Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Worship

Editor’s Note: This summer we will post a new blog every other Thursday. In August, we will start a new series. I am praying that you would be refreshed and enjoy your SUMMER!

Today I woke up with a song on my heart called the Goodness of God. One of my favorite verses in this song is when it says, “with every breath that I am able I will sing of the goodness of God.”  So many of us wake up with a song on our hearts or we are singing His praises during the day.

We were created to worship God, and as parents, we are also responsible for helping cultivate a heart of worship in our children.

John 4:23 says, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” I want to be that kind of worshipper to my King, and I want that same experience for my children.  

Something that the Lord has been working on with my family and me over the past few weeks is setting a good foundation. I like to think of it has having good “roots.” I have this picture on my phone of a huge tree that my dad recently had to dig up. I showed this picture to my kids and we talked about all the roots that were on that tree and how that relates to our life. When we have God’s Word in us, then we will have roots that look just like that tree. We can stand tall and firm in Jesus because we are rooted in Him and our foundation is strong. Matthew 7:24 says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” 

One of my jobs as a mom is to help lay that kind of foundation in my children. To become the true worshipper that John 4:23 talks about, we must position ourselves in a way that we can enter into His presence.

In our house, our children know that we listen to Christian music. It plays in our cars, in the background while doing chores around the house, and it plays when my children go to sleep. We talk about why we listen to this type of music. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” If we are sowing good seeds into our hearts and minds, then we have prepared ourselves to receive the Spirit in order to become the true worshipper.  

As we worship in our home, I talk to my kids about why we close our eyes and lift our hands. I tell them that when I close my eyes, I like to picture Jesus sitting before me as I worship Him and thank Him for all He has done in our lives. I also show them that by lifting my hands, I am giving everything I have to Jesus because He has given me everything! I am surrendering to Him. 

One thing that I love about playing Christian music in our home and cars is that when my children worship at church, they already know most of the songs. We have cultivated our hearts and made them ready to receive the Spirit and all that God has to offer us. I believe this allows them to be able to close their eyes, lift their hands, and come into God’s presence because the songs are already written on their hearts.  

We were made to worship our God.

When we as parents prepare our children and their hearts to become a true worshipper, we are setting them up to receive the destiny God has for them.  

Start off by laying the foundation of why we worship. Show them that the songs we sing are scriptures in the Bible. My daughter loved being able to see this! Once you have laid the foundation, train them on how to worship and what it looks like in your home. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

As we train our children to become true worshippers, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct the path of our children. Every time they worship, the Holy Spirit is putting His thumbprint on their hearts and they learn to hear His voice and obey His commands. What an awesome thing to learn as a child!

We would like to thank Kaylene Vanbebber for writing this post!

Rescued

Editor’s Note: This summer we will post a new blog every other Thursday. In August, we will start a new series. I am praying that you would be refreshed and enjoy your SUMMER!

In working with kids and teens who have been through trauma, I have learned a term that some call “felt safety” or “psychological safety.” The idea behind this is that kids and teens (and adults, for that matter) have to feel safe in order to react in healthy ways. The people around the child may know that she is safe: The doors are locked, she has caring adults around her, she has enough food to eat. But if the child or teen does not feel like she is safe, she will continue to react out of survival mode. This could look like destructive behavior, disrespect, or keeping secrets.  

In order for all of us (kids and adults alike) to function from a healthy mindset, we have to feel safe. For many of us, this means choosing to operate from a mindset of fear to an attitude of trust.

A few months ago I attended a conference, and one of the speakers challenged the audience to change the way they talk to God. He said, “So often we try to be professional in our relationship with God, and we forget to be personal.” He guided all of us right then to practice talking with God as a loved son or daughter. While the music played, we all started praying out loud. 

As I prayed, God gave me a picture of Him holding me and rocking me in a rocking chair. As I leaned up against Him, God spoke to my heart, “You can come get a hug from Me any time you want.” That spoke deeply to me. And I realized that this is one of the ways God gives us “felt safety.” No matter who we are, all of us have areas where we feel insecure or unsafe. God wants to speak directly to those places. He wants to bring healing to our hearts. He wants to rescue us from our own feelings of shame and isolation and bondage.

Recently, I came across one of the prayers that the Jewish people pray at the end of their Sabbath celebrations each week. After a little research, I found out these prayers come from Isaiah and the Psalms: 

“‘Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid; 

for the Lord God is my strength and my song, 

and He has become my salvation.’

With joy you will draw water from 

the wells of salvation.” (Is. 12:2-3)

“I will lift up the cup of salvation 

and call on the name of the Lord.” (Ps. 116:13)

I decided to look up the Hebrew word for “salvation” since it was used over and over again in these verses. The original Hebrew word for “salvation” paints a picture of someone coming in from the outside and rescuing us from a place of bondage. It means we have been freed and given victory over our enemies. Because we’ve been rescued, we have a sense of calmness and peace, and we feel safe. When we feel safe, we can flourish and live in prosperity and abundance.

Stick with me here; it’s just getting good. The Hebrew word for “salvation” in these verses is yeshua. The name for Jesus. “And you shall call his name Yeshua—Jesus—because he will save (rescue) his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Let that soak in.

Jesus is our rescuer. Because of Jesus we have freedom. Because of Jesus we have victory. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid anymore. Because of Jesus we have peace, calmness, comfort, and “felt safety.” 

You are free from shame. You are free from the names the enemy wants you to call yourself. You are free from guilt. Because Jesus has rescued you. 

“As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I (God) seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered.” (Ezekiel 34:12 ESV)

You are safe. You have been rescued. Jesus sees you. Jesus wants you. He draws you near with cords of kindness. His goodness and loving kindness pursue you every day of your life. Rest in the truth of that today, my friend. 

We wold like to thank Heather Dillard for writing this post!

Having Peace and Order in Our Homes

Editor’s Note: During the month of May, we will focus on learning to have peace in every aspect of our lives. Lean in and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in you. Let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) together! 

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (I Cor. 14:33). 

As women who influence our homes and our families, one major way we can usher in the peace of Christ is by rejecting disorder and embracing order and all that means.

Order involves submitting ourselves to the government of God and His priorities. So first—always first—seek His Kingdom. That means we welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit and the reign of Jesus in our daily lives. Give room to His Word and to connection with Him, whatever that looks like for you. 

Order means we follow the biblical model for how we honor one another in our relationships. We yield to the grace of God within us to treat each other according to the fruit of the Spirit. 

But order for me also equates to having a tidy home. I experience a greater sense of His rest and calm when my space is neat and orderly. I am more free to focus on the people, the experiences, the moments, and the memories we are making together. Our environments directly affect our moods and mindsets. I know my family members function better when our house is generally clean and picked up. Not perfect! But tidy. Organized with purpose. 

Let’s ask ourselves: How does my home represent the rule and dominion of my King today? Is it time to get rid of some clutter? For instance, how many toys and games do your kids really use? It might be time to create some breathing space. (Now, books are a different story…Don’t mess with my books!) Items that served us in one season may not serve us so well in another. When our boys were younger, we would grab a  plastic sack and pick a random number like 27. The challenge was to fill the bag with that many things to get rid of, either to throw away or donate. Other days, I would write several “Missions from Mom” on hidden slips of paper. Someone would draw a surprise mission, we’d set the timer, and run to help each other accomplish one specific task before the buzzer went off. (Timers are magic!)

Streamline the kids’ spaces especially. It is really difficult to expect a child to be responsible for his or her own room if there is just chaos and disaster lurking in the toy bin or behind the closet door on the best of days. You cannot just say, “Go clean your room,” without first training your child and practicing with them what that means, step by step. We added very basic shelves to our bedroom closets and sorted items into cheap bins — not real fancy, but functional. Trust me, the sticker labels of the Brown childhood were not Pinterest-worthy, but the boys knew where their things belonged.

One of the most important ways to keep order in your home is to expect every member to simply pick up and put away whatever they were using when they’re done. Don’t get out anything new until you’ve dealt with what you were already using. Just form a habit early. Sometimes it’s the little things in life! They end up really making a difference. 

We called it the “Do It Now” principle at our house. Put the crayons or scissors back where they go instead of leaving them out on the table “in case” you want them again later. Fold and put the laundry away when it’s fresh. Empty trash from the car each time you get out instead of letting it pile up first. Help each other clear the table and do dishes after every meal. These jobs usually take much less time than we guesstimate when we’re dreading them or procrastinating.

I’ve recently heard this concept referred to as “completing the cycle,” and it still challenges me. Finishing what I start is not always my strong suit, but it appeals to my desire for a well-ordered environment, both internally and externally. It’s always worth it when I will put in the extra effort required to bring a task to completion. Now…I think I’ll go empty my dishwasher! 

Being a keeper of our homes is one of the roles we are created for, sisters (Titus 2:5). Yes, it takes consistent work, but what a gift! Small steps with Kingdom purpose yield peace-filled results. God bless you and fill your homes with His order and peace today!

We would like to thank Jill Brown for writing this post.

Having Peace in Our Failures

Editor’s Note: During the month of May, we will focus on learning to have peace in every aspect of our lives. Lean in and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in you. Let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) together! 

I have totally, 100% blown it this week. In fact, I cannot think of one single thing I would call a win. Over and over, day after day, I have failed as a mother, as a wife, and as a business owner. There isn’t a single hat I wear that I have worn with excellence this week. 

I’ve yelled, I’ve been extremely short on patience, and I’ve spoken horrible, discouraging words over my children and my husband. This isn’t the case every week. But this week it is. It is my reality.

This afternoon I’m sitting here in my studio working while my kids are in the house, fending for themselves and vegging out on technology and carbs. As I have reflected on this week, the thoughts above ran through my head. I have this sinking feeling deep inside my gut.

If I had to name that feeling it might be “despair” or “shame.” Maybe “guilt.” Possibly “unrest.” Anything but peace. Whatever it is, it’s nasty and I don’t want to carry it with me. And because I know that God is a good, kind, and loving father, I know that He didn’t mean for me to carry this either.

So you know what? I’m not going to. 

You see, it was that simple. These thoughts ran through my mind. I recognized them. I recognize my faults and need to do better. I repent. But then I am choosing to move on. Despite my faults, I can cling to peace. Instead of carrying all of my failures, God allows me to take hold of forgiveness, grace and peace. I believe that this “peace” is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

Peace isn’t just about being in a state free from conflict. Peace is living through conflict but knowing there is a fresh start. Peace is living knowing that when I fail, there is another chance. Peace is knowing that even though I have totally blown it as a mom, my kids rest in God’s authority.

Each one of the thoughts we possess that do not line up with who God says we are, are the enemy’s attempt to rob us of our peace. If I choose to stay stuck in my failures of this week, I will carry turmoil right on with me into the next. Hmmm…Isn’t that just just what the enemy would want? He’s called the “thief” for a reason. And I will not let him steal my peace.

Ladies, let’s outsmart the enemy! Why would we choose to get stuck in his lies when Jesus offers us a better alternative? Peace. Wisdom tells us that we are better than our mistakes. We know we were created with a divine purpose. So let’s let go of our shortcomings and walk into peace.

We would like to thank Robin Sanders for writing this blog post!

Having Peace While You Wait

Editor’s Note: During the month of May, we will focus on learning to have peace in every aspect of our lives. Lean in and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in you. Let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) together! 

No one likes to wait. I feel like this is a universal truth. Sure, some people might be more patient than others(ahem…my hubs, not me 🙂), but no one wants to wait—in line, on hold, for an answer, for a decision, even for a gift. 

And I don’t think this is limited to our present time. Sure, we’ve got the “microwave generation,” “the e-generation,”the “Google generation”—and in short, we’re all used to getting what we want in a relatively short time. 

But have you read Sarah’s story? She straight up offered her servant Hagar to her husband when God’s plan hadn’t moved fast enough. That’s not patience. Or peace. 

Did you know it’s possible to have peace even as you wait? 

We waited nine years for our baby girl, who was born last November, and I won’t for one second pretend that I did it all patiently. (That’s why I love Sarah’s story; she didn’t do it all perfectly either.) But what I learned is when I focused on Him, and not on what I wanted right this second, I was not anxious. I could even be content.

The verse I clung to reminds me of this, and I still have a personalized copy on my desk: “You will keep [Laura] in perfect peace when her mind is stayed on You because she trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). 

During our season of waiting, what I found is captured so well in the song “Take Courage” by Kristene Di Marco. Have you heard it? When I’d want to forget, when I’d doubt, when it felt too long, too impossible: 

He’s in the waiting.

The song says, “Take Courage”—the very words Jesus spoke to His disciples in Matthew 14 when the storm came, and they feared for their lives.

A little while earlier, Jesus had sent them ahead of himself. And maybe now they feel abandoned. John 6 says, “It was near dark, and Jesus had not yet come.”

Ever feel that way?

But then, there He is. Walking on the water.

Take courage, He says.

Because He knew. He always knows the outcome.

In this moment, the disciples have the opportunity to witness a miracle, a glimpse of His power.

In this moment, Peter has the chance to go deeper in His faith.

All the events culminate to the here, the now.

Yes, there’s a storm. Yes, Jesus had not yet come, and yes, they feel abandoned.

But it’s like He says, Take courage. Here I am. And I’m giving you something rare and powerful: an experience, an encounter you won’t forget.

Though we face unknowns, though our hearts are full of anticipation, I sense it even now:

He’s here. He knows. He’s got a spectacular story for us. 

For you.

Take courage, my heart. Stay steadfast, my soul. He’s in the waiting.”

Peace is a person. Jesus. And He will meet you wherever you find yourself waiting.

I don’t know what your heart longs for, my friend. I don’t know how long you’ve been waiting. But I do know this, our God is a good Father, our Jesus is never delayed, and our Holy Spirit is present, full of power and comfort and grace. 

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this post!

Having Peace as a Working Mom

Editor’s Note: During the month of May, we will focus on learning to have peace in every aspect of our lives. Lean in and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in you. Let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) together! 

As a CFO for Covenant Health System, one of the phrases I use often in my line of work is, “No Margin, No Mission.” If we are not good financial stewards and do not have a good margin, we cannot fulfill our mission of being the hands and feet of Jesus. One day I had a revelation: this should apply to my personal life, too! If I do not have margin in my life, meaning, I do not set boundaries and seek peace, I cannot fulfill the mission of being a disciple of Jesus, an uplifting wife, a fun and positive mom, and a good friend and coworker. Without peace, and I mean the peace that only Jesus can offer, it will be impossible to have anything that resembles margin.  

What does it look like to have peace as a working mom? How do you create margin? I think we often view peace as sitting in a quiet place, drinking coffee, and listening to worship music or reading a book.  We equate it to its true definition, which is freedom from disturbance. In all fairness, in a worldly sense, that is what peace looks like. Those things are great, and goodness I would give anything to have the time to do those things, but the reality is that most days, I do not have that kind of time. Sometimes we have a false sense of what peace looks like because we have false expectations or worldly views.  Routine looks different for everyone, but as disciples of Jesus, peace should not. Peace is not found in any earthly person, place or thing; it is a promise from God, and it is Jesus himself! There are countless verses in the Bible that tell us if we will fix our eyes on Him, He will give us peace. Here are just a few:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).     

Peace to me lately has looked like truly believing that God wants only good for me and He works all things for my good (Romans 8:28). I was asked to write this blog prior to COVID-19 (insert laughter here). As a hospital administrator, you can imagine my life has changed some since that time. I’m still working fulltime, attempting distance learning with Marek (heavy on the word attempting), and we also moved in the middle of it all. One might say my world has been turned upside down, as many of ours have, but through all of this I have remained at peace. Are the days stressful? Of course! Am I exhausted at the end of most days? Absolutely! But peace does not equate to a relaxed schedule, and true peace is not circumstantial; peace simply equals trusting God.

I’m going to trust that God is who He says He is, and that manifests peace in my soul.

Anxiety is a lie. It tells you that you are not enough, you are not equipped to handle your purpose, and it causes you to live in a world of worst-case scenarios. I choose the peace of Jesus over anxiety! 

As for creating margin, last week I drove to Sonic and ordered a chili cheese dog, turned on worship music, and sat in my car eating junk food and worshiping Jesus, proclaiming that we are going to see a victory. Margin will look different for everyone, but find those small moments in your day, even if that’s all you have, to create margin.    

May mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance (Jude 1:2) my friends, as we face whatever trials might come our way.

We would like to thank Cassie Mogg for writing this blog post!

Loving Your Husband When It’s Not Easy

Editor’s Note: During the month of April, we have been focusing on marriage.  The following post is a bit more vulnerable in nature. We’ve chosen to leave the author anonymous in order to protect those involved.  Many of us fight battles behind closed doors and are struggling to find  healing in those dark places.  We pray this will bring hope and encouragement if you’re walking through a similar situation.  As always, Harvest Christian Fellowship is here to help you.  Please reach out at anytime.  We are praying for you and we know God is always working things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.  Much love, Julie Snellgrove (julie@harvestchristianfellowship.org)

I could’ve easily titled this blog, “Dealing With My Husband’s Porn Journey,” but I’ve realized, this isn’t only about him; it’s our journey. And yes, I’m going to talk about pornography today.  (Insert smile here)

I came into our marriage with trust issues because of choices I made in my past. I was a guarded woman, and fear had taken root in my heart about infidelity and lust. As newlyweds, there were a lot of career and family distractions, so it was easy to shove my pain and my hurt under the rug and pretend I didn’t know my husband had a problem with lust and pornography. I was scared to face it, honestly. I was scared to address it because I knew that meant pain for us both. 

One night, I’d had enough and called him out when I saw him looking at another woman.  We had come to a spot in our marriage I never dreamed we’d find ourselves in: broken.  I’m not sure I will ever forget the pain that I felt that night. Women are emotional beings, and we tend to attach our self-worth to the attention we get from our husbands. And when our husband’s attention is not 100% on us, we get jealous. We feel hurt, inadequate, less than, betrayed, violated, not good enough, ugly. To compensate, we put up walls, cover up, and aren’t as willing to have sex. Is anyone with me? I became very jealous and hyperaware. The enemy had a foothold at this point. 

