The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

Editors note: For the month of December, our theme is “The Gift of Jesus” and our focus verses are found in Luke 2:10-14. “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord- has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

What a wonderful time of year this is! What makes this time of year special for you?  It might be being with family and friends. Maybe it’s the decorating, food eating and gift buying that brings you joy. What about Jesus? Does He have a place in your life during this season?

Let’s talk about gifts. Gifts are exciting! All the pretty wrappings and the suspense of what is hidden beneath those wrappings. We have all heard and probably sang the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Someone tried to add up how much it would cost to give the gifts named in this song.  The grand total came to about $15,000! It seems we get all tied up in the busyness of the season and we forget about the simplicity.

Christmas, a wonderful story and a gentle reminder of the true meaning. It is about the gifts. However, it is not about the gifts that can be purchased with a credit or debit card.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “ Isaiah 9:6

The real message is not the gifts we give each other but the gifts God has given to each of us.  His gifts are the only ones that keep on giving.  Let’s look at 4 things:

1. God’s gift to us was a total surprise.  Who would have imagined that Jesus would be willing to leave perfection to come into a sinful world and in human form?

2. God’s gift came to us in humble wrappings. He wasn’t born in a palace.  We all have been taught that He was born in a stable. The reality is He was born in a cave. This cave was a cave where lambs were born to be used for religious sacrifices. The lambs had to be perfect, it was mandatory that they were unblemished. Therefore, they were wrapped in rags to prevent blemishes. We know ultimately Jesus became our sacrificial lamb, which will become another gift in the future. Just as the lambs were wrapped, Jesus was wrapped in cloths or rags and laid in a feeding trough.

3. We don’t deserve this gift. We usually give gifts to those we love and care about. We don’t usually give gifts to those that have been unkind to us. Yet, God still gave us His Son as a gift, because of love, even though the human race had become an enemy of his. They broke religious laws. To top it off,Jesus was already rejected even before his birth when there was no room in the Inn. (Luke 2:7)

4. The gift tells us something about the giver.  Just as we think ahead and plan what we want to give to others, God did the same for us. Through Jesus, our gift, He gave us an opportunity at eternal life. However, we first have to accept the gift. Then we must unwrap that gift. What are you going to do with the gift after you unwrap it?  Push it to the side and think about it later or start utilizing it and discover everything it has to offer?  If we choose to utilize it we will discover that not only is Jesus THE gift but He also brought other gifts with Him. He brought peace, hope, forgiveness, healing and purpose. He also brought a new way to live and see, a joy that can’t be taken and a way to relate to others. He brought so much more that we are still trying to unwrap it all.

It’s not about the gifts that will be under your tree. These gifts are temporary and will be gone one day. Life is about knowing the God who made you and gave you the greatest gift you will ever receive. His gift is eternal and will never wear out. His gift always fits and you never have to return it. Most importantly, His gifts are worth more than $15,000, they are priceless.  Jesus is THE greatest gift of all.

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Being Generous with Our Love

Being Generous with Our Love

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Have you ever given someone a gift that you made or created just for them? I love to write and when I was a girl, I would write stories for my little brother. Since I didn’t often have money, this was something I could give him that came just from me.  As I grew older, I became a little more hesitant about sharing things I write with others, but sometimes, I write a poem or a passage for a close friend or someone I love. And the things I value most are those treasured, handmade gifts that have been given to me. These things are, in a sense, part of the person who made and gave them and that makes them special.

In this passage in 1 John, we see that ‘love comes from God’.  It is both His gift to us and the essence of who He is.  God is giving himself to us when He is giving us love. But this is a gift we are not to keep to ourselves – it is something we are asked to share with others.  

When I was in fifth grade, my mother made cookies for my school Christmas party.  They were sugar cookies with red and green colored icing. We didn’t have much money at the time and cookies were a rare treat in our household.  I remember struggling all the way to school with the temptation to hide the cookies. I didn’t want to keep them all to myself, but I didn’t want to share them with everyone in the class. I only wanted to share them with my friends so there would be cookies to take home and share with my brothers.  Unable to hide a plate of cookies, I ended up setting the cookies with the other goodies for the party, and I was pleasantly surprised that there were a few left after the party.  But I still remember the struggle to share with the kids in my classroom that I did not know or like. 

How generous are we with our love? John gives us a simple command here, “Dear friends, let us love one another,” and there is a love that we can easily offer to others because it flows from God, in and through us. However, I think we’re often called to something more – particularly in regard to fellow believers who worship and fellowship with us. However, if we’re honest, it’s probably not easy for most of us to offer more than just greetings to those we don’t know. Most of us realize that the more we know someone and the more intimate the relationship whether family or friends, the easier it is to love them. John even says this about our relationship with God, “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 

People need to be seen and known. There are lonely people all around us who are just waiting for someone to see them – really see them – and to know them.  They may know they are loved by God, but still long for loving relationships with other believers. I was once one of those people, and while I had Sunday acquaintances and companions at church, I was still lonely. It was years before I had friends that knew me and encouraged me in the gifts and calling God has placed on my life.  So, to offer love to our fellow brethren, we may have to offer connection – something more than a warm greeting, short general conversation and well wishes for their day. We may need to offer to exchange phone numbers or an invitation to coffee.  I asked earlier how generous are we with our love, but the real question may be, how generous are we with our time?  For it too is a gift from God. So, like John, I encourage you, ‘Dear friends, let us love one another…’

We would like to thank Sheila Campbell for writing this blog post.

Me Love Big?

Me Love Big?

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Loving big.  In I John 3 and 4, the disciple who calls himself the one that Jesus loved gives his readers much counsel on how and why they should love:

“Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”  I John 3:10

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life.”  I John 3:14

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”  I John 3:18

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.”  I John 4:11

My favorite, though, is I John 4:16: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.”  In theory, all these admonitions from John make sense to me, and I know that I really am called to love not only fellow believers, but Jesus even goes so far as to tell me to love my enemies!  (Luke 6:35).  I have found, though, in my own life, that there are obstacles to loving big.  

One of the big ones is rejection.

I was a baby when I was adopted into my family.  My adoptive parents raised me and treated me as their very own, and I knew I was adopted from as far back as I can remember.  It wasn’t a big deal, even though my mom gave birth to my younger brother.  That was my family. One day when we were kids, my little brother said, “Your mom and dad didn’t want you, so they gave you away.”  Well, I told my mom, and my brother got in trouble for saying it, but that stuck in my head.  Those words introduced me to a spirit of rejection that I battled for most of my life, and which still tries to rise up on occasion.

This spirit of rejection can be caused or enhanced because of many life circumstances:  abuse by a parent or loved one, death of a parent or someone dear, negative words spoken by teachers or caregivers, rejection by a group at school or by a boyfriend or girlfriend, failure at a job or school, divorce; the list goes on and on.  As a person experiences these things as a part of life, she may begin to believe that God has also rejected her.  Rejection also has self-fulfilling consequences.  A person feels rejected, so she pushes people away, afraid to get close to anyone, and she often causes the cycle to continue.  She pushes people so far by her words and actions that they reject her, so it’s confirmed that no one wants anything to do with her.  

Rejection causes me to focus on hiding myself, when love wants me to reach out to someone who is lonely, who is hurting, who needs someone to listen and to pray.  Rejection says to me, “Who do you think you are?” Love says, “Who can Holy Spirit touch through me today?”  Rejection’s focus is self-protection, while love’s is ministry.  Rejection is always looking inward.  Love is always looking outward.  

It’s clear that a person can’t go around living in this rejection mode and still fulfill the law of love, right?  In Philippians, Paul tells his readers, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4).  The only way I’ve found to move forward is to realize that I AM accepted in the Beloved (in Jesus). (Ephesians 1:6).  The more I receive the love, and believe the love that HE has for me, the more I can open my arms to the people around me and love THEM.  It’s scary, at times, because there is always a risk that people will reject me, but Jesus never will reject you or me.  We can love despite the risk. 

“Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection.  Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.”  I John 4:18-19

“Afraid of punishment” means “fear is suspicious” in the Aramaic.  We can overcome our suspicious fear of rejection and love BIG, knowing that we are safely in the family of God, no matter what.

We would like to thank Sheri Warren for writing this blog post.

To Love as Christ Loves

To Love as Christ Loves

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

In order to love big, one must first know Love—not just head knowledge, social-media profile, surface kind of know. Rather, a gut-level, day-in-day-out, wash-the-dishes, clean-the-poop, kind of know. It’s knowing relationally through life’s messes and celebrations.   

Head knowledge remains such a valued commodity in our society (in Jesus’ society too)and yet, application of that knowledge makes all the difference. Head knowledge means nothing without gut-level application. Pharisees’ head knowledge and religious application set them apart. Yet Jesus frequently called out this “brood of vipers” as bad fruit condemned to judgement (Matthew 12), as hypocritical blind guides leading themselves and others to destruction (Matthew 23). Jesus contrasted these criticisms with storing up good in your heart and accompanied them with warnings about caring meticulously for appearance while ignoring internal decay. Knowing and even doing what is right is abhorrent without the right heart and motivation.

Our knowledge of love, our knowledge of God who is love, must well up from within. So how do we love? Ask.

1 John 4:15 says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”

Choosing to follow Jesus is eternal salvation, yes, but as believers, we are also called to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Praise the Lord for eternal salvation. Praise the Lord that salvation includes the Holy Spirit who empowers us to walk in love now, empowers us to live in God’s kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven. If you have not yet made the decision to follow Jesus, please do today. Contact your Christian friends and we will celebrate with you! Without this relationship, we cannot love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  

So how do we continue in love? Walk in love? Abide. Remain.

John 15:1-17 speaks of bearing good fruit by staying connected to the vine. Verse ten says, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love.” It’s not a to-do list. Verse 12 says, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus lay down his life for us, for sinners. Verse 17 repeats, “This is my command: Love each other.” How do I remain in God’s love? Obey. What’s the command? Love each other as Christ loved. Because of God’s love, I am able to love.

Practically, what does loving each other look like? In Jesus life, ultimately laying down his life. Until that point, his ministry was full of loving others. He loved crowds, taught them, healed them, fed them. He took time away from the crowds to remain in God’s presence. He saw what the Father was doing and did it too.

At my house, loving each other looks like doing dishes, scrubbing toilets, watching basketball, reading books, playing games, wrestling, tackling, tickling. Yet these mean nothing unless my heart is right. They are useless acts that drain unless my heart does them out of love. When I walk in love, these acts are life-giving, joyful responses to knowing who I am and whose I am. 

Loving big is patient, kind, humble, honoring. Loving big protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.

My constant prayer from Psalm 139 is “Search me, God, and know my heart…lead me in the way everlasting.” Friends, our words and actions overflow from the abundance of our hearts. What are you filling your heart with? May love well up from the core of who we are. As we abide in God, may the fruit of our lives be expressed in love.

Holy Spirit, empower us to love big!

We would like to thank Mary Coleman for writing this blog post.

Loving BIG

Loving BIG

Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.

Jesus loves you and He loves me…BIG!! This love is different than the love the world knows or recognizes. The world does not know this love because they do not know Him. As we look around at the world today, it seems as if the spirit of love is hidden or even lost. Let’s be honest, people are messy and sometimes hard to love. Yet our verse for the month, 1 John 4:7-8, tells us to love one another. He’s not just telling us but He is commanding us to love.

What does your relationship with Jesus look like right now?

The past couple of months God placed the following in my spirit: Do you have intimacy WITH me before doing work FOR me? Or are you trying to do work FOR me BEFORE seeking my intimacy?

When we jump into doing work for the Lord before seeking Him, we are relying on our own works, our flesh. That includes loving people. We are called to open ourselves to God’s love so God can love others through us. When we love one another we represent God to the world. When we leave intimacy with God last, loving each other is hard.

What does being intimate with God look like? For me, it’s being in His Word first thing in the morning before the activities of the day begin. Personally, I enjoy following verse by verse studies of what is really being revealed in His Word or diving into a particular topic or theme. I enjoy the stillness and quietness of the morning and just being with Him. Enter in worship music off and on during the day. Your intimate time with God may look different. Whatever that may be, it is CRUCIAL that before you do activities FOR God that you have spent time WITH God. It is in this moment where His Spirit guides and directs you.

Loving others is a call to action. John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Jesus makes love a priority. Love stirs the spirit and makes an impression on the soul. Genuine love requires more than calling someone tender names. We often think that love is a sweet, sentimental feeling. Biblically, love is self sacrificing, caring and committing. It’s always searching for the good in others. There are so many ways we can love each other. Here are 10 ways to get started:
1. Pray for each other ( James 5:16)
2. Worship together (Hebrews 10:25)
3. Fellowship/ show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9)
4. Serve/ help each other (1 Peter 4:10)
5. Be humble (Ephesians 4:2)
6. Be encouraging ( 1 Thess. 5:11)
7. Forgive (Ephesians 4:32)
8. Be in peace with each other (Romans 12:18)
9. Speak the truth in love ( Ephesians 4:15)
10. Be loveable (Romans 12:10)

Love is not an optional virtue for the believer. It is to be the distinguishing mark of the church in the world. Despite what language you speak or what nation you live in, love has the ability to be understood across the broad expanse of this universe. Since God lives in us, we are to give the love God has given us and give it to the world. It’s a gift to be given and not kept for ourselves. We are called to love again. Will you be obedient? It’s time to bring the light called love into the dark places. The time to love big is now!

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog post.

Heart to Serve

Heart to Serve

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

“Can we go home now?” was the usual complaint from me on a Sunday afternoon. My family was the first ones to show up and last ones to leave any given church event. Serving was modeled for me long before I could walk it out. One of my favorite memories is getting to sneak out of “Big church” and help my mom serve in nursery, but I’m not so sure my heart was in it for serving as much as it was for the snacks.

For many years serving was something that I just did; just did to be with friends, just did to get the approval of my parents, just did to play out the “good” Christian girl. What I didn’t realize was that serving from myself and for myself would lead to disappointment and exhaustion. When we serve out of our own need for approval, we end up pouring from an empty cup. God created us with a heart to serve. It says in Matthew 20:28 “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve”. If Jesus, who was God, was meant to serve, how much more are we, who were created by God, meant to.

Serving is an inside-out reality that requires a constant connection to the Father in order to be life-giving. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”. We can’t serve without God’s strength. His strength allows us to push past our own desires and love without promise of return.

As you are empowered by Him, He will reveal the desire of where to serve. For some it will be front and center, but for others, it might be more behind the scenes. My call to serve came when I was a teenager sitting in youth group. My desire to help walk students through difficult times and watch them encounter the Gospel stirred my heart to serve in the children’s ministry and then youth. I am encouraged by the bold faith of the next generation. As pastor Brad always says, “there is no junior Holy Spirit”. The wisdom that comes from their innocent faith teaches me how to live unashamed of the Gospel.

Serving was never optional. We must consistently realign our heart to want to serve God first and through that love serve others. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try serving in a new area. God just may awaken new desires in your heart. Serving, when done from a full cup, leads to the abundant life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10.

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this blog post.

Jesus, the Servant

Jesus, the Servant

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

Have you ever thought of Jesus as a servant? There is no doubt that when Christ came to earth, He revealed his skills as a leader. However, He also showed himself as a servant. He laid aside His majesty to come to earth to show us the love of God. As a result, the action displays the attributes of Jesus as a servant- leader.

Looking back over my life, from youth to adulthood, I feel as though I have always been a servant. I didn’t know enough about Jesus or His word to say my service was a call to be a servant for God’s glory, but I knew I loved to serve.

Even though I didn’t know about Jesus and His word, my mom did. She set the tone for me to be a servant, by her acts of service. 

Reminiscing on my life as a youth and all the ways my mom served her family and the church was somewhat unbelievable. If you ask me, my mom was a Proverbs 31:10-31 type of woman.

A Proverb 31 woman is a noble woman who is productive and ingenious. She can even be intimidating to women who would seek to follow her example. But while everyone can benefit from her example of initiative and hard work the main lesson she offers is her outlook rather than her output. 

All of this woman’s qualities and accomplishments grow out of the fear of the Lord. Fearing God is our central virtue, and this attitude towards God is as crucial for today’s woman as it was then. The fear (respect) of God not only undergrounds our growth in the wisdom but also draws us to the grace of Christ who forgives our sins and equips us for righteous living. 

Another timeless virtue of this woman is her service to others, her husband, her children, her servant, and the poor and needy. She serves them with eagerness, resourcefulness, and strength. She is neither hindered nor demeaned by serving others. Rather, she is fulfilled by it, because godly service is the source of her nobility.

Proverbs 31: Is the saying of King Lemuel, who shares his wisdom that came from his mother, stressing the role a mother can have in building character into her children? The wisdom that King Lemuel’s mother stressed to him is much like my mom’s character.

