A New Chapter

Picture this, a 30-something-year-old woman, regretting ever mentioning trying something new. She’s terrified of the unknown. And to add to it, that little voice in her head kept whispering, “You don’t fit in. You’re not good enough.”  And then the worry sets in, “Am I going to have to speak in front of ALL those people??” Yep, that terrified woman was me and although I stayed calm and serene on the outside, under the surface I had totally lost my cool.

It turns out my inner monologues are overly dramatic and they almost convinced me to make yet another excuse as to why we are too busy and should wait another week.

End of story. Thankfully I did not allow that fear to control me and so my story began…

 I was determined! My husband and I had been discussing it for months. We were ready for more, ready to grow and really intrigued by all the talk about how awesome Life Group was. We had heard stories of the relationships created and the breakthroughs happening on Wednesdays and were hungry to get in on it. I browsed the catalog of friendly faces a 100 times looking for where we fit. It felt a little like I was shopping for friends online. I would add them to my cart only to remove them later because I wasn’t quite ready to invest.  But we finally bit the bullet and now we are walking to the door to meet our “new friends” for the first time.

What I found on the other side of that door was far greater than a couple of friends. I met real people. I mean, of course they were living, breathing humans, but they were REAL, down to earth, God loving people. And you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all around us. There were men and women of all ages and in different parts of their walk with Christ. I met some of the most loving, caring, Spirit-filled women. As the evening progressed I realized I was not alone in my fears. These women were strong in their faith and not afraid to admit they had failed and they have scars.

I figured out what it felt like to smash all of those lies that had been fed to me about who I am and I realized I AM accepted, I am not alone and I am worthy of our Fathers love. That breakthrough changed EVERYTHING. 

 I’m not going to say opening up and sharing was easy. I mean, it wasn’t like a switch that just automatically came on when I walked in the room. It took some effort and patience on the group’s part, and LOTS of prayer on mine. I remember the first time we paired up to pray for one another and I cried. Not like a couple of tears ran down my face, but flat out ugly cried. And you know what, she understood and helped me through it. The feeling of being able to just lay that down, and receive acceptance, was so freeing.

I had finally handed it over to God and instead of me cowering behind the walls I had built up for protection I was now out there fully believing that God was my refuge and the ultimate protector.

 As time passed I could not wait for Wednesday nights! I love to worship on Sundays and the messages we receive are always amazing. However there’s just something about sitting around a room with family, discussing how God is working miracles. We cry, we laugh, and we speak truth and life over one another. Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt council of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” And that is so true! It warms you from the inside out when we trust that the words spoken from these ladies are guided by the Holy Spirit. 

Today my husband and I have the privilege of leading a Life Group. Honestly not something that scared woman only a few short years ago would have ever considered. I added a new chapter to my story called Life Group. The relationships I have created and the newfound love I have for myself has changed me. I grew as an individual and my relationship with Christ exploded! If your heart has been wrestling with the idea of wanting more, but like me, you are afraid of not fitting in, I highly recommend you stepping out of your comfort zone and give Life Groups a try. 

We would like to thank Misty Rowell for writing this blog post!

You Can’t Be Good At Everything

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!


I don’t know what happened, but I’m in a season where I do not have patience to figure certain things out on my own. I think it started when I began a new job this summer and both he and I were trying to figure out our work flow dynamic.

There’s only one problem with that.

I am not great at creating work flow systems.

But, I know a brilliant gal who is. It took a little effort to get our schedules to jive, but in less than one hour of chatting, she showed me how she manages the work flow that comes across her desk. Looking over her shoulder gave me some perspective and helped me wrap my brain around what I needed to do next. #winning!

When I try to tackle something that’s completely out of my wheelhouse, it throws me into analysis paralysis. I overthink it. Decorating does this to me. It takes me a really long time to make decisions and then I’m insecure about my work. So when I was ready to tackle our living room walls, I called another friend. In just a short time she whipped out a beautiful interior design with items I already had. And to top it off, she was able to do it with a happy heart. Score!

What have you been avoiding in your home/workplace? Is it because you’re afraid to admit that you just don’t know how to do it?

Invite a friend you know who’s gifted in that area over for lunch (your treat). Ask her to teach you how/help you tackle that thing that’s been hanging over your head. You’d be surprised at who you know who’d be delighted to lend a hand.

Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.

Since we’re surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that entangles us and run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

-You may be surprised to learn that there are people who are cheering you on.

Maybe we’re so frustrated because we’re tangled in a lie that we have to run all the races instead of the one marked out for us. Remember in Disney’s Tinkerbell how she didn’t want to be a tinker fairy? She tried to be what all the other fairies were, and nothing worked. She came to peace with who she was created to be and THRIVED!

Inviting friends to help me with my stuff helped me find out that I wasn’t a complete failure – I just needed some inspiration and some new perspective. It’s okay that I’m not good at everything. I’m good at somethings, and friends have asked me to help them in those areas. Girls, can’t that be enough?

So quit beating your head against a wall and ask a friend to help! You and all those around you will be glad you did.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this post!

