Reframing Beauty – Part 2

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

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

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

True and perfect beauty comes from our identity in Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reframing Beauty – Part 1

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

Genesis 2:21-23 NIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 3:15-18 NIV

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

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

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

Hospitality in the Natural and Supernatural

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ice Cream Recipe

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

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

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

My favorite Bible verse is Ephesians 3:20:

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

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

Ice Cream Recipe

(This recipe is for a 6 quart freezer.)

9 Eggs (well beaten!)                                                

1 pint Whipping Cream (whip before you add)                                  

1 ½ cups Sugar                                                   

1 can Eagle Brand Milk   

2 tsp. Vanilla

1 can Evaporated Milk

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

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

Family Game Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summertime Craft Idea

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

Where to begin

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

Let’s get started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Summer, I Love Thee

Let me count the ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sibling Love

Sibling Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Made To Love

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

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

I fully believed that this was God’s plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok God, I hear you.

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

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

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

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

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

Undo Shame

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

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

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

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

Can anyone relate??

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

BOLOGNA!

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

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

How did I break it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Things Made New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating Space for Others

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

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

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

No one was more hospitable than Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gardening from the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

Gardening tips : Easy Gardening 

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

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

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

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

Happy Gardening!

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

The Heartbeat of Heaven

There is an adorable metal sign in my classroom that says “Joy”. It is one of the first things you see when you enter my classroom, but sometimes its meaning can go unnoticed.

Something I have really had to distinguish between is JOY and HAPPINESS. As I have been reading the book Defiant Joy by Stasi Eldredge, I have made the realization that sometimes I mix up the two and really let it define what kind of day, week, or even year I have had. 

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates Jesus heart,” Stasi writes in her book. It is not the happiness you feel when you bite into a delicious brownie, but the joy you have that God has provided all things, with the expectation that He will continue to provide for your needs. 

Joy is free for us all. It is not fleeting because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It does not disappear in times of death and despair when we feel at our lowest points in life. Instead, Stasi refers to it in her book as “The heartbeat of Heaven.” Heartbeat, which means life. 

Happy moments will come and go, but, as Stasi puts it, we serve a “God who laughs at the sneers of the enemy, who stares suffering in the face, and proclaims with fierce love, ‘You do not have the final word.’”

So let joy be your heartbeat as a reflection of the God you serve, a God you can expect good things from. 

We would like to thank Sarah Perry for writing this blog!

Life Group Hosting 101

Robert and I had been approached to lead a Life group and we prayed about this opportunity. But, we began to hear a small voice saying, “I have something else for you to do for me,” and He laid it on our hearts to open our home to those who needed a place to belong and feel safe. We were paired with leaders who were needing a new host home. 

Hosting a life group seemed natural to me. I love to cook and to love on people. So many people work, which makes it stressful to go home and fix a meal before going to a meeting, so it just seemed natural to fix a meal that they could enjoy. Through the wonderful world of social media I am able to let them know what the main course will be and they are welcome to bring side dishes (homemade or store bought). What better way to greet people than with the smells of food that have been prepared by the hands of people we cherish in our lives. And, of course, we always have dessert! I love the smiles and conversations we have over the meal.  

A home is a place to come together with family and friends. We were made to have a relationship with God. Bringing people together into our home to encourage each other was perfect. Our life group family has a special place in my heart and I want them to feel safe and loved as they approach our home and come through the door. So many times there will be a group of us standing in the foyer talking about how our week has gone since the last meeting and we give high fives and hugs as they arrive. Hopefully, we never scare anyone by standing there! Ha! There have been a few times that I felt stressed due to electricity being out for part of the day or no water due to the well being knocked out due to lightening, but my awesome God saw the need and used the people necessary to get the electricity on and running water before life group was to meet. God is always faithful to our prayers. Prayers from the Life Group leaders helps, also!  And at those times I was so thankful for the service people and  to have our life group people around me. We are family.

Each season of the year brings new opportunities for decorating a home. Each season and holiday brings out ways to remind us how God provides beauty for us. We want everyone to feel comfortable and at home when they arrive. What an awesome bonus of hosting a life group! 

For me, the most important part of hosting a life group is praying over my home. I pray for my family every day and ask that they be blessed and feel love when they come through the door. As I start to prepare for Life Group on Wednesday night which includes vacuuming, dusting, and all those things that have to be done…you know what I am talking about…I stop in each room and ask Holy Spirit to flood my home from top to bottom and wall to wall with His presence. I pray outside of my home that Holy Spirit will touch people as they drive up to our home and those that are driving by. I ask that each person that is here will laugh and cry as they need. I pray that my carpets will be stained with tears of joy and tears of healing. The Holy Spirit wants to move among His people and I have found that He does move in life group! 

If anyone reading this feels that tap on the shoulder or hears that voice telling you that He wants you to open your home for a Life Group I suggest you listen. It gives us such joy to be able to serve God and others in this way. Two of God’s greatest commandments are to love God and to love others.  Hosting a life group and loving people = hospitality.

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

1 Peter 4:8-98 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

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

This Is How I Fight My Battles

Have you ever been living your life in peace, and then seemingly out of nowhere, WHAM! You are spiritually knocked to the ground. You scramble to your feet still dazed and confused by what just happened as though you were caught in the shockwave of an explosion. Quickly you try to assess any damage to yourself and those near you and try to administer spiritual first aid. This happened to me recently, so let me get right to the point. SPIRITUAL WARFARE IS REAL!

I have read about it before, I knew theoretically it was real, but I had never experienced a full-on attack at this scale. Why am I telling you this? So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes–2 Corinthians 2:11. Make no mistake, our enemy’s mission is to steal, kill, and destroy. I don’t want to become a casualty of this war, and don’t want you to either!

I think sometimes we view war and warfare as a manly endeavor, but I assure you that our enemy indiscriminately targets men, women, and our children. He does not war by gentlemen’s rules. So, each one of us must put on the full armor of God, take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, and stand firm against the enemy.

As we grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord and firmly establish our obedience to Him, we expand the kingdom of God. Because of this, we become targets of the enemy. Don’t fear, don’t retreat, and don’t surrender. Be ready.

The actual definition of warfare has a connotation of strategy and preparation. So how do I prepare myself for victory in this battle?

  • Establish God’s Word as the authority in your life. Victory belongs to the Lord, but you have to equip yourself to fight in this battle with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Don’t be untrained with your weapon. If it were not for the solid rock of God’s Word, I would still be lying paralyzed on the battlefield.

Warfare Strategies that have worked for me:

  • Pray in the Spirit.

Ephesians 6:18, which comes right after putting on the full armor of God, says “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

Praying in the Spirit has helped me be still and listen to what God was speaking to my heart. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

  • Meditate on God’s Word. 

Joshua 1:8 says 

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

The word meditate in this verse is actually speaking and not just thinking. Simply put, I speak God’s Word out loud over myself. Speaking His truth over ourselves is powerful.

  • Worship…worship…worship

2 Samuel 22:4 says “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.

This has been SO powerful to me. Some of my recent favorite battle songs that have made faith and courage rise up in me include “Surrounded”, “Raise a Hallelujah”, and “Tremble.” I encourage you to compile your own battle playlist.