Because mom was such a loving, and caring woman, I wanted to be exactly like her. I think that’s why, whenever I see a need and I can help, jumping all in with both hands and feet comes natural for me. I don’t have to be front and center. I am ok being behind the scenes. I just love to serve in God‘s kingdom. Serving makes me happy and giving makes me very happy.

We are all called to serve if we are Christians (Christ like). In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “just as the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus, as a servant leader, is a powerful example to follow. It would benefit any leader to follow his example. John Scott put it this way: “The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion.”

John 15:12-15 “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, For everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Be a servant for Jesus, do what He commands, and He will call you friends.

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

Serving is a Sacrifice of Praise

Serving is a Sacrifice of Praise

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

Each one of us is called to be a servant and have been given gifts used by God to serve others.

1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

As a child, I was in church and watched others serve, so this was just part of the culture I grew up to know.  I did not question the why, how, or where of these actions. After I accepted Christ as my Savior, then I began to wonder about the gifts that Jesus gave me.  I do not know that I ever actually asked what my gifts were, I just started serving others.  First, I began in the music ministry.  Yes, I sang specials in front of the congregation!  I was never one to speak to a group of people, but I could sing of God’s glory!

There have been several ministries that I have been involved with over the years in different churches: music ministry, children’s ministry, Bible studies, administrative, and hospitality. My husband, Robert, and I now serve on the coffee team and host a life group at Harvest Christian Fellowship.  Serving others also continues outside of our local church in our community and where we work. 

Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your word, and the love that you have shown for His name in serving the saints, as you still do.”

As I began to pray about my personal gifts, I began to realize how gifts were meant to help others. God wants me to glorify Him and bless others. This is what I am created to do!  I find joy in serving! 

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.  You are serving the Lord Christ.”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Ann Voskamp: “When you are waiting, do what waiters do: Serve”

Aren’t we waiting for something most of the time?  We wait for God to speak to us, for prayers to be answered, for life changing events, and for changes that come in each season of our own lives.

Serving is a sacrifice of praise. Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

How are you using your gifts to honor God? Look around and there will always be an opportunity to serve others. Galatians 6:10  “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

We would like to thank Sharon Biles for writing this blog post.

Serving Man or God

Serving Man or God

Editors note: For the month of October, our focus verse is found in Matthew 20:28. It states that, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is calling the disciples (and all who are in Christ) to follow the same path to greatness: humble, sacrificial service to each other.

I am a servant.  No matter how many times I take the gifts test, my number 1 gift is always servanthood.  I have even thought about changing my answers so I can be something more “spiritual”, but it still comes out “servant”. 

Even as a child, I always wanted to help.  I loved helping my grandmother wash dishes, cook and clean. She always said I was too young to help so I would sneak around the house and find something to clean just so I could please her.  I believe this is where I started my journey of serving just to please others.  

In Matthew 25:21 it says “…well done good and faithful servant.”  This is what I always wanted to hear from everyone…look at me, look at me!  I didn’t grow up in the church so I probably didn’t know this scripture, but it is what I wanted to hear.  I was all about pleasing everyone, but not the Lord.

When I started attending church with a friend in junior high, I wanted to please everyone and started doing all I could for everyone in the church.  You see, I was going and hearing the word, but I really didn’t understand it all. I thought I needed to serve people!

When I grew up and got married, I was still going to this church and I was still not saying no. I did everything, except teach. I am not a teacher, and I didn’t know much about what needed to be taught.  I was learning more but still felt so inadequate, so I served more.  I helped with youth, was in the choir, and I was even the church treasurer for a time.  I was doing all I could to fulfill Ephesians 6:7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”  I felt that the way to get to heaven was to serve more.  Yes, I had asked Jesus into my heart and really loved Him and wanted to serve Him, but I was a little mixed up about needing to serve God and not just men. Colossians 3:24 says, “Since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, it is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  This is the part I was missing.  When you serve Jesus, you are serving man also, but you need to have the right perspective and serve the Lord first.  I really started feeling kind of condemned no matter how much I did.  

I left the church, divorced my husband, and decided that I couldn’t measure up.  Because of all I did, it got in the way of just loving and serving the Lord.  I was burned out and was so tired of “serving God”.  I started living in the world and saying I didn’t need Him or church.  But He never left me. He very patiently stayed with me and every chance He got, when I would get out of the way, He tugged at my heart.  Thank You, Jesus for loving me so much! 

This world was not my home and I got tired of living worldly.  It took me several years, but I went on a Walk to Emmaus and headed back to the Lord.  I met Dewitt who is also a servant and together, we knew we wanted to serve the Lord. 

In December of 2010, the Lord led us to Harvest. I finally heard the truth and I got it.  I had heard the truth before, but the key here is that I GOT IT! We loved our church and had a strong desire to serve. I learned so much more about serving and the main thing for me was that you can say “NO” sometimes. Romans 12:11 states, “Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord.  I serve because I love Him and believe that He has saved me from the darkness.  God has freed me from a life of inadequacy to a life of joy and rest. 

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you; then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

I am still a servant and feel blessed that God chose this gift for me.  I serve Him through praise and worship, communion, tithe and offerings, altar team, making coffee, laundry, sewing and whatever else He calls me to do.  I love serving Him.  No matter what I do, I can never out-serve Him.  

“Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28

We would like to thank Debbie Crosby for writing this blog post.

My Mindset About God’s Word

My Mindset About God’s Word

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

As I look back across the story of my life, I can see defining moments where I had a specific choice to make that would set me on a specific path…those choices became the moments that God used to bring me into His Kingdom.  

The first time I heard the Lord speak clearly to me about how He felt about me was when I was 16.  I had already made some bad decisions and was living a life of sin, but Jesus met me with a verse in Jeremiah and I heard God clearly say, “This is how I feel about you.”  I clung to that verse and let it take root in my heart.  When I said yes to what the Lord was saying about me, it changed my mindset and placed me on a path of purpose.  

At the age of 17 a leader in my life spoke Romans 8:1 over me.  This verse tells us that we are not condemned when we are in Christ.  Once again, I found myself at a crossroads…I could embrace this truth and let go of the condemnation I had been carrying because of my bad choices or I could continue to live condemned.  I chose to say yes to God’s word.  This promise to me, set me on a path of freedom from my sin.  When I realized I wasn’t condemned I began seeing myself in Christ and I no longer wanted to sin.  My mindset about God’s word allowed me to live in the freedom that His word brings.  

A few years after Brad and I got married I found myself struggling with some of the ways Brad and I were relating to each other.  I felt like he didn’t see or understand me.  We were fighting a lot and I kept thinking…if only I’d explain myself one more time, he’d “get” what I’m trying to say.  But none of my explaining helped.  It just kept putting a barrier of misunderstanding between us.  It was during this time in our marriage that I really learned to pray.  I remember so clearly hearing the Lord tell me “Julie, I love you enough to change Brad.”  Those words brought such peace to my heart.  I knew that I could stop trying to “explain” myself and I could start “trusting” God to change Brad.  My mindset towards my marriage changed. I can honestly say, I’ve seen God do so much in our marriage because I’ve made my mindset about God’s word be what leads me in my actions towards Brad.  

About 10 years ago I didn’t agree with God’s word, and I ran off to accomplish what I thought was best for our family.  We were financially stretched thin, and I decided to take matters into my own hands and take a job.  Deep inside of me I didn’t have any peace, but I thought this would be best and helpful for our family.  The irony was we continued to be stretched thin in our finances even with the extra income.  It was like we had holes in our pockets and all the extra I was making was just falling out.  During this season, God taught Brad and I two specific truths.  One, that unity in our finances is the number one goal.  We needed to come in agreement about money, how we felt about money and what we believed about money.  The second truth we learned was it’s not about the amount of money you make, it’s about your mindset towards God and His promises.  You see, if in the core of my being, I don’t really believe that God is my provider, then no matter how much money I make, it’ll never be enough.  Allowing my mindset to agree with God’s truth about money was the answer to our financial and material needs.  

Recently, God’s challenged me in new areas in my thinking.  Last year a dear friend prayed over me that my imagination would be awakened.  That I would be able to see the beauty and the glory of God.  In general, I’m not a very visual person, and honestly when they prayed that over me, I was a little taken back…like what kinds of imaginations am I supposed to have?  God showed me this verse in Colossians soon after they prayed that, and I began asking God to allow me to see and picture Heaven and being seated with Christ.  This has been so helpful when I’m interceding for my family, friends and church.  

Often, we think the goal of Christianity is Heaven, and although that is an awesome benefit of salvation, it’s not our goal.  Our goal is oneness with Christ.  If we’re ever to walk in oneness with Christ, we must live a life of responsibility towards our thoughts.  

If I can take responsibility for my mindset…I know you can too.  I challenge you, next time you hear God’s word, say yes to it and allow your mindset to be what leads you to victory.

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this blog post.

Choosing What We Think About

Choosing What We Think About

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

When I was asked to write a blog post for the September theme of “My Mind is My Responsibility,” I laughed out loud at the email. I hardly felt qualified to write a post like this because my mind and I have been at war for months. 

Only a couple weeks before that email arrived in my inbox, I had my first full-blown panic attack. I didn’t even know what was happening until I woke my husband up from his dead-to-the-world sleep and tried to get out the words that I couldn’t breathe. Howell jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights, and started to pray over me. As he helped me take deep breaths, he told me, “I think you’re having a panic attack.” 

For real? 

Even as my breathing slowed and the pain in my chest eased and the feeling like my throat was closing went away, it still took hours for my heart to slow down so I could fall back asleep. 

How did I get to this place? 

That particular night, I had a bad dream, and when I woke up, I began to dwell on it even more. Fear overcame me like I’d never experienced, and then, before I knew it, I was struggling to breathe. 

But while dreams (and maybe even our physiological responses) may be out of our initial control, I believe I had entertained quite a bit of fear and anxiety in my thoughts in the weeks and months leading up to that point. 

Since then, I’ve asked God to help me learn how to be free from these feelings of anxiety. And in full disclosure, I’m still learning these truths as I share them. 

I choose what to think about. I really, really, really wanted to blame that event on my pregnancy hormones, which I swear are double the amount with twins. And on some level, yes, my hormones are a real thing right now. But just as I’m not victim to my emotions, I’m not victim to my hormones either. So with reluctance, I had to face my role in all of this.  

I have probably long been a what-if, worst-case-scenario thinker. It’s part of my “planner” personality—and God’s okay with my personality. What’s not okay? Fixating on the future more than the present. Becoming fearful of the unknown. Or assuming control of my life rather than surrendering to our sovereign and perfect Lord. 

Bill Johnson once said, “I can’t afford to have a thought in my head that isn’t from God.” Neither can I! So when I’m dwelling on something (almost always at its root, anxiety or fear), I have to ask myself, “Would God want me to think about this?” And if the answer is no, I simply say, “Jesus, help me to take that thought captive.” 

I choose to ask for help. When we’re talking about our minds being our responsibility, let’s not forget that God gave us community and never once expected us to do life alone. When I couldn’t breathe, I automatically asked for help. That feels natural, right? 

Howell already knew the struggle I had all summer with anxiety because I’d asked for help long before that night. I’d been more hesitant to share with friends, family, and my doctor, because frankly, I was embarrassed and felt like I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I would tell myself I know better. I should be standing on God’s truth. And I wasn’t usually this anxious or this overwhelmed with my thoughts, but I’d get it under control. 

After that night, I realized I needed to reach out for help. I needed prayer and support—and you know what? That’s what I got. No one judged me or laughed at me or told me I was crazy (which is honestly how I felt). 

To end, I want to share two verses that I meditate on regularly right now, especially when I’m redirecting my mind to change whatever it is I’m dwelling on. These are my paraphrases for myself, but if you’re struggling with anxiety or stress or fear or worry—whatever label you want to give it—I hope these words will encourage you, and I would challenge you to say them out loud when you feel anxious:

Isaiah 26:3: “God, you keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on you because I trust in you.” 

1 Corinthians 10:4-5: “Laura, you have the authority and the divine power to dismantle and demolish any thought that opposes God and his way of thinking. And you can insist that those thoughts bow in obedience to Christ.” 

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this blog post.

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Change Your Thoughts. Change Your Life.

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

It took a while for me to notice. But one day, I realized my thoughts were overwhelming me. There was a situation in my life that I was thinking about a lot. But at some point, my thoughts were no longer just thoughts. They had become little dictators. Dictators that were demanding my attention, directing my emotions, robbing my peace. And my sleep. I felt trapped and captive by what was going on in my mind.

Can you relate?

The Bible makes it clear that our thoughts don’t have to take us captive. We can take them captive!

“We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10: 4b-5

It sounds simple enough, but how do we do it?

If you look at the Greek words for captive and obey, here is what you will find:

Captive – to ensnare, to make it a prisoner

Obey – submission to what is heard, obedience as the response to someone (Jesus) speaking.

So, we could say it like this…

We must take every thought as a prisoner and make it submit to what Jesus is saying.

When I thought about all the thoughts that had been overwhelming me, I realized I had been letting them run free in my mind. I also realized that almost all of them were not in agreement with what I knew Jesus was saying about my situation. What if I had made those thoughts prisoners as soon as I thought them? What if I submitted them to what the Word says to see if they would even agree? I believe if I had, I would have left space for the Sprit to speak His truth over my situation and to show me His perspective. Oh, how I needed His perspective.

If we want to change our life, we must start examining the thoughts we think. The problem isn’t the circumstance in your life. It’s what you THINK about that circumstance.

The problem isn’t your past, it’s what you THINK about your past.

The problem isn’t your relationships, it’s what you THINK about your relationships.

The problem isn’t your life, it’s what you THINK about your life.

When we change the thoughts we think, we change the life we live! Such a simple statement with such a powerful message.

So, how do we change our thoughts? Where to even start?

A great place would be to repent. It’s where I had to start. What I realized is that I had been exalting all my thoughts higher than the Word of God. I was letting my thoughts rule my life instead of the truth of His Word. Repentance was necessary. Repentance was essential. To repent just means to change your mind. To say, “I’ve been thinking this way about my situation but now I’m choosing to think the way Jesus thinks about it.” Repentance is a gift to us.

The other thing we can do is read our Bible and meditate on what we read. We read all other books, but the Bible reads us. The Word of God has the power to tell the difference between our soul and our spirit. Our thoughts cannot hide from its truth. Do you know why the Word is so powerful? It comes in, finds thoughts that are in opposition with it, and slays them and at the same time, searches for our wounds and heals them. Isn’t that a powerful truth? If we truly believed this to be true, we would make it a priority to read our Bible and meditate throughout the day on what it says.

I hope I have inspired you to begin examining the things you think about. If you have been feeling overwhelmed by your thoughts, I want to encourage you to remember that you are not alone. The Holy Spirit was given to you to be your helper. He can help you move your thought-life from overwhelming to life-giving if you’ll let Him.

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.

Amen.

We would like to thank Amber Curry for writing this blog post.

Enjoy the Journey

Enjoy the Journey

Editor’s note: For the month of September, our focus verse is Colossians 3:1-2. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Our mindset is our responsibility and I pray that you will begin to focus on your life in Jesus.

“Since you have been raised to a new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”. Col. 3:1-2

I enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning, but a big part of the goodness is the kind of cup used to hold the drink. One of my favorites is the one with the little fox smelling a flower and written in bold letters ENJOY THE JOURNEY. It reminds me to not waste a moment of this precious life God has given me. Not on anger, fear, worry, jealousy, condemnation, or unforgiveness, but instead to choose the fruits of the spirit: “joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23.

Stewart and I love to travel (RVing) and have been blessed to see and experience many beautiful and amazing places. I have discovered in these travels that most of our memories are not of the final destination, but of our journey to get there! Jeremiah 29:11 says “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.”  We know as children of the Heavenly Father our destination (Heaven) is secure in Christ Jesus our Lord. Col.1:12-14, Jn.5:24, Jn.3:16.

It’s in the everyday living (our journey) that our memories are made. In our travels, we have had days filled with such beauty that it takes your breath away, joy and laughter that makes your stomach hurt and peace that is so all-consuming you know it can only come from the Holy Spirit. There have also been times that have made me wonder if I was going to make it through the day. There have been valleys, detours, roadblocks and even fire. It’s during these times I have felt closest to my Lord, where my memories are the most defining and beautiful. Where God’s love, promises and goodness are the most evident.

