#livefreeThursday: Do we own it, or does it own us?

All His

I was in the hospital, a young mom sick with cancer. The phone beside the bed rang and I picked it up. I was careful to avoid the tubes and IV’s as I held it to my ear. I almost cried when I realized it was from the mortgage company.

They had tracked me . . . all the way to the hospital.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as defeated or helpless as I did that day. My young husband was working 80 hours a week, taking care of the dairy and working extra days on another farm nearby. I was going through chemo, radiation and surgeries and trying to assure three small children that it was going to be okay. We juggled bills, paying so much on this one and so much on that one.

The call that day felt like another wound, one the doctors couldn’t address.

As believers we might not talk about money or material things because it’s a tender topic, but money and material possessions can be a powerful gift.

One anonymous person slipped a hundred dollar bill in our mailbox right before Christmas that year. I can’t even tell you how excited we were to go to the TG&Y (old school version of the Dollar Store) and buy generic barbies for the girls and army men and a dump truck for Ryan. I wept as I wrapped those presents and put them under the tree.

I didn’t want a single thing for me, but the fact that there was something for them meant everything.

Money isn’t bad. Having things isn’t bad. Both are resources that can do powerful good, like infusing hope into the heart of a family in the midst of a battle.

Unfortunately, money can also divide. It can destroy relationships.

Money can create disappointment as we compare our bank account or material goods to another and feel that we somehow fall short, even though the poorest of us are richer than 98% of the rest of the world.

Money can cause family members not to talk to each other as they wrangle over an inheritance, while they have plenty.

Yet it’s not money that does those things, is it?

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12:15 (NLT)

Greed is intense desire to have something no matter what. It’s what takes something that can do powerful good and twist it. The good news is that we can guard our hearts against this. It begins by asking this gut-honest question:

Do I see the things I own as His

or do things own me?

If everything we have is His, then it becomes a blessing rather than a never ending pursuit.

If everything we have is His, then life isn’t measured by what we own. It’s not our emphasis. We’ll refuse to elevate it above people, especially family. We will stop accumulating stuff when so many don’t even have the basics.

This returns money and material positions back into their rightful place — as a gift to be used for His purposes, rather than our purpose for being.

As I wrote this post, I reminded Richard of that old story. It seems a million years ago in some ways, and we both wish we knew who put that crisp $100 bill in our mailbox so many years ago.

I’d wrap my arms around their neck and tell them that their gift rescued a distraught, young mama who was battling cancer and discouragement. I’d show them a picture of three happy children unwrapping a few Christmas presents, and the bountiful dinner we had later that night.

Do we see the things we own as His, or do they own us?

It’s a question worth asking. Let’s pray this prayer today, okay?

Lord, is there anything that owns me? If it has the potential to own me, release that in Your name. Let money and material things take its rightful place in my heart, in my thoughts, in what I pursue. Let me take what I do have and gently press it into places where it will do good for Your name’s sake.


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When your faith feels out of sync

3 steps to intimate faith

If you came over from Encouragement for Today, welcome!

In today’s devo, I shared about how my sweet guy dances to his own tempo, regardless of the beat of the music or how anyone else is dancing.

Then one day I thought that I’d see what happened if I matched my rhythm to his. It changed everything!

Maybe you’ve felt out of sync in your relationship with God. Is it possible to find that rhythm again?

[Read more…]

Giving God your all, even your kids

Where else would we want our children, except for in the heart of His will?

Parents stood on the small stage. Young siblings waved at the crowd or clutched mom’s leg, while babies squirmed, slept, or cried. Diane, our children’s ministries director held the microphone up to one parent.

“Do you release this child to His plan, even if that draws them to the ends of the earth to share the gospel?” she asked.

Wait a minute. 

Did she just say that? [Read more…]

Giving you some love, moms! {{giveaway}}

karen and ruthToday’s guest post is from a woman I admire. Karen Ehman is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and best selling author. She cooks up batches of homemade cookies for her son’s football team, drives her older car with a couple of hundred thousand miles, and speaks to women who laugh at her genuine humor and unique way of approaching life.

Karen released her latest book with co-author Ruth Schwenke and I love it!

It’s called Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off.  Today she’s giving away one copy to one of you. ♥



The Great Wall of Motherhood

Karen Ehman

Maybe I could fake being sick. Or pretend I twisted my ankle. I just have to think of something that will get me out of this!

