishments mattered the most to me? What did I want to be known for? What was God directing me towards?
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After all, the Bible is full of encouragement for us to live intentional lives.

In Proverbs, King Solomon gives us encouragement on making plans: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance" -Proverbs 21:5 & “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure." -Proverbs 4:26

Jesus came with a clear goal in mind: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." -Luke 19:10

After Jesus, Paul was one of the most intentional men we see in scripture. He says, "I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control…” -1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Paul also tells us in Ephesians 5:15-16 to “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time….”

The same goes for us! We don’t want to be women who drift along year to year, spinning our wheels, running aimlessly. Instead, we want to plan noble things (Isaiah 32:8) & run fiercely towards Jesus and His Kingdom.

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To help us do this, we can pray, ponder, plan, and participate :)

#1 Pray: Ask God for specifics on how to live your days, ask him to highlight your strengths, to give you clarity as you move forward, etc. He is a God of order, intentionality, and plan; He will help you as you long to offer each day to Him!

Don't skip this step-- without it, you'll be tempted to make goals just for yourself instead of for God's Kingdom and glory. 

 

 #2 Ponder: Think through things like:

  • What dreams carry you from day to day?  
  • What gifts/ resources have you been given?
  • What excites you most?
  • At the end of your life, what do you want to have accomplished?
  • If you could listen in at your memorial service, what would you like to hear people say?

 Start brainstorming-- you'll probably start to see some themes!

#3 Plan: Create goals that fall under three categories- God, God’s people, & God’s mission.

God tells us that the greatest command is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (God), and then to love our neighbor as ourselves (God’s people). He also tells us to make disciples of all nations (God’s mission).

Remembering these three topics keeps us Christ-focused. It’s not that we can’t have a goal to, say, lose twenty pounds… we just want it to stay intentionally under one of these categories. Otherwise, we start making self-focused goals, which will always fail us. Losing weight just to look better? Vanity. Losing weight because we want to use the resources we've been given for God's glory (which includes caring for our bodies)? Absolutely.

Make a few goals for each topic and give each a what (the goal), a why (a verse or motivation- this part is so helpful!), and a how (an example or short-term goals).

Here's an example:

What: Become a woman of prayer, trusting that God hears & works through my prayers

Why: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." -Mark 1:35

How: Set up a prayer journal, research fasting, find time to pray out loud five minutes each day, etc

Here's another:

What: Train up my children in the ways of the Lord, joyfully pouring the gospel message into them often & actively teaching them the character of God

Why: "We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done… so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" [Psalm 78:4,7]

How: Read the Bible during dinner, sing hymns together, pray together often, etc

We can have goals for God, the Bible, prayer, our marriage, our children, our homes, discipleship, missions, etc

Which topics jump to mind immediately? Press in there! 

 

#4 Participate: We can’t just write the goals down, we have to actually take steps forward. As one of my favorite quotes by Mary Oliver goes: "How you spend your days is, of course, how you spend your life.” 

This is where we begin to write short-term goals. Maybe this year, you want to work towards your prayer goal and your marriage goal. In January, you decide to set up a prayer journal (this might help) and go on one date with your spouse. 

Because these are lifetime goals, it's okay if you don't focus on all of them all the time. Take one bite each day, week, month, year at a time. If you continue to keep your long-term goals in mind, you'll get there. No pressure, just God-focused direction!

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I challenge you to take time this month to create five lifetime goals. If you do, e-mail me at katie@dearmushka.com-- I'd love to hear them!

LET'S READ THROUGH THE BIBLE (TOGETHER!)

LET'S READ THROUGH THE BIBLE (TOGETHER!)

Starting January 1, I'm reading through the Bible with a small group I'm a part of, and wanted to extend the invitation to you, too! 

JOIN IN

To join in, download The Bible App on your phone. 

Then sign up for this chronological plan. We're going to read the Bible chronologically to better understand the historical context and to piece together the Bible as one whole, continuous story. 140 people can join me right here, but if the group gets full it doesn't matter-- we can still all do it together! 

You're welcome to read on your phone, listen to the day's reading on your phone, or read on your Bible. Here's a print-off to follow if you'd rather read that way (it's what I'll be doing most days!)

As a bonus, I'll also be tuning into this podcast as frequently as I can. I really respect Tara Leigh and know she'll bring helpful wisdom and focus on her daily five(ish) minute recap of the day's readings. I think it might help you, too! 

 

HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE ME? 

I know reading through the Bible in one year sounds intimidating, but the truth is that it only takes about 12 minutes a day to read the Bible from cover to cover. Of course, you'll want to dedicate more time as you you begin a new book of the Bible (context is so important!) and you'll want to save at least a few minutes at the end of your time for reflection and prayer over what you've just read. But on average? 20-30 minutes y'all!

You.Can.Do.This.

Note: A study Bible can be a huge help as you begin to understand proper context. I love this one

This (and this) is also a great resource as you begin a new book of the Bible. I used these videos last year as a helpful guide, and will reference them again this time around! They're less than 10 minutes long and can really help you understand what you're about to read.  

