Contentment in My Family

Contentment in My Family

Editor’s Note: It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.

Do you ever look at your husband and think he has it better than you? That his role as a man seems a lot better or easier than yours as a woman? After all, it seems like all he does is go to work and provide the money while you pretty much take care of EVERYTHING else. Well, my friends, that’s exactly how I found myself during this season of my life: sulking, frustrated, and pondering those things.

This summer was not an ordinary season for my family. My husband works as an electrician for a company that travels all around the U.S., and typically, the summer is when his work slows down and he is home. However,  due to Covid-19, his crew has been out working more than usual. In fact, he was gone for a little over two straight months. During this time, it has been easy to look at my life and become resentful over the role God has given me as a woman. It has been easy to think my husband got the better end of the stick. He’s traveling, seeing the country, and has no responsibility other than providing for us and making phone calls to us. Meanwhile, I’m home dealing with the house, the kids, a child that just had surgery, a new grand baby, bills…blah blah blah! 

But God, in His sovereignty and because He loves me, opened my eyes. An opportunity came up for the kids and me to spend 2 weeks on the road with my husband, something we have never done for an entire 2-week period. We travelled with him through 4 states, stayed in hotels, and ate out for two meals every day. As much as I thought I would love to be in his place, this taught me what all my husband truly endured as he loves on and provides for our family. He drives hundreds of miles to his job sites, works long hours in the hot sun, then returns to an empty hotel room to eat his takeout or fast food alone. He doesn’t complain or act like it’s a burden; instead, he willingly does these things to give us a good life. And here I was, complaining about being a wife, staying home, raising kids and paying bills. 

In our first week on the road with him, all I could do was repent for ever believing that my husband’s role was more glamorous than mine. God has graciously opened my eyes to see the beauty in the specific roles He’s called my husband and me to. Neither role is more important than the other, but together, each one fits perfectly into God’s created order and design for balance in a marriage.

When we choose to embrace our roles as women in whatever place God has called us to, we can really begin to understand what it means to live in contentment and satisfaction.

So, dear friends, wherever you find yourself today in relation to your role as a woman or your role in your marriage, I pray that God will reveal to you the truth about who you are and what you contribute to this world. You are meant to be you—not your husband, not another woman—YOU! I hope He graciously opens your eyes to this beautiful and freeing truth just as He  did mine.

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this post!

Contentment in Sorrow

Editor’s Note: It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys, and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.

I step outside, curl both hands around a warm mug, and gaze wistfully at the splash of burnt orange stretched across the western sky where the last rays of the sun have just disappeared beneath the horizon. I breathe deep the smell of damp earth and decaying leaves mingled with the sweet smell of apple and cinnamon in my mug. It is the smell of autumn. The quiet stillness of the countryside blankets itself around me, and a gentle breeze brushes across my face. I feel the cares and anxiety of the day begin to wash away, and in the quiet stillness, I know I am not alone.

I love autumn. To me, it is the most beautiful season of the year, and yet, every year beginning in August and lingering until November, I struggle with what some might consider mild depression. For me, like most people, the source of my depression is complex. I mourn the passing of summer, the passing of the year, the waning sunlight, and although all the major losses in my life have occurred in the spring, I mourn them again every autumn.

I was a young mother in the spring of 1992 when my comical and active, red-headed, five-year-old little boy had open-heart surgery. Complications following that surgery left him severely brain damaged. What should have been a week-long hospital stay lasted months. In early August, soon after his sixth birthday, we brought home a child completely changed from the one we took to the hospital. That was when I began to see the reality of my loss. My heart broke and the cracking of it left a fissure that will never completely heal this side of heaven. I cared for Justin twelve years, and he would never walk, talk, feed himself, or even hold his head up again.

Nine years later, in May of 2001, my husband took his life. The sudden trauma of his death left me numb, and again, I could not begin to grasp the reality of that loss until after the farm sale in late August.

I think as we age and begin to experience more losses in our life, each one can revive old memories, even if we have come to a place of peaceful acceptance in our grief. This past March, my Dad died on the sixteenth anniversary of Justin’s death. Although his passing was not as traumatic as the other losses in my life, I have missed him and mourned his death with the coming of fall as the season has once more reminded me of loss.

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist introduced the five stages of grief. Although everyone grieves differently and not everyone will experience all five stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, most of us will experience some degree of these emotions in some order. Isolation and loneliness are also common when grieving, and many therapists link these with depression, but in my experience, I do not think they are quite the same. For me, a natural introvert who seeks solitude on a regular basis anyway, isolation has been the longest stage of grief.

But knowing that we do not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14), I have come to embrace the comfort of solitude, for we were not left alone or without comfort. In John 14:16, Jesus says, “And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;…”(KJV). And just before Jesus ascended, He left us this promise, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV). So while we are not meant to stay in isolation, I am thankful Jesus meets us there in our grief and provides comfort and contentment for our broken hearts.

And so again, I breathe in the sweet smells of fall, gaze at the beautiful golden horizon, and give thanks for this season and a Comforter who meets us in solitude, and my heart is once more filled with peace and gladness.

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

Contentment in the Workplace

Contentment in the Workplace

Editor’s Note: It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys, and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.

Working in education is completely new this school year. I’ll bet you can say the same about your workplace, too, whether you work at the bank, at Walmart, or in medicine. Even though I’ve worked at my job in the same school for the past 22 years, teaching this year has come with some challenges that I’ve never faced before. Will it be possible for us to learn to find contentment in our workplaces, even in times like these?

In 22 years, I’ve found a good deal of enjoyment in my vocation; otherwise, why would I still be at the same place? I’ll admit, though, that I’ve gone through days or weeks of doldrums, discouragement, and discontent, too.  Most of the time, looking back, the deciding factor between the good days and the bad days has more to do with my attitude or disposition than with any circumstance or challenge in my job.