Romans 8:39 says “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On one of our trips to Canada, we had set aside several days to visit Glacier National Park in Montana. When we arrived they had several forest fires. After a couple of days of heavy smoke, we decided it was time to move on into Canada. A day trip was planned to visit the little village of Waterton, a little Swiss village sitting by a crystal clear lake surrounded by beautiful, majestic mountains. There is a RV park on the edge of the village next to the Lake. We were told at the Waterton visitor center the RV park was first come parking, no reservations needed. Not knowing Canada’s Park system, we return to our RVs and pack up for a very early morning trip back. Arriving at the upper park entrance, the attendant asked for our reservations. Not having any, we were told all campsites were full in the park. We knew it would take a miracle to be able to stay there. There on top of that mountain, the four of us, with our two trucks pulling our 5th wheel campers and no place to turn around, chose to trust our loving Father and His promises to take care of us! Our mindset is our responsibility! We head down to the village RV park entrance booth and ask about vacancy. God Wink Moment! Two spots just became available, close to the water and right next to each other. What a loving, faithful, good Father we have! 

Our father cares about the big and small things that involve his children. He only asks us to trust him, to set our eyes on the realities of Heaven (Jesus finished work on the Cross), to bring to memory His love and goodness, of the times He turned our ashes into diamonds, our sorrows into dancing, the miracles and blessings He provides for us each day. We have a choice to set our eyes on the things of heaven or the things of earth. CHOOSE LIFE!

We would like to thank Elaine Norrell for writing this blog post.

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Taking Responsibility for Our Mindset

Editor’s Note: For the month of September, our focus verse is found in Colossians 3:1-2. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems to be going wrong? The kids are crazy, everything is breaking, you’re fighting with your husband, your best friend is unavailable, and work is just out of control?

I think we’ve all had one of those days. Maybe you’ve even had one this week. Most of the time, by the time the end of one of these days rolls around, the words coming out of my mouth, sound something like this:

– Well, if the kids would have behaved, I wouldn’t be so frustrated.

– If he had done what he said he was going to do, I wouldn’t have this extra work to take care of.

– If the dishwasher would just work like it’s supposed to, I’d be able to get more done.

And yes, those things tend to be true. But what is also true, is what Colossians 3:1-2 says. “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

Since we have been raised to new life with Christ, we carry a responsibility within us to mind our mindset. What happens on days like this, is that instead of setting our minds on the things of Heaven, we set our minds on the things of earth. Instead of setting our minds on our Creator, we fall into the trap of setting our minds on our circumstances. When we fall into this trap, we end up with a mindset of victimization instead of victory, which is what Christ has won for us. When we see ourselves as the victims, we think we are not responsible, which is the exact opposite of the truth set out in God’s word.

When we allow ourselves to fall into this victimization mindset, we forget the truth that our circumstances don’t make us who we are, they simply reveal who we already are. And if we can stop in these moments, and seek God, they move from being times of torment, to becoming tools of transformation. These moments, these days, filled with frustration and trials, aren’t meant to just test our sanity. They are divine opportunities for us to truly seize responsibility for our mindsets. They are circumstances that God can use to truly change us.

If we want transformation to occur in our lives we have to take responsibility for our mindsets. 

There are a few ways we can do this.

1. Pause, Ponder, Pray – In moments of frustration, when we believe lies that our circumstances make us this way, we need to stop. We need to pause, and really ponder where our thoughts are vs. where they should be. Then, we pray. We seek God for his truth, and we speak it back to him in prayer. We ask him for his divine perspective, and then we declare it over our lives. 2 Corinthians 10:5 calls this “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

2. Choose Gratitude – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When you have these days, choose gratitude. Something in the atmosphere changes when we choose to offer up a sacrifice of praise to our God, despite our circumstances. So instead of cursing the dishwasher, be grateful you have one. Instead of complaining about our kids, let’s choose to encourage them. Gratitude changes everything, including our attitudes.

3. Call a Friend – Sometimes, we can’t beat this alone. We need to call a friend. And when we call a friend, we don’t just complain and vent. We ask for prayer. We get to the root of our struggles with true vulnerability. Sometimes, we confess our sins. James 5:16 tells us to

 “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

In truth, if we aren’t careful, we can allow most of our days to become days full of frustration. But we don’t have to. We can walk in a life of freedom and victory, because of the work our Savior did on the cross. It’s simply a matter of choosing to make my mindset, my responsibility.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this post.

Building the House of God

Building the House of God

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Think of a home being built and all the people it takes to get it done right! This is just one of many times in life that more than one is needed to accomplish the tasks. We all have our talents that God has blessed us with or lead us to study and gain knowledge in.

Listed below are just some of the many it takes to build a home:

Excavator, Developer, Architect, Engineer, General Contractor, Construction Superintendent, Inspectors, Ironworker, Steelworker, Carpenter, Electrician, Plumber, Pipe Lifter, Masonry, Drywaller, Plastering Expert, Painter, Floor Layer, Tile Setter, Glass & Glazing Expert, Roofer, Heating & Air-Conditioning Expert, Designer and not to mention the Special Trade Contractors such as Artificial Turf Layers and Bowling Alley Installers. 

If even one is missing, the house could not be built properly. Same goes for God’s house. God sent his Son to this earth and when Jesus ascended to heaven, he left a helper – the Holy Spirit. Together the three are one known as the Holy Trinity! Through the Holy Spirit and as believers we are each blessed with our own unique gifts so we can be the best disciples!

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

All my life I’ve gone to church and known Jesus to be with me always. I just didn’t know what it meant to be his disciple. After I experienced a hardship as a late teen, I was ready to give God more, but wasn’t sure how. I soon became part of the praise and worship team which was right up my alley. A few years later I prayed for guidance to be God’s hands and feet in my community. Not long after, offers to join organizations all over town came pouring into my life—so I got involved. For years I’ve served with a happy heart and have seen pieces of God’s fruits for myself and others. 

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:22

After attending our church, which I know to be a bible teaching, holy spirit moving church, opportunity arose to learn more about the Holy Spirit and I have now connected and grown in my spiritual gifts. I’ve also been helped by so many disciples in my journey with God. The power of unity in the body of Christ should not be overlooked. It is important to be sure you are connected to a church family so you can learn and grow in your relationship with Christ.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing your selves to be my disciples.” John 15: 5, 7-8

 We are here to use our gifts for each other as the body of Christ. Don’t put it off—God is calling you now and how much more blessed you will be so you can also bless those around you. That is how God intended us to experience His joy, peace, and love. We can experience heaven on earth. It is here for the taking. We just need to surrender to Christ Jesus daily and he will provide!

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:18-21

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for writing this blog post.

The Cotton Fields of Life

The Cotton Fields of Life

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Growing up a farm kid, my summer job was hoeing cotton.  For those who know…. you feel my pain.  For those of you that don’t- follow along.  The day would begin before the sun was up: packing the drinks in the cooler that would wait for you at the end of the never-ending rows.  Making sure you were first outside to get the best hoe. The hat that would keep you shaded but make you sweat even more.  The long-sleeved shirt to keep away mosquitos and again, make you sweat even more. The gloves to keep you from getting blisters, and you guessed it- make you sweat even more! Some fields were not so bad – just a few weeds spaced out here and there and could be walked and hoed rather quickly.  Some fields, though, were so overgrown with weeds you didn’t even want to begin.  

Isn’t this how our lives are? Sometimes, not so bad, just a few little issues here and there that can be easily handled without much heartache.  Yet at times, our lives look like these overgrown fields. It feels like trying to sort it all out is so heart wrenching that we would rather not even begin.  

The part of hoeing fields as a kid that made it bearable was that my siblings were there to work with me, sweat with me, talk with me, laugh with me, sing with me, and I am not going to lie – sometimes cry with me.  

Our lives as Christians should be no different. 

In John 16:33, God tells us we will have trials, that the road may not always be easy, we will face hard times.  At some point our lives are going to look and feel like those weedy fields.  There will be times in our lives we need others to walk with us, talk with us, laugh and cry with us.  But most importantly, during these times, we need others to pray with us and for us.  God never asked His people to live this life alone, that was not His intention at all.  

In Philippians 2 Paul challenged Christians to agree wholeheartedly with each other, love one another, work together with one mind and purpose, be humble, think of others as better than themselves, and take interest in others. Paul is encouraging us to have the same attitude as Jesus.

Just like the tools needed to make a day in the field easier – God has given us the tools for this life He has called us to.  He has given us His Word, the Holy Spirit, and other believers that can help us through.   This world we live in is much easier to handle when we have others in which we can count on to go through the weeds of life with us.  People we trust that will point us to the Word of God, ones that will spur us on to fulfill our purpose and cover us in prayer.  

I Corinthians 12:27 says “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

This is true for the people we live with and around at this very minute.  I encourage you to surround yourself with people that have the attitude of Jesus.  Intentionally seek out those who challenge you to walk in the truth and encourage you when you slip up.  Even more importantly… Be that person for others!

We would like to thank Jill Winders for writing this blog post.

Strength in a Blended Family

Strength in a Blended Family

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

Being the oldest of six in a Hispanic family, I had a big responsibility to help my mom take care of the house and my siblings. Then one day, because of problems within my parents’ marriage, my mother left and my father and I were completely on our own raising the family.  At just 12 years old, I found myself broken, angry, bitter, not knowing where I belonged in my family, and who I was. This led me to believe lies about myself and in general family life.

Then at the age of 14 years old I found myself pregnant with my first child, still dealing with the same issues of my past. But God is so good! He never leaves us where we are at. He is always working on our behalf and for our future. He has done it for me and is still continuing to do his work in my life. I know he will do the exact same for you!   “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banished them in my furious anger; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.” Jeremiah 32:37-40 (NIV)
When I was pregnant with my 4th child, I came to a point in my life where I had lived in so much brokenness and hurt. I didn’t feel like I was a good person, good mom, good enough for anything. This is when I surrendered my life to God and the real journey of healing began. I came to a place where I was honest to deal with what was in my heart and my past. If we are not careful to find healing in Jesus, we will just pass on all our hurts and sin to our children. After this, God began healing and redeeming this area of my life. It allowed God to start transforming how I was with my children and also our home life.

God has healed my brokenness and has freed me from living in anger and bitterness. God is still healing and redeeming my life but it had to begin with me. 

Here are some truths God has shown me about myself: 
I belong! I am loved! I’m a vital part in my family, desperately needed in the body of Christ. I am exactly who God made me to be and what this world needs. I hope that you will choose to believe and accept this truth for yourself too!

  1 Corinthians 12-18talks about how the human body has many parts and all the parts make up one body. It is the same way with the body of Christ. We, as the body of Christ, have many different parts but are one body and one spirit. Some of us are the hands, feet, eyes, ears and nose. Nevertheless none of us is less than the other. 

Those living parts are also found in your home among your own family members. Every person in my family contributes to the life in my house and we definitely would not be the same if even one of them was missing. 

In 2010, I married my husband, Andrew. Coming into the marriage, I had four children and he had three. The first four years of our marriage, we fought for custody of his children. By 2015, we had won custody of all three of them. In 2018, my special needs niece was going to be awarded to the state so our family stepped in. We said “Yes” to opening up our home to another child.  

Just when we thought our lives were full, God surely didn’t think so! After praying and hearing God for what is right for our family, I had a tubal reversal surgery and here we are welcoming a baby boy in September. 

Having a large, blended family is difficult at times. I’m not a super mom and could never do this on my own strength. It’s always dependent on God and where he leads my husband and me. Through all the hard times (financially, emotionally and blending a family with different backgrounds), I have NEVER regretted saying yes to my husband and to every child God offered to me. 

As I think about the Body of Christ, I can’t help but think how we all look like a blended family, too. God calls people from every race, color, different background and past. He puts us together to form one body, His bride. My prayer is that you, too, will see yourself and your family as Christ sees them, as the body of Christ in both your home and the church.  

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this blog post.

Created for Community

Created for Community

Editor’s note: For the month of August, our focus scripture can be found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 where it says that “Now you, collectively, are Christ’s body, and individually, you are members of it, each with his own special purpose and function.” AMP

You wake up, ready to serve. You are filled with energy and purpose.

Then comes the bombardment: “You are not ready. You did not prepare enough. You are going to mess up and not be able to recover. Why are you doing this? You are tired. You have too much on your plate. This isn’t going to be worth it.”

You push against the thoughts. “I made a commitment, and I’m going to do what I said I would do.” The kids start complaining, you discover you have a flat tire, and you are running out of time. It would be easy to just give up. You are feeling frustrated, knowing you are under attack,
and you ask God to anoint you with His protection and provision. Finally, you reach your destination, and you are grateful that you showed up.

Does this story sound familiar? You experienced a similar attack before going to church, or helping another person, or going to work, or anything that involves community. The enemy fed you lies such as, “You are not worthy. They do not really like you. You will never be enough.”

You see, the enemy does not want us to gather in community with other believers. Why? Because when we are together, we are stronger. Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 20:18). The enemy knows there is strength in numbers. Where one is weak, another is strong. Where one can only see a fog, another has clarity. God blesses us when we come together.

We are each unique, with different gifts, personalities, experiences, perspectives, desires, and purposes. We are wonderfully created. We are daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Each of our lives is an integral part of a stunning masterpiece.

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).

When the enemy attacks you with lies meant to keep you from others, focus on the truth: You are a precious child of God. You have a place in this world. You are needed. God has a plan for you. He created you, and He loves you dearly.

God also has a plan for the myriad of individuals we encounter throughout our lives. When we come together to accomplish the things He has written in our hearts, the results are incredible.

We, as women, tend to process our thoughts and emotions when we spend time together and share our hopes, dreams, and struggles. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. Your story may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

Be authentic. God created you just as you are for a reason. Every experience you have had can be used to further His Kingdom. If you have made mistakes, you can help others avoid those pitfalls. If you have struggled with certain things in your life, you can encourage others who are
going through the same things. It goes the other way too. The people you spend time with can also help you by sharing their stories.

God works in mysterious ways. Ask Him to open your eyes to the needs of others and to fill your needs. He knows the depths of our souls. Be still and listen for that small, soft whisper that is from God. He will guide you in reaching out. You will know His voice because there will be peace.

Be willing to listen to the perspectives of others. Sometimes they can see things we would never even contemplate. There have been times in my life when I thought I had considered every course of action, and after sharing my dilemma with a friend, I was surprised to find that my friend could see another way. One friend directed my focus to God when she questioned, “Have you asked God about it? Maybe He’s trying to tell you something.”

God did not create us to be alone. We need community. We need the unique perspectives and gifts of one another. We can use our strengths and weaknesses to help each other. As we gather, we can advance God’s Kingdom in a powerful way. God will guide you. Listen to Him.

Together in Christ, we are made strong.

We would like to thank Julia Franklin for writing this blog post.

When JOY is Missing

When JOY is Missing

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

“I’ve got the JOY, JOY, JOY, JOY down in my heart! Down in my heart to stay!!!” Do you remember singing that song as a child? For most of my life, I’ve been full of JOY down in my heart. But if I can be honest and vulnerable, there have been many times that I didn’t feel so joyful. Maybe you are in a season of JOY-LESS living right now! What can you do to get some JOY back in your life? 

1.Refocusing on God is the first step to rediscovering your joy.

Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, who resides in the heart of the believer, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”  (Galatians 5:22 ESV).  Since God is the author of all these good things, when one becomes a Christian, and is united to God through faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit imparts these qualities to the believer.  Rediscovering your JOY is found by looking back and seeing the faithfulness of God. One of the beautiful things about being middle aged is being able to look back on my life and seeing God’s faithfulness. He is a good, good Father and He will turn our hurts and disappointments to JOY through our lives if we allow Him to.

2. Doing God’s will increases our JOY

The writer of Third John experienced the joy of ministry, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4 ESV).  When we follow the will of God and walk in obedience to His ways, I believe that He will give us JOY in our hearts! 

3. Being intentional about seeking and finding JOY:  

A couple of years ago, my “word of the year” was JOY. I wanted to be intentional about recognizing JOY in all areas of my life.Throughout the year, I looked for JOY signs or scriptures. I underlined them in my Bible and placed JOY signs around my home and in my office. I wanted to seek out and recognize true joy. Was it a year of pure happiness? Did nothing bad ever happen to me? Of course not. I’m sure I had my fair share of disappointments and things didn’t always go as planned, but when you surround yourself with reminders of JOY, you can be confident in the goodness of God. 

4. Ask God to give you JOY within (fruit of the spirit)

Wherever people know, love, and worship God, His love instills a joy, that only He can give, into the hearts of His worshipers. Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you!”

This means that even when we are in the midst of a situation that legitimately brings us sorrow, our inner joy is never taken away.  The very core of our being can still rejoice in the fact that we are forgiven children of God who enjoy an intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe.  Our joy is strengthened when we remember that, no matter what the circumstances, God is with us and He is for us. 

The last verse of the song that I sang as a little girl, “I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart….and if the devil doesn’t like it, he can sit on a tack. ouch! Sit on a tack to stay…”

Satan wants to convince us that our circumstances mean God is not for us or He has abandoned us. That simply is not true. We can KNOW and BE CERTAIN that God’s faithfulness can bring us pure joy. Have faith that as you look back on your circumstances and see that God used your grief, your disease, your sadness, your disappointments…whatever it is you are walking through…to bring JOY into your life.

