Chaos Vs. Peace

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2, NLT).

There’s no doubt about it: our physical health and our spiritual health are connected. But when you start bringing up the topic of mental health, most people tend to get squirmy. There is so much stigma around “mental health issues.” But what is it, exactly? And how does taking care of our mental health tie into our role as Christians?

Mental health is simply a broad term for how the chemicals in our brain are affecting our emotions. Those emotions, in turn, will affect the way we react to (and interact with) the world around us.

God has created our brains to work together with our bodies in amazing ways. But because we live in a world that’s not perfect, sometimes people have an imbalance of the needed chemicals in their brain. This might cause them to struggle more than others with depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.

If you struggle in these areas, does that make you a bad person? No. Does that make you a broken person? No. Does that make you less of a Christian? No.

I love how Romans 7:24 through chapter 8, verse 2 puts it:

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Jesus was in a human body just like we are. He knows the struggles we face.

My friend, let me assure you of this: It is okay to ask for help. There is no shame in taking pills if you need them. Sometimes we need the medications to get our brains on track (putting the chemicals back into balance) before we can make other good choices for our lives. There is no shame in seeing a counselor if you need to. There is no shame in taking care of your mental health, just like you take care of your physical health. The Holy Spirit has freed you of that shame because of what Jesus did! He has broken the power of shame and sin over your life. You can walk in the abundant life He has called you to.

Some simple tips for taking care of your mental health may seem obvious. But so often, these are the first things to go in our own personal lives:

– Getting enough sleep

– Getting enough sunshine/vitamin D

– Surrounding yourself with life-giving friends

– Staying hydrated

– Eating healthy foods

– Keeping active

– Taking time to do things you enjoy

– Going to the doctor: Check vitamin and mineral levels; Check hormone levels; Get on needed medications

– Going to a professional counselor 

You have the responsibility to take care of your body, mind, and spirit. As Mary Oliver has famously written: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Be courageous and take care of your body, so that you are able to do all the wonderful things God has put in front of you to do (Ephesians 2:10; Hebrews 13:21). You are worth it.

Because we live in a world that’s not perfect, we are all broken in some ways. But we don’t have to be defined or labeled by our brokenness. We are new creations (1 Cor. 5:17)!

God has chosen to work through people in building His Church, but people are imperfect. I’m sorry if people in the church have hurt you with their words or their actions. That is not okay. Please forgive me on their behalf for how you have been treated. 

Please know that you have a valuable role in the Church. You have a place here. There is a space only you can fill. All of your story–including your mental health–matters. Don’t hold back because of your struggles. Get the help you need. Be brave and ask for help. And then offer your gifts, your personality, and your heart to those around you. We need YOU.

We would like to thank Heather Dillard for writing this post!

Rage Vs. Self Control

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

“Move me, O Spirit, to quiet my heart…”

Imagine you are writing a recipe to cook up the yuckiest, most rage-filled moments of your life. I can tell you mine in this season of life (to which I am sure some of you can relate at one time or another), but everyone’s recipe looks a little different. Mine goes a little something like this:

Ingredients:

1 C snoozed alarm (enough to make everyone frantic)

2 C early morning demands with no routine to follow

1.5 C argument with husband

½ C toddler refusing shoes

½ C hair drama

¾ C late night tv watching/Facebook scrolling

2 tsp horrible diet

2 tsp caffeine jitters

1 ½ tsp traffic

Directions: Preheat oven to 5,000 degrees. Throw all ingredients into a bowl. Mix vigorously. Pour mixture into a pan. Cook to a burnt, crunchy crisp.

I joke obviously, but I really have found myself cooking up this recipe time and time again, and not surprisingly, I lose my religion every time over something as mundane as a forgotten water bill. And although the ingredients may vary, this recipe always leads to an explosion of words and tears and all sorts of nonsense that ain’t nobody got time for!

In truth, when an eruption occurs, we know that it is not really the things on the surface that actually cause the explosion. It is all the feelings and emotions not being dealt with underneath the surface, simmering and pressurizing, and eventually exploding under the weight of life’s chaotic nature. It is the flesh holding onto feelings and control in such a deep way that it causes a blast of fury. It is desperately trying to control everything on the outside, instead of what is really happening on the inside.

Proverbs 25 says that “a person without self-control, is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” Our flesh is the same as this house. Even though the house is standing tall and strong, the enemy can just climb through a window or walk through the front door and go straight after all the precious valuables inside the home. When we allow our spirit to be pulled away from our flesh and we engage in a rage-filled frenzy, our defenses are down. Our beloved heart, God’s most precious treasure that He has filled with His wisdom and mercy, is left wide-open for attack by Satan, who loves to see us weak and broken. But friends, no one can live in a house with a broken door and windows. And no one can live with a broken heart that has no security or protection. That is not how God has asked us to live.

Choosing to live in the spirit with a heart that is centered on self-control begins with surrender. The Psalmist writes that God “rules over the oceans and the swelling seas…when the stormy waves rise, He speaks, and they lie still.” The wave of rage takes us over because we have failed to surrender all the overwhelming feelings that our Divine Maker never intended for us to carry around. But alignment and control are not on your shoulders. Surrender the feelings. Surrender the control. Surrender the idea that you are more powerful and mighty than the Creator of the Universe. Believe me, you are not. And you don’t want to be!

