You Can’t Be Good At Everything

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!


I don’t know what happened, but I’m in a season where I do not have patience to figure certain things out on my own. I think it started when I began a new job this summer and both he and I were trying to figure out our work flow dynamic.

There’s only one problem with that.

I am not great at creating work flow systems.

But, I know a brilliant gal who is. It took a little effort to get our schedules to jive, but in less than one hour of chatting, she showed me how she manages the work flow that comes across her desk. Looking over her shoulder gave me some perspective and helped me wrap my brain around what I needed to do next. #winning!

When I try to tackle something that’s completely out of my wheelhouse, it throws me into analysis paralysis. I overthink it. Decorating does this to me. It takes me a really long time to make decisions and then I’m insecure about my work. So when I was ready to tackle our living room walls, I called another friend. In just a short time she whipped out a beautiful interior design with items I already had. And to top it off, she was able to do it with a happy heart. Score!

What have you been avoiding in your home/workplace? Is it because you’re afraid to admit that you just don’t know how to do it?

Invite a friend you know who’s gifted in that area over for lunch (your treat). Ask her to teach you how/help you tackle that thing that’s been hanging over your head. You’d be surprised at who you know who’d be delighted to lend a hand.

Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.

Since we’re surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that entangles us and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

-You may be surprised to learn that there are people who are cheering you on.

Maybe we’re so frustrated because we’re tangled in a lie that we have to run all the races instead of the one marked out for us. Remember in Disney’s Tinkerbell how she didn’t want to be a tinker fairy? She tried to be what all the other fairies were, and nothing worked. She came to peace with who she was created to be and THRIVED!

Inviting friends to help me with my stuff helped me find out that I wasn’t a complete failure – I just needed some inspiration and some new perspective. It’s okay that I’m not good at everything. I’m good at somethings, and friends have asked me to help them in those areas. Girls, can’t that be enough?

So quit beating your head against a wall and ask a friend to help! You and all those around you will be glad you did.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this post!

Seeking the Healer, Not Just the Healing

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

You know that plan for your life? The one you’ve been dreaming about since you were a little girl? Mine somewhat looked like: getting married to a great man, having a job so great it didn’t feel like a job, and having two, maybe three kids by the time I was thirty, three years apart max. Does that saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans” ring a bell?

The married a great man part, nailed it!

The having a job so great it doesn’t feel like a job, I’ve got that one in the bag.

The two, maybe three kids by the time I’m thirty, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, we have been INCREDIBLY blessed with an all boy, ornery, “just like his daddy”, fun, three year old after an incredibly traumatic miscarriage and two years of longing for that positive pregnancy test, and we are SO thankful for him.

But who knew you could still battle infertility after having a successful pregnancy? I didn’t. But, here we are again. The sting is just as fierce as the first go round, and the hurt is just as deep, but seeking God and His plan over my own has left me in a true state of peace.

We all have that one thing, or maybe more than one, that we want healing from. Whether it be a life altering disease, a broken marriage, a financial situation, the broken heart of losing a loved one, an addiction… mine is infertility.

Mark 5:34 says, “Jesus said to the woman, ‘You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain’ ”. This has been a comforting passage for me over and over again, but I remember a particular morning during Sunday morning worship, crying as I asked God, “Why have you not fulfilled the desires of my heart? Why have I been left unhealed? I have always had faith in you and give you the glory!” I heard Him whisper, “Seek me. Not just the healing that I can provide you.” You might as well have knocked me over physically, because I was floored! Isn’t that our human nature though?

I’ll follow God, so then I’ll be blessed.

I’ll tithe my first 10%, so I’ll reap a hundred fold.

I’ll praise His name, so that I may be healed.

And the list goes on.

But what if we stopped looking for our own benefit and just started following, praising, seeking and loving God above all else just because He is God and he is GOOD!?

Trust me, I’m preaching to the choir here, we are in the same boat ladies. I mean, of course I want God to show me His plan for my family, give me the joy of a second child, and bless my family like only He can, but my trust in Him and His perfect and detailed plan has to be based on how good He is and how he loves me, not what He can do for me, because let’s be real, He’s already given me His all.

That true state of peace I talked about earlier? It has been found during this time of my life when I have decided to quit dwelling on the things I don’t have yet, and thanking God for the things He has blessed me with. Seeking His mercy on the days that I fall into that “why me” trap, His love when I worry about what or what doesn’t lie ahead, and His goodness everyday are a few of the things that keep me longing for the Healer, not just the healing.

I wish this was one of those stories that I could tell you that my prayers have been answered because of my trust in Him. But just because that hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean He is done and that His plan is not perfect.

Keep seeking, trusting, and loving Him. Because He is GOOD.

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

Am I Setting My Child Up For Success?

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

As mamas, it is really easy to look at other people’s children and decide that our children are not being as successful as everyone else’s kids.

Their kids always make A honor roll, have perfect manners, never throw a fit in the grocery store, do their chores without complaining, insert the thing that your child needs help in here _________________.

This comparison can very quickly lead us to put unrealistic expectations on our kids and cause unnecessary disappointment for everyone involved.

This game can even happen between our own kids if there are multiple children in the family. God has been opening my eyes to the uniqueness that He has put into each of my boys. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” If I try to force them into a certain mold that I myself have created, I could take away qualities that God is growing in them that will be important to the future men He has called them to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I have high expectations for all my kids, but I also have to be realistic of their individual abilities. I must keep their individualities in mind as I guide them through life. For example, one of my kids can be given a list of morning routines and accomplish them with minimal supervision, while another child needs one step at a time with more supervision.

I need to meet my kids where they are and help them grow to the next level in their own time. This isn’t always easy to remember, and I am constantly praying for patience in this journey as a mama.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

At school, I spend weeks training my classes on how I want things to work, and I have to do the same thing at home. If we assume our kids know how to do something or that they should be able to do something without really training them, we are setting them up for failure and ourselves up for frustration.

In our home, when I catch myself being repeatedly upset over something that I expect of my children, it is time for me to reassess my part in the process. Did I train them how I should have? Did I give them the tools that they needed to be successful in what was asked of them?

There is not a one size fits all mentality when it comes to raising kids, but there can be some things that work for someone else’s kids that does work for mine too.

Find a group of mothers that you can steal ideas from and modify them to fit your family’s needs. These mothers can also be your biggest encouragement, and you can be theirs in this difficult, but rewarding season of raising children.

Mamas, let’s have grace for our kids and ourselves as we train them to do amazing things!

We would like to thank Sara Marquez for writing this post!

Friendship Through The Ages

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

It’s been said that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Well, we disagree. We think if you are really blessed, God picks your friends.

We knew each other since junior high school, but only as acquaintances. It was actually in Bible Class in our sophomore year in high school that we became friends. Coincidence? We don’t think so. God knew what and who we each needed in our lives then and in the future. As it turned out, Teresa married Naomi’s cousin, Gary at the end of her junior year of high school, making them cousins. The friend bond was stronger than the family bond and the two couples became friends.  

The friendship started off slowly. We played softball together. Then it progressed to a bowling league and volleyball. We played board games and dominoes. We told each other everything, knowing the secrets were safe. We also knew that the truth would be given, even if the answers were something we weren’t looking forward to hearing. Eventually, the four of us were always together. The four became eight when Gary and Teresa had two daughters and Bobby and Naomi had two sons. The children almost felt as if they had a second set of parents. They even call us that.

Raising children is one of the most, if not the most important, most difficult and most rewarding jobs a person could ever have. It is also a job that is made a little easier if you have someone that can encourage you, pray with you, and comfort you along the way. Psalm 133:1b, “The sweetness of a friend comes from earnest counsel.” We prayed many, many hours for each other over the raising of our children.

We were together for celebrations of life, baby’s first steps, Christmases, graduations, marriages of our children and grandbabies being born. We were there with each other when all of our parents died, and most recently when sweet Gary passed away one year ago.  Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” But it was never just us. We never forget Who orchestrated this relationship. Christ is always and will forever be the center of our friendship! Ecc. 4:12, “And if a man prevails against him that is alone, two shall withstand him and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

We would like to thank Naomi Jones & Teresa Harriss for writing this blog!

 

What If… God Surrounded

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2

We all have had times when we’ve asked God, “Really? Me?” while laughing in uncertainty. Sharing my experience balancing family and career is one of those times for me. Family is a blessing, but challenging with all it consists of. To top that off-career-another story in itself. I have to laugh and just go along with God’s plan for me.

I heard God speaking to me through songs I will reference. This one is by Blanca.

What If……

I don’t have what it takes

Things don’t ever change

I don’t leave room for Jesus

Then the truth of Your love shines through—

What If……

You hold me up

Your love is enough

The power in Your name can do anything

You’re making me strong

You were here all along

I’m right where You want me

You were right there fulfilling Your promises

Life’s an ever challenging and changing whirlwind, so be surrounded with God’s promise to fill our hearts with peace and thanksgiving. God’s blessings are abundant:  Love, happiness, provisions and good health shared with our wonderful husbands, beautiful children, friends and co-workers. Think of how many souls we reach just by being where God leads us. God has great plans for us as we run with perseverance the race He marked out for us.

This song by Josh Wilson is easy to relate to:

Carry me…..

Father hold on to me, You’re all I’ve got

Carry me from my sinking sand to Your solid ground

Jesus calm my heart, come near to me

Lord don’t let these worries get the best of me

Remember the ‘Spiral Art’ and how it worked well only if the pencil was kept flush leaning to the inner circle as it spun? If the rhythm changed, imperfections were created amongst the beautiful pattern immerging. In the same way, keep God and all His ways in the center of your life so that Heaven on Earth is revealed with all its beauty intended for each one of us.

Trust the Holy Spirit surrounds, strengthens, guides, even carries us daily. We’re never alone.

Balancing family and career can only be done by the grace of God. Let us not forget the promises God gave us. His love endures forever. What if….we live our lives counting our blessings, keeping our eyes on Jesus and letting His light shine from within our hearts!

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for sharing this post with us!

A Change of Perspective

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

When I was 16, I made a covenant to pray and wait for my future husband. In that season of singleness I delved into the word of the LORD. I focused all of my being on the One who created me. He showed me His heart for me and I was never in doubt of who I was to Him. I prayed constantly for my future husband. “Lord, guard his heart. Give him courage. Make him like you. Give him a heart like David.” Praying for my future husband was making me reposition my heart and causing me to be less self focused. My prayers were not, “God send me a man that you know I need.” It wasn’t selfish. It was more about his relationship with the LORD than it was about him coming to me. I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that I surrounded myself with young men and women of the same mind. I wanted to keep my covenant and I knew I would need encouragement.

About four years later, God brought me Rance. God knew I needed this headstrong, tender, courageous, idealistic, loving, risk taking man and I had no idea I did. Rance did NOT check ANY of my personal boxes. I know, however, that God knew exactly what I really needed more than I did. We really have only two things in common; that we wholeheartedly pursue the LORD and His people.

If you’re in a season of singleness, there’s probably a ton of people telling you to be patient. That God has someone in mind for you. And my favorite: Don’t look, and then he’ll show up!

One day, God rephrased these well intended words for me. He said, “SEEK MY HEART FOR YOU! I have something BETTER than you can imagine. I have a better YES coming your way.”

God wanted to reposition my heart to concentrate on HIM and HIS HEART for me.

Not the man he had in mind; not what I was supposed to do to find him.

This allowed me to view my season of singleness with not only hope that God had something amazing planned, but with CONTENTMENT with where He had me. Seasons are given to us as a gift. Not for us to use selfishly but for us to use to build up the BODY OF CHRIST. Just like all the other spiritual gifts we are given. (1 Cor. 12-14 and Ephesians 4:12-16.)

When you find yourself being discontented in your season, surround yourself with women of HONOR and of good repute. (Proverbs 31) Look to Jesus. Focus your heart on Him. Ask your friends to pray with you. Ask the people around you to help you reposition you heart. (Romans 12:2) Above all. Pursue the LORD with all your heart, mind, body, and soul because HE made you and HE knows what you need. (Luke 10:27) In Hebrews, the author says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every hinderance and let us run the race before us, looking to Jesus, The AUTHOR and Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2) Look to Jesus, beloved. Let him be the author of your story, not you. Choose to pursue Jesus instead of a spouse. You won’t regret it.

We would like to thank Rachel Loafman for writing this post!

A Daughter’s Heart

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

We’ve all heard of a Mother’s heart, how about a daughter’s heart for her mother? When my dad died in January 1999, little did I know that my life was going to take a drastic change of course. I was single and in my 5th year of teaching. Sure I had dreams for my life, but my heart knew that being my mom’s only child, that my priorities were going to have to change. I was a daughter, teacher and now caregiver. It’s a season of life that requires grace and strength that can only come directly from God.

God designed parent-child relationships to be among the most vital of all human relationships. 1 Timothy 5:3-4 says “ Support widows who are genuinely in need. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn to practice godliness toward their own family first and repay their parents for this pleases God.” We also find in John 19 that Jesus provided for his mother at His death. Jesus’ example reminds us that honoring our parents isn’t a reward for how well they parented us. Care for your parents is a reflection of what we believe about the gospel.

Caring for a parent, particularly later in years, is difficult, grueling and sometimes overwhelming. You become nurse, case worker, chauffeur, meal planner and psychologist. My mom just turned 90. Sometimes she sees herself as a burden, but despite the challenges, I see her as a blessing. Family is a place to practice giving and accepting grace.

It’s easy to weigh yourself down with all the responsibilities life brings on a daily basis. So, what do you do when things become overwhelming?

Look beyond the challenges to the God who cares for you. You can experience joy even in the middle of tough situations.

It’s ok to admit that you have limited time and energy, God promises to give you the strength you need for each day. Remember to rely on His power to work through you instead of your own efforts. (Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.)

Trust God to help you to do what you can’t do on your own and leave it in His hands.

Lastly, recognize when you need breaks or need help. Be willing to ask others for assistance. He not only surrounds us with His presence but with the presence of others.

The greatest reward is that as you honor aging parents, you also deepen your personal relationship with Christ along the way.

We wold like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this post.

Worship is a Choice

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I grew up in a traditional church with traditional worship. I love the theology of hymns and the memories that they stir up in my heart. Hymns like: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “How Firm a Foundation”, just to name a few.

The words of these songs were written on my heart from a very young age. But to be honest, I really didn’t know what they were talking about, other than Jesus and God and the Cross. It wasn’t until I went to church camp in the 7thgrade that I experienced what we call “modern worship”. The worship team was cool and had long hair and played loud guitars and drums. I had never seen anything like this before. We rocked out to Dennis Jernigan and Vineyard worship songs. We sang lyrics like, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

I wasn’t just singing lyrics that I didn’t understand. I was entering into a relationship with a Loving Father, Who knew me, was pursuing me, and longed for me to surrender my heart and life to Him. So I did. I entered into this holy place of worship. From the depths of my soul, God became alive to me.

That was 30 years ago. I’ve learned so much since Jr. High. Worship is a choice. There have been times in my life where I’ve chosen not to worship. There have been other times that worshiping was all I longed to do. Being a worship leader has pushed me to go beyond what I can naturally do, see, and experience. Spending time in worship has made the Scriptures come alive.Worship has heightened my senses to Who God is what His plan is for me. It brings peace when everything else is falling apart.

Psalm 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

This is the kind of truth that comes from a heart of a worshiper.

After all these years of worshiping and going deeper in my relationship with God, I can go back to those precious hymns and hear the wisdom from worshipers of long ago.

“O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise

The glories of my God and King

The triumphs of His grace.”

Yes! Let us be worshipers whose souls sing out from obedient hearts. Let us bring praise to God, Whose grace has triumphed over sin and death. Let us worship our great Redeemers, Whose love invites us into freedom and victory!

We would like to thank Allison House for writing this post!

The Blood of Jesus

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School’s started back, which means we’ve gotten back into a routine. I actually make sure my kids bathe more than once a week.

Along with routines of personal hygiene come some other great routines. A spiritual hygiene routine, if you will. One of my favorites is declarative prayer over my family. Recently a friend from church encouraged me to plead the blood of Jesus over my kids.

What does that even mean?
“Pleading the blood” is a biblical reference to placing someone or something under the protection of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God told Moses to apply the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings so the Angel of Death would see that a sacrifice had already been made, therefore he could “pass over” that home. Everyone in that home was protected from death (separation from life). In the New Testament, Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb because He was without blemish and shed His blood for us on the cross.

His blood is powerful. Here are a few of the priceless things Jesus gave us through His blood.

The blood of Jesus:
Purchased us (Acts 20:28)

Because He purchased us with His blood, He takes responsibility for us. The enemy has no legal claim on me or my kids. Whoever is under His blood is under His protection. Doesn’t that sound like a great position to place your children in?
Made peace between us and God (Col. 1:20)

Between God and me, things are good. I’m not an utter disappoint to Him. And neither are our kids.
Redeemed us and forgave our sin (Eph. 1:7)

His blood didn’t just sweep my sin under the carpet. His blood made eternal payment for sin I’ve committed or will commit. This is very good. Especially when I think about my behavior during some of those Get-The-Kids-to-School-Morning-Routine.
Cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death (Heb. 9:14)

We’ve all done things that create gaps of separation between those we love most. Jesus’ blood cleanses our consciences and give us courage to mend those gaps, ask people for forgiveness, and do better next time.
Purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7)

Pure. I love that word. Not only does Jesus’ blood cleanse us, but He makes a way to purify our heart to the deepest depths and makes good come from it. Illustration: not only does He cleanse the polluted river, He goes back to the source up in the mountains and purifies it to where what issues forth from the rock is good.
Gives us confidence to approach God (Heb. 10:19)

I don’t have to clean my act up before I go to God to spend time with Him or ask Him for help. Our kids need to know this too.

There are gobs more verses about the value of Jesus’ blood. It makes God happy when we take Him at His word. Pick up your sword and get busy declaring God’s truth over your loved ones.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post.

The Most Important Work

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“Children are not a distraction from more important work, they are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis

This quote has been speaking to me for months. We have a screen saver on our TV, and this quote scrolls by periodically, gently whispering to me. Most of the time it feels encouraging, but one day a few weeks ago, it didn’t. I was feeling very frustrated as a mother. I felt like all the time and energy that I have put into “mothering” – the cooking, the cleaning, the diaper changing, the laundry…oh the laundry, the discipline, the reading of books (the list goes on and on) – wasn’t worth a single penny. I was frustrated that my kids don’t listen the first time every single time. I was frustrated that they still need me all the time for everything. I was frustrated that my kids had stopped me from getting everything done that day that I wanted to get done, all the things that I am supposed to get done as THEIR mother. Didn’t they understand I was just trying to do all these things for them?

And then God spoke, “Sometimes parenting doesn’t feel efficient, but it is productive.” 

That one sentence stopped me dead in my tracks. I decided to look up the definitions of a couple of those words:

Efficient: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. Productive: producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities

Efficiency was exactly what I had been looking for – MAXIMUM productivity, with MINIMUM wasted effort. And I was feeling like all my effort had been wasted. 