Have I experienced sadness over circumstances in my life? Absolutely. Have I been disappointed at times? Most definitely. But as I look back, I know that God is good and He wants to fill me with JOY. 

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with ALL JOY and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We would like to thank Vickie Young for writing this blog post.

JOY in Uncertainty

JOY in Uncertainty

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

You know, the Lord always has an interesting way of working things out for me. Of course, it is always for my good. I was asked to write a blog about joy, to which I obviously said, “yes!” and about a week and a half later, I entered into what I like to call a “funk.” I started enduring some personal trails like disappointment and discouragement. And I’m over here thinking, “Lord, I’m supposed to be writing a blog about joy! How am I supposed to do that in the midst of all this?” He quickly reminded me of where my joy comes from and to just share my story.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my post about my funk. I typically try to keep my page positive and full of cute pictures of my kiddos and my family while just sharing tidbits of life and truth. That day, however, I was just honest about what I was going through so that others may not feel quite so alone in whatever it is they might be going through. To be truthful, I didn’t really think much would come of the post, but to my surprise, I was bombarded with support and love from people near and far. I even had people private message me to encourage me or tell me I had been on their heart. It was as if the Lord was say, “See?”

You see, I had been feeling quite lonely, wondering why it seems like I am in a season of pruning. I was feeling left out, wondering when it would ever feel like anyone wanted to include me as their “bestie”. I had spent a day or two, unfortunately, allowing the enemy to creep into my thoughts and convince me I wasn’t good enough for anyone to call friend. One night, with my sweet husband asleep to the world beside me, I laid in bed and just cried myself to sleep crying out to Jesus. I begged him, “if I’m not supposed to have a bestie-type friendship right now, can you please show me how to grow so close to you that you’re my true best friend that I know will never leave me?” It was in that moment that I was reminded of where my JOY comes from.

My JOY doesn’t come from having a picture perfect day with my four sweet kids not fighting and actually obeying what I say. My JOY doesn’t come from everyone on the internet being nice to me and liking all the stuff I post. My JOY doesn’t even come from having friendships. My JOY comes from Jesus! Not my circumstances. Not when everything is going my way. In the midst of uncertainty, God’s word says that we will rejoice and that during various trials is an opportunity to choose JOY. And that JOY comes from Him alone!

So today, I choose JOY! I choose to seek the One from where my JOY comes from!

We would like to thank Paige Keller for writing this blog post.

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

The JOY of the Lord is My Strength

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Joy – a feeling of great pleasure and happiness; the emotion evoked by well-being, success or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one deserves; the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Do you feel joy all the time?  Nope – neither do I!  Sometimes in our everyday same ‘ole, same ‘ole it is hard to feel joyful and it is hard to find joy, BUT Jesus is with us at all times and that should erupt excitement from within that we can shout out to the world.  Fall into the arms of Jesus and he will fill you with joy! “Allow Jesus to introduce His joy to you.  The joy of Jesus was the absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice of Himself to His Father, the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do.  “I delight to do Thy will.” Jesus prayed that our joy might go on fulfilling itself until it was the same joy as His.” – Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest.

We have all walked down roads of trials, disappointments, fear, loneliness…..the list could go on and on.  How we choose to handle those trying times is the outer skin that other people see.  And because we are human, when someone else is hurting, it is our human nature to pay close attention to how they choose to walk their uninvited path.  Joy is a choice.  We are given an opportunity to make choices every second of every day.  Choose joy because no one can take your joy from you!  When your heart knows how to rejoice in God, you have found the secret place of joy that comes from within.  We have to look through the smoky haze of our disappointments and hurt to see the joy of the Lord.  Hold onto the joy with God and your trials will diminish in size and your joy will shine.  God never promised that we would live a perfect life, but He did promise that He would be with us every step of the way. Live in the place God has put you in and live in it well! Lack of hope and joy produces pessimism; don’t let pessimism rule your being.

  “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can!  For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance.  And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” James 1:2-3.  What a mind-blowing verse!  We are promised perfection in our being!  Gladness of heart is a constant emotion, regardless of what is occurring in your life.  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 – Wow! What more do we need to hear?

My granddaddy would always say, “Be cheerful!” when we parted ways with him.  If you know my husband, Johnny, you know that laughter gushes from his being, so when Granddaddy died, Johnny claimed that saying.  I love hearing him say it because it embodies his life and that is what he wishes for everyone else. 

We do not know what each day will bring and this should be said with an expression of breathless expectation when we are rightly related to God.  Life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty but many times we turn these expectations into fear.  Fear can indwell our spirit and steal our joy.  “For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7. You don’t learn when your spirit is full of fear.  Joy will accomplish things that fearful intersession may never receive.  Psalms 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the alter of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise you, O God, My God” . This is so exciting!  God is our exceeding joy – He gives joy to us – all we have to do is receive it!  Shout for joy! Joy is for a lifetime! Be Cheerful!!

We would like to thank Kim Street for writing this blog post.

JOY is a gift from God

JOY is a gift from God

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

True JOY is a gift from the Lord. In scripture, we see that joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joy comes from believing God, belonging to His Kingdom, and knowing Jesus. Galatians 5:22 says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)

Where is your joy coming from? Where do you seek to get your joy from? What do you run to the most? How are you feeding your mind? From my own experience, I can tell you that when my prayer and devotional life is healthy, I experience more JOY. When I get too consumed by TV or nonspiritual music, I begin to feel empty.

Joy is not necessarily the absence of pain; it is the presence of God. Romans 15:13 says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We were made for Christ and while some things are not apparently evil, too much of those things can take our heart away from Christ. We have to remove these broken tanks in our lives to drink the water that Christ has to offer. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. However, if we only gratify the Spirit, we can miss out on all that the Holy Spirit has to offer. Most of us are missing the beauty of Christ because our hearts are in other places. 

Psalm 16:11says: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence; with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Joy comes from community. We were not created to be alone. If we are not involved in a community, we are hurting ourselves. As Christians, we are told to encourage our brothers and sisters. We need to constantly remind each other of where our joy comes from. We need to frequently remind each other to focus on Christ. Community is essential on our walk with Christ AND it is essential for joy. 

Another powerful practice to encourage genuine JOY within is daily gratitude and a positive outlook! I even do this with my girls sometimes. Yes, even kids can see the abundance in the feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives. Jesus at the center of it all. Gratitude can be practiced in a number of ways. One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is to simply think about three things I am grateful for when I go to bed at night. I also find it helpful to write down those three things I am grateful for each day in a notebook or journal. I keep one on my nightstand, perfect for a routine. Gratitude is one of the most powerful gifts in this world. I know that might seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but from my experience, adding a true gratitude practice to my daily routine has definitely changed my life for the better. Not only has it made me a happier person in general, but it has allowed me to become better at finding the good within seemingly bad situations in my own life. This has made me become more resilient and less vulnerable to negative emotions. I truly believe that the more I feel grateful for what and who I have, the more wonderful things flow into my life to feel grateful for.

John 15:11 says: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus’ desire for us as his disciples is for our JOY to be complete. I hope this encourages you to begin adding a practice of gratitude into your own daily routine and to find the joy that is within you.

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog post.

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Finding JOY after Enduring Trials

Editor’s note: John 15:13 says that “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” For the month of July, each blog post will be centered around this verse and finding the JOY in a life of Christ.

Have you ever had a season where a word just keeps popping up? Every day it’s there, and it quickly becomes a constant reminder of a long-awaited change that is about to take place, one for which you have been praying. This word for me was JOY. I’d see it on billboards, on jewelry, and at the airport. I was reminded of joy every day, while I was living in the middle of the darkest season of my life.  1 Peter 1:6 talks about enduring many trials for “a little while.“  Well, I was living in the “ little while.” Although the wonderful joy was promised, and I was instructed to be TRULY glad- I was also instructed to endure.  

I had an exceptionally long season of waiting on the Lord for a new job. Much to my excitement, I landed a dream job of traveling the world as a lead singer of a cruise line- and not just any cruise line…a world-class cruise line!  I arrived on the ship with every expectation and hope that this new job would be everything I had prayed for. Based on previous experience, I had expected that my new co- workers would rally behind me and encourage me every step of the way. I thought they would be understanding of small mistakes and have my back.  After all, I was a well-seasoned professional; they would respect that, right? WRONG! I wasn’t shown kindness or understanding for the human errors I made. If I asked a question, I was mocked and eyes would roll at me. My worst nightmare in a job environment had come true.  

 At this point a lot of fear settled inside my heart, and I began to question myself and my purpose for being there. Did I truly hear from the Lord on this? Was I meant to be here? Anxiety like I had never known overtook me each morning. At one point I was so oppressed that I just kept my head down backstage in my Bible and I would make no eye contact with anyone. I was extremely lonely and didn’t have a friend to talk to. I could feel the light and joy gradually deplete from my spirit. “I can’t continue the way things have gone” my journal read, “It’s like living in constant fear or dread. I hate it and it wrecks me- Please lead me, Lord”. I was faced with two options: Either God is who He says He is and HE will help me through this, or He’s not. As those hard and miserable weeks passed, I wrote, “I had no idea this new season involved this. It’s been so hard. But God has been so real to me. He has not left me comfortless or alone. His word is right there to catch me.” And catch me it did! 

 God’s word never becomes more real than when you are going through a trial. As I poured into His word, there were 4 simple, yet profound things that helped me break through the darkness and into JOY! 

1. I Looked“Those who look to Him will be radiant with joy, no shadow of shame will cover their faces.” Psalm 34:4-5  Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. 

2. I Listened – “My sheep hear His voice; and He calls His own sheep by name, the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” John 10:3-4  

Fear not for I am with you, I have called you by your name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers they will not overflow you.”     Isaiah 43:1-2  

3. I Let it Go– Three simple words that changed my outlook!  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you. Be kind to one another; forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” and “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.” Isaiah 43:18-19  

4. I Loved– I was told by a mentor to just love on them for 6 months and then I would earn their trust. That was a true game changer for me, because that’s exactly what happened!   

This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. 

I don’t find it coincidental that just before this, in verse 11, Jesus says- “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you and that your joy may be full.”   

Have you ever wondered how Paul could write to the Philippians, “the book of joy” from a lonely prison cell? Just as he inscribed that book from a dark and lonely prison, Jesus inscribed new joy on my heart through a dark and lonely season. You see, my circumstances had not changed, but I definitely did! Those lonely places where we find ourselves are places the Lord has divinely called us because He has a work to do in us- a beautiful work! So there is wonderful joy ahead! In that, my sisters, you can be truly glad!

We would like to thank Julie Posey for writing this blog post.

Being Obedient in Good Works

Being Obedient in Good Works

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

Throughout my childhood, it was engrained in my sisters and me that obedience brings freedom.  This simply means, if my parents could trust us to meet the expectation of obeying with the little things we were asked to do then we would soon gain more responsibility and freedom.  My parents knew something that I did not at a young age and that is that if I simply obey in a happy way, then I would reap the fruit of obedience: more responsibility and freedom. This same simple concept is now true with Josh and I as we parent our own children.  We tell them often that obedience brings freedom not only on Earth but in Heavenly places as well, for their obedience to us is good and pleasing to the Lord (Colossians 3:20).  

Throughout 1 Samuel, there is a clear theme of obedience and the value that the Lord has on it.  It is demonstrated through two different leaders at the time: Saul and David.  

Saul was rejected by the Lord as a leader because of his inability to obey completely and love others.  When the Samuel approached Saul about his disobedience and destruction he states: 

“Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than a fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 CSB

However, David was a man that feared the Lord and was a willing servant and always ready to obey and trust the Lord.  When in process of finding David and anointing him as the next leader, God told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him.  Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 

This is just one example out of so many of the value that God puts on an obedient heart. It is clearly demonstrated through the Bible that when obedience is present and we are able to submit and honor God through our act of willing obedience, good works will always flow freely and naturally.  Ephesians 2:10 is so clear when it states what we have been created for, but it also goes on to say, “God [has] prepared in advance”.   Therefore, we were born with the ability in us to have God’s goodness flow freely from us if we simply just need to obey his voice.  Good things always happen when you are following the voice of the Father.

We would like to thank Mallory Burgett for writing this blog post.

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

What does it mean to Do Good Works?

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

“We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” Ephesians 2:10 TPT

Do Good Works.…oh yeah, easy! Such a simple phrase, yet such a difficult task in the day to day hustle. To me, it’s kind of like a watered down version of the golden rule that your mom used to recite to you when you were being less than kind…”Treat your sister the way you want to be treated!” We hear it all the time and make note, but how often do we really dig into what that truly means? To me, it means actively meeting people in their hardships and pain and serving them even when our humanity is uncomfortable. From my experience, sometimes showing up for people in pain can feel almost intolerable to our human nature, but I think that is the difference between spirit-led good works and good works for reasons driven by human nature. It doesn’t feel natural, but it’s a choice driven by a recreated spirit in Christ.

“However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil.” Matthew 5:44-45 TPT

If our purpose as Christians is to further the kingdom of God, then maybe this is our tool to do so, to be an example of what Christ would say or do when met with the pain of another human being. When I think of a person who is actively furthering God’s kingdom, I see someone who is taking the time and energy to meet hurting people where they are and serve them either with their empathetic words, actions, and prayer without judgment.

I believe we all have unique ways of doing good works. God has given EACH of us a destiny to fulfill. He said EACH, not ALL. To me, this implies individuality and it’s no surprise to us that we all have different gifts. For example, I have a precious friend who is great at connecting with teenagers. She pours into them by hosting their church group for dinners in their home, coming up with fun, engaging games for them to play, and her circle of influence is large! On the other hand, good works looks different in my life, like one on one encouragement of smaller kids at work, fostering my own children’s relationship with God, spending time talking to a friend or family member who is feeling down. My circle of influence is much smaller and the season of life I am in changes what good works looks like for me. The core of doing good works is intentionally loving God’s people, and the world needs each of us to show up authentically to show His love!

Back to Ephesians 2:10, the term “recreated” implies there was a before. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul tells us we are naturally prone to be driven by our selfish desires. I truly believe that good works driven by a spirit that is not transformed looks like doing good deeds with selfish intention. When God redeemed and recreated us, He gave us the capability to do those good works with a changed purpose and intention. Not just that, we get to do it joined to Jesus, who fills those gaps in our human abilities that cause us to doubt and shy away from brave, intentional acts of kindness. I don’t know how this lands for you, but it gives me immense peace to know I am not alone in trying to fulfill my calling at home and in my job. I can think of countless times I have been driving to work or struggling in my role as a wife and mother telling God, “I’m just at a loss here, God. I don’t know exactly to do and I feel less than qualified to do what I know you’ve called me to do”. You know what? He has shown up EVERY SINGLE TIME and guided me through. That gives me peace to know that if we come willing and with our intentions aligned with God’s, He will help us because He knows exactly what we need. So take heart. Be Brave. Do the Good Works!!!

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

One Yes at a Time!

One Yes at a Time!

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

When I think about good works and the deeds that are pleasing to the Lord, I often think of my father. To me, he was the very definition of a “people person” because he loved everyone. His true good works that caught the attention of many longing and lonely souls during his time on earth were simply loving people as they were. It wasn’t anything fancy or complicated, it was just how he lived. That is what has stuck out to me since his passing – our good works are directly related to how we live!

In John 15:5, it says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” When we remain plugged into the Word and spend more time with the Lord, we tend to produce and bear more meaningful fruit – KINGDOM CHANGING FRUIT! John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

None of us are perfect and the Lord knows and sees when our branches become a little too heavy and occasionally even break off. But even when we droop from the pressure of this world, all we need to do is ask for help. Ask for the Lord to help hold your branch up or even graft you back into the vine. It’s here in this vulnerable place that He begins to do a new work in us and allows our lives to become more like His. When we know His voice and can follow His direction, stepping out in faith to help a friend or even a stranger becomes a little less intimidating when we know He’s asking us to do so. Sharing our trials with those who may be facing something similar can be encouraging, both to ourselves as confirmation of the Lord speaking to us, and to those in the middle of the battle. Moments like these when others listened and obeyed changed my life.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that as children of the King, we were created to do good works. He chose YOU and ME and He has specific plans in mind for our lives. Receive that truth and dig into what He’s calling you to do. It will, in turn, bring honor and glory to Him and change the world, one yes at a time!

We would like to thank Christian Greer for writing this blog post.

Created To Do Good Works

Created To Do Good Works

Editor’s note: During the month of June, we are focusing on “Created To Do Good Works.” Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s handiworks, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I pray that you will search for ways to be God’s handiwork as we learn from other women.

In a world where nothing feels quite “normal,” we have a unique opportunity to impact lives in the most positive and incredible way!    

