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!