  • Gather with strong believers who will cover you in prayer and speak God’s Word over you. 

1 Peter 5:8 says “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

In nature, lions target the weak that are separated from a herd. Isolating yourself makes you more vulnerable. So, I have shared my experience with strong Christian friends who will rally around me. I encourage you to do the same.

My hope is that we are all battle ready, because like it or not, spiritual warfare is real. Great news about this battle is found in John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Stick close to Jesus, dear sisters. Be bold and courageous! He wears the victor’s crown!

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

Mindset of Peace

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:4-8 (ESV)

I’ve read and/or heard these verses countless times in my life. But over the course of a few weeks last summer, the Lord unveiled this passage in a new and fresh way to my heart. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to read these verses as individual thoughts, rather than how I believe it was meant to be read: as one principle – a promise sandwiched between responsibilities that we carry as believers. 

In verse 7, scripture promises that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in ways that are beyond our understanding. However, we aren’t passive onlookers in this process; we have a role to play. Surrounding this verse, we are commanded to rejoice and pray out of a place of gratitude rather than anxiety, and we are also instructed to use some serious self-control when it comes to our thought life. 

The Greek word “guard” used in verse 7 means to protect by a military guard to prevent hostile invasion. When I began to study this word several months ago, the Lord gave me a mental picture of a walled city. This city was in the shape of a circle, and it was surrounded by a concrete wall a couple stories high. There were gates spaced throughout the wall and several armed guards stationed at each gate to protect the city. As I saw this picture, Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “every time you focus on a problem that you’re facing rather than focusing on me, and every time you agree with fear and anxiety about the future, you send away a guard that is there to protect your heart. Your thought life is leaving your heart open to invasion from the enemy.” 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not careful, it can be easy for me allow my thoughts, feelings, and prayer life to be guided by my circumstances. This can lead me down a path of worry and fear really quickly! However, the Lord is calling me higher than that. I want to allow His goodness to shape these areas of my life. I want my heart to be filled with gratitude, and my mind to be filled with thoughts of things that are honorable, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. I want my prayer to focus on what’s on God’s heart, rather than be solely focused on what I’m worried about.

Here are some practical things that can help us fix our minds on things that bring life and peace:

  • Read God’s word and think about it throughout your day
  • Write down scripture and post it where you’ll see it often
  • Play worship music, and engage in worship while you work
  • Go back from time to time and look at pictures that remind you of God’s history of goodness in your life
  • Make it a habit to practice gratitude

When I am intentional about practicing these principles, I feel the guard of peace surrounding my heart and mind, even in the middle of real life. Would you join me in this journey? Let’s be women who are governed by peace rather than ruled by fear. 

We would like thank Catherine Dunn for writing this blog!

Parenting 101: The Art of Letting Go

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Jeremiah 1:4-5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born I set you apart.”

Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

These two verses have stuck with me for over 19 years.  They have been the truth that has sustained me as a mom:

         1.  God has known my children from the foundation of the earth.

         2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to treasure/ponder the destiny/purpose of Christ in her heart. 

I truly believe, to be able to parent well, our foundation of who our children’s real father is, must be established in our hearts.

The question is…how do we live out these two verses when we’re parenting our children?  I’d say the answer to that question is through PRAYER and SURRENDER.

When I was pregnant with Joshua I began asking God, praying that He would give me words to speak and pray over Joshua.  Words of truth, words of life, words of courage.  I soon had a song in my heart that I’ve sung over all my boys, nieces, and nephews, and every baby I’ve ever rocked to sleep.  The fact that God gave me a song, doesn’t make me special – it’s just a testimony to a living God who has abundant life and vision and purpose for our children.  He desires for us to position ourselves in a way to receive truth from Him so we can speak His truth over our children.  Prayer is powerful!

During different seasons of parenting I remember making conscience choices to let go of control and to trust God and His word, to surrender my fears and concerns to Him.  I started to stand on the truth of Jeremiah 1, and believe that if God knew my children before He formed them in my womb, then I could trust Him with their lives.

I have specific memories of my kids playing at 16th street park and me being over protective of the monkey bars and Jesus whispering kindly to my heart, “Let them be brave.”

Or, the 1sttime Brad took the boys hunting and my fear of harm coming to them surfaced and the Lord speaking to me, “Brad loves your boys as much as you do.  He won’t let harm come to them.”

All three of my boys are dreamers.  They have BIG dreams, dreams that honestly scare me.  I’ve been tempted, at times, to be the “practical mom” that puts doubts to their dreams.  Early on, while I was praying through some of my kids’ “big dreams” I felt the Lord speak these powerful words to me.  It’s helped me remember who the ultimate dream keeper is…He said, “Dreams shape us, don’t smash them.  Just keep pointing them to Me.  I can handle their dreams.”  

The words of Christ have liberated me as a mom.  It’s put motherhood in perspective for me.  I’m not in charge of their destiny, Christ is.  I can’t make them be someone, or keep them safe.  My job is to point them to Christ, to pray my guts out for them, and to ponder their destiny in my heart, just like Mary did concerning Jesus.  

I’ve learned that I can either treasure the destiny and purpose God has for my kids, or I can control and manipulate the situations that parenting bring.  I’ve done both, but I can tell you peace comes when I’m living a life of PRAYER and SURRENDER concerning my kids.  

Here are a few truths that I’ve pondered in my heart for my children:

  • God ordains their steps…Psalms 37:23
  • Every hair on their head is numbered…Luke 12:7
  • They are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalms 139:14
  • God is intimately acquainted with all their needs…Psalms 139:3
  • They are created in the likeness of God’s image…Genesis 1:27

I spent many years not feeling like a good mom.  I compared myself to others, and often felt overwhelmed and discouraged.  I remember the day my counselor told me, “Julie you’ve never given up.  You’ve stayed, and loved, and been present.”  It liberated me.  

I don’t know where you are today on your journey of mothering, but I can promise you, when you choose to stay, when you choose to show up, when you choose to pray the hard prayers and speak the words of Christ over your kids, God does His part in our children’s lives and we will see His hand accomplish His will concerning our children.  He loves them more than we do.  He knit them together.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made in His likeness.

I’m cheering for you mom!  I’m believing in you!  And I know, when we’ve prayed and surrendered, God moves mountains for us, that we could never move on our own.

I’m praying that God would impart in you an anointing for faith and an ability to speak destiny and truth over your child.  May He bring vision that will not only keep your child from perishing, but also keep you in a place of peace.

With all my love,

Julie

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

The Unexpected Expiration Date: Divorce

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Every story is different. He cheated, she cheated, finances, loneliness, abandonment, alcohol, drugs, mental and physical abuse, etcBut such stories end with an unintentional expiration date leaving many women not knowing where to turn.

We had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when a series of events began to unravel that revealed betrayal, defrauding, and sexual immorality. At one point, there were hopes of reconciliation, but a turn of events left our family shattered, in shock, and broken. 