As believers, we understand that “good works” will not eventually, no matter how hard we try, secure our salvation. In the book of Ephesians the word says, “it is not of yourself, it [salvation] is a gift from God.”  It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be saved!  Sometimes, the harder side for us to grasp, is that salvation WILL produce “good works.”  Ephesians 2:10 says we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We must realize the purpose for which we are created!  If our lives are filled by the Holy Spirit, then our character and behavior will be like Christ.    

GUYS!! We were CREATED to do good works. It is innate, born IN us, natural, …our very nature to the core of our being!  How cool is that!  Like the scripture says, He prepared these works in advance for us. I encourage you pray and ask that God will soften your heart and prepare your mind to obey His will for you.  What kind of “good works” is He calling you to do?

I would also encourage you to see “good works” in terms of your whole life; not separated by religious activity, but instead throughout your daily walk.  Occasionally, good works are big things, but mostly it is through the small acts of serving others in your daily life.  In my personal life it looks like cooking dinner for my family, tucking my children in safely at night, teaching them to love and shine the light of Jesus, and to think of others above themselves. It might look like taking time to help the elderly lady at the grocery store reach the top shelf or taking my friends’ kids because I know she needs a break.  This is where we are given that opportunity to impact lives in such a powerful way! What do the small, but paramount, good-works look like in your day-to-day life?    

When I am walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, these things are easy — my very nature in Christ! BUT, when I am living in a rush, selfishly….with my task driven list, or separated from God, these things seem quite exhausting!  Sometimes if we just pause for a moment, we will feel the nudge from the Holy Spirit which is God’s incredible way of reminding us to keep up these good works He’s prepared for us.   Let’s agree to walk in the Spirit daily, and I know WE CAN change the world!  

We would like to thank Megan Henderson for writing this blog post!

Send Me, Lord

Send Me, Lord

“I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:8, NKJV).

If I can be honest, before I knew God, I never imagined I could be useful to God or that He could use me to share Jesus with others. My idea of being a Christian when I began my walk consisted of a checklist. It went a little like this:

Go to church (check)

Own a bible (check)

Get prayer occasionally (check)

Follow Jesus (hmm–what does that look like?) (check)

Repeat weekly (check) 

The truth is that God wasn’t looking for me to check off a list every week. He was looking for my heart. We see this truth in the book of Samuel: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7, AMP). ‬‬

As I began to get to know Jesus, I began to grasp the magnitude of what He did for me on the cross: “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, AMP). The more I pondered this truth, the more I began to fall deeply in love with Jesus. That love was followed by a deep, burning desire within me for others to know Jesus. I wanted everyone to know what Jesus had done in my life.

I grew up an angry, rebellious teenager. I was a teen mom at the age of 14. I was holding on to so much unforgiveness, guilt, and shame from my past. I had allowed the enemy to whisper lies to me, and I had believed them all. But now, I recognized them for what they were–lies–and I opened myself up to God’s truth and the good news that I was forgiven (1 John 1:9). I wanted to share this Good News, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I began sharing what Jesus had done for me at church, with my family and friends, and even with people I didn’t know at restaurants, grocery stores, and work . 

When we think of impacting the world around us by sharing the Gospel, we naturally tend to think it has to be big. But God has called us to be faithful, even in the small (Luke 16:10). God has blessed my family with opportunities to travel spreading His Good News in places where numbers were vast and others where attendance was low. We’ve entered communities of affluence and also places that were destitute and afflicted with crime. All these places have one thing in common: God moved.

One of my favorite promises from God is “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV). I’ve always wondered why He started by saying two or three. Why not a hundred? Why not a thousand? Surely He wouldn’t be able to miss a thousand people praying in His name. But the God we serve doesn’t devalue our efforts because of small numbers. He’s looking for obedience that comes out of the abundance of our hearts. Our heart for God leads us into a deep desire to share His love with others and a courage to say, “send me; I’ll go” like Isaiah did. Isaiah didn’t ask God questions like, “How far is it? How many people will be there? How much work is it going to be?” He simply raised his voice and said, “I’ll do it! Send me; I’ll go!”

I ask God that He would give me the strength, courage, and wisdom to make myself available willing to be sent wherever He needs me to go. Through the years, I’ve learned the promises that follow when we submit to His will over our own for the advancement of the Kingdom of God–and those promises are eternal. He needs me. He needs you. Always be ready to share the Good News when and where God asks you to. 

I pray that you would submit to God in everything you do and have courage and boldness to step out in faith wherever you are sent, always inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you and lead you, imitating Christ everywhere you go with your actions and speech, walking in obedience, and loving people like Jesus did.

We would like to thank Cristella Urrutia for writing this blog post.

Influencing the Social Media World

Influencing the Social Media World

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

I remember when social media was a new thing to me. I was in high school, and the idea of having a “space” to express myself seemed like such a neat thing! Getting to pick a song that I identified with to play when someone visited my personal page, telling the whole world, or even, better yet, my list of friends, that Beckah is…. craving doritos…all seemed so harmless and intriguing. It was exciting to see who was writing on “my wall” or page or whatever it was called back then. What a thrill, right?! Am I striking up some memories here?

Fast forward a few years, or maybe 15 to be exact, and look at what social media has evolved into. Political controversy, comparison trap upon comparison trap, the blasting of a business when the service was subpar, hate speech and screen fighting. I mean honestly, the list could go on and on.

Even though sometimes it feels like the bad can outweigh the good, there are still good things about social media, too! The sweet family pictures, those accounts that have the best inspirational quotes, LIVE sales at your favorite boutique, and even a way to livestream a church service during a global pandemic (Thank you, Jesus!)! But when you look beyond the surface level of the content on social media, it is so much bigger than what we are seeing. We have allowed social media to come in, and create an addictive space to find our sense of value, opinion, and what we want right now.

Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of negativity displayed on social media outlets that are alarming and a true display of deeper root issues, but what happens when we decide to be the change? If we decide to impact instead of impress, what good could we see?

A few years back during one of our women’s ministry events at the church, one of the speakers focused on being rooted in the characteristics of Jesus. One thing she talked about that really stuck with me was, if we are rooted in these things, the fruit of our branches display those also. For example, if we are rooted in the LOVE and JOY of the Holy Spirit, our sphere of influence receives those things from us.

Something that my sphere of influence included at that time was a women’s beauty tips and tricks Facebook page. I had always longed for that page to be more than just lipstick and eyeshadow. During this message at the women’s event, the Lord revealed to me that, “You can impact the beauty of the heart of the women you are reaching just like you are impacting the beauty of the flesh!” It took me back because, at the time, I didn’t quite understand what He was getting at. After spending time in prayer and in the Word, I believe that God gave me the vision of creating these beauty tutorials paired with devotionals that focused on Godly principles and Biblical truths to be displayed by me on my women’s beauty page. This was something truly different than what I had used social media for in the past, and different than what I had seen social media become.

It definitely took a leap of faith for me to get started, but the reward I saw through being different in the social media realm was abundant. When you get called to pray over women that you don’t even know, because they heard your devotional and felt called to reach out, THAT’S POWERFUL! When you are in a live tutorial and get a word from God that you share on a whim, and get a private message later that it was specifically for someone that was listening, THERE’S WALLS TORN DOWN THERE! When you have women that don’t know you, praying over your daily struggles via messenger because you shared your heartache, THERE’S HEALING THERE! I could give you numerous examples of God’s goodness being revealed to me via this social media outlet.

Now you may not feel lead to open a page with thousands of women on Facebook, but I challenge you not only to see the good, but to BE THE GOOD in the world of social media. Be the positive affirmation someone may be seeking. Speak words of encouragement over someone’s post that cries for help during a hard time. Write out your words of prayers over those that post about their struggles. Allow others to be truly “seen” by you when you are scrolling, and reach out to them. Choose a few people that you have seen when scrolling, and pray over their day. There are lots of ways that we can BE the positive. Take a leap of faith, be equipped and empowered by Jesus, and IMPACT those that you influence.

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this post.

Follow His Lead

Follow His Lead

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

In our Among Friends Bible Study this month, we are talking about “Influencing the World.” That sounds like a pretty formidable task, doesn’t it? “OK God,” we say. “I’ll get right on that. Right after I get finished changing diapers, cooking dinner, folding laundry…” The list goes on and on. And yet the genius of God’s plan for the world is that we don’t even really have to try. We don’t have to have a title. He’s IN US, and All He’s asked us to do is to follow His lead and share the gospel as we go.

 I can remember attending a summer church camp back when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It was at the end of the nightly service and God’s presence was moving powerfully. One of the camp counselors came over to pray for me, looked me in the eyes and told me, “You’re headed for the ministry.” “Ummmmm….no, probably not,” was my thought. I mean, I wasn’t opposed to teaching Sunday school, but I knew I’d never do something crazy like move to Africa. I mean, isn’t that what you do if you’re in “the ministry”?

 Well, God sure does have a sense of humor. Fast forward 10 years or so and I went on my first mission trip to South Africa. I loved it so much that I went back again the next summer, and by the time I graduated from college, I was ready to MOVE there to volunteer. I served in Cape Town, South Africa for nine months, helping to coach local basketball teams and teaching “True Love Waits” in six different schools. We were able to use that platform to have some after school Bible studies as well.

 It was in one of those classes where I met Junaid. Junaid was a lively South African sixth grader with a scar down his left cheek. I never asked what it was from, but I knew that Junaid didn’t back down from a fight. I happened to be in South Africa when the tragedy of 9/11 took place, and the very next day we were going to Junaid’s school in a predominantly Muslim area. I would like say that the vast majority of our Muslim friends and neighbors showed such compassion and love in the wake of that tragedy, but there were a handful of boys in one of our classes who had a bit of a different mindset.  In the weeks that followed, Junaid told us how he and his classmates were ready to go enlist to go fight against the Americans in Afghanistan. “You want to fight against US?”, we asked him. “No, Miss, not you…the AMERICANS.” I guess it hadn’t crossed his mind that we WERE Americans.

 Junaid made sure we understood that this was a “holy war”, and that he must defend his religion.  One day he got curious and asked us about ours. When we explained that God had sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, he recoiled a bit.

 “No Miss,” he stated emphatically. “God doesn’t have any children or brothers or sisters.”

 “He does have a Son,” we countered. “His name is Jesus.”

In that moment it was like the Holy Spirit just fell down and flooded that cold, concrete schoolroom with a tangible warmth and love. I could see a small tear welling up in Junaid’s eye as he repeated softly, “Jesus.”

 Then just as quickly as the moment started, it ended when one of Junaid’s friends grabbed him arm and told him it was time to go. On his way out the door, he stopped, turned back, and said, “We’ll talk more next time?”

 We had several more conversations with Junaid. While I can’t tie this story up with a happy ending bow of how he accepted Christ or anything even remotely like that, I do believe that a seed was planted. And somewhere in my heart I fully expect someday to see a testimony of God’s goodness by a young man from South Africa with a scar across his cheek…if not on this side of Heaven then beyond.

 I know we can’t all go to Africa. We’re not all supposed to. Where is YOUR sphere of influence? It might be your home, your workplace, or your family members. There are people all around us each day, and as we go, we have an opportunity to show love…to show kindness…to plant seeds.

 I’d like to leave you with this passage from Matthew 28: 19-20 (TPT), which we know as the “Great Commission.” These were the last recorded words of Jesus on this earth before He ascended into Heaven. He told His disciples:

 19 Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 20 And teach them to faithfully follow[a] all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”[b]He’s with us as we go. And that makes all the difference. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this blog post.

Influencing Other Parts of the World

Influencing Other Parts of the World

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

The sacred-secular divide is the pervasive belief that some things are really important to God, and that other things aren’t. This way of viewing the world isn’t Biblical, but it is deeply imbedded in our culture. So, while most of us would say that God cares about all aspects of our lives, the way we think and talk about our lives often reveals something different about our beliefs. Many times, we don’t even realize that we’ve bought into this sacred-secular divide. I’ll give you an example. I often hear people talk about their ministry as the 1 or 2 hours they spend in a week volunteering at a soup kitchen, leading a small group, or teaching Sunday School. While these few hours are undoubtedly important, they never mention the 40+ hours a week they spend teaching junior high students, working at a factory, or parenting their children. In our churches, we regularly have special commissioning prayers for ministry teams going abroad, Sunday school teachers, or small group leader, but we rarely think of praying over parents, farmers, bankers, high school students, or teachers specifically as commissioned to glorify God through their vocational roles. The average person will spend 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. I’m willing to bet that those hours matter to God. In fact, as believers, every aspect of our lives is not only important to God, but is an opportunity to impact the world for the sake of the Kingdom of God and to bring glory to Jesus.

My husband and I live in South Asia where we run a small textile company. We produce pillows, tea towels, bath robes, and other home goods for wholesale and retail in the US. At first glance, pillow stuffing and cotton material might seem spiritually insignificant, but we’ve learned that God can be glorified in so many beautiful ways when we view our work as an act of worship and an opportunity to influence those around us for His name.  

When we opened our business in 2015, we started with the recognition that this work was sacred ground, deeply valued by God. So, we began by offering prayer for our business and for our employees, who were all from Hindu or Muslim families. Prayers offered turned into prayers answered, and soon Hindus and Muslims wanted to know more about the Jesus who was showing up in such amazing ways. This desire to know more opened the door for us to begin studying the Word twice a week with truth seeking employees. And searching the Word led to obedience to and new faith in the Word become flesh! Just this week, one of our believing employees from a Hindu family took her struggling neighbor to the house of another believing employee who is from a Muslim background so that they could pray for the neighbor in Jesus’ name together. This is the Kingdom of God at work! It starts as small as a mustard seed, just a simple recognition that the mundane moments of our lives are sacred and can bring God glory. And soon, it grows into a big tree where people can come enjoy shade and find rest in God (Mark 4:30-32).

For those of us looking to influence the world, I suggest we start right where we are, with the simple recognition that every moment is an opportunity to impact those around us for Jesus’ sake. What would it look like if we woke up every morning asking God to guide each day? What if, daily, we offered to pray for a customer, school friend, employee, or neighbor? What if we viewed parenting as the most incredible discipleship program that we could ever have the honor of leading? What if we thought about how our work could become less about personal profit and more about Kingdom generosity? What if we invited the people we see on a regular basis to search God’s Word with us over a cup of coffee? To make a Kingdom influence, all we need is a mustard seed! What small steps can you take this week to impact those around you?

Connecting:

If you’d like to follow our business on social media, you can catch us on FB at facebook.com/Ziyada.bemore/ and on Instagram @ziyada_bemore. You can also support our artisans in their journey towards economic and spiritual freedom by shopping at www.Ziyada.org. If you’d like to receive monthly updates from us personally, we’d love to add you to our email list. Just send your email address to kori.covington@gmail.com!

Because of increasing hostility towards followers of Jesus where we live, we can’t have our names associate with mission work online.” Please pray for this missionary couple as they follow their calling to go out into the world and preach the gospel.

My Blooper Reel

My Blooper Reel

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

As I began writing this blog post, I fully intended on sharing moments when my children reminded me of how awesome I was at teaching them to be kind… but I only wanted to do that out of pride. So, here’s my blooper reel. 

I remember the first time I picked Barrett up from school with a poor report about how he was speaking to others. His teacher informed me that he had called someone an idiot. I instantly felt my cheeks get hot out of embarrassment. Not even seconds later, I started going through the different sources that he could have heard that word from. Surely, it wasn’t learned at home!

Mind you, he had just loaded up in the car with me as I picked him up from school. We were headed through an intersection when someone pulled out in front of me. Out from my mouth, in a rather elevated tone, I said, “My gosh, idiot” as I slammed on my brakes. If you’re wondering whether that humble pie tasted just as terrible as the first helping that I ate moments earlier, the answer is yes. 

I often think about the importance of teachable moments in our home, but I’m better at noticing them when it stems from my children’s behavior. This one was clearly a heart issue that I was ingraining into my children and didn’t even realize it until HE was called out for speaking that way at school. That was a tough moment of truth for me.

I knew, before I ever had my own children, that I would have a major responsibility on my hands to raise them up to speak kindness and be respectful to the people they would encounter. Little did I know, I would fall hard on my face once I was actually in the motherhood role.

Now, I can usually find my way out of being wrong if I try hard enough. Can’t we all? I think God had to make this blatantly obvious that I couldn’t blame Toy Story 2 for teaching my child to say the word idiot in the right context, although, we don’t watch that anymore either. I did that. I taught him how to act out in anger and spread hate toward someone who couldn’t even hear me, thank goodness, in traffic. 

Here is something that I learned through the situation. I have a responsibility in my home… and my car to teach my boys, who will grow up to be men, that we can spread life in situations where our human flesh prefers death. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of yours mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Little people are all ears and we, as their parents, have the opportunity to expose them to the world through the lens of Christ rather than the lens of a stressed out mom who forgot to check in with Jesus before speaking death over the “idiot” who pulled out in front of her.

