A Mom’s View: What I Learned From Watching Alena Star in War Room

A Mom's View - What I Learned From Watching Alena Star in War Room
Have you ever taken a step back and peeked into the heart of your child?

It’s a beautiful view.

Maybe it’s when you see your timid six-year-old perform her piano solo with a confidence and boldness that you did not know she possessed. Or maybe it’s when you watch your 9-year-old selflessly give her last piece of candy to a friend or your 15-year-old courageously lead a group of her peers in worship.

Opportunities like these are a gift. They allow us, as parents, to take a step back from our normal view of parenting—teaching, instructing, disciplining—and witness the character that is brewing and blossoming on the inside.

Bold, selfless and courageous moments are the makings of a beautiful story.

Last summer my oldest daughter, Alena, was in the movie, War Room. War Room is a movie about the power of prayer and Alena plays Danielle Jordan- one of the lead characters, alongside Priscilla Shirer and T.C. Stallings.

Ironically, prior to this experience, Alena’s acting career consisted of a few fireplace performances with an audience of 5, my husband, me and her three younger sisters. So after weeks of auditioning and praying, you can only imagine the shock we all felt when she received the call to say that she “got the part!”

There is nothing I want more than to see my daughters live out loud for Christ and being a part of this film was an opportunity for my sweet 10-year-old to do just that.

For 6 weeks, as I watched her film, I saw Jesus at work in her life and in her heart. I was her mom, but the film’s director (Alex Kendrick) was her boss and she had a job.IMG_1415

At times it was hard for me to watch her independence but in those moments I saw her work harder then I thought she was capable of with a selfless love, humbled posture and determined attitude.


It was wonderful. I was grateful and I was convinced that, although I play a significant role as her mother, who she is and what God has planned for her has little to do with me.

Each moment with her on set was a reminder to me that my four daughters are actually not mine at all, they are His.

And the beautiful story that is blossoming is one written by none other than the Creator Himself, God.Atlanta_WarRoom_314

Since day one I have prayed that God grants each of my daughters a heart that yearns to know Him and a willingness to follow His lead. I have prayed fervently that He grows them into little Jesus-chasing-world-changers.

But can I be honest? Answered prayers can be scary, especially when they involve my children.

Wynter and Alena Pitts in War Room

Praying for our children to yearn for Christ requires selflessness and following through on our end of the deal – when the Lord answers this prayer – requires an unimaginable amount of personal sacrifice. The call is for a total release of control and a willingness to sit back and watch Him work.

Ultimately, as parents our answered prayers keep us on our knees.

The longer I parent, the more evident it becomes that my children are His.

God taught me this lesson in a fairly dramatic way with Alena being cast as “Danielle.” But truthfully, most often God is calling us to a posture of prayer, release and trust in the very small, seemingly insignificant moments in our life.

And when I am speechless, unsure or afraid of where their desire for Christ will lead them, my knees hit the ground and I pray these simple words,

“Dear God, she is Yours and I trust You with her. Amen.”

As parents, our part is to steward well as they cross the bridge that leads them back into the arms of their Father.



For Girls Like You DevotionalTween girls have access to an unbelievable amount of media and information with just a simple click of the remote or mouse. Every outlet they turn to attempts to subtly influence their worldview…and what they believe about themselves directly affects how they live.

Wynter Pitts, founder of For Girls Like You magazine, gives girls a new devotional showing them a correct definition of themselves, opening their eyes to God’s truth and the differerence it makes in their lives. Each daily devotion includes a prayer to help girls apply the lesson. ~ from the Publisher
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Available here: For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens 

How to Make The Most Of Every Day

How to Make the Most of Every DayThere are different times of the year when I am more motivated than others to start new habits; the beginning of a new month, the beginning of the New Year, the beginning of a new school year and sometimes, the beginning of the week.

There is no way that I can start a new project on a Wednesday (or later).  It’s just not natural! And when I don’t read my Bible until Thursday I feel as if my week has been a failure.

Well, a couple of verses in Lamenations gently challenged my thoughts on this.

The steadfast love of the Lᴏʀᴅ never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22–23

Do you realize that we never enter an old day, instead each morning we are greeted with a brand new day filled with mercy and grace?

Every morning God is there extending to us his love and faithfulness and holding out us his promises.

Every morning God is willing to reveal himself to us through his word and shower us with the wisdom we need to live this day for him.

Every morning we are given new opportunities to glorify God through our actions and words.

Every morning we are given power to overcome sin because we have the Holy Spirit.

Every morning we are given new strength to endure suffering and live holy lives in a corrupt world.

LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress. Isaiah 33:2

Every morning the cross proclaims to us that our sins are indeed forgiven, our slate wiped clean and our debt paid.

