Teaching Our Children To Be Kind To Every Kind

It has been 13 and a half years since David’s stroke. I will never forget sitting in a little family side room staring at the MRI picture of David’s brain. The Pediatric ER doctor pointed to a large, black area of David’s brain and informed us that was the area which had been affected by the stroke. In that moment I wanted to punch the man. I had never had that feeling before and I didn’t know whether to throw up, run out, or bawl. No matter my feelings, I knew in the blink of an eye my life had changed. I was now the mom of a child with a disability. We didn’t know what David’s disability would look like, but we knew there was a long road ahead of us.

In those moments, and in the time since, we have been surrounded by friends and family who have embraced us and David’s disability as we have walked this path. We are so grateful. Community always makes it easier, no matter what hardship you are walking through. And, let’s be honest. We all face hardship.

Recently a young mom asked me, “How do I teach my children to love kids with disabilities?”

There are a lot of practical ways to answer that question, and yet, one very simple, absolutely crucial answer. I’ll start with the simple answer and follow with a few practical ideas.

The simple answer is to show love. That seems cliché, but honestly, what families with special needs children need is a lot of love. Teaching your child to love those who are different is a task that all parents are called to and it begins with the parent.  Parents must be able to see a child with a disability and then be intentional in showing that child, and that child’s family, love.

Here are a few practical ways people have shown our family love:

  • Meeting physical needs:  Right after David’s stroke, and really until he was about 4, we had to be in Lubbock for appointments 2-3 times a week. People were so faithful to help in so many ways, bringing food, giving gift cards, etc.  I am not necessarily talking about something that was organized, although that did happen. I’m talking about people hearing from the Holy Spirit, calling and asking if they could bring us dinner, or gifting us in other tangible ways. It was always at just the right time and such a sweet expression of Christ’s love to our family.
  • Including David:  When you have weakness on one side of your body, every physical activity is more difficult. You cannot carry a plate of food at a birthday party or open your own juice box. You are not able to ride a bicycle in the neighborhood with the other boys, and people often have to adjust their plans or activities to meet your needs.  I was always so grateful for friends who would call and honestly ask, “Can David come over, and what do we need to do to help him?” Although that can be a bit uncomfortable to address, it is so helpful to the child with special needs and their family.
  • Giving a needed respite:  Raising a child with special needs is constant. It is hard to explain unless you are doing it. I am so thankful for my family and a handful of friends who were happy and willing to keep David and care for him so Brad and I were able to have a few days away.
  • Speaking words of life and truth:  I cannot tell you the number of people who have prayed for David. We have received cards from all over the world. At first it was hard to hear these prayers of concern, largely because of my own disappointments. However, even in my less than grateful response, people continued to pray and believe for David. What joy it brings when people speak words of assurance and blessing over David. His life is different than we imagined it would be when we brought him home from the hospital, but he is the perfect gift that God intended him to be and he will continue to be as he grows and walks in the paths God puts before him. To this day we have a dear doctor friend who believes in David’s complete and total healing. To say the least, it is always refreshing when David sees him.

This post just scratches the surface of our life with David. My prayer is that people will always see those in need and respond in the way God is calling them to respond. Early on God showed me a verse in Proverbs 31. I think it directly speaks to those with a disability and how we should respond. 

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9 

David is a normal 14 year old who has minimal limitations, for that we are grateful. But we are surrounded by so many who have extreme limitations. Let’s be sure we are always an expression of Christ’s love to them.

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!

Reframing Beauty – Part 2

Beauty. A word that truly has so many meanings in our world. A word that we have sometimes let define who we are, how we see others and the kind of worth we put on ourselves. We see magazine articles with titles that read “5 Steps to the NEW Beautiful You”, “Beauty Hacks You Never Knew”, “The 36 Most Exciting Beauty Products to Try in 2019”, you get the idea. Our world has turned the word “beauty” into something that can be obtained by the next product, the most popular spa service, the new outfit, or what we can DO to be like the girl in the magazine, the mom of 3 that just doesn’t age, or our friend that we long to look like. 

