Educators, Be Encouraged!

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

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

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

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is on full display!

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

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

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

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

Helping Our Kids With Anxiety

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!

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!

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!

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!

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.

You Can’t Rush God’s Promises

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

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

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

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

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

But after Liam passed away, unhealed emotional wounds became a stronghold in my life.  Ladies, we need to expose the devil when his lies feel true.  Find a few ladies that you trust, be honest and let His light shine into your situation. I couldn’t have done this alone. God has given us the gift of community. Throughout this process I received advice, wisdom, and guidance from friends.  I’ve been a recipient of what Titus 2 is supposed to look like because the ladies in my life have taken Titus 2 seriously.  What did that look like?

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

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

When we guard our heart and mind in truth, we won’t be shaken.  When we call upon the name of the Lord, we won’t be shaken.  Titus 2:13-14 reminds me that we can have hope.  We find peace, worth, and infinite value in our Lord.  You will endure hardships and the Lord WILL be with you.  Don’t lose hope, Friend. He’s got this!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for this post.