I was broken. My kids will be fine without a chef, a nanny, a maid. What God made me to be is their MOTHER. They aren’t bothered by the toys on the floor, chicken nuggets for every meal (they would actually prefer this to most of my cooking), or the fact that they are on their last pair of underwear. They need my heart. They need me to be able to see the moments where God is working, where I can speak truth and life into them. They want me to be with them, to love them, to choose them. Children are the very reason for motherhood. Yes, they bring about many tasks, many to-do items, and many days, I end the day feeling like I am not efficient enough. I didn’t get enough done. But, did I take moments to sow into my children? Did I use the moments I was given to speak something into their hearts that will bring about fruit in their lives? Because that is the definition of productive: to produce a good crop of fruit.

Maybe I won’t see them choose respect today. Maybe it will be years before that seed sprouts into something I see as a seed that I planted. But planting that seed is a thousand times more valuable than getting an extra load of laundry folded and put away.

Be encouraged mammas. Offer your heart to your children. Let’s not see them as a distraction to the tasks and to-do lists that they bring with them. Let’s see loving and raising our children as the most important work that we do.

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

Persistent Prayer

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What does persistent prayer look like?

Well, I would like to share about my dad and how he came to Christ. It is a much longer story than can be told here, but I will attempt to give you the abridged version. I also would like to honor my dad and his memory while telling the honest truth. Admittedly, that creates some tension or conflict inside of me.

I believed in God as a very young child, but I would say that I surrendered my life to Him as Lord around twelve years old. At that point, I became very aware of the reality that my dad didn’t know Jesus or His love. During this time in his life, my dad drank too much, invoked fear in his kids to attempt to maintain order (and the fear was not unsubstantiated), and was in general a person living in pain separated from God. My dad fit the description of a hard-headed, hard-hearted man. Regardless, I loved my dad and certainly didn’t want to be separated from him for all of eternity.

So, at twelve I began to pray for his salvation. I was deeply burdened to pray for him. I am certain that many in my family were also burdened to pray for him, but we never really talked about it. I prayed that God would soften his heart and that he would receive Christ. God doesn’t ever remove a person’s freewill, and therefore the wooing of a hard-hearted person’s soul can take long time. As a matter of fact, it is never guaranteed that a person will receive Christ by their own choosing. But, persistent prayer and faith in God’s ability certainly can move mountains and the hearts of men, and God’s choice is always to seek and save those that are lost.

After two and half decades of persistent prayer for my dad, my life had changed significantly. I left home and married my husband, Andy, at nineteen. I shared this burden for my dad with him and he began to pray for my dad also. We began our family when I was twenty-two. We had two boys by the time I was twenty-four and we had moved eight hours away from our immediate families. My dad had already begun to have heart issues including a heart attack, bypass surgery, and beginning stages of congestive heart failure. The heart attack and surgeries that followed increased the urgency I felt for him. I knew, logically, he wouldn’t live forever.

It is easy to become discouraged when you can’t see God moving. But just like when you plant a seed underground, it sometimes takes time before you can see any evidence of anything happening.

God was moving. He was inviting my dad into a relationship with Him.

I would like to tell you that I got to witness my dad receiving Christ, but I didn’t. I would also like to tell you that I heard his testimony about receiving Christ, but once again, I didn’t. So how do I know my dad received Christ? Well, Christ began to grow inside of him. My dad changed in such a way that is only the work of the Holy Spirit. He started attending a church with my mom and sister. He became a giver. He operated out of love instead of fear and pain. I did get to see him humble himself on his knees in prayer at the front of that church that showed him Christ’s love, and Christ gave me a peace about my dad’s salvation. My dad passed away two years ago. I can confidently and joyfully say that we will be reunited again in heaven. So, I would like to encourage you. If your burden hasn’t been lifted yet, pray on. Our God is on the move.

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner for writing this post!

Keeping The Faith

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At the age of 26, I’m finally realizing that keeping the faith and trusting in God’s timing will be a part of my life for years to come. Faith is my strongest spiritual gift, but patience in God’s timing usually isn’t.

I grew up in a Christian home and attended a small church. It almost felt like trusting in the Lord was supposed to be easy. We didn’t talk about what trusting in the Lord was supposed to look like during trials and suffering. It was always broadened into, “Trust in the Lord always.” As you can imagine, when I started dealing with different struggles as a young adult, I didn’t understand why those things were so hard for me to deal with. That there had to be faith in action to believe that in all things the Lord is my strong fortress.

I want to share with you an experience where the Lord gently reminded me He alone has my every day planned. I am a momma to a sweet, sassy, nearly three-year-old girl. She made me a momma in October of 2015, a time when I didn’t think I was ready to be a mother. My husband and I had already made plans to further our education, but when we found out we were expecting a baby, all our plans changed. The Lord grew me in ways through that season (and still is) that I didn’t know were necessary. But He knew. And I had to surrender control.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017. I felt baby fever coming on and wanted to start trying for another baby. Once my husband was in agreement, I took control.  My trust was no longer in the Lord, but in our ability to conceive. “Well, we need to get pregnant by this month because I want Raelyn to be this old when we have the baby. I want to announce it to our families here,” blah blah blah. I think God chuckled, like I often imagine Him doing when I start thinking I am in control of it all. In March of 2018 I bought a tiny onesie. I prayed, telling the Lord the desire of my heart and again, surrendering control.

Four days before Easter, we found out we were expecting. Come to find out, we are pregnant with TWINS, a double portion! Only when we fully surrender our plans, our faith, and our trust in God, can he begin to give us what HE desires for us. God reminds me that His timing is perfect, and that the plans He has for me are much better than the ones I could have for myself. And sometimes, His plans turn out later and much differently than we could have ever expected.

Are you waiting on God for the desires of your heart? Here are ways that I keep my faith at all times:

  1. Pray and listen to God (even if it’s just for a couple minutes).
  2. Study the word of God.
  3. Surround myself with others who speak life into me.
  4. Remember that God is always faithful.

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

Simple Beauty

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Almost six years ago we were house hunting.  We came across this 100-year-old house with amazing character, but I just didn’t love it. Nope, it was not for us.  I mean friends, it didn’t even have a bathtub!!  My HOME would need a bathtub.  The house search continued.  Every now and then, my husband Bret would drive by the house.  Probably the fourth time we looked at the house (bless our sweet realtor), I saw this house a little differently.  I envisioned a huge table full of people having great fellowship.  The porch wasn’t just a porch; it was a place where my family and friends could step on our porch and feel comfort and beauty. The steps led to our fortress.  Our safe place.

Those moments were where I realized the power of a home.  Our homes have much potential, we just have to envision it.  I want our home to be a place where my husband can recharge.  A place that my kids have a sense of belonging and know that no matter what else happens outside our walls, they have a place to be themselves.

So how do I make a place for my family and others full of beauty and peace?

Purge all of the unwanted things

            Purge all of the things that you don’t love, I mean LOVE, LOVE.  Purging, although tedious, can make room for the things that reflect you and the people in your home.  I love what Nancy Kelly says about purging, “Keep cutting back ‘til there is PEACE in your home.”

Make a place for your people

            Making a corner for each person in your home can help cultivate an atmosphere of peace and belonging.  My two older kids have a tea corner set up with everything they would need to make “a hug in a cup”.  An art table, with markers and paper, and a coffee station for mom and dad.  All of these spaces are created in various spots of the home so that each of us can explore creativity, solitude, and prayer.

Add elements of beauty

Beauty can be found in some of the smallest things and the most ordinary moments.  Potted plants, old books, or family photos.  One of my favorite things recently has been bees wax candles.  Lighting them as the kids get ready for bed brings such a peaceful renewal as they end their day.  We have a family full of cold natured people, so blankets strategically placed around the house offer a cozy feeling in our down time.  Smells can have such a connection to memory.  Fresh flowers from the supermarket, tree clippings in a vase, favorite scented soaps, or even an aromatic cleaning spray can make the smallest moment a memory.

Sally Clarkson puts it so well, “Instead of creating us to live in a house of weariness and colorlessness, God has made us to live in a home of full of soul beautiful elements.”

I encourage you, friends, to find what your beauty looks like in your home for your family and start reaping the benefits of a life-giving home.

We would like to thank Kendra Huey for writing this post!

 

Balancing Game

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Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

I was asked to share how I learned to balance life and my kids’ sports in this new era of idolizing kid’s sports.  When I saw these two statements “how to balance life” and “idolizing my kids’ sports”, I had to smile because I didn’t think I was balancing life or idolizing my kids’ sports.  I was raising, supporting, and caring for my children to the best of my ability.  I supported my kids in everything they wanted to do: FHA, Prom, Football, Basketball, Track, Band, Harvest Festival, etc.  My kids and I would travel in rain and snow to be there to support each other. 

I was a single mom for a lot of years and raised my three oldest children alone.  I had to work a lot of overtime, which meant they spent a lot of time home alone.  My parents lived a half a block away and that was a big blessing.  I am thankful for my parents who helped me balance my life and my kids’ life, and for the City of Hale Center, and for Jimmy and Carolyn Curry. I had people I trusted to help me along the way.

The first and most important thing is to make God the Center of your life.  If not, everything will eventually fall apart. 

Secondly, my children were very disciplined.  They knew to come straight home from school, get their homework done, and then they could go outside.  They also knew to be in the house before dark.  I would leave every day before they got up for school.  They would get up when the alarm clock went off, make their beds, take turns in the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast (cereal) and walk to school.  If they had after school practice, the coaches would bring them home.

I leave you with this quote from Brian Dyson, Coca-Cola’s Former CEO:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some 5 balls in the air.  You name them-work, family, health, friends and spirit.  And you are keeping all of these in the air.”

“You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls- family, friends, health, and spirit are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed or damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

Raise, support, and care for your children to the best of your ability and God will do the rest.

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

Where Can I Find Belonging?

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Not long ago, I was eagerly anticipating spring, and now, as the dog days of summer come to an end, I find myself anticipating yet another change.  Not only in the seasons, but in the pace of life.  Kids go back to school, routines return, and the opportunity for relationship grows.  Something about the onset of fall encourages community.  There is no better way to experience community than in a small group of people who meet weekly to love, laugh, pray, and live life together.  It’s what we call Life Group.

My husband Danny and I have had the honor and privilege of leading a Life Group for almost 10 years and we have been blessed with a myriad of life-giving, spirit-filled relationships because of it.  People come and go, but each person makes a lasting impact on my heart.  Memories of shared experiences (both joyous and tragic), of laughter, of tears, of sweet fellowship, and great food will remain with me forever.

And yet, my natural tendency is still to withdraw to my safe place and live life from the confines of that space.  Being what the professionals call an introvert has its challenges.  BUT GOD, through His unending love and grace, has shown me the freedom that comes from stretching myself, opening myself up to others, and allowing myself to love and be loved.  God created you for community, and if you don’t believe that, you are believing a lie.  My prayer for us as women is that we will stop believing the lies and cling to God’s truth.  

God’s truth about each one of us is that we are all He says we are and we can confidently put ourselves out there and find love, acceptance, and joy.

A friend told me recently, “Find joy today.”  That made me realize that if we really look, we can always find joy—maybe even in a group full of people.  So, if you have yet to find a Life Group, may I encourage you to visit one?  If you already have one, I pray that you will find new and refreshing joy rising within you as you embrace your group and the people in it.

As we anticipate this new season, may we hold tight to God’s truth and begin to anticipate the abundant life that living in community brings.  Romans 12 instructs us to live in harmony with one another and in Christ, each of us belongs to the other.  I am needed, you are needed, and together we are all necessary, chosen members of God’s Kingdom.  May He give each of us the grace and courage to step out of our safe place and into a place of belonging, relationship, and joy.

We’d like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this blog!

You Have to Taste to See

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Six months ago we brought our daughter Sadie home from China. For almost three years of her life she lived there. When we first got home so much was new to her. Her world was now turned upside down.  Sounds of a totally different language bombarded her.  Strange faces and people surrounded her.  The smells of a new environment, the clothes on her back…literally nothing in her life was the same as it had been just two weeks before.

Her little heart and mind didn’t know it yet, but there was so much good in store for her here in the U.S. and in our home. Among all of the scary and overwhelming “newness”, was a life filled with love, provision, safety, prosperity, and joy.

One of the big differences between here and China is obviously the food. For most of her life she had only eaten rice, breads, and some fruit. Once home, we would put something new in front of her and say, “It’s good; try it.”

Every single time she would protest.  Every….Single….Time.

She would push her bowl away, turn her head to the side and sit there. After a few minutes of sitting there, she would take a bite. That’s all it took, one bite, and then she would devour the entire portion.

Until then next time, then she would go through this exact routine again.

During this time God gently reminded me that at times I have been the same way.

Often times, God had laid His plan out before me, but I had turned my head and went my own way. God had given me opportunities to be His hands and feet, but I had pushed the opportunities away. There had been times His voice had called me to something bigger and deeper, but I chose to sit there in protest.

In Psalm 34:4-8 His word says,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lordheard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lordencamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Those are some pretty spectacular benefits promised in those verses. I say, “Sign me up!”

It wasn’t until I surrendered my will, and began to live my life for Him solely, that I began to understand just how GOOD He is. When I was totally dependent on God’s provision, that’s when I witnessed His miracles.

You see, we can know a lot about God. We can read about Him. We can talk about Him. We can love Him. But until we have tasted what He wants for us, we cannot fully understand His goodness. Just like Sadie, it wasn’t easy for me to take that first bite. God often leads us beyond what we are capable of in our own flesh. He calls us to try new and brave things. And that is scary! But it is when we give up our control and let God lead that we live a life of fullness.

If you don’t ever taste, you will never know how good something might be.

Don’t sit at the table and turn your nose up at what is before you. Let go of control and trust that God is good.

Just taste, and you will see!

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

It’s the Little Things

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Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the little things?”  These little things are unique to each one of us.  They refresh my soul day to day.  Unfortunately, I get stuck thinking about the BIG things.  When my focus is on the bigger, harder things of life, I get overwhelmed and the “little things” that keep me going, slip by.

Last week my husband and I bought our first home together.  I found myself focused on the BIG and forgetting to appreciate the little.  With it being summertime, there is an abundance of weddings, family gatherings, and traveling.  These things normally feel refreshing, but I quickly became overwhelmed trying to move and yet still do things that give me life.

The big picture said I’m not doing enough, I’m lacking in certain areas.  I was physically present, but emotionally I was stressed out and not living my best life. The enemy wants to rob us of our joy and make us victims of our circumstances.  Once I got my focus back on the little things, I was quickly reminded by God that He supplies everything we need according to His plans, His riches.

During these last few months, if I had focused on the little instead of the big, I might have noticed that…

  • The mountains displayed God’s Glory.
  • The graduate needed encouragement.
  • My husband is feeling blue.
  • God speaking to me, “Child, get up and pray.”
  • A song on the radio that could have healed a hurting place in me.
  •  Sometimes I need to cry.
  • Sometimes I need a hug.

God also has a way of refreshing my soul by speaking to me at unexpected times.  Like when I am on my way to work or home and the perfect worship song comes on.  One that will bring me to tears, exposing my heart, my fears, my thoughts, and bringing attention to my vulnerabilities and the power of God.

God is a God of details.  The instructions God gave the Israelites were very small and intricate.  David used five stones to take down Goliath.  Jesus used mud, five barley loaves. and two fish.  His disciples were deemed small in this world.  The small things of life seem so insignificant, unless we look at them with God’s perspective.

It just takes slowing down and intentionally recognizing and appreciating the moments that refresh your soul.  I can easily slip into negative thinking and allow my circumstances to dictate my feelings.  In those moments, I should be intentional in my thinking and ask God, “Where are you in this moment?”  When I focus on Him and what He is doing, my soul is refreshed.

Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8-9

We would like to thank Vanessa Talmadge for writing this blog!

Live in the Moment!

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Summertime is a stressful season for me each year.  Honestly, it’s rough for this momma who thrives on routine and is task-oriented.  I’ve always raised a large household of children and I feel the most settled when my children are in school.  I feel organized and accomplished with my time management.  I love my personal time, my time with God, getting my groceries bought, bills being paid. However, before summer even began, I felt God tugging on my heart to take a step back and enjoy these people he has given me.  Two of my children graduated this May and one is a Senior this coming year.  Three of my seven children are no longer living at home. This has been sobering for me.  What I’m doing with the time left with them suddenly hit hard; the years fly by and before you know it, they leave home.  Raising kids is hard work and I have regrets about not always being a mom who enjoys the moment and makes life fun in my home. This summer, I have allowed myself to be free from the expectations I usually would place on myself.  Here are a few ideas for you to think on:

  1. Don’t over think it, live in the moment.
    1. I spontaneously took my kids to the 10pm/late show at the theater (appropriate clean shows) in our pjs.
    2. We went to McDonald’s and ordered burgers off the dollar menu after 11pm.
  2. Create an environment for your kids and their friends to have fun. You want to be their greatest influence and want them to like to be around you.
    1. I have allowed friends to stay overnight often (friends of good influence).
    2. We took them to the park and cooked out.
    3. We let them build camp fires in our back yard where they could all hang out.
  3. Quality time as a family without technology distractions.
    1. We make breakfast meals together with the tv off and worship music on.
    2. We allow them to stay up late, laying in our bed talking and listening to their hearts.

I’m not advocating we be irresponsible and without structure this summer; there has to be a balance. I encourage you to lay down the routine and give yourself grace and permission to be free from your own judgements of what we should be doing with our children and the judgements of what other moms might think.  It does not have to be glamorous nor cost money to invest in our children lives.  You have exactly what it takes to be a mom, you’re exactly the right mother God created for your children.  God used the book of Ecclesiastes to speak to me when my journey to letting myself off the hook first began.  Go make memories with those precious little/big people in your house, don’t miss it!  And remember, GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE, you can do it!

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for sharing this post.

For the Love of Cooking

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trinarecipe2

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved food!  I got my first cookbook in the first grade and remember rushing home after school.  I went through all the recipes and picked the one that we had all the ingredients for, Quick Sugar Cake!  I mixed all the ingredients by myself, put it in the oven, and sat in front of the oven for 20 minutes while it baked.  When my cake was finally done, I took it out and waited 5 minutes for it to cool.  It was so hot I could hardly taste it.  Once my taste buds recovered, WOW, it was delicious!  I was shocked I had made it all by myself!  I was hooked and ate the whole thing!

I’ve come a long way since then.  I love to read about food and cooking, and I love to eat (don’t judge)!  One of my favorite things to do is have people over and serve them a meal.  Several years ago, a dear friend told me that I had the gift of hospitality.  I had never heard of this before!  Since then, God has showed me that I can use my love of cooking for His purposes.  This gave me a new way of looking at how I can reach out to other people; it is a way to get to know new friends.  Through this whole process I’ve learned a few important lessons:

  1. Everyone enjoys being invited and included! I love to see the looks on people’s faces when they are invited over.
  2. You do not have to be a chef to entertain in your home. People just enjoy the fact that someone cares enough to invite them over!  You can even invite people over and just order pizza! It’s about the fellowship, not the food!
  3. Your house does not have to be perfect.It does not have to be clean enough to eat off the floor.  It does not have to be a mansion!  There aren’t many mansions in Plainview anyway!  Be happy with what God has blessed you with!

Hospitality is defined as:  The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.  In the New Testament, the Greek word “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers”.

With summer approaching, venture out, invite people over!  Remember, it isn’t about the food, it’s about the fellowship!  One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I’m sharing two recipes with you.  The first is a recipe that my sister-in-law gave me.  I love it because it feeds a lot of people, and it taught me how to bake a brisket!  The 2nd recipe is my beloved Quick Sugar Cake!