Every morning God is perfectly good, no matter what our day holds.

We never enter an old day!

So instead of waiting for the beginning of a New Year or new month, we should view each morning as a new beginning. A chance to use our words for building up instead of tearing down, a new chance to organize something or work on that to-do list. A new day to love on our families and serve those God places in our lives.

More important than all of that is the new chance to spend time with God.

Maybe we forgot Him yesterday, maybe it has been a while since we opened our Bibles, but today is a new day and with it comes a new opportunity to know our Creator and our Savior.

This is the best way to start the day since we need His strength to tackle the things that will come our way, we need His wisdom to navigate through this world and we need to know that we are loved with a love that never wavers.

Don’t let the date on a calendar or the day of the week cause you to waste the precious days God has given us.

We don’t know how many we have so let’s use all of the to the glory of God.

*Do you struggle viewing each day as a new beginning? What helps you remember to live everyday in a way that honors God?


One Simple Way to Create A Powerful Prayer Plan

One Simple Way to Create A Powerful Prayer Plan

When you finally set aside some time to pray have you ever felt like this . . . 

I don’t even know how to begin. There are so many needs- my kids, my friends, my spouse, that “issue,” an urgent request…and then there’s me, oh my; I’m already discouraged and I haven’t even begun to pray!

 If we are really honest, each of us feels this way at some time. And if you are a Mom with little ones, before you even get started praying some small person will likely interrupt you!

I spend a lot of time hanging out with young Moms. Recently in three separate conversations I was asked,

“Susan, how in the world do you organize your prayer life? Do you have a plan?”

Actually, I do have a plan.

It’s always evolving and it’s not perfect. But it does help me to focus and it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed with too many needs for one time of prayer.

Prayer Notebook

I have a simple notebook in which I have inserted dividers – one for each day of the week. Every day I pray for myself, my husband and each of my five married kids and their children.

Monday’s theme is our relationship with the Lord. (Matthew 6:33). I begin by praying the Lord’s Prayer inserting each of our names within the prayer.  I pray for discipline in quiet times, a hunger for God’s word, and whatever relates to this theme.

Tuesday it’s for our marriages. Right when our kids were born I began to pray for their future spouses (if it was God’s plan that they marry). I prayed these little boys and girls would come to know Christ at an early age and I prayed for the parents who were raising them. I secretly hoped there were parents somewhere praying for me! Today I’m praying for my grandchildren’s future spouses.

Wednesday the theme is close friends. Girls need a soul sister. Guys need guys even though they may not recognize it. We need friends with whom we can be completely vulnerable—friends who’ll push us to Christ and to our mates, folks who’ll challenge us, cry with us, and stick with us.

Thursday’s theme is boldness to proclaim Christ. (Psalm 138:3). I pray for confidence, courage and conviction, especially for the next generation.

Friday’s is “heart for the world” day. How desperately we need a vision and love for people outside our cloistered circles. I ask God to give to each of us a passion for one country and ways to invest in the poor in our own communities.

Saturdays are reserved for extended family and Sundays are simply for worship!

In addition to family prayers each day, I pray for different groups. One day it may be friends looking for mates, another for friends struggling with infertility, a day for our church staff, a day for friends in other locations, a day for specific Hollywood actors and actresses to come to Christ, a day for each of the girls in my Bible studies, a day for ministries abroad, a day for special people to come to Christ, a day for our country’s leadership and so forth.

It may sound overwhelming but dividing subjects up into days keeps me from feeling discouraged. I constantly add to my pages and they are messy.

There’s not one right way to do this. Mine is only one idea. But we can begin by purchasing that notebook and some new pens!

The JOY comes when we look back and see how God has answered!

For the word of the Lord is right and true. He is faithful in all he does. ~ Psalm 33: 4

John and Susan Yates Family


Susan Alexander Yates

The God Who Hears {When You Desperately Need a Listener}

The God Who Hears When You Desperately Need A Listener

Sometimes you just want someone to listen.

Not fix. Not advise. Just listen.

Listen long enough to “get it.” To simply feel what you’re feeling right along with you.

I can’t count the times I’ve gone through my mental list… Who could I call? Who would be willing to just be here in this place with me?

And sometimes as I’ve gone through the list I’ve come up empty-handed. I already know what they’re going to tell me. They’ll tell me to trust God. Or persevere. Or that everything is going to work out. Truth, but not necessarily what my soul needs at the moment.

Other times, when I’ve bared my soul, I’ve been surprised by the one listening. Surprised by their gracious silence. The way they refrained from telling me what I already know. How they just heard me and felt my heart.

Maybe I’m weird like this. But I suspect I’m not alone.