No one gives us a book on how to be divorced when we first get married, yet community and family love to tell us how we should act or how we should “handle” our situation.  NOTHING can prepare a woman of faith for the demise of wearing The Scarlet Letter: D among your believer friends and family. 

I did not know how to be single.  It was so difficult to hang out with a singles Sunday School class.  Even being divorced, I did not feel single.  I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BE DIVORCED. 

What I discovered after being raised in a church community is the church community is “family-centered”.  The divorced single is not always the most welcome in a “family community”.  The adjustment is not easy. I hated being alone. 

What I did discover through the guilt, the anger, the bitterness, and the daily emotional roller coaster was that I learned to embrace something new I had not known. And that was SILENCE.  And in that silence with God and his ultimate stillness, I just learned to listen and let God be God. There were no dramatic downpours of spiritual renewals, but stillness and peace became my comfort and solace at night when coming home from work that finally granted me SLEEP I had not experienced in a long time. 

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

When I learned to BE STILL and LISTEN, I learned to embrace SILENCE and hear God’s words and voice for my life. I became a better person and a better mom to my college age girls. I asked God to use what I had gone through to help others find their way through this path of divorce, so they would not feel so alone as believers. 

No matter your story Women of Faith, JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU when you don’t know what to say or where to turn. 

Even as a believer, when you don’t know what or how to pray, Christ intercedes and prays for us. His grace is bigger than our insufficiencies.

“I have prayed for you” Luke 22:32

“Jesus prays for you as well” John 17:11, 20

There must be a recovery and restoration of YOU. RAISE the BAR for yourself and expectations of relationships.  

“You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you” Isaiah 43:4

Don’t settle for less than God’s best for YOU.  There is life after divorce.  There is HOPE.  

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11

No matter how difficult the situation, FORGIVENESS must take place in your heart.  The need to SALVAGE (not required to go back into a relationship, but gain insight and understanding) a relationship when there can be no RESTORATION to the relationship…Pastor Brad, Sept. 2018

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for those who love God….” Romans 8:28

I finally realized that I was OKAY being alone and understood the basis of truly relying on Christ instead of another human being for my happiness.  When I came to that place after being single for 5 years (went back to school for Ph.D.) following 25 years of marriage, the Lord allowed me to meet Chris Buford.

And a new chapter in my life began……  

We would like to thank Debra Flournoy-Buford for writing this blog!

Connect. Grow. Serve.

Over time, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the message within the Harvest life group logo. But isn’t it often the CONNECT part of the equation that trips us up in the very beginning?  It was for me! At that point in time, we had just begun attending Harvest and my emotions were raw. In truth, I was a mess! It was the spring semester of my first year as an instructional coach. My dad was dying of a fast-growing brain tumor, and after being away from home and taking three weeks off from work to be by his bedside, I was feeling overwhelmed to say the least. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was that our son and daughter-in-law were soon to give birth to a special needs child who might not survive, and it was taking every ounce of faith and sanity I could muster just to go through the daily motions. I was spent! I had nothing left to give.

Who could possibly want to connect with me?

(ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT!!) The very weekend of my Dad’s diagnosis just happened to be the Harvest Men’s Retreat. David attended for the first time, and evidence of the difference it made to his faith was popping out everywhere, including his determination to attend life group. I literally slunck (is that even a word?) into Kim and Johnny Street’s home that first night of life group, with a determined, yet fake smile plastered to my face, knowing full well that if anyone asked me a single question I would dissolve into a puddle on the floor!

 I recognize now that it was a “small beginning” as prophesied in the Old Testament book of Zechariah :

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT

David and I not only stayed in life group that semester, but our faith began to GROW exponentially! Women prayed over me, spoke words of wisdom into me, and taught me how to declare God’s word over my circumstances to change the atmosphere around me! My dad was taken home to be with His Lord, our precious baby was born with a hole in his heart on Good Friday, and was miraculously healed and able to go home on Easter Sunday! 

Several semesters later, David and I were given the honor to SERVE as life group leaders. 

Since that fateful first night, the miraculous “small beginnings” we’ve experienced in life group read like the cover of a biblical National Inquirer magazine:

  • Boy recovering from massive brain surgery, befriended by his surgeon, chooses a medical career
  • Couple leaves divorce court, reunite after miraculous touch from Heaven
  • Couple’s son healed from years of addiction, now leads others to Christ
  • Answered prayers cross the country uniting Manhattan beauty and West Texas coach

(each example used by permission)

See, I had this unrealistic expectation of myself that I had to bring something TO the table in order to dine AT the table. But it’s the very act of accepting the Lord’s invitation to come to His table when we’ve nothing to bring that changes US. (EXIT PRIDE!)

I visualize the applause of heaven when we take that tremulous first step of faith to ring that stranger’s doorbell and  CONNECT to the body of Christ through life group. The Holy Spirit is free to GROW us, and as we grow we are then able to be used to SERVE others. We learn how to exercise our giftings to pray down His will on earth as it is in heaven. (ENTER MIRACLES!)

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

Hormones: Lord, Am I Going Crazy?!?

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

A few years ago, I thought I was losing it. 

-My brain felt like molasses. 

-I would walk from one room to another, trying to remember what I was looking for. 

-I would wake up with a racing heart in the middle of the night.

-I experienced anxiety for no reason. 

-My energy dropped.

-I felt depressed.

-I believed I was getting dementia.  

Fear swept over me.

And then it all started to make sense when… I experienced a hot flash! I went to the doctor and found that I was in peri-menopause. That diagnosis hadn’t crossed my mind at 39 years old.  I thought this only happened to OLD women! 

When you don’t feel like yourself, there’s most likely a reason, and that reason could very well involve hormones. Our hormones change drastically in the seasons of puberty, post-partum, and peri-menopause. During our child-bearing years, hormones peak and plummet during our monthly cycles.  It’s okay and even wise to be concerned about your body when you aren’t feeling like yourself. 

I love what Stasi Eldredge says about hormones in her book “Becoming Myself”:

“Yesterday morning I wanted to buy a puppy; this afternoon I wondered how many years I would get for homicide.  Am I simply nuts?  Is this just the sin nature the Bible talks about, and I’m stuck with repenting of it again and again?  No, my dear sister.  There is an internal reality playing havoc with my world, but it is neither woundedness, nor sin, nor immaturity- not even a touch of insanity.  There are powerful feminine tides washing to and fro inside each of us, and they are having an enormous influence on our lives – and the way we perceive our lives.” 

What a relief!!  I’m not the only one who feels nuts! This made sense and was great news. 

You may be thinking, “That’s great Jill, but when I feel out of control, how do I handle my womanhood in a way that honors myself, others and the God who made me so complex?”  

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Be honest with God.  Come to Him with the good, bad, and ugly. Lay it at His feet. But then agree with what HE says about you. God’s word says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Speak life over your body, your mind, your emotions. When I’m feeling crazy, I pray God’s word back to him, “God, I feel like I’m falling apart, but your word says that you hold me together!  Colossians 1:17

Have you ever thought about how our femininity is meant to bring life? These chemicals that sometimes rock our world actually allow us to be physical life-givers. They help us to nurture others and create beauty. Our physical femininity should be celebrated, in a world where it’s often seen as a curse.  