The evening that I lost it was the night the Lord began healing us both. My husband didn’t change instantly, and I didn’t trust instantly. Things actually got worse before they got better. I had a really hard time trying to understand; I felt so betrayed by these fake images.  It took some hard conversations, some honest evaluations of where we were in our relationship, some boundaries, and a lot of counseling to get through.

The Lord graciously gave me insight to this specific addiction. Desire for the opposite sex in itself is not sinful; it’s what we do with those desires.  I’ve found that pain from old wounds is what drives a man to look at porn. It’s a deep-rooted problem. If this is a struggle your husband is dealing with, he probably hates that he does it. He probably prays for enough strength to not look at those images and asks other men for wisdom and prayer for healing. He probably lives his life in constant shame. Through this process, the Lord brought enough healing to my heart that allowed me to see that my husband was being honest and had a desire to change. I realized that I needed to find a way to help him.

Here are some things that really helped us:

  • HONESTY. One evening, we sat down and my husband allowed me to ask some really tough questions under the agreement that we wouldn’t get mad at each other. I would much rather know and have him be honest with me about where he is than keep it from me. Warning: these conversations are NOT fun. But there is something supernatural that happens in your marriage when you get to this place of honesty (Proverbs 12:22). 
  • BOUNDARIES. We put boundaries in place and made a commitment to stay within them. Boundaries bring safety and cultivate deeper intimacy (1 Corinthians 13:6-7). 
  • COUNSELING. We went to counseling together, and I unloaded a bunch of pain that I had been holding onto. I realized that my husband was wrong for looking at porn, but I was wrong in assuming wayyyyyyyyyyy too much because of pain I had not dealt with in my own life. I had to swallow my pride (Ephesians 4:32). 
  • FRIENDSHIP. I was completely vulnerable with a few friends and they supported me, listened to me, grabbed my hand and told me I was strong and brave and could do hard things. They spoke life into my bones (Proverbs 17:17). 
  • COMMUNICATION. This is the bottom line: had we talked about our struggles years before, they wouldn’t have bled into more than 5 years of marriage. It’s taken a long time to take off each brick that has been put around my heart as a result of lust and porn. Our marriage isn’t perfect; we aren’t perfect. But we have learned some very valuable lessons along the way, and one of the most important is to communicate with your spouse (Proverbs 16:24). 
  • LOVE. I learned to love him through the sin. Together, we didn’t accept or support the sin; we acknowledged the sin and agreed to love each other through the sin. It was hard to love him while I knew he was still struggling with looking at porn. But love conquers all. Even a porn addiction (1 Peter 4:8). 
  • PRAYER. I prayed like crazy over my husband and myself. I prayed for freedom from this addiction. I prayed for empathy to rush over me. I wasn’t perfect, and I had to humble myself and realize I am a sinner, too. I prayed for forgiveness and understanding (1 Peter 3:8-9). 
  • SCRIPTURE. I saturated myself in the Word of God and in His Truth. I did my best to take every evil thought about my husband captive and submit it to the Word of God (Philippians 4:6-9). 
  • SUBMISSION. I learned that my husband was created for intimacy and has a sex drive, and my role as a wife is to submit to him and his needs. If I’m not giving my husband what he needs, it may be a stumbling block. Sex with your husband is a weapon of unity against the enemy (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

With confidence, I can say the Lord met us in these hard places, and with a lot of hard work, He delivered my husband from his sexual sin, and my heart was healed from jealousy and filled with trust. And I can confidently say that the Lord will meet you. He will walk with you through this valley (Psalm 23:4).  We had some very ugly fights and hard conversations, but the rewards are worth it. We now have an open and honest relationship with more intimacy than I ever thought possible.

Never be ashamed of seeking help; we ALL have issues. You may feel hopeless or feel like the pain is too deep. But know there is always hope! Our God is a God of healing and restoration. Please send an e-mail to the church office if you’d like more information on counseling. We are here for YOU!

Persevering Together

Editors Note: During the month of April, we will be focusing on marriage. We hope these posts encourage you to go to new depths in your marriage during this season. Marriage operates BEST when God’s plan is followed. Be encouraged today!

When Bryan and I got married in 2013, I thought I had it “all figured out.” Love God, love each other, and everything would be smooth sailing, right? I quickly learned that my expectations were wrong, short sighted, and I needed a lot of God’s grace. When I have struggled with stubborn independence, God turned me toward Himself in humble reliance. 

When I got married, I was very much in love but also very broken from past failures in love. I brought a lot of baggage to the relationship that I was unwilling to unpack. I instead thought it would be better to leave it packed up and stuffed away. My husband and I both claimed a faithful walk with the Lord; we attended church, but we both lacked purposeful seeking of His heart and His will ‪from Monday to Saturday. When you only engage on Sunday, you make yourself a prime target for Satan to get into the undedicated areas of your heart the other six days of the week. Many days I thought I was the problem in my own marriage, but the truth is sin was the problem. Even at my very best, I would never be enough to do it on my own. 

The Word tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10). What happened next in our marriage required me to lean into God and let him teach me some of those precious truths of his Word. 

We were married only 18 months when the border trips started. What we both believed would be a great opportunity quickly turned into a driving wedge in our fragile marriage. At the best of times Bryan was gone once every 6 weeks for 7-9 days, but at its worse, he was gone two times a month. This continued for close to a year, with little end in sight. I lost count after over 30 trips; each time it tested our communication, patience, and resolve to each other. I would feel alone even when he would be home and abandoned every time he would leave. Each time he left, a little callus developed on my heart with the continued voice in my head, “he’s choosing work over you. You are 2nd to his job. If you were just _____ he wouldn’t want to leave home.” 

 During this time of hidden crisis, God began to reveal the issue was not in my husband’s lack of time but in my own lack of dependence on God. He began slowly to re-reveal himself through Bible study, books, and through a truly strong mentor in Christ. Even when I felt completely empty, she encouraged me to give back through getting involved. I dove into it with both feet: women’s ministry, high school youth, and a daily committed bible reading. God was gracious and gave me strength to know where I belonged: at his feet. His Word encourages, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). He was the needed strength when I felt like I was just a broken vessel.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).

The border trips were hard, but we were hit with even harder news that year. We had been trying for a child for several years but were told natural children would never be possible and IVF treatments were our only choice. Bryan had recently gotten a promotion that stopped the border trips, so he was home more now. Where we had failed in our previous challenges, this time we leaned into God like never before and prayed Psalm 55:22: “Give your worries to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will never let good people down.”  We endured 3 rounds of IVF back-to-back. It was a rough 6-months of treatment and bonding over seeking the Lord’s plan each day. Though this was a difficult experience, we were able to a build a supportive marriage and center it on the Lord. God worked on our hearts and showered us with grace while we continued to seek Him. Though saddened that our IVF attempts failed, we kept James 1:17 in our hearts and remembered that God’s timing is not that of the world’s. 

“Give your worries to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will never let good people down” (Psalm 55:22). 

Since our days of IVF, we have been faced with ups and downs, but God has walked beside us every step of the way. He has led us on an incredible journey, and we are being conformed more into His image every day. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

My prayer is that you would allow yourself to really seek God in each and every season. He has something so good for you and for your marriage if you are willing to endure through every trial and every success together.

We’d like to thank Kate McCandless for writing this post!

Selfless Love

Editors Note: During the month of April, we will be focusing on marriage. We hope these posts encourage you to go to new depths in your marriage during this season. Marriage operates BEST when God’s plan is followed. Be encouraged today!

On March 12, Martin and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. At this point in my life, I’ve been married way more years than I’ve been single, and I’ve lived in my home with my husband longer than I lived in my parents’ home. It’s hard to believe! Where has the time gone? 

From the beginning of our marriage, God has been an equal partner with Martin and me. I believe that He brought Martin and I together in a very undeniable way. I have the best falling in love story. Ask me about it sometime; I’d love to share it with you! We were both Christians when we met. Even though we are both saved, neither one of us are perfect. 

After all these years, the main advice I give anyone who asks is this: Try not to be selfish. Believe me, it’s easier said than done. I heard a pastor once say that when young couples come to him for pre-marital counseling, they usually use the words we and us. When couples come in for pre- or post-divorce counseling, the words most heard are me, me, me. The focus of the relationship went from we and us to me and mine. Or, in other words, from selfless (I would do anything for you) to selfish (you’re not giving me what I want). The definition of selfless is: having or showing great concern for other people and little concern for yourself. The definition of selfish is: lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. Total opposites!  

I believe in a marriage, neither person has the right to be selfish. Oh, but it’s so hard! It was worse for me when I was younger, but I still have my selfish moments. It’s in these times that I can feel God the most. Most times, it’s in a gentle whisper that tells me how wrong I was, or in His gentle reminders of the times my husband was very selfless towards me. The Bible says selfishness ruins friendships/relationships.

Proverbs 18:1-2 says, “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, but only revealing his won mind. Selfishness also hinders prayer.”

James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you spend it on your pleasures.”  

God is still teaching me more about my marriage every day. I do know that I have to listen to not only the words that Martin is saying but also to his heart. I always want to be on the same page as God, and I believe that is being on the same page as my husband. It can not always be my way or his way. God tells us in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Wow ladies, you know how hard that can be! Especially when you’re stuck in quarantine with your kids and you just need a break! It’s ok to take time for your own needs, but not selfishly, and not at the expense of your kids and spouse. It’s very hard to find the right balance. If and when you do, your reward will be a balanced and fulfilling marriage.

Romans 12:3 says, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

You might ask, how in the world can I control my selfish desires? One word: LOVE!  

For God so loved the world…can you think of a more selfless act than Jesus dying on the cross for me and you?

Phillipians 2:2 says, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”  

This is my prayer for my marriage. I pray that it be yours, too!

We would like to thank Trina Lewis for writing this post!

Let No One Separate

Editors Note: During the month of April, we will be focusing on marriage. We hope these posts encourage you to go to new depths in your marriage during this season. Marriage operates BEST when God’s plan is followed. Be encouraged today!

I’m about to type a verse that I am sure we have all heard many times. But I need you to make me a promise. Promise me that you will read it out loud. If you’re not alone at least promise me that you will read it in a semi-awkward mouthing whisper. Okay? Promise?

“This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united as one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart” Mark 10:7-10. 

Okay. Make sure you really let it sink in. 

Now, let’s focus on that last part, “let no one split apart.”

Whenever I’ve read this in the past, I always had this picture from a movie scene where someone busts through the church door and stops the wedding. Something super dramatic. I’ve always thought of someone from outside of the relationship doing something to hurt it.

But recently God showed me a new picture of this. It goes like this….

“Now that you’ve left your father and mother and have become one, YOU can’t allow ANYTHING to cause separation.”

You see, it usually isn’t some third party pushing through the door that causes pain and separation within your marriage. Instead, we have control over what and who we allow into our marriage that causes problems. 

I believe it is God’s desire that we become gatekeepers to our marriage relationship. We must recognize where we have weakness and strongholds and take a stand against them. 

What are some things that you need to say “no more” to? Or “you aren’t welcome here.” What are you allowing to cause ill feelings towards your spouse?

Could it be bitterness? Maybe marriage isn’t all you thought it would be and you’re blaming your spouse.

Could it be unforgiveness? Something your spouse did or said that you can’t let go of.

Could it be that your priorities are not in line with God’s word? I recently heard Marriage Today’s Jimmy Evans say, “Most things that destroy marriages are good things kept in the wrong priority.” God’s word tells us that our relationship with our spouse should come directly after our relationship with Him. Some of these good things that us women tend to place ahead of our spouse might be work, children, in-laws, hobbies, and friends. They aren’t bad things. They are good things out of priority. 

Could it be that you only choose to serve or show affection towards your husband as a reward after he shows love toward you? This tit for tat mentality isn’t healthy in a marriage.

Whatever that “thing” is, God is saying in the verse we read that it is not okay to let that come between the relationship he desires for you and your husband.

I’m going to challenge you to try something new in your marriage. Stop placing blame on your spouse for any pain in your marriage. Stop placing blame on your circumstances. Instead choose today to control your own thoughts and actions.

That’s really all you can do.

Choose to honor and respect your husband unconditionally.

Have a servant’s spirit. Every husband has what his wife needs and every wife has what her husband needs but only they can serve each other. Instead of waiting for him to serve us, let us, as women of God, choose to serve first. 

Choose to show goodwill towards him even if you don’t feel like he deserves it.

Choose to show gratitude for him. Go on a treasure hunt to seek the good in him.

If these things seem impossible to do, the first step is to come to God. Ask God to change your heart towards your husband. Ask the Holy Spirit to begin a new work inside of you. Ask again, day after day, and see what God will do. 

Women of Harvest Christian Fellowship, let this be the day that we make a change! Let this be the day that we no longer allow anything to separate our marriages!

We would like to thank Robin Sanders for writing this post!

Lifting My Eyes To The Hills

My recent reflections have been over Pastor Brad’s past sermons on the attributes of God:  God is love, God is good, God is our provider, God is faithful, and God can be trusted. Our life group question following these sermons was, “So, if God is good, why did he allow [fill in the blank]?” This has caused me to think about “mountain top” vs. “valley” experiences. What a joy to be on a mountain high! On top of the mountain, the air is fresh and invigorating. Looking back down at that valley, you recall a difficult path, an environment full of stress, pain, and insecurity. But now, having arrived to the top, you rejoice in God, for He guided your steps. 

Andy Andrews, Christian author of The Noticer, writes, “Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination – our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.” 

Together we journey this valley of “coronavirus insecurity” and individually we have other valleys we travel (health, financial, family, etc.). We all desire to get to the mountaintop. No one is excluded in these unsettling walks. Even as I share this blog, the enemy searches my walls for vulnerable places where I am unarmed. It is crucial for me to carry the shield of faith, fortify my walls with the armor of God by wearing His breastplate and helmet, carry the sword of the spirit (the Word), and pray always (Ephesians 6). 

God’s love, goodness, provision, and faithfulness are seen when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. As the body of Christ, God will lead us in an excellent way to serve our Christian family and community (1 Cor. 12:27; 31).   Look around and see God at work in His people; you don’t have to look too far. It might be a life group member offering services to help, an encouraging text or call, a shoulder to lean on, or knowing with confidence you are being lifted in prayer to the Almighty.

In this valley faith grows and the fruit of the Spirit is manifested through God’s people.   

Stop, look, and listen. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Spirit is at work; His fruit is bountiful (Galatians 5:22-23). I encourage you to share what God is doing during this walk of your life: what has He taught you, how is He directing your path, how is your faith growing, and how is He using you to further His Kingdom? Encourage and pray for one another as we walk through this valley, keeping our eyes on the hills from where our help comes. 

Psalm 121  

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?  

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.  

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.  

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.  

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.  

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in   

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

We would like to thank Darla Newland for writing this blog!

All Things New

How could we have known just a few days ago that toilet paper would turn into gold and that every one of us would face drastic changes in our everyday lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Until this week, it was impossible to imagine a nation with schools and church buildings shut down. Our calendars were full of plans, we had tickets to sporting events, daily routines, family birthday parties, work meetings, standardized tests to prepare for, and plenty of supplies in our hospitals. We didn’t know what “social distancing” was or that just going about our daily lives could spread a virus that could be anything from slightly annoying to deadly. But over the last 2 weeks, we’ve seen our leaders make excruciatingly difficult decisions to save lives at the expense of our freedom and undoubtedly, our economy, for awhile. I think we all realize now that this is no joke.

So the other day, as I spent a few moments quieting my heart with God, He dropped these words from scripture into my heart.

“Look, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5 NLT).

Or another translation says,

“Consider this! I am making everything to be new and fresh” (Revelation 21:5 TPT).

Jesus is saying here that when he returns, everything will be restored completely and there will be no more death, pain, or tears. But we aren’t meant to sit here talking about end times and wishing and wanting and waiting and sheltering in place until Jesus comes. God has always been in the business of making things new and restoring things that have gone wrong. We are called a “new creation” and we get to join with God in bringing His Kingdom—His restoration—to Earth.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

“Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

He is working in us and through us to bring His Kingdom to Earth. Here are some of the “new” things I have seen God doing among us the last 2 weeks:

– In a culture that has worshipped youth and disregarded the elderly, we are protecting the vulnerable by altering our daily lives to limit exposure to those who are most at risk.

– In neighborhoods where we have tended to isolate, we are reaching out to serve our neighbors, realizing that at times like these, we need each other.

– In a society that has been mistrusting and dishonoring of our leaders, we are submitting to those in authority and following their recommendations.  

– In an entitled generation, we are recognizing that our food and supplies are not to be taken for granted; they are provision from God.

– In our fast paced, exhausted way of life, we are finally being made to slow down, stay home and spend time with our families and children.

– We are uniting as Americans in a way that seemed impossible 3 weeks ago.

– We are seeing creative acts of kindness all over the place. I’ve heard of people picking up meals from local restaurants and delivering them to medical personnel who are on the front lines. They are supporting both our local business owners and our healthcare workers. Numerous people are sewing masks in their homes to help with the shortage.

And my favorite one is this: the gathering restrictions have forced the “church” outside its four walls and into our homes. Instead of the church being shut down, there is a new unity and zeal that the American church hasn’t seen in decades. This is bringing Christ and worship back into our homes, while also boosting exposure of His kingdom by utilizing social media to reach those who don’t know Him. As in the early church, we are being dispersed into the world where we can actually be the light!

Jesus is making all things new.

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children’” (Revelation 21:5-7).

There are moments when I feel anxiety creeping in, but I choose to believe God’s word and hold to these promises. I hope you will too, but if anxiety becomes a way of life, or if you are in need of any help or support, please reach out to our pastoral staff. We are here for each other and are ready to help in whatever ways we can. We will get through this together!