The Bible puts it very clearly in Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

I had a responsibility to use my words wisely LONG before he could repeat what I spoke. I could have ignored the fact that I was the one who planted that seed in my 2 year old’s heart, or I could admit that my tongue is a powerful tool that God intends for us to use to spread life in ALL circumstances, not just the ones that loving is easy. It’s easy to correct your children when they forget to use their manners. It is much more difficult to turn around and realize that maybe they aren’t using their manners because we aren’t teaching them from the way that we speak. Or maybe I’m alone in this. Either way, the driver wasn’t the problem. How I responded to them was, and I can use those everyday mishaps as an opportunity to teach my children how to extend grace or I can use them to demonstrate what it looks like to spread ignorant toxicity. That’s my choice that leads to teaching them how to make their choice later on. Deep breath. We can do this. We can participate in raising up a generation who spreads life. Proverbs 15:1 says, “ A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”

Let’s be in the business of turning wrath away, starting in our own home!

We would like to thank Bonnie Kate Olson for writing this post.

The Power of the Tongue

The Power of the Tongue

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

Do you remember that little jingle that was exchanged on the playground growing up?  I remember singing it as a child after somebody uttered some string of words that hurt me… it went like this: 

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  

Just now, as I typed that phrase, I said aloud to myself: ‘Whoever made that silly thing up knew nothing of the human spirit’. I’ll be honest: I prefer a broken bone from a stick or stone over the spiritual destruction of words any day.  

I can think back on times in my life when my spirit was crushed. The kind of crushing that inevitably left painfully salient memories.  The most horrendous pain was caused by something someone said to me.  Words that cut so deep, creating wounds only Jesus and time could heal. 

You see, we carry a weapon of mass destruction around in our mouths.  But the same tongue that has the power to speak death, can also speak life.  Our words can build others up, or they can tear them down. (Proverbs 18:21)

When I was asked to contribute to the blog on this subject, my mind raced as I began to pray about and brainstorm on what angle to take.  I eventually settled on focusing on where we spend most of our waking hours: the workplace. 

As an educator, in 8 short hours, I encounter over 150 souls that I directly influence, and who influence me.  My eyes widened and my mouth went a bit dry as I typed that sentence…it can be a daunting thought if I’m not confident that my words are life giving.  I’m certain that your circle of influence is just as large, if not larger than mine.  The sheer magnitude of the responsibility we have every single day to pour life into those around us is staggering.  Unfortunately, I’m not perfect and I’m willing to bet you’re not either.

Even still, with all my imperfections and shortcomings, I’d like to give some practical biblical advice on how we can affect those around us positively.  And also how we can heal and help those we love to heal from the wounds that others’ words so often produce. 

How to keep a gentle tongue

Proverbs 18:21 is possibly the most cited verse when it comes to the power of the tongue.  While it describes the life and death our words can evoke, it does not tell us HOW to keep a gentle tongue.  Paul tells us how though: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt .”(Colossians 4:6).  James also gave us a nugget of gold when he said “But everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19).  Peter says to lead “with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:15).

These directives on keeping a gentle tongue are so important in every interaction, especially in the workplace.  Have you ever been in a situation at work where a superior used unkind words, derogatory words, words of condescension or even sarcasm to get their point across to you? I have.  And when this happens to me, a fire is not put under me to work harder.  In fact, the opposite happens.  I feel worthless, I feel bogged down by the words of the enemy seeping through my veins telling me that I do not have what it takes. I am completely deflated in those moments.  The intention behind the exchange may have been to get me to work harder, work better, be more productive… but, the opposite happens in those conditions.  People thrive when they feel encouraged, seen, heard, and empowered. People thrive when they feel supported. Let us not diminish the power of encouraging words in the workplace.  Words of encouragement light the fire that get our limbs moving and our creative juices flowing.  

Jesus was the perfect example of gentleness.  “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth” (Luke 4:22).  When we stay closer to Jesus, keep our eyes on Him, and begin each exchange with a grateful heart, I truly believe it’s nearly impossible to use words that are not gentle. The two are mutually exclusive. When we stay close to our Savior, He speaks through us, and His words are always gentle. 

How to heal after words of death have been spoken over you:

For true healing, I think it’s important that we understand what it takes for someone to use words in a hurtful way.  It was said so eloquently in our Among Friends Podcast by one of our own, Macy Williams.  She said, “Hurt people hurt people”. Simple, yet so profound. When you are hurt by the words from another’s tongue, having an understanding that those words derive from a place of pain in their own experience takes the pressure off you completely.  You then understand that you have NOT deserved their hurtful words.  It helps you to realize that their words likely have absolutely nothing to do with you at all and more to do with what they’re going through.  So, when we’re hurt by another’s words: let’s pray for that person.  Pray that God will guide them gently through whatever pain they’re experiencing.  When we team up with Jesus in prayer to ask for healing for the person spewing hurtful words, our hearts begin to heal in a real way.  

Kind words are like honey; sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.Proverbs 15:28

May we all be the deliverer and recipient of words like honey.  As you start your day tomorrow and all the days to follow, have a grateful heart tied close to your Lord and Savior.  Pray for those that you know are hurting and have the potential to use their tongues to destroy, just as we all need prayer when we are in pain. And stay in constant prayer over your own tongue.  Just as the Psalmist prayed, let’s also pray: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)

We would like to thank Elizabeth Loeffler for writing this post.

Speaking LIFE

Speaking LIFE

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

Proverbs 18:21 speaks to me in so many ways. When I first read it, I thought to myself, “This scripture is so familiar to me” and sure enough, I looked on my phone and already had a picture of this scripture that I used as my home screen. I had already been studying this scripture.

I’ve been wanting to change some things about myself since I let COVID-19 affect the “normal” that I had going on. I really wanted God to use me at work, the place that I consider my ministry and the place where God rules. I had found myself NOT loving anymore; not my co-workers; not my patients. I was tired of COVID, tired of upset and angry customers, and tired of the drama and gossip that goes on at work. I truly believe that God was using this scripture to remind me of how I should behave. Therefore when I ran across it in a devotional, I put a picture on my phone so that I could be reminded of it each time I opened my phone. I needed the reminder that God gives us the power to change things.

I started praying, claiming and speaking LIFE over my co-workers and my patients. I prayed for God to restore the LOVE for myself, my family and my work family. I wanted to stop the gossip and show Christ’s love. God’s word says that

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

I began to deepen my prayer life and began to pray “dangerous” prayers and speaking life over many areas: my finances, my marriage, my relationship with Christ, my health, and my job. Our Father is so good to answer our prayers. He specifically spoke to me about tithing. He told me to give more than 10%. I trusted and spoke truth over our finances. You cannot out give God! I even found out about some extra money that was sitting in a trust fund for me. Speaking LIFE and TRUTH over all parts of your life will change the way you live!

Well, friends, it is April and that means SPRINGTIME! This is the time of year where God makes everything beautiful and bright. Everything is ready to bloom and the seeds we’ve been sowing will eventually lead to a great harvest! Proverbs 18:21 has shown so many blessings in my life. Speak the POWER OF LIFE over you and watch what God will do!

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

My Words Have Power

My Words Have Power

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. God was ready to settle His people in the land which He had promised them. But first, God had Moses send an appointed leader from each of the twelve tribes of Israel into the land of Canaan and report back to Moses what they saw there. Moses told the twelve scouts to see what the land was like, if it was fertile or unproductive. He sent them to see if cities were fortified or mere encampments. He told them to see if the people who live there were strong or weak, few or many. Lastly, they were told to bring back some fruit from the land. You can read all about this in more detail in Numbers 13:1-26.

Let’s pick up in Numbers 13:27-32:

27“They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” 30Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” 31But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” 32So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size.”

The report from the eyes and mouths of the 10 scouts surmised how they saw themselves—like mere grasshoppers. And that’s when it happened. Words of defeat were spoken over the Israelites, and the Israelite community accepted those words into their spirit. They believed the report from 10 of the 12 spies—that they had no chance on God’s green earth to ever battle and win against the giants who occupied this land which had been promised to them by God. And so began their defeatist mentality. 

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever been told you would never amount to anything? Have you ever heard voices in your head that said you weren’t good enough? I have. 

One of my earliest memories of feeling like a worthless grasshopper was as a young girl of age 4 or 5. Standing next to me, someone screamed to whomever would listen, while looking right in my eyes, “Why was SHE ever born?!” Her words spoken over me planted feelings of my worthlessness deep into my spirit.

I also remember struggling in second grade trying desperately to improve my handwriting so I could graduate from using a pencil to using my first blue BIC ink pen. For whatever reason, my being a left-hander proved difficult for me to master writing legibly. As our handwriting exam papers were passed out to each student after being graded, I was singled out before the entire class for being the lone remaining user of a #2 pencil. Unknowingly, this teacher had spoken words of defeat into my spirit.  

At the hands of 10 scouts, words of fear, doubt, and discouragement were spoken over every heart in the Israelite community. They had forgotten God’s promise—that He would give this land to them. They believed those powerful words of fear that had been spoken to the extent that they were prepared to head back into slavery rather than take a step of faith and take hold of the Promised Land.

In what area of your life are YOU struggling? I believe we ALL need to stop believing the lies in our hearts and in our heads that others have spoken over us or that we have spoken to ourselves.

Recently I read a book entitled Breakthrough-Living a Life That Overflows by Rabbi Jason Sobel, who is a Messianic Jew. In speaking of the time we are in now, Rabbi Jason teaches that the year 2021 is the beginning of a new decade. He states this is the decade of breakthrough as well as the decade of strength, and the decade of the mouth. Rabbi Jason writes, “We can become mighty and strong, and since this is the decade of eighty, the decade of the mouth, we need to openly declare, “I am strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.  I will overcome internal and external oppositions by God’s power.”    

Eighty is the number of the yesod. In Hebrew, yesod means “foundation.” This is a foundational decade and a foundational season. God is establishing new foundations in our lives. We need to remember the natural and the spiritual go hand in hand. If we are going to break through natural limitations, there are new spiritual foundations we need to establish. Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked are no more, but the foundation [yesod] of the righteous is everlasting.”

When we view life through our natural eyes, we will remain stuck in Egypt. When we view life through Holy Spirit eyes, we will be empowered to speak breakthrough over our life. Just like the Israelites, each of us falls into one of these two groups: those whose sight leads to “breakthrough thinking,” or those whose sight leads to “stinking thinking.” Both affect what comes out of our mouths. There is a spiritual significance here—there is power in the mouth.

Paul tells us that God is for us (Rom.8:31).  If we want a breakthrough, we need to know who we are in God and develop an understanding of what He is capable of doing for us and through us. God wants you to excel in both your identity and also your destiny! Knowing you possess a royal identity and a priestly calling is a critical experience that leads to more significant breakthroughs in your life. 

Coming into agreement with God and His promises for our lives is an essential part of any breakthrough we experience. Remember:  Our words hold power!

Speak life over your situation.

Speak life over yourself, your spouse, your children, and your coworkers.  

Speak His Truths into every facet of your life and be watching for the breakthrough to come!   

We would like to thank Cristie Harrell for writing this blog post.

Beauty in Small Things

Beauty in Small Things

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways, is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

The smallest of details can have the biggest impacts. What might seem insignificant to some will have the biggest impact on others: a quick phone call or text to someone God placed on your heart or a card sent to another that comes just in time for them to not feel alone and abandoned by others.

Changes and adjustments in life come and go, and it sometimes leaves us feeling lonely and discarded, but when you take time to be purposeful about the small things, the beauty of Christ’s love comes shining through. Change can be scary, but just a little encouragement can mean the world to someone who is facing those changes.

Jesus cared about the small things. The woman at the well, the children that the disciples told to go away, Martha in her grief, His disciples when they didn’t understand Him, and the well-being of His mother, even as He was on the cross. Jesus loves and cares about us, even the small and intimate things in our lives. Small details, carefully thought through, can change the world around you. We get so busy and wrapped up in our own lives, our own worlds, that we forget to stop and take care of what matters most. It’s the little things that count.

Those few minutes you take to spend with God each day makes a huge difference in how you receive and love others. It’s the small moments of time that are spent in communion with Abba Father that seem to have the biggest impacts. Praying for others may seem insignificant, but it has a powerful impact on the one for whom you are praying as they fight their battles. Taking time to push everything aside to share some quality time with your spouse says “you are worth my time,” and I want to invest in our relationship. The few minutes you spend in quality time with your children tells them they matter and are important. Housework and laundry will always be there, but your children won’t, so take time for the small things.

Take time for the small things that you need in your life. An hour of quiet time with God. Time to enjoy the beauty that God gives us every morning. Time in fellowship with friends and family. Times that you just sit and think about how much our Father adores us, how generous He is with His love, and then time to just worship Him.

There is beauty in the small things. Stop, take a deep breath, and take it all in as you hear God whisper “well done, my beloved daughter. You are my treasure, and you have chosen well to remember and pay attention to the small things.”

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

Beauty in the Home as an Empty Nester

Beauty in the Home as an Empty Nester

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

This month, we’re focusing on what it means to have a beautiful home, especially in light of Titus 2:3-5 which says:

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

I’ve been able to find beauty in many seasons of my life, but this season of being an empty nester is beautiful in a very unique way. 

My years of being busy at home look different now than they did when my girls were still here. As parents of two girls who are grown now, we enjoyed many fun-filled and active years of cheerleading, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, and all the fun school and social activities that our girls were involved in. I was honored to get to be a stay at home mom and to be their chauffeur to all the events they loved to do. I thrived on what the girls and all of their friends would have going on; I just enjoyed the noise of laughter in our home for years. 

But time marched on–much too quickly, I might add–and the house is now quiet with just Lanney and me (and our rotten dogs). We do have two precious grandkids that we love to have over and spend time with, but for the majority of the time, it is just us. In all honesty, becoming empty nesters was an adjustment for us both. We had tried over the years to make sure that we still took the time for each other. We didn’t want to wake up one day with our girls gone and on their own only to discover that we no longer knew each other. We are now at a time in our lives where we can go on dates once a week, even if those dates consist of running to lunch and shopping at Costco or something pretty simple. We love finding opportunities to truly enjoy each other’s company. Lanney is my safe place and my best friend. I am so thankful that we took the time to prioritize nurturing our relationship with each other, even in those crazy years of also raising our children. 

Raising kids together has been so fun, but an empty nest has its own unique joys. We can sit back and relax some and know that God has got our kids in the palm of his hand and that our job as parents is not over, it has just changed. It’s a good feeling. If I can encourage couples with young kids in any way, it would be to say to make sure you make your spouse your priority. That is hard when your kids are young and are so demanding of your time, but you will not regret having time with your spouse without the kids at least once a week, even if it’s just to grab a babysitter and go get a Coke. You might be able to find others who also have young children, and you can exchange babysitting favors for one another. Your kids will have fun playing with friends without mom and dad, and you and your friends can invest in your marriage relationships. One day those kids will grow up and have a busy life of their own, and you want to look at each other and not be strangers living together.  

As I have thought about pouring into my relationship with my husband, it has made me think of how this correlates to our relationship with Christ. As important as it is to make time for your spouse, it is even more important to make time for the Lord. We must make sure we make time for our Savior and for that relationship first and foremost. I know this can also be a challenge with young kids in your home. But find a moment–early in the morning, or after your family has gone to bed, or anytime in between–to focus on praying, spending time in the Word, and listening to what God has to tell you. You won’t regret prioritizing this relationship. We don’t want our husbands to be strangers once we’re empty nesters, but we don’t want Jesus to be a stranger when we step into eternity either. 

Marriage is fun! There are seasons of difficulty as well as seasons of joy, but God has given us our mate to experience it all with, and we are so blessed to have each other. Embrace each other and each stage of your relationship–it’s God given, and it’s beautiful. 

We would like to thank Christy Bennett for writing this post.

Beauty in the Unbeautiful

Beauty in the Unbeautiful

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways, is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

When I think about those words in the title, I can vulnerably admit that I most often identify with “unbeautiful.” I wasn’t even sure “unbeautiful” was a word, so I looked it up in the dictionary, and in fact, it is a word. According to the dictionary, “unbeautiful” predictably means “without beauty.” If I honestly answer if I feel like a woman who is with beauty or without beauty, it’s without beauty. Unbeautiful.


So when I was asked to write this blog, I had a Sarah moment (Genesis 18:12-15) and laughed internally. “What could I possibly have to say about beauty in my home? They must have mixed me up with another woman they meant to ask to write this post.” But no sooner than that thought came into my mind, I heard the Lord whisper to my spirit, “I can make all things beautiful if you’ll just give me the ashes.”