Unfortunately, the beauty industry has found a market that makes millions based on women’s insecurities. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you know me and follow me on my Divine Bliss Facebook and Instagram, you know I LOVE the next beauty product. I am all about it, as it is such a fun, creative, exciting hobby-turned-job for me. BUT, it is critical that we as women don’t find our true sense of happiness in a beauty that has been marketed. 

Song of Songs 4:7 says “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you”. When I think of things with “no flaw”, I think of precious, perfect, loved, pure, and unblemished. Now obviously, these things may not be a reality from the outside. I mean, we have all had blemishes. There are times we may not feel loved or perfect, but that isn’t what we are talking about here. 1 Peter 3:4 speaks to this. “Rather what is inside the heart… is great worth in God’s sight.”

True and perfect beauty comes from our identity in Jesus.

Another way I see beauty from within shine, is when we operate in the fruits of His spirit like in Galatians 5:22-23. For example, an act of love that is beautiful could be taking a friend’s kid to the park so that friend can have a much-needed break. I see the mercy given to the husband or child that made the same mistake, again. I see the selflessness of serving others, and genuinely taking the time to see the heart of those around us, not just going through the motions. God does not see our beauty as something physical as if we were models in a magazine, but He sees the true beauty in our hearts, spiritually, as the models of His fruits. 

At the same time, taking the word “beauty” out of it, God designed us to further His kingdom and to take care of ourselves while doing it. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. We hear a lot about “self-care” these days, and I truly believe we are hearing so much about it because we as women get so caught up in taking care of others, we forget to take care of us. In my profession as an esthetician, I get to see the benefits of women loving on themselves, therefore getting to love on others. Here are some practical self-care tips:

  • Take time to enjoy a spa service to refresh your soul, and relax, not just to check off a list to make you feel better about your insecurities. 
  • Invest in a good SPF to protect the natural beauty God has created in you.
  • Try out a new, fun lip gloss that brings out your confidence.
  • Treat yourself to a makeup tutorial because it is FUN to you, not because you are trying to “keep up”.
  • Get a pedicure with a friend to catch up and sow into relationships. 

The beauty industry, unfortunately turned somewhat superficial, doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There are so many different areas in this industry that can be good for you by brightening your soul and filling your cup, so that you can shine bright for the most beautiful One. 

It’s not about what we wear, it’s not about trying to be like someone else. It IS about WHO we are in Christ. It IS about the true beauty the Lord has put in each of us and it IS about being able to express ourselves confidently. Who is ready to reframe beauty with me?

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

Hospitality in the Natural and Supernatural

I figure if you are reading this then you have a heart to share God’s love everywhere you have influence, especially in your home for life group or when having guests. My friends would probably not call me a hospitality guru, but my husband and I have hosted life group for a while and have tried to watch and learn to pick up a few things (both natural and supernatural) along the way.  

I started paying attention at my mom’s house. It is decorated in the same exact things she put out in the 70’s, has a lot of clutter, and few places to sit, but everyone in my family wants to be there.  I figured out—apparently all that doesn’t matter.  Even if she isn’t consciously thinking about it, she is combining some supernatural and natural things to make people feel loved, valued, and RELAXED.   You can tell she values people above things, isn’t uptight about a single thing, is accepting and never, ever critical or judgmental of anyone.  I think because of that, the peace and love inside her house is palpable.  My sister-in-law even jokes that if she and my brother ever divorce that she gets visiting rights to Mama Jane!  Mom always has a variety of goodies out like nuts, M & M’s, and fruit slices, but she lays out from the beginning of an event what she wants people to do and how to serve themselves.  I think people feel comfortable because of it. 

At my own house, I always try to pray over our time together before life group.  If God’s Breath and Being isn’t on what we are doing, it is not worth doing!  I walk around my house and pray for God’s peace to be manifest, that people would feel God’s love, that His presence would be felt, and that our words will be sweet and led to accomplish His purposes for the night.  

