Lifting My Eyes To The Hills

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 121  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in   

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

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

All Things New

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

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

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

Or another translation says,

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

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

Jesus taught His disciples to pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is making all things new.

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

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

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

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

Trusting God With Our Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting Boundaries With Your Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

Boundaries of the Mind and our Self-Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty Within Marriage

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

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

1 Peter 3:4-5

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

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

Patience is not easy, yet is a virtue.  

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

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

Ecclesiastes 3:11

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

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

Respect equals love! 

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

Proverbs 12:4

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

Proverbs 31:10-12

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

Proverbs 31:26-31

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

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

Sacred Scars

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

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

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

What was happening?

It’s astounding how quickly our priorities can shift.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dishing up Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty.

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

Beauty.

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

He looks inside of us.

He looks in our hearts.

None of that outward appearance stuff matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Bonnie McIntosh

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

Helping Our Kids With Anxiety

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

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

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

Calm The Body

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

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

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

Capture Thoughts

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

Speak Truth

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

My favorite antidotes for anxious thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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