  • Recognize the enemy’s tactics. In the Garden of Eden, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, there were consequences. God said, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

Whoa. Did you notice how God connects the pains of being female and our desire to control our husbands? When we are “hormonal”, some of us use manipulation, pouting, raging, emotional outbursts, and withholding from our husbands to get what we want. We disrespect them. In the moment, I may get what I want because of my control over my husband.  But because of my control, the less of a husband he is, and the less of a marriage we have. Track your cycle so that you know when you may be most prone to this temptation. When you realize you’ve been grasping for control, be quick to repent and ask your husband for forgiveness.  Be alert my friend! Don’t let the enemy win in your marriage.

  • Reach Out. At times we all need to get help. Ask for prayer. Go see your doctor. Schedule an appointment with a counselor, a trusted friend, or a Life Group leader for advice and wisdom. Read the helpful books listed below.  When you find yourself feeling down, it’s okay to take a bath, to lay in bed with chocolate and a sappy movie, to go to bed early, or to ask your husband for some extra help with the kids.  Some space can be good, BUT, don’t stay in that place too long. 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

If you’re feeling hormonal, admit it!  Realize it’s the perfect time to run to God so that you can receive HIS mercy and grace and be the LIFE-GIVER you were made to be.


This post wasn’t meant to be a biology lesson or to debate hormone replacement. Check out these great books if you want more info, and call the office if you need a list of recommended Christian Counselors. 

  • “Jump off the Hormone Swing” — Lorraine Pintus
  • “Becoming Myself “– Stasi Eldredge

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

Seeing God’s Goodness in our Suffering

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

It’s been a little over a year since my husband and I lost the last two of our precious embryos with a failed IVF cycle. Our first IVF cycle, 6 years ago, was successful and gave us the two most amazing gifts we’ve ever received: Elliott and Sam. And because of that success, we never imagined our second try failing, but it did, and we were left heartbroken and disillusioned. All of our dreams of adding to our family were crushed by a 30 second phone call with news of a negative pregnancy test. 

As much as I wish it weren’t so, we will all find ourselves in seasons of suffering.

The Bible promises us that we will suffer and yet it’s here where we wrestle with what we know to be true about who God is and what our feelings try to manipulate us into believing.

I can remember being so angry with God and questioning how he could ever allow us to walk through such devastation. I withdrew from Him, my husband, and my friends. I could actually feel my heart growing hard. 

I think it’s natural to withdraw or retreat when we’re in pain but I know now that God never meant for us to retreat and then isolate ourselves. His Word tells us to retreat and find refuge in Him.  (Psalm 46:1, Psalm 27:5, Psalm 71:3, and more)

I’m so grateful God reached down to pull me out of my pit of grief and I’m even more grateful that I chose to grab His hand. I was so blinded by everything I was feeling that I had forgotten His goodness. He’s been good to me all of my days. 

There were three things that I’d like to share with you that helped me to see God’s goodness in the middle of my suffering. Three things that I know will help you to see His goodness too. 

1) Gratefulness

One of the first things that popped into my mind after we lost our babies was how grateful I was for Elliott and Sam. I always knew they were miracles, but even more so after our second IVF cycle wasn’t successful. 

Psalm 50:23 says that giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors the Lord. Gratefulness to God when you’re angry with Him or when you don’t understand what He’s up to or when you’re hurting so deeply you can barely breathe…oh yes, that’s a sacrifice. But gratefulness has a way of helping change our perspective. It keeps our eyes focused on Jesus. There is always something to be grateful for. 

2) Other Believers

Matthew 18:20 says that God shows up when two or more gather in his name. If you’re suffering right now and feel like God has abandoned you, find a friend or family member and start praying in agreement over your situation and God promises He will show up on the scene. 

3) Standing on the Promises in God’s Word

Here’s where I have been standing and it has been solid ground for me:

  • Psalm 73:21-26 – God holds me, God is the strength of my heart
  • Psalm 23:1-4 – He refreshes my soul, he gives me His presence and His comfort
  • Romans 8:28 – He works all things for my good

And the list goes on and on….

Can you imagine the impact our lives would collectively have if we as women would rise up in the midst of being deeply hurt and make the beautiful choice to still walk out biblical truth? To stand on the promises of God for us? Can we make the choice today to say, “God I believe your Word is true and I will not let my circumstances change that belief.” 

No matter what we’re suffering through, there is good news for each one of us: God has created a beautiful path for us through our suffering, a journey that’s redemptive, healing, and life-giving. 

I love this prayer from one of my favorite authors, Lysa Terkeurst. I hope you will pray this with me today. 

God, even though my circumstances don’t feel good right now, I know that you are still good. So, I’m choosing to praise You. I praise You for being trustworthy. I praise You that You are with me in this moment and You stand in all of my tomorrows as well. I praise You for being the wisdom I can lean on when I have none of my own. I praise You for being my strength when I reach the end of my own. And I praise You that even though my circumstances change, You never do. You are forever faithful, forever loving, forever my good and gracious God.

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

A Standard of Grace

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. I know I wanted to hear everyone, so this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

A Standard of Grace. It sounds like such an unusual phrase, and it is. Standard, simply put, means a way to measure, value, or judge something. Grace, means to honor or credit to, to show favor, goodwill, or kindness. 

So, a “Standard of Grace?” This would mean that our measuring system, for ourselves, and others, is one that is based on favor, goodwill, and kindness. 

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a woman that measures myself and those around me by a standard of grace. Unfortunately, we see so little grace in our culture today. What inhibits us? What keeps us from living this lifestyle?

Perfectionism just so happens to be the reason this phrase “Standard of Grace” was first brought to my attention. It has gained popularity as part of a longer phrase, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”  Perfectionism is a wicked master, one that keeps us all working our hardest to continually prove and perform. Perfectionism doesn’t allow us to show ourselves kindness, over even the least of mistakes. It doesn’t allow us room to breathe, doesn’t offer forgiveness when we have been anything less than, well, perfect. Perfectionism keeps us quiet about our mistakes, so that the impression of perfection can remain intact. 

1. Perfectionism

IF we can’t offer ourselves a little kindness when a mistake is made, how can we ever expect that we will genuinely offer it to others?

IF we can’t break free from our own silence, and be vulnerable about our weaknesses, our fears, our doubts, how will anyone ever feel safe coming to us with theirs?

IF we don’t react to ourselves with grace, we won’t extend it to others either. 

2. Insecurity

Where as perfection says you can’t fall short in any area, ever, our insecurities whisper lies to us a little more specifically. Our insecurities are the areas where we consistently feel “not enough.” The areas where, when we look over and see the someone who is enough, or who is more than enough, it brings pain.

Insecurities are the places in our hearts where fear and pain preside, and light has a hard time finding it’s way in.

Offering grace to ourselves in one of these areas, just feels like affirming our own lack of worth. Offering it to others, often feels disingenuous, false. We can find ourselves making excuses for why we struggle, and why they don’t. It ends up being an unkind situation to anyone that finds themselves in it, and brings honor to no one. 