Let’s encourage each other with this—what new things do you see God doing through this crisis? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

We would like to thank Jill Moudy for writing this post!

Trusting God With Our Business

Editor’s Note: During the month of March, we will be focusing on setting boundaries in different areas of our lives. It’s our prayer that the posts we share this month will inspire you to set healthy boundaries that will help you live the abundant, blessed life that scripture promises, which glorifies the Lord and points those around us to Jesus. 

Have you ever thought you were unworthy? Not smart enough? Not good enough? We’ve likely all had these thoughts before. God created women to be strong, tough, loving, faithful, fragile, bold, courageous risk-takers. And our God tells us WE ARE worthy!

There are some very worthy and strong women in the Bible. Lydia is the epitome of a strong woman. She held church meetings in her home and was a hospitable “God-Worshiper” who spread the Gospel. You can read Lydia’s story in Acts 16. What about the Proverbs 31 woman? She was a hard worker who provided for the needs of others. She was a strong, capable woman who was an investor and entrepreneur who ministered to those around her. God created women to be strong, hard workers, leaders, and He also created them to love and care for their husband and children.  

I was a stay at home mom when my kids were little. As they got older and I had more free time, I decided to enter the work force. My high school dream was to be an attorney, but I never made it to college. I was the owner/editor of the Kress Chronicle for about a year and then opened a manufactured homes dealership. Both ventures were a challenge but very rewarding. God was revealing my passions through those ventures and I eventually found my true calling: selling real estate. 

At this point in our farming operation, we were running out of water, needed new equipment, more land, and our boys had gone off to college, so our “work force” had left the building. After 3 years of successfully selling real estate, Johnny told me if I acquired my broker’s license, he would get his sales agent license and we would open our own office. I thought he was crazy! But after much prayer, we took the plunge. We sold our farm and equipment, and we opened Street Real Estate in 2005. I think most people thought we had lost our minds, and after the first year, I was kind of thinking the same thing! We went from taking a risk in farming to taking a risk in real estate. 

Taking a risk takes trust and courage. We trusted that God would take care of us. The first year was full of stress, hard work, and lots of prayers. Over the years I have learned a lot of things, but the most important is to trust God. You must be willing to work hard and take a risk. 

God will provide us with what we need so we can do what He calls us to do. 

I have confidence that He has placed me exactly where I need to be. Our business has grown beyond our wildest expectations, and we give God all the glory!

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

I have always made it clear that God is my leader. I put a Bible verse on my business cards, on all of our advertising, on my emails, and on our website. It is a great way to open conversation about God and what He has done for me, my family, and my business. It also makes people feel comfortable talking about their faith when they know I will give my support. I’ve learned in the business world not to be afraid to take a risk because fear is not creative. 

As a business owner, it’s my responsibility to create a culture of integrity. All employers and business owners need to remember that your employees and clients are always watching and listening. While integrity is important, we have to keep perspective and remember who we’re really working for. 2 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Don’t try to impress other people – only God!” God has given each of us gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). We need to seek out our God-given gifts, find the gifts of those with whom we work, and create an empowering environment that allows us to use those gifts. 

Here are a few other tips I’ve learned about being a business owner and working with people: 

  • Pray always and about everything.
  • Be who you are and follow your heart.
  • Have a positive attitude – it’s a daily choice. 
  • Quickly recover from set-backs; remember, today I will begin again.
  • Admit when you are wrong. 
  • Don’t ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. 
  • Choose Joy. Have fun. Learn to walk in the present power of God and enjoy your kingdom of heaven on earth (Habakkuk 3:18). 
  • Be content with what you have. “Stuff” doesn’t satisfy your soul – only Jesus can do that. 
  • Be involved in your church and your community; give back what has been given to you.
  • Love your people. The love of Jesus will show through you and people can see it. Love your clients, employees, vendors, delivery people – show them all Jesus’ love (1 Corinthians 13:13). 
  • Last, but certainly not least, remember to tithe. Johnny & I made a commitment many years ago to tithe. God has been faithful to us and we love to give back to Him; it’s His anyway!

Remember that you are a worthy and strong woman! Be Lydia. Be the Proverbs 31 woman. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your business ways, submit to Him, and He will make your path straight. Lead in your circle of influence and do it well!

We would like to thank Kim Street for writing this post!

Setting Boundaries With Your Time

Editor’s Note: During the month of March, we will be focusing on setting boundaries in different areas of our lives. It’s our prayer that the posts we share this month will inspire you to set healthy boundaries that will help you live the abundant, blessed life that scripture promises, which glorifies the Lord and points those around us to Jesus. 

Time. It seems there is just never enough of it. Not enough hours in the day to do all I need to do, much less all I want to do. But God has been teaching me how to number my days that I might gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12) and to redeem—or make the most of—my time (Ephesians 5:16). He is showing me that my time should be spent on things of eternal significance. What does that mean? For me, it has meant three things.

First, I made a list of priorities, then took that list to God and allowed him to re-prioritize as needed so that he is the one establishing my steps (Proverbs 16:9). Our lists will be different depending on the season we are in, but God desires for all of us to commit each day to the pursuit of honoring and glorifying him. In each moment and season, it is our opportunity and responsibility to show Christ and make him known, but all too often I have allowed opportunities to slip right by because something insignificant was consuming my time. 

Second, I had to set personal boundaries to guard and protect those priorities. Like priorities, personal boundaries are just that—personal. No one but God can truly help you set them, but doing so will be for your good and his glory. The Oxford English Dictionary describes boundaries as “lines that mark the limits of an area, a dividing line.” When it comes to my time, I have learned that I must set dividing lines and limits to keep my heart, soul, and spirit healthy and my life fruitful. Setting boundaries includes learning to say no. As a recovering people-pleaser and yes-girl, saying no has been the hardest part for me. But, as John C. Maxwell said, you must “learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.

Not too long ago, I found myself once again saying yes to too many good things. Fear of letting others down and, worse yet, fear of what others might think about me if I said no caused me to step out of bounds, which led to bitterness and resentment. God, in his infinite grace, helped me through it all and I actually found joy at the end, but the journey there wasn’t pretty. On another recent occasion, I found myself saying no to a really good thing in order to stay true to my priorities. Great peace washed over me as I said no, but guilt, regret, and envy tried to take over later as I listened to others tell of the time they had.

Saying no is a choice and it is not always easy but God hears and sees.

When the desire of my heart is seeking and honoring him above all else, he rewards me with inner peace and joy that can never be robbed by my negative emotions.

Finally, I had to learn the importance of Sabbath rest. Honoring the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments we believe is optional. It’s not. God intends for us to set aside time each week to rest and be with him. It’s how he refreshes, renews and sustains us as we pursue all he designed us to accomplish. Sabbath is a gift from God and he expects us to honor it. 

Setting and staying within boundaries takes effort and intentionality. But I have found that when I do, I have more than enough time for all God desires for me to do. The result is a peaceful, joyful, fruitful life that glorifies God!

References:

Cloud, Dr. Henry and Dr. John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take control of Your Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Morris, Robert. Take the Day Off: Receiving God’s Gift of Rest. New York: FaithWords, 2019.

We would like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this post!

Boundaries of the Mind and our Self-Talk

Editor’s Note: During the month of March, we will be focusing on setting boundaries in different areas of our lives. It’s our prayer that the posts we share this month will inspire you to set healthy boundaries that will help you live the abundant, blessed life that scripture promises, which glorifies the Lord and points those around us to Jesus. 

Let me set the stage: I teach 5th grade math. Yes, I know some of you just thought to yourselves, “Oh bless your heart,” but I’ve got a story for you that I pray will bless YOUR heart. 

I had just put a problem up on the board when I heard a collective sigh from my entire class and the moaning and groaning started. “This is too hard,” “I don’t get it,” “I’ll never be able to do this.” I stopped them and motioned to a poster in the back of my class that had been there all year but none of them had read. It said, “Don’t decide you can’t before you discover that you can.” One of my little girls looked at me and said, “Ms. Ludecke, why are you always so positive?” That got me thinking, and honestly, I’m positive because I spent so long allowing myself to be negative.

Self-talk is the inner monologue that directs every moment of every day. If we choose not to set up boundaries over our mind and the self-talk that flows through it, we make ourselves powerless against attack. A boundary is a wall that is built to protect our hearts and minds. Most people see boundaries as only being physical, whether that be in a relationship, a job, or with our time. All of these are important; however, if that is your only focus, it’s like putting a Band-Aid over a gushing wound. 

I recently read a quote that said, “Your brain is a supercomputer and your self-talk is the program it will run.”

The Bible says something similar in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our minds were created to be the thing by which all of our lives happen. If we allow the thoughts that stem from anxiety, depression, and insecurities to rule our lives, we will become the things that we have told ourselves we are. 

I’m reminded of a time not so long ago (lets be real—4 months to be exact) when I was struggling with a bout of depression. I allowed myself to go “there.” You know, the place in your mind where you wake up in a slump and find that you can’t do anything. I felt like I was failing as a woman and I was failing at my walk with Christ. I felt alone. But God never leaves us there. Sister, if that is you today, you are not alone in your fight! I love that God predicts how we are going to react to suffering before we ever do. He says, “Do not be anxious” because He knows this to be our tendency.

He also knows that the cure for anxiousness is our thankfulness and His peace. These two things together is what forms the ultimate weapon in guarding our minds, but let’s not forget: it takes an active stance to guard. 

So many of us just allow our minds to go unchecked. Another verse says it like this:

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Ladies, this is a fight. Build up your boundary walls because if you don’t, you are giving the enemy free reign to come and destroy. Even worse, he doesn’t have to do a single thing because your self-talk is doing the work for him. 

When I was younger I told myself lie after lie that I wasn’t talented enough, outgoing enough, or spiritual enough to have life-giving friendships. I even ate in the bathroom all throughout high school because I felt inadequate (don’t worry; I don’t do that anymore). God gives us the key to stopping this spiral of negative self talk. He says in Philippians 4:8 to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise.” 

So start by taking one negative thought captive and feed your mind the truth of scripture. You don’t have to tackle all of the negativity at once. Just start with one thought, then move on to the next. As this practice becomes a habit, God will completely change the way you think about yourself and give you peace. 

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this post!

Beauty Within Marriage

Editor’s Note: During the Month of February 2020, we will be posting blogs about the beauty that God instills in us. I hope these words bring to light what beauty truly means to these women of faith, and that the Lord speaks truth to you about the beauty in your life.

“But let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands and adapting themselves to them.”

1 Peter 3:4-5

My husband and I began planning our marriage by discussing our religious backgrounds. We had differing backgrounds and this was a big upset for us until we came to realize that it’s really all about Jesus. Our hearts opened, and I surrendered to this man God sent me. In this moment, religious chains broke we didn’t even know existed. Once surrendered, the Holy Spirit began moving.

At first, I didn’t practice patience well and acted independently. Over time, I learned to communicate instead of rushing my husband into projects. Rushing resulted in aggravation, poor results, and doing things on my own, which led to needing his help anyway. My husband plans carefully and when he’s ready, he’ll let me know. This also applies to requests to God. He works in His time, not ours.

Patience is not easy, yet is a virtue.  

I stay busy and my husband is really good at stopping me to relax with him. It’s hard knowing there is much to be done, but I know these moments spent with him far outweigh my busyness. These are the times we talk about God in depth and our kids’ relationship with God. In these times, great plans and creativity begin. Such is also true with God. We are His hands and feet, yet we must be still and listen. 

“God has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11

Trust in God’s love, strength and hope to guide your words, actions and thoughts toward your husband. Submit to God and it will come naturally with your husband. Resistance to submit to your husband is against the Lord’s will. Rise above selfishness and surrender. This will bring peace, joy, and love. Open your heart to God and therefore to your husband. God calls our husband the head of the household. Let God’s everlasting faith, grace, and mercy wash over you.

Be loving, supportive, agreeable, sympathetic, compassionate, humble, and a blessing. Pray and speak life over him.

Respect equals love! 

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown.”

Proverbs 12:4

“She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:10-12

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  many women do noble things but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Proverbs 31:26-31

Husbands and wives are joined together by the Holy Spirit. A relationship between a husband and wife should mirror your relationship with yourself and God. This is a testimony of His great love. Receive His blessing and care for your husband. This will glorify the Lord. God makes beauty out of our marriages.

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for writing this post!

Sacred Scars

Editor’s Note: During the Month of February 2020, we will be posting blogs about the beauty that God instills in us. I hope these words bring to light what beauty truly means to these women of faith, and that the Lord speaks truth to you about the beauty in your life.

My due date was only 2 days away! The hot July sun had made that ninth month of my first pregnancy miserable in our little farmhouse on the plains of West Texas. Just as my husband and I were eager to bring our baby home, I was also just as eager to drop this baby weight and feel like myself again. I’d married my college sweetheart at age 21, and being a mom had been my life dream, but now at the ripe age of 23, as I looked in the mirror, I hardly recognized the girl staring back at me. I weighed more than I’d weighed in my entire life. Determined to get quickly back into shape, I had accumulated an arsenal of exercise equipment and loaded my VCR with mommy/baby weight-loss videos. I would whip my body back into shape right after I popped this baby out!

The next morning, my heart was racing as we drove the 45 miles to the clinic for a checkup. Little did I know that it wasn’t just the excitement of the long-awaited due date making my heart pound. As the nurse checked my vitals, I sensed her concern. The doctor was summoned, and I began to hear words I’d only read about in my prenatal books…. preeclampsia, fetal stress, toxemia.  

What was happening?

It’s astounding how quickly our priorities can shift.

An amniocentesis to evaluate the baby’s lung maturity was ordered immediately. Painful for me and very risky for a full term baby, we were advised that sudden movement of an arm or leg in the path of the needle could be disastrous. We prayed hard. Magnesium sulfate shots were administered deep in my hip every four hours. They were excruciating but would hopefully prevent the onset of toxemia, liver and kidney failure, and seizures. Hours after inducing, my water broke containing the baby’s meconium. I remember the fetal monitor beeping irregularly as I was rushed directly to the OR for an emergency C-section.    

Our baby boy was born in critical condition. Having ingested meconium into his lungs, the pediatrician was giving him a 50/50 chance. I, too, was struggling for my life. My husband, encircled by our parents, prayed for God to intervene, breathe His breath into our baby boy, and stop the progression of toxicity in my body.  

My 40 year adventure in faith was ushered in by that crisis. For on the heels of our crisis that summer came an amazing miracle of healing. Our God is faithful! That baby boy just celebrated his 40th birthday and has two adorable boys of his own. That life-threatening experience early in our marriage knitted my heart together with my husband in a way that has equipped us for the challenges and blessings of 43 years of marriage. Not only did we bring home a healthy baby boy that August, but I also came home with an unlovely, jagged scar. After recuperating, I actually did some of those exercise videos, but over time my vision of myself  changed resulting in a life giving paradigm shift.

A Solid Truth took hold in my heart and it is this: I hadn’t just experienced a miracle, rather, our loving God had partnered with me in that miracle of birth both physically and spiritually. And just as my scar represented my physical sacrifice to birth my precious baby, Jesus’ scarred hands had birthed me into adoption as a child of God.

My gratitude for a healthy baby made it possible to overcome my former fixation on the flesh and adopt a mindset focused on growing in spirit.

This paradigm shift has impacted my life every day since. When crises come—and through the past 40 years, they have come—I’ve been gifted the faith to reframe them, taking my thoughts captive and declaring God’s opinion over my circumstances.

I Peter 2:21 says “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Are you bearing a scar in your flesh? Or possibly in your soul? Does it remind you of a past crisis? Does the enemy attempt to use for evil what God means to use for your good?  

God tells us that we are made like Christ through the things we suffer. That’s probably why he tells us in I Peter 4:13, “Rejoice to the extent that you share in Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy!” And always remember, we are not meant to suffer alone. We are to SHARE! Share in suffering.

Can you imagine being so excited by suffering that we actually call up our friends and share because we know God is about to do something amazing?

Friend, hand over your scars today. Try blessing instead of cursing them. Make them an altar where God can be honored and given residence and permission to reign. Then hide in the secret place of His presence and watch the transformation of beauty in your own life take place!

We would like to thank Susan Hurt for writing this blog!

Dishing up Beauty

Editor’s Note: During the Month of February 2020, we will be posting blogs about the beauty that God instills in us. I hope these words bring to light what beauty truly means to these women of faith, and that the Lord speaks truth to you about the beauty in your life.

I enjoy making lasagna. But boy, does all that cheesy goodness stick to our pottery dinner plates! My husband loves peanut butter and honey. He takes a glass bowl, stirs the two together, and then smears the creamy, sweet mixture on top of each bite of a banana.  Again, this sticky substance remains stuck within the bowl, especially if he accidentally allows it to sit in the sink for a length of time without rinsing it off. These are just two examples of how beautiful dishes of glass, ceramic, or porcelain can be made seemingly disgusting and filthy by what is placed IN them, as well as what was allowed to REMAIN in them. If one does not take the extra effort to wash away the leftovers, the beautiful dish quickly becomes contaminated, impure, and unclean. It is quickly rendered unusable.

When my daughter was a pre-teen, I took her to a fancy-schmancy department store that had elaborate crystal and china displays. I had previously been collecting fine bone china luncheon plates of various patterns that appealed to me. This time, I turned to her and said, “Out of all these exquisite china patterns, which plate do you think is most beautiful?” She found this to be a difficult decision at first. They were all lovely in their own way. They all glistened in the well-lit displays. About a month later, I called her into my prayer closet and she sat cross-legged in my lap. I presented her with a beautifully wrapped gift.  You guessed it…it was a single, glistening bone china plate she had finally chosen as the most lovely of them all. I had taken a black sharpie, and on the back I had written:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 TLB “If you stay away from sin you will be like one of these dishes made of purest gold—the very best in the house—so that Christ himself can use you for His highest purposes.”