Those words come from Isaiah 61:3, but let’s look at verses 1-4. In my bible, the heading on chapter 61 is “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” I know so many of us would not look on the last year of our lives favorably. It’s been difficult in many ways–maybe even unbeautiful. Maybe that sense of being unbeautiful extends beyond the last year of your life. Maybe, when you really think about it, you don’t remember the last time you felt beautiful or you felt like your home was beautiful. I understand that feeling. I’ve been there, too. But the Word of the Lord says that we
can live in His favor. Because of Jesus, we DO live in the Lord’s favor. The Messiah came to bring into existence His new, liberated people, and it’s our responsibility to pray into existence His new, redeemed world. That, my friends, is far from unbeautiful. That is a beautiful honor and
calling.


So how do we live out this beauty in our lives and in our home? We trade all the things we find unbeautiful–poorness, brokenheartedness, captivity, and being bound–for what the Lord has anointed for our lives–good news, binding up, proclaiming liberty, and releasing freedom (Isaiah 61:1) so that He can open a new era of blessing in our lives with some exchanges of His own: a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of a faint spirit. He makes these exchanges so “that [we] may be called oaks of righteousness…that
He may be glorified
” (Isaiah 61:3). Being an oak of righteousness means being grand, fruitful, lasting, and strong. This oak of righteousness is a reference to Psalm 1:3: “[She] is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all
that [she] does, [she] prospers
.”


Close your eyes and picture a big, mature oak tree in a dry climate. Despite its environment, it thrives because it has a constant supply of water. That tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for others. Ladies, I believe the God of the universe is calling us to become beautiful oaks of righteousness, not for ourselves, but for those closest to us–our husbands, our children, our families, our friends, our coworkers, our community. When we plant ourselves in the Word of God and allow Him to be our constant supply of water–of everything we need to survive and thrive–we prosper, but so do those who are near to us. We need to recognize that He has made us and our circumstances beautiful, not for ourselves, and not even necessarily in a material way, but so that we can bring benefits for others.

We see this same image in Jeremiah 17:8. This tree is settled with resources no matter what happens. You see, beauty requires some perspective. Most days, I have laundry in the basket, dishes in the sink, toys and books scattered in the living room, and a desk you can’t really see because the piles on it are far too high. The outside of my house needs some TLC, I don’t have a pretty backyard, and my flowerbed needs to be weeded. So the enemy sometimes tells me the lie that my life is unbeautiful. But that’s a LIE. Sure, my house can get messy and sometimes chores are left undone, but I have an actual living, breathing, walking, talking miracle that lives within the walls of my home. She’s a two-year-old blessing, and she calls me “Mommy.” If you don’t know my story, I’ll have to share the miracle of her life with you some other time or in some other post, but even in the last few weeks, doctors once again told me how impossible her life is. But that’s just the thing. Our God is a God of the impossible; He’s a God of miracles. And I get to experience one every single day. If that isn’t beautiful, then I don’t know what is.


The next time you find yourself believing that you are unbeautiful or that some area of your life is unbeautiful, spend some time with Jesus. Ask him to show you what parts of your life He wants to exchange and make beautiful. It would be His greatest pleasure to help you find beauty in the unbeautiful.

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

Your Home, Your People

Your Home, Your People

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways,  is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

I love beauty. I love that God is the ultimate creator and source of beauty. And I love the fact that because we are made in His image, we are, by nature, also creators of beauty.

I also love all things “home.” It’s my very favorite place to be. I could spend hours just looking through picture-perfect homes in magazines. But what the magazines don’t share is that God has given each of us an incredible opportunity to express his rich beauty, love, and hospitality through our homes in a way that’s completely unique to how he has created us and the home that he has given us to share.

In the last 10 years, my husband and I have lived in a tiny university-owned apartment, a sweet, small rent house, and our very own home. Through each of our homes, I’ve gathered some practical ideas for creating a beautiful and welcoming environment (that probably won’t be featured in the next home and garden magazine article).

Decorate with what you like. Instead of trying to fit everything into one particular style, choose pieces that you love and that fit your lifestyle. You might find that, like me, you’re somewhat eclectic. Your home doesn’t have to fit into a box, so don’t try to force it. Our homes should be an expression of who we are and our love for the people in our sphere.

Embrace the process of making a home. Unless you have a huge budget (and probably not even then), a home that fits you and your family doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process—a living, breathing, expression that is built over time. When I try to make everything look designer-put-together and finished all at once, I always end up not completely loving it. Let your home breathe a little. Let it become, over time, a place of retreat for anyone who enters your door.

Display your fondest memories. These probably won’t ever be magazine-worthy. They’re amateur pictures from your favorite vacation. Pictures your babies drew for you as a way to show they love you. Papers and sticky notes filled with scripture that some of your sweetest friends posted all over your house while you were gone for weeks in the hospital with your husband. These things make a home.

Prepare your home for guests. Pick up around the house. Put on some worship music. Brew a pot of coffee. Light a candle. Pray for the people that you will be welcoming into your home. Invite the Holy Spirit to minister to them in your house.

Focus on people. It’s easy to get caught up in whether the house looks perfect enough, or whether everything is done before guests arrive. But your people are much more important than any unfinished task. Don’t feel pressure to point out or apologize for every little thing that you think is wrong or unfinished about your home. They won’t care. They probably won’t even notice. Pay attention to the people in your house more than the tasks or things. It’s such a sweet opportunity to love on them that you don’t want to miss.

Like the author Myquillyn Smith shares in one of my very favorite books, The Nesting Place,

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

We would like to thank Catherine Dunn for writing this post.

Created to Encourage

Created to Encourage

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

As I sit here writing this post, praying that God guides me with His Word, I think to myself, “What does biblical femininity mean to me?” God gave me the words “unique,” “brave,” and “encourage.” Women are created in God’s image, and with that comes a call to represent God well through our uniqueness, our brave spirit, and our encouraging heart.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

God has created us all in a unique way. He not only made us beautiful in His image but He has blessed us all with different strengths.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come”  (Proverbs 31:25).

Although we are all uniquely designed and gifted, we can trust that God has also given us exactly what we need in order to uniquely fulfill the call He’s placed on our lives.

For example, I’m a mom to 4 amazing kids who need me daily. “Mom I left my bag at home.” “Mom can you help me with my homework?” “Mom I’m hungry. Can you please make me something?” Appointments, therapy, church, bible studies, classes–whew! Sound familiar? Life with littles can be tiring, but God knew exactly what my life would look like in this season. Multi-tasking is one of my strengths, and although my circumstances might sometimes be overwhelming and I don’t always feel like I have the strength, God truly helps me stay positive and gives me the strength and comfort that I need to get  through it all.

When I hear the word “brave” the first thought that comes to mind is trying to get the courage to start something new. Maybe a new business, talking to new people, or going up on a stage. Several times in Scripture, the Lord reminds and commands us to be brave:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God

will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

My family is blended, and my two older kids–an 8-year-old  and 9-year-old–have hurts from our past. The situation is out of our control, so we bravely pray to the God Who Hears to heal their hearts. My family has also had to be brave as 1-year-old is going through health issues. He’s doing great, but every day is a different battle. I also have a 6-year-old who has Autism and speech delay. Most days are great, but sometimes it gets really hard not knowing how to explain certain things to him. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not doing something right, but that’s when I remember that the enemy is  trying to get at me again. The Holy Spirit helps me find the courage to bravely start praying to God to help me and guide me through the situation. When I thank him for my circumstances, even when they are overwhelming, somehow everything begins to feel peaceful again. The word “brave” reminds me that I am a woman who is facing the difficulties and challenges of every day, and even when I can’t understand why my family goes through these situations, God is always there to help us through it.

So let me encourage you today, whether you’re a mom, grandmother, aunt, sister, cousin, daughter, married or single, kids or no kids: you are strong!

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).

Remember, you can do this! You’re not alone! We are all here to help! There are so many women going through hard situations. Let’s remember to uplift and encourage one another. Let’s set an example of what it means to be unique and brave. God will help you through any situation you’re dealing with. We understand all of our strengths and situations are different, but God helps us use our unique lives to encourage others. Be you, be brave, and be encouraged to share God’s love with anyone and everyone you can! Feeling at home with God and sharing his love and joy with others: that’s what “biblical femininity” means to me.

We would like to thank Bre Flores for writing this post.

Biblical Feminity

Biblical Feminity

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

What exactly is Biblical Femininity? Femininity is a word that tends to induce one of two polar opposite reactions. As I was preparing to write this, some women I spoke with only associated negative thoughts and feelings with this word, while others took great pride in it. I must admit, I
had mixed feelings when thinking about the word. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear feminine is being a “girly girl” (which also made me think I am the last person on earth that needs to be writing this post). So, I decided I better start doing some research and find some
definitions to help me understand what femininity really is.


First, I decided to look up the worldly meaning of the word feminine.
adjective
pertaining to a woman or girl: feminine beauty; feminine dress.
having qualities traditionally ascribed to women, such as sensitivity or gentleness.
effeminate; womanish: a man with a feminine walk.
belonging to the female sex; female: feminine staff members.

(obtained from Dictionary.com)


The definition that I would like to focus on is the second one listed, the one regarding the qualities of a woman. For me, this definition is the one that caused such mixed emotions. In the world today, women do not like to feel like they are weak, not good enough, or unequal in any
way. I feel like the world views sensitivity and gentleness as weak qualities. To the world, sensitive women cry too much and gentle women have no backbone. Women are taught, sometimes from an early age, to believe that to get anywhere in this world, they must put these
characteristics aside, toughen up “like a man,” and grab this world by the horns.


Second, I turned to the truth about femininity in God’s word. Of course, the scriptures that every woman turns to on how to become a godly woman are found in Proverbs 31, but these can be very intimidating scriptures. When I used to read the scriptures, I would start having an anxiety attack and get depressed. I kept thinking, “I am supposed to be Wonder Woman, and I am failing miserably.” But in order to really understand the Godly meaning of femininity, we need to go all the way back to the beginning.

In Genesis 2 we read:
And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper
comparable to him”
(Genesis 2:18, NKJV).
Later in that chapter, God created woman. So, if we look at the above scripture closely, we learn that God purposefully made women as we are, and He meant to make us that way! What the world views as weak, God has perfectly made and uses for His Glory. Gentleness and sensitivity are not weak at all but strong and bold in their own way, and they are an important part of how we fulfill our job as helper. These characteristics are not something to be ashamed of but embraced and used!


So now, when we go back to Proverbs 31:10-31, we can read it through different lenses. In the world now, the Proverbs 31 woman looks a little different but still exhibits many of the same qualities. As women, oftentimes we wear many hats: we are wife, mom, doctor, teacher,
disciplinarian, chef, custodian, friend and in some situations, we are dad, too. And God gave us just the right qualities, including the feminine ones, to handle every situation and be the best helpers that we can be. It is time for us to step into and accept the femininity that God gave us.
Gentleness and sensitivity do not make us the weaker vessel; they make us the equal vessel.

A special thanks to Tana Navarette for writing this post.

Husband of the Husbandless

Husband of the Husbandless

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

As I walk into the store, I am surprised by the massive Valentine’s displays. I just got all of my Christmas
decor put up, and already Valentine’s themes appear everywhere I look. But as I look at my calendar, I
realize it IS only a month away. Wow! How quickly the seasons pass!


Although all my closest friends are married, Valentine’s Day is one of the only times of the year when I
am starkly reminded that I’m single. But talking about biblical femininity this month has me thinking
about my purpose and calling as a single woman of God. What is biblical femininity or biblical
womanhood, and how does it apply to the unmarried woman?

The first mention of “woman” in the Bible is Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘it is not good for the
man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”
Then Scripture goes on to give the account of
how God made Eve from Adam and for Adam. Eve was created to be a helper, a companion, and a mate
or wife for Adam. This was her purpose.


Women were created to be wives, helpers for their husband, and mothers to their children. This is a grand
and noble calling, and I do believe this can be the primary occupation for some women, at least through a
season of their lives, but I wonder, “is this the only plan and purpose for women?” I think of the Proverbs
31 woman, and I am awed by her amazing character and accomplishments, but to be honest, I am not
really inspired. Actually I think, “Been there and bombed that!” So now what? As a single woman, do I
just live out the rest of my days the best I can, never really having fulfilled my purpose? Or is there a plan
B?


As I continue reading in Genesis, I’m so glad the story of mankind didn’t end in Genesis 3. The rest of the
Bible is the story of God’s plan of redemption. It is the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his twelve
sons or the twelve tribes of Israel. In it the nation of Israel becomes the smaller story through which the
larger story of mankind’s redemption is told. And right there in the middle of that story, God speaks
through the words of Isaiah to the nation of Israel – and to me!


For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth
(Isaiah 54:5).


Your Maker is your husband. These words resound in my heart!


I go back to Genesis and read again the story of creation, but this time I back up to Genesis 1:26: “Then
God said, ‘Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish
of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every
crawling thing that crawls on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He
created him; male and female, He created them.”


We – both man and woman – were created by a triune, relational God who wants relationship with us.
Eve was created as a companion for Adam, but we were all created to be in relationship with God. And
we as redeemed believers are called the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7 & Ephesians 5:32).


So even though I’m single, I can still live with purpose and within the purpose for which I was made. I
am the bride of Christ; I am His helper and His companion; my Maker is my husband!

A special thanks to Sheila Campbell for writing this blog post.

Women are Life Givers

Women are Life Givers

Editor’s Note: During the month of February, we are focusing on a Call to Femininity. The world often gives women a different idea of what womanhood should look like. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to be the woman God designed us to be. 

When I was a senior in college, due to some major medical trauma of the past year, I began to lose my hair. Losing my hair was quite an identity crisis for me. Even though the head scarves my mom had bought me were very pretty, I still worried what other people thought of me. 

One evening, my sister and a friend of ours told me we were going to get coffee. But when we got to the car, our friend blindfolded me and would not tell me where we were actually going. Finally, we arrived at the destination. They led me carefully up the steps of a house and opened the door. 

One of them took off the blindfold. There, in the middle of the living room, stood nine of my friends from church. 

“SURPRISE!!!” they yelled. 

I gaped at them. “What is this?” I looked over at the girl next to me.

“It’s a surprise party for you!” she said gleefully. 

Each of the girls had a scarf wrapped around her head, and most of them had on their reading glasses—just like me. Each one of them had bought me a brand-new scarf, and at the end of the night, gave them to me. I even got some from a few friends that were not able to make it. 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a turning point for me. These friends ministered to a place deep inside me, even before I knew I needed it. Their presence and their kindness told me that they cared, and I was not alone. 

My own definition of biblical femininity is: what it looks like to be a woman who follows Jesus every day. The women who have taught me the most about this will probably never be recognized publicly for what they do. They just continue to serve those around them and teach by their actions and their words. I have watched how these women have treated their families, their husbands, and me. They are full of kindness and speak life over everyone around them. Proverbs puts it this way: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:26).

Here are a few things I have learned: 

  • Women who follow Jesus are life givers. 

As women, we were created to make things around us better. When we choose to speak life and God’s Word over the people and situations around us, we change things (even when we can’t always see it). 

  • Women who follow Jesus see beauty in the broken. 

Whether it’s seeing the potential in a broken piece of furniture at the antique store or seeing the gifts in a broken and hurting person, women are created to notice beauty. As women, we make our homes places of comfort and welcome for our families and ourselves (whatever that looks like!). We ask God to help us see others the way He sees them, even if they are a bit “messy” on the outside. 

  • Women who follow Jesus are not afraid to set healthy boundaries. 

The more we follow Jesus, the more secure we are in our identity in Christ. We choose to follow His voice first. Sometimes that means narrowing our focus and saying no to good things in order to say yes to the best for a season. Setting healthy boundaries means protecting our time, our health, our marriage, and our family. When these areas are in a healthy place, then we can reach out to others beyond that. 

  • Women who follow Jesus love and serve those around them. 

You may feel like your “circle of influence” is small. But don’t compare yourself to someone else. Who has God put around you today? Wherever God has placed you, the people you are called to love and serve are the ones you bump into every day. 

Maybe you’re like me in the beginning story. You feel like you’ve lost something and you don’t know what it looks like to step into your biblical womanhood. Keep your heart open and keep being faithful with what God has put in front of you. God will show you how, one step at a time. 

A special thanks to Heather Dillard for writing this post.

Stepping Forward

Stepping Forward

I started blogging in 2007, before blogging was popular. (And I’m now told that it’s dying, like all things print, because people only want to watch or listen. Gosh, I hope this isn’t true.)

When I created this site on Blogspot, before there were other fancier forums, I titled it Obeying the Call because that’s what it felt like. Every post seemed vulnerable to share—and to do so was always my act of obedience. 

I’m an introvert—and not the kind that thrives in virtual spaces where I could have a larger-than-life personality. I’m afraid my online persona is basically the same as me in real life. (To give a slightly embarrassing example, even social media posts that get a lot of comments can sometimes overwhelm me, and I’m always in awe of those who can reply (cleverly) to each person. Meanwhile I’m like—ahh, all. the. people.)

