Slacken

Editor’s note: This semester we’ve asked different women from our three campuses to share something God showed them through the scriptures of Titus 2. We believe God’s Word has the power to impact our lives no matter our circumstance or season. May you be encouraged and empowered to respond to God’s voice as you read through the wisdom these women are sharing with each of us.

Busyness is such a norm in our lives. Everywhere we look, people are frantically trying to balance their professional lives, personal lives, health, finances, etc. Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day?  If I’m being honest, I have felt that way frequently. What would our lives look like if we valued the importance of pursuing God’s presence first and let everything else fall into place? Recently, I felt the Lord speak specifically to this in my own life through one word:

Slacken

Let me explain….

What does it mean to “be still and know that He is God” (Ps. 46:10)? Rarely do we make it to the “be still” part to find out! We go until we can’t go anymore and then collapse and call that being still before Him…but really, we just fell over in exhaustion. Stillness is intentional and purposeful. A holy (set apart) moment where you stop and say THIS is of value and worthy of my time. My favorite illustration of this came from a recent conference. The speaker compared our lives to a rubber band and demonstrated that we pull and pull until life snaps us down, stretched thin and exhausted. We are actually meant to gradually release the tension and quiet our hearts before the Lord like a rubber band that is eased until it completely slackens.

Slacken:  Slow down, ease up, to make something less tight.

Slacken almost sounds like a bad word, as if it represents laziness, but actually it only occurs in intentionality.

Quiet yourself before the Lord. Let Him speak to your heart and establish you in His loving kindness. Let your soul be watered by Holy Spirit drawing you ever nearer. He’s speaking to you, even now!

“Beloved, I’m still here. I’m reminding you of your name and true nature. Dear one, you are safe in my arms.” 

Let your roots go deep in His faithfulness and your life will flow out of this established heart. From this place, you are empowered to correct those under your leadership without shaming them because you no longer believe that their imperfections undermine your value as a leader. You can forgive yourself and others because you realize Jesus died so you could make mistakes without the mistakes making you. You can honor people when they speak hurtful things which demean your character, because you recognize that God is your defender and you’ve spoken wrongfully before, too. Your health is a natural priority because you understand your worth and that real comfort only comes from Him, not an emotional satisfaction from one more piece of chocolate. You can trust Him to provide even if your bank account disagrees, because He is the provider who has abundant resources for your needs AND your dreams.

You are free to love well. The love poured so generously over your life can’t help but overflow onto others. He is always speaking; we need only slow down to listen. Slacken. Make time. Let’s worry less about “doing enough” and allow ourselves to just BE with Him. He is worthy, and He never disappoints.

Shonda McCay contributed this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

The Inspired Mom Class

Editor’s note: This semester we’re focusing on Titus 2 as it relates to many areas of our lives as women. We hope you find real hope and encouragement as you read through these stories of God’s revelation to women all across our campuses.

I recently stopped by the home of a dear out-of-town friend of mine. This was my first time being in her lovely home. Her husband and four children were home and I couldn’t help but be inspired in the short time I was there. Her children were full of life and joy and couldn’t wait to share their treasures with me.

Titus 2:3-5 says this… 

Teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. 4These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, 5to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”

 Have any of you ever wondered where this class is being offered? I have! Where IS this class and PLEASE sign me up! Everything mentioned in these verses are things I struggle with daily and if I could just find me one of these older women, I’m sure they would help me figure out how to be a woman. 😉

But here is what I discovered in the home of my sweet friend: Living life with other women is the class. She’s not much older than me, but she is further along in motherhood than I am. In 30 minutes, God used her to teach me how to love and connect with my children in a way I hadn’t thought about. It really was as simple as that.  I’ve been thinking and praying for months about how to connect with my three-year-old boys’ hearts and involve them in the daily chores. In the short time I spent visiting and sharing time with my friend, God answered those prayers with three very practical ways to love and train my children.

Are you wondering how to find an older woman to learn from? One of the easiest ways for older and younger women to connect in our church is through Life Groups. I can’t tell you how many opportunities I’ve had to learn AND teach in my group. Being a part of a Life Group is a very simple way to put Titus 2 to practice in your life.