The supernatural seamlessly blends with what we do in the natural.  It makes me think of a time a while back when I was asked to make dessert for a dinner where church leaders were serving a meal for a guest minister.  I made a strawberry cheesecake which is a complicated recipe (for me) and takes two days to make.  During that time while I baked, I determined to pray over the cake—that it would be refreshing and delightful to those who ate it, a blessing to them, and make them feel loved.  It was the weirdest thing because people kept talking and talking about that cake!  I just smiled because I knew it was the touch of God on it.  I am so grateful for his supernatural touch on my natural work.

A natural thing we try to do at life group is to be relaxed since it seems to help our friends be able to relax.  In our life group, if anything seems awkward, you can bet that we will just call it out as awkward and laugh about it.  I don’t want this to sound flippant, but we joke around about “Greeting people warmly” when we are at the front door.  Laughing about us awkwardly greeting someone seems to take the tension off us and also new friends coming in.    

We have a few other day-to-day things that we try to do as well.  We try to make sure the house is clean and doesn’t stink (hard while the dog was still alive), have all the things out that we will need for the meal, and turn on lots of lights throughout the house.  We want the temperature to be comfortable for everyone, so we have blankets everywhere and pass them around to (and joke about) our cold-natured friends.  When I see someone get cozy at life group with one of my blankets, I know we have made them feel at home (or frozen them out totally 😊).  I have a drink dispenser that we put water and slices of fruit in.  I promise it isn’t hard to slice a couple of limes or oranges and dump it in the water, but we have one member that jokes she keeps coming back because she loves our “fruity water”.  Whatever it takes! 

Life group is so important to my spiritual well-being.  I absolutely love how the church leaders have it set up and organized.  It is a low-pressure way to be spurred on to know my Father better and to help others, too.  Life group gives me an excuse to be blessed by the gifts and wisdom in others that I wouldn’t have any other way.  I know you, too, can find a group that you love! Check out the directory online or in a seat pocket at church!

We would like to thank Karen Earhart for writing this blog!

All Things Made New

Life group was a life changing experience for me. Although I am an extravert most of the time, I am very much an introvert when it comes to being around people I don’t know. 

Like most folks, we came to Harvest from a church that had literally beaten us to death! We were so broken and hurt, I wasn’t sure I’d ever open my heart again to another human being. My husband and I were in the process of restoration and rehabilitation in our marriage and desperately needed the support and love of others to help us stay on the right path, but I was terrified to open myself up again and let anyone else in. 

Our first Sunday at Harvest was amazing! We were only coming to visit, and 6 years later… (well, it didn’t take very long!) we joined and started attending life group. I was very quiet, and just listened as we met each Wednesday.  

Slowly, I began to enjoy the fellowship and prayer time with other women. I prayed with them but not out loud. I prayed silently.

As I learned to open my heart to God, I learned to open my heart to other women, and my life has literally changed before my own eyes. 

God healed the brokenness, healed the wounds, and led me to a place that I could love and trust other women again. He showed me that there are women who have a heart like His and want the best for His daughters! 

I cherish the relationships that God has provided through the women in life group, the women of Harvest! I became a life group leader because I want to pass on what God has blessed me with! I want other women to know the love of my Dad, Jesus! I want them to feel special and treasured like Jesus treasures me. We are daughters of the King, and I want other women to know what it means to be His princess!

Through the relationships that are born in life group, we learn how much we’re loved by Father, and can pass that love on to others. Life group is a life line and keeps us connected to the body of Christ!

We would like to thank Janie Keller for writing this post!

Creating Space for Others

Hospitality.  It really has more to do with a generous heart than with food or space.  It is not about elaborate meals or the perfect home.  It is about sharing real life together and living in community.  Hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard.  And most of all, loved.  I want people to feel warm and welcome in my home and full.  Not just having their tummies fed, although I do love to cook, but having their heart fed.  To know that they are wanted and that I am genuinely listening to them.

Why should you need to make opening your home a priority? I have a Pinterest board where I like to save ideas for recipes to make, parties to host, and a home to decorate.  How many of you can relate? Although the world tells us that hospitality demands more, it is definitely not about perfection.  Hospitality is actually more than that.  It is more of a spiritual discipline.  It has taken me years to realize this! 