3. Judgement

Judgement, typically stems from one of the other two. It’s not safe to offer grace to someone if they are highlighting our imperfections and insecurities. But, for many of us, it is probably the easiest of the three to identify as well. Being critical and judging others is like the bloom on a plant. It’s the part we see first, the part of the plant we use to identify what type of plant we are looking at. For me, when I find myself being critical, and judging others, I know it’s time to take a step back, and look at what is going on underneath the surface. In doing that, I have to step back and ask myself a couple of questions:

  1. What in the world is really going on here? What am I actually feeling right now?
  2. How can I extend kindness and grace, to myself, or to someone else, in this moment? 

But here’s the good news: Grace has another meaning as well. God’s ability. Grace is God’s standard. It is His standard toward us on our best days and on our worst. And God freely gives of His grace, His ability.

This is the reason that pausing, and asking why you can’t offer grace and kindness in the moment, works. Because it invites God’s presence, his perspective, and his heart, into that moment with you. 

Choosing to let grace be the standard by which we measure ourselves and others doesn’t come naturally. But God is right there for us, saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Let his grace, become your standard, because we cannot extend grace on our own. 

“Grace is God acting in our lives to do what we cannot do on our own.” 
- Dallas Willard

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

Sweet Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas For Him

Valentine’s Day is today.  Did you put any thought into how you will make your man feel loved?

Sometimes it starts with an idea you heard someone else mention to get the brainstorming started.

Ladies, I have it on my heart that we should seize this opportunity to SHOW SOME LOVE to our husbands!!

Let’s put some action to the words we say! We say we love them? Then how ‘bout we spend 30 minutes one day on our lunch break and cut out construction-paper hearts and allow (ok, BEG) our children to staple or tape them into decorative heart garlands? Decorating even in silly ways shows you took time FOR HIM!

How bout we take kids grocery shopping and make a big deal about the food items you choose for him.  “Let’s see, what do you think Daddy’s favorite vegetable is? Let’s get what we need to make Dad’s favorite dessert! He will be sooo excited, won’t he? Preparing this special meal is how I can demonstrate how much your daddy means to me!!”  These are examples of using it to train your children.  Don’t you want your daughters to SHOW their love demonstratively to their husbands when they grow up?  Wouldn’t you want your sons to feel loved by their chosen one?  You are teaching them the kind of woman they will one day want to choose for themselves!!   

As the saying goes, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!” HAHA!

How about getting out a glass jar and writing on beautiful slips of paper the following: various character qualities you love about him, fun memories you’ve shared with him, moments he said something or did something that touched you deeply, etc.  These are way better than a $5 greeting card!

What are some other important ways that speak love to your man?? How about some one-on-one time?  Foot massage?  Arranging for a sitter (instead of buying a fishing pole) for some REEEAAAALLLL one-on-one, face-to-face time, if you get my drift.  I don’t want to gag or disgust anyone, really.  But God did make man with a sexual drive, and we are (should be) his only way of meeting those needs.  Let’s take it seriously. And when you do, be prepared mentally & physically.

This is IMPORTANT to our men and it should be important to us. It makes them feel loved, valued, and honored.

If you need more suggestions, just ask. I can’t wait to hear how it all turns out!!

Happy Valentines Day!

We would like to thank Cristie Harrell for sharing this post.

A New Chapter

Picture this, a 30-something-year-old woman, regretting ever mentioning trying something new. She’s terrified of the unknown. And to add to it, that little voice in her head kept whispering, “You don’t fit in. You’re not good enough.”  And then the worry sets in, “Am I going to have to speak in front of ALL those people??” Yep, that terrified woman was me and although I stayed calm and serene on the outside, under the surface I had totally lost my cool.

It turns out my inner monologues are overly dramatic and they almost convinced me to make yet another excuse as to why we are too busy and should wait another week.

End of story. Thankfully I did not allow that fear to control me and so my story began…

 I was determined! My husband and I had been discussing it for months. We were ready for more, ready to grow and really intrigued by all the talk about how awesome Life Group was. We had heard stories of the relationships created and the breakthroughs happening on Wednesdays and were hungry to get in on it. I browsed the catalog of friendly faces a 100 times looking for where we fit. It felt a little like I was shopping for friends online. I would add them to my cart only to remove them later because I wasn’t quite ready to invest.  But we finally bit the bullet and now we are walking to the door to meet our “new friends” for the first time.

What I found on the other side of that door was far greater than a couple of friends. I met real people. I mean, of course they were living, breathing humans, but they were REAL, down to earth, God loving people. And you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all around us. There were men and women of all ages and in different parts of their walk with Christ. I met some of the most loving, caring, Spirit-filled women. As the evening progressed I realized I was not alone in my fears. These women were strong in their faith and not afraid to admit they had failed and they have scars.

I figured out what it felt like to smash all of those lies that had been fed to me about who I am and I realized I AM accepted, I am not alone and I am worthy of our Fathers love. That breakthrough changed EVERYTHING. 

 I’m not going to say opening up and sharing was easy. I mean, it wasn’t like a switch that just automatically came on when I walked in the room. It took some effort and patience on the group’s part, and LOTS of prayer on mine. I remember the first time we paired up to pray for one another and I cried. Not like a couple of tears ran down my face, but flat out ugly cried. And you know what, she understood and helped me through it. The feeling of being able to just lay that down, and receive acceptance, was so freeing.

I had finally handed it over to God and instead of me cowering behind the walls I had built up for protection I was now out there fully believing that God was my refuge and the ultimate protector.

 As time passed I could not wait for Wednesday nights! I love to worship on Sundays and the messages we receive are always amazing. However there’s just something about sitting around a room with family, discussing how God is working miracles. We cry, we laugh, and we speak truth and life over one another. Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt council of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” And that is so true! It warms you from the inside out when we trust that the words spoken from these ladies are guided by the Holy Spirit. 

Today my husband and I have the privilege of leading a Life Group. Honestly not something that scared woman only a few short years ago would have ever considered. I added a new chapter to my story called Life Group. The relationships I have created and the newfound love I have for myself has changed me. I grew as an individual and my relationship with Christ exploded! If your heart has been wrestling with the idea of wanting more, but like me, you are afraid of not fitting in, I highly recommend you stepping out of your comfort zone and give Life Groups a try. 

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

Seeking the Healer, Not Just the Healing

**During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

Editor’s Note: This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

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

The married a great man part, nailed it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Word

With the new year coming, most of us already have things we want to change… to do differently… to start over on… we want a fresh clean slate and a new focus. I want to share with you an idea that has helped me so much the last few years, hoping it might help you too.

It’s the simple practice of choosing ONE WORD for the upcoming year. Not a phrase, not a statement, just a single word. In reality, it’s not choosing a word, but asking the Lord to reveal what one word HE wants to be your focus for 2019. Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, which are easy to fail at, a one-word focus can simplify your life, illuminate your path and bring direction and boundaries in all areas of your life.  

The first year I did this, I immediately knew what my word would be. 

BOLDNESS.  