3 DAY BRISKET
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic saltSAUCE:3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. ketchup
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 tsp. ground mustard
4 tbsp. Worcestershire
1/2 c. water
2 tsp. celery seed
6 tbsp. butterDay 1: Baste the uncooked brisket well with 2 tbsp. liquid smoke and 1 teaspoon salt. Wrap in heavy foil and refrigerate overnight. Day 2: Cover with teaspoon onion salt and garlic salt. Wrap and bake at 300 degrees for 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight.Day 3: Slice thin, cover with sauce. Wrap and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour. Sauce: cook all ingredients until well blended.

Trinarecipe

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

Freedom

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Freedom. It’s a word packed with emotion. This time of year, the word may conjure up images of waving flags, “rockets red glare,” and military heroes. We hear it used and mis-used on the nightly news with regard to human rights and civil & political issues. In the spiritual context, we Christians have profound freedom from the power of sin and death through the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus. Those are amazing, beautiful freedoms. But can I be honest about a freedom that I’m struggling with?

You see, I’m entering a new season of life. My oldest daughter recently graduated from college, got her first “big-girl job,” moved to Houston and is beginning her dream-career as an interior design professional. Isn’t that wonderful? And my youngest daughter just finished up a successful high school career with lots of friends, great grades and athletic awards. She has even received some nice scholarships and will move into the college dorm in the fall. Perfect, right? So, if I am such a blessed woman whose prayers for my children are coming true right before my eyes…why am I choking back tears as I write this?

To be honest, I’m afraid of the “freedom” that will replace the countless hours of busy-ness I’ve invested in my girls. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a tired momma. The 22 years of laundry, homework, practices, games, concerts, awards assemblies…as joy-filled as they were, have taken their toll. More time to devote to my marriage, my home, my work, and yes, to ME will be nice. But this new-found “freedom” will have its pain and its challenges.

Thankfully, I serve a gracious God who offers “freedoms” to help me through this new season:

  • Hebrews 4:16 says I have the freedom to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, knowing I’ll find mercy and grace to help with my uncertainties and even my loneliness.
  • Galatians 5:13 reminds me that I am to use my God-given freedom to serve others humbly in love. I’ve been diligent to remind my daughters that God has a purpose and plan for each of their lives; maybe I should be reminding myself of that same truth.
  • Finally, on those days when I completely blow it and melt into self-pity because my chicks have left the nest and I miss them terribly, He gently reminds me that I have freedom from condemnation because I belong to Him (Romans 8:1).

    Wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you take full advantage of the freedom you have to approach your loving Father. Let Him walk you through the changes in your life and watch as He makes each season beautiful.

 

We would like to thank Lea Stukey for this post!

“Honey, this is the faith tree.”

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Seeds for my love of gardening were planted at age 10 when I first read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic, The Secret Garden.  I had the measles that summer, and was confined to bed for what seemed like ages.  Mom would darken the blinds each afternoon and read aloud as I closed my eyes and visualized the vine-covered walls of this extraordinary hideaway.

In this delightful book, a neglected garden is rejuvenated through careful tending, creating the backdrop for a neglected father/son relationship to be restored and new friendships fostered. I remember later reenacting scenes from the book in my grandmother’s backyard as I tended her daisies, black-eyed Susans, and honeysuckle. 

Actually, every garden tells its gardener’s story.  My grownup garden began in 1997 with the planting of a single tree.  No house existed on the lot we had purchased to build on because our country home was not selling despite several contracts which all fell through.  For many long months, I drove by our vacant lot, sadly praying God would make things happen faster so we could begin building our dream home.

One particular afternoon when my spirits were at their lowest, I drove by our lot and discovered a tree had been planted.  My farmer husband, as a surprise, had placed paper plates where the pillars of the house would stand, and had planted an oak tree right smack dab in the middle of our non-existent backyard!  Here’s what he told me, “Honey, this is the faith tree.  Someday soon we WILL build on this lot.  And someday our grandchildren will play under the overhanging branches of the faith we are planting right now.”  And you know what, 20 years later, he is right!!  Five grandchildren play under the shade of the tree in Noni and Papa’s backyard.  We are living in the promise fulfilled! 

And guess what?  We are the Lord’s garden!  And our lives tell His story! 

Isaiah 58:11 says:  

“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry, And restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring!”

We would like to thank Susan Hurt for contributing this post.

Favorite Summer Memories

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As I’m on my way home from Catalyst Camp with our 11-year-old, I spent a lot of time comparing to and reflecting on my own days at summer church camp, which were very similar. It’s easy to say that hands down, those are my favorite summer memories. Bus rides with all of my friends, mountain rain, hikes, worship that gave me my first encounters with the Holy Spirit, late nights laughing in bunk beds, dunking each other in freezing cold rivers, camp fires, and carpet ball on the front porch of the chow hall before and after dinner. If you grew up going to El Porvenir as well, I’m speaking a love language to you right now, right? 😂

I’m so thankful for Harvest Christian Fellowship. We have made relationship bridges between all 3 campuses and friends that have turned to family. I’m especially thankful that our kids have a place to grow up like I did, and memories at camp that they will carry with them for their entire lives.

We would like to thank Jennifer Westbrook for writing this post!


 

Some of my favorite memories from my childhood summers are of my mom and us kids loading up in the car with my Grammy, aunt and cousins to drive down old Route 66. We’d drive from New Mexico to Cordell, Oklahoma to visit my great aunt Mary who was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Even though she had Alzheimer’s,  she always remembered every word to hundreds of hymns. She would walk around singing them all the time.  Now, I realize how important the music is that I listen to because at some point it may be the only thing I remember!  I also realized early on from those trips that I love elderly people, which is a big part of why I enjoy my job today. One year on our trip, our car broke down somewhere in Oklahoma and a lady in a tiny pick up truck stopped to help us and give us a ride to town. She was vague about who she was and where she was from.  My family believes she was an angel sent to help us from God.  These are a few summer childhood memories I’ll never forget!

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


 

When I was very young, I used to go spend about a week each summer with my dad‘s parents just north of Uvalde, Texas. My grandfather had cattle and he depended on windmills to pump water to the surface for them to drink. Windmills have sucker rod. That’s what we called the pipe that pumps the water to the surface. And sucker rod was always coming apart or having other problems.

I remember going with my grandfather to check on the water, thinking that we’d only be gone for “just a little bit”. Inevitably we’d be gone for hours and hours, at least it seemed that way to me. I thought it was boring and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their day pulling sucker rod. I mean, who thinks this is fun?! Evidently, he wanted his cattle to live!

My grandfather is gone now, and those times I spent with him are treasured memories. I miss him and I wish I could ride around the ranch with him one more time. But I still don’t miss pulling sucker rod.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this post!

Moms, rejoice! Tips for summertime fun.

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As a mom who loves structure and routine, I see summer as an exciting yet frightening time! When school, church events and schedules take a break it can seem daunting to look at the lack of structure in the months ahead. Here are a few very simple things I have learned for those times when you just need to sit and finish your coffee, you’re trying to make it to bedtime alive, or you simply CANNOT think up dinosaur dialouge for one more minute!

Take it outside:Almost anything you can do inside, you can do outside! Have a picnic, camp in the backyard, or throw some soap in with the sprinklers and call it a bath. I know it’s hot, but the outdoors offer endless possibilities; and it’s good for your health!

Invite a friend:Don’t for one second think you’re the only mom with kids saying they are bored two minutes after they wake up. Plan trips to the park, invite friends over, and be “that friend” who invites herself over so you don’t have to get your own house messy. We are designed to do life together and summer with kids is no different.

Create life experiences:Visit a local dairy or farm, help your kids create the grocery list and talk about budgets, actually take your kids inside the post office, or pick out a profession your child is interested in and visit that place of work. You would be amazed at how interested kids are in the seemingly mundane parts of life.

Think smarter, not harder:The internet is chalk full of ideas for science experiments, DIY projects, arts, crafts, and homemade treats with most of them using supplies you have around your house or would already buy anyways. I have also come across fun summer bucket lists full of great ideas (or help your kids make their own). A little planning goes a long way!

Let them be bored:This may sound counterintuitive, but instead of saving them with tablets and TV why not invite them to play with the toys collecting dust in the closet or use their imaginations? From experience growing up and seeing my boys now, giving kids a chance to push through their “boredom” and get creative is a battle well worth fighting!

And please don’t forget to throw in those days where you stay in your pajamas and watch way too much TV. It’s called balance.

Happy summer-ing!

We would like to thank Kendra Huckabee for writing this post!

Family Trip

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I have very fond memories of our family vacationing with my grandparents when I was growing up. Colorado was the destination, and occasionally we would get to fly, but the majority of the time we would pack our bicycles in a U-Haul trailer and head north. It’s funny to me now, as an adult, that the fondest memories, the stories that get retold over and over, actually come from the times that things didn’t go perfectly.

Like the time…

I fell fully clothed into an ice-cold river in the middle of a tourist town, while challenging my sister to see who could “make it the farthest” out on the rocks.

I set off the alarms and brought security guards running when I got ahead in the airport and thought I’d just make one more trip around the revolving security doors to wait for them to catch up. Apparently, those are one-way only.

My grandmother was behind me on a bike path that ran parallel to a drop-off into a creek.  I swerved toward the creek and she instinctively dove off her bike to save me…only for me to correct my course and have her land face first, bruising her eyes and looking like a raccoon for the rest of the trip. She sure must have loved me!

My 6-year-old sister and I would not stop arguing and my parents threatened to move us to the trailer. “Yeah,” she agreed, “so we can fight in PEACE!”

Looking back, I’m pretty sure my parents must have had the patience of Job. Well, for the most part. There was that ONE time they got fed up with teenage sibling bickering and made us get out and run on the side of the road for about a mile.  Let me tell you—that was actually a very effective strategy! But overall, I think they kept things in perspective and rolled with the punches.

Now this summer, I’m looking forward to a family vacation with our kids and their grandparents. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that I’m looking forward to a familytrip. (My father in-law famously says that a vacation is something you take with your spouse.  Anything else is a family trip. J) I know that there will be moments where things won’t go as planned. Meltdowns will happen. Mistakes will be made. But I’m really hoping I can handle them all with as much grace as was modeled to me. Because after all, those might be the makings of the best memories.

We’d like to thank Becca Wilhite for sharing this post.

 

Never Too Far

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom God offers us through His word and through relationships with other women. May Christine’s testimony today encourage your faith and you respond to God’s Word in this season of your life.

Reading Titus 2 brought back so many thoughts about being young and growing up in church. It brings to my mind the importance of living a life that reflects Jesus; that daily we leave impressions on many without even knowing it.

As a child, my family was in a very bad car accident traveling in Mexico. I was about 2 years old and I don’t understand to this day how things happened, but in that accident, I was lodged under the passenger’s front seat still strapped in my car seat. As I was in the hospital, my mom turned to the only one that she knew could heal and save me. In that hospital room, doctors gave a good report, but as I began to walk and grow I had problems with my hip.

My mother cried out to God and He responded by telling her to not worry. He said that I was going to be okay and that His plans for my future were to serve Him, even the person I was going to marry would serve Him and speak His Word, and for her not to fear. She believed and held to that promise, and after getting out of the hospital our family became faithful in going to church and we loved it.

Once I hit 13 years of age my eyes were opened and innocence was taken from me due to many things within our church. I began to resent a lot of things that were taught to me through the Bible, but yet taken differently due to convenience by leaders and teachers. I let the actions of others define my relationship with Jesus instead of standing firm on His truth. I began to tell God, “If this is how Your children are, I don’t want to be like them, hypocrites.”

I pushed myself away from God because of what I saw and ended up drifting far off into the world, but one thing I know is that my mom never lost that hope. She never stopped believing in God’s promise of everything being ok and that He had me in His hand.

God is faithful and after being away from God for almost 13 years, He fulfilled His promise to my mother. Due to her faith and her example, Jesus was made so real to me. He came in a moment when I was broken and drowning in my own consequences, but forgave and showed me love, healed me completely, and freed me from all shame.

Being an example for others has been such a huge thing for me. The reason why I have pushed away my flesh’s desire is I don’t want anyone to look at me and have a negative word about Christ. I don’t want to be that stumbling block that trips people up instead of one who lifts them up. I want to be able to teach with authority, truth, and be a living example of the love of Jesus and His truth.

We would like to thank Christine Araiza for contributing this post.

You Can’t Rush God’s Promises

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Editor’s Note: This semester women from our three campuses have read Titus 2 and shared what God placed on their heart. May you be encouraged and challenged to connect with God and the power of His presence in this season of your life.

Ten months ago, Brent and I decided to try adoption again.  Our hearts were ready.  The timing was good.  Johnny would be 3 when Baby would arrive, so they could share a room.  The girls are the perfect age and would be so helpful.  He and Johnny would be best buds.  They’d play dinosaurs, giggle, and wrestle.  I had dreams.  After our first international adoption attempt, we said that we wanted to have the next one “handed over to us”.  This one was.   How could this not be God?  Doors kept opening, so we kept walking.

My husband was apprehensive the first three months.  We sought counsel from God, family, friends, attorneys, etc.  Over the next few months, I went to sonograms and grew a relationship with the birth mom.  After four months, Brent finally decided this baby boy was going to be our 4thchild.   Two days later, the birth mom started having complications.  We immediately texted our support system asking for prayers and wisdom.  Liam Jacob was born at 23 weeks and went to be with Jesus that same day.  I’ve never experienced pain like that before.

The joy I had was sucked right out of me.  How could this be God?  I felt angry at Him.   “We’ve been faithful.  We’ve done everything right.  Why are you taking this away from us?” I just didn’t understand.  I felt alone.

The devil knows when we are vulnerable, and his subtle deceiving whispers walked me into a season of fear, anxiety, and stress.  I didn’t notice it at first.  I just felt disappointed, confused, and embarrassed by another unsuccessful adoption.  “God, why do we feel called to adopt when it’s not working?”  When our birth mom was in the hospital contracting the night before Liam was born, I went up at ministry time during Core to receive prayer.   I tried to be strong, but I was disappointed.  That night God brought some healing and comfort through the prayers of my friends.

But after Liam passed away, unhealed emotional wounds became a stronghold in my life.  Ladies, we need to expose the devil when his lies feel true.  I couldn’t have done this alone.  Throughout this process I received advice, wisdom, and guidance from mentors.  I’ve been a recipient of what Titus 2 is supposed to look like because the ladies in my life have taken this seriously.  What did that look like?

  • The book a friend gave me on miscarriages.
  • The hug another gave me.
  • The text to check on how I was doing.
  • The encouragement from another friend, “God wants you to know He hasn’t given up on this dream, so you don’t either.”
  • The prayer from another, “Allow disappointment to happen.  You don’t have to guard your heart.”
  • The spoken words of my Father to me, “I am faithful. Your plans pale in comparison to what I have for you.  Keep trusting deeper.”

Does it hurt? Yes.  Is it sad? Yes.  Did it bring Brent and me closer? Yes.  Is my relationship with my Father any different because my trust in His plan didn’t work out? Yes.  It’s actually stronger, because I’m certain He has a better plan for us.  God has given us the gift of community.

When we guard our heart and mind in truth, we won’t be shaken.   Titus 2:13-14 reminds me that we can have hope.  We have peace, worth, and infinite value in our Lord.  We will endure hardships, but our Savior is coming.  Don’t lose hope, Friend.

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for this post.

Champion Your Husband

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve been focusing on Titus 2 and the mentor relationships Paul encouraged older women to share with younger women. It’s our prayer that as you read the real-life experiences from different women within our campuses you’ll be uplifted and inspired to respond to God’s truth in this season of your life.

One of the things I love about growing older is that I can look back at my life and see all the times God has answered prayer, gone before me, worked things out, shut a door, opened another, or taught me something that only He could. Several months ago, I was working through a Bible study that asked this question: Have you ever learned some biblical truth straight from God without textbook, training, or human teacher?

In 2004, Curtis took a church in the Lubbock area. Wade was two, and I was pregnant with Bethani. The church was without a pastor for about 6 months and needed someone who would help them become stable and healthy again. Curtis dove in head first, and before long the church began to thrive. For the first few years, Curtis wasn’t home much. After two years, I was pregnant with Emmalee. I was neck-deep in the season of raising babies and being pregnant.

I didn’t feel like I had a role or a purpose.

I felt vulnerable and began to believe the lie that Curtis was choosing the church over me. I became resentful of and offended by the church. They had Curtis all the time, and I would’ve liked for him to come home long enough so I could take a shower!

One day I fell apart before the Lord. Sobbing, I asked Him to help show me what to do and how to feel. God met me right there, right in the middle of my pain and brokenness. He said, “As Curtis’ wife, you have the power to sabotage or to strengthen the ministry I have given you. This is your choice. I have a purpose for you. It will change as your season of life changes. If you stay in a place of offense and resentment, you won’t be able to see this purpose. Curtis needs you to champion him on, not hinder what I’m doing through him.” Woah.

This didn’t have anything to do with Curtis OR the church. It was about my response to the trials in my life.

I didn’t want my offense to sabotage our ministry, so I asked God to give me the grace to love the church like Curtis did. He showed me my role and purpose during that season. I made the hard choice to be obedient and submissive to all God called me to be, and in doing so, my heart was softened toward the church. My roots shot down deep, and it stabilized our future. I decided to champion Curtis on in his calling, and he championed me on as well. It was such a sweet movement of God in our marriage and in our ministry.

If there is anything this “older woman” can tell you “younger women”, it’s this: Champion your husband! Ask God to show you your purpose during this season. With obedience and perseverance, submit yourself to the will of the Father, and your husband will champion you on as well! Remember that God is our number one Champion who has paid it all for us!

We would like to thank Allison House for contributing this post to the blog.

Choose Life

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom available to us as we glean from the knowledge of other women’s experiences. We hope this post encourages you and lifts you up today to connect with God in a tangible way.

I’m not certain how it happened, but one day I woke up and my kids were BIG. Big enough to see me. The real me. Not the me that could fix their boo boo’s and not the me that could give them a big ol’ mama hug. It had happened. I had been EXPOSED. They had somehow gotten big enough to see MY sin. They could see that I was over-worked, spread thin, wore out and had, over a period of time, become distant and disconnected from them. And while we’re being honest, I was also bitter, short-tempered, selfish and let’s just say it: SINFUL. I had been deceived and Satan had been robbing me from my children.

(INSERT SCREECHING RECORD SOUND HERE.)

Hang with me! I promise that this story ends well! You see, it’s at these pivotal life moments that we can choose to continue to be deceived and believe the lies,

You’re a terrible mom.”

“Look at that mom; her kids adore her.”

“Look at that mom. She can do way more, way better than you.”

 OR 

we can simply choose life.

Life, which is the Hidden Word of God in our hearts. It was an AH HA! moment for me. Repentance was easy and so was the change. I knew exactly what God’s Word said about me.

Ladies, His Word says that He doesn’t call the equipped, but that He equips the called. We are ‘called’ to be wives and mothers; CREATED to do such!  I remember a sermon that Pastor Paul preached where he said, “Parents, LOVE the SNOT out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

God has equipped us with LOVE!  There is something spectacularly supernatural about LOVE. After sowing it, you reap a harvest VERY quickly. I began sowing and pouring intentional LOVE into my children, each so very different. I told Jeremy just recently that I could literally feel God changing me and the atmosphere of our home. I could see fruit everywhere.