 

PITFALLS

Usually, I wake up at 6:00am to read and pray for roughly 50 minutes before my boys wake up at 7:00am. On days when I'm not able to do this (sickness, vacation, new baby, etc), I'll find time to read aloud to my kids over lunch or listen the the audio version in the car. And if I fall a day or two behind, I'll catch up over the weekend. 

Planning is key-- when will you prioritize this in your day and what will be your backup plan?

Another thing you might run into is conflict with what you're reading. Maybe reading through Old Testament laws and genealogies is uninteresting? Or maybe you come face to face with a characteristic about God that feels different (and unsettling) from what you've always thought? 

Press on, Sister. 

For me, it is so helpful to think about the word of God like a meal. After all, Jesus calls Himself Everlasting Water and says that man must live on the Words of God, not just bread alone. (John 4:14 & Matthew 4:4). 

When we consistently miss meals, we get hangry. We make bad decisions, we feel tired, and ultimately we malnourish. 

The same is true for our souls. When we wake up and think we don't need to prioritize time in the Word, we begin to rely on our own (failing) capabilities. Our hearts and attitudes eventually malnourish!

Instead, let's savor the promises in Psalm 19 and call them to mind when we're feeling unmotivated or frustrated. Look at what God says about His words!

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

MOSTLY

Read the Bible to find God, not yourself.

The Bible is not, primarily, a guide book for our lives or a description of ourselves. It is a book about the Triune God; it tells us who He is, what He's done, and what He will do again. When we read to find Him first, we learn to love every word-- even the confusing, difficult, and slow ones-- because they offer insight into His full character. They allow us to fall in love with our Father & King & Helper through the revelation He's offered us about Himself, and we begin to long for more and more of those glimpses. 

And as James 4:8 says, when we draw near to God he absolutely draws near to us. 

Let's draw near together, friends. xx

(I'll be sharing more on Instagram throughout the year! @dearmushka)

CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHIES: TO FEED YOUR HEART, SOUL, & MIND

CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHIES: TO FEED YOUR HEART, SOUL, & MIND

Little has encouraged my soul and grown my faith more than the stories of Godly men and women who have gone before me. After all, we have a whole chapter in the Bible dedicated to recounting the faith of incredible people from the Bible (Hebrews 11) and the Psalms are full of directives to pass along God's wonderful deeds to the next generation. Hearing others' stories of lives lived fully, boldly, and faithfully is part of how we grow our own trust in the goodness & greatness of God! We see Him show up for them and our hearts start believing He'll do the same for us. Because He will. 

I try to read at least a handful of Christian biographies every year and thought I'd share some of my favorites (or to-reads!) here. 

CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR DIRECT LINKS

1. This is my current read, and I'm absolutely loving Brother Andrew's story. I can't wait to see how he gets from where he is now to where I know he ends up! 

2. Katie Davis grew up just a few miles from me with a very similar upbringing. God used her story to open my heart up towards adoption + increase the boldness in my prayers. Her second book, Daring to Hope, was just as beautiful. If you haven't read these, order now or find them at your library. 

3. Elisabeth Elliot has been a spiritual mentor in my life, and this book forms the basis for her subsequent ones. If you don't know her & her first husband's story, it will blow you away. Read on. 

4. Dare I say The Hiding Place is one of the dearest books I've ever read? If you didn't have to read it in High School, read it now! And then read all her other books because oh my heart, Corrie is just the sweetest spit fire for the Lord. In My Father's House tells about her life pre- The Hiding Place and Tramp for the Lord tells about what happened right after The Hiding Place. 

5. My brother told me to read The Heavenly Man and I'm so glad I listened. His story is incredibly different than anything we experience in the Unite States and my eyes were opened & challenged. I almost think I need to re-read this every few years as a reminder that God is so (so) much bigger than I allow Him to be in my life. 

6. Noel Piper put together this book highlighting the stories of five faithful women... and their extraordinary God ;) It's an excellent place to begin if you're just starting to read biographies (it's a pretty small book) & would be extra fun to read with a group of women. It's always fun to see which woman's story ends up speaking directly to each person's heart. 

7. Ah, George Muller. Few people have encouraged my prayer life like him. This book moves a little slower than the others, but I was so blessed by it. 

8. Oh Sister, you want to read this. It helped me understand both the Muslim faith  & the Christian faith in a deeper way and had me praising God for appearing to people in dreams. So good. 

9. Probably all of you have heard of C.S. Lewis-- this is his book that talks about how he went from being an atheist to a Christian. It's enlightening and beautifully written. 

10. Another Elisabeth Elliot book, but this time she's telling the story of Amy Carmichael. I actually haven't read this, but I'm off to order it ASAP because I've heard only the best things about it. 

11. Real talk: This has been sitting on my shelf for a year. It's a big, intimidating book! But I know it's going to be amazing when I actually dig in. Have you read it?

12. Last, Evidence Not Seen. There is something extra special about women reading the stories of women and this is a beautiful one. 

 Have a favorite? Let me hear it on Instagram! @dearmushka

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