This word was both exciting and terrifying to me, because I was timid to speak up, afraid to be in front of people, and more comfortable hiding in the background than leading out front. But God had put a desire for boldness inside of me, and I knew without it, I could never become who God meant for me to be. I just needed my Father to open my heart to where he was moving, and I needed to agree to walk hand in hand with him as he strategically put opportunities and challenges in front of me.  

Challenges that would draw boldness out of me.  

He gave me courage to say YES to speaking up with my thoughts and opinions, speaking in public (even in front of hundreds!), taking risks, praying big prayers, leading out front, and so much more. He showed me over and over what BOLDNESS looks like in me, and he did not let me fail at what I was fearful of.   

When you start asking the Lord for a word for 2019, the Holy Spirit will begin revealing a word that agrees with what your heart longs for. It could be a character trait, a discipline, a fruit of the Spirit, an attribute of God, a spiritual gift.  But it will take a relationship with the Lord to stay focused and listen and follow where he is leading. There will be highs and lows as God uses this word to light up your path, and also reveal things that need to change. But remember, the Lord is giving you this focus not to see you fail, but to help you succeed in the plans He has for you and His Kingdom. 

If you’re serious about this, you’ll come up against tough decisions and opposition. I suggest sharing your word with a few trusted friends so that when discouragement comes, or when you get distracted, they can help you re-focus. An important way to keep this word front and center in your life is to post it in places where you will see it often, like your car, your desk, or your bathroom mirror. I have a cute little 2×3 frame that sits on my desk and reminds me often of my word. I also love making these for my friends and encouraging them to stay the course throughout the year. See the attached photo above of the frames I made for my friends. Super simple.

This year my word has been TRUST. From a car wreck in February that could have ended my life, to unexpected challenges in health, leadership and relationships, the Lord has so much more deeply established my trust in Him. I’m pretty sure I already know what my word is for 2019, and as usual, it’s both exciting and scary!  

I wonder what your word will be?! If you ask God, I know he will show you and walk with you step by step to places you thought you could never go. Your word will be greater than yourself, but not greater than our powerful and loving Father GOD. 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 109:105

“No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14.

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

Perfection is a Liar

A few weeks ago, I re-entered the Facebook world. I had stepped back from it after a revelation in my life about comparison.

Facebook was a gate the enemy was using on me. I was allowing it to control me and that was not healthy.

I found myself looking at all the great women on there, with their clean, well behaved children. Their organized perfect lives. Their incredible birthday parties. Everyone else’s great fashion sense, etc, etc etc………..

It led me to compare myself to all of them. And to all of their stuff. And to all of their relationships. And that left me feeling like I was never gonna measure up.

It was cultivating a seed of jealousy in my heart.  

I don’t throw fantastic birthday parties for my kids. We wear wrinkled clothes. We have discipline problems around here. I don’t have much fashion sense sometimes.

I had to learn how to shut that gate, stop comparing myself and start intentionally focusing on what God says about me. By doing so, my life has changed!

I intentionally have to declare over and over and over:

I am chosen by HIM (1 Thes. 1:4).

I am anointed by the Holy One (1 John 2:20).

I am a saint and loved by God (Romans 1:7). 

I am enough for Him, and I am enough for my family. They weren’t given to me by accident. My kids and my husband are on purpose.

And you know what? They love their birthday parties. They love being home. They say things like “hey mom- thanks for washing my band shirt!”

Believing in Who I am in Christ,  has allowed me to be REAL. To be who HE created me to be. Perfection is a liar. We are just regular people. Doing regular life in Plainview, TX . But we have an extraordinary God, who loves us, supports us, and leads us.  I am so okay with that kind of regular.

So now, I can get on Facebook and enjoy and celebrate all the beautiful faces and beautiful lives I get to be a part of! It is so freeing. My identity doesn’t rest in what I am not, but rather in what I AM!

In this week of Christmas, I pray that you will have a revelation.  That you won’t have to struggle with expectations and comparison the ways I have. That you will know who God says you are, and that you will have freedom, to be your real self. Just the way He created you. And that you will know the love of our Father like never before! Love came down to you. Love took on flesh, and became man for you. Lets celebrate that this Christmas!

We would like to thank April Hall for writing this post!

Unwrapping Your Spiritual Gifts

December is an exciting time of year. The anticipation of Christmas morning: opening gifts, fellowship with family, singing carols…When I was a little girl, I knew Christmas was coming soon the day that the Sears catalog arrived in the mail! I would sit for hours checking the items that I wanted to add to my Christmas wish list:

  • A new baby doll ✅
  • A new pair of skates ✅
  • A new bicycle ✅
  • A new pair of pajamas ✅

Spiritual Gifts

Fast forward many years later and my wishes have changed. 

What I’ve been thinking about lately are spiritual gifts. I find myself “checking off” my wish list in the Bible just like I did as a little girl with the Sears catalog:

  • The gift of wisdom  ✅
  • The gift of prophesy ✅
  • The gift of healing ✅
  • The gift of tongues ✅

Lessons learned

To begin with, all gifts that I check are not gifts that I receive. As a little girl, I had a long list of wishes, but didn’t always get what I had on my list. My parents loved me so much and wanted to give me good gifts. My parents would’ve never given me a gift that I wasn’t ready to receive. For example, they would’ve never given me a bicycle if I hadn’t learned to ride a tricycle. Or they would not give me a new car until I was responsible enough to use it correctly.

Each child in my family received different gifts. My parents didn’t give me the same gifts as they gave to my brother and sister. They were older than me and had different desires than me. My parents knew that I didn’t want a football and they knew my brother wouldn’t appreciate a Barbie. They were good, good parents and gave us appropriate gifts because they loved us. They got to decide what was best for each of their children!

Just like my parents, God loves me and wants to give me good gifts. He knows when I’m ready to receive certain gifts and even though I have them “checked”, He decides when I am ready to receive them. Maybe I’m ready to receive the gift of wisdom, but maybe I’m not ready to receive the gift of prophecy. Does He love me any less because He doesn’t give me the gift of prophecy? Absolutely not! I have a friend who has received the gift of tongues. Does he love her more? Is she a “better Christian” than me because she received that gift and I didn’t? NO! God is a good, good Father who knows what gifts we need in order to grow His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 12:11 says that “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” God gets to decide when I’m ready to receive an extra gift!

Be content in all things

As a little girl, I don’t remember a time when I woke up on Christmas morning and was disappointed because I didn’t receive a certain gift that I had checked off in the catalog. I was content with the gifts that I was blessed with.

I am content with the gifts that God has given me through the Holy Spirit. Do I want more? YES! However, I trust Him to give me the gifts when He says I’m ready for them!  Psalm 37:3-4 says to “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Using my gifts for others

I remember one particular Christmas, I received an Easy-Bake Oven. I was so excited to use that gift to “bless” others. My dad ate lots of tiny brownies that I made using this amazing Christmas gift! It was a gift that kept on giving!

God gives us spiritual gifts, but they are not meant to be consumed on ourselves. As we receive, we give it away and then more is given to us. When I feel like I’m not doing enough with my gift, I need to step back and reflect on how God is using my gifts to grow His kingdom.