There’s more good news. God maps it out for us in His Word. Titus 2 is fantastically plain and simple about the direction we must take in our homes as mothers and in our communities. Hide these truths in your hearts ladies, so that when the enemy comes against you with lies, you can combat him with truth. Titus 2:11-12 says, ‘For the GRACE of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It TEACHES us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this PRESENT age” (emphasis mine). We can literally be taught to say NO to wrongful, sinful behaviors. We can choose life and truth.

So, it is by His abundant grace that I can continue to grow and press forward in this life and journey as a mother. A life that will be ESTABLISHED in and full of His grace and LOVE! Let’s remember to do as Pastor Paul said, “Love the snot out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

We would like to thank Kaci Searsy for contributing this post.

Grieving with God

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Editor’s Note: Titus 2 lays out a framework for us to understand how women are to gather around each other and support one another throughout the seasons of our lives. It’s our prayer that you connect with the powerful story God is writing with your life right now and know that you are not alone.

August 7, 2017 will always be engrained in my mind. That’s the day we walked joyfully into the sonogram room just to hear the words, “We can’t find a heartbeat.” The grief I felt in that moment is something I struggle to put into words. But at the same time, I knew. I felt in my soul before the doctor told us that the baby was gone. In that moment the Holy Spirit held me and brought to my memory all the times he’d given a stirring to my heart. The internal knowledge that something was different this time around.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry out, “Why God? Why my child?” It was never in anger, but to ask for answers. The truth is, I may never have those answers, at least not on this side of heaven.

Losing a child in the womb is something no one ever wants to experience but having God within me has made the loss of our baby more bearable. Because I know that on the day Jesus returns, I will hold my Sage for the first time. I continuously rejoice over that reunion. I know that my sweet child is in the arms of Jesus and will never know sadness or pain. One day we will be reunited. I thank God every day for His love, and that he took care of me at my worst and loved me through this time of sadness. That he helped me to find joy in my grieving.

Healing is an ongoing process for me, and who knows, it may always be. I’m blessed to have some great friends and family I can call on at any time. People I can lean on when I’m sad or weak, to let me cry and talk through things. Not long after my miscarriage, Julie Snellgrove gave me a pamphlet on pregnancy loss. It had scriptures and talking points, things to help me and others understand what was going on emotionally. It brought me great comfort. I also read a bunch of good Christian romance/comedy/mystery books. I’ve always loved a good book, but since August I’ve found reading a few chapters that lift your spirits can do wonders. Lastly, journaling has helped me express myself and pour out emotions and feelings at different times the last few months. It’s been a way for me to talk to God and myself even. Writing this today brings to mind this scripture:

Is anyone crying for help? GOD is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:17-18 (The Message Bible)

God is right there with me. He is in the valley carrying me when I am too sad to go on. He feels my pain when my heart hurts. He loves me regardless of where I am, and that is so sweet and healing to my soul.

Whitney Arthur contributed this post.

One Simple Truth

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the value of godly women mentoring young ones in their faith and everyday lives. Our prayer is that you would be encouraged as you read to connect with God in these areas of your life and obey His voice.

About 10 years ago, I learned one simple little secret at a women’s retreat that has truly changed everyday life at our house. You’ll never see it on the cover of Vogue magazine in a list of top 3 ways to please your man, but it will bring satisfaction to your marriage that the world can’t imagine. Are you interested?

Here’s the secret: The way I treat my husband in the first 1-2 minutes when I see him at the end of the day makes all the difference in showing him honor and setting the thermostat for the rest of our evening together. I often think of this saying and believe it’s God’s heart:

“Treat your family like guests, and your guests like family.” 

When a guest comes over, I want them to know they’re important, valuable, and welcomed. So, I stop what I’m doing, and I go to meet them. I wouldn’t dream of not looking up from my work, or of not getting up off the couch to greet them. I look them in the eye, welcome them, hug them, and tell them I’m so glad they’re there! But when my husband comes home? How is he greeted? Does he feel important, valuable, and welcomed by me?

In Titus 2, we’re told that God entrusted us as women with managing our homes, which includes setting the emotional and relational thermostat!  I challenge you to start intentionally meeting your husband with a smile, a hug, and a genuine gladness that he is home…in a FRIENDLY way. At first this may not feel like it comes from your heart, but as I’ve done this for years, it’s become a simple act that is now rooted in honor and respect for my husband. My home is the domain God’s given me, and I want my husband to feel welcomed there. If you have young kids and the house is scattered with toys, pick them up when you know he’s getting close and teach your kids to get the house ready for Dad. I’m not talking about perfection, but about teaching our kids how to plan for honor.

Older kids need to be trained to stop what they’re doing, walk up to Dad, and greet him with a hug and acknowledgement that he is home. We have a teenager now and still try to practice this every time Gabe walks in the door at the end of the day. We get lazy and selfish, and sometimes she and I have to remind each other to do this. It’s not natural—which is why it has such impact. But we are not natural people! And we don’t live natural lives! We live powerful lives where God’s kingdom comes to earth in our homes and relationships.

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”  Romans 12:10

Honor begins at home. Once your husband is sure that the emotional environment he’s walking into is neither HOT or COLD, I bet you’ll have a chance to tell him about your day. And he may even tell you about his. I dare you; try it!

Jill Moudy from our Plainview campus contributed this post.

Seeking Truth in Your Weakness

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom God’s word offers us in every season of life. Our prayer is that you will be encouraged by the posts to connect with God where you are now and be obedient to His voice.

It’s that time of year again: when everything that can happen to mess up my plans and screw up everything I thought I knew does happen. Almost as if I was getting a little too cocky, a little too confident, all the plates I was holding up fell and smashed into a million pieces. You know, the time when you throw up your hands and say, “Well, it can’t get any worse”? And yet somehow the world figures out a way to make it worse? That was me. Even though I’ve definitely, completely grown up now that I’ve gone off to school and can totally do everything on my own, my first thought was that I needed to talk to my mom.

I grew up with a mother who is fiercely devoted to whatever she does. She is stubborn, black-and-white, and conversely, one of the most sensitive and discerning people I have ever had the pleasure to be around. She’s also my best friend in the entire world. If there’s one thing I have learned after leaving for college last fall, it’s exactly how much I don’t know, and exactly how much she does. She sticks in her spot and knows what is right. As I was reading through Titus 2 this week, I latched onto that image immediately as one of my mother: wise, pure, honoring, submissive. (Also, a huge dork. It must be genetic.)

Recently, I have been really lucky to have a boyfriend that was my person, my best friend. We liked all the same things, shared the same interests in ministry, in travel, in books and poetry. He was the guy that made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt, who listened when I needed it, and made me look at the world a little differently. And last week, after a hard night of prayer and really dramatic arguments with the Lord (you know, the unbending Master of All Things?) I realized I had to end our relationship.

Friends, I fought that realization violently. And when I finally made myself confront him and confessed where I realized our issues were, he came back a day later and gave me all the reasons to stay together. I felt like a deer cornered by my own emotions, staring at that bright light, unable to move because if I’m honest…

I really didn’t want to.

Meeting my parents for lunch that weekend meant that I had to tell them everything, because I knew that I couldn’t trust my own decision-making. They gave little advice, asked few questions. And then my mom looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I know you’ll make the right decision.” With those words, I got a glimpse of what my mother has demonstrated her entire life: that she seeks the truth, in spite of her weaknesses.

So, I obeyed the Lord even as it cut me open. 2 Corinthians 4 says it better than I can: that we are “afflicted in every way, but not crushed… so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

Lean on His life, friends, and those shattered plates will be put back together.

Leah Jarvis from our Amarillo campus contributed this post.

You Want Me to What?

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve asked women from our campuses to read Titus 2 and share what God puts on their heart. We pray this encourages you to read God’s Word and apply it to this season of your life.

We’ve all heard of the Proverbs 31 woman, but what does it look like to be a Titus 2 woman?  After reading and reflecting on Titus 2 I began to wonder which category I fall in. Am I one of the older women that God is calling to train the younger women or am I one of the younger women that still needs guidance?  To be honest, I think I’m a little bit of both.

My husband and I recently celebrated 11 years of marriage. We married very young at the age of 19. I think it’s safe to say that a good percentage of young brides get caught up in the big day and the actual act of marriage ends up falling short of their expectations. Over the last 11 years, there have been “words of wisdom” on being a loving, godly wife that I have passed on to younger women that I feel like God wants me to share.

  1. Do not try to change your husband, period. Love your husband for exactly who God created him to be. If you attempt to change your husband, you will rob him of joyfully fulfilling the purpose that God has for his life. Sometimes as wives, we tend to fall into the trap of nagging our husbands about the things that we wish they would change. Proverbs 21:19 states, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”  Ladies, let’s do our husbands a favor and love them for exactly who God created them to be.
  2. Invest in love languages! The best way to love your husband is to invest time and resources into figuring out his love language. My husband’s love language is quality time. By quality time, I’m not referring to long walks down the aisles of Hobby Lobby. I mean going hog hunting with him or walking long dirt roads searching for arrow heads. Although these may not be my favorite things to do, I love doing them with my husband because I’m investing in our marriage and doing something he loves to do.
  3. Pray for your husband.When I have a hard time submitting to my husband’s authority, it’s usually because his ideas don’t align with mine. So what do I do?  I pray for my husband. I pray that God will align our thinking and our hearts and help me to be submissive to my husband’s authority with a cheerful heart.
  4. Enjoy the little things and don’t take life too seriouslyMany times, as young wives and mothers, we’re so consumed with the opinions of others that we allow those opinions to captivate our every thought. Enjoy your husband, enjoy your kids. Don’t take a single moment for granted, simple as that!

Young wives and mothers, take heart. Seek out life giving relationships with women who can pour wise counsel into your life. Older women, rise up and be good examples through your actions of who God calls us to be in our homes.

Cassie Mogg contributed this post this week. She and her family attend the Plainview campus.

Slacken

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Editor’s note: This semester we’ve asked different women from our three campuses to share something God showed them through the scriptures of Titus 2. We believe God’s Word has the power to impact our lives no matter our circumstance or season. May you be encouraged and empowered to respond to God’s voice as you read through the wisdom these women are sharing with each of us.

Busyness is such a norm in our lives. Everywhere we look, people are frantically trying to balance their professional lives, personal lives, health, finances, etc. Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day?  If I’m being honest, I have felt that way frequently. What would our lives look like if we valued the importance of pursuing God’s presence first and let everything else fall into place? Recently, I felt the Lord speak specifically to this in my own life through one word:

Slacken

Let me explain….

What does it mean to “be still and know that He is God” (Ps. 46:10)? Rarely do we make it to the “be still” part to find out! We go until we can’t go anymore and then collapse and call that being still before Him…but really, we just fell over in exhaustion. Stillness is intentional and purposeful. A holy (set apart) moment where you stop and say THIS is of value and worthy of my time. My favorite illustration of this came from a recent conference. The speaker compared our lives to a rubber band and demonstrated that we pull and pull until life snaps us down, stretched thin and exhausted. We are actually meant to gradually release the tension and quiet our hearts before the Lord like a rubber band that is eased until it completely slackens.

Slacken:  Slow down, ease up, to make something less tight.

Slacken almost sounds like a bad word, as if it represents laziness, but actually it only occurs in intentionality.

Quiet yourself before the Lord. Let Him speak to your heart and establish you in His loving kindness. Let your soul be watered by Holy Spirit drawing you ever nearer. He’s speaking to you, even now!

“Beloved, I’m still here. I’m reminding you of your name and true nature. Dear one, you are safe in my arms.” 

Let your roots go deep in His faithfulness and your life will flow out of this established heart. From this place, you are empowered to correct those under your leadership without shaming them because you no longer believe that their imperfections undermine your value as a leader. You can forgive yourself and others because you realize Jesus died so you could make mistakes without the mistakes making you. You can honor people when they speak hurtful things which demean your character, because you recognize that God is your defender and you’ve spoken wrongfully before, too. Your health is a natural priority because you understand your worth and that real comfort only comes from Him, not an emotional satisfaction from one more piece of chocolate. You can trust Him to provide even if your bank account disagrees, because He is the provider who has abundant resources for your needs AND your dreams.

You are free to love well. The love poured so generously over your life can’t help but overflow onto others. He is always speaking; we need only slow down to listen. Slacken. Make time. Let’s worry less about “doing enough” and allow ourselves to just BE with Him. He is worthy, and He never disappoints.

Shonda McCay contributed this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Marriage & Martyrdom

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’re focusing on Titus 2 and all the different ways it can impact our life in this season of life. Our prayer is that you are encouraged by these posts to see what God would have you apply to your life.

My husband and I joined a marriage Life Group this semester, and we’re going through the Love & Respect curriculum by Emerson Eggerichs. I’m loving it.

Recently, I saw something I don’t think I remember hearing before. The Bible is anything but silent about how husbands and wives show love and respect to each other, but here’s the deal. Eggerichs said husbands are to apape (self-sacrificial love) their wives (Ephesians 5:29) and wives are to phileo (companion-type love) their husbands (Titus 2:8).

When I heard this, I felt like the Spirit of God told me, “I’ve never asked you to be a martyr for your husband. And when you operate from that place, it isn’t godly.” I knew exactly what He meant. It’s the I-Have-to-Do-EVERYTHING-Around-Here-and-No-One-Cares attitude. And it implies that my husband is killing me.

Many times, we as women have no problem sacrificing for our husbands. We cook for them. We clean for them. But we resent them, and believe me, they know it. They see the activity and busyness, but they’re pretty sure we don’t like them.

So what do I do?

When I operate from a martyr mentality, it should be a red flag. I need to speak up and ask for the help I need, because God didn’t call me to lay my life down for my husband the same way He called my husband to do so for me. Usually the help I need is not for my husband to do ALL the chores around the house. I mostly desire his closeness and appreciation for who I am.

He can’t read my mind. I may have to use my words and tell him that my heart hurts. You know what? Every time I’ve told him how I’m really feeling, he’s listened and loved me in a way I can receive it. How can I not respect and fall in love with this man all over again when he goes to war for my heart’s freedom?

In return, I’m called to be his friend. John Eldredge  hit the nail on the head for me in his  2-minute blog Ransomed Heart as he fleshed out what it means to be my husband’s help meet, to phileo (not fillet) my husband.

Trust me. DO NOT miss this.

When I get God’s heart for my role as wife, so much falls into place in my marriage. He’s not calling me to be the loser. Did you know there doesn’t even have to be a loser in my marriage? But when I get out of whack here, I experience major bouts of frustration, anger, and bitterness.

Ask God to reveal His heart to you. He will show you how to take the first step out of martyrdom and into freedom.

Jodi LaFrance wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

The Table Experience

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’re focusing on Titus 2 and the wisdom it offers us as women in all different seasons of our lives. It’s our prayer that as you read through these posts you’ll hear each writer’s heart as they’ve spent time connecting with God over this passage of Scripture.

How many of you grew up in a home where you sat at the dinner table as a family? This is one of my favorite memories as a child. I remember the food mom would make, the enjoyment I had antagonizing my sister (sorry Allison), and the conversations we would have.

eloisebellmarch-01The table experience growing up shaped how I view the dinner table today. One dinner, in particular, comes to mind. I had made some delicious potato soup a few days earlier (key words: “a few days earlier”). Miley was three at the time and took a bite of the left-over soup, and said, “This is the wuhst dinnuh evah!” (a.k.a. worst dinner ever: she couldn’t say her R’s). Offended, I told her to leave the table and go think about how ungrateful she was acting. I then proceeded with the “go-to speech” of how there are starving children all over the world who would LOVE this left-over soup. She came back to the table and I told her, “Miley, you have two choices. You can either finish your dinner and be grateful for it, or you can be done.” Miley looked at me, and in her sweet, innocent voice she replied, “I’ll be done,” (laughing out loud).

Miles and I are intentional about eating together as a family as much as possible. One of our favorite things to do is cooking dinner together.

Scripture is filled with illustrations of lives changed when eating around a table.

Unfortunately, the typical family no longer eats meals together at the table. The table has been replaced with fast food. The ugly truth is mealtime is no longer an opportunity for families to build relationships.

Why is eating at the table so important? Scripture is filled with illustrations of lives changed when eating around a table. In 2 Samuel 9:7, Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth was invited to dine at King David’s table. It was there that Mephibosheth’s rejection and unworthy past was replaced with confidence and personal value. In Luke 15:23, the father’s decision to have a celebration feast gave his wayward son hope for a new future. In Matthew 26, Jesus and the Twelve sat down at the table to share in the Passover meal. After His resurrection (Luke 24), Jesus broke bread with two followers and gave thanks. Suddenly, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. At both meals, Jesus demonstrated the frame of mind that we should have at the table. Remember Him and the price He paid for you as you break bread together in your homes.

There are many things you can experience around the table: love is shared, bodies are nourished, actual face-to-face conversations happen, family members serve each other, daily schedules are discussed, and the list goes on!  Most importantly, a lovingly prepared table is a place where the presence of God dwells and relationships are established. God designed the table for you and your family to share life with each other. So, I encourage you to put dinner together back on the calendar.

Eloise Bell from our Amarillo campus wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Heart of a Mother

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The heart of a mother is one that, for some, is hard to explain and even talk about.  When I think of how to explain those words, I immediately get a picture of my own mom.  Growing up I felt very safe and secure. Both parents were and still are strong Christians. My brothers and I were loved and disciplined in a Biblical way and really never questioned our upbringing. It was good. My mother kept the home fires burning.  She did mom things: cooking, cleaning, carpooling, attending sports events, and church functions. She was a fantastic model for me. It wasn’t until I faced challenges of trying to become a mother myself that I began to realize there was more to a mother’s heart than meets the eye.

 

At the tender age of 38 I thought I was ready to attempt this “mom” thing. Little did I know that the road it would take me down would be one of great heartache. My journey to motherhood began with a miscarriage. A few months later, I gave birth to  a little girl only to be with her for an hour before she took an early flight from this earth and said goodbye. Later I carried a child for only 28 weeks and had to say goodbye yet again. Definitely not the journey I had pictured. My faith was challenged, but it kept me from spiraling into despair, and yet my heart still had to grieve the loss.  God never left; He just had a divine calling on my life called adoption. On June 14, 2006, a 7-pound, 14-ounce big blue-eyed little girl was laid in my arms! What else could I say, but, “WOW!” The heart of a mother began to swell within me.

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That little girl is now 11 years old.  Time flies! As I examine my road as a mother, I have begun to understand what was going on behind the scenes of things my mother would do. It’s all beginning to make sense. I’m blown away by how the heart of a mother reflects, in many ways, the heart of God.  We read about His heart for us in His word.  He instructs us how to live, then commands us to instruct our children. He protects us and in the same way, instills in us the heart-felt need to protect our “littles”. Psalm 18 is a beautiful picture of how He fights for us. So we also are not afraid to fight on behalf of those in our care.

 

My mom-heart gets foggy at times on what’s a true reflection of His heart. Actions that seem unimportant to me speak volumes of love to my child: a dorky valentine card, conversational candy hearts, a miniature box of chocolates, things that are no big deal to me are huge love actions in my house right now. These are opportunities to reflect His love in ways that my child can understand.

 

I love that the mom-heart He placed in each of us reflects His heart. What else can we say but “WOW!”

Kori Covington wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

You Can’t Be Good At Everything

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!