And so, here I go again—sharing and being vulnerable—because I feel God nudging my heart to pick up my pen more in 2021. 

2020 was awful. I think we can all agree. 

I lost two friends.

I had COVID twice.

I had two non-elective surgeries.

You see a pattern there? 

I started studying the significance of the number two, and although not the only symbolism for this number, two can represent division or contrast or opposites. Like a line in the sand—that’s the picture God gave me. 

The number two represents a choice.

Life or death. 

Light or darkness.

Faith or fear.

Spirit or flesh.

Peace or anxiety.

Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Two masters: God or money.

The narrow gate or the wide gate. 

There are always two paths. We always have to choose. 

God continually invites us to go deeper. Writing that sentence reminds me of a dream I had years ago where God opened the door to a staircase and said, “Come.” 

There’s always a new step, a deeper level of discernment, a stronger capacity for faith, a fresh understanding of His Word. 

We’ll never have all the answers.

We’ll never have Him all figured out.

We’ll never know everything there is to know about His Word.

We’ll never not need Him. (Yep—double negative there. That’s how strong this truth is.)

Aren’t you glad? 

In 2021, God is still opening doors to staircases for me, still extending His hand, still saying “Come.”

And He offers you the same invitation. 

Sometimes God doesn’t give us what we asked for, but do you know what He never withholds? His presence. His goodness. His faithfulness. His joy. His love. 

And when we look back, when we reflect, we see that He’s always answering, always working, always making a way. Sometimes it’s a new path. Sometimes it’s the same. But we have to move, participate, engage.  

We have a choice this year, this day, this hour. 

I’m taking a step forward. How about you? 

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

What Christmas Means To Me

What Christmas Means To Me

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

When I was contacted to write a blog about what Christmas means to me, about what Jesus means to me, I hesitated. I thought, “You are definitely asking the wrong person.” As that was the case, why did I say yes to writing this blog? I felt God whisper to my heart, “You need to know what Christmas means to you. You need to know what My Son means to you.” Since then, I have prayed about what I should write. I have asked God if there is something someone needs to hear. I felt as though God was leading me to be honest and to dig deep. Maybe someone reading this can relate to my journey.

I have not only loved the Christmas season but also struggled with it. I have many treasured memories of Christmas events and celebrations from my past. Christmas was often a time to see my extended family, to decorate our home, to drive around town enchanted by the glittering lights, to sing Christmas carols, to join in merriment with others, and to give. On the other hand, I have been told I should not celebrate Christmas because of its roots in pagan traditions. I have spent the days leading up to Christmas stressed and in tears because I did not have enough money to buy gifts for all the different events that I felt obligated to attend. I have tried to give my best during the Christmas season, only to worry about how it was not good enough.  I have thought, “Why should I give to people who have so much and neglect the people who have so little?” I have lamented how the world has stripped Christ out of Christmas.

The truth is that I wrestled with whether or not I should even celebrate Christmas. I had convicting conversations with others, and I earnestly sought truth. Finally, I came to the conclusion that celebrating Christmas allows me to share the hope I have in Jesus. His birth was a turning point for the entire world. It had been prophesied for centuries. This birth was the ultimate gift from the Father. This birth brought Yeshua, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace. This birth brought light to our dark world of sin and grief. This birth brought hope. My internal struggle helped me realize that Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift to mankind – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus means more than I can fathom. He has freed my soul from the shackles of my sin. Without Jesus, I was lost and hurting. I chose to believe in Jesus when I was eleven years old, and I chose to be buried with Him in baptism when I was twelve. However, it was not until recently that I fully understood what Jesus means to me. He is life to my death. He comforts me, guides me, and fills my soul. Without Him, I am empty and heartbroken. He is the One who gives me hope and a future. He sustains me through difficult seasons, and He never forsakes me. When I call out to Him in my agony, He answers with His peace. He paid the ultimate price for sin so that all those who believe in Him could have a home with Him in heaven. This means that I do not have to fear death. I do not have to fear what may happen to me in this world.

Because of Jesus, I have something to give during the Christmas season and throughout the year. I may look at what I have to offer and think, “How is this going to make a difference?” It doesn’t matter how large or small or what form my offering may take. What matters is that I was willing and joyful in my giving. I need to have faith that He will take what I have and multiply it.  Am I willing to give what He asks of me?

Let your heart be filled with joy this Christmas season. Rest in knowing that Jesus came to this world of sinners to bring hope and peace. This year has brought heartache, trials, fear and disappointment. As believers, we can navigate all of these things knowing that Jesus is there through it all. He loves us, and He was born to save us.

“Do not let your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

We would like to thank Julia Franklin for writing this blog!

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Birthdays have become more and more excessive…have you noticed this? As a child, my birthdays were typically celebrated at McDonalds. Does anyone else remember this? Let me set the stage for you. It was a package deal: you got there on time, typically between errands, you ate McNuggets with your buddies, played a bit on the outdoor playground, had a piece of homemade cake, and that was that.  

Fast forward to today’s birthdays: IT. IS. AN. EVENT. Yard signs are not uncommon.  Balloon numbers and garland are a thing.  Cakes are commissioned pieces of art. And gift bags are passed out to guests. Birthdays have become more and more of an all-out deal. 

But, there’s one birthday that tops them.

It’s the most celebrated birth in human history: the birth of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ birthday is the most important day in all our homes. You can be the most Pinteresty of all Pinterest moms and you will never come close to matching the grandeur of Jesus’ birthday party. His party comes every year with so much excitement and lasts over a month. Truth be told, even that never really feels like it’s long enough.

In my home, our Christmas tree is featured in our front window, for all passersby to see.  Each year, it’s filled with ornaments that we’ve collected throughout our marriage and the hand-made treasures that our children have made over the years. Each one with its own story—our family history symbolized in a collection of dangling, dainty decorations. There’s an evening each year dedicated to decorating the Christmas tree.  It’s such a sweet time of wonder for us all. The conversation flows over with all the earthly and eternal blessings for which we are most thankful.

Beautifully wrapped gifts are tucked beneath the tree, sparking joy and wonder from our children. They just love trying to guess what’s in each box every time another one appears.

Our hand-stitched stockings are hung with care above our fireplace: I hand-stitched my husband’s stocking, Evelyn’s and Graham’s stockings were hand-stitched by my mother-in-law, and my Sittie (grandmother) made my stocking the year I was born. After 36 years, it’s worn and tattered and one of the most special tangible things I have left of her. When I hang it, I always tear up as I imagine her delicate hands covered in thin skin and beautifully polished nails as she placed each stitch with precision. So much love and history went into the simple detail of stockings. And that is all because of Him. 

Our big old trees out front are wrapped tightly with about a hundred strands of red and white lights from their base to as high as I can reach on a 12-foot ladder. Nothing makes me happier than dressing up those beautiful trees. They were planted as tiny seeds into God’s soil and have grown with unimaginable patience, decade after decade, into these strong and beautiful living structures with root systems that go down and out even further than they stand high. They, in and of themselves, are miracles of God. Most of the year, their grandeur gets overlooked. But this month,  they will not go unnoticed. Drive down 16th street after sunset, and you’ll see our wrapped trees from blocks away. It’s their month to shine: they shine for Jesus.

Christmas is this magical time when I can’t help but reflect on what His birth means in the lives of everyone I love. On Earth,  we create these traditions celebrating Jesus’ life and what He sacrificed for us to have life eternal. These traditions are bound tightly in our families and are passed down from generations gone and will continue for generations to come. Christmas is this beautiful culmination of all our family histories, which I think is a most appropriate celebration of Jesus Christ because without Him, there would be nothing to celebrate.

“For in Him we have life, and motion, and existence” Acts 17:28. 

In these moments leading up to Christmas Day, take time to reflect on the beauty of tradition, the gift of family, and the unimaginable grace of God that He would send us His beloved Son. 

Happy Birthday, Jesus!!

We would like to thank Elizabeth Loeffler for writing this post!

Running to Jesus

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Decorating for Christmas is one of my favorite things of the year. The twinkle lights and ribbon turn an ordinary room into something extraordinary. We all have different styles of décor when it comes to Christmas. Some folks enjoy the very formal look of a perfect Christmas tree, while others want their tree to be filled with all their children’s handmade ornaments. If you are looking for a way to add a designer’s touch to your tree, you can follow these 5 simple steps:

Add lights:

I love the pre-lit Christmas trees. They are, by far, the easiest way to light up a tree. However, one year, you might plug in your pre-lit tree and half of the lights do not work. Or maybe you prefer a real tree and need to string your own lights. The white lights are my favorites, but if you like the colored lights, they add some fun whimsy to a tree as well.

Add ribbon:

There are many ways to add ribbon to your tree. Some people like to wrap the ribbon around the tree. Others like to start from the top and work their way down the sides. Others take small sections of ribbon and just tuck it into the tree. Adding your ribbon is a great way to add color that will tie all of your Christmas décor together.

Add filler:

By filler, I mean anything that you can fill your tree with that covers up the holes in a tree. I have added large floral picks, cotton stems or large Christmas decorations. Anything that adds visual appeal adds a designer touch to your tree.

Add ornaments:

This is where it really gets fun! You can add your child’s school-made ornaments, or you can add colored ornaments. There is no wrong way to add ornaments to your tree. To add some depth to your tree, you can add some larger ornaments to the inside part of the tree and not just hang everything on the outer branches.

Add tree skirt:

The final step in making your Christmas tree have a designer feel is to add a tree skirt. You can add a collar around the tree, a tree skirt or even use a blanket.

Although I love decorating for Christmas, my absolute favorite part of Christmas is the story of Jesus’ birth. We have all read this story multiple times, but this year, I chose to read it out of the Message translation. I was literally stopped in my tracks when I came across Luke 2:15-18. This part of the Christmas story is when God’s angel revealed himself to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock at night. Can you imagine how terrified it might have been to be sitting out in the field in the middle of the night and, suddenly, an angel appears to you? But the angel assured the shepherds that they had nothing to fear. 

Verse 15 says As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

Running. That is the word that stopped me in my tracks. I think about the shepherds who were watching their sheep in the middle of the night, but once they heard the news of Jesus’ birth, they dropped everything and RAN to the Savior! How many times have I been THAT excited to RUN to Jesus? Do I drop everything that seems important to me and RUN to Jesus? The shepherds could’ve said, “Thanks for the information, angel, but we have work to do. We can’t get there until we finish the job.” Or maybe they could have said, “Babies are born every day, angel. What is so special about this one?” But no. They knew, without a doubt, that their SAVIOR had been born and they knew that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING would stop them from getting to Him.

I want to be like the shepherds. When I hear from the Holy Spirit, I want to be obedient and RUN to the Savior! I need to drop everything that I am doing so that He can be revealed to me just like He revealed himself to the shepherds.

Finally, in verse 20, it says The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told! This Christmas, I intend to “let loose” and live the GOOD NEWS of Jesus!

Christmas decorating is fun and festive. I love it, but I need never to forget the true meaning of CHRISTmas. Run to the Savior this year and LET LOOSE with the good news!

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

Christmas & Memories

Christmas & Memories

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love making precious memories and new traditions with my family. Growing up the youngest of 4 kiddos came with lots of fun times, too. My mom made sure each of us felt special and loved. One Christmas season when I was a teenager, my mom and I decided to do something different and get a real tree. We jumped in our little 4 door sedan and drove to town to get a tree. We were so overcome with excitement we didn’t even have the forethought to think of how we would get the tree in the car and unloaded; not to mention it was so icy! We got the tree home and the two of us slipped and slid all the way inside the house with this gorgeous real tree that ended up being too big for our little house. We laughed together hysterically for years to come at the site of us and that big tree in the trunk of our car, in the ice, sliding all around the driveway.

I will always remember how fun my mom was and how truly funny she was. She had a lung disease the majority of my life, but she never quit laughing, smiling or praying God’s truth over us. I found the memories of my mom and family during the Christmas season as some of my most treasured. Looking back on past Christmases, I think of very simple times that brought lots of laughter and joy, not a perfectly put together meal or extravagant gift. I pray my own family has great memories of a mom that laughed, played, and was intentional to create lasting connections.

May we all find joy in too big Christmas trees, not perfectly put together homes or extravagant gifts, and focus on the reason for the season: Christ’s most perfect gift to us.

Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great JOY for all the people.’”

We would like to thank Christy Bennett for writing this post!

Peace With Your Children

Editor’s Note: During the month of November, we are going to learn how to build healthy, Godly relationships. Whether it is with yourself, your spouse, your kids, your friends, your co-workers, who we surround ourselves with matters! Relationships can be life-giving and sometimes not. Looking to the Word gives us clear direction and instruction on how to foster healthy relationships. Enjoy reading these just in time for the holidays!

Many years ago, when I was expecting my first child, a dear friend said something to me I have thought about many times since. “This baby is coming into your world, not you into it’s.” At the time, we were discussing schedules, but over and over again as a mom, I have had to remind myself of this. As a wife, and a mother, I am not merely a thermometer in my home, but I am the thermostat. God has given me authority over my home, and I get to choose what the atmosphere is going to be at any given time. Do I want an atmosphere of chaos or peace? Personally, I prefer peace. That choice is mine.

Part of how we establish peace in our homes is through boundaries. One huge area in which we must establish those boundaries is with our kids. Contrary to what my dear friend told me many years ago, culture encourages us as moms to “be present” with our children. Yes, we absolutely need to be present. Our children need our hearts more than anything else. But the underlying myth that comes with the statement that we need to “be present” is that we need to be available at their every beck and call. I have four kids age 8 and under. I don’t know about you, but if I make myself available to their every beck and call, I am going to be CONSTANTLY called in MANY different directions. That in no way is going to establish peace in my home. It is going to bring, chaos, dissension, and discord.

So how do we strike a balance between being present, and bringing peace? There are lots of ways that you can do this in your home, but below are a few of the ways that I have been able to find that balance in my home.

1. Tell your children no.

As moms, our hearts are for our children. We want them to be happy. We want what is best for them. Sometimes, that means learning how to deal with the disappointment of being told no. God places us in families, and that can mean that there are different needs and wants at coinciding times. Part of our job as moms is to take all of the information in, and then make the best decision for our family. I’m sure you have discovered, this doesn’t always make everyone happy. In those moments, I like to remind my kids that they have an opportunity to “value others above ourselves” as Paul instructs us to do in Philippians 2:4. 

When you make a decision and you tell your children no, stand firm. When we concede to their pleas for a different answer, it may bring peace for the moment, but it does not bring an enduring peace to your home.

2. Be honest – with your kids, and with yourself.

Many times, my children ask me to play with them. I hate telling them that I can’t right at that moment. So what I find myself saying is “in a minute” or “let me just finish this one thing” when I know that what I need to get done is going to take more than a minute, or that I have more than one thing to finish before I can sit down and play with my children. What we are doing when we answer our children like this is just kicking the stone down the road. We don’t want to deal with the repercussions of telling our child no, so we delay the consequences. This isn’t honest, and it isn’t honoring to our children. 

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that “love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” So, instead, be honest with your child. Tell them that you would love to play with them, but you have some things you need to get done first, and you will come find them when you are ready. Another thing that works really well in my house, is to invite your children into what you are doing. Let them come along with you and help. Whether that is folding laundry, or making dinner, or even working from home. Find a way for them to be in the room with you, helping, or doing their own “work” from home.

The other thing we need to be honest with ourselves about is the actual “needs” on our to do list. Sometimes, when I look at my child’s eyes, and I stop and listen to the Holy Spirit, I can see that a few minutes spent with my child is actually a much greater need than folding the laundry on the couch.

3. Expectations and Routines

Kids respond well when they know the expectations and boundaries that are in place. Creating a habit out of the expectations and boundaries we have can be difficult, but putting in the effort at the beginning to create habits will reap rewards for years to come. If I thought that establishing a schedule and a routine for one child was important, it only gets more important for each child you add to the mix, and for each activity you add to the list. It is much easier to move a herd of animals when they are all moving in the same direction. The same is true with a family. A schedule has been crucial in our home because not only do my kids know what to expect when, but they know what the expectations are for that specific activity. If I tell them that it is time to get ready for school, they know that means they need to go and do their morning checklist. On Sundays, when we get home from church, it’s cleaning day, (yea for help!) and then they know that everyone takes a nap. They don’t fight us on this or whine about it, because they know what is coming. If my kids want a snack, they know they have to say their memory verse first. These are simple examples, but having these routines in place means that I don’t have to make extra decisions or answer extra questions throughout the day. My kids know what to expect, and this brings peace and order to our home.

Peace in our homes is something that the enemy fights against with all that he can. So moms, let’s not let all of our circumstances dictate the atmosphere in our homes. Let’s stand firm, and choose peace for our homes, so that the peace of Christ may also reign in our hearts, and in the hearts of our husband, and our children.

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