We want to be known. To have someone see us where we’re at, struggles, failures, weaknesses, and all, and just surround us with love.

I remember being in that spot during a particularly hard season while ministering full-time in the country of Haiti. And I especially remember the bitterness that crept into my soul when the people around me failed to provide what I wanted most.

For a while, I believed the lie that we’re all tempted by: No one understands what you’re going through.

If they truly cared, if they really saw you and the struggle you’re enduring, they would try harder, listen better, reach out more persistently.

Honestly, I’m still not immune to that lie. I probably never will be.

But the truth is sinking indeeper and deeper.

Jesus sees me. He knows me. Even though no one else will ever fully “get it,” He will. Every single time.

My God invites me to pour out my heart to Him, for He is my refuge (Psalm 62:8). And He does the same for you.

What an invitation! Our hearts are full of pain, frustration, fear, bitterness, sometimes despair. And yet our Savior wants to hear it all. You and I can “cast all our care upon him, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Our God is the perfect listener.

He knows how and when to fix things, but He also knows how to listen. How to feel. How to weep when we weep – even bottling our tears (Psalm 56:8). How to hold us with His everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27) and love with perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

No one else can compare.

Finding a friend who will listen well is a gift of God. But know that your Heavenly Father will top him or her every time. His patience is limitless, His wisdom infinite, and love unfailing. He sees you. He cares completely.

I pray that today you’ll allow yourself to be comforted and strengthened by the God who hears.

I’d love to share the goodness of this God with you through my recently released memoir, In a Sun-Scorched Land.

If you find yourself in that position, where I so often did… “No one could possibly understand how hard this is,” I believe you’ll find refreshment for your soul and renewed faith in our God’s sovereignty.

May God use it to bring hope in the dry places of your life!

Sunscorched book screen 4



HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: This newly-released memoir, In a Sun-Scorched Land: A memoir of adoption, faith, and the moving of Haiti’s mountains by Jennifer Ebenhack, Foreword by Lisa Jacobson.

★★★★★“This was a book I couldn’t put down. I’m afraid the laundry went undone for a few days until I could finish it! Jennifer’s story shows that life is hard, but God is at work behind all of the seeming setbacks. He protects. He makes a path for us, even if it’s a crazy, almost untraceable one. He gives strength when we don’t have any left. When I put Jennifer’s book down, I felt encouraged to persevere through my own hard days. An excellent read that I highly recommend.” ~ Amazon Review

In A Sun-Scorched Land is available HERE. 

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15 Things to Love About Being a Mom of Boys

15 Things to Love About Being a Mom of BoysGot boys?

Yeah, me too.

Four of them.

Our oldest son and then three young boys.

And I can’t believe no one told me how wonderful being a mom of boys could be.

Not that I don’t love my girls—you already know how dear they are to me—but boys? They’re some of the best.

Like the best.

And if you ever spent much time around them….you would certainly understand why.

So I began a list of a few things that I love about having boys.

At first it was going to be “10 Things That I Love,” but then I had such a hard time limiting it to “10” that I upped it to 15.

Maybe 150.

So really, this is only a starter list. Because I’m sure you’ll have a thing or  two to add to what I’ve got here. But this is what I came up with . . . .

15 Things I Love About Being A Mom of Boys
15 Things to Love About Being a Mom of Boys

1.   I love their fiery spirits.

I love how they’re ready to right all wrongs and jump into danger. How they grab their swords and fight to the death. (Okay, not literally, but you know what I mean?)

2.   I love their tender hearts.

Just when you think he’s the toughest, roughest, sort of kid, he surprises you with the softest word or kindest touch. Melts my heart. Every time.

Boys in the Mud

3.   I love how they smell like dirt.

You didn’t think I’d say that did you. Or at least that I’d mean it. But I did. And I do. I love that musty smell they have—a bit like the dog’s toy that got left outside for a couple of days. Like bugs and grass. Earthy. And sometimes just downright muddy. 

15 Things to Love About Boys8

4.   I love their mischievous impulses.

Like when they hide under the blankets of my bed and wait patiently for me to crawl in…and hear me scream! (pretending I didn’t see those wiggly, giggling bumps under the cover?) I love their silly jokes and goofy pranks. Well, at least most of the time. Placing the explosive Snapdragons under the toilet seat was bit much. Grrrr….!

15 Things to Love About Boys3

5.   I love how they wrestle, tussle, and attack.

Keeps me young. And limber and strong. I probably would have given up wrestling years ago…if I didn’t have to fight off a bunch of bandits who can often appear suddenly out of nowhere.

6.   I love their protective instinct.

In spite of all that, these young lads can be quite chivalrous. They can’t bear to see me dragging a heavy load out to the trash. Or to get hurt. Or cry. I try to tell them that “I’m stronger than I look,” but they don’t seem to quite believe me. They want to save me from all harm. And that’s okay with me.