I don’t know what happened, but I’m in a season where I do not have patience to figure certain things out on my own. I think it started when I began a new job this summer and both he and I were trying to figure out our work flow dynamic.

There’s only one problem with that.

I am not great at creating work flow systems.

But, I know a brilliant gal who is. It took a little effort to get our schedules to jive, but in less than one hour of chatting, she showed me how she manages the work flow that comes across her desk. Looking over her shoulder gave me some perspective and helped me wrap my brain around what I needed to do next. #winning!

When I try to tackle something that’s completely out of my wheelhouse, it throws me into analysis paralysis. I overthink it. Decorating does this to me. It takes me a really long time to make decisions and then I’m insecure about my work. So when I was ready to tackle our living room walls, I called another friend. In just a short time she whipped out a beautiful interior design with items I already had. And to top it off, she was able to do it with a happy heart. Score!

What have you been avoiding in your home/workplace? Is it because you’re afraid to admit that you just don’t know how to do it?

Invite a friend you know who’s gifted in that area over for lunch (your treat). Ask her to teach you how/help you tackle that thing that’s been hanging over your head. You’d be surprised at who you know who’d be delighted to lend a hand.

Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.

Since we’re surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that entangles us and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

-You may be surprised to learn that there are people who are cheering you on.

Maybe we’re so frustrated because we’re tangled in a lie that we have to run all the races instead of the one marked out for us. Remember in Disney’s Tinkerbell how she didn’t want to be a tinker fairy? She tried to be what all the other fairies were, and nothing worked. She came to peace with who she was created to be and THRIVED!

Inviting friends to help me with my stuff helped me find out that I wasn’t a complete failure – I just needed some inspiration and some new perspective. It’s okay that I’m not good at everything. I’m good at somethings, and friends have asked me to help them in those areas. Girls, can’t that be enough?

So quit beating your head against a wall and ask a friend to help! You and all those around you will be glad you did.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this post!

Seeking the Healer, Not Just the Healing

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

You know that plan for your life? The one you’ve been dreaming about since you were a little girl? Mine somewhat looked like: getting married to a great man, having a job so great it didn’t feel like a job, and having two, maybe three kids by the time I was thirty, three years apart max. Does that saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans” ring a bell?

The married a great man part, nailed it!

The having a job so great it doesn’t feel like a job, I’ve got that one in the bag.

The two, maybe three kids by the time I’m thirty, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, we have been INCREDIBLY blessed with an all boy, ornery, “just like his daddy”, fun, three year old after an incredibly traumatic miscarriage and two years of longing for that positive pregnancy test, and we are SO thankful for him.

But who knew you could still battle infertility after having a successful pregnancy? I didn’t. But, here we are again. The sting is just as fierce as the first go round, and the hurt is just as deep, but seeking God and His plan over my own has left me in a true state of peace.

We all have that one thing, or maybe more than one, that we want healing from. Whether it be a life altering disease, a broken marriage, a financial situation, the broken heart of losing a loved one, an addiction… mine is infertility.

Mark 5:34 says, “Jesus said to the woman, ‘You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain’ ”. This has been a comforting passage for me over and over again, but I remember a particular morning during Sunday morning worship, crying as I asked God, “Why have you not fulfilled the desires of my heart? Why have I been left unhealed? I have always had faith in you and give you the glory!” I heard Him whisper, “Seek me. Not just the healing that I can provide you.” You might as well have knocked me over physically, because I was floored! Isn’t that our human nature though?

I’ll follow God, so then I’ll be blessed.

I’ll tithe my first 10%, so I’ll reap a hundred fold.

I’ll praise His name, so that I may be healed.

And the list goes on.

But what if we stopped looking for our own benefit and just started following, praising, seeking and loving God above all else just because He is God and he is GOOD!?

Trust me, I’m preaching to the choir here, we are in the same boat ladies. I mean, of course I want God to show me His plan for my family, give me the joy of a second child, and bless my family like only He can, but my trust in Him and His perfect and detailed plan has to be based on how good He is and how he loves me, not what He can do for me, because let’s be real, He’s already given me His all.

That true state of peace I talked about earlier? It has been found during this time of my life when I have decided to quit dwelling on the things I don’t have yet, and thanking God for the things He has blessed me with. Seeking His mercy on the days that I fall into that “why me” trap, His love when I worry about what or what doesn’t lie ahead, and His goodness everyday are a few of the things that keep me longing for the Healer, not just the healing.

I wish this was one of those stories that I could tell you that my prayers have been answered because of my trust in Him. But just because that hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean He is done and that His plan is not perfect.

Keep seeking, trusting, and loving Him. Because He is GOOD.

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

Am I Setting My Child Up For Success?

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

As mamas, it is really easy to look at other people’s children and decide that our children are not being as successful as everyone else’s kids.

Their kids always make A honor roll, have perfect manners, never throw a fit in the grocery store, do their chores without complaining, insert the thing that your child needs help in here _________________.

This comparison can very quickly lead us to put unrealistic expectations on our kids and cause unnecessary disappointment for everyone involved.

This game can even happen between our own kids if there are multiple children in the family. God has been opening my eyes to the uniqueness that He has put into each of my boys. Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” If I try to force them into a certain mold that I myself have created, I could take away qualities that God is growing in them that will be important to the future men He has called them to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I have high expectations for all my kids, but I also have to be realistic of their individual abilities. I must keep their individualities in mind as I guide them through life. For example, one of my kids can be given a list of morning routines and accomplish them with minimal supervision, while another child needs one step at a time with more supervision.

I need to meet my kids where they are and help them grow to the next level in their own time. This isn’t always easy to remember, and I am constantly praying for patience in this journey as a mama.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

At school, I spend weeks training my classes on how I want things to work, and I have to do the same thing at home. If we assume our kids know how to do something or that they should be able to do something without really training them, we are setting them up for failure and ourselves up for frustration.

In our home, when I catch myself being repeatedly upset over something that I expect of my children, it is time for me to reassess my part in the process. Did I train them how I should have? Did I give them the tools that they needed to be successful in what was asked of them?

There is not a one size fits all mentality when it comes to raising kids, but there can be some things that work for someone else’s kids that does work for mine too.

Find a group of mothers that you can steal ideas from and modify them to fit your family’s needs. These mothers can also be your biggest encouragement, and you can be theirs in this difficult, but rewarding season of raising children.

Mamas, let’s have grace for our kids and ourselves as we train them to do amazing things!

We would like to thank Sara Marquez for writing this post!

Friendship Through The Ages

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

It’s been said that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Well, we disagree. We think if you are really blessed, God picks your friends.

We knew each other since junior high school, but only as acquaintances. It was actually in Bible Class in our sophomore year in high school that we became friends. Coincidence? We don’t think so. God knew what and who we each needed in our lives then and in the future. As it turned out, Teresa married Naomi’s cousin, Gary at the end of her junior year of high school, making them cousins. The friend bond was stronger than the family bond and the two couples became friends.  

The friendship started off slowly. We played softball together. Then it progressed to a bowling league and volleyball. We played board games and dominoes. We told each other everything, knowing the secrets were safe. We also knew that the truth would be given, even if the answers were something we weren’t looking forward to hearing. Eventually, the four of us were always together. The four became eight when Gary and Teresa had two daughters and Bobby and Naomi had two sons. The children almost felt as if they had a second set of parents. They even call us that.

Raising children is one of the most, if not the most important, most difficult and most rewarding jobs a person could ever have. It is also a job that is made a little easier if you have someone that can encourage you, pray with you, and comfort you along the way. Psalm 133:1b, “The sweetness of a friend comes from earnest counsel.” We prayed many, many hours for each other over the raising of our children.

We were together for celebrations of life, baby’s first steps, Christmases, graduations, marriages of our children and grandbabies being born. We were there with each other when all of our parents died, and most recently when sweet Gary passed away one year ago.  Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” But it was never just us. We never forget Who orchestrated this relationship. Christ is always and will forever be the center of our friendship! Ecc. 4:12, “And if a man prevails against him that is alone, two shall withstand him and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

We would like to thank Naomi Jones & Teresa Harriss for writing this blog!

 

What If… God Surrounded

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2

We all have had times when we’ve asked God, “Really? Me?” while laughing in uncertainty. Sharing my experience balancing family and career is one of those times for me. Family is a blessing, but challenging with all it consists of. To top that off-career-another story in itself. I have to laugh and just go along with God’s plan for me.

I heard God speaking to me through songs I will reference. This one is by Blanca.

What If……

I don’t have what it takes

Things don’t ever change

I don’t leave room for Jesus

Then the truth of Your love shines through—

What If……

You hold me up

Your love is enough

The power in Your name can do anything

You’re making me strong

You were here all along

I’m right where You want me

You were right there fulfilling Your promises

Life’s an ever challenging and changing whirlwind, so be surrounded with God’s promise to fill our hearts with peace and thanksgiving. God’s blessings are abundant:  Love, happiness, provisions and good health shared with our wonderful husbands, beautiful children, friends and co-workers. Think of how many souls we reach just by being where God leads us. God has great plans for us as we run with perseverance the race He marked out for us.

This song by Josh Wilson is easy to relate to:

Carry me…..

Father hold on to me, You’re all I’ve got

Carry me from my sinking sand to Your solid ground

Jesus calm my heart, come near to me

Lord don’t let these worries get the best of me

Remember the ‘Spiral Art’ and how it worked well only if the pencil was kept flush leaning to the inner circle as it spun? If the rhythm changed, imperfections were created amongst the beautiful pattern immerging. In the same way, keep God and all His ways in the center of your life so that Heaven on Earth is revealed with all its beauty intended for each one of us.

Trust the Holy Spirit surrounds, strengthens, guides, even carries us daily. We’re never alone.

Balancing family and career can only be done by the grace of God. Let us not forget the promises God gave us. His love endures forever. What if….we live our lives counting our blessings, keeping our eyes on Jesus and letting His light shine from within our hearts!

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for sharing this post with us!

A Change of Perspective

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

When I was 16, I made a covenant to pray and wait for my future husband. In that season of singleness I delved into the word of the LORD. I focused all of my being on the One who created me. He showed me His heart for me and I was never in doubt of who I was to Him. I prayed constantly for my future husband. “Lord, guard his heart. Give him courage. Make him like you. Give him a heart like David.” Praying for my future husband was making me reposition my heart and causing me to be less self focused. My prayers were not, “God send me a man that you know I need.” It wasn’t selfish. It was more about his relationship with the LORD than it was about him coming to me. I would be remiss if I didn’t also add that I surrounded myself with young men and women of the same mind. I wanted to keep my covenant and I knew I would need encouragement.

About four years later, God brought me Rance. God knew I needed this headstrong, tender, courageous, idealistic, loving, risk taking man and I had no idea I did. Rance did NOT check ANY of my personal boxes. I know, however, that God knew exactly what I really needed more than I did. We really have only two things in common; that we wholeheartedly pursue the LORD and His people.

If you’re in a season of singleness, there’s probably a ton of people telling you to be patient. That God has someone in mind for you. And my favorite: Don’t look, and then he’ll show up!

One day, God rephrased these well intended words for me. He said, “SEEK MY HEART FOR YOU! I have something BETTER than you can imagine. I have a better YES coming your way.”

God wanted to reposition my heart to concentrate on HIM and HIS HEART for me.

Not the man he had in mind; not what I was supposed to do to find him.

This allowed me to view my season of singleness with not only hope that God had something amazing planned, but with CONTENTMENT with where He had me. Seasons are given to us as a gift. Not for us to use selfishly but for us to use to build up the BODY OF CHRIST. Just like all the other spiritual gifts we are given. (1 Cor. 12-14 and Ephesians 4:12-16.)

When you find yourself being discontented in your season, surround yourself with women of HONOR and of good repute. (Proverbs 31) Look to Jesus. Focus your heart on Him. Ask your friends to pray with you. Ask the people around you to help you reposition you heart. (Romans 12:2) Above all. Pursue the LORD with all your heart, mind, body, and soul because HE made you and HE knows what you need. (Luke 10:27) In Hebrews, the author says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every hinderance and let us run the race before us, looking to Jesus, The AUTHOR and Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:1-2) Look to Jesus, beloved. Let him be the author of your story, not you. Choose to pursue Jesus instead of a spouse. You won’t regret it.

We would like to thank Rachel Loafman for writing this post!

A Daughter’s Heart

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Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

We’ve all heard of a Mother’s heart, how about a daughter’s heart for her mother? When my dad died in January 1999, little did I know that my life was going to take a drastic change of course. I was single and in my 5th year of teaching. Sure I had dreams for my life, but my heart knew that being my mom’s only child, that my priorities were going to have to change. I was a daughter, teacher and now caregiver. It’s a season of life that requires grace and strength that can only come directly from God.

God designed parent-child relationships to be among the most vital of all human relationships. 1 Timothy 5:3-4 says “ Support widows who are genuinely in need. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn to practice godliness toward their own family first and repay their parents for this pleases God.” We also find in John 19 that Jesus provided for his mother at His death. Jesus’ example reminds us that honoring our parents isn’t a reward for how well they parented us. Care for your parents is a reflection of what we believe about the gospel.

Caring for a parent, particularly later in years, is difficult, grueling and sometimes overwhelming. You become nurse, case worker, chauffeur, meal planner and psychologist. My mom just turned 90. Sometimes she sees herself as a burden, but despite the challenges, I see her as a blessing. Family is a place to practice giving and accepting grace.

It’s easy to weigh yourself down with all the responsibilities life brings on a daily basis. So, what do you do when things become overwhelming?

Look beyond the challenges to the God who cares for you. You can experience joy even in the middle of tough situations.

It’s ok to admit that you have limited time and energy, God promises to give you the strength you need for each day. Remember to rely on His power to work through you instead of your own efforts. (Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.)

Trust God to help you to do what you can’t do on your own and leave it in His hands.

Lastly, recognize when you need breaks or need help. Be willing to ask others for assistance. He not only surrounds us with His presence but with the presence of others.

The greatest reward is that as you honor aging parents, you also deepen your personal relationship with Christ along the way.

We wold like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this post.

Worship is a Choice

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I grew up in a traditional church with traditional worship. I love the theology of hymns and the memories that they stir up in my heart. Hymns like: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “How Firm a Foundation”, just to name a few.

The words of these songs were written on my heart from a very young age. But to be honest, I really didn’t know what they were talking about, other than Jesus and God and the Cross. It wasn’t until I went to church camp in the 7thgrade that I experienced what we call “modern worship”. The worship team was cool and had long hair and played loud guitars and drums. I had never seen anything like this before. We rocked out to Dennis Jernigan and Vineyard worship songs. We sang lyrics like, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

I wasn’t just singing lyrics that I didn’t understand. I was entering into a relationship with a Loving Father, Who knew me, was pursuing me, and longed for me to surrender my heart and life to Him. So I did. I entered into this holy place of worship. From the depths of my soul, God became alive to me.

That was 30 years ago. I’ve learned so much since Jr. High. Worship is a choice. There have been times in my life where I’ve chosen not to worship. There have been other times that worshiping was all I longed to do. Being a worship leader has pushed me to go beyond what I can naturally do, see, and experience. Spending time in worship has made the Scriptures come alive.Worship has heightened my senses to Who God is what His plan is for me. It brings peace when everything else is falling apart.

Psalm 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

This is the kind of truth that comes from a heart of a worshiper.

After all these years of worshiping and going deeper in my relationship with God, I can go back to those precious hymns and hear the wisdom from worshipers of long ago.

“O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise

The glories of my God and King

The triumphs of His grace.”

Yes! Let us be worshipers whose souls sing out from obedient hearts. Let us bring praise to God, Whose grace has triumphed over sin and death. Let us worship our great Redeemers, Whose love invites us into freedom and victory!

We would like to thank Allison House for writing this post!

The Blood of Jesus

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School’s started back, which means we’ve gotten back into a routine. I actually make sure my kids bathe more than once a week.

Along with routines of personal hygiene come some other great routines. A spiritual hygiene routine, if you will. One of my favorites is declarative prayer over my family. Recently a friend from church encouraged me to plead the blood of Jesus over my kids.

What does that even mean?
“Pleading the blood” is a biblical reference to placing someone or something under the protection of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God told Moses to apply the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings so the Angel of Death would see that a sacrifice had already been made, therefore he could “pass over” that home. Everyone in that home was protected from death (separation from life). In the New Testament, Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb because He was without blemish and shed His blood for us on the cross.

His blood is powerful. Here are a few of the priceless things Jesus gave us through His blood.

The blood of Jesus:
Purchased us (Acts 20:28)

Because He purchased us with His blood, He takes responsibility for us. The enemy has no legal claim on me or my kids. Whoever is under His blood is under His protection. Doesn’t that sound like a great position to place your children in?
Made peace between us and God (Col. 1:20)

Between God and me, things are good. I’m not an utter disappoint to Him. And neither are our kids.
Redeemed us and forgave our sin (Eph. 1:7)

His blood didn’t just sweep my sin under the carpet. His blood made eternal payment for sin I’ve committed or will commit. This is very good. Especially when I think about my behavior during some of those Get-The-Kids-to-School-Morning-Routine.
Cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death (Heb. 9:14)

We’ve all done things that create gaps of separation between those we love most. Jesus’ blood cleanses our consciences and give us courage to mend those gaps, ask people for forgiveness, and do better next time.
Purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7)

Pure. I love that word. Not only does Jesus’ blood cleanse us, but He makes a way to purify our heart to the deepest depths and makes good come from it. Illustration: not only does He cleanse the polluted river, He goes back to the source up in the mountains and purifies it to where what issues forth from the rock is good.
Gives us confidence to approach God (Heb. 10:19)

I don’t have to clean my act up before I go to God to spend time with Him or ask Him for help. Our kids need to know this too.

There are gobs more verses about the value of Jesus’ blood. It makes God happy when we take Him at His word. Pick up your sword and get busy declaring God’s truth over your loved ones.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post.

The Most Important Work

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“Children are not a distraction from more important work, they are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis

This quote has been speaking to me for months. We have a screen saver on our TV, and this quote scrolls by periodically, gently whispering to me. Most of the time it feels encouraging, but one day a few weeks ago, it didn’t. I was feeling very frustrated as a mother. I felt like all the time and energy that I have put into “mothering” – the cooking, the cleaning, the diaper changing, the laundry…oh the laundry, the discipline, the reading of books (the list goes on and on) – wasn’t worth a single penny. I was frustrated that my kids don’t listen the first time every single time. I was frustrated that they still need me all the time for everything. I was frustrated that my kids had stopped me from getting everything done that day that I wanted to get done, all the things that I am supposed to get done as THEIR mother. Didn’t they understand I was just trying to do all these things for them?

And then God spoke, “Sometimes parenting doesn’t feel efficient, but it is productive.” 

That one sentence stopped me dead in my tracks. I decided to look up the definitions of a couple of those words:

Efficient: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. Productive: producing or able to produce large amounts of goods, crops, or other commodities

Efficiency was exactly what I had been looking for – MAXIMUM productivity, with MINIMUM wasted effort. And I was feeling like all my effort had been wasted. 