Friendship Through The Ages

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

It’s been said that you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. Well, we disagree. We think if you are really blessed, God picks your friends.

We knew each other since junior high school, but only as acquaintances. It was actually in Bible Class in our sophomore year in high school that we became friends. Coincidence? We don’t think so. God knew what and who we each needed in our lives then and in the future. As it turned out, Teresa married Naomi’s cousin, Gary at the end of her junior year of high school, making them cousins. The friend bond was stronger than the family bond and the two couples became friends.  

The friendship started off slowly. We played softball together. Then it progressed to a bowling league and volleyball. We played board games and dominoes. We told each other everything, knowing the secrets were safe. We also knew that the truth would be given, even if the answers were something we weren’t looking forward to hearing. Eventually, the four of us were always together. The four became eight when Gary and Teresa had two daughters and Bobby and Naomi had two sons. The children almost felt as if they had a second set of parents. They even call us that.

Raising children is one of the most, if not the most important, most difficult and most rewarding jobs a person could ever have. It is also a job that is made a little easier if you have someone that can encourage you, pray with you, and comfort you along the way. Psalm 133:1b, “The sweetness of a friend comes from earnest counsel.” We prayed many, many hours for each other over the raising of our children.

We were together for celebrations of life, baby’s first steps, Christmases, graduations, marriages of our children and grandbabies being born. We were there with each other when all of our parents died, and most recently when sweet Gary passed away one year ago.  Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times.” But it was never just us. We never forget Who orchestrated this relationship. Christ is always and will forever be the center of our friendship! Ecc. 4:12, “And if a man prevails against him that is alone, two shall withstand him and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

We would like to thank Naomi Jones & Teresa Harriss for writing this blog!

 

Where Can I Find Belonging?

Not long ago, I was eagerly anticipating spring, and now, as the dog days of summer come to an end, I find myself anticipating yet another change.  Not only in the seasons, but in the pace of life.  Kids go back to school, routines return, and the opportunity for relationship grows.  Something about the onset of fall encourages community.  There is no better way to experience community than in a small group of people who meet weekly to love, laugh, pray, and live life together.  It’s what we call Life Group.

My husband Danny and I have had the honor and privilege of leading a Life Group for almost 10 years and we have been blessed with a myriad of life-giving, spirit-filled relationships because of it.  People come and go, but each person makes a lasting impact on my heart.  Memories of shared experiences (both joyous and tragic), of laughter, of tears, of sweet fellowship, and great food will remain with me forever.

And yet, my natural tendency is still to withdraw to my safe place and live life from the confines of that space.  Being what the professionals call an introvert has its challenges.  BUT GOD, through His unending love and grace, has shown me the freedom that comes from stretching myself, opening myself up to others, and allowing myself to love and be loved.  God created you for community, and if you don’t believe that, you are believing a lie.  My prayer for us as women is that we will stop believing the lies and cling to God’s truth.  

God’s truth about each one of us is that we are all He says we are and we can confidently put ourselves out there and find love, acceptance, and joy.

A friend told me recently, “Find joy today.”  That made me realize that if we really look, we can always find joy—maybe even in a group full of people.  So, if you have yet to find a Life Group, may I encourage you to visit one?  If you already have one, I pray that you will find new and refreshing joy rising within you as you embrace your group and the people in it.

As we anticipate this new season, may we hold tight to God’s truth and begin to anticipate the abundant life that living in community brings.  Romans 12 instructs us to live in harmony with one another and in Christ, each of us belongs to the other.  I am needed, you are needed, and together we are all necessary, chosen members of God’s Kingdom.  May He give each of us the grace and courage to step out of our safe place and into a place of belonging, relationship, and joy.

We’d like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this blog!

How to Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus

In August 2013 I was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.  Yes, those were the words the doctor used in the measured, clinical tone some doctors use in delivering bad news.  Those words, in addition to “It’s not good, Monica,” and “A few people make it to five years.”  I will be honest, I have experienced the goodness of God and I know the One who numbers my days, but this news of metastatic breast cancer was devastating.  My husband and I have four kiddos and at the time they were 6, 4, and 3 years old, and our baby was 7 months old.  My mother’s heart grieved, and I simply could not imagine not raising them.

So, my family started down a path that we continue to walk today, and many in the body of Christ bravely chose to walk with us.  The Bible says that we are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), which, if we are honest, can be overwhelming.  However, in God’s incredible grace, He surrounded us with people who were willing, by the power of His Spirit, to do the hard thing and bear this burden of cancer with us.  How sweet our co-laborers have been.

First, people prayed.  A woman I had never met came up to me almost a year after my diagnosis and said, “I have been wanting to meet you.  I pray for you twice a day, that you will dance at your grandchildren’s weddings.”  I receive that!  She continues to pray for me, twice a day.  When we do not know how to come alongside someone in their suffering we can always, always pray.  I have friends who have called and prayed with me over the phone, laid hands on me in my sister’s living room, texted prayers, and I could go on and on.  God has heard.