Titus 1:7-8 says, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.  He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” 

No one was more hospitable than Jesus.

Although hospitality seems to be on the decline in our modern society, I find true delight in having friends over to just to sit and be real with me while I cook, organize, fold laundry, or watch the kids play outside.  While I may not be the chattiest of women, I enjoy listening and offering encouragement.  Letting friends see the inside of my home, the laundry going, the dirty dishes in the sink, the scatter-brained busyness life brings allows them to see inside my heart.  Hospitality is where we allow friends to see how we live and where our hearts are at.  It reveals the inward priorities of our hearts.  It reflects humility.   

Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.”  

There have been many days when a friend dropped by and I thought about how the weeds had not been pulled in my driveway or how the dog should have been to the groomer much sooner, or my makeup wasn’t in its presentable state, or countless other reasons why it was not the best time for me.  Lord, help us to put aside our distorted views of hospitality and teach us what it truly means to welcome people into our homes and our hearts.  Being hospitable and allowing my friend into my heart creates a defining moment for both of us.  My friend would never have known of their possible inconvenient timing and I would forget about all of my possible excuses once we are together visiting, being hospitable to one another.

Each time we invite someone into our homes, we are inviting Christ in.   

Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 

Hospitality might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it is really very life-giving.  It allows us to offer what we have in a service to one another. It allows us to exude friendship, community, and love.  Hospitality is a blessing when we take the leap and do what God allows us to do.  

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog!

Connect. Grow. Serve.

Over time, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the message within the Harvest life group logo. But isn’t it often the CONNECT part of the equation that trips us up in the very beginning?  It was for me! At that point in time, we had just begun attending Harvest and my emotions were raw. In truth, I was a mess! It was the spring semester of my first year as an instructional coach. My dad was dying of a fast-growing brain tumor, and after being away from home and taking three weeks off from work to be by his bedside, I was feeling overwhelmed to say the least. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was that our son and daughter-in-law were soon to give birth to a special needs child who might not survive, and it was taking every ounce of faith and sanity I could muster just to go through the daily motions. I was spent! I had nothing left to give.

Who could possibly want to connect with me?

(ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT!!) The very weekend of my Dad’s diagnosis just happened to be the Harvest Men’s Retreat. David attended for the first time, and evidence of the difference it made to his faith was popping out everywhere, including his determination to attend life group. I literally slunck (is that even a word?) into Kim and Johnny Street’s home that first night of life group, with a determined, yet fake smile plastered to my face, knowing full well that if anyone asked me a single question I would dissolve into a puddle on the floor!

 I recognize now that it was a “small beginning” as prophesied in the Old Testament book of Zechariah :

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT

David and I not only stayed in life group that semester, but our faith began to GROW exponentially! Women prayed over me, spoke words of wisdom into me, and taught me how to declare God’s word over my circumstances to change the atmosphere around me! My dad was taken home to be with His Lord, our precious baby was born with a hole in his heart on Good Friday, and was miraculously healed and able to go home on Easter Sunday! 

Several semesters later, David and I were given the honor to SERVE as life group leaders. 

Since that fateful first night, the miraculous “small beginnings” we’ve experienced in life group read like the cover of a biblical National Inquirer magazine:

  • Boy recovering from massive brain surgery, befriended by his surgeon, chooses a medical career
  • Couple leaves divorce court, reunite after miraculous touch from Heaven
  • Couple’s son healed from years of addiction, now leads others to Christ
  • Answered prayers cross the country uniting Manhattan beauty and West Texas coach

(each example used by permission)

See, I had this unrealistic expectation of myself that I had to bring something TO the table in order to dine AT the table. But it’s the very act of accepting the Lord’s invitation to come to His table when we’ve nothing to bring that changes US. (EXIT PRIDE!)

I visualize the applause of heaven when we take that tremulous first step of faith to ring that stranger’s doorbell and  CONNECT to the body of Christ through life group. The Holy Spirit is free to GROW us, and as we grow we are then able to be used to SERVE others. We learn how to exercise our giftings to pray down His will on earth as it is in heaven. (ENTER MIRACLES!)

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

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.