Gardening from the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

Gardening tips : Easy Gardening 

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

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

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

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

Happy Gardening!

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

The 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!

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.

Am I Setting My Child Up For Success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.