How do you see your workplace? To maintain contentment there, it has to be more than a paycheck: it needs to be a mission and a calling. Colossians 3:23 tells me, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  When I consider that I’m working for Him, my work becomes a calling and a ministry, not just a job. As a teacher, the last line on my contract says, “Other duties as assigned.” To me this means that there will be divine appointments taking place throughout the day, and I’m in that school to meet needs that may have nothing whatsoever to do with teaching kids to read or write. I might get to pray for a co-worker, comfort a student who has had a loss, encourage another who is struggling, or visit with a parent who is worried about her child. What kinds of divine appointments do you see at your workplace on a daily or weekly basis?

Thomas Merton wrote, “Before the Lord wills me to do anything, He first of all wills me to ‘be.’ What I do must depend on what I am.” God’s Word has some great advice about contentment in all parts of our lives. Philippians 4:11 says, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.”  If Paul can learn to be content in his work, we can learn the same in ours. He continues in verse 13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Let’s look at some practical ways that we can not only be content ourselves but create an atmosphere of peace and contentment within our places of employment and among our colleagues.

The words we speak are creative. They are either creating a positive or negative environment around us. In John 6:43, Jesus tells people, “Do not grumble among yourselves,” and Philippians 2:14 advises us to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” A workplace where employees grumble and complain about the job, about co-workers, or about the boss is going to be stirred up with negativity. Our words feed the spirit of the places we work, and since we spend the majority of our time there, we are submerging ourselves in peace or stress with every word we speak. If we have to complain to someone, Psalm 142:2 directs us: “I pour out my complaint before Him.” Taking our frustrations and aggravations to Jesus will prevent us from muddying the atmosphere at work with negative talk.

Working with other people can be stressful. Colleagues or customers will rub us the wrong way at times. The stress in people’s lives now magnifies trouble. Paul tells us in Ephesians to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (4:32). If we can make the decision to forgive before we have ever been offended, we can walk in peace, no matter what happens. Romans 12:18 in The Passion Translation says, “Do your best to live as everybody’s friend.” Sometimes in workplaces, there can be a lot of drama. The lunchroom or the lounge can turn into gossip-central, if we are not careful. Living as everyone’s friend means that we will allow the Holy Spirit to guard our mouths and let love cover over other people’s faults.

In the workplace, everyone has his or her own idea of what is important. We all want to be recognized for our contributions, but Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, “Don’t allow self-promotion to hide in your hearts, but in authentic humility put others first and view others as more important than yourselves.  Abandon every display of selfishness. Possess a greater concern for what matters to others instead of your own interests.” I’ve found that when our staff works as a team, covering each other and helping each other, rather than staking out our own territory, there is much less friction.

Finally, communication is so important for a peaceful workplace. Part of my job this year is to take the Pre-K students their breakfasts every morning. My principal asked me to do this about the second or third day of school. I began going in at 7:30 and getting breakfasts for the students as they came in. I noticed that the cafeteria director seemed more and more annoyed with me every day. Finally, about a week ago, I asked her if there was anything I could do to make things easier on them. She said, “Well, it’s just that I was told that no one would be coming in to get the breakfasts for the Pre-K until 7:45.” I had never been told that before! So, we made a deal right then that I would not come in anymore until 7:45 to get the breakfasts. Sounds like a simple thing, but miscommunication, or lack of communication, was compounding her stress level, and it was a simple fix! If things don’t seem right, ask if there is any way that you can help or make things easier. Opening up communication will prevent so many misunderstandings and save some hurt feelings.

The workplace is where we can let our light shine. If we can walk into our jobs filled with the Holy Spirit, ready to lay our lives down for our co-workers, and prepared to serve people as if we are directly serving God, what a difference it will make in our places of employment. What a witness to the world around us that we can really walk in peace in the midst of chaos.

We would like to thank Sheri Warren for contributing this post!

Contentment In The Waiting

Contentment In The Waiting

Editor’s Note: Have you ever had to wait on something? Have you ever felt like God has given up on you? The truth is He has not and He never will. It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys, and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.

When I was asked to write about “Contentment in the Waiting,” I almost panicked. Seriously. It’s so fresh. The “waiting” period has become all too familiar to my family and me in the recent years. I feel like we have all experienced or will experience a time of waiting, each difficult in their own way, and the way we handle that waiting can be extremely critical. I don’t know that I can give you any legitimate insight on “Contentment In The Waiting” without telling a bit of my story, so here we go. 

I’ve experienced the specific “waiting” of infertility two separate times, handling them both differently. When I was unable to conceive before my son, Hayes, I was angry. Truly angry. That kind of can’t even “fake it ’till you make it” anger and depression, touching many different areas in my life. Why me? Or better yet, why NOT me? I knew I served a God that loved me, heard my cries, and could move my mountains, but I doubted that He would. It was hard for me to truly find rest and ultimate peace in the hands of our Father. How arrogant, right? Obviously, my focus was on ME.

Fast forward to round 2 of infertility, which seemed a bit more extreme even from the beginning. This time, I had true diagnoses and fertility doctors telling me Hayes was the definition of a miracle and that I would not conceive again on my own without multiple surgeries. This time around, instead of getting angry, I decided I could fix this. My “control everything” personality heard surgery as a “fix it” to my problem. When my husband, Hagen, and I discussed it, he told me we would do whatever I wanted to do. I took it and ran with it. Honestly, I never even stopped to pray about it. I took charge, and I scheduled that surgery. I had no doubt in my mind that it would be my solution. Again, how arrogant. A couple weeks went by, and during worship at a Sunday morning church service, I heard God clearly speak to me: “BE STILL.”

When it comes to things in my life, “be still” does not fit my personality. I like to be in control. “No, God. I don’t want to be still. This isn’t fair. I deserve this.” Again, about me. Obviously, God wanted to teach me something during both of these waiting periods. He first taught me that control and contentment don’t go hand in hand when you are living in the Kingdom. What hit me like a ton of bricks, especially the second time around, was that if I would let go of that control and let God take over, miracles truly do happen. I cannot live in my desire of the flesh to react in anger or to control situations and have a true sense of peace and contentment in the Holy Spirit. And second, He taught me that sometimes our battles and our testimony are just not about us. Watching God use our storm and the rainbow He creates from it to help and better someone else’s journey is POWERFUL. 