I was broken. My kids will be fine without a chef, a nanny, a maid. What God made me to be is their MOTHER. They aren’t bothered by the toys on the floor, chicken nuggets for every meal (they would actually prefer this to most of my cooking), or the fact that they are on their last pair of underwear. They need my heart. They need me to be able to see the moments where God is working, where I can speak truth and life into them. They want me to be with them, to love them, to choose them. Children are the very reason for motherhood. Yes, they bring about many tasks, many to-do items, and many days, I end the day feeling like I am not efficient enough. I didn’t get enough done. But, did I take moments to sow into my children? Did I use the moments I was given to speak something into their hearts that will bring about fruit in their lives? Because that is the definition of productive: to produce a good crop of fruit.

Maybe I won’t see them choose respect today. Maybe it will be years before that seed sprouts into something I see as a seed that I planted. But planting that seed is a thousand times more valuable than getting an extra load of laundry folded and put away.

Be encouraged mammas. Offer your heart to your children. Let’s not see them as a distraction to the tasks and to-do lists that they bring with them. Let’s see loving and raising our children as the most important work that we do.

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

Persistent Prayer

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What does persistent prayer look like?

Well, I would like to share about my dad and how he came to Christ. It is a much longer story than can be told here, but I will attempt to give you the abridged version. I also would like to honor my dad and his memory while telling the honest truth. Admittedly, that creates some tension or conflict inside of me.

I believed in God as a very young child, but I would say that I surrendered my life to Him as Lord around twelve years old. At that point, I became very aware of the reality that my dad didn’t know Jesus or His love. During this time in his life, my dad drank too much, invoked fear in his kids to attempt to maintain order (and the fear was not unsubstantiated), and was in general a person living in pain separated from God. My dad fit the description of a hard-headed, hard-hearted man. Regardless, I loved my dad and certainly didn’t want to be separated from him for all of eternity.

So, at twelve I began to pray for his salvation. I was deeply burdened to pray for him. I am certain that many in my family were also burdened to pray for him, but we never really talked about it. I prayed that God would soften his heart and that he would receive Christ. God doesn’t ever remove a person’s freewill, and therefore the wooing of a hard-hearted person’s soul can take long time. As a matter of fact, it is never guaranteed that a person will receive Christ by their own choosing. But, persistent prayer and faith in God’s ability certainly can move mountains and the hearts of men, and God’s choice is always to seek and save those that are lost.

After two and half decades of persistent prayer for my dad, my life had changed significantly. I left home and married my husband, Andy, at nineteen. I shared this burden for my dad with him and he began to pray for my dad also. We began our family when I was twenty-two. We had two boys by the time I was twenty-four and we had moved eight hours away from our immediate families. My dad had already begun to have heart issues including a heart attack, bypass surgery, and beginning stages of congestive heart failure. The heart attack and surgeries that followed increased the urgency I felt for him. I knew, logically, he wouldn’t live forever.

It is easy to become discouraged when you can’t see God moving. But just like when you plant a seed underground, it sometimes takes time before you can see any evidence of anything happening.

God was moving. He was inviting my dad into a relationship with Him.

I would like to tell you that I got to witness my dad receiving Christ, but I didn’t. I would also like to tell you that I heard his testimony about receiving Christ, but once again, I didn’t. So how do I know my dad received Christ? Well, Christ began to grow inside of him. My dad changed in such a way that is only the work of the Holy Spirit. He started attending a church with my mom and sister. He became a giver. He operated out of love instead of fear and pain. I did get to see him humble himself on his knees in prayer at the front of that church that showed him Christ’s love, and Christ gave me a peace about my dad’s salvation. My dad passed away two years ago. I can confidently and joyfully say that we will be reunited again in heaven. So, I would like to encourage you. If your burden hasn’t been lifted yet, pray on. Our God is on the move.

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner for writing this post!

Keeping The Faith

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At the age of 26, I’m finally realizing that keeping the faith and trusting in God’s timing will be a part of my life for years to come. Faith is my strongest spiritual gift, but patience in God’s timing usually isn’t.

I grew up in a Christian home and attended a small church. It almost felt like trusting in the Lord was supposed to be easy. We didn’t talk about what trusting in the Lord was supposed to look like during trials and suffering. It was always broadened into, “Trust in the Lord always.” As you can imagine, when I started dealing with different struggles as a young adult, I didn’t understand why those things were so hard for me to deal with. That there had to be faith in action to believe that in all things the Lord is my strong fortress.

I want to share with you an experience where the Lord gently reminded me He alone has my every day planned. I am a momma to a sweet, sassy, nearly three-year-old girl. She made me a momma in October of 2015, a time when I didn’t think I was ready to be a mother. My husband and I had already made plans to further our education, but when we found out we were expecting a baby, all our plans changed. The Lord grew me in ways through that season (and still is) that I didn’t know were necessary. But He knew. And I had to surrender control.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017. I felt baby fever coming on and wanted to start trying for another baby. Once my husband was in agreement, I took control.  My trust was no longer in the Lord, but in our ability to conceive. “Well, we need to get pregnant by this month because I want Raelyn to be this old when we have the baby. I want to announce it to our families here,” blah blah blah. I think God chuckled, like I often imagine Him doing when I start thinking I am in control of it all. In March of 2018 I bought a tiny onesie. I prayed, telling the Lord the desire of my heart and again, surrendering control.

Four days before Easter, we found out we were expecting. Come to find out, we are pregnant with TWINS, a double portion! Only when we fully surrender our plans, our faith, and our trust in God, can he begin to give us what HE desires for us. God reminds me that His timing is perfect, and that the plans He has for me are much better than the ones I could have for myself. And sometimes, His plans turn out later and much differently than we could have ever expected.

Are you waiting on God for the desires of your heart? Here are ways that I keep my faith at all times:

  1. Pray and listen to God (even if it’s just for a couple minutes).
  2. Study the word of God.
  3. Surround myself with others who speak life into me.
  4. Remember that God is always faithful.

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

Simple Beauty

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Almost six years ago we were house hunting.  We came across this 100-year-old house with amazing character, but I just didn’t love it. Nope, it was not for us.  I mean friends, it didn’t even have a bathtub!!  My HOME would need a bathtub.  The house search continued.  Every now and then, my husband Bret would drive by the house.  Probably the fourth time we looked at the house (bless our sweet realtor), I saw this house a little differently.  I envisioned a huge table full of people having great fellowship.  The porch wasn’t just a porch; it was a place where my family and friends could step on our porch and feel comfort and beauty. The steps led to our fortress.  Our safe place.

Those moments were where I realized the power of a home.  Our homes have much potential, we just have to envision it.  I want our home to be a place where my husband can recharge.  A place that my kids have a sense of belonging and know that no matter what else happens outside our walls, they have a place to be themselves.

So how do I make a place for my family and others full of beauty and peace?

Purge all of the unwanted things

            Purge all of the things that you don’t love, I mean LOVE, LOVE.  Purging, although tedious, can make room for the things that reflect you and the people in your home.  I love what Nancy Kelly says about purging, “Keep cutting back ‘til there is PEACE in your home.”

Make a place for your people

            Making a corner for each person in your home can help cultivate an atmosphere of peace and belonging.  My two older kids have a tea corner set up with everything they would need to make “a hug in a cup”.  An art table, with markers and paper, and a coffee station for mom and dad.  All of these spaces are created in various spots of the home so that each of us can explore creativity, solitude, and prayer.

Add elements of beauty

Beauty can be found in some of the smallest things and the most ordinary moments.  Potted plants, old books, or family photos.  One of my favorite things recently has been bees wax candles.  Lighting them as the kids get ready for bed brings such a peaceful renewal as they end their day.  We have a family full of cold natured people, so blankets strategically placed around the house offer a cozy feeling in our down time.  Smells can have such a connection to memory.  Fresh flowers from the supermarket, tree clippings in a vase, favorite scented soaps, or even an aromatic cleaning spray can make the smallest moment a memory.

Sally Clarkson puts it so well, “Instead of creating us to live in a house of weariness and colorlessness, God has made us to live in a home of full of soul beautiful elements.”

I encourage you, friends, to find what your beauty looks like in your home for your family and start reaping the benefits of a life-giving home.

We would like to thank Kendra Huey for writing this post!

 

Balancing Game

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Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

I was asked to share how I learned to balance life and my kids’ sports in this new era of idolizing kid’s sports.  When I saw these two statements “how to balance life” and “idolizing my kids’ sports”, I had to smile because I didn’t think I was balancing life or idolizing my kids’ sports.  I was raising, supporting, and caring for my children to the best of my ability.  I supported my kids in everything they wanted to do: FHA, Prom, Football, Basketball, Track, Band, Harvest Festival, etc.  My kids and I would travel in rain and snow to be there to support each other. 

I was a single mom for a lot of years and raised my three oldest children alone.  I had to work a lot of overtime, which meant they spent a lot of time home alone.  My parents lived a half a block away and that was a big blessing.  I am thankful for my parents who helped me balance my life and my kids’ life, and for the City of Hale Center, and for Jimmy and Carolyn Curry. I had people I trusted to help me along the way.

The first and most important thing is to make God the Center of your life.  If not, everything will eventually fall apart. 

Secondly, my children were very disciplined.  They knew to come straight home from school, get their homework done, and then they could go outside.  They also knew to be in the house before dark.  I would leave every day before they got up for school.  They would get up when the alarm clock went off, make their beds, take turns in the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast (cereal) and walk to school.  If they had after school practice, the coaches would bring them home.

I leave you with this quote from Brian Dyson, Coca-Cola’s Former CEO:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some 5 balls in the air.  You name them-work, family, health, friends and spirit.  And you are keeping all of these in the air.”

“You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls- family, friends, health, and spirit are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed or damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

Raise, support, and care for your children to the best of your ability and God will do the rest.

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

Where Can I Find Belonging?

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Not long ago, I was eagerly anticipating spring, and now, as the dog days of summer come to an end, I find myself anticipating yet another change.  Not only in the seasons, but in the pace of life.  Kids go back to school, routines return, and the opportunity for relationship grows.  Something about the onset of fall encourages community.  There is no better way to experience community than in a small group of people who meet weekly to love, laugh, pray, and live life together.  It’s what we call Life Group.

My husband Danny and I have had the honor and privilege of leading a Life Group for almost 10 years and we have been blessed with a myriad of life-giving, spirit-filled relationships because of it.  People come and go, but each person makes a lasting impact on my heart.  Memories of shared experiences (both joyous and tragic), of laughter, of tears, of sweet fellowship, and great food will remain with me forever.

And yet, my natural tendency is still to withdraw to my safe place and live life from the confines of that space.  Being what the professionals call an introvert has its challenges.  BUT GOD, through His unending love and grace, has shown me the freedom that comes from stretching myself, opening myself up to others, and allowing myself to love and be loved.  God created you for community, and if you don’t believe that, you are believing a lie.  My prayer for us as women is that we will stop believing the lies and cling to God’s truth.  

God’s truth about each one of us is that we are all He says we are and we can confidently put ourselves out there and find love, acceptance, and joy.

A friend told me recently, “Find joy today.”  That made me realize that if we really look, we can always find joy—maybe even in a group full of people.  So, if you have yet to find a Life Group, may I encourage you to visit one?  If you already have one, I pray that you will find new and refreshing joy rising within you as you embrace your group and the people in it.

As we anticipate this new season, may we hold tight to God’s truth and begin to anticipate the abundant life that living in community brings.  Romans 12 instructs us to live in harmony with one another and in Christ, each of us belongs to the other.  I am needed, you are needed, and together we are all necessary, chosen members of God’s Kingdom.  May He give each of us the grace and courage to step out of our safe place and into a place of belonging, relationship, and joy.

We’d like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this blog!

You Have to Taste to See

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Six months ago we brought our daughter Sadie home from China. For almost three years of her life she lived there. When we first got home so much was new to her. Her world was now turned upside down.  Sounds of a totally different language bombarded her.  Strange faces and people surrounded her.  The smells of a new environment, the clothes on her back…literally nothing in her life was the same as it had been just two weeks before.

Her little heart and mind didn’t know it yet, but there was so much good in store for her here in the U.S. and in our home. Among all of the scary and overwhelming “newness”, was a life filled with love, provision, safety, prosperity, and joy.

One of the big differences between here and China is obviously the food. For most of her life she had only eaten rice, breads, and some fruit. Once home, we would put something new in front of her and say, “It’s good; try it.”

Every single time she would protest.  Every….Single….Time.

She would push her bowl away, turn her head to the side and sit there. After a few minutes of sitting there, she would take a bite. That’s all it took, one bite, and then she would devour the entire portion.

Until then next time, then she would go through this exact routine again.

During this time God gently reminded me that at times I have been the same way.

Often times, God had laid His plan out before me, but I had turned my head and went my own way. God had given me opportunities to be His hands and feet, but I had pushed the opportunities away. There had been times His voice had called me to something bigger and deeper, but I chose to sit there in protest.

In Psalm 34:4-8 His word says,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lordheard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lordencamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Those are some pretty spectacular benefits promised in those verses. I say, “Sign me up!”

It wasn’t until I surrendered my will, and began to live my life for Him solely, that I began to understand just how GOOD He is. When I was totally dependent on God’s provision, that’s when I witnessed His miracles.

You see, we can know a lot about God. We can read about Him. We can talk about Him. We can love Him. But until we have tasted what He wants for us, we cannot fully understand His goodness. Just like Sadie, it wasn’t easy for me to take that first bite. God often leads us beyond what we are capable of in our own flesh. He calls us to try new and brave things. And that is scary! But it is when we give up our control and let God lead that we live a life of fullness.

If you don’t ever taste, you will never know how good something might be.

Don’t sit at the table and turn your nose up at what is before you. Let go of control and trust that God is good.

Just taste, and you will see!

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

It’s the Little Things

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Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the little things?”  These little things are unique to each one of us.  They refresh my soul day to day.  Unfortunately, I get stuck thinking about the BIG things.  When my focus is on the bigger, harder things of life, I get overwhelmed and the “little things” that keep me going, slip by.

Last week my husband and I bought our first home together.  I found myself focused on the BIG and forgetting to appreciate the little.  With it being summertime, there is an abundance of weddings, family gatherings, and traveling.  These things normally feel refreshing, but I quickly became overwhelmed trying to move and yet still do things that give me life.

The big picture said I’m not doing enough, I’m lacking in certain areas.  I was physically present, but emotionally I was stressed out and not living my best life. The enemy wants to rob us of our joy and make us victims of our circumstances.  Once I got my focus back on the little things, I was quickly reminded by God that He supplies everything we need according to His plans, His riches.

During these last few months, if I had focused on the little instead of the big, I might have noticed that…

  • The mountains displayed God’s Glory.
  • The graduate needed encouragement.
  • My husband is feeling blue.
  • God speaking to me, “Child, get up and pray.”
  • A song on the radio that could have healed a hurting place in me.
  •  Sometimes I need to cry.
  • Sometimes I need a hug.

God also has a way of refreshing my soul by speaking to me at unexpected times.  Like when I am on my way to work or home and the perfect worship song comes on.  One that will bring me to tears, exposing my heart, my fears, my thoughts, and bringing attention to my vulnerabilities and the power of God.

God is a God of details.  The instructions God gave the Israelites were very small and intricate.  David used five stones to take down Goliath.  Jesus used mud, five barley loaves. and two fish.  His disciples were deemed small in this world.  The small things of life seem so insignificant, unless we look at them with God’s perspective.

It just takes slowing down and intentionally recognizing and appreciating the moments that refresh your soul.  I can easily slip into negative thinking and allow my circumstances to dictate my feelings.  In those moments, I should be intentional in my thinking and ask God, “Where are you in this moment?”  When I focus on Him and what He is doing, my soul is refreshed.

Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8-9

We would like to thank Vanessa Talmadge for writing this blog!

Live in the Moment!

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Summertime is a stressful season for me each year.  Honestly, it’s rough for this momma who thrives on routine and is task-oriented.  I’ve always raised a large household of children and I feel the most settled when my children are in school.  I feel organized and accomplished with my time management.  I love my personal time, my time with God, getting my groceries bought, bills being paid. However, before summer even began, I felt God tugging on my heart to take a step back and enjoy these people he has given me.  Two of my children graduated this May and one is a Senior this coming year.  Three of my seven children are no longer living at home. This has been sobering for me.  What I’m doing with the time left with them suddenly hit hard; the years fly by and before you know it, they leave home.  Raising kids is hard work and I have regrets about not always being a mom who enjoys the moment and makes life fun in my home. This summer, I have allowed myself to be free from the expectations I usually would place on myself.  Here are a few ideas for you to think on:

  1. Don’t over think it, live in the moment.
    1. I spontaneously took my kids to the 10pm/late show at the theater (appropriate clean shows) in our pjs.
    2. We went to McDonald’s and ordered burgers off the dollar menu after 11pm.
  2. Create an environment for your kids and their friends to have fun. You want to be their greatest influence and want them to like to be around you.
    1. I have allowed friends to stay overnight often (friends of good influence).
    2. We took them to the park and cooked out.
    3. We let them build camp fires in our back yard where they could all hang out.
  3. Quality time as a family without technology distractions.
    1. We make breakfast meals together with the tv off and worship music on.
    2. We allow them to stay up late, laying in our bed talking and listening to their hearts.

I’m not advocating we be irresponsible and without structure this summer; there has to be a balance. I encourage you to lay down the routine and give yourself grace and permission to be free from your own judgements of what we should be doing with our children and the judgements of what other moms might think.  It does not have to be glamorous nor cost money to invest in our children lives.  You have exactly what it takes to be a mom, you’re exactly the right mother God created for your children.  God used the book of Ecclesiastes to speak to me when my journey to letting myself off the hook first began.  Go make memories with those precious little/big people in your house, don’t miss it!  And remember, GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE, you can do it!

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for sharing this post.

For the Love of Cooking

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trinarecipe2

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved food!  I got my first cookbook in the first grade and remember rushing home after school.  I went through all the recipes and picked the one that we had all the ingredients for, Quick Sugar Cake!  I mixed all the ingredients by myself, put it in the oven, and sat in front of the oven for 20 minutes while it baked.  When my cake was finally done, I took it out and waited 5 minutes for it to cool.  It was so hot I could hardly taste it.  Once my taste buds recovered, WOW, it was delicious!  I was shocked I had made it all by myself!  I was hooked and ate the whole thing!

I’ve come a long way since then.  I love to read about food and cooking, and I love to eat (don’t judge)!  One of my favorite things to do is have people over and serve them a meal.  Several years ago, a dear friend told me that I had the gift of hospitality.  I had never heard of this before!  Since then, God has showed me that I can use my love of cooking for His purposes.  This gave me a new way of looking at how I can reach out to other people; it is a way to get to know new friends.  Through this whole process I’ve learned a few important lessons:

  1. Everyone enjoys being invited and included! I love to see the looks on people’s faces when they are invited over.
  2. You do not have to be a chef to entertain in your home. People just enjoy the fact that someone cares enough to invite them over!  You can even invite people over and just order pizza! It’s about the fellowship, not the food!
  3. Your house does not have to be perfect.It does not have to be clean enough to eat off the floor.  It does not have to be a mansion!  There aren’t many mansions in Plainview anyway!  Be happy with what God has blessed you with!

Hospitality is defined as:  The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.  In the New Testament, the Greek word “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers”.

With summer approaching, venture out, invite people over!  Remember, it isn’t about the food, it’s about the fellowship!  One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I’m sharing two recipes with you.  The first is a recipe that my sister-in-law gave me.  I love it because it feeds a lot of people, and it taught me how to bake a brisket!  The 2nd recipe is my beloved Quick Sugar Cake!