I would like to leave you with this quote from one of my favorite older women, Elizabeth Elliott.

It is doubtful that the apostle Paul had in mind Bible classes or seminars or books when he spoke of teaching younger women. He meant the simple things, the everyday example, the willingness to take time from one’s own concerns to pray with the anxious mother, to walk with her the way of the Cross with its tremendous demands of patience, selflessness, lovingkindness—and to show her, in the ordinariness of Monday through Saturday, how to keep a quiet heart.

Amber Curry wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

True Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife

 

Sometimes I don’t feel very spiritual…there, I said it. It’s true…off and on throughout our marriage, I’ve questioned whether what I’m doing is actually “advancing God’s Kingdom.”  Is it profitable, or should I do something else?

This week, June 29, Brad and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. That number is CRAZY to me. We have served in every area imaginable at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Plainview, Texas.  I always knew I’d marry a pastor and that we would serve in a local church…but throughout the span of 21 years, I never imagined how my life would be challenged, how much I’d grow in my love for Christ and my love for others. Or that we’d find ourselves where we are today, leading and loving the most humble and giving people I’ve ever met.  And yet, in the middle of such a great life, I’ve continually found myself questioning my role.  Does what I’m doing matter?  Is it really enough for me to love Brad and serve him and our family?  Is it enough that I show up on Sundays and hug those I run into and pray for people God puts on my heart?  Too often I’ve felt like I could be doing more, and I’ve questioned whether I’m making a difference.  

God so graciously spoke His truth to my heart a few weeks ago concerning this issue. I was once again in my cycle of feeling unimportant and useless. I was reading in Malachi, and I came across the verses in 3:13-15:

‘Your words have been arrogant against Me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you say, “What have we spoken against You?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’

You see, after reading that I realized my words have been arrogant against God. Who am I to say my work isn’t enough, to question if what I’m doing is vain or profiting God’s Kingdom?  Brad and I, to the best of our ability, have prayed and listened to God’s direction. We’ve lived in such a way that our family is surrendered to Christ. And in this obedience life is found.  In this obedience God produces abundance.   I quickly repented for my arrogant words toward God and asked Him to renew my mind. 

I write this post not to get any accolades or reassurance to my place in the church, but to encourage you, the reader. 

I can’t help believing more people than just me have ever felt this way. I think in general women question their place and whether what they’re doing is making a difference, and what I want to say to you is yes!  Yes, it is!  When we are listening to the Holy Spirit and following His lead, what He’s asking us to do is not in vain. It is for a purpose. It’s to advance His Kingdom. 

Each diaper you change, each paper you grade, each dinner you make, each hug you give, each prayer you pray, each text of encouragement that you send, each word of affirmation you give to your husband or your child or your friend. It matters, it’s changing lives, it’s impacting this world for Christ, and it’s not in vain. 

And our service at church…wow, what an impact it’s making in our community.  Over 80% of our members serve in our church. That number is unheard of. I promise you, God sees where you’re giving, and He says it is not in vain.  

So let’s keep being women who hear the voice of God and obey His calling, and let’s stay in a place of humility where we don’t question our calling, where we agree with God’s word, that what we’re doing is making a difference. It is changing this world for Christ. We all look different; our callings and careers are different. It’s the beauty of Christ. What a gift we are to this world.  

Lovingly,

Julie

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here. 

My Struggle with Depression–And My Healing

God has done so many wonderful things in my life, giving me many stories to tell of His goodness.  One story involves a battle that I have fought three different times in my life—chemical depression.  I have often had background skirmishes, but three times the battle has been more intense.

When I say they were major battles, I am not saying that flippantly.  Each episode had different degrees of symptoms but some overall themes were:  great anxiety, strange physical symptoms, total lack of hunger, inability to sleep, feeling hopeless (and you sure need hope in this!), and inability to concentrate.  My whole body would feel weird, and it seemed like I couldn’t remember feeling normal.

This particular story was during the worst episode which occurred after the birth of my first daughter in the form of post-partum depression.  I hardly even want to go there to explain how dark a time period that was, but that’s also when I saw God’s hand move in a miraculous way. When you have endured several months without sleeping, without much eating, and with no peace whatsoever it can wear on you in a big way, especially when caring for a baby.  We lived in Houston at the time, and my mom came to help me.