I must say, I was surprised by her reaction. She said nothing. But then, she burst into tears. She understood completely. An interesting side note, the china pattern she had chosen was a Vera Wang for Wedgewood pattern entitled Imperial Scroll. How appropriate! So befitting for a daughter of the King!

So how do we keep our plate (our heart) clean, presentable, and ready for His use?  Memorize and meditate on Psalm 139:23-24 NLT: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Next time you wash dishes, ask yourself “Do I sparkle? Am I ready to be used by God?” True beauty comes when a person has spent time with Jesus, soaking in His Word, allowing Him to scrub off the impurities that we may have allowed to “dry” onto our heart. That’s when people sparkle from the inside out! That is what true beauty is to me. 

Proverbs 31:30 TPT “Charm can be misleading, and beauty is vain and so quickly fades, but this virtuous woman lives in the wonder, awe, and fear of the Lord. She will be praised throughout eternity.”

We would like to thank Cristie Harrell for writing this post!

Beauty.

Editor’s Note: During the Month of February 2020, we will be posting blogs about the beauty that God instills in us. I hope these words bring to light what beauty truly means to these women of faith, and that the Lord speaks truth to you about the beauty in your life.

Beauty.

When I see that word, I generally think of clear skin, long thick hair, long eyelashes, manicured nails, and a polished smile. But how does God see true beauty?

He looks inside of us.

He looks in our hearts.

None of that outward appearance stuff matters.

We are to adorn ourselves with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This kind of beauty will never disappear.

1 Peter 3:5 says, “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands.”

To “submit” means to cooperate voluntarily with someone else out of love and respect for God and for that person. Submission is mutual. Peter is telling individual women to submit to their own husbands but not for all women everywhere to be subordinate to men in general.

Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Jesus submitted to death so that we could be saved; we may sometimes have to submit to unpleasant circumstances so that others will see Christ in us. We could not be submissive without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

Peter instructs Christian wives to develop inner beauty instead of being overly concerned about their outward appearance. Their husbands will be won over by their love. This does not mean that Christian women should settle on their outward appearances, but strive to let their inward beauty be outwardly seen through their confidence in Christ and themselves.

But far more important is the development of an inner spirit of godliness. Live your Christian faith quietly and consistently in your home, and your family will see Christ in you. True beauty begins inside (Proverbs 31:30). It is not of this world but is instead saturated in the word of God.

I remember the planning meeting Ian and I had just weeks before our wedding, with Matthew, my young adult minister from the church I was attending in college. I remember specifically asking him to read this scripture, 1 Peter 3:5, at our wedding. The minister giggled and looked at Ian to ask if that was okay with him. Matthew questioned me as to why I chose that verse, but without hesitation, I told him about how my parents had modeled such beauty in their submission to one another through a long, Christ-centered marriage.

After eleven years of marriage, and in my “Wonder Woman” skin (as Ian likes to say) God constantly invites me into His way of living, sometimes quietly, sometimes gently, and sometimes persistently. He loves me, and I can trust in obeying His guidance to lead me to His blessings. This kind of obedience shows my husband that he can trust my heart, and he honors me in this way.

I hope that you will look into your own heart and find the beauty that is within you.

I pray that you will see God’s desires for you: a humble attitude softened by knowledge of God’s grace, confidence in the Lord that leads to wise speech and kind action, trust in Christ’s sovereignty, determination to do good and obey God in love, and courage in light of God’s steadfast promises.

–Bonnie McIntosh

We’d like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this post!!

Helping Our Kids With Anxiety

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

With the beginning of a new school year, parents and kids alike start to feel the pressure: pressure to perform, pressure to fit the societal mold, pressure to uphold a strict schedule. Some kids take this pressure more seriously than others and begin to internalize fear. Anxiety can rear its ugly head in many different ways, making it difficult for a parent to identify and to help the child cope. As parents, all we want is to raise resilient, Godly, strong world changers, but they can’t be those things if they are not equipped with the tools to overcome obstacles.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, they could have a wide array of struggles such as: having difficulty sleeping, intolerance of changes in schedule, avoiding activities or events (such as school or social situations), having a need to control other people or events, crying or difficulty managing big emotions, having high or unrealistic expectations of themselves, or even physiological symptoms such as constant stomachaches or headaches. All of these symptoms of anxiety can make it difficult for kids to function in school as well as at home. So how can we help as parents? How can we help our children to walk in a spirit of peace, not of anxiety?

Calm The Body

I would say the first step to easing anxiety is to help your kiddo recognize what it feels like in their body. Help them understand cues in their body that let them know they are anxious. This could include sweaty palms, stomachache, racing heart, tight throat, racing mind, or a feeling of having a weight on their chest. If kids can learn their triggers or cues, it can increase their sense of empowerment over their anxiety, leaving them feeling less helpless. Before kids can learn anything else about what is causing their anxiety or how to dispute their anxious thoughts, they have to learn to calm their body down. Think about it: if you, as an adult, are overwhelmed, flooded with emotion, and have all the physical cues that go along with anxiety, are you able to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend? Absolutely not, because your brain is in fight or flight and is not able to reason. Some great self-regulation strategies to calm the body are: 

  • Deep Breathing (in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds)
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique: Notice 5 things you see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing positive about yourself
  • Yoga Poses
  • Sensory Calm Down Kit
  • Drawing or Coloring
  • Building something with Legos
  • Wall Push Ups
  • Stress Balls
  • Music

Pinterest is an excellent resource for coming up with fun visuals and ideas to implement these strategies!

Capture Thoughts

The next step would be to help them take their thoughts captive. Talk about those situations that are anxiety-provoking and figure out what the enemy is telling them: “I’m not strong enough to handle this,” “I’m not going to make friends,” “The other kids won’t like me,” “I’m going to get hurt,” or “I’m not going to succeed.” Most likely, those things they are telling themselves during their moments of high anxiety are irrational and not truth-based. Having kids journal their anxious thoughts creates awareness and gives an opportunity to speak truth over those lies.

Speak Truth

I’ve found that having kids write down their anxious thoughts, then turning them around and writing “antidotes” or truths about who they are in Christ to dispute those anxious thoughts is so powerful. Teaching kids this powerful tool of recognizing the lies anxiety speaks and speaking truth over themselves is so valuable and creates a sense of empowerment. So often, kids (and adults) believe they are just a victim to their thoughts and feelings, but God tells us we are conquerors and have the ability to change those thoughts that lead to high anxiety!

My favorite antidotes for anxious thoughts:

I am strong: Psalm 92:10 “Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me.”

I am brave: Psalms 27:14 “Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!”

I am free: Galatians 5:1 “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.”

I have control of my mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline” and Philippians 4:8 “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every Glorious work of God, praising him always.”

I am a conqueror: Romans 8:37 “Yet even in the midst of all these triumphs, we triumph over them all for God has made us to be MORE than conquerors and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything.”

The Lord is my helper: Deuteronomy 31:6 “So be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

As we return to the school year routine, be on guard for anxiousness that might creep into your children’s lives. Pray these scriptures over them. Talk to them about what anxiety is and how they can combat it. And above all, use this as an opportunity to point your kids to the love, grace, and mercy of our Savior. 

We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post!

Creating Space for Others

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

Hospitality.  It really has more to do with a generous heart than with food or space.  It is not about elaborate meals or the perfect home.  It is about sharing real life together and living in community.  Hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard.  And most of all, loved.  I want people to feel warm and welcome in my home and full.  Not just having their tummies fed, although I do love to cook, but having their heart fed.  To know that they are wanted and that I am genuinely listening to them.

Why should you need to make opening your home a priority? I have a Pinterest board where I like to save ideas for recipes to make, parties to host, and a home to decorate.  How many of you can relate? Although the world tells us that hospitality demands more, it is definitely not about perfection.  Hospitality is actually more than that.  It is more of a spiritual discipline.  It has taken me years to realize this! 

Titus 1:7-8 says, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.  He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” 

No one was more hospitable than Jesus.

Although hospitality seems to be on the decline in our modern society, I find true delight in having friends over to just to sit and be real with me while I cook, organize, fold laundry, or watch the kids play outside.  While I may not be the chattiest of women, I enjoy listening and offering encouragement.  Letting friends see the inside of my home, the laundry going, the dirty dishes in the sink, the scatter-brained busyness life brings allows them to see inside my heart.  Hospitality is where we allow friends to see how we live and where our hearts are at.  It reveals the inward priorities of our hearts.  It reflects humility.   

Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  

There have been many days when a friend dropped by and I thought about how the weeds had not been pulled in my driveway or how the dog should have been to the groomer much sooner, or my makeup wasn’t in its presentable state, or countless other reasons why it was not the best time for me.  Lord, help us to put aside our distorted views of hospitality and teach us what it truly means to welcome people into our homes and our hearts.  Being hospitable and allowing my friend into my heart creates a defining moment for both of us.  My friend would never have known of their possible inconvenient timing and I would forget about all of my possible excuses once we are together visiting, being hospitable to one another.

Each time we invite someone into our homes, we are inviting Christ in.   

Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 

Hospitality might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it is really very life-giving.  It allows us to offer what we have in a service to one another. It allows us to exude friendship, community, and love.  Hospitality is a blessing when we take the leap and do what God allows us to do.  

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog!

Undo Shame

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

In Brene Brown’s words, “Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we have experienced, done, or failed to do make us unworthy of connection.”

Shame is one of the first things introduced into the world after Adam and Eve sin. And what did they do as a direct response to their sin? They hid. They covered up. They lied. They blamed. I can identify with their shameful feelings and their reaction to those feelings. What are some things you and I hide behind or use to cover up our shame? We use busyness, procrastination, alcohol, pride, eating, social media, vanity, shopping/spending, our careers, perpetual lying…

Self-identity shame comes in all forms and fashions. This is a list of some lies I have believed during different seasons in my life directly resulting from shame:

  • I will never be good enough.
  • I am unclean.
  • I have failed.
  • Something must be wrong with me.
  • I am not qualified.
  • I am unwanted.
  • I’m not as pretty as {insert name here}.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My kids literally acted like animals in public. I must be a bad mom.
  • I literally acted like an animal to my children. I must be a bad mom.
  • My kids were rude to a bunch of people today. I must be a bad mom.
  • Why doesn’t my marriage look as happy as theirs? I must be a bad wife.

Can anyone relate??

Have you ever thought about how our culture makes money off of making women feel less than? That if you would just buy that one thing it will make your life better. For example, if you use this product on your cellulite, it will make it go away and you will be prettier. So therefore, if you have cellulite, something must be wrong. Hmmmm. You just took a bite from the forbidden fruit called marketing. So, you buy the cellulite product only to see zero results. Then you stop using it and swallow the lie that you just won’t ever be perfect enough.

BOLOGNA!

And what about social media? How does it tell you daily that you are less than? I’m not even going there. Ladies, so much of our brain power goes into shaming ourselves for the way we look. Something, somewhere is always screaming to us that we are defective. The truth is: we have been fed lies and manipulation for years.

We learn to fixate our thoughts on those feelings. For many years, I believed the lies the devil was feeding me. I strived and strived to become good enough. I stuffed and stuffed to become happy enough. I hid and hid to seem “ok” enough. It was a toxic, vicious cycle and it affects everyone at some point.

How did I break it?

  1. Attending Freedom in Christ – This was a huge part of my healing. My eyes were opened to the unconditional love my Savior has for me. For the first time, I heard the truth that I am right with God. There is nothing that I have done in my past, nor will do in the future, that will change my value in Christ. Mistakes, failures, scars, and all, he accepts it and loves it! I learned that my works-based righteousness wasn’t going to help my issues. I couldn’t do better, act better, or be better to please God. This took time breaking my old thought patterns and creating new ones, but daily surrendering those and allowing the Lord to speak his truths over my heart changed me!
  • A loving friend called me one day and said, “JuLea, I think you need help”. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for her to tell me that and, quite frankly, I was embarrassed. But I knew she was right. I reached out for help. I started seeing a counselor and still do to this day. There is such a stigma associated with counseling, but what is so crazy about seeking wise help?

When we learn to identify this within ourselves, we can then start the change. Undoing the shame of my struggle was a catalyst to my healing.

The lies women struggle with are all different. But the path to identifying those lies are all the same. Don’t let fear hold you captive to your struggles. Shame has a way of isolating us. And isolation FEEDS our shame. So the result is more isolation and more shame. Exactly what the devil wants.

Shame is simply an emotion. Emotions are part of every human experience. You are human. Offer yourself grace TODAY!

Breaking these thought patterns about ourselves takes time, patience, and a lot of will power. Breath by breath, you will rise out of the waters. To not drown, you HAVE to move your arms, lift your head, and MOVE forward. Shame will begin losing its power over you. God helped me face and overcome shame and He will help you, too!

The good news is the discussion about your value and ability is OVER. It was decided on the cross.

YOU ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE. Created for good works. God made you just the way you are. God is a perfect God – He doesn’t make mistakes.

You are WHOLE, COMPLETE, FLAWLESS, LACKING NOTHING. Jesus is your righteousness and your provider of everything you need. Philippians 4:19

Here are a few practical ways that can help you start winning your battle over shame that helped me:

  1. Pray, pray, pray in the spirit on every occasion without ceasing.
  2. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Or others.
  3. Live in a constant state of worship.
  4. Write notes on the bathroom mirror or the car to remind you of your value.
  5. Set an alarm every 30 min. to declare a truth of scripture over yourself. (Really, JuLea?!? YES, do it!!)
  6. Hang around life giving people who speak life into who you are in Christ, not who you were.
  7. See a counselor. Get help. Reach out to someone. Bring it to light. (This was huge!)

Believe what your Heavenly Father says about who you are today… not your social media. Our minds are a battlefield. Jesus died on the cross and has already won that battle you are facing today. Claim that ground back. Defeat shame and claim victory!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for writing this post.

What Is Your Word For 2020?

Have you thought of what your word is for this year? Instead of focusing on resolutions, let’s focus on just ONE word all year long. This past year my one word was “delight,” and here it is the end of the year. According to the dictionary, delight means “please (someone) greatly” or “great pleasure.” A biblical definition is ” joy.” Did I find “joy” this past year?

As I went through the year with this word on my mind scripture made it’s way into my heart. Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3 tells me that God can and will restore me to Him. He loves me that much!

About seventeen years ago, I realized I did not know what the Bible was actually telling me personally. Don’t get me wrong, I had read the Bible, but I cannot say that I studied the Word.  It was hard to apply the scriptures to me personally; I had been a “Christian” since I was a teen but obviously had not taken this book seriously as a pattern for my own life. I knew how to please others, but I did not truly believe the Lord could possibly delight in me. I was in the process of realizing how broken I really was, and my God was ready to open my eyes to the restoration that He had planned for my life.  

One of my favorite verses is Psalms 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Oh the desires I have had, but those are not always the desires of His heart for me. I am learning to listen to His voice as He speaks those truths to my heart.  

As I started to give Him the broken pieces of my life, God began to fill those empty places with himself. He put people in my life that spoke truth and love. I began to believe that I am precious to God. I am reconciled to God, I am blessed, and I am highly esteemed. Have you read the “Who I Am In Christ”?  How powerful that booklet is and has been in my life.

I am thankful I was given the word “delight” in 2019. I will continue to “Delight in the Lord”  and I will listen to the song He is singing over me like Zephaniah said.

I wonder what my word for 2020 will be? I wonder what your word will be for 2020? Let’s move into this new year with our eyes fixed on the Lord and the many blessings He has for our lives.

We would like to thank Sharon Biles for writing this post!

A Baby Changes Everything

Christmastime is my favorite. I love the lights, the food, the spirit of giving, and the togetherness the season brings. One of my most favorite things this time of year is listening to Christmas music. I use “this time of year” very loosely; Addison and I have been listening to Christmas music since…September. Listening to Christmas music really helps me to reflect and prepare my heart for the true meaning of the holiday: Jesus, our Messiah. 

I’ll admit that last Christmas, I was in a bit of a fog, what with a new baby and still trying to learn the whole mom thing. But this year, I’ve been much more intentional and present in enjoying the season and making memories, particularly with Addison. In fact, I was emotional at the Plainview Christmas parade, seeing the joy on that sweet face and the sparkle in those precious eyes. I didn’t expect the tears, but I let them come, and I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing she is to my life. 

I think back to Christmas 2018 or even Christmas 2017, and I’m reminded of the song “A Baby Changes Everything.” My top-half-only decorated tree and my Amazon shopping cart are proof. And you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Addison is a gift from God. She’s changed my life in every possible way, but the changes have brought about blessing, growth, and fulfillment. 

I’ve soaked up all the time with Addison I can manage, and this season, my thoughts have gone to Mary, mother of Jesus. She felt the same level of love for her Son as I do for my daughter; yet her baby changed everything—for the world. The significance of her baby’s birth—the birth of Jesus Christ—is for much more than just Christmastime. A friend said something the other day that speaks directly to this: a thousand times in history a baby has become a king to rule a nation; only one time has a king become a baby to save all nations. That’s powerful, friends. 

The power in that truth, in fact, overwhelms me with gratitude for the gift of grace and salvation I could never earn and don’t deserve, but through His Righteousness, can accept and walk in. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He was always God’s plan for our salvation. Plan A. God didn’t need plan B. He didn’t send His Son as a last resort. Jesus and his birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection were always God’s plan for us, His children. 

As I sat listening to my Christmas music playlist a few days ago, I was struck by the fact that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time of year, we should also celebrate the gift of salvation by grace through faith, the tremendous sacrifice of death on the cross, and the triumph and power of a risen Savior. The significance of His birth is much more than Christmas (Romans 1:3-4). Addison has changed my life in ways I never expected, and certainly, Jesus changed Mary’s life, too. But truly, a baby—especially this baby—changed EVERYTHING, and for that, we can only praise the Father and give thanks for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). 