Before these two specific waiting times, I truly believe God placed other things in my path that were designed for me to show complete surrender to Him and let Him work in my life, but I did just the opposite. Now looking back, it took me facing something I literally could not control and hitting rock bottom to give up my desire to control every little thing.

The memory of the phone call to cancel my surgery is so vivd in my mind. As soon as I said, “cancel my surgery, please,” I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders that I did not even know I was carrying. When I decided to follow God’s command of me to be still, it allowed me to not only trust in His plan, but it allowed me to step into the roles that He had called me to. I didn’t even realize what I had been missing out on in the everyday life as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend until I let Him take away the responsibility of my infertility and the need to fix it. 

God’s timing and plan is always perfect. It may sound cliche, but it is absolutely true. My Hayes and Hatton are living proof. His strategy of teaching me “Contentment In The Waiting” was just icing on the cake. So in whatever waiting you’re facing, trust Him, friend. He’s worth it. 

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

Hearing God in the Gap

Hearing God in the Gap

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

I’m throwing out a hard truth here: We don’t always get what we ask for when we ask for it. Sometimes what seems like a no is a not yet. And sometimes there’s a gap, a tension, between hearing God and seeing His word come to pass. 

The gap can bring discouragement and distance. When it doesn’t feel like God is answering our prayers, we might shut down altogether—and we might miss hearing His voice, the thousands of other conversations He wants to have with us while we wait.

How do you grow your relationship with God in the midst of a not yet? 

I spent years fixating on what I wanted God to do for us. I had a clear word from Him, and I sowed into it with prayer often. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, it resulted in two unfortunate consequences. It focused my attention on my circumstances, on what was lacking. And when I didn’t see His word coming to pass, it caused me to question anything I thought I heard. Our relationship suffered because I had forgotten what His voice sounded like.

In early 2015, four years before God would answer our prayer, I reached a breaking point. I missed my Heavenly Father. Knee-deep in my grief and pain, I felt lost and confused, and I was desperate for His affirmation. But my ears felt clogged. So I committed to spending 40 days with Him, every morning, and I asked Him to give me a word every day. I didn’t spend that time praying for anything. In fact, I was mostly quiet because my soul needed to receive from Him. I needed to hear His voice again, to be reminded what He sounds like, and to remember what He says about me. During this season the Lord showed me that I had connected His love for me with what He was doing, or in this case, not doing. To wait for years and years, to get another no, another loss, over and over again, to watch those around me receive what I wanted (and sometimes they didn’t)—it all felt very unloving. 

But here’s another hard truth I learned: to equate God’s love with my circumstances is to manipulate who He is. 

I had to come to grips, and repentance, that I was angry because God wasn’t doing what I wanted. If He loves me so much, why wouldn’t He do this for me? The other side of that? I was withholding my love because He wasn’t doing what I wanted. Ouch. 

You know why I call that manipulation? Because it makes love conditional. If He loves me, He will do this for me. If He does this for me, I will love Him. 

When He showed me that His love is unconditional, the power of this truth transformed my life. It still transforms me even now. And it’s a good thing, my friend. I’m so grateful His love isn’t based on my performance. At the time, I wanted it to be because it felt like control. If only I could do something, He’d love me enough to answer my prayer. Today I’m so thankful He answered my prayer in spite of any works on my part. He loves me no matter what. And I love Him whether He’s answering my prayers today—or not. 

If you have heard God for something specific, and you find yourself in the gap, I encourage you to keep pressing into your relationship with God. Spend time with Him. Refocus your attention. Let Him remind you how much He loves you. Ask Him to show you what His purpose is during this season. Allow Him to refill your cup. Invite Him to speak truth over you, reminders of who He is and who He says you are. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17

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

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

The Garden of Eden. What comes to mind when you hear those words? Something about it seems so far away, so mystical…so other worldly. Yet it was a very real place. The garden was a paradise where God would come down and walk and talk with Adam and Eve—the pinnacle of His creation—in the cool of the day. It’s where He would commune with His children; it was a place where Heaven and earth overlapped. There was no separation, no sin. This was God’s original intent for the state of the world.

Well, we all know what happened. Eve just messed it all up and now it’s ruined for us forever, right? Well, not exactly. You see, God had a plan. He had a plan not just to give us a road back to Heaven when we die, but a plan to bring Heaven to earth. In Jesus, once more Heaven and earth were joined together: fully God and fully man. He lived a perfect life. He died as a sacrifice for all of humanity, and He sent His Holy Spirit to once more create a space for Heaven to overlap earth—through US.

So how do we experience that? Is that just a gift reserved for pastors and really “spiritual” people? I would say not at all. God has made His presence available and accessible to all, and one of the best ways to find it is through worship. Have you ever noticed how the atmosphere of your home, or car, or workplace just changes by simply playing worship music? There’s a reason for that. Psalm 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. INHABIT=to live or occupy a place. To bring Heaven down to earth. You see, God’s not waiting for us to all fly away to be with Him. He wants to walk with us in the cool of the day, just like He did with Adam and Eve. He wants to commune with His children. He wants to speak to you as well as hear your prayers.

That all sounds so glorious, doesn’t it? But the truth of the matter is that like anything that’s good for you, it may be simple, but it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to make the time. It’s not easy to unplug. It’s not easy put down a phone, or turn off Netflix, or whatever it is that we run to in order to pass the time. And just in case you think worship leaders automatically just wake up in the third Heaven, it’s not like that. We all have to be intentional to get into God’s presence. That seems a little ironic since He lives inside of us, doesn’t it? Worship doesn’t just bring God’s presence; it also reminds us that He’s been there all along. It stills our hearts and brings us to that peaceful place in the garden that He’s put inside our hearts; a place where we can walk with Him and talk with Him, free from the distractions and worries of the world.