I was a mess, my heart beating so wildly. It was my freshman year of college, and I stood staring at it—a legend I’d heard about since my very first visit to campus. “It” was made of wood and nails. It stood tall and plain in the mid-Michigan countryside, yet it taunted and intimidated me until I surely thought I’d faint.

They called it simply, “The Wall.” [Read more…]

#livefreeThursday: have we lost the ability to live generously?

Lord, give me-2

It was a nail biter of a game. AR versus Ole Miss.

We thought our guy was about to be tackled when all of a sudden he tossed the ball backwards into the field of play. People all over the restaurant stood to their feet. They cheered when the ball was caught and the player started running down the field with it.

Luke and Jane were parked in my lap. Four-year-old Luke was tuned in to the game and the action going on all around us.

The player was tackled, but now the ball was within sight of the end zone. When the AR player made the final touchdown, we were 1 point ahead and most in the restaurant erupted in cheers.

We won!


“Did our guys win, Gaga?” Luke asked.

“They did!” I said.

Suddenly Luke looked up. “Gaga, is Ole Miss sad?”

“A little bit,” I replied. “They wanted to win too.”

“I hope they’ll be okay.”

Can I tell you something? This insight made my heart glad. Luke is only four (though he looks seven). One day he’ll be a man. One day he’ll make his mark on the world and on people.

The fact that there’s a tender generous spirit budding in the heart of this 4-year-old is something to celebrate.

Because generosity has gone missing in many ways in our culture. 

We can be mean-spirited with each other and call it competition.

We can say things on the Internet that we’d never say in real life, and walk away saying we were just proving our point.

We can withhold kindness because we don’t feel like it.

We can hoard and collect material things, being sure to point out that we’ve earned it or to point out what others have and we do not — while ignoring the reality that we are well provided for compared to the majority of mankind in areas of food, education, and shelter.

We can be less than generous with our words, our appreciation, our kindness to those who live within our reach.

This lack of generosity is making an impact, and maybe this is where you think I’m going to talk about what you can do. But it just makes me look at my own heart.

Because these little people are watching me close. They are taking their cues from me and others around them, so I have to ask this question: Am I generous?

Generous: showing a readiness to give more of something than is expected or strictly necessary.

Living with a generous spirit begins inside of us.

It’s how we choose to view things — get more; earn more; pile it up; or what do you want to do with this, Lord?

It’s how we see people — me against them, I’m right so you must be wrong; or how I can understand where you are coming from?

It’s how we portray faith — I’m more righteous than you; you don’t fit in my world; how could God possibly love you when you do that; or I was a sinner and He scooped me up, and this is for you too.

And perhaps this is the part where we are the least generous. .  . it’s how we treat those we say we love — no love for you today; I’m not feeling it; I reserve the best for those I don’t live with; don’t bother me; or you are always welcome in my arms and I appreciate the gift you are to me.

None of us get this down perfect. Yet this is my prayer.

Father, I desire a generous heart.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)

Let me go the opposite of culture and water others with unexpected words. Let me move beyond common thinking and give beyond the expected. If I’m tempted to hoard and hold tight and pinch and finagle, remind me that a rich life is one that gives freely.

For me, generosity is most important where I’m not “Suzanne Eller, author and speaker,” but in those more private places where I’m mom, wife, Gaga, and mother-in-law. It’s with these people that see me at my worst (I have serious bedhead, people) and still love me like crazy.

It’s with the people who will matter in the end, far more than anything else.

What might happen if we begin to ask God for a generous heart? Where do you sense would begin His work first? What does it look like for you to live with a generous spirit?


Today is #livefreeThursday. We are talking all day long about a “generous spirit.” I can’t wait to begin this conversation!

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3 signs that you need to give yourself a break

3 signs that you might need a break

“Mom, it’s like you have a sign on you that says, “I love you, but don’t ask for any of me. I just don’t have it to give right now.”

Um, this is me. Right here. In the flesh and blood. I’m present. I showed up and I’m smiling and interacting.

Can’t you see that?

This was several months ago and I wrote it about it at the time.

When my daughter called me on this, I wanted to protest: I’m a giver. I’m here, sis. Always. Yet the reality is that she had pegged it.

I was tapped out.

As women we are givers, but sometimes we try to pour water out of an empty well. There’s signs that are flashing, but do we see them? [Read more…]

When giving hurts . . .in a bad way


I stopped at the light and noticed her. She had a bruise under one eye and a hand-written cardboard sign in the other.