People gave.  They gave of their time.  My mom and dad still come almost every three weeks when I have treatments.  It is a sacrifice of their time and their resources, but they continue to bear that burden with us.  People gave and continue to give physical gifts:  money to help with medical expenses, gifts to encourage my heart and my kids’ hearts, breast milk to feed my baby while I was receiving chemotherapy, and countless meals and gift cards, to help ease the tasks of everyday life in the midst of initial and continued treatment.  God has faithfully met each and every need.

People believed.  What balm to my soul to see faith personified in the body of Christ. Just last week, a friend sent me the following scripture: “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come” (Psalm 71:18).  She is believing with me—especially in those moments of darkness when I do not believe myself—and for me: that in my old age, I will be proclaiming the name of Jesus to another generation.  May it be so.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ 

Monica Patrick has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember.  She is a stay-at-home wife and mother in Fort Worth, TX.  She and her husband Charles are about to celebrate 11 years of marriage and have four children, Susanna, 10, Josiah, 8, Nathaniel, 6, and Seth, 4.  She homeschools their children and together she and Charles serve as the 4th grade Sunday School teachers at their church.  She is a gatherer and enjoys bringing women together to talk about Jesus and His faithfulness in marriage, parenting, friendship and life.  She dreams of one day traveling the country with her family in a motorhome.

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The Truth about Gossip

quote - lisa“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7

Am I willing to bet you have heard this passage spoken over a couple at their wedding? Two people are lovingly looking into each other’s eyes, and promising these words over their future. Today I want to challenge you to look at these words through a different lens.
Gossip.
The dreaded word that makes every woman grind their teeth.

We are all guilty to some extent of gossip, myself included, but as I read this passage the words jumped all over me. We all know God is love; it is the core of who he is. As Christians we strive to live by this truth, to love your neighbor as yourself; husbands love your wives like Christ’s loves the church; or a mother’s instinct to love their children sacrificially. When our words are spoken in love, it rejoices, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. I believe when we choose to speak gossip we are delighting in evil. Ouch. Which goes against the core of who God is. Double ouch.

As I type this truth, I am reminded of the times I have let gossip drip from my lips–like a leaking faucet I am unwilling to put the work into. Over time the drips turn into streams, which then starts pouring all over my heart and spreading into the core of who God has called me to be. Let’s turn the spotlight off ourselves; what if other people are choosing gossip and you are not?

Love is not passive. This passage doesn’t say to sit idly by. Look at the passage again: Love protects. As believers, if we want our relationships “rejoicing with truth” and not evil, we must use the words we speak to change the situation into one of hope. 

I challenge you to be the change you want to see. When gossip enters the room, there is no hope or protection for the other party; the truth is, we are speaking evil over them instead of love.

I heard it said once by Lisa Terkeurst:

It’s a much more effective use of time to pray for someone rather than talk about them.

I truly love this. What if women today choose this philosophy in all their relationships? We could all put our hurtful words aside and, in turn, have words of blessings pouring from our lips. My heart is not to make women feeling convicted; I am preaching to the choir. I want nothing but loving words to come from my mouth–after all, God is love. My heart is to strive to be more like Him. I hope yours is too.

This post was written by Madi Mikael. 

Comparison in Relationships

measuring-stickComparison. It’s a disgusting cycle of endless “crouch-down moments” or many days of standing tall, feeling like a million bucks. Constantly holding a measuring stick up within a situation or relationship continuously creates gaps in your life.

Whether you are seemingly greater than those around you—or often, feeling less than your surroundings, both types of gaps create separation between others and us.

Comparison keeps us from experiencing community. We fear rejection, so we don’t pursue potential friendships, or we withhold love and acceptance to those who are beyond our comfort zone, those we believe have not measured up.

When we separate ourselves from other people, we deny ourselves the opportunity to experience the kingdom of God within those people.

I neglected people for years because they weren’t like me, but the Lord convicted me for taking it upon myself to place a stamp value on those around me.

During this time the Lord spoke to me, “Natalie, when you reject them, you are rejecting me. You are missing out on an incredible opportunity to experience ME inside of them.”

Tears filled my eyes as I imagined countless people I have hurt by not seeing who God has made them to be as an individual. Not to mention the instances I rejected people and neglected to celebrate with others because their success, in my eyes, threatened my own lack of confidence.

Many times I forget God’s standards and approval are all I need. Not only has God already approved me, but He has approved of others as well.

From that day, my measuring stick came down, gaps were removed, and I started to see the Kingdom of God inside many, even those I once disqualified. I felt fully free to experience God in incredible ways through my relationships with others.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you are called to peace and always be thankful.”

The truth is God has made us all different, but we are called to operate as a body. If you think about the body, there are different functioning parts that all have various but equally important roles.

Until we are at peace with who God has made us to be and how we were made to function, we will never be at peace with who He has made others to be and how he has made them to function. Our differences will become competing factors that work against us instead of complimenting factors that unify us.

Danny Silk once said it like this, “He didn’t give us gifts to separate us, but to assemble us together.”

In my own life, I have come to find out that competition breeds division, whereas confidence invites celebration and appreciation. That, I believe, is the true key to having healthy relationships.

This post was written by Natalie Hallford.