I remember a time when I first started playing on the worship team. I was coaching at the time and had just had a super busy and exhausting weekend. I realized that Sunday that I was scheduled to play for a worship night that evening, and I had such a poor attitude. I was tired. I didn’t want to go. I was in such a bad mood. That all changed right before we started when I felt God whisper to me, “May I have this dance?” He continued to ask that same question before every song, and for the first time in a long while, worship became personal to me again. That’s who we serve—a personal God. He couldn’t care less if we raise our hands and jump around if it’s all about externals. He wants something deeper, something more intimate and personal. He still longs to come and spend time with just you, to walk and talk with you in the garden. Perhaps He’s calling you to make room for Him. Perhaps He’s holding out His hand. Perhaps He’s asking the question that stills my heart 20 years later…

May I have this dance?

May I take your hand in Mine?

May I hold you close right here with Me,

As the music keeps time?

May I take the lead?

May I show you how this dance goes?

Don’t you know I’ve been watching, waiting, asking Will you follow?

May I have this dance?

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes sometime today and click on this link. Spend some time in the garden. And P.S.…it’s a great song for a waltz. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for this blog post!

Hearing God Through Prayer

Hearing God Through Prayer

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

Have you ever scheduled time with a friend, maybe over a good cup of coffee, just to talk? You’re able to catch up on everything that is happening in each other’s lives, or just share what is on each of your hearts. You may completely lose track of time during your sweet visit and become disappointed when the time finally comes when you have to go. 

Jesus longs to have an even closer, joy-filled relationship with each of us. I know we may not have hours every day to sit in singular, focused fellowship with Jesus, but the good news is that He is always with you, in your coming and going, in your commute, in your workplace, in your family time, in your home, and even on your vacation. Jesus Himself said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He sealed you with His Holy Spirit when you put your trust in Him!

He not only wants you to share your heart with Him but He also wants to share His heart with you! This is what prayer is all about. Please don’t try to complicate it. You may be wanting or needing to hear from Jesus, but you don’t think He is speaking to you, or you may not think you can hear Him. The best place that I know to start is in the greatest love letter ever written: the Bible. His heart is shared with you there. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through His Word. He longs to speak to you, and He is faithful. 

When we declare His Word over ourselves and pray it back to Him, it is so very powerful. I find myself most often praying God’s Word, but some of these times are extremely precious and memorable to me. One of those times happened in the darkest season of my life. I was staring at the walls of a pit of postpartum depression after losing our third son late in my second trimester. Grieving the loss of a baby was unbearable. A dear friend sent me a card with Philippians 4:7 written in it: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I read every word deliberately and slowly. At that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He said, “I am guarding your heart and mind in Christ.” I cried out and admitted to God that I needed Him to guard my heart and mind because I wasn’t able to do it. Immediately His peace washed over me and gave me rest. I don’t want you to misunderstand or think that I got to skip past grief, because I assure you, I didn’t. But I knew Jesus was walking me through it, and His peace was guarding my heart and mind. As I prayed these words over and over, I proclaimed to the darkness that it wasn’t going to damage my heart or mind, because the peace of God was guarding it.

The times when He brings His Word to mind in prayer is not always so heavy or pressing. I love praying His Word over myself, my husband, my children, relatives, friends, neighbors, schools, and our church. Jesus said that we could ask anything in His name and it would be done. “In His name” means by His authority. We have to spend time with Him in His Word to hear and know what He authorizes. When you hear from Him and He has shared His heart with you, by all means, ask for it in prayer.

Commonly, my day starts with a Bible verse of the day. I will read from that part of the Bible until God speaks to my heart about something I am reading. It doesn’t usually take long for me. I also like to ask Him questions and ponder parts of Scripture that I don’t fully understand. Today’s verse of the day was James 1:22 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” This is easy to pray about. My prayer sounded something like this, “Lord, you know my heart and you know my ways. Please bring to my attention any way I am hearing your Word, but I am not doing it. I don’t want to deceive myself.” As I said before, the Lord is faithful. In my normal daily happenings, He will kindly bring something to my attention regarding this prayer as He speaks back to heart.

If you are in a place of needing to hear about something specific from Him, make sure you are quieting your heart so you can hear and ask someone you can trust to pray for you as well.

Remember, hearing the Lord in prayer is all about our relationship with Him. He is not hiding His heart from you. I hope you will take the time to hear what He is saying specifically to you as you pray and seek His face.

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

My Invitation

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

My boys are growing up so fast. They started 1st grade this year, and I can’t stop thinking about when I held them for the first time. They both nestled into my arms and were so still and calm. I remember kissing their tiny heads and wanting to never forget that moment. And now, six years later, the only time they stop long enough for me to kiss their heads is when they’re sleeping. They are always on the move, fighting Jedi battles with light sabers in hand, showing me how they can run as fast as a cheetah, or practicing their ninja moves; it’s tough to get them to slow down. I often find myself asking them to take a second, come sit in my lap, and talk to me. I just want to hold them for a bit, but most of the time, it’s like holding a cat that doesn’t want to be held. They wiggle out of my lap and off they go on their next adventure. 

Sometimes I wonder if God ever feels that way about us. Does He wish that we would slow down and climb up in His lap for a bit? Does He want to talk to us and spend time with us? I believe He does. In fact, I know He does. 

In Exodus 25, we find God giving Moses instructions for building the tabernacle that will house His presence. He gave very detailed directions on how to build it and what materials should be used. And in verse 22, we see a glimpse of God’s heart for why He wanted the tabernacle built in the first place. 

I will meet with you there above the mercy seat, between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the testimony; I will speak with you from there about all that I command you regarding the Israelites.”

Did you catch that?! If you read it too quickly, it would be easy to miss. But when we slow down and really think about what He is saying here, we can see that He’s extending an invitation to a relationship. He didn’t just want a place where he could speak to them; He wanted a place where He could speak with them and meet with them.

When it comes to hearing God, sometimes I think we only expect to hear God speak to us rather than expecting Him to speak with us. If He only spoke to us it would be one-sided, but if He speaks with us, He invites us into a conversation. He longs to hear from us as much as we long to hear from Him. 