15 Things to Love About Boys10

7.   I love how they can make me laugh.

And, oh, how they can get me going! And once they get started? There’s no stopping them. Sometimes laughing until tears stream down my cheeks. Especially that youngest one (far right). The ham. 

15 Things to Love About Boys7

15 Things to Love About Boys6

8.   I love their constant motion.

Oh my goodness. Never walking. Always running. And do your boys ever sit still?? Because mine certainly don’t. They wriggle and squirm and twitch until I…send them outside. GO PLAY! Whew. 

9.   I love how loud they are.

I never thought I’d say this. But here I am. I’ve actually grown fond of the way they slam the doors, shout to each other in the same room, and sing full volume while washing the dishes. I mean, who needs a quiet house? (Okay, I do. And that’s when I send them back outside!)

15 Things to Love About Boys9

10.   I love how hard they work.

It makes me smile to see them to do their best to keep up with their dad. Whether feeding the animals, tilling the garden, or mowing the lawn—they’ll give it all they’ve got. (Not that they don’t need a little push now and then….)

11.   I love all the funny noises they make.

The grunts. The burps. The motor noises. And, well, those other somewhat indescribable and rather embarrassing noises too…..

15 Things to Love About Boys

12.   I love their sweet snuggles.

Does it get much better than this? Even their older sister (who is away at college) called to say how much she misses snuggling with her brothers. Dusty, sticky, and stained—I’ll take cuddles from the boys any way I can!

13.   I love how they argue over who gets to make my coffee in the morning.

Somehow their dad has convinced them that this is one of the highest honors a man can have. I know. I’m sure I don’t deserve it, but I drink it up all the same. One spoiled mom. 

15 Things to Love About Boys5

 14.   I love how they look up to their dad.

Yes, they know he’s not perfect, but he’s their dad. And he’s a good man. And the boys love and respect him.

They also know that they are deeply loved by him.

15 Things to Love About Boys

15.  I love how they grow into fine young men.

So to be perfectly honest? I don’t know that I was as patient – or as appreciative – when this young man was a squirmy, muddy, running-hard kind of little boy.

But as each year goes by, I can see more and more clearly the calling God has on his life.

I can see how he would need that high level of energy and that kind of drive to do the things that he was made to do.

15 Things to Love About Boys

In some ways so much has changed. He is no longer a boy, but a young man.

He is still my son, but far more of a friend.

And he still has a mischievous grin and doesn’t mind a little dirt.

And he still has a hug for his mom.

So you can probably see why I love being a mom of boys.

It’s the best.

The very best.

Run strong, son. Run strong.

In His grace,
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*Got boys? Share with us something you love about having a son! 

Photo credit: Most of the photos are thanks to the boys’ Auntie Brenda and the last photo is from Captured! Photography.

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5 Verses Every Mom Can Turn to for Help and Hope

5 Verses Every Mom Can Turn To For Help and Hope I love being a mom.

I love caring for our children. Guiding them. Teaching them. And simply hugging them.

Motherhood is such a beautiful thing.

But that doesn’t mean I always sleep well at night. Or that I never worry.  You see, I start to wonder if I’m a good enough mother . . .  or at least the right one for this child.

Because — between you and me — I sometimes agonize over these gifts I’ve been given. These children of mine.

And I question whether I really have what it takes and if they’re gonna turn out okay in the end. I need some reassurance and hope for those times when I’m filled with doubt and worry.  

I need to turn to the Bible to remind myself what is right and what is true. 

5 Verses Every Mom Can Turn to For Help & Hope


God will grant me the wisdom I need, if I ask Him for it. Even when I am at my “wit’s end,” I can go to Him for the answer.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ~ James 1:5


God will give me the strength to do what I’ve been called to do. I might feel weak and wobbly, but He is always strong.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ~ Phil. 2:13


God will bless my faithful efforts and I mustn’t grow weary. I should press on and keep doing the right thing, even when the going gets tough.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. ~ Gal. 6:9


God has given me a powerful love and I have nothing to fear. I will not pay attention to those discouraging whispers, but will only listen to the Voice of Truth.

 ….for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ~ II Tim. 1:7


God can do even more than I ask or imagine.  I serve a great and mighty God who is more than able to restore and redeem.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…. Eph. 3:20

So if you’re anything like me and have times when you feel like you’re in just a bit over your head, or not exactly the kind of mom you want to be?

Then rest in these Truths – taken straight from the Word of God – that reassure us that He will equip us and give us all we need as a mom to these precious children.

*So these are some of my favorite Bible verses as a parent – what are some of your favorite verses?

In His grace,
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