I remember crying out to God out of total desperation in my closet one day (yes, I sometimes pray in my actual closet).  The next Sunday at church I met someone during the greeting time named Sandy.  Our church was fairly large (a few thousand people), so I didn’t know everyone and I hadn’t remembered seeing her before.  I had to leave to go to the nursery to tend to my daughter which happened so often that everyone knew my number on the screen—0012 (which I still remember 20 years later).

While I was gone Sandy came to my mom and asked her if I was going through a hard time, and my mother briefly explained the situation.  Sandy replied that God had put it on her heart for several days to pray for a person named Karen who was going through great difficulty.  When we had met, she was very intrigued that my name was Karen and asked the Lord if I was the one she had been praying for which the Lord confirmed.  Through that encounter we talked more, and she relayed to me that the battle would end and it helped me get started on a different path.  It sure wasn’t immediate by any means, and many dark days were still ahead.

Yet, I cannot describe what comfort it was to me for the Lord to reach out to me in that way to let me know that He saw my pain, that He sent someone to pray for me, and He gave me hope that I would get past this battle.  He met me where I was!

God is so great and loves us so much.  God not only helped me in this supernatural way, but He revealed to me some ways in the natural to combat the depression as well.  When I say depression, that can mean anxiety or depression or a combination.  I learned that they are two sides of one coin.  They both are the result of a serotonin deficiency, and your body and personality may just manifest them in different ways.

As for supernatural means to fight it, obviously, we should first seek God to show us what we in particular need to do.  Due to your brain feeling so muddled when chemically depressed, that may require the help of Godly friends (or a counselor) who will seek God with you.  Here are some supernatural weapons that I found to be effective for me:

  • Praying God’s Word over myself, declaring that I have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), that no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), that great is my peace (Psalm 119:165), and that God’s peace would guard my mind (Philipians 4:7).
  • Praying in tongues, especially when I didn’t know what else to pray.
  • Praising God! The Word says that you put on (like clothing) the garment of praise in exchange for the garment of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). This could be through music or by pouring out the praise in your heart to Him in plain words.
  • Keep standing! Sometimes existing for another day is a victory and one step closer to complete victory.

As for natural weapons, medical research is making great strides in this area. (I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and I read these types of things because they are so interesting to me.)  Recently, research has pointed to inflammation in the body (or even an allergy to inflammation) as being a cause of depression, but there are many, many causes, and there are many effective natural ways to battle it:

  • In terms of drugs, in my three battles, one time I used a natural herb (St John’s Wort), once I stuck it out long enough that the depression eased on its own, and once I took a prescription anti-depressant. You have to do what’s right for YOU, receiving no condemnation for what path you feel is best in this area.
  • Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as a prescription anti-depressant if done regularly.  (The scientist in me wants to give references for this but it is pretty prevalent anywhere you want to look this stuff up.)
  • Taking an Omega-3 oil supplement (or flaxseed or walnuts) is great for the brain.
  • Finding out what is a trigger for you can help. In the most recent battle, my doctor and I realized that the three times that have been true battles for me were all associated with a major drop in hormones.
  • Seeing a medical doctor to be tested for things like low thyroid or even food allergies/sensitivities.
  • Making sure to do everything in your power to be thinking right thoughts.
  • Having a good, loving circle of friends standing with you (or God can even provide a stranger like how He did for me in Houston—He’s limitless!).
  • Talking to a counselor. I do think that if there are any underlying physical causes then addressing those first helps the therapy to be even more effective.

One more word to the wise:  I found that everyone has an opinion about depression and anxiety.  Some will say it is only caused by hormones out of whack because that is what their experience has been.  Some will tell you that you are just not thinking right, and you just need to start thinking right.  Others may say that prescription medicine is the only way to go.

I think of it as how different blind-folded people see an elephant—the one holding the trunk think it’s hard, the one holding the tail think it is feathery, the one holding the legs think it is like a tree.  Our understanding of depression is so limited at this time and can have so many DIFFERENT causes and cures.  The good news is that God can see “the whole elephant” and knows how to deliver you!  Our victory is assured as we follow His pathway to deliverance!