I love this season. I love family traditions. I love Christmas music and lights on the tree. But more than anything, I love the reality of salvation and a new life in Christ the picture of a baby who changed everything brings. 

My whole life has turned around

I was lost but now I’m found 

A baby changes everything. 

Merry CHRISTmas!

We would like to thank Ashley Edlin for writing this post!

O Come Let Us Adore Him

Christmas is just around the corner!  For some, that can strike a chord of sheer terror. There is a relatively new tradition that I never had to deal with: “Elf on a shelf.” What sadist came up with this? I have neither the creativity nor the time to devote to elf shenanigans. I know that some of you out there love it, and I think that’s great! During this season, there’s always so much to do, like cooking, decorating, shopping, and finding the right thing to wear to the Christmas parties you don’t want to go to.

I always wanted everything to be just right. Not perfect, but just right. I was happy with all those crazy Christmas whirlwind times, but looking back, do you know what my biggest regret is? No, not the perfect sugar cookie recipe. Not the perfect gift for my mother in law. The biggest regret is that I didn’t spend more time with my kids at the feet of Jesus.

In the end, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

It no longer matters whether my kids got all 30 things on their list, but it does matter that they love our precious Lord and Savior and have accepted Jesus as Lord of their lives.  

This Christmas season, take some time to love on your family and experience God’s peace and love. Psalm 95:6 says “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Let us adore Him!  Let us worship Him! Let us focus on the real reason for the season!

By the way, I really do have the perfect sugar cookie recipe! Enjoy!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup margarine              2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup sugar                       1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg.                       2 ¾ cups flour

Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Do not chill dough. Divide dough in half, rolling into 2 balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball in a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Dip cutters in flour before each use. Bake 6-7 minutes or until light brown.

Icing:

1/3 cup cold milk

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups of powdered sugar

Mix all together. Add more milk if too thick, more powdered sugar if too thin.

Merry Christmas!

We would like to thank Trina Lewis for writing this post!

Being a Mary in a Martha World

Do you wonder if you’ve ever entertained angels at some point in your life without even knowing it? I bet you have. The Word says in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

I grew up with one older sister and a very hard working single mother. She was gone to work before I woke up and would get home when the sun was down. She worked in the hot and dry heat of Yuma, AZ for a lettuce company. I remember when she would get home, I would take her muddy boots off while she took off what seemed like hundreds of bobby pins that held the bandanas up for covering her face. She would tell us about her day and we would tell her about ours.

My mother was and still is a beautiful example of what a heart of serving and hosting looks like. It’s a heart that says, “I’m so stinking tired from work, but these people are so important to me. I will be tired later and give them my attention and listen to what’s on their minds now.” She showed me that anytime someone comes to your house you offer them anything you have, even if it’s just a glass of water. Let people know that they are important and worth your attention.

Hospitality to me is when someone can feel at home in your presence. It’s us imitating what Jesus did in His life and in His death. His heart was always for others. The best hospitality focuses on the people you have invited—or even the ones you haven’t—who make their way into your home. It’s about making them feel welcomed, comfortable, and valuable. 

Take a look at Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42: 

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Mary had chosen to focus on Jesus. Martha maintained focus on the busy preparations, even after the company showed up. Yes, the meal still needed to be cooked and the house was not ready. But we need to change the way we think and start to truly believe that genuine hospitality maintains a focus on the people and not all the other stuff. I looked up the definition of hospitality: friendliness, hospitableness, welcome, warm reception, helpfulness, neighbourliness, warmth, warm-heartedness, kindness, kind-heartedness and so on. 

Sometimes as women, we’re too much like Martha and begin to believe lies: my house is not beautiful enough, I’m not a good enough cook, I have to “people” all day and don’t want to “people” anymore, what if they pull one of my daughter’s bras out of the couch (yeah, it happened). My friends, trust me when I say they are not there for the food or to see if you have been Chip and Joanna Gaines-ing your home. I can guarantee you that if you send an invitation to someone to come to your home, they are going to feel so loved just by the simple thought that you noticed them and are intentional enough to say, “Hey, come over and hang out with me!” Don’t shortchange yourself by believing the lies that keep you from enjoying the wonderful connections God has for you. 

I remember one day at church I heard someone say that Facebook is so misleading because it can make you feel like you’re already connected to people. That opened my eyes so much because yes, you do think you and all those people are tight already simply because you watched the video of their child in the ballet recital that they posted or know that this person changed jobs because they announced it or that they are on a keto diet and you know what they are eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because you saw their pictures and even know how many calories that was, so why do I need to hang out with them?

Let’s be intentional, friends. Let me challenge you by saying call someone up today. Yes I said it: CALL. Don’t text them, don’t marco polo them. Call them and say, “Hey, would you like to come over for some frozen Red Baron pizza?” Stuffed crust Digiorno if it’s close to payday :). I guarantee you that they will be so ecstatic that you called and thought of them. And when they do come, don’t be like Martha and tell them what all is wrong with your house. Be like Mary and sit at their feet and listen to them with all attentiveness as if it were Jesus himself. 

We would like to thank Christina Parker for writing this blog!

Sexual Immorality Vs. Sexual Purity

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

In today’s culture, it’s obvious that sexuality is a hot topic. But what is God’s view on purity vs. immorality, and how do we get to the place where we all want to be, with a healthy view of sexuality no matter what stage of life we are in?

Purity is not just a subject that we teach teens about one Wednesday night each semester at church when they become the right age. It starts with building a relationship with your 4, 5, or 6 year-old. No, I am absolutely not saying to discuss the topic of sex with your young children, but I am saying that these are the years that the foundation of a good relationship is built between you and your children. These are the years that you engrain in your kids the truth about who God says they are. These are the years that you teach them how to treat others in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. Your children need to know that they are loved and valued members of your family and that their thoughts and opinions matter. There should never be a doubt in their mind that they belong in your family. It is important for kids to know that they too can be an example of faith and purity (1 Timothy 4:12).

And what about the season of singleness? Being a young, single woman is the perfect time to learn and grow deeper in the Word, allow God to speak to your heart, and seek spiritual mentorship and guidance. Abstaining from sexual immorality is not designed to hurt you by any means; it is designed by God to protect your heart. God is a good God, and when the time comes for you to enter into marriage, everyone will celebrate with you and guide you to a healthy sex life. Do not try to fast forward and miss out on all the good things God has for you in this stage of life. By waiting and keeping yourself pure, you are declaring that you are in agreement with what God has for you and your future and you will wait on his timing (1 Timothy 5:22). When a foundation is built on biblical truths and healthy relationships, it’s much easier to trust that God is designing and forming your mate, even as you wait in singleness.

My married friends, you aren’t off the hook! Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” With this in mind, I propose that purity is not something we attain, but something we have to keep moving toward. Even immorality can exist in our marriage when our hearts aren’t right before God. Sexual purity is a pathway that leads to intimacy in the marriage bed.

Intimacy in marriage is not just about the sex; it’s about being known and seen deeply. Intimacy is about deeply connecting emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically with your spouse. However, we need to take a deeper look at why we are being intimate with our husbands. Is is a “to-do” you need to check off your list? Or is it to be known and seen deeply, they way that God sees you?

Right after Kambree (our oldest) was born, I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. Simply put, I could not conceive or carry a child after having a successful pregnancy. Because our desire was to have a large family, Josh and I were heartbroken. This diagnosis led to 4 years of surgeries, infertility treatments, pregnancy losses, heartbreak, feelings of lack, frustration, and the list could go on. Because of this, my healthy intimate life with my husband was immediately turned into a task and the “perfect timing” for the medication to have an optimal effect so we could potentially grow our family like we both desired.

Changing my unhealthy view of sex, and getting back to a healthy place was difficult to say the least. In Matthew, we find that the pure hearted will experience and hear from God (5:8). God does not desire sex to be a task on your list. In fact, He has given sex to a couple to grow and learn together but, most importantly, to be known and seen deeply how the Father sees you.

When a relationship is built in the earlier years, discussing this hard topic with your children in the later years is easier and better received. My prayer for you all is that you would desire a pure heart with Godly intentions no matter what stage you find yourself in. God is the God who sees your heart and your desires. You have permission to speak freely with Him!

We would like to thank Mallory Burgett for writing this post!!!

Ungrateful Vs. Grateful

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always taught me manners. Manners like, “yes ma’am,” “no ma’am,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Since becoming a mother a little over 9 years ago, I have tried my absolute best to pass down the trait of manners. Now, the question is…do we really mean it? Are manners just us going through the motion because that is what we are taught? 

To be completely honest with you, I have not always been so grateful or had a heart of “manners” in certain circumstances. At times, I have acted in an ungrateful manner. I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say we all may have at some point in our lives.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s pleasing to the ear and heart to hear someone say, “Thank you!” with a pure and grateful heart. 

Growing up in a household of seven with a father who worked as a full-time minister, you learn to be grateful. My father gave everything he had to pursue the calling God had placed on his life. What did that mean 25+ years ago? It meant limited income. I was raised to be thankful for every meal placed in front of me and every piece of clothing that was placed on my back, which my mother worked so hard to perfect through her sewing. Through all things, God always provided time and time again.

We often forget to be grateful for the needs for which God has provided. Instead we are caught up in being ungrateful for the things we want but don’t or can’t have. 

It is discouraging when you see children and teens acting as if they’re owed something or deserve something. Unfortunately, as adults we, too, act like this. We often act like ungrateful, unappreciative children in our relationship with God. Can we just ponder on how that must make him feel? He is the God of grace, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. But yet, we forget to give Him thanks and often times we take what he has given us for granted. We can catch ourselves feeling as though he has forsaken us when we are not at the place we want to be with our job, finances, physical ability, or our health. When we do not succeed in what we want, we get upset. 

As grandparents, parents, aunts, siblings, and people of influence and authority, we need to be an example and teach our loved ones to have a grateful heart. In scripture, God teaches and commands us to give thanks in all things. Evaluate your heart and ask God to change the ways of your heart and to forgive you for any thoughts or traits of feeling ungrateful. 

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
– Thessalonians 5:18

Dear Heavenly Father,

We come before you and ask that you renew our minds and our hearts. That in all things and in all circumstance you would give us a heart of overflowing gratitude, not for what we have or how much we have, but for what you have given us. Let us remember to always give thanks in the calm and through the storm, on the mountain and through the valley. It is in your mighty name we pray, Amen.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

We would like to thank Jerika Longoria for writing this post!

Drunkenness Vs. Sobriety

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

I have never met a person who doesn’t struggle with meeting his or her needs outside of Christ at some point and in some fashion. It is a battle we all face:  flesh vs. Spirit or life vs. death. 

We find ourselves feeling insecure, so we eat another cookie. 

We are struggling at work, so we spend more time on social media. 

We’ve been listening to negative self-talk, so we criticize and lash out at the ones we love the most. 

We feel stressed by the dishes in the sink, the toddler at our ankle or family dynamics that are less than perfect, so we reach for a glass of wine.

These ways of ‘coping’ are often the small foxes that keep us from living the abundant life Christ has promised us.

Many years ago, the Lord showed me a passage in the book of Proverbs that has stuck with me.

Proverbs 23:29-35

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”

So, let’s consider alcohol, and how often, in the flesh, we use it to meet our needs, or help us cope. My question to you is this:  Have you embraced the lie that alcohol will help…

You fill in the blank. 

Society has lulled us to sleep on this issue. They have called us “legalistic” for speaking up against the lies about alcohol. They have told us the Bible says not to be “drunk” with wine, not that we can’t “drink” wine. But I would say, I’d rather live a life that relies on the Spirit to meet my needs and comfort my pain, than believe the lie that alcohol is somehow able to do that.

I’ve lost count of how many families I know who have been destroyed by the effects of alcohol. How many church leaders have walked away from the faith and brought pain to the body of Christ because of alcohol.  How many teenagers have found themselves in compromising situations because of alcohol, their innocence stolen from them. How many husbands, or wives, have walked away from their families because of alcohol. 23 years in ministry puts you smack dab in the middle of people’s pain. And each time a person has been effected by the devastation of alcohol he/she will tell you, “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”

I’ve loved our recent blog series on walking in the flesh vs the Spirit. It has reminded me that we all struggle, but there is a real God who lives within each surrendered Christian heart, empowering him or her to deny the flesh.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

2 Corinthians 3:17

It is the Spirit that sets us free from the flesh.

It is the Spirit that empowers us to live in victory so that we are not attempting to meet our own needs, but leaning into Christ to have those needs met.

This reality is liberating. When we stop and realize we are living in a way that brings pain to ourselves and others we can repent, turning from our sin, and instead begin walking in the freedom Christ has for us. I would much rather be honest with my emotions, face my pain, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring me freedom, than live in the cycle of hurt that alcohol brings. 

I want to challenge you today. If you struggle with turning to alcohol to meet your needs, be brave and reach out to me. I want to help you find true healing that comes from a living God who knows you intimately and is always ready to meet your needs. 

With all my love, Julie Snellgrove

Chaos Vs. Peace

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2, NLT).

There’s no doubt about it: our physical health and our spiritual health are connected. But when you start bringing up the topic of mental health, most people tend to get squirmy. There is so much stigma around “mental health issues.” But what is it, exactly? And how does taking care of our mental health tie into our role as Christians?

Mental health is simply a broad term for how the chemicals in our brain are affecting our emotions. Those emotions, in turn, will affect the way we react to (and interact with) the world around us.

God has created our brains to work together with our bodies in amazing ways. But because we live in a world that’s not perfect, sometimes people have an imbalance of the needed chemicals in their brain. This might cause them to struggle more than others with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.

If you struggle in these areas, does that make you a bad person? No. Does that make you a broken person? No. Does that make you less of a Christian? No.

I love how Romans 7:24 through chapter 8, verse 2 puts it:

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Jesus was in a human body just like we are. He knows the struggles we face.

My friend, let me assure you of this: It is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in taking pills if you need them. Sometimes we need the medications to get our brains on track (putting the chemicals back into balance) before we can make other good choices for our lives. There is no shame in seeing a counselor if you need to. There is no shame in taking care of your mental health, just like you take care of your physical health. The Holy Spirit has freed you of that shame because of what Jesus did! He has broken the power of shame and sin over your life. You can walk in the abundant life He has called you to.

Some simple tips for taking care of your mental health may seem obvious. But so often, these are the first things to go in our own personal lives:

– Getting enough sleep

– Getting enough sunshine/vitamin D

– Surrounding yourself with life-giving friends

– Staying hydrated

– Eating healthy foods

– Keeping active

– Taking time to do things you enjoy

– Going to the doctor: Check vitamin and mineral levels; Check hormone levels; Get on needed medications

– Going to a professional counselor 

You have the responsibility to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. As Mary Oliver has famously written: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Be courageous and take care of your body, so that you are able to do all the wonderful things God has put in front of you to do (Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 13:21). You are worth it.

Because we live in a world that’s not perfect, we are all broken in some ways. But we don’t have to be defined or labeled by our brokenness. We are new creations (1 Cor. 5:17)!

God has chosen to work through people in building His Church, but people are imperfect. I’m sorry if people in the church have hurt you with their words or their actions. That is not okay. Please forgive me on their behalf for how you have been treated. 

Please know that you have a valuable role in the Church. You have a place here. There is a space only you can fill. All of your story–including your mental health–matters. Don’t hold back because of your struggles. Get the help you need. Be brave and ask for help. And then offer your gifts, your personality, and your heart to those around you. We need YOU.

We would like to thank Heather Dillard for writing this post!

Rage Vs. Self Control

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Move me, O Spirit, to quiet my heart…”

Imagine you are writing a recipe to cook up the yuckiest, most rage-filled moments of your life. I can tell you mine in this season of life (to which I am sure some of you can relate at one time or another), but everyone’s recipe looks a little different. Mine goes a little something like this:

Ingredients:

1 C snoozed alarm (enough to make everyone frantic)

2 C early morning demands with no routine to follow

1.5 C argument with husband

½ C toddler refusing shoes

½ C hair drama

¾ C late night tv watching/Facebook scrolling

2 tsp horrible diet

2 tsp caffeine jitters

1 ½ tsp traffic

Directions: Preheat oven to 5,000 degrees. Throw all ingredients into a bowl. Mix vigorously. Pour mixture into a pan. Cook to a burnt, crunchy crisp.

I joke obviously, but I really have found myself cooking up this recipe time and time again, and not surprisingly, I lose my religion every time over something as mundane as a forgotten water bill. And although the ingredients may vary, this recipe always leads to an explosion of words and tears and all sorts of nonsense that ain’t nobody got time for!

In truth, when an eruption occurs, we know that it is not really the things on the surface that actually cause the explosion. It is all the feelings and emotions not being dealt with underneath the surface, simmering and pressurizing, and eventually exploding under the weight of life’s chaotic nature. It is the flesh holding onto feelings and control in such a deep way that it causes a blast of fury. It is desperately trying to control everything on the outside, instead of what is really happening on the inside.

Proverbs 25 says that “a person without self-control, is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” Our flesh is the same as this house. Even though the house is standing tall and strong, the enemy can just climb through a window or walk through the front door and go straight after all the precious valuables inside the home. When we allow our spirit to be pulled away from our flesh and we engage in a rage-filled frenzy, our defenses are down. Our beloved heart, God’s most precious treasure that He has filled with His wisdom and mercy, is left wide-open for attack by Satan, who loves to see us weak and broken. But friends, no one can live in a house with a broken door and windows. And no one can live with a broken heart that has no security or protection. That is not how God has asked us to live.

Choosing to live in the spirit with a heart that is centered on self-control begins with surrender. The Psalmist writes that God “rules over the oceans and the swelling seas…when the stormy waves rise, He speaks, and they lie still.” The wave of rage takes us over because we have failed to surrender all the overwhelming feelings that our Divine Maker never intended for us to carry around. But alignment and control are not on your shoulders. Surrender the feelings. Surrender the control. Surrender the idea that you are more powerful and mighty than the Creator of the Universe. Believe me, you are not. And you don’t want to be!