We can be sure that God desires relationship because when he created us in His image, He wired us to desire relationship just like He does. Think about it this way: He’s the one that decided to exist in three persons instead of one! He has Jesus seated right next to Him and He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and to help us. We’re all in this together! The very nature of who He is shows us His heart for relationship.

You were created for relationship by the One who longs for relationship with you. And when He created you, He gave you the ability to hear His voice just as surely as He gave you a voice to respond to His. Hearing our God is the most wonderful gift, and it’s something that each of us can do. And when we respond to His voice, we enter into the most amazing conversation we could ever have. We just have to create space in our life to build that connection with Him. It’s that simple. 

Will you slow down today, climb up in His lap, and begin a divine conversation with our God who wants to meet with you and speak with you? If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t hear Him, first, ask yourself if you’ve made space for him in your life. If not, you can start that conversation today. 

We would like to thank Amber Curry for writing this post!

Hostess with the Mostest

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I learned when I was a young child the duties of a hostess as I watched my Mom and Dad in their church work. They were very involved with the youth ministry, so they were always ready for expected and unexpected youth coming to our house and making themselves at home. My mom was an amazing cook, and she had the sweetest soul of anyone you would ever meet. She always had something special ready for snacks. My dad was deemed the best all around door-greeter and was loved by all. They were prime examples of “Love God, Love People.”

An important part of being a great hostess is setting an atmosphere of fun and relaxation.  My guests need to feel safe, comfortable, and know that they are welcome, to the point where no one feels like leaving. One way to do this is to make your guests feel important. Give them your undivided attention. When they leave your house, it’s not the food or the spotless floors they’ll remember; it’s your caring heart and your invested conversation that will make a bigger impact. You can make your guests feel loved as soon as they step into your home by treating them as VIPs. Each and every person who enters your home is very important to the Kingdom because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). You can extend this even further by offering your guests a word of encouragement as they leave your home.

One specific way you can set the stage of comfort, relaxation, and importance in your home is through the sense of smell. Smell is connected to memory, so yummy smells in your home can help trigger fun and happy memories for your guests or just help put them at ease. If you enjoy candles or essential oils, you might have some going near the front door, on your patio, in your sunroom, or in the living room. If you prefer the smell of baked goods, fresh baked bread, brownies, or cookies are all inviting smells and come with the added bonus of having a treat to serve your guests. 

God gives us the gift of hospitality so that we can glorify Him as we care for others. The blessing of the walls in our home provides safety and security for our families and can provide an atmosphere of care for the guests who enter as well. Romans 12:13 teaches us to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. When we open our home to others, we honor God and honor those who walk through our door. I Peter 4:9-10 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.Practicing hospitality makes us instruments of God’s grace and allows us to extend His grace to those with whom we come in contact. 

The Word tells us, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). Scripture goes on to say, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). As you seek out opportunities to show hospitality by inviting guests into your home, remember that you are also practicing generosity. Ask God to cultivate this fruit in your life and watch His blessings flow! 

We would like to thank Diana Brumley for writing this post!

Focus on Blessing, not Impressing

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I used to stress any time I knew we would have guests over. Don’t get me wrong, I love people and I am always excited to hang out with both new and old friends. But I would seriously stay up all hours of the night overthinking everything I needed to do to make their visit absolutely perfect. After all, I went to “sister Suzy’s” house last month and she served a gourmet meal and her home was immaculate! And did you see her dining table? Beautiful! You know, like the ones you see in magazines, dressed with center pieces and fine china.

The irony in this is I have worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. I KNOW hospitality! I work with my staff daily to teach them that although a clean room is very important, what makes a stay memorable is the way the guest feels welcomed and at home. It’s not about perfection; it’s about connection.

So why do I stress so much about inviting someone to my home?

It took me digging into what hospitality really means before it finally clicked and I could apply it to my home life. Because in reality, I am a wife and working mother of 6 kids. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve set a pretty table and used that china I’ve had stored away for years. And you know what, I’ve learned that is perfectly ok. Let me tell you why.

While I was studying, I came across the Greek word for hospitality: philoxenia. It literally means LOVE OF STRANGERS. It does not mean I must cook a mean filet mignon, or have the shiniest silver. It means I should show compassion, take genuine interest and serve others. Now if you are one of those lovely ladies that can do it all, may God bless you sister. God created us each to be unique in our gifts. I, for one, did not receive that gift. And for those of you that are in my boat, don’t worry. God never said that practicing hospitality would look the same for everyone. He wants you to share your heart.

1 Peter 4:8-9: And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

My takeaway from that is we are called to let our hospitality be an overflow of God’s hospitality to us. And by the way, the memories and the friendships you make along the way will outweigh the troubles of the mess left behind. I promise. 

In biblical times, it was not uncommon to invite a stranger in. There were no stigmas on needing to have a perfect home in order to offer drink or food to a traveler. Jesus himself showed us how to actively love people and create relationships over a meal time and time again. And even though it is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, I don’t think He would have walked away just because you served your meal on paper plates.

So my suggestion to you is to keep it simple. Invite your neighbors over for s’mores over the firepit. Ask the new couple at church to join you for pizza and a game night. Take cookies to the new family that recently moved into the neighborhood. And by the way, I am almost positive they are not going to turn them away even if you bought them at the grocery store instead of baking them from scratch. You could even send an encouraging note to your friend that has moved away. Or invite a new mom over for a play date. You know we all could use adult conversation from time to time. And if nothing else, BE FRIENDLY. Sometimes a simple hello can go a long way. Remember, the purpose of hospitality is to fellowship, mentor, strengthen bonds and get to know one another. Don’t focus so much of what would impress your guests, but more on what would bless them.

Mathew 25: 37-40“Then those that are right with God will say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? When did we see You thirsty and give You a drink? When did we see You a stranger and give You a room? When did we see You had no clothes and we gave You clothes? And when did we see You sick or in prison and we came to You?’ Then the King will say, ‘For sure, I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of My brothers, you have done it to Me.’