3 DAY BRISKET
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic saltSAUCE:3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. ketchup
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 tsp. ground mustard
4 tbsp. Worcestershire
1/2 c. water
2 tsp. celery seed
6 tbsp. butterDay 1: Baste the uncooked brisket well with 2 tbsp. liquid smoke and 1 teaspoon salt. Wrap in heavy foil and refrigerate overnight. Day 2: Cover with teaspoon onion salt and garlic salt. Wrap and bake at 300 degrees for 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight.Day 3: Slice thin, cover with sauce. Wrap and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour. Sauce: cook all ingredients until well blended.

Trinarecipe

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

Freedom

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Freedom. It’s a word packed with emotion. This time of year, the word may conjure up images of waving flags, “rockets red glare,” and military heroes. We hear it used and mis-used on the nightly news with regard to human rights and civil & political issues. In the spiritual context, we Christians have profound freedom from the power of sin and death through the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus. Those are amazing, beautiful freedoms. But can I be honest about a freedom that I’m struggling with?

You see, I’m entering a new season of life. My oldest daughter recently graduated from college, got her first “big-girl job,” moved to Houston and is beginning her dream-career as an interior design professional. Isn’t that wonderful? And my youngest daughter just finished up a successful high school career with lots of friends, great grades and athletic awards. She has even received some nice scholarships and will move into the college dorm in the fall. Perfect, right? So, if I am such a blessed woman whose prayers for my children are coming true right before my eyes…why am I choking back tears as I write this?

To be honest, I’m afraid of the “freedom” that will replace the countless hours of busy-ness I’ve invested in my girls. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a tired momma. The 22 years of laundry, homework, practices, games, concerts, awards assemblies…as joy-filled as they were, have taken their toll. More time to devote to my marriage, my home, my work, and yes, to ME will be nice. But this new-found “freedom” will have its pain and its challenges.

Thankfully, I serve a gracious God who offers “freedoms” to help me through this new season:

  • Hebrews 4:16 says I have the freedom to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, knowing I’ll find mercy and grace to help with my uncertainties and even my loneliness.
  • Galatians 5:13 reminds me that I am to use my God-given freedom to serve others humbly in love. I’ve been diligent to remind my daughters that God has a purpose and plan for each of their lives; maybe I should be reminding myself of that same truth.
  • Finally, on those days when I completely blow it and melt into self-pity because my chicks have left the nest and I miss them terribly, He gently reminds me that I have freedom from condemnation because I belong to Him (Romans 8:1).

    Wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you take full advantage of the freedom you have to approach your loving Father. Let Him walk you through the changes in your life and watch as He makes each season beautiful.

 

We would like to thank Lea Stukey for this post!

“Honey, this is the faith tree.”

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Seeds for my love of gardening were planted at age 10 when I first read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic, The Secret Garden.  I had the measles that summer, and was confined to bed for what seemed like ages.  Mom would darken the blinds each afternoon and read aloud as I closed my eyes and visualized the vine-covered walls of this extraordinary hideaway.

In this delightful book, a neglected garden is rejuvenated through careful tending, creating the backdrop for a neglected father/son relationship to be restored and new friendships fostered. I remember later reenacting scenes from the book in my grandmother’s backyard as I tended her daisies, black-eyed Susans, and honeysuckle. 

Actually, every garden tells its gardener’s story.  My grownup garden began in 1997 with the planting of a single tree.  No house existed on the lot we had purchased to build on because our country home was not selling despite several contracts which all fell through.  For many long months, I drove by our vacant lot, sadly praying God would make things happen faster so we could begin building our dream home.

One particular afternoon when my spirits were at their lowest, I drove by our lot and discovered a tree had been planted.  My farmer husband, as a surprise, had placed paper plates where the pillars of the house would stand, and had planted an oak tree right smack dab in the middle of our non-existent backyard!  Here’s what he told me, “Honey, this is the faith tree.  Someday soon we WILL build on this lot.  And someday our grandchildren will play under the overhanging branches of the faith we are planting right now.”  And you know what, 20 years later, he is right!!  Five grandchildren play under the shade of the tree in Noni and Papa’s backyard.  We are living in the promise fulfilled! 

And guess what?  We are the Lord’s garden!  And our lives tell His story! 

Isaiah 58:11 says:  

“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry, And restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring!”

We would like to thank Susan Hurt for contributing this post.

Favorite Summer Memories

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As I’m on my way home from Catalyst Camp with our 11-year-old, I spent a lot of time comparing to and reflecting on my own days at summer church camp, which were very similar. It’s easy to say that hands down, those are my favorite summer memories. Bus rides with all of my friends, mountain rain, hikes, worship that gave me my first encounters with the Holy Spirit, late nights laughing in bunk beds, dunking each other in freezing cold rivers, camp fires, and carpet ball on the front porch of the chow hall before and after dinner. If you grew up going to El Porvenir as well, I’m speaking a love language to you right now, right? 😂

I’m so thankful for Harvest Christian Fellowship. We have made relationship bridges between all 3 campuses and friends that have turned to family. I’m especially thankful that our kids have a place to grow up like I did, and memories at camp that they will carry with them for their entire lives.

We would like to thank Jennifer Westbrook for writing this post!


 

Some of my favorite memories from my childhood summers are of my mom and us kids loading up in the car with my Grammy, aunt and cousins to drive down old Route 66. We’d drive from New Mexico to Cordell, Oklahoma to visit my great aunt Mary who was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Even though she had Alzheimer’s,  she always remembered every word to hundreds of hymns. She would walk around singing them all the time.  Now, I realize how important the music is that I listen to because at some point it may be the only thing I remember!  I also realized early on from those trips that I love elderly people, which is a big part of why I enjoy my job today. One year on our trip, our car broke down somewhere in Oklahoma and a lady in a tiny pick up truck stopped to help us and give us a ride to town. She was vague about who she was and where she was from.  My family believes she was an angel sent to help us from God.  These are a few summer childhood memories I’ll never forget!

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


 

When I was very young, I used to go spend about a week each summer with my dad‘s parents just north of Uvalde, Texas. My grandfather had cattle and he depended on windmills to pump water to the surface for them to drink. Windmills have sucker rod. That’s what we called the pipe that pumps the water to the surface. And sucker rod was always coming apart or having other problems.

I remember going with my grandfather to check on the water, thinking that we’d only be gone for “just a little bit”. Inevitably we’d be gone for hours and hours, at least it seemed that way to me. I thought it was boring and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their day pulling sucker rod. I mean, who thinks this is fun?! Evidently, he wanted his cattle to live!

My grandfather is gone now, and those times I spent with him are treasured memories. I miss him and I wish I could ride around the ranch with him one more time. But I still don’t miss pulling sucker rod.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this post!

Moms, rejoice! Tips for summertime fun.

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As a mom who loves structure and routine, I see summer as an exciting yet frightening time! When school, church events and schedules take a break it can seem daunting to look at the lack of structure in the months ahead. Here are a few very simple things I have learned for those times when you just need to sit and finish your coffee, you’re trying to make it to bedtime alive, or you simply CANNOT think up dinosaur dialouge for one more minute!

Take it outside:Almost anything you can do inside, you can do outside! Have a picnic, camp in the backyard, or throw some soap in with the sprinklers and call it a bath. I know it’s hot, but the outdoors offer endless possibilities; and it’s good for your health!

Invite a friend:Don’t for one second think you’re the only mom with kids saying they are bored two minutes after they wake up. Plan trips to the park, invite friends over, and be “that friend” who invites herself over so you don’t have to get your own house messy. We are designed to do life together and summer with kids is no different.

Create life experiences:Visit a local dairy or farm, help your kids create the grocery list and talk about budgets, actually take your kids inside the post office, or pick out a profession your child is interested in and visit that place of work. You would be amazed at how interested kids are in the seemingly mundane parts of life.

Think smarter, not harder:The internet is chalk full of ideas for science experiments, DIY projects, arts, crafts, and homemade treats with most of them using supplies you have around your house or would already buy anyways. I have also come across fun summer bucket lists full of great ideas (or help your kids make their own). A little planning goes a long way!

Let them be bored:This may sound counterintuitive, but instead of saving them with tablets and TV why not invite them to play with the toys collecting dust in the closet or use their imaginations? From experience growing up and seeing my boys now, giving kids a chance to push through their “boredom” and get creative is a battle well worth fighting!

And please don’t forget to throw in those days where you stay in your pajamas and watch way too much TV. It’s called balance.

Happy summer-ing!

We would like to thank Kendra Huckabee for writing this post!

Family Trip

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I have very fond memories of our family vacationing with my grandparents when I was growing up. Colorado was the destination, and occasionally we would get to fly, but the majority of the time we would pack our bicycles in a U-Haul trailer and head north. It’s funny to me now, as an adult, that the fondest memories, the stories that get retold over and over, actually come from the times that things didn’t go perfectly.

Like the time…

I fell fully clothed into an ice-cold river in the middle of a tourist town, while challenging my sister to see who could “make it the farthest” out on the rocks.

I set off the alarms and brought security guards running when I got ahead in the airport and thought I’d just make one more trip around the revolving security doors to wait for them to catch up. Apparently, those are one-way only.

My grandmother was behind me on a bike path that ran parallel to a drop-off into a creek.  I swerved toward the creek and she instinctively dove off her bike to save me…only for me to correct my course and have her land face first, bruising her eyes and looking like a raccoon for the rest of the trip. She sure must have loved me!

My 6-year-old sister and I would not stop arguing and my parents threatened to move us to the trailer. “Yeah,” she agreed, “so we can fight in PEACE!”

Looking back, I’m pretty sure my parents must have had the patience of Job. Well, for the most part. There was that ONE time they got fed up with teenage sibling bickering and made us get out and run on the side of the road for about a mile.  Let me tell you—that was actually a very effective strategy! But overall, I think they kept things in perspective and rolled with the punches.

Now this summer, I’m looking forward to a family vacation with our kids and their grandparents. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that I’m looking forward to a familytrip. (My father in-law famously says that a vacation is something you take with your spouse.  Anything else is a family trip. J) I know that there will be moments where things won’t go as planned. Meltdowns will happen. Mistakes will be made. But I’m really hoping I can handle them all with as much grace as was modeled to me. Because after all, those might be the makings of the best memories.

We’d like to thank Becca Wilhite for sharing this post.

 

Never Too Far

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom God offers us through His word and through relationships with other women. May Christine’s testimony today encourage your faith and you respond to God’s Word in this season of your life.

Reading Titus 2 brought back so many thoughts about being young and growing up in church. It brings to my mind the importance of living a life that reflects Jesus; that daily we leave impressions on many without even knowing it.

As a child, my family was in a very bad car accident traveling in Mexico. I was about 2 years old and I don’t understand to this day how things happened, but in that accident, I was lodged under the passenger’s front seat still strapped in my car seat. As I was in the hospital, my mom turned to the only one that she knew could heal and save me. In that hospital room, doctors gave a good report, but as I began to walk and grow I had problems with my hip.

My mother cried out to God and He responded by telling her to not worry. He said that I was going to be okay and that His plans for my future were to serve Him, even the person I was going to marry would serve Him and speak His Word, and for her not to fear. She believed and held to that promise, and after getting out of the hospital our family became faithful in going to church and we loved it.

Once I hit 13 years of age my eyes were opened and innocence was taken from me due to many things within our church. I began to resent a lot of things that were taught to me through the Bible, but yet taken differently due to convenience by leaders and teachers. I let the actions of others define my relationship with Jesus instead of standing firm on His truth. I began to tell God, “If this is how Your children are, I don’t want to be like them, hypocrites.”

I pushed myself away from God because of what I saw and ended up drifting far off into the world, but one thing I know is that my mom never lost that hope. She never stopped believing in God’s promise of everything being ok and that He had me in His hand.

God is faithful and after being away from God for almost 13 years, He fulfilled His promise to my mother. Due to her faith and her example, Jesus was made so real to me. He came in a moment when I was broken and drowning in my own consequences, but forgave and showed me love, healed me completely, and freed me from all shame.

Being an example for others has been such a huge thing for me. The reason why I have pushed away my flesh’s desire is I don’t want anyone to look at me and have a negative word about Christ. I don’t want to be that stumbling block that trips people up instead of one who lifts them up. I want to be able to teach with authority, truth, and be a living example of the love of Jesus and His truth.

We would like to thank Christine Araiza for contributing this post.

You Can’t Rush God’s Promises

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Editor’s Note: This semester women from our three campuses have read Titus 2 and shared what God placed on their heart. May you be encouraged and challenged to connect with God and the power of His presence in this season of your life.

Ten months ago, Brent and I decided to try adoption again.  Our hearts were ready.  The timing was good.  Johnny would be 3 when Baby would arrive, so they could share a room.  The girls are the perfect age and would be so helpful.  He and Johnny would be best buds.  They’d play dinosaurs, giggle, and wrestle.  I had dreams.  After our first international adoption attempt, we said that we wanted to have the next one “handed over to us”.  This one was.   How could this not be God?  Doors kept opening, so we kept walking.

My husband was apprehensive the first three months.  We sought counsel from God, family, friends, attorneys, etc.  Over the next few months, I went to sonograms and grew a relationship with the birth mom.  After four months, Brent finally decided this baby boy was going to be our 4thchild.   Two days later, the birth mom started having complications.  We immediately texted our support system asking for prayers and wisdom.  Liam Jacob was born at 23 weeks and went to be with Jesus that same day.  I’ve never experienced pain like that before.

The joy I had was sucked right out of me.  How could this be God?  I felt angry at Him.   “We’ve been faithful.  We’ve done everything right.  Why are you taking this away from us?” I just didn’t understand.  I felt alone.

The devil knows when we are vulnerable, and his subtle deceiving whispers walked me into a season of fear, anxiety, and stress.  I didn’t notice it at first.  I just felt disappointed, confused, and embarrassed by another unsuccessful adoption.  “God, why do we feel called to adopt when it’s not working?”  When our birth mom was in the hospital contracting the night before Liam was born, I went up at ministry time during Core to receive prayer.   I tried to be strong, but I was disappointed.  That night God brought some healing and comfort through the prayers of my friends.

But after Liam passed away, unhealed emotional wounds became a stronghold in my life.  Ladies, we need to expose the devil when his lies feel true.  I couldn’t have done this alone.  Throughout this process I received advice, wisdom, and guidance from mentors.  I’ve been a recipient of what Titus 2 is supposed to look like because the ladies in my life have taken this seriously.  What did that look like?

  • The book a friend gave me on miscarriages.
  • The hug another gave me.
  • The text to check on how I was doing.
  • The encouragement from another friend, “God wants you to know He hasn’t given up on this dream, so you don’t either.”
  • The prayer from another, “Allow disappointment to happen.  You don’t have to guard your heart.”
  • The spoken words of my Father to me, “I am faithful. Your plans pale in comparison to what I have for you.  Keep trusting deeper.”

Does it hurt? Yes.  Is it sad? Yes.  Did it bring Brent and me closer? Yes.  Is my relationship with my Father any different because my trust in His plan didn’t work out? Yes.  It’s actually stronger, because I’m certain He has a better plan for us.  God has given us the gift of community.

When we guard our heart and mind in truth, we won’t be shaken.   Titus 2:13-14 reminds me that we can have hope.  We have peace, worth, and infinite value in our Lord.  We will endure hardships, but our Savior is coming.  Don’t lose hope, Friend.

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for this post.

Champion Your Husband

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve been focusing on Titus 2 and the mentor relationships Paul encouraged older women to share with younger women. It’s our prayer that as you read the real-life experiences from different women within our campuses you’ll be uplifted and inspired to respond to God’s truth in this season of your life.

One of the things I love about growing older is that I can look back at my life and see all the times God has answered prayer, gone before me, worked things out, shut a door, opened another, or taught me something that only He could. Several months ago, I was working through a Bible study that asked this question: Have you ever learned some biblical truth straight from God without textbook, training, or human teacher?

In 2004, Curtis took a church in the Lubbock area. Wade was two, and I was pregnant with Bethani. The church was without a pastor for about 6 months and needed someone who would help them become stable and healthy again. Curtis dove in head first, and before long the church began to thrive. For the first few years, Curtis wasn’t home much. After two years, I was pregnant with Emmalee. I was neck-deep in the season of raising babies and being pregnant.

I didn’t feel like I had a role or a purpose.

I felt vulnerable and began to believe the lie that Curtis was choosing the church over me. I became resentful of and offended by the church. They had Curtis all the time, and I would’ve liked for him to come home long enough so I could take a shower!

One day I fell apart before the Lord. Sobbing, I asked Him to help show me what to do and how to feel. God met me right there, right in the middle of my pain and brokenness. He said, “As Curtis’ wife, you have the power to sabotage or to strengthen the ministry I have given you. This is your choice. I have a purpose for you. It will change as your season of life changes. If you stay in a place of offense and resentment, you won’t be able to see this purpose. Curtis needs you to champion him on, not hinder what I’m doing through him.” Woah.

This didn’t have anything to do with Curtis OR the church. It was about my response to the trials in my life.

I didn’t want my offense to sabotage our ministry, so I asked God to give me the grace to love the church like Curtis did. He showed me my role and purpose during that season. I made the hard choice to be obedient and submissive to all God called me to be, and in doing so, my heart was softened toward the church. My roots shot down deep, and it stabilized our future. I decided to champion Curtis on in his calling, and he championed me on as well. It was such a sweet movement of God in our marriage and in our ministry.

If there is anything this “older woman” can tell you “younger women”, it’s this: Champion your husband! Ask God to show you your purpose during this season. With obedience and perseverance, submit yourself to the will of the Father, and your husband will champion you on as well! Remember that God is our number one Champion who has paid it all for us!

We would like to thank Allison House for contributing this post to the blog.

Choose Life

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom available to us as we glean from the knowledge of other women’s experiences. We hope this post encourages you and lifts you up today to connect with God in a tangible way.

I’m not certain how it happened, but one day I woke up and my kids were BIG. Big enough to see me. The real me. Not the me that could fix their boo boo’s and not the me that could give them a big ol’ mama hug. It had happened. I had been EXPOSED. They had somehow gotten big enough to see MY sin. They could see that I was over-worked, spread thin, wore out and had, over a period of time, become distant and disconnected from them. And while we’re being honest, I was also bitter, short-tempered, selfish and let’s just say it: SINFUL. I had been deceived and Satan had been robbing me from my children.

(INSERT SCREECHING RECORD SOUND HERE.)

Hang with me! I promise that this story ends well! You see, it’s at these pivotal life moments that we can choose to continue to be deceived and believe the lies,

You’re a terrible mom.”

“Look at that mom; her kids adore her.”

“Look at that mom. She can do way more, way better than you.”

 OR 

we can simply choose life.

Life, which is the Hidden Word of God in our hearts. It was an AH HA! moment for me. Repentance was easy and so was the change. I knew exactly what God’s Word said about me.

Ladies, His Word says that He doesn’t call the equipped, but that He equips the called. We are ‘called’ to be wives and mothers; CREATED to do such!  I remember a sermon that Pastor Paul preached where he said, “Parents, LOVE the SNOT out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

God has equipped us with LOVE!  There is something spectacularly supernatural about LOVE. After sowing it, you reap a harvest VERY quickly. I began sowing and pouring intentional LOVE into my children, each so very different. I told Jeremy just recently that I could literally feel God changing me and the atmosphere of our home. I could see fruit everywhere.