You have the greatest defender of them all in your corner.

Next time you are standing in the middle of a raging storm of chaos, stop and think about who is fighting your battle and protecting your heart. If you are standing firm in the spirit of the Living God, your windows and door cannot be broken, and you will not feel rage. You will feel peace. Because God is the Prince of Peace. And He will be your Peace, even when you don’t feel peace.

At the end of the day, all the craziness and chaos that make this life hard, will not cease. But remember friend, you are ruled by the One who already has your heart completely.

I’ll end with this beautiful scripture from James 1: 19-21, in one of my favorite translations, The Message. Tend to the weeds and thorns in your heart, so that your Father God can “make a salvation-garden of your life.” Love you friends.

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So, throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” James 1: 19-21 MSG

We would like to thank Emily Parker for writing this blog!

Worry Vs. Trust

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

As I sit here and think about what to write, all I can do is worry that I am not going to write this the way it should be written. I worry that no one is going to like it. I worry, “why me? I am not capable of writing a blog about worry when all I do is worry.”

I am in a battle with my flesh right now, and I think that as women, we do this a lot more than we realize. What I do know is that when I worry, I have to remind myself who I am in Christ. The truth of our Father has to be louder than the lies of the enemy. I am an overcomer. I am righteous. I am loved. I am capable of all things, and I am made perfect in Christ. So are you. God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.

I am sitting at my computer looking out into an empty classroom. I look around my classroom and think, “Wow! How did I get here?” This classroom and this job are examples of how I choose to trust God instead of worrying. It took me a really long time to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Once I decided to go back to school and become a math teacher, it seemed like my life finally started to fall into place. Through this journey I had to trust God that He knew what was right for me. 

The first interview I received was with the high school. My certification was not high school math; it was middle school. I took the interview because it had been a long time since I had interviewed for a job. I left and within a few hours received a call offering me the job. Boy, did the worry set in! Not only was it a new job, but I would also have to take another state test to get my high school certification. This terrified me! I have never been so nervous and so hard on myself. 

Some of the things that I told myself were, “I can’t teach high school math,” “I cannot pass the state test,” “God, why!?” I remember distinctly one morning while getting ready, God laid on my heart a song we sing with our littles in Kid City. “My God is so big so strong and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!” During this song, He reminded me that He knows what is best and He sees the future. Even after that gentle reminder, I still worried.  

He then gave me a verse that I now have on my wall. It is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In that moment, I said, “Ok God, I trust that you know what is best for my life and my family.” 

We just got through teaching our kids in Kid City that we can trust God through our ups and downs and have faith that He sees the big picture from beginning to end. We cannot see the end, but He can. If you feel yourself in the midst of worry, surround yourself with people that will lift you up and encourage you. In the midst of your ups and downs, try to find something positive on which to place your focus. When you can focus on something good, the worry seems to fade away, and you receive peace in knowing that God does have a plan for you. It is so supernatural crazy the peace He gives when we choose to trust Him instead of worrying. He is a good, good Father

Lastly, remember who you are in Christ. Just as I tell each and every one of the kids in Kid City, “You are made from Christ, and you are made perfect in every way!”

We would like to thank Kaylene Vanbebber for writing this post!

Flesh Vs. Spirit

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

Do you know that a war is raging inside of you? Do you feel the struggle of spirit vs. flesh? Have you experienced the pull in both directions: to follow God or worldly desires?  Are you asking yourself, “How do I overcome? How do I have victory over sin?” 

The flesh thinks it knows everything, and it wants us to follow it, but the flesh always wants what feels good. The Spirit, on the other hand, lets our flesh know that what feels good to us is not always good for us. The flesh will tell you the easy way, but not the best way.  The Spirit will always tell you the right way.  In (Luke 9: 23-27) Jesus tells the disciples, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed….”

Wow! That last sentence is enough for me to continue the war within my flesh daily and to tell myself every second to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The flesh makes things sound, look, and taste so good, but the Spirit will let you know that although these things may sound, look, and taste good to you, they are not good for you. Regardless of what the flesh says or how it makes you feel, it will never measure up or defeat the Spirit. The Word of God is powerful indeed; learn how to walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh.

There is a reason why many of us are drawn to a good “spirit vs. flesh” sermon or may have even looked up “spirit vs. flesh” bible verses.  We can all relate to this very struggle. We all feel the pull from the Holy Spirit in our heart and the pull from our very own flesh. How can we overcome the desires of the flesh and follow the Spirit?  Let’s look a Galatians 5:13-26 New Life Version (NLV): 

13 Christian brother, you were chosen to be free. Be careful that you do not please your old selves by sinning because you are free. Live this free life by loving and helping others. 14 You obey the whole Law when you do this one thing, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 15 But if you hurt and make it hard for each other, watch out or you may be destroyed by each other. 16 I say this to you: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in each step. Then you will not please your sinful old selves. 17 The things our old selves want to do are against what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit does not agree with what our sinful old selves want. These two are against each other. So you cannot do what you want to do. 18 If you let the Holy Spirit lead you, the Law no longer has power over you. 19 The things your sinful old self wants to do are: sex sins, sinful desires, wild living, 20 worshiping false gods, witchcraft, hating, fighting, being jealous, being angry, arguing, dividing into little groups and thinking the other groups are wrong, false teaching, 21 wanting something someone else has, killing other people, using strong drink, wild parties, and all things like these. I told you before and I am telling you again that those who do these things will have no place in the holy nation of God. 22 But the fruit that comes from having the Holy Spirit in our lives is: love, joy, peace, not giving up, being kind, being good, having faith, 23 being gentle, and being the boss over our own desires. The Law is not against these things. 24 Those of us who belong to Christ have nailed our sinful old selves on His cross. Our sinful desires are now dead. 25 If the Holy Spirit is living in us, let us be led by Him in all things. 26 Let us not become proud in ways in which we should not. We must not make hard feelings among ourselves as Christians or make anyone jealous.

My prayer is that spending time in the Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with one another, and learning to discern the Holy Spirit’s activity within us will help us all defeat the flesh and walk in the freedom of the Spirit on a daily basis. 

We would like to thank Georgia Wall for writing this post.

Rude Vs. Kind

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

This morning I’m writing to you from my kitchen table. Even though I’m home today with a little man battling allergies, I’m filled with bone-deep peace. I wish I were a prolific writer, so I could fully describe the early morning beauty outside my window. The sun is weaving through the trees, and y’all, the breeze blowing through my window just speaks of fall. Can I get a collective pumpkin spice latte toast to this changing of season?

The challenge before me today is to write to you, my friend, about flesh vs. spirit in the context of rudeness vs. kindness. I know that the telling of a story is one of the most effective ways to communicate one’s heart. So, on this quiet fall morning, I’m tugging my mind back to a time when my life wasn’t as peaceful as it is today.

Let me set the stage for you. Seven years ago, give or take a few months, I had four children in the home. They were 16, 14, 10, and 2. The older three were all in some form of athletics on top of their demanding school schedules. I was at Wolfforth Methodist in full-time children’s ministry with my fingers dipped into several outreach ministries to keep my heart busy. I was stretched. I was alone. The father of my children was deep in a battle with alcoholism and was losing ground every day. I was hanging on by a fraying thread. 

I am an outspoken advocate for setting your children up for success, but this one Tuesday afternoon I had to make a quick trip to Target for dinner supplies in between work and picking up the older three from three different schools. I had to take my oh-so-exhausted-from-the-day two-year-old with me. It was a recipe straight out of the tattered “How to Raise your Children Better Than Your Parent’s Raised You” handbook. (Not a real book, but you know what I’m talking about, right?)

Disaster it was. He screamed throughout the entire store. Amid the frustrated looks from my fellow shoppers, there was one who stood out. She was on the journey with me. Through every isle and every turn, she was right there. Right there with me with the looks and the sighs and “the I can’t believe you brought your child into the store” frown upon her face. I couldn’t shake her. I bobbed. I weaved. I lingered. She was determined to travel with me. 

Finally, the checkout radiated before me, not unlike my vision of the pearly gates. I handed my little man a hundred-dollar bill to pay the weary cashier, and he wouldn’t let it go. What was I thinking?! He held onto that $100 bill with the same mighty grip he’d use on my red Sonic straw. You know the grip. I looked around to apologize for the wait, and who would be behind me in line? You guessed it! We made eye contact just as she threw her hands in the air and yelled (yes yelled) to all the surrounding shoppers, “Do you see this?! Do you see this?!” It was the final sword piercing my side. I was done. I was defeated. My thread was no longer frayed…it was worn completely in two. I remember climbing in my car that day with thoughts that could only be born of the enemy. I was a failure. I was not enough. I was a burden. I was done.

On this fall morning, I Iook back and wonder what if my fellow Target journeyman would have shown kindness in place of her exasperation…her rudeness? What if she had laid her hand on my shoulder and said, “it’ll be alright. This is just a season.” Would I have been encouraged? Refreshed? Through my story, my heart hopes for you to remember we don’t know the journey that others are traveling. The truth and the life challenge are that we are called to love one another…no matter what. We ALL have the capacity to be kind. It is written in our very DNA. God would not call us to love without equipping us to do so. Loving others is a choice. Rudeness is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Within you is the ability to bring a smile to the weariest of travelers. Challenge yourself to do so. Challenge yourself to live out the blessing of love and kindness. It carries the power to change lives, including your own!

We would like to thank Amy Davey for writing this blog post!

Indifferent Vs. Passionate

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

The proverbial fork in the road. We have all approached it many times in our lives. A decision must be made to go either left or right. The more you think about it, the more it begins to look like that epic cartoon where there’s an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each voice trying to convince you that their way is the best. We could call this the battle between the Spirit and the flesh or the war within.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.  But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.” Galatians 5:16

I recently encountered that fork in the road.  In May I ended a 25 year teaching career that was dear to my heart.  A year ago, I felt God downloading into my spirit that a change of season was coming into my life.  As I prayed about it, the picture became clearer that I needed to put an end to the career I have always known.  As peace entered my heart on that decision, here comes another voice planting doubts and fears into my mind.  That voice was reminding me that I wouldn’t have a regular paycheck coming in every month to pay bills. I couldn’t claim my early retirement for two more years and I didn’t have another job lined up to fill in the gap.

My flesh wanted to listen to the last voice and totally ignore what the Spirit was instilling in my heart.  After all, I have bills to pay and needs to be met. 

But, I was promptly reminded that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ.”  Philippians 4:19

As the battle continued, my flesh wanted all the visible, tangible “guarantees” that this world has to offer.  We might call that the broad or well traveled road; it’s the one that feels safe.  Matthew 7:13-14 reminds us “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter.”

Despite what the enemy or your flesh may tell you, God doesn’t intend for you to walk this path alone.  In order to be different and changed you must choose the narrow road.  It also means that not many are going to walk that path with you.  What really matters is the ONE who WILL be walking with you.  When I transferred the trust I had in myself and the promises of this world over to the living God and His kingdom, He started opening doors I didn’t even know were there.

“Don’t be anxious about anything.  Instead pray about everything.”  Philippians 4:6

Open your Bible and declare over yourself the truths and promises God has given you for your life.  Spending time with Him through prayer and worship will put those voices in perspective.  God does provide!

Ladies, through this Spirit versus flesh battle, we have to realize that we can’t change God or the enemy, but they BOTH can change us.  So which one are we going to follow and listen to?  One is out to deceive, kill, steal, and destroy while the other is out to love, guide and improve our lives.  The well traveled road may appear safe but isn’t necessarily the right road.  It caters to the flesh and provides temporary comforts.  The less traveled road might appear rough, but through the Spirit it leads to some AMAZING outcomes!  Faith pushes out guilt, fear and greed and gives us a hunger for God’s power.

Whatever battle you are fighting right now remember that through the cross Christ is faithful and has already conquered any battle we may have.  We have victory through Him over those worldly voices.  You are a daughter of the King and we can say Thank You God for making us overcomers!

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog!

Busy Vs. Intentional

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Crazy-busy is a great armor; it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do, is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” – Brene Brown

When I read this quote over a year ago, it stopped me in my tracks. I was busy. And yet, I kept picking more up. When I was in college, I knew that those who couldn’t sit in the silence had something wrong with their hearts. They were scared to stop – and yet, 12 years later, that is where I found myself – scared to stop. For me, as for many of us, our busyness is our numbing. It is our flesh’s attempt to keep the pain at bay. It’s the enemy’s attempt to keep us from what God really has for us – because if we are numbing the bad, we are also numbing the good.

I didn’t want my flesh to continue winning. I didn’t want the lies of culture which made me see busyness and exhaustion as symbols of status and productivity to keep winning. I wanted to seek and find victory in this area of my life. So with my eyes opened, I began to seek God’s truth over the busyness. One word began rolling around in my heart – intentional.

In everything I did, I began to monitor my heart, and my intentions in why I was doing it. When choosing how to spend my time, I began to ask some questions:

  • Why am I doing this? Am I doing it as unto the Lord, or unto man? (Col. 3:23)
  • Does this line up with my goals, vision, and God’s direction for my life?
  • I also began to ask, “Jesus, what do you want me to do with my time today?” (When I practice this consistently, I find that my productivity actually skyrockets, even though I don’t set out to do as many “things.”)

In addition to monitoring my heart and motives, I began to put some boundaries in place, to guard my heart, and my time. The Bible says that “Above all else, guard your heart” and I discovered that when I didn’t guard my time, the first things to go, were the things I had in place to guard my heart. Below are just a few ways I have found to guard my time:

1. Choose – You get to CHOOSE. For many years, I felt like my schedule was dictated by others. Whether this was my kids, husband, boss, co-workers, etc., I did not feel I had the power to choose how to spend my time. It was all already allotted for. I often felt swept away to care for everyone else’s needs and not my own. This is not a good place to live life from. And you know what? Not choosing, is still choosing. Be intentional.

2. Say No – As I learned to choose, I learned that one of my options was no. NO IS AN OPTION! So many times, we as women feel like we can’t say no, because we are going to let someone down, disappoint them, or leave them in a tough place. But the truth is – God will provide for them even as he provides for us. You can say no.

3. Make a Schedule – When I had my first child, and became a stay at home mom, I loved the flexibility that it provided me. I could go and do what and when I wanted, and take care of my business when it was convenient for me. This was all very true. But at some point, the flexibility of it became a hindrance to me. I believed that my flexibility was for everyone else’s benefit, and my business (laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) became the last things to get taken care of. By the time I had four kids…this was out of control. So, I made a schedule. Monday mornings, we clean, Wednesday mornings are meal-prep, Thursdays are other projects (cleaning out a closet, clearing a flower bed, other projects that just need to get done), and Fridays are for a little more fun. I now work part-time, so my afternoons, while my kids are napping, are for my work. Having a schedule, and some boundaries, has greatly changed how I am able to be intentional with my time.

4. Make Dinner in the Morning – As part of my schedule, I meal prep. For me, that means that on Wednesday mornings, I make all of our dinners for the month. I’m not a fan of cooking anyway, but I find that taking care of it in the morning, allows me to be fully present with my kids during those crazy afternoon hours between after school and dinner. This has changed our lives!

 5. Leave Margin – Leave some space! This way, when a friend calls, and wants to have a play date, or a family member needs help, you have the margin to do so if that is what you CHOOSE to do.

6. Be Where Your Feet Are – In an effort to intentionally use my time well, I try to be fully present. I used to think I was a master multitasker – but the truth is that multitasking just made me stressed and frustrated. I was never fully present wherever I was. I was always trying to get more done than just being there. Now that I’m fully present, I’m also much more pleasant 🙂

The real key to being intentional and not just busy? Walking with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your flesh.” My flesh, and my enemy want me to stay busy – just to keep me busy. To keep me distracted. But when I choose to slow down, and walk with the Spirit, He guides each and every step. Our victory over busyness has already been won, we just need to choose to walk that out – right beside the Holy Spirit.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this blog post!

Lack vs. Enough

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

Do the “things” that are less than “perfect” from your past ever run through your head? What you may not know about me is I have a tendency to walk in dread of the things we sometimes consider “mundane.”  Regret plays a big part in this fear and dread.

Several years ago, I picked up a booklet entitled “Don’t Dread.” My first thought was, “I should read this so I can help others!” (LOL.) As I began to read it, the first two sentences hit me like a ton of bricks: “Do you look forward to each day, approaching it with great expectancy of great things to come? Or do you approach each day in a state of ongoing fear, dread, and lack?” I found myself reflecting on where I was in my journey of life. What was I dreading? Laundry, cleaning, transitioning my kids to college, grocery shopping, getting up in the morning (Admit it. We all at some point think, “just a couple more minutes” and hit snooze), paying bills, and the list goes on and on. What about regret? I shouldn’t have said that! I should’ve just stayed home instead of putting myself out there! Why did I even start this or that? I knew it wouldn’t work! I never have enough…. (You fill in the blank). 

Scarcity. What do you think of when you read that word? “Well Dee Dee, I don’t live in scarcity. I have plenty of food, clothes, etc.” I agree! But when I read this excerpt from a book called, “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist, it hit me right in the chest, listen up:

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…(43 – 45).” And some days, I would add already dreading what is ahead of us for the day and regretting yesterday. (Lord Help Us!)

I don’t think we stay in this all day every day, but if we are truly honest with ourselves we slip in and out of this mindset throughout our daily routines. The Word says in John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.” Dread, regret and the scarcity mentality squeeze the life out of us like a thief. 

Let’s expose those lies for what they really are: LIES. They are a little flavor of fear. The enemy uses fear to steal our joy and hold us back from everything God intended from us. 1 John 4:4 says, “Ye are of God little children and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” We quote this for the “big” stuff like healing, prosperity, emotional wounds, etc. but what if we used this also for mindsets that do not line up with what the Word says about us as children of the Most High King? 