Today I am planning an evening with friends. I am choosing to intentionally focus on serving my guests, and I’m not stressing over what would impress them. I realize now that even though we drink from plastic cups at my house, my guests still feel loved and cherished. And regardless of the food on the table, it is a chance for simple moments to spark beautiful memories. And you know what? I sleep much better at night too, having peace in knowing I don’t have to stress about perfection. All I have to do is love people like Jesus loves me. 

We would like to thank Misty Rowell for writing this post!

How to Practice Everyday Hospitality

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

When I think of the word hospitality, I think of inviting someone into my home, providing food and drink, initiating good conversation, and in essence, offering a pleasant time spent together.

I have to be honest: in the past that word HOSPITALITY would bring anxiety, fear and insecurity. Sometimes, it still can. For me, it brings up thoughts of scheduling, tidying up, spending, and worst of all, getting everybody on board to help for having someone in our home. But as I’ve learned more about who God is and what He is about, I’ve learned if it’s not good then it’s not God!

If I allow those feelings of lack (fear, anxiety, insecurity) to dictate my actions, then I’m not allowing God to use me or be seen by others through me. His Word says to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Romans 15:7). We are called to do as our Father does. 

Romans 12:13 says to “find ways to show hospitality. ” This requires being proactive in seeking out opportunities to be hospitable. It means being a good steward of the home God has given me so I can show love to more of His children. My home is HIS home. It really is that simple. 

Even more simple than that is knowing what true hospitality is—“to present a friendly and generous reception.” We usually think of hospitality as using our physical home, but I think it’s more about our spiritual home. So rather than making hospitality about meeting at a time and a place, we can demonstrate hospitality through our everyday interactions: a warm smile, a touching note, a prayer or wise word, or a needed phone call. Actions of love show someone that you value them and that you’re willing to do a little extra for them. In the end, isn’t that what hospitality is truly all about?

God’s greatest commands in Matthew 22:37  were to love Him and love your neighbor.

Everything about God is about the heart—it all begins with our heart. Our goal is to love who God loves and there is NOT ONE person that God doesn’t love. So practically speaking, how can we mold our heart to love who God loves?  His word says in Ephesians 2:10 that we were “created to do good works [show hospitality] which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God did the hard work, and He will not stop, so we just have to LET Him use us. That’s it! We were MADE for this – TO LOVE OTHERS AND SHOW IT!  

When we begin to pray on that one thought – to show others God’s love, no matter who – then our thoughts become actions, and that’s when hospitality comes in. Inviting someone into your prayers invites them into your space, and that becomes an act of love. Hospitality becomes a far deeper and more personal act than simply inviting someone into your physical home; it becomes an intimate conversation with God about another of God’s beloved. Hospitality becomes an emotion of LOVE. We were made for this, now we just have to allow ourselves to DO it.’

We would like to thank Sandra Villa for writing this blog post.

Building Unity in a Broken World

When my boys, who are five and seven, argue with each other, they get to wear a “get-along” shirt. They both fit inside Daddy’s shirt with one arm sticking out and one around each other. The first time I challenged them to move across the room without touching the floor, arguing turned to laughter and unity. The next time they forcibly donned an oversized shirt that wrangled them together, they began, without prompting, working their way across the room together as in a game. If my boys sulked inside the shirt or didn’t communicate, they never would have made it across the room united.

Sisters, Psalms‬ ‭133:1‬ ‭reminds us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Yet any time I turn on the news or scroll through Facebook, discord splashes my eyes like grease from a hot skillet. My heart wretches at the pain spewing from people in the form of violence. My heart joins with peaceful protests concerning injustice.

But who am I to write about racial injustice?

Well, first and foremost, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus, before whom “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation‬ ‭7:9‬) will stand and worship. Jesus Christ who “is all, and is in all” (Colossians‬ ‭3:11).

How does that give me voice to speak about racial injustice?

I am one who is submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ. However, on an external level, I acknowledge that I have grown up with white privilege. I am proud of my heritage with five generations working the same land, but I also acknowledge that such a heritage was denied to an entire people group based on their skin color. What was and continues to be a blessing in my life was never a possibility for my brothers and sisters in Christ with more melanin.

So, who am I to write about racial injustice?

I am a wife of a Christian man who happens to be Black. Once engaged, I was told, “You know it will be harder for you, right?” One one had, no. Marriage is not harder for us. My husband and I share like faith and values making marriage so much easier. We must communicate with each other and share our hearts just like any other couple.

But on the other hand, yes. It is harder. Not because my husband is Black, but because society perpetuates judgement towards my husband and three sons based on superficial skin. It’s harder because my husband and I will have difficult conversations with our sons as to why their hair looks different than their friends’ and won’t comb smoothly, as to why they don’t look like their Black friends OR their White friends, as to why they must be careful about how they interact with authorities, not only out of respect, but to save their lives.

And yet parents of all races should engage in challenging conversations with their children.

So is my interracial marriage really harder or simply different?

The real question I should be asking is: Who am I to say nothing about racial injustice? I’m someone who knows The Answer: Jesus.

Believers! We are not only called to unity, but to one body (Colossians 3:15). We need each other to function.

Believers! We are the answer our broken world craves. We are the embodiment of love because God is love (1 John 4:8) and God dwells in us collectively (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

How can I handle this rift in our country that could easily consume me? If I focus on the ditch when I’m driving, I will end up in the ditch. If I focus on the road, then I am not so easily swayed.  Rather than pretending continued racial inequality is a spin of the media or politicians or fixing our eyes on the media’s portrayal of a very real and pained racial divide, fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He will guide you to the people you need to spend time with. Run in your lane. You may be called to a city where riots are shaking the streets, but don’t be so focused on the problems out there that you forget to love your own neighbor-next door or at the grocery store or at work.

Realize, as I’ve heard so often at church, “You can’t drive a ten-ton truck over a two-ton bridge.” Most of the topics in the news today are ten-ton topics. Don’t go up to someone you don’t have a relationship with and ask what they think about what is going on in the world. However, if someone needs to speak, let them be heard. Pain is real and deep and impossible to articulate without vulnerability. Attempting to give an answer or saying that you understand barricades the relationship road.