Trusting that your gifts are good

I never doubted that my parents would give me good gifts! Although they threatened telling Santa to put coal in my stocking when I misbehaved, deep down I knew that I would get good gifts for Christmas. You can trust God to give you good gifts as well!

Luke 11:11-13 says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Merry CHRISTmas!

You can trust God, our good, good Father, to give you gifts that you need to receive in His time. I pray that during this holiday season, you unwrap your gifts and receive your spiritual blessings with the same kind of excitement as receiving the Sears Christmas catalog in the mail!

Be Blessed.

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

This is War

My husband and I were intentional in teaching our children the importance of spiritual warfare as they were growing up.

When our son was in middle school, he worked to purchase an expensive pair of tennis shoes. They were promptly stolen from his locker, and it devastated him. I introduced him to spiritual warfare, and told him to expect the shoes to be returned. I could hear him from the bottom of the stairs as he yelled at the enemy from behind his closed bedroom door. I was both proud and panicked! What if he didn’t get them back? Would my actions and words destroy his faith? And what did that say about my faith?

He returned from school the next afternoon, with excitement. “Look, Mom! I have my shoe!” and held one shoe aloft.

“Where’s the other one?” I asked. 

“I don’t know, but I have this one!”

Now, it’s really funny, but back then, it meant another spiritual battle. The enemy was testing us, seeing if we were serious. I sent him upstairs to demand the return of the other shoe. It was returned the next day.

Years later, our grown daughter’s boxer was stolen. This was also devastating. We loved Samson as family, and her young daughter didn’t understand his absence. My daughter and I had done spiritual warfare together in the past, so we joined together to get Samson back. He was returned a couple of weeks later.

These are examples of “things” being returned. Shoes can be replaced. Dogs, though we love them, are still dogs. How much more does God desire for our families to be restored? What is our role in the fight for family?

Consider Proverbs 31 and “the wife of noble character”. Her description and assignment to care for her household, is found there. It is our responsibility to care for our households, so if we had the power to take our family out of the hands of an enemy, would we use it?

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” 

And God has. We were given a protectedGod-given power and authority over the enemy (Luke 10-19), who roams the earth seeking whom he can destroy, and we are to stand firm against him (1 Peter 5:8-9).

He is seeking to destroy our households, our families, and it is our responsibility to stand firm against the enemy trying to destroy it. James 4:7-8 commands, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he must flee. Draw near to God and purify your heart.” (paraphrased)

Priscilla Shirer said that we shouldn’t spend more time talking to humans about our problems than we spend talking to God about them. It hit home with me that I need to submit my tongue and thoughts to God, spending more time thanking Him for His promises, His faithfulness, and His provision; and less time allowing my mouth to run off in complaint, or my mind to dwell on the what-ifs.

We have been given His Word as a weapon. By verbally speaking the Word, we both renew our faith (Romans 10:17) and resist the enemy.  For example (though in your fight, be specific):

 “Devouring Spirit, you have no rights within my family. By the power God has given me, you must take your lies, your accusations, your schemes, and your cronies, away from us. Be gone and stay gone. Because of God’s covenant with me, His righteousness and blessing are to my children and my children’s children from now to forever… (Psalm 103:17-18, 112:1-4, Isaiah 59:21, 61:9). By God’s word, you mustflee. Holy Spirit, thank You. Inhabit the land that the enemy has left. Fill it with Your fruit and bounty. Cleanse it with Your breath.”

That leaves us to draw near to God and have Him purify the heart, or as Lincoln indicates, test our character.

My children are now grown with families of their own. With the death of my mother, I became the matriarch of my family line. By definition, I am “the older woman who is powerful within the family”. Interesting. There again is that word “power”. As matriarch, the borders of my family have extended to include in-laws and grandchildren. It is not my job to run their households. But by definition, I am powerful within the family, whether I feel it or not. Let the enemy tremble as I use my God-given power against him, for I have an even stronger desire to leave my inherited blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9) to my family!

Each of us has been called and empowered to perform spiritual warfare; to take back what the enemy has taken from us. Nothing is too small or too big to reclaim. It seems easier to reclaim “things” because our emotions are not as involved. Sometimes with family, we hide our head in the sand because it hurts so very much, and we forget to fight. But isn’t family far worth fighting for? Since you have the power to take your family out of the hands of the enemy, will you use it? Will I? We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Phillipians 4:13).

Come, let’s fight together.

We would like to thank Darla Carthel for writing this blog post!

Hunting & Husbands

My husband asked me to go hunting with him a few months ago and I said, “Sure, sounds like an adventure.”

Ladies, be sure you get all details before you agree to go on a hunting trip. 

Turns out, we hunted for 5 days. Like hardcore hunting in the MOUTAINS. Hello! Of course you are going to have to hike, JuLea!!! We woke up at 4:15 and didn’t return back to the cabin until after dark. It was COLD…16 degrees cold and snowing. I opted out one morning when it was 2 degrees… did you get that???!!! 2 DEGREES!! I told them to come back for me when it was at least double digits. I bought a cute backpack before we went, not knowing that by the time I had packed all of my necessities for the day would weigh over 40 pounds. It consisted of: water, Gatorade, sandwich, chips, granola bar and bullets (that I never even used). In addition, I carried a 12-pound rifle, 3-pound binoculars, and a blanket strapped to the top of my pack. I was a sight to be seen!  

What had I gotten myself into??? 

One evening, I became quite nervous. We had hunted all day. I was tired, and it was quitting time. We had just hiked to the top of a double black diamond. If you are skier, you know what that means. We were 2.5 miles away from our pickup, and the sun was setting. So, down the black diamond we went. After about 20 minutes, I knew we still had at least about 1.5 miles to go and it was completely dark. Everything looked the same. I couldn’t have retraced my steps if my life depended on it.

Every step into the dark was unknown. Luckily, we had a guide who knew those mountains like the back of his hand. 

And it reminded me, sometimes we are in uncharted territory in life, or so it seems, but our Father knows exactly where we’re at. He knows our next step. He’s the one who created the mountains! And with confidence He leads us through the mountains to our destination – just like our guide. 

Things may feel way off. You may be nervous. You may feel like you’re on the wrong path. But take heart, He has overcome the world! Scripture says in many places that He is guiding your every step. Proverbs 16:9 – The Lord will establish your steps. Isaiah 58:11 – The Lord will guide you always. Friend, He knows what He is doing! He knows exactly where that dark trail leads to.  Choose to be brave in those moments of uncertainty. He will always get you to the other side if you keep walking. He cares about you. We are of such high value to Him! 

Back to the hunting trip…my husband was so excited that I said “yes.” He was proud that I was hunting with him. And you know what? Every cold moment was worth it to see him happy. Once we were at the top of the double black diamond mountain, it was amazing to watch the beauty of creation from a couple thousand yards away. Hours of peaceful sitting became filled with prayer and quiet time. But the greatest reward was the time I got to invest with my husband. 

Flowers won’t grow if you don’t water them.

Your relationship with your spouse won’t grow if you don’t water it either. 