Our flesh will not want to control those thoughts, but the word tells us to “take those thoughts captive that don’t line up with His word.”  Does this mean we run around acting like Pollyanna pretending that everything is hunky dory and we never get down? Of course not! Life happens. I have had to combat many mindsets that do not agree with the Word throughout my walk. Dread, regret and scarcity thoughts keep us living in the past.  Some days I can catch those thoughts quickly and apply the Word. Other days I find myself meditating on them longer than necessary, but I am further down the road than I used to be. Worship really helps me to refocus my thoughts. I also have a core group of prayer warriors that go to battle with me when I am in the “pit.”

Faith is moment by moment some days. So let’s watch for those little fears and thoughts that come to steal our joy. 1 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”  Let’s go to our Father and allow Him to shine light on the areas that we walk in that don’t line up with His Word, then allow Him to bring victory in our lives. Jesus died for this very reason – you and me! He was victorious on the cross. His Word says we are “more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!” We have enough!

I have been listening to two songs: “Ain’t No Grave” and “Raise a Hallelujah” both by Bethel Music. They both are powerful!   The truth is we are all very blessed and have battles we are dealing with. Walk in life and life abundantly! It’s a choice and it doesn’t depend on what is or is not going right in our lives. Renew your mind with the Word and Praise!

We would like thank Dee Dee Ortega for writing this post!

Educators, Be Encouraged!

There is a HUGE message from God’s heart that wants to go forth. It’s a message that wants to take root and produce a harvest of blessing in the hearts of educators around the world. There is a real enemy that is trying to steal position and identity. If that feat is successful, then the purposes of God in our schools can be negatively influenced. But guess what?  There is a powerful weapon against the enemy that prevails, and that is a healthy, strong, and confident teacher!  

Education changes the world; it is the gateway into the hearts and minds of children. That’s why the most important job is that of a teacher. Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to receive wisdom than gold! To receive understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”  Proverbs 4:13 says, “I keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”  

The life and value of a teacher goes beyond even their own belief sometimes. Scripture tells us that the impartation of knowledge and wisdom are better than gold. The enemy knows that if he can attack a teacher’s worth, his/her value, their identity in who they are, then the powerful work of Christ can be negatively impacted. God created a special gifting in teachers. To truly see the difference they make in the world, you only have to travel down the road to our local classrooms.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is on full display!

There you will find a love for children that is indescribable. You will find joy even in hard times and seasons. The patience that exudes from teachers is newsworthy. Chaos is brought to peace with a soft spoken word. A kind word is offered to the discouraged. Week in and week out teachers are faithful to bring their very best. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle affirmation to make a child’s day.

There may be many teachers and parents reading this today that doubt their value. School has started back, and there may be times of struggle and times where it would be easier to do something different and make a whole lot more money. But if you are a teacher, a homeschool parent, or any other kind of educator, you are set apart, gifted, anointed, and called to a group of students who need just what you are. There is no one better to change the world than YOU! There is no one better to show the love of Christ to the next generation than YOU! YOU make the difference. YOU determine the outcome of a child’s year. YOU are planting the seeds that will one day produce fruit that will change the word. 

The next time you are bombarded with discipline, curriculum, expectations, administrative expectations, or parents, just remember: you are worth far more than gold, and your instruction is worth guarding and protecting. Stand today in the high position that God has called you to. Stand today for children around the world that need you. Stand today because you know your worth comes from Jesus. Out of that worth, what is poured into our children WILL change the world!

We would like to thank Amy Meek for writing this post!

Teaching Our Children To Be Kind To Every Kind

It has been 13 and a half years since David’s stroke. I will never forget sitting in a little family side room staring at the MRI picture of David’s brain. The Pediatric ER doctor pointed to a large, black area of David’s brain and informed us that was the area which had been affected by the stroke. In that moment I wanted to punch the man. I had never had that feeling before and I didn’t know whether to throw up, run out, or bawl. No matter my feelings, I knew in the blink of an eye my life had changed. I was now the mom of a child with a disability. We didn’t know what David’s disability would look like, but we knew there was a long road ahead of us.

In those moments, and in the time since, we have been surrounded by friends and family who have embraced us and David’s disability as we have walked this path. We are so grateful. Community always makes it easier, no matter what hardship you are walking through. And, let’s be honest. We all face hardship.

Recently a young mom asked me, “How do I teach my children to love kids with disabilities?”

There are a lot of practical ways to answer that question, and yet, one very simple, absolutely crucial answer. I’ll start with the simple answer and follow with a few practical ideas.

The simple answer is to show love. That seems cliché, but honestly, what families with special needs children need is a lot of love. Teaching your child to love those who are different is a task that all parents are called to and it begins with the parent.  Parents must be able to see a child with a disability and then be intentional in showing that child, and that child’s family, love.

Here are a few practical ways people have shown our family love:

  • Meeting physical needs:  Right after David’s stroke, and really until he was about 4, we had to be in Lubbock for appointments 2-3 times a week. People were so faithful to help in so many ways, bringing food, giving gift cards, etc.  I am not necessarily talking about something that was organized, although that did happen. I’m talking about people hearing from the Holy Spirit, calling and asking if they could bring us dinner, or gifting us in other tangible ways. It was always at just the right time and such a sweet expression of Christ’s love to our family.
  • Including David:  When you have weakness on one side of your body, every physical activity is more difficult. You cannot carry a plate of food at a birthday party or open your own juice box. You are not able to ride a bicycle in the neighborhood with the other boys, and people often have to adjust their plans or activities to meet your needs.  I was always so grateful for friends who would call and honestly ask, “Can David come over, and what do we need to do to help him?” Although that can be a bit uncomfortable to address, it is so helpful to the child with special needs and their family.
  • Giving a needed respite:  Raising a child with special needs is constant. It is hard to explain unless you are doing it. I am so thankful for my family and a handful of friends who were happy and willing to keep David and care for him so Brad and I were able to have a few days away.
  • Speaking words of life and truth:  I cannot tell you the number of people who have prayed for David. We have received cards from all over the world. At first it was hard to hear these prayers of concern, largely because of my own disappointments. However, even in my less than grateful response, people continued to pray and believe for David. What joy it brings when people speak words of assurance and blessing over David. His life is different than we imagined it would be when we brought him home from the hospital, but he is the perfect gift that God intended him to be and he will continue to be as he grows and walks in the paths God puts before him. To this day we have a dear doctor friend who believes in David’s complete and total healing. To say the least, it is always refreshing when David sees him.

This post just scratches the surface of our life with David. My prayer is that people will always see those in need and respond in the way God is calling them to respond. Early on God showed me a verse in Proverbs 31. I think it directly speaks to those with a disability and how we should respond. 

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9 

David is a normal 14 year old who has minimal limitations, for that we are grateful. But we are surrounded by so many who have extreme limitations. Let’s be sure we are always an expression of Christ’s love to them.

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!

Reframing Beauty – Part 2

Beauty. A word that truly has so many meanings in our world. A word that we have sometimes let define who we are, how we see others and the kind of worth we put on ourselves. We see magazine articles with titles that read “5 Steps to the NEW Beautiful You”, “Beauty Hacks You Never Knew”, “The 36 Most Exciting Beauty Products to Try in 2019”, you get the idea. Our world has turned the word “beauty” into something that can be obtained by the next product, the most popular spa service, the new outfit, or what we can DO to be like the girl in the magazine, the mom of 3 that just doesn’t age, or our friend that we long to look like. 

Unfortunately, the beauty industry has found a market that makes millions based on women’s insecurities. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you know me and follow me on my Divine Bliss Facebook and Instagram, you know I LOVE the next beauty product. I am all about it, as it is such a fun, creative, exciting hobby-turned-job for me. BUT, it is critical that we as women don’t find our true sense of happiness in a beauty that has been marketed. 

Song of Songs 4:7 says “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you”. When I think of things with “no flaw”, I think of precious, perfect, loved, pure, and unblemished. Now obviously, these things may not be a reality from the outside. I mean, we have all had blemishes. There are times we may not feel loved or perfect, but that isn’t what we are talking about here. 1 Peter 3:4 speaks to this. “Rather what is inside the heart… is great worth in God’s sight.”

True and perfect beauty comes from our identity in Jesus.

Another way I see beauty from within shine, is when we operate in the fruits of His spirit like in Galatians 5:22-23. For example, an act of love that is beautiful could be taking a friend’s kid to the park so that friend can have a much-needed break. I see the mercy given to the husband or child that made the same mistake, again. I see the selflessness of serving others, and genuinely taking the time to see the heart of those around us, not just going through the motions. God does not see our beauty as something physical as if we were models in a magazine, but He sees the true beauty in our hearts, spiritually, as the models of His fruits. 

At the same time, taking the word “beauty” out of it, God designed us to further His kingdom and to take care of ourselves while doing it. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. We hear a lot about “self-care” these days, and I truly believe we are hearing so much about it because we as women get so caught up in taking care of others, we forget to take care of us. In my profession as an esthetician, I get to see the benefits of women loving on themselves, therefore getting to love on others. Here are some practical self-care tips:

  • Take time to enjoy a spa service to refresh your soul, and relax, not just to check off a list to make you feel better about your insecurities. 
  • Invest in a good SPF to protect the natural beauty God has created in you.
  • Try out a new, fun lip gloss that brings out your confidence.
  • Treat yourself to a makeup tutorial because it is FUN to you, not because you are trying to “keep up”.
  • Get a pedicure with a friend to catch up and sow into relationships. 

The beauty industry, unfortunately turned somewhat superficial, doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There are so many different areas in this industry that can be good for you by brightening your soul and filling your cup, so that you can shine bright for the most beautiful One. 

It’s not about what we wear, it’s not about trying to be like someone else. It IS about WHO we are in Christ. It IS about the true beauty the Lord has put in each of us and it IS about being able to express ourselves confidently. Who is ready to reframe beauty with me?

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this blog post!

Reframing Beauty – Part 1

The health and beauty industry are two in the same. They have both realized that there is a HUGE draw to perfection, and they hold the secret, or so we’re told. The next best diet, newest face cream, pills, exercise routine, you name it. They convey the message that, without possessing these things, you’ll never meet the standard. The perfectly touched up models are used as our bait, and more times than not, we take it. You know what is missing in the picture? Your true value. They don’t know you like Christ does. They don’t have a high regard for your heart and soul like Christ does. They don’t see your worth without all of the products like Christ does! They make diet pills, not people. If I were to weigh the difference between the process of the two, I’d say that creating people uniquely different takes the cake! Watch this:

Genesis 2:21-23 NIV

So the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. 

You weren’t built in a factory and injected with different genes and personality. God doesn’t take His job in creating each of us lightly and how we treat His intricacy shouldn’t be taken lightly either. 

My point is not that investing in your health and adorning yourself is something that we should cease doing. However, my point is that if our heart doesn’t line up with our Maker’s about who we are created to be, if we’re placing more value in lipstick or pounds lost, spending more time crying as we look in the mirror than spending time in HIS word, we will always crave something new. Our thirst will never be quenched by industries designed to keep you thirsty. 

I recently experienced a kind of freedom that I was unaware of until my husband pointed it out. We went to dinner with friends and I wore the FIRST outfit I tried on without over analyzing it. We simply left and enjoyed the evening. That may not sound like a big deal to some. But to me, that’s a huge deal! I used to be the woman who would try on everything in her closet, hate it all, try it all on AGAIN, then break out into tears before we could go anywhere. Sounds exhausting, because it was! For myself AND my husband. It never set a positive tone for the event. 

I realized that it wasn’t a matter of how physically fit I was or wasn’t at the time, it was a condition of my heart. I wasn’t loving myself. I was living in a toxic relationship with MYSELF. A form of my self-hatred and pity appeared in piles of clothes on the floor. And I thought this was normal! It’s not! It doesn’t have to be your normal! 

I’m going to show you how digging deeper into my relationship with Christ helped me realize that my worth was greater than I realized! My constant prayer that I speak over myself is this:

“Lord, thank You for the purpose that You placed within me. Thank You for sowing seeds of self-worth within my heart. I receive Your truth about who You say I am. Thank You for making me whole, lacking nothing. Thank You for showing me Your reality and making it mine too.”

If you’ll notice something, I’m speaking truth and healing and thanking God for those things even as I work toward those things. Speaking life and provision over my shortcomings and welcoming a heart that is accepting of healing. If you struggle with leaving piles in your home, check your heart.

You can invest in your health and beauty regimen without a longing to be someone else.

You know how I know? Because God placed a huge value in every detail of your being. All we have to do is own it. No overthinking, just own it. With that comes peace from the inside that translates to the outside.

Proverbs 3:15-18 NIV

She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. 

That’s worth! Worth that is already inside of you simply by being the daughter of The King! Walk in that truth every single day, friends!

We’d like to thank Bonnie Kate Olson for writing this post!

Hospitality in the Natural and Supernatural

I figure if you are reading this then you have a heart to share God’s love everywhere you have influence, especially in your home for life group or when having guests. My friends would probably not call me a hospitality guru, but my husband and I have hosted life group for a while and have tried to watch and learn to pick up a few things (both natural and supernatural) along the way.  

I started paying attention at my mom’s house. It is decorated in the same exact things she put out in the 70’s, has a lot of clutter, and few places to sit, but everyone in my family wants to be there.  I figured out—apparently all that doesn’t matter.  Even if she isn’t consciously thinking about it, she is combining some supernatural and natural things to make people feel loved, valued, and RELAXED.   You can tell she values people above things, isn’t uptight about a single thing, is accepting and never, ever critical or judgmental of anyone.  I think because of that, the peace and love inside her house is palpable.  My sister-in-law even jokes that if she and my brother ever divorce that she gets visiting rights to Mama Jane!  Mom always has a variety of goodies out like nuts, M & M’s, and fruit slices, but she lays out from the beginning of an event what she wants people to do and how to serve themselves.  I think people feel comfortable because of it. 

At my own house, I always try to pray over our time together before life group.  If God’s Breath and Being isn’t on what we are doing, it is not worth doing!  I walk around my house and pray for God’s peace to be manifest, that people would feel God’s love, that His presence would be felt, and that our words will be sweet and led to accomplish His purposes for the night.  

The supernatural seamlessly blends with what we do in the natural.  It makes me think of a time a while back when I was asked to make dessert for a dinner where church leaders were serving a meal for a guest minister.  I made a strawberry cheesecake which is a complicated recipe (for me) and takes two days to make.  During that time while I baked, I determined to pray over the cake—that it would be refreshing and delightful to those who ate it, a blessing to them, and make them feel loved.  It was the weirdest thing because people kept talking and talking about that cake!  I just smiled because I knew it was the touch of God on it.  I am so grateful for his supernatural touch on my natural work.

A natural thing we try to do at life group is to be relaxed since it seems to help our friends be able to relax.  In our life group, if anything seems awkward, you can bet that we will just call it out as awkward and laugh about it.  I don’t want this to sound flippant, but we joke around about “Greeting people warmly” when we are at the front door.  Laughing about us awkwardly greeting someone seems to take the tension off us and also new friends coming in.    

We have a few other day-to-day things that we try to do as well.  We try to make sure the house is clean and doesn’t stink (hard while the dog was still alive), have all the things out that we will need for the meal, and turn on lots of lights throughout the house.  We want the temperature to be comfortable for everyone, so we have blankets everywhere and pass them around to (and joke about) our cold-natured friends.  When I see someone get cozy at life group with one of my blankets, I know we have made them feel at home (or frozen them out totally 😊).  I have a drink dispenser that we put water and slices of fruit in.  I promise it isn’t hard to slice a couple of limes or oranges and dump it in the water, but we have one member that jokes she keeps coming back because she loves our “fruity water”.  Whatever it takes! 

Life group is so important to my spiritual well-being.  I absolutely love how the church leaders have it set up and organized.  It is a low-pressure way to be spurred on to know my Father better and to help others, too.  Life group gives me an excuse to be blessed by the gifts and wisdom in others that I wouldn’t have any other way.  I know you, too, can find a group that you love! Check out the directory online or in a seat pocket at church!

We would like to thank Karen Earhart for writing this blog!

Ice Cream Recipe

Summer is coming to an end, which is hard to believe, and I must say, I am not all that happy about it. I LOVE summertime! God’s beauty is ever-present, but summer glows with His canvas of amazing color and loveliness: lots of warm sunshine, long daylight hours, swimming pools, painted toenails, refreshing tea, boats gliding across lakes, hummingbirds, shorts, kayaks, thunderstorms, green grass, sandals, beautiful sunsets, tanned skin, ice cold water, flowers, bike rides, ponytails, and Jeep rides. I think heaven will be very similar to summer. One of my most favorite things to do in the summer is get together with family. Early bedtimes for the grandkids are not in effect (at least not at my house), and we really have time to enjoy family. I believe one of God’s greatest gifts to us is our family, and He blesses the time we get to spend with them.  

Another one of my favorite summertime things is ICE CREAM! I have made many gallons of homemade ice cream throughout the years, and it is yummy. But…I didn’t get the recipe perfected without many trials and errors. Johnny and I come from a long line of very good cooks, and I have been fortunate to get many wonderful recipes and cooking lessons from some of the best cooks. The first time I made ice cream, I was sooo excited to prove to Johnny that I could cook as good as his mother. If you know Johnny, you know what a jokester he is, and he has always told me that my cooking was good but not as good as his mother and his “Sissy.” How many of you have heard that before? At the beginning of our marriage, I’d like to say I didn’t take a little offense to this statement. But I did. And I now know he loves my cooking and is just giving me hard time. It was a hot summer day and he came in from moving pipe on the farm. I prepared two bowls of what seemed like perfect ice cream and we dug in. After about two bites, Johnny asked me, “What are these hard, yellow nuggets?” Well, guess what… I didn’t beat the eggs before I put them in the freezer, so we had frozen egg yolks embedded in the ice cream. HA! Ladies, beat your eggs before you add them to the rest of the ingredients! I have several other “first time” cooking stories: fried chicken, piecrust, jello – haha! Ask me about them sometime. 🙂

My early cooking experiences remind me of how God molds and transforms us. At first, we are a little rough around the edges and may have some hard, yellow nuggets that need to be beat out of us or we are not quite done and need to cook a little longer, but if we place ourselves in the company of good Christians that have fruit oozing out of their beings, dig deep into God’s word and let Him transform our hearts, we can perfect our “recipes.” And just like adding to or revising our recipes, we need to let God sprinkle a little love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control into our lives, adding to and revising our recipes as we grow in His love.

My favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 3:20:

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”

Wow! Sit outside in His glorious sunlight, take delight in His colorful landscape and ponder on those words. What a joy we have in Jesus! Oh, and dig into a big bowl of ice cream!

Ice Cream Recipe

(This recipe is for a 6 quart freezer.)

9 Eggs (well beaten!)                                                

1 pint Whipping Cream (whip before you add)                                  

1 ½ cups Sugar                                                   

1 can Eagle Brand Milk   

2 tsp. Vanilla

1 can Evaporated Milk

Mix all the ingredients together and put in an ice cream freezer can. Fill remainder of freezer with milk. Insert freezer can into bucket and lock into place. Add ice and rock salt in the space between the can and the outside of your bucket. Run machine until it slows down or stops. Enjoy!!

We’d like to thank Kim Street for writing this blog!

Family Game Night

Is your home fun? Psalm 118:15 says that “the sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.” We, above all people, should have homes where laughter and joy ring out, homes that are fun places to be. In our Kingdom Families trainings, Myles Sweeney talks about the walls of our houses being saturated with laughter. Canadian blogger and pastor’s wife Elisha Galotti even goes so far as to challenge us, “Believe that laughter is as important for our children as proper nutrition.”

As mothers, we are extremely influential in setting the atmosphere of our home, and then RE-setting it again and again, as many times as it takes. It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect at it — but it means we do have that power. Let’s access that power to make our homes those pleasant places where people want to be. 

One excellent way to cultivate that atmosphere at your house is to schedule a family game night this summer. Playing games together builds a family culture, breaks up any routine monotony, and gets everyone interacting around the table. Our family has so many hilarious memories from game nights with aunts and uncles and grandparents. Just mention a naked mole rat to one of my boys and see where the conversation might lead…

When our boys were very young, we did our fair share of CandyLand, Chutes & Ladders, and Go Fish, later graduating to Monopoly, Scattergories, and Clue. We also like to change up the rules on the ol’ classics. Our personal versions of Yahtzee abound — roll straight down the card in order; speed round where everyone plays at once; roll 4 times each turn instead of 3. What about trying a twist on Pictionary — “Charade-tionary,” anyone? Teams take turns acting out the 5 words listed on the cards with a 1-minute time limit. Scrabble tiles can be used to build individual little crossword puzzles. Just pick up 2 additional letters every time someone uses up all their letters. Similar to Bananagrams, this quick-moving little gem is otherwise known as “Take Two.” Sometimes we pass Catchphrase around the dinner table without worrying about teams or score-keeping, and it basically turns into a happy-shouting free-for-all. 

Other Brown favorites that might be less well-known include Telestrations, Guess Who, Pass the Pigs, Ticket to Ride, Whoonu, and 15,000 (played with 5 dice). Creative brain games like ABC’s, Name 5, and logic puzzles have kept us occupied for hours on road trips. We’ve been known to hold Talent Shows, Comedy Nights, and Wii bowling tournaments when the big family comes to town for the holidays. Speaking of tournaments, a group of our friends even prints out championship brackets and awards prizes when we get serious about Marbles. (Competitive, much??) You probably have your own repertoire of favorites. Share them with us in the comments below?

Even if you don’t feel like a “game person,” even if your family members moan or resist the idea at first, I challenge you to be the initiator. This summer might be the perfect chance to shake things up! Try something new! After you get over that initial hump, I’d bet you money that everyone will be laughing and making memories in spite of themselves before the night is over. Game on, girls!!

We would like to thank Jill Brown for this blog post!

Summertime Craft Idea

If you are like me, you have a little extra time on your hands in the summer. This is the time to clean out closets, finish up a project you’ve been working on, and hopefully, carve out a little time to do the things you WANT to do! One of the things I enjoy doing during the summer is crafts. I’m not a crafty person by nature, but thanks to Pinterest and other great sites, even I can look a little creative. One craft I have enjoyed lately is STAMPED BOOKS!

Where to begin

You begin by collecting books. I look for paperback books at garage sales, resale shops, and most recently, at our library’s book sale. I was able to fill a grocery sack full of used books and it only cost $1 per sack. You want to look for books that are around 1″ thick. It doesn’t matter what shape the cover is in because you are going to tear them off anyway. The other supplies you will need include stamps and a stamp pad, plus jute or ribbon.

Let’s get started

Step 1: Carefully tear off the front and back cover, plus the spine of the book. These actually come off very easily, but if part of the cover gets stuck on the spine, you can use a razor blade or knife to carefully scrape it off. You might also want to tear off a few pages of the book until you get to a page with very few words. I like to use the title page or the dedication page because it is mostly a white page.

Step 2: Decide what you are going to write. You probably need to write it on a scratch pad for practice.

Step 3: Get the stamps lined up. I start going from right to left so I basically stamp the word backward, just so that I know that I have plenty of room and the word will end at the end of the book spine.

Step 4: When stamping, make sure you don’t blot the ink heavily or you’ll make a mess on your stamp. I am careful about getting too much ink on the stamp, but don’t worry about being perfect. This isn’t about perfect. Imperfections just add character to the books.

Step 5: When you are finished stamping all of your letters, you can use a ultra fine point sharpie to touch up any areas that didn’t stamp well.

Step 6: Wrap your books in a cute ribbon to match your decor. For the 4thof July, I wanted to make some stamped books to add to my décor. All I did was find a quote I liked and then added some ribbon to complete it. You can add a flower, greenery or a cute gift tag to the ribbon to make it even more personal.

Honestly, this is one of the easiest craft projects you can do. It took longer to gather the supplies than it did to create the finished product. Other varieties of this project include using hardback books and painting the cover with chalk paint. If you don’t want to ruin the book, you can always cover with some paper of your choice and then proceed with the stamping as mentioned above. 

Use your books to add a fun accessory to your desk at work or display it on a bookshelf in your home. Whether you make these books for yourself or for a friend, it will add a fun touch to your decor.

Have fun being creative and remember that FREEDOM is never FREE! However, FREEDOM in CHRIST is a gift to those who will accept it! Happy 4thof July! 

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this post!

Oh Summer, I Love Thee

Let me count the ways.

I love the slower pace. I love ice cream. I love working out. I love a cleaned up yard. I love flowers. I love watching the kids swim. I love movies. I love walks with the kids and chatting with neighbors in the cool of the day. I love reading books. I love reading books. I love reading books. LOL

I love opening the sun roof on our super-sassy minivan and pumping up the bass on Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution” as the kids scream, “OOAH! OOAH!” (I don’t really know how to type out that sound, but I’ll bet if you’ll go listen to that song, you’ll figure it out.)

I love impromptu dinners with other families when they come over and bring what they have and I haven’t cleaned the house. I love when my hubby takes the girls on Triple Daughter/Daddy Dates to Sonic to get a coke. And I love how even when I say I don’t need anything, he goes ahead and gets me a milkshake. And I drink it all.

I love the chance to go to the lake with my family and watching the kids with their cousins. It is an all-or-nothing experience. There are sometimes 20 people sleeping under one roof. The kids are never guaranteed a bed and they don’t care. They love exploring the barns, of which they affectionately renamed The Kids Only Club. Summer is for reconnecting with family. And we’ve been blessed with great family on both sides.

I love that we can take naps at 9:30 in the morning if we want. I love making a list of to-do’s that the girls have to complete before they watch TV. You know those giant math consumables their teachers send home with them at the end of school??? We use them! For a moment in time, I feel like a super-intentional mom.

I love that summer gives me freedom to try new things. Last night I sat on the turquoise bench my husband made out of a bedframe his grandfather made many decades ago. I sat there with a cup of hot tea and read a book. And I started to cry because I was looking at the grass and it was so beautiful to me. I hadn’t even mowed it yet! I was moved by our imperfect yard with a whole variety of grasses and weeds growing. But they’re all green, so whatever, right??? The bench on which I was resting my rear hadn’t even been dusted. I didn’t even care. I could BREATHE. I could HEAR. I could FEEL the blessing of God allowing me to experience a moment to refresh my soul. And there were no mosquitoes. So I know that we are living in the will of God. Haha! Summer brings some of that out in me.

I love summer because it reminds me that God created a season where all of nature shouts, “THRIVE! BLOOM!” And it feels sooo good!

We want to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post!

Sibling Love

Sibling Love

Editor’s Note: This is a post from a couple of years ago. Teaching the value of loving our siblings is important. This is a great post to revisit as we begin summer!

When we really stop and think about the people who have impacted our life, there are certain qualities that they all have.

They show care: when you’re hurting, they’re there to see what they can do to help.

They show concern: when they see something is different in your life, they ask you about it. They’re concerned for who you are, what you’re going through and what you need.

They display kindness. They let you choose first. They give you gifts out of kindness. They speak words of encouragement over you. They smile and are welcoming. You feel and know their kindness.

Care, concern, and kindness mark the people who impact us. As I think about my boys and raising them, I’m keenly aware of who I want them to become. But I’m also aware that more is caught than taught. I’ve been asked many times, “Do your boys really like each other?  Are they really friends?”  The answer is yes.

Although friendships are never easy, especially within a home, when we model healthy friendships, it rubs off onto our kids. When we show care, concern and kindness, our children learn this as the norm.  When we remind our kids that we are people who show care, concern and kindness, it helps them remember to “be”not to “strive for “—those attributes.

Parenting isn’t easy, but really everything worth doing has its challenges.

I’d rather fight the battle at home and raise men who impact the world, than make excuses for why my children are unkind, self-consumed, and careless. How about you?

Practical To-Do’s for Siblings:
– Always say sorry
– Always say I forgive you
– Always hug it out (sometimes I make my boys sit on the couch and hug each other, or hold hands until they stop fighting…some days that’s worse than a spank)
– Remind them they will always be best friends
– Play together
– Work together
– Pray for each other
– Show gratitude and say thank you to each other

Here’s a few cheap summer activities for you and your kids:
* Go get snow cones
* Buy a decent, over-the-door basketball hoop and shoot hoops indoors
* Make tents out of blankets in your living room and watch movies, read books, have tea parties inside it
* Pour all the Legos out in the living room and build a gigantic Lego fortress
* Visit Palo Duro Canyon
* Run through the sprinklers
* Use mini marshmallows and toothpicks to build mini-tower structures
* Bubbles… all ages love bubbles
* Fly a kite
* Build an obstacle course through the house or in the backyard
* Watch your favorite sports team and make up chants
* Play video games
* Get a month free subscription to Netflix
* Have a sleepover in the living room
* Laugh a lot
* Enjoy the ones God gave you

I love my boys, as I know you love your kids. May we continually remember what precious gifts they are to us and that God has picked you to mother the children he’s given to you, and me to mother the boys given to me.

Be blessed my sweet friends, enjoy your kiddos and enjoy the summer.

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here.

Made To Love

Editor’s Note: May is National Foster Care Month. It’s a time to recognize that we each can play an important part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.

I’ll never forget the evening I spent packing up my first foster loves’ clothes for the last time. They were going to their “real” home. And my heart was broken.

I fully believed that this was God’s plan.

I knew they were in good hands; their family loved them. But man did it hurt saying goodbye! I put a smile on my face, and I hugged and kissed them, and when an unexpected tear ran down my face,  I explained it away. “They were happy tears.” I was just so happy they were going to be with their mommy. That is what we had been working and praying so hard for! And God had been preparing my heart for this day for years.

Before I welcomed my own babies into this world, God shared 2 others with me. Though only briefly, they were mine and I’ll love them forever. But for reasons beyond my understanding, God needed them in heaven. After reflecting on that, it made perfect sense. He was teaching me how to love someone with my whole heart and hand them back over to Him. 

I wrestled with the thought of this silently for a long time. I had many conversations with God about how I was not foster mom material. They were something like:

“I’m just a regular person. I can’t save these kids.” He said, “You were never made to be their savior. You were made to love them.”

“But I am far from a perfect parent. I make mistakes daily.” He replied, “Your job is to be present not perfect. You were made to love them.

But it will be so hard…I will get attached. How can I let them go?” He answered, “Yes it will be hard but it will be worth it. And you will never be alone. You were made to love them.”

I was given this verse and man did it hit me!

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What God told me was all these expectations I had put on myself of what the perfect parent was supposed to be, didn’t matter. He wanted to use me in some of the most difficult situations these kids will have to live through. My job is not to be perfect, just to show them His perfect love and to love them so much it hurts, because they deserve it!

One Sunday the sermon jumped out and slapped me in the face. I will paraphrase because as far as I’m concerned this was what I was supposed to hear.

When you step out and follow your calling it’s not going to be easy. Get over yourself and the fears that tell you you’re unworthy. It’s going to be uncomfortable…do it anyway.

Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Ok God, I hear you.

That day Brandon and I went for lunch and randomly he brought up the idea of fostering. I think he was a bit shocked when I jumped right on it. I explained how this had been laid on my heart as well and how I had secretly been looking into an agency already.  

We later had a conversation with our kids. This decision would change their world, too. How would they feel about sharing us? Will they understand the why? The answer was yes! Our son said “Mom, if we can show 1 kid that there is good in the world and teach them how we love, then we have done our job.” He gets it!

Fast forward to the heart wrenching day Brandon and I had to send home our 2 foster loves. By the end of the day we had received 2 calls from our agency; more children were needing homes. We were faced with a hard decision. Who do we take next, and how can you choose?! There are children right here in our community that are hungry, neglected and feel alone. God calls us to rise up and love them.  

Our world has been flipped, tripped and thrown upside down. And what a blessing it has been! We are planting seeds of love in their hearts and although we may never see the end results, we are doing what we were called to do. We were made to love.

We want to thank Misty Rowell for writing this blog post!

All Things Made New

Life group was a life changing experience for me. Although I am an extravert most of the time, I am very much an introvert when it comes to being around people I don’t know. 

Like most folks, we came to Harvest from a church that had literally beaten us to death! We were so broken and hurt, I wasn’t sure I’d ever open my heart again to another human being. My husband and I were in the process of restoration and rehabilitation in our marriage and desperately needed the support and love of others to help us stay on the right path, but I was terrified to open myself up again and let anyone else in. 

Our first Sunday at Harvest was amazing! We were only coming to visit, and 6 years later… (well, it didn’t take very long!) we joined and started attending life group. I was very quiet, and just listened as we met each Wednesday.  

Slowly, I began to enjoy the fellowship and prayer time with other women. I prayed with them but not out loud. I prayed silently.

As I learned to open my heart to God, I learned to open my heart to other women, and my life has literally changed before my own eyes. 

God healed the brokenness, healed the wounds, and led me to a place that I could love and trust other women again. He showed me that there are women who have a heart like His and want the best for His daughters! 

I cherish the relationships that God has provided through the women in life group, the women of Harvest! I became a life group leader because I want to pass on what God has blessed me with! I want other women to know the love of my Dad, Jesus! I want them to feel special and treasured like Jesus treasures me. We are daughters of the King, and I want other women to know what it means to be His princess!

Through the relationships that are born in life group, we learn how much we’re loved by Father, and can pass that love on to others. Life group is a life line and keeps us connected to the body of Christ!

We would like to thank Janie Keller for writing this post!

Gardening from the Heart

Genesis 1:11-12
“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’  And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

As I prayed about what to share about my garden and my experiences with gardening, my heart was continually drawn to look at the heart of the one true Gardener… God!

God has created each of us to plant our own gardens with His seeds. He has directed us to plan, prepare, plant and enjoy time in the garden, live in freedom, and enjoy our lives! 

In scripture, God refers to seeds as His words that are not perishable seeds, but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

Just as God has given us His seeds (words) to plant, sow, water and nourish, He has also given us talents to plant and grow flower gardens for beauty or vegetable gardens for nourishment. Which ever garden you desire, here are a few tips to help you design and grow your gardens.

Gardening tips : Easy Gardening 

  • Make a plan – Find a space – Check out amount of time for sun or shade in that space.
  • Check out Better Homes and Garden – Free garden plans (5 Easy Garden Plans ) or other websites.
  • Prepare – Clean it up and add necessary nutrients with fertilizer, compost and/or garden soil.
  • Flowers – Look around your neighborhood, visit with professionals or friends or check out Pinterest. 
  • Head to Nursery – Read the cards – Annuals vs. perennials – Sun vs. shade.
  • Budget – Know what you can afford and shop around! Sometimes people are thinning out their flowers and you can get free flowers – start from seed if you have time.
  • Plant – use a variety, mix colors and textures, add rocks or other decorative items.
  • Feed/Water – Water daily and feed once a month (dry fertilizer).
  • Deadhead – Cut off dead flowers. This allows for a second flush to develop. Weed. Add or move flowers as needed.
  • Mulch – Helps to control weeds and holds moisture.

My encouragement to you is: as you plant flowers and seeds in your gardens this Spring and Summer, take time and speak to the Ultimate Gardener and ask where your spiritual seeds can be planted! 

…Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) as you wait on The Lord for His seeds (words) to flourish in the hearts of the people God places on your heart. The Lord will bless your efforts as you design, plant, nurture and love your gardens.

“The glory of gardening: 
          hands in the dirt,
          head in the sun, 
          heart with nature.
To nurture a garden
          is to feed not 
          just on the body,
          but the soul.”
                           Alfred Austin

Happy Gardening!

We would like to thank Bambi Lutrick for writing this post!