Please, acknowledge people’s lives and their pain. Listen and don’t judge their motives. People need to be heard and acknowledged as valuable. Meet people where they are and introduce them to Christ by your love.

Listening, laughing, crying with one another; having play dates with your kids; working side-by-side with excellence; playing games; sharing home culture and music and food and language; worshipping God side-by-side, hands lifted (or not). These are the types of activities that build relationship bridges. Create a safe environment for healthy relationships; not because of or in spite of skin color, but rather because we are the body of Christ. As Colossians compels us, let us put on love.

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

Coals of Kindness

There’s a story that’s told about Abraham Lincoln. It was after the Civil War, and he was being criticized for his lenient treatment of the South. They had been defeated but Lincoln was trying to help them get back up on their feet. A woman approached him and in no uncertain terms let him know her opinion. “They are our enemies. They ought to be destroyed!” To which Lincoln responded, “How can I better destroy my enemies than by making them my friends?”

Mic. Drop.

The cultural atmosphere we find ourselves in today is no less divided. Masks or no masks….which lives matter….left or right….we all have convictions on these things, and it seems that just a quick surf through the social media world would tell you that you can pretty easily make some “enemies” just by voicing those opinions. But people are never the enemy. It says clearly in Ephesians 6 that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the posers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12, NASB).

One of the things I really love to learn about is the cultural context of Biblical stories or sayings. I find myself sometimes just skimming over those parts I don’t understand; the ones my 21st century Western mind just doesn’t have a file folder for. One of those passages for me comes at the end of Romans 12. In verse 20, it says: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

I guess that I’ve always thought this alluded to some passive-aggressive way of getting back at people you don’t like. Kill ‘em with kindness. Heap those burning coals on their heads. That’ll teach ‘em. But the context of this verse paints a very different picture.

The people of the Bible times obviously lived a very different lifestyle. No microwaves, no convection ovens. If you were going to cook for your family, fire was a necessity. Many times a town would have a community fire that was constantly tended so that it would not go out. Residents could come and gather hot coals which they carried back to their homes in buckets on their heads. Now, if you didn’t live far from the fire, this was no problem. You could get home in plenty of time and use those coals to cook your family a meal. Folks who lived on the outskirts had a harder time. They had to rush to get back to their homes before the coals went out. Neighbors knew this, and would take some of the hot coals from their homes and put them on top of the buckets of those on their way so that they coals would stay hot for their journey. They would “heap coals of fire” on their heads. It wasn’t an act of revenge or spite but rather an act of kindness. It helped provide and sustain for their most basic needs. It was life-giving.

I don’t know how many of us would say today that we have people in our lives who are flat-out enemies. I do think we could all agree, however, that the culture in which we live is increasingly trying to divide. I’m not here to tell you which side to take.

I’m here to encourage you to bring a Kingdom perspective to your circle of influence.

The Kingdom says love your enemies. The Kingdom says pray for those who persecute you. Romans 12: 17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceable with all men.”

Am I saying you shouldn’t speak up? No. Am I saying having convictions about cultural issues is wrong? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we’re called to speak truth in love…to walk in kindness and humility…to heap burning coals on the heads of those who would oppose us…to speak life and blessing. Uggh. That’s hard. But that’s Kingdom, and that’s who we’re called to be.

We’d like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this post!

Raising Kind Children in an Unkind World

I am a mother of four wonderful and beautiful children, but if I am being honest, it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. Some days I feel like I could write a book on parenting, and other days, I would like to crawl in a ball, with my stash of chips (that I hide from the kids), and hide in the closet. We don’t live in a perfect world, but having the responsibility of raising our children to not only be productive members of society but also caring and kind, can be overwhelming at times.

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

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). One thing I have learned during this pandemic and being quarantined and at home so much is that, number one: six people can get tired of each other, pretty quickly; number two: my children have no choice but to feed off of my attitude. It was a realization of how, even though being stuck at home all the time was irritating, I now had the opportunity to mold my children and to model behavior without having any outside behaviors influence them. I suddenly found myself grateful to the Lord for the lesson through the storm. In Ephesians 6:4 it says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The Lord provided me with a time of reflection and a gift of time to mold habits that my children could learn from.

My children are all two years apart, so they fight like crazy. I discovered that being kind to one another had become a very hard thing for them to do. They didn’t understand that words cannot be taken back. They clearly did not know how to control their behavior and think about what they said before they actually said it. 

I think a lot of times, in society now, even adults do not understand that concept. Social Media has become a platform to say anything you’d like, without thinking there may be a consequence for it. This is all learned behavior that is being passed down to our children. We cannot simply sit back and expect our children to learn the gift of kindness from school or friends, because kindness seems to be a forgotten characteristic. It is our responsibility, as parents to instill this quality in our children.  I think about the story of Moses and how he trusted in the Lord to guide him, even against his father’s beliefs.

In our family, we have to actually sit down and explain in detail the lessons that we need our children to understand. We, as parents, cannot expect them to just “know.” If we aren’t careful, someone else will teach them the bad behavior that will have lasting consequences, and eventually habits will be created that will be tough for them to break.

It is an amazing feeling to know that God left these tiny humans in my hands and care. The Lord wants to guide us through raising our children and doesn’t want it to be an overwhelming experience but a gratifying one. I pray daily for my children and that the Lord will give me the guidance to not “mess up” my kids. 

Kindness goes a long way, but it has to be modeled and created in a home because the world is a scary place. Some days I fail, but I am grateful that God blesses us with a new day. I want my children to see that I’m not perfect. I don’t always say the right things. I do hurt their feelings sometimes. But I understand the consequences of my behavior and correct it. I tell them this all the time: It is fine to say that you are sorry, but by apologizing for something you did, that means you are going to intentionally put effort into not making that mistake again. “I am sorry” becomes a meaningless phrase when actions do not follow. Children have to be taught that.  

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). The peace that brings my heart is such a blessing. I pray that it blesses you, too, as you seek to raise up kind children in this unkind world. 