There’s more good news. God maps it out for us in His Word. Titus 2 is fantastically plain and simple about the direction we must take in our homes as mothers and in our communities. Hide these truths in your hearts ladies, so that when the enemy comes against you with lies, you can combat him with truth. Titus 2:11-12 says, ‘For the GRACE of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It TEACHES us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this PRESENT age” (emphasis mine). We can literally be taught to say NO to wrongful, sinful behaviors. We can choose life and truth.

So, it is by His abundant grace that I can continue to grow and press forward in this life and journey as a mother. A life that will be ESTABLISHED in and full of His grace and LOVE! Let’s remember to do as Pastor Paul said, “Love the snot out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

We would like to thank Kaci Searsy for contributing this post.

Grieving with God

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Editor’s Note: Titus 2 lays out a framework for us to understand how women are to gather around each other and support one another throughout the seasons of our lives. It’s our prayer that you connect with the powerful story God is writing with your life right now and know that you are not alone.

August 7, 2017 will always be engrained in my mind. That’s the day we walked joyfully into the sonogram room just to hear the words, “We can’t find a heartbeat.” The grief I felt in that moment is something I struggle to put into words. But at the same time, I knew. I felt in my soul before the doctor told us that the baby was gone. In that moment the Holy Spirit held me and brought to my memory all the times he’d given a stirring to my heart. The internal knowledge that something was different this time around.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry out, “Why God? Why my child?” It was never in anger, but to ask for answers. The truth is, I may never have those answers, at least not on this side of heaven.

Losing a child in the womb is something no one ever wants to experience but having God within me has made the loss of our baby more bearable. Because I know that on the day Jesus returns, I will hold my Sage for the first time. I continuously rejoice over that reunion. I know that my sweet child is in the arms of Jesus and will never know sadness or pain. One day we will be reunited. I thank God every day for His love, and that he took care of me at my worst and loved me through this time of sadness. That he helped me to find joy in my grieving.

Healing is an ongoing process for me, and who knows, it may always be. I’m blessed to have some great friends and family I can call on at any time. People I can lean on when I’m sad or weak, to let me cry and talk through things. Not long after my miscarriage, Julie Snellgrove gave me a pamphlet on pregnancy loss. It had scriptures and talking points, things to help me and others understand what was going on emotionally. It brought me great comfort. I also read a bunch of good Christian romance/comedy/mystery books. I’ve always loved a good book, but since August I’ve found reading a few chapters that lift your spirits can do wonders. Lastly, journaling has helped me express myself and pour out emotions and feelings at different times the last few months. It’s been a way for me to talk to God and myself even. Writing this today brings to mind this scripture:

Is anyone crying for help? GOD is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find GOD right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:17-18 (The Message Bible)

God is right there with me. He is in the valley carrying me when I am too sad to go on. He feels my pain when my heart hurts. He loves me regardless of where I am, and that is so sweet and healing to my soul.

Whitney Arthur contributed this post.

One Simple Truth

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the value of godly women mentoring young ones in their faith and everyday lives. Our prayer is that you would be encouraged as you read to connect with God in these areas of your life and obey His voice.

About 10 years ago, I learned one simple little secret at a women’s retreat that has truly changed everyday life at our house. You’ll never see it on the cover of Vogue magazine in a list of top 3 ways to please your man, but it will bring satisfaction to your marriage that the world can’t imagine. Are you interested?

Here’s the secret: The way I treat my husband in the first 1-2 minutes when I see him at the end of the day makes all the difference in showing him honor and setting the thermostat for the rest of our evening together. I often think of this saying and believe it’s God’s heart:

“Treat your family like guests, and your guests like family.” 

When a guest comes over, I want them to know they’re important, valuable, and welcomed. So, I stop what I’m doing, and I go to meet them. I wouldn’t dream of not looking up from my work, or of not getting up off the couch to greet them. I look them in the eye, welcome them, hug them, and tell them I’m so glad they’re there! But when my husband comes home? How is he greeted? Does he feel important, valuable, and welcomed by me?

In Titus 2, we’re told that God entrusted us as women with managing our homes, which includes setting the emotional and relational thermostat!  I challenge you to start intentionally meeting your husband with a smile, a hug, and a genuine gladness that he is home…in a FRIENDLY way. At first this may not feel like it comes from your heart, but as I’ve done this for years, it’s become a simple act that is now rooted in honor and respect for my husband. My home is the domain God’s given me, and I want my husband to feel welcomed there. If you have young kids and the house is scattered with toys, pick them up when you know he’s getting close and teach your kids to get the house ready for Dad. I’m not talking about perfection, but about teaching our kids how to plan for honor.

Older kids need to be trained to stop what they’re doing, walk up to Dad, and greet him with a hug and acknowledgement that he is home. We have a teenager now and still try to practice this every time Gabe walks in the door at the end of the day. We get lazy and selfish, and sometimes she and I have to remind each other to do this. It’s not natural—which is why it has such impact. But we are not natural people! And we don’t live natural lives! We live powerful lives where God’s kingdom comes to earth in our homes and relationships.

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”  Romans 12:10

Honor begins at home. Once your husband is sure that the emotional environment he’s walking into is neither HOT or COLD, I bet you’ll have a chance to tell him about your day. And he may even tell you about his. I dare you; try it!

Jill Moudy from our Plainview campus contributed this post.

Seeking Truth in Your Weakness

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom God’s word offers us in every season of life. Our prayer is that you will be encouraged by the posts to connect with God where you are now and be obedient to His voice.

It’s that time of year again: when everything that can happen to mess up my plans and screw up everything I thought I knew does happen. Almost as if I was getting a little too cocky, a little too confident, all the plates I was holding up fell and smashed into a million pieces. You know, the time when you throw up your hands and say, “Well, it can’t get any worse”? And yet somehow the world figures out a way to make it worse? That was me. Even though I’ve definitely, completely grown up now that I’ve gone off to school and can totally do everything on my own, my first thought was that I needed to talk to my mom.

I grew up with a mother who is fiercely devoted to whatever she does. She is stubborn, black-and-white, and conversely, one of the most sensitive and discerning people I have ever had the pleasure to be around. She’s also my best friend in the entire world. If there’s one thing I have learned after leaving for college last fall, it’s exactly how much I don’t know, and exactly how much she does. She sticks in her spot and knows what is right. As I was reading through Titus 2 this week, I latched onto that image immediately as one of my mother: wise, pure, honoring, submissive. (Also, a huge dork. It must be genetic.)

Recently, I have been really lucky to have a boyfriend that was my person, my best friend. We liked all the same things, shared the same interests in ministry, in travel, in books and poetry. He was the guy that made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt, who listened when I needed it, and made me look at the world a little differently. And last week, after a hard night of prayer and really dramatic arguments with the Lord (you know, the unbending Master of All Things?) I realized I had to end our relationship.

Friends, I fought that realization violently. And when I finally made myself confront him and confessed where I realized our issues were, he came back a day later and gave me all the reasons to stay together. I felt like a deer cornered by my own emotions, staring at that bright light, unable to move because if I’m honest…

I really didn’t want to.

Meeting my parents for lunch that weekend meant that I had to tell them everything, because I knew that I couldn’t trust my own decision-making. They gave little advice, asked few questions. And then my mom looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I know you’ll make the right decision.” With those words, I got a glimpse of what my mother has demonstrated her entire life: that she seeks the truth, in spite of her weaknesses.

So, I obeyed the Lord even as it cut me open. 2 Corinthians 4 says it better than I can: that we are “afflicted in every way, but not crushed… so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

Lean on His life, friends, and those shattered plates will be put back together.

Leah Jarvis from our Amarillo campus contributed this post.

You Want Me to What?

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve asked women from our campuses to read Titus 2 and share what God puts on their heart. We pray this encourages you to read God’s Word and apply it to this season of your life.

We’ve all heard of the Proverbs 31 woman, but what does it look like to be a Titus 2 woman?  After reading and reflecting on Titus 2 I began to wonder which category I fall in. Am I one of the older women that God is calling to train the younger women or am I one of the younger women that still needs guidance?  To be honest, I think I’m a little bit of both.

My husband and I recently celebrated 11 years of marriage. We married very young at the age of 19. I think it’s safe to say that a good percentage of young brides get caught up in the big day and the actual act of marriage ends up falling short of their expectations. Over the last 11 years, there have been “words of wisdom” on being a loving, godly wife that I have passed on to younger women that I feel like God wants me to share.

  1. Do not try to change your husband, period. Love your husband for exactly who God created him to be. If you attempt to change your husband, you will rob him of joyfully fulfilling the purpose that God has for his life. Sometimes as wives, we tend to fall into the trap of nagging our husbands about the things that we wish they would change. Proverbs 21:19 states, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”  Ladies, let’s do our husbands a favor and love them for exactly who God created them to be.
  2. Invest in love languages! The best way to love your husband is to invest time and resources into figuring out his love language. My husband’s love language is quality time. By quality time, I’m not referring to long walks down the aisles of Hobby Lobby. I mean going hog hunting with him or walking long dirt roads searching for arrow heads. Although these may not be my favorite things to do, I love doing them with my husband because I’m investing in our marriage and doing something he loves to do.
  3. Pray for your husband.When I have a hard time submitting to my husband’s authority, it’s usually because his ideas don’t align with mine. So what do I do?  I pray for my husband. I pray that God will align our thinking and our hearts and help me to be submissive to my husband’s authority with a cheerful heart.
  4. Enjoy the little things and don’t take life too seriouslyMany times, as young wives and mothers, we’re so consumed with the opinions of others that we allow those opinions to captivate our every thought. Enjoy your husband, enjoy your kids. Don’t take a single moment for granted, simple as that!

Young wives and mothers, take heart. Seek out life giving relationships with women who can pour wise counsel into your life. Older women, rise up and be good examples through your actions of who God calls us to be in our homes.

Cassie Mogg contributed this post this week. She and her family attend the Plainview campus.

Slacken

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Editor’s note: This semester we’ve asked different women from our three campuses to share something God showed them through the scriptures of Titus 2. We believe God’s Word has the power to impact our lives no matter our circumstance or season. May you be encouraged and empowered to respond to God’s voice as you read through the wisdom these women are sharing with each of us.

Busyness is such a norm in our lives. Everywhere we look, people are frantically trying to balance their professional lives, personal lives, health, finances, etc. Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day?  If I’m being honest, I have felt that way frequently. What would our lives look like if we valued the importance of pursuing God’s presence first and let everything else fall into place? Recently, I felt the Lord speak specifically to this in my own life through one word:

Slacken

Let me explain….

What does it mean to “be still and know that He is God” (Ps. 46:10)? Rarely do we make it to the “be still” part to find out! We go until we can’t go anymore and then collapse and call that being still before Him…but really, we just fell over in exhaustion. Stillness is intentional and purposeful. A holy (set apart) moment where you stop and say THIS is of value and worthy of my time. My favorite illustration of this came from a recent conference. The speaker compared our lives to a rubber band and demonstrated that we pull and pull until life snaps us down, stretched thin and exhausted. We are actually meant to gradually release the tension and quiet our hearts before the Lord like a rubber band that is eased until it completely slackens.

Slacken:  Slow down, ease up, to make something less tight.

Slacken almost sounds like a bad word, as if it represents laziness, but actually it only occurs in intentionality.

Quiet yourself before the Lord. Let Him speak to your heart and establish you in His loving kindness. Let your soul be watered by Holy Spirit drawing you ever nearer. He’s speaking to you, even now!

“Beloved, I’m still here. I’m reminding you of your name and true nature. Dear one, you are safe in my arms.” 

Let your roots go deep in His faithfulness and your life will flow out of this established heart. From this place, you are empowered to correct those under your leadership without shaming them because you no longer believe that their imperfections undermine your value as a leader. You can forgive yourself and others because you realize Jesus died so you could make mistakes without the mistakes making you. You can honor people when they speak hurtful things which demean your character, because you recognize that God is your defender and you’ve spoken wrongfully before, too. Your health is a natural priority because you understand your worth and that real comfort only comes from Him, not an emotional satisfaction from one more piece of chocolate. You can trust Him to provide even if your bank account disagrees, because He is the provider who has abundant resources for your needs AND your dreams.

You are free to love well. The love poured so generously over your life can’t help but overflow onto others. He is always speaking; we need only slow down to listen. Slacken. Make time. Let’s worry less about “doing enough” and allow ourselves to just BE with Him. He is worthy, and He never disappoints.

Shonda McCay contributed this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Marriage & Martyrdom

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’re focusing on Titus 2 and all the different ways it can impact our life in this season of life. Our prayer is that you are encouraged by these posts to see what God would have you apply to your life.

My husband and I joined a marriage Life Group this semester, and we’re going through the Love & Respect curriculum by Emerson Eggerichs. I’m loving it.

Recently, I saw something I don’t think I remember hearing before. The Bible is anything but silent about how husbands and wives show love and respect to each other, but here’s the deal. Eggerichs said husbands are to apape (self-sacrificial love) their wives (Ephesians 5:29) and wives are to phileo (companion-type love) their husbands (Titus 2:8).

When I heard this, I felt like the Spirit of God told me, “I’ve never asked you to be a martyr for your husband. And when you operate from that place, it isn’t godly.” I knew exactly what He meant. It’s the I-Have-to-Do-EVERYTHING-Around-Here-and-No-One-Cares attitude. And it implies that my husband is killing me.

Many times, we as women have no problem sacrificing for our husbands. We cook for them. We clean for them. But we resent them, and believe me, they know it. They see the activity and busyness, but they’re pretty sure we don’t like them.

So what do I do?

When I operate from a martyr mentality, it should be a red flag. I need to speak up and ask for the help I need, because God didn’t call me to lay my life down for my husband the same way He called my husband to do so for me. Usually the help I need is not for my husband to do ALL the chores around the house. I mostly desire his closeness and appreciation for who I am.

He can’t read my mind. I may have to use my words and tell him that my heart hurts. You know what? Every time I’ve told him how I’m really feeling, he’s listened and loved me in a way I can receive it. How can I not respect and fall in love with this man all over again when he goes to war for my heart’s freedom?

In return, I’m called to be his friend. John Eldredge  hit the nail on the head for me in his  2-minute blog Ransomed Heart as he fleshed out what it means to be my husband’s help meet, to phileo (not fillet) my husband.

Trust me. DO NOT miss this.

When I get God’s heart for my role as wife, so much falls into place in my marriage. He’s not calling me to be the loser. Did you know there doesn’t even have to be a loser in my marriage? But when I get out of whack here, I experience major bouts of frustration, anger, and bitterness.

Ask God to reveal His heart to you. He will show you how to take the first step out of martyrdom and into freedom.

Jodi LaFrance wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

The Table Experience

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Editor’s Note: This semester we’re focusing on Titus 2 and the wisdom it offers us as women in all different seasons of our lives. It’s our prayer that as you read through these posts you’ll hear each writer’s heart as they’ve spent time connecting with God over this passage of Scripture.

How many of you grew up in a home where you sat at the dinner table as a family? This is one of my favorite memories as a child. I remember the food mom would make, the enjoyment I had antagonizing my sister (sorry Allison), and the conversations we would have.

eloisebellmarch-01The table experience growing up shaped how I view the dinner table today. One dinner, in particular, comes to mind. I had made some delicious potato soup a few days earlier (key words: “a few days earlier”). Miley was three at the time and took a bite of the left-over soup, and said, “This is the wuhst dinnuh evah!” (a.k.a. worst dinner ever: she couldn’t say her R’s). Offended, I told her to leave the table and go think about how ungrateful she was acting. I then proceeded with the “go-to speech” of how there are starving children all over the world who would LOVE this left-over soup. She came back to the table and I told her, “Miley, you have two choices. You can either finish your dinner and be grateful for it, or you can be done.” Miley looked at me, and in her sweet, innocent voice she replied, “I’ll be done,” (laughing out loud).

Miles and I are intentional about eating together as a family as much as possible. One of our favorite things to do is cooking dinner together.

Scripture is filled with illustrations of lives changed when eating around a table.

Unfortunately, the typical family no longer eats meals together at the table. The table has been replaced with fast food. The ugly truth is mealtime is no longer an opportunity for families to build relationships.

Why is eating at the table so important? Scripture is filled with illustrations of lives changed when eating around a table. In 2 Samuel 9:7, Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth was invited to dine at King David’s table. It was there that Mephibosheth’s rejection and unworthy past was replaced with confidence and personal value. In Luke 15:23, the father’s decision to have a celebration feast gave his wayward son hope for a new future. In Matthew 26, Jesus and the Twelve sat down at the table to share in the Passover meal. After His resurrection (Luke 24), Jesus broke bread with two followers and gave thanks. Suddenly, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. At both meals, Jesus demonstrated the frame of mind that we should have at the table. Remember Him and the price He paid for you as you break bread together in your homes.

There are many things you can experience around the table: love is shared, bodies are nourished, actual face-to-face conversations happen, family members serve each other, daily schedules are discussed, and the list goes on!  Most importantly, a lovingly prepared table is a place where the presence of God dwells and relationships are established. God designed the table for you and your family to share life with each other. So, I encourage you to put dinner together back on the calendar.

Eloise Bell from our Amarillo campus wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Heart of a Mother

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The heart of a mother is one that, for some, is hard to explain and even talk about.  When I think of how to explain those words, I immediately get a picture of my own mom.  Growing up I felt very safe and secure. Both parents were and still are strong Christians. My brothers and I were loved and disciplined in a Biblical way and really never questioned our upbringing. It was good. My mother kept the home fires burning.  She did mom things: cooking, cleaning, carpooling, attending sports events, and church functions. She was a fantastic model for me. It wasn’t until I faced challenges of trying to become a mother myself that I began to realize there was more to a mother’s heart than meets the eye.

 

At the tender age of 38 I thought I was ready to attempt this “mom” thing. Little did I know that the road it would take me down would be one of great heartache. My journey to motherhood began with a miscarriage. A few months later, I gave birth to  a little girl only to be with her for an hour before she took an early flight from this earth and said goodbye. Later I carried a child for only 28 weeks and had to say goodbye yet again. Definitely not the journey I had pictured. My faith was challenged, but it kept me from spiraling into despair, and yet my heart still had to grieve the loss.  God never left; He just had a divine calling on my life called adoption. On June 14, 2006, a 7-pound, 14-ounce big blue-eyed little girl was laid in my arms! What else could I say, but, “WOW!” The heart of a mother began to swell within me.

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That little girl is now 11 years old.  Time flies! As I examine my road as a mother, I have begun to understand what was going on behind the scenes of things my mother would do. It’s all beginning to make sense. I’m blown away by how the heart of a mother reflects, in many ways, the heart of God.  We read about His heart for us in His word.  He instructs us how to live, then commands us to instruct our children. He protects us and in the same way, instills in us the heart-felt need to protect our “littles”. Psalm 18 is a beautiful picture of how He fights for us. So we also are not afraid to fight on behalf of those in our care.

 

My mom-heart gets foggy at times on what’s a true reflection of His heart. Actions that seem unimportant to me speak volumes of love to my child: a dorky valentine card, conversational candy hearts, a miniature box of chocolates, things that are no big deal to me are huge love actions in my house right now. These are opportunities to reflect His love in ways that my child can understand.

 

I love that the mom-heart He placed in each of us reflects His heart. What else can we say but “WOW!”

Kori Covington wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.