 Figure out things you and your spouse like to do together and do those things! Make time. Do the things you don’t like to do that your husband does and see what happens. A couple of years ago I stumbled across the “30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge.” Every day you encourage your husband in a different way. Some days the encouragement was subtle and went unnoticed, other days it was apparent. Some days I would forget and so will you. But, it will become part of who you if you stick it out. Eventually Brent caught on and he started returning the encouragement!

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Be intentional about showing him physically, emotionally and spiritually that you care about him. I would encourage you to do your own 30-Day Husband Challenge and keep track of what God does in your marriage. Here are some examples straight from the challenge of what you can and can’t do for 30 days:

  • You can’t say anything negative about your husband… to your husband… or to anyone else, about your husband.
  • Say something you admire to your husband or to anyone else, about your husband.
  • Let him know you appreciate him and his hard work every day. Tell him you respect him. 
  • Praise your husband for a character quality that you see in him. Build up that man of yours!
  • Appreciate your husband’s faithfulness to you.
  • Praise your husband’s faithfulness to God.
  • Ask your husband questions – hear the heart of your husband. Get to know him. LISTEN, women! Quit talking.
  • Tell your husband how handsome he is.
  • Submit to his authority. God’s perfect design. 
  • Let your husband know when he pleases you and help him navigate through those unknowns.
  • Encourage his love making and masculinity.
  • Verbally let him know you are proud of him.
  • Don’t focus on his faults. Make a list and focus on his strengths. Draw those out in him. 

I leave you with the most important thing you can do for your husband: Pray for him. Pray for him. Pray for him. Have fun encouraging him and in return, enjoy the intimacy this will bring to your relationship!

Oh, I almost forgot. My husband got a nice muley buck on the last hour of the last morning of the hunt. BAM! 

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

He Never Left Me

In 1993, I committed adultery with my boys’ biological father. I’m here to tell y’all ladies, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

One incident out of many, the boys’ father abused me and my oldest son, D’Angelo. He was never home. He would come home one every three days or so for a couple of hours. I had gone to the doctor for my yearly exam, and the doctor informed me that I has an STD – HPV (Human papilloma virus), which has caused and will continue to cause very bad outbreaks that I would have for the rest of my life. No cure. It would break down my immune system. And it’s the number one cause of cervical cancer. Wow. Talk about feeling ashamed and dirty. I was thinking, “how could this be?” The doctor asked me, “Have you had more than one sexual partner?” I replied, “No,” which only meant that someone else did have more than one partner. That day I had gotten a treatment in the office to get rid of the clusters of outbreaks I was having. Driving home, I was furious. When I arrived, he was home, and his mother was there. At this point D’Angelo was only 5 years old and was there too. 

I confronted him, and he said he had been working, not cheating. Nope, I wasn’t stupid. Not after my doctor visit. I continued asking him. I was doing laundry at the time, and he picked up a hanger and began to choke me. He weighed about 300 pounds.

I was losing air; I couldn’t breathe. I was trying to grasp anything I could to hit him or get him off of me.

His mother tried to intervene, and he pushed her to the side. When he did this, I had a chance to catch my breath. I got up and ran to my son who was screaming and crying at the top of the stairs. He caught me again. D’Angelo jumped on his back, trying to protect mommy, and he proceeded to throw D’Angelo off. Finally, he left and didn’t return for days. I never called the police. He told me if I did, he would kill me and that they wouldn’t believe me anyways. People were outside that day, saw what happened, and never said or did anything. I guess the people were as scared as us, or they thought it was none of their business, which made me sad.

Who really cares about women and children being abused? 

Did anyone care? 

Why didn’t I leave? 

Because I loved him and thought he could change. He would continue on abusing me and my son for a while. My life spiraled out of control, and I became addicted to drugs. Then one day, he called his mother and I and told us he was on his break and on his way home, and he was going to kill me this time. His mother and I and others at the apartment packed my car with my boys and a few necessities in record time, and I left. Eight years it took. As I was exiting Lubbock to come back home to Plainview, I passed him. He was on the service road driving fast. I was on the interstate driving faster. I never looked back. The abuse ended that day.

God was watching over me and my boys. I was supposed to die that day, but God had a better plan for me and my boys, and it wasn’t that life. 

I quit cold turkey and have been clean and free from meth since 2005. I was diagnosed with the first stages of cervical cancer caused by HPV in 2006 and had the option to do a hysterectomy. I did, and there was no cancer! 

I was raised in church, but I left God when I was 13. I was busy. Busy doing my own things, which weren’t good things. I don’t remember praying or even attending church. But God never left me. He never leaves us, ladies. We all have a story, and we are called by God to have a plan of action.

I’ve been at CVS pharmacy going on 13 years, selling legal drugs… ironic, I know. Some of my co-workers are just there for the paycheck, but I’m there for the people. That’s my ministry, that’s my way of witnessing to people on a daily basis. I’m able to serve and help others. Sick people, depressed people, recovering people. All at a place where I have been in my life. Mrs. Sherry Wall helped me in my ministry. She prints me up cards with different scriptures on them, so I can pass than out. I always write on the back, telling them that I’m praying for them or to say how awesome they are, or how much I love them. They always appreciate that word from God, plus it’s sharing the news of the gospel. 

I always do my job with a smile on my face. That smile goes a long way. God has me at CVS for a reason. I’ve been through some things in my life; we all have. I’m not perfect, but I love people. God gave me that gift from Him. I know the wait at the drive-thru gets long sometimes at CVS. Maybe people just come to see what color my hair is that month, or to see if I’ve gotten any new tattoos… either way, God gets to shine through me, and I believe that’s why people come to CVS. 

Ladies, keep smiling and praying and telling others you love ‘em. That’s sharing the gospel. Thank you, Abba! 

A merry heart does good like medicine. ~Proverbs 17:22

We would like to thank Leslie Wall for writing this blog post!

You Can’t Be Good At Everything

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


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

There’s only one problem with that.

I am not great at creating work flow systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Am I Setting My Child Up For Success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friendship Through The Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What If… God Surrounded

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

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

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

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

What If……

I don’t have what it takes

Things don’t ever change

I don’t leave room for Jesus

Then the truth of Your love shines through—

What If……

You hold me up

Your love is enough

The power in Your name can do anything

You’re making me strong

You were here all along

I’m right where You want me

You were right there fulfilling Your promises

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

This song by Josh Wilson is easy to relate to:

Carry me…..

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

Carry me from my sinking sand to Your solid ground

Jesus calm my heart, come near to me

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

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

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

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

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

A Change of Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Daughter’s Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship is a Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise

The glories of my God and King

The triumphs of His grace.”

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

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

The Blood of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Most Important Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persistent Prayer

What does persistent prayer look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping The Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple Beauty

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

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

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

Purge all of the unwanted things

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

Make a place for your people

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

Add elements of beauty

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

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

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

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

 

Balancing Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Can I Find Belonging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Have to Taste to See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Psalm 34:4-8 His word says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just taste, and you will see!

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

It’s the Little Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live in the Moment!

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

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

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

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

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

For the Love of Cooking

trinarecipe2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trinarecipe

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