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

Fasting to Feast

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

Fasting. What images or feelings does that word conjure up in you? I don’t know why I didn’t practice fasting as I grew up. It’s just not something we did as a family. I’m not sure I ever heard it talked about much. We read our Bibles often, but maybe we just glossed over those portions of scripture that mentioned that particular spiritual discipline. I certainly believed there was no way I could ever do that.

For some reason in the past two to three years, I have been exposed to people who fast from food on a regular basis, and they seemed pretty normal. I am not sure what really captured my fascination with it other than I felt a conviction in my spirit that my physical and spiritual appetites were out of control. John Piper wrote in his book A Hunger for God, “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I knew God was calling me to action.

Let me say that there are all kinds of fasts you can do. I choose to fast from food after supper to the next day’s supper one day a week. I don’t believe that the spiritual discipline of fasting meant that God was extra proud of my sacrifice or spirituality. Fasting isn’t meant to be a tool whereby we manipulate God and others into doing what we want or projecting a holier-than-thou image. In fact, it exposed all kinds of stuff in me. I’m not proud of this, but there was a spoiled child inside me who demanded to have what she wanted when she wanted it. I learned to take those strong emotions and issues to Christ as often as I had to in order to bring myself into submission to Him and His word.

It became a powerful practice to help me in my relationships with Christ because I was more aware of His nearness in my daily life. In John 6:22-35 Jesus and a group of seeking people have an interesting interaction. Go read it. There’s a lot going on in that text, but one of the things that speaks to me is how much Jesus wants us to know Him. 

Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26-27 NKJV).

Do you find yourself jumping from hobby to hobby, job to job, diet to diet, or friend to friend just hoping that maybe this next one will be “it” for you? Do you ever look back over the seasons of your life and notice that your soul is unsettled or unsatisfied?

Friend, there is another Bread. Are you willing to fast from food for a short period of time so you can feast on the Bread of Heaven?

God knew our souls were made to crave connection and fulfillment with Him. He designed us that way. But we medicate that hunger with what seems like everything but time with Him. Fasting is one of the quickest ways I know to create capacity for our relationship with Christ. Wendy Speake, author of The 40-Day Sugar Fast puts it this way: “When God sets us free from the strongholds in our lives, we’re free to experience His strong hold.”

And that’s what I’ve been craving this season. So much has changed in my life over the past few years that I am desperate to experience the friendship of Christ like never before. I want to hear His voice because the world is screaming loudly these days with a new crisis every week, it seems. Fasting helps clear out all the spiritual clutter. I believe God has very important things to impart to us in this season of our lives. Let’s embrace a fasting lifestyle so we can listen, hear, and respond quickly to His voice.

We’d like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post!

Cultivating Your Child’s Heart for Worship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were made to worship our God.

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

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

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

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

Rescued

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

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

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

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

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

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

“‘Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and will not be afraid; 

for the Lord God is my strength and my song, 

and He has become my salvation.’

With joy you will draw water from 

the wells of salvation.” (Is. 12:2-3)

“I will lift up the cup of salvation 

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

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

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

Let that soak in.

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

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

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

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

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

Having Peace and Order in Our Homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Having Peace in Our Failures

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

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

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

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

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

So you know what? I’m not going to. 

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

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

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

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

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

Having Peace While You Wait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s in the waiting.

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

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

Ever feel that way?

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

Take courage, He says.

Because He knew. He always knows the outcome.

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

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

All the events culminate to the here, the now.

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

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

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

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

For you.

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

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

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

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

Having Peace as a Working Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loving Your Husband When It’s Not Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some things that really helped us:

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

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

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

Persevering Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selfless Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let No One Separate

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

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

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

Okay. Make sure you really let it sink in. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s really all you can do.

Choose to honor and respect your husband unconditionally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lifting My Eyes To The Hills

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 121  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in   

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

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

All Things New

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

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

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

Or another translation says,

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

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

Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is making all things new.

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

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

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

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

Trusting God With Our Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Boundaries With Your Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

Boundaries of the Mind and our Self-Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty Within Marriage

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

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

1 Peter 3:4-5

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

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

Patience is not easy, yet is a virtue.  

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

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

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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

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

Respect equals love! 

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

Proverbs 12:4

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

Proverbs 31:10-12

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

Proverbs 31:26-31

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

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

Sacred Scars

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

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

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

What was happening?

It’s astounding how quickly our priorities can shift.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dishing up Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty.

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

Beauty.

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

He looks inside of us.

He looks in our hearts.

None of that outward appearance stuff matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Bonnie McIntosh

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

What Is Your Word For 2020?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Baby Changes Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My whole life has turned around

I was lost but now I’m found 

A baby changes everything. 

Merry CHRISTmas!

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

O Come Let Us Adore Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sugar Cookies

1 cup margarine              2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup sugar                       1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg.                       2 ¾ cups flour

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

Icing:

1/3 cup cold milk

¼ cup melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups of powdered sugar

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

Merry Christmas!

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

Being a Mary in a Martha World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sexual Immorality Vs. Sexual Purity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ungrateful Vs. Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Heavenly Father,

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

Have a great Thanksgiving.

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

Drunkenness Vs. Sobriety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 23:29-35

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

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

You fill in the blank. 

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 3:17

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

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

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

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

With all my love, Julie Snellgrove

Chaos Vs. Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Getting enough sleep

– Getting enough sunshine/vitamin D

– Surrounding yourself with life-giving friends

– Staying hydrated

– Eating healthy foods

– Keeping active

– Taking time to do things you enjoy

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

– Going to a professional counselor 

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

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

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

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

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

Rage Vs. Self Control

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

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

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

Ingredients:

1 C snoozed alarm (enough to make everyone frantic)

2 C early morning demands with no routine to follow

1.5 C argument with husband

½ C toddler refusing shoes

½ C hair drama

¾ C late night tv watching/Facebook scrolling

2 tsp horrible diet

2 tsp caffeine jitters

1 ½ tsp traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worry Vs. Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flesh Vs. Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rude Vs. Kind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indifferent Vs. Passionate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busy Vs. Intentional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lack vs. Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Educators, Be Encouraged!

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

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

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

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is on full display!

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

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

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

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