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here.

**Note: This is one person’s story, and not advice from a professional doctor. If you are in a place of depression, please contact the HCF offices for a list of trusted counseling resources (click here for Campus contact numbers).

Finding God in the Midst of Disappointments

I want to share with you a profound revelation I had when walking through life with God this year.  My husband and I have been trying to conceive for about 4 years now.  The longer I go through the process, the more I realize what a common struggle it is for many marriages.  Along the journey, there have been ups and downs that have caused a lot of disappointment.

I bring up disappointment because of an experience I had at HCF’s Women’s Conference this past April, where D’Ann Cypert spoke directly to disappointment. She gave us tools to measure our disappointment. Each woman was given a cup and a bottle of water labeled “life.”  She asked us to pour a little bit of water into our cup as she was talking about a specific disappointment that was related to us.  I remember sitting there thinking, “I don’t know if this cup is big enough for all the disappointments!”

About a month after hearing D’Ann, I went to the doctor.  We had just gone through our first cycle of IUI and this was the 2nd week where I was to go in and have a pregnancy test.  As I was walking up to the building, God and I were having a conversation.

My conversation was a little like this: “God, you know how amazing it would be for you to just create a miracle!  I mean, I could tell everyone how marvelous you are and what a blessing this is in our life.  I could say that prayer works, you just need to have faith.”

Now, I believe that God has a sense of humor because I heard his voice clearly. His response was, “What if your answer is disappointment?  Will you still tell everyone how amazing I am?  Will you tell everyone about the blessings you have had in your life?  Will you praise me and thank me even if you are disappointed, and know that I am good?”

God is good.  In the end of Genesis, Joseph says:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

Joseph’s words to his brothers came from the perspective of many difficult circumstances, and the disappointments he lived through.  Joseph chose to look at the final product of God’s purpose:

God meant it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

The Bible is full of stories like Joseph’s where the worst thing that could ever happen to them actually happens!
Full of people who should have permission to give up hope because their situation is so horrible.
And God rescues them!

It’s not always in the way they wanted.  But in each case, God used it for His good and for His glory.

Finding myself in a position of wanting a family someday leaves me with two choices:

  • to sit in my disappointment and be a victim, or
  • choose to look at the pain and disappointment, and accept that in all things God has a plan and a purpose.

I can give it to God because I know that He is amazing and has a plan for my life.  He is a God of blessings, not disappointment.  He has never and will never fail his people—despite the outcome I want.

Why? Because our God is a good God.

This post was written by Tabitha von Haasl. To read more about her, click here. 

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Practical Ways to Care

Becoming a full-time caregiver of a parent, spouse, disabled child or foster children is life-altering at a minimum. For many it can be the most demanding, difficult job they’ve ever done as they lay down their lives to love, serve and care for the needs of another. Today I want to offer some practical ways you can be a minister of love, hope, and encouragement to these special people.  I’m writing as a daughter, a respite care provider for my parents, as someone who has been a foster parent.

When my dad was about 60 years old, he developed a rare brain disease that began with things like not being able to tie his shoes and all too quickly took his ability to speak and use his hands and arms. My mom was thrown into processing all the changes that were occurring with my dad, taking care of him, making financial and business decisions, doctor’s visits, and care of the home and property. For several years, Dad could not be left alone, and taking him anywhere was an enormous challenge.

Suffice it to say that, for many, caregiving can be very isolating. Caregivers often struggle with exhaustion and being able to take care of themselves, as well. Their lives can feel totally out of control and they need help and compassion.

There are many ways that you can breathe life into their situation.

