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.

Seeking the Healer, Not Just the Healing

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

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

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

The married a great man part, nailed it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the list goes on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose Life

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!

I’m not certain how it happened, but one day I woke up and my kids were BIG. Big enough to see me. The real me. Not the me that could fix their boo boo’s and not the me that could give them a big ol’ mama hug. It had happened. I had been EXPOSED. They had somehow gotten big enough to see MY sin. They could see that I was over-worked, spread thin, wore out and had, over a period of time, become distant and disconnected from them. And while we’re being honest, I was also bitter, short-tempered, selfish and let’s just say it: SINFUL. I had been deceived and Satan had been robbing me from my children.

(INSERT SCREECHING RECORD SOUND HERE.)

Hang with me! I promise that this story ends well! You see, it’s at these pivotal life moments that we can choose to continue to be deceived and believe the lies,

You’re a terrible mom.”

“Look at that mom; her kids adore her.”

“Look at that mom. She can do way more, way better than you.”

 OR 

we can simply choose life.

Life, which is the Hidden Word of God in our hearts. It was an AH HA! moment for me. Repentance was easy and so was the change. I knew exactly what God’s Word said about me.

Ladies, His Word says that He doesn’t call the equipped, but that He equips the called. We are ‘called’ to be wives and mothers; CREATED to do such!  I remember a sermon that Pastor Paul preached where he said, “Parents, LOVE the SNOT out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

God has equipped us with LOVE!  There is something spectacularly supernatural about LOVE. After sowing it, you reap a harvest VERY quickly. I began sowing and pouring intentional LOVE into my children, each so very different. I told Jeremy just recently that I could literally feel God changing me and the atmosphere of our home. I could see fruit everywhere.

There’s more good news. God maps it out for us in His Word. Titus 2 is fantastically plain and simple about the direction we must take in our homes as mothers and in our communities. Hide these truths in your hearts ladies, so that when the enemy comes against you with lies, you can combat him with truth. Titus 2:11-12 says, ‘For the GRACE of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It TEACHES us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this PRESENT age” (emphasis mine). We can literally be taught to say NO to wrongful, sinful behaviors. We can choose life and truth.

So, it is by His abundant grace that I can continue to grow and press forward in this life and journey as a mother. A life that will be ESTABLISHED in and full of His grace and LOVE! Let’s remember to do as Pastor Paul said, “Love the snot out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

We would like to thank Kaci Searsy for contributing this post.