I need help. 

That’s all it said. It was raining outside, so I grabbed an umbrella and tried to dig some cash out of my purse before the light changed. She ran to the window and I said goodbye. Later when I passed back by, she was standing at the same light, my red umbrella somewhat sheltering her from the torrential rain.

To be truthful, I wasn’t sure I had done enough. The Holy Spirit had prompted me to do something, but was an umbrella and a few dollars sufficient?

Later I shared the story with a couple of friends.

Their response was not that I hadn’t done enough, but that I had done too much.

And there we were — the struggle that we all face sometimes when it comes to giving. [Read more…]

#livefreeThursday: Giving up our addiction



I noticed several weeks ago that my Iphone was like a dog yanking on a chain. I took it out to glance at it when it buzzed. Even when I was talking to my handsome guy, I looked away to see who was on the other side of that notification.








Google calendar

That’s just a few that buzzed, beeped, chirped and pinged, depending on the current setting.

I’m not addicted. . .

At least that’s what I told myself.

I reasoned, reminding myself that this is how we work nowadays (I sound 102 when I say that, I know) and it’s handy, yes it is. The problem is that all of those alerts and notifications weren’t really that important, not really, not enough to take my attention away consistently.

They could wait, I told myself, except for they didn’t.

Is it okay if I’m honest with you and don’t pretend that I have it 100% together? Because somewhere around this time is when I knew it had crossed from accessing some really great tools to addiction.

Yes, that’s what I said: addiction. 

I really wanted to check my phone even when I made a conscious choice to put it down. It was habit to continually scroll through Facebook (after all, I’m in ministry and that’s where the people are), or to check my emails one more time or click that heart on Instagram.

There were times that my phone buzzed or vibrated in the night and I picked it up just to see. . . and that blue screen led me from the notification to reading a chapter of a book to checking Facebook.

And what do you know it’s 1 a.m. in the morning and I’m going to be super tired the next day.

I turned off notifications on almost everything except my calendar and texts and messages, because I didn’t need them.

I didn’t want them.

Can you hear the addict behavior? Deep inside I KNEW it was moving into unhealthy territory, but I continued to check it because I didn’t need notifications anymore. My need to tune in was my notification.


One night Richard and I were sitting in a restaurant and I saw a couple with their kids. Dad was scrolling. Mom was texting away. Kids were sitting in silence eating. I looked at more families and couples and friends, and saw much of the same.

It broke my heart.

It’s not the first time I’ve noticed this new way of doing things and I was feeling frustrated about it, because after all this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Why would you ignore the loved one across from you to check out what someone had for dinner or to watch that funny video or play yet one more game of Candy Crush?

That’s when the Counselor, our Advocate, the One who loves us spoke to my heart.

You do it too. 

How many times had I chose social media over the warm body in the next room? How many times did I stand up at the dinner table and walk away because I heard a text ping?

How many times had I woke up with circles under my eyes because I read one more chapter, played one more game, checked one more status update. . .

Addiction to anything is never pretty because it means that we’ve allowed something to be bigger than us and it’s a bully, but we continue to feed it and nurture it as if it has value.

Oh, Lord, the addict is me. 

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

That’s the freedom offered in any addiction. As women who are absolutely loved by God, we are not powerless. Jesus may not have been tempted with Instagram, but He knows what it is to be distracted by the enemy and offers a way out.

{Click to Tweet} When something tilts from harmless to unhealthy, we are not powerless

When I talked about this with a friend, she said, “Sometimes those things are just a way to have some downtime,” and she’s absolutely right. This isn’t pointing a finger at you if you wile away a few moments checking out FB or play a hand of Spades. It’s not saying that these aren’t amazing tools that help us stay connected, or that my struggle is yours.

It’s simply saying that when the Holy Spirit gently points out something (even if it’s good) that has tilted from harmless to unhealthy, we aren’t stuck in that behavior.

When something of lesser value is claiming a bigger part of our identity or our family or our hearts, we still have a Helper who leads us back to those things that are of greater value. It puts us back in balance, right where we long to be.

So I’m in the process of actively choosing something of greater worth over that of lesser value.

Sure, I’ll still have my phone. But it won’t have me.


It’s #livefreeThursday. Women from all over the world are gathering to talk about “I give up,” today. What has God been leading you to give up? OR what does it mean for you to give up, good or bad?

I can’t wait to dig in deeper with you.

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