  • Visit: Ask when it’s a good time to come by. Bring them news of the outside world: what’s happening at church, your job, the community. Please, tell a good joke. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. One of my dad’s favorite hospice nurses would carry on and tease and make jokes about the awkward things that would happen when she was caring for him. Don’t forget a hug or touch for the disabled, even if it’s awkward when they can’t respond. They still know.
  • Listen: Caregivers need to be able to tell someone about how hard it is and if they’ve had a particularly bad day.
  • Meals: A healthful and delicious meal is a God-send.
  • Holidays: Offer for them to join you at your house, or ask if you can bring the food to them and do the dishes.
  • Remember: Send texts, a thinking of you card, or call. Pray with them.
  • Help: Offer to help with yard work, pick up groceries, or stay with the home-bound person while the caregiver gets out for a while. My uncle kept my dad once a week while my mom went to lunch with friends or a doctor’s appointment and ran errands. These friends and this help from my uncle were life support for her.

Body of Christ, we have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. 2 Corinthians 9:12 says,

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here. 

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True Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife

Sometimes I don’t feel very spiritual…there, I said it. It’s true…off and on throughout our marriage, I’ve questioned whether what I’m doing is actually “advancing God’s Kingdom.”  Is it profitable, or should I do something else?

This week, June 29, Brad and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. That number is CRAZY to me. We have served in every area imaginable at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Plainview, Texas.  I always knew I’d marry a pastor and that we would serve in a local church…but throughout the span of 21 years, I never imagined how my life would be challenged, how much I’d grow in my love for Christ and my love for others. Or that we’d find ourselves where we are today, leading and loving the most humble and giving people I’ve ever met.  And yet, in the middle of such a great life, I’ve continually found myself questioning my role.  Does what I’m doing matter?  Is it really enough for me to love Brad and serve him and our family?  Is it enough that I show up on Sundays and hug those I run into and pray for people God puts on my heart?  Too often I’ve felt like I could be doing more, and I’ve questioned whether I’m making a difference.  

God so graciously spoke His truth to my heart a few weeks ago concerning this issue. I was once again in my cycle of feeling unimportant and useless. I was reading in Malachi, and I came across the verses in 3:13-15:

‘Your words have been arrogant against Me,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you say, “What have we spoken against You?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’

You see, after reading that I realized my words have been arrogant against God. Who am I to say my work isn’t enough, to question if what I’m doing is vain or profiting God’s Kingdom?  Brad and I, to the best of our ability, have prayed and listened to God’s direction. We’ve lived in such a way that our family is surrendered to Christ. And in this obedience life is found.  In this obedience God produces abundance.   I quickly repented for my arrogant words toward God and asked Him to renew my mind. 

I write this post not to get any accolades or reassurance to my place in the church, but to encourage you, the reader. 

I can’t help believing more people than just me have ever felt this way. I think in general women question their place and whether what they’re doing is making a difference, and what I want to say to you is yes!  Yes, it is!  When we are listening to the Holy Spirit and following His lead, what He’s asking us to do is not in vain. It is for a purpose. It’s to advance His Kingdom. 

Each diaper you change, each paper you grade, each dinner you make, each hug you give, each prayer you pray, each text of encouragement that you send, each word of affirmation you give to your husband or your child or your friend. It matters, it’s changing lives, it’s impacting this world for Christ, and it’s not in vain. 

And our service at church…wow, what an impact it’s making in our community.  Over 80% of our members serve in our church. That number is unheard of. I promise you, God sees where you’re giving, and He says it is not in vain.  

We just finished a week at our Catalyst Youth Camp. As I watched countless sponsors love and serve on over 140 of our teens, my heart was overwhelmed with gratitude, admiration, and appreciation.  

Each sponsor not only took a week’s worth of vacation, they also paid their own way to go to camp. It was a huge sacrifice and a huge commitment—one I understand and one I’ve embraced many times throughout the years.  The life of a Christian is one of sacrifice and commitment. It’s laying down one’s own agenda to love and serve others.  It’s something you don’t fully understand until you’ve fully surrendered to Christ and His word.  And this work, this way of living, this life of surrender is not done in vain. It’s done out of obedience, and it advances God’s Kingdom. 

So let’s keep being women who hear the voice of God and obey His calling, and let’s stay in a place of humility where we don’t question our calling, where we agree with God’s word, that what we’re doing is making a difference. It is changing this world for Christ. We all look different; our callings and careers are different. It’s the beauty of Christ. What a gift we are to this world.  

Lovingly,

Julie

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here. 

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