You have the greatest defender of them all in your corner.

Next time you are standing in the middle of a raging storm of chaos, stop and think about who is fighting your battle and protecting your heart. If you are standing firm in the spirit of the Living God, your windows and door cannot be broken, and you will not feel rage. You will feel peace. Because God is the Prince of Peace. And He will be your Peace, even when you don’t feel peace.

At the end of the day, all the craziness and chaos that make this life hard, will not cease. But remember friend, you are ruled by the One who already has your heart completely.

I’ll end with this beautiful scripture from James 1: 19-21, in one of my favorite translations, The Message. Tend to the weeds and thorns in your heart, so that your Father God can “make a salvation-garden of your life.” Love you friends.

“Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So, throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” James 1: 19-21 MSG

We would like to thank Emily Parker for writing this blog!

Flesh Vs. Spirit

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

Do you know that a war is raging inside of you? Do you feel the struggle of spirit vs. flesh? Have you experienced the pull in both directions: to follow God or worldly desires?  Are you asking yourself, “How do I overcome? How do I have victory over sin?” 

The flesh thinks it knows everything, and it wants us to follow it, but the flesh always wants what feels good. The Spirit, on the other hand, lets our flesh know that what feels good to us is not always good for us. The flesh will tell you the easy way, but not the best way.  The Spirit will always tell you the right way.  In (Luke 9: 23-27) Jesus tells the disciples, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed….”

Wow! That last sentence is enough for me to continue the war within my flesh daily and to tell myself every second to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The flesh makes things sound, look, and taste so good, but the Spirit will let you know that although these things may sound, look, and taste good to you, they are not good for you. Regardless of what the flesh says or how it makes you feel, it will never measure up or defeat the Spirit. The Word of God is powerful indeed; learn how to walk by the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh.

There is a reason why many of us are drawn to a good “spirit vs. flesh” sermon or may have even looked up “spirit vs. flesh” bible verses.  We can all relate to this very struggle. We all feel the pull from the Holy Spirit in our heart and the pull from our very own flesh. How can we overcome the desires of the flesh and follow the Spirit?  Let’s look a Galatians 5:13-26 New Life Version (NLV): 

13 Christian brother, you were chosen to be free. Be careful that you do not please your old selves by sinning because you are free. Live this free life by loving and helping others. 14 You obey the whole Law when you do this one thing, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” 15 But if you hurt and make it hard for each other, watch out or you may be destroyed by each other. 16 I say this to you: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in each step. Then you will not please your sinful old selves. 17 The things our old selves want to do are against what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit does not agree with what our sinful old selves want. These two are against each other. So you cannot do what you want to do. 18 If you let the Holy Spirit lead you, the Law no longer has power over you. 19 The things your sinful old self wants to do are: sex sins, sinful desires, wild living, 20 worshiping false gods, witchcraft, hating, fighting, being jealous, being angry, arguing, dividing into little groups and thinking the other groups are wrong, false teaching, 21 wanting something someone else has, killing other people, using strong drink, wild parties, and all things like these. I told you before and I am telling you again that those who do these things will have no place in the holy nation of God. 22 But the fruit that comes from having the Holy Spirit in our lives is: love, joy, peace, not giving up, being kind, being good, having faith, 23 being gentle, and being the boss over our own desires. The Law is not against these things. 24 Those of us who belong to Christ have nailed our sinful old selves on His cross. Our sinful desires are now dead. 25 If the Holy Spirit is living in us, let us be led by Him in all things. 26 Let us not become proud in ways in which we should not. We must not make hard feelings among ourselves as Christians or make anyone jealous.

My prayer is that spending time in the Word, in prayer, and in fellowship with one another, and learning to discern the Holy Spirit’s activity within us will help us all defeat the flesh and walk in the freedom of the Spirit on a daily basis. 

We would like to thank Georgia Wall for writing this post.

Lack vs. Enough

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

Do the “things” that are less than “perfect” from your past ever run through your head? What you may not know about me is I have a tendency to walk in dread of the things we sometimes consider “mundane.”  Regret plays a big part in this fear and dread.

Several years ago, I picked up a booklet entitled “Don’t Dread.” My first thought was, “I should read this so I can help others!” (LOL.) As I began to read it, the first two sentences hit me like a ton of bricks: “Do you look forward to each day, approaching it with great expectancy of great things to come? Or do you approach each day in a state of ongoing fear, dread, and lack?” I found myself reflecting on where I was in my journey of life. What was I dreading? Laundry, cleaning, transitioning my kids to college, grocery shopping, getting up in the morning (Admit it. We all at some point think, “just a couple more minutes” and hit snooze), paying bills, and the list goes on and on. What about regret? I shouldn’t have said that! I should’ve just stayed home instead of putting myself out there! Why did I even start this or that? I knew it wouldn’t work! I never have enough…. (You fill in the blank). 

Scarcity. What do you think of when you read that word? “Well Dee Dee, I don’t live in scarcity. I have plenty of food, clothes, etc.” I agree! But when I read this excerpt from a book called, “The Soul of Money” by Lynne Twist, it hit me right in the chest, listen up:

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep.’ The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time.’ Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something…(43 – 45).” And some days, I would add already dreading what is ahead of us for the day and regretting yesterday. (Lord Help Us!)

I don’t think we stay in this all day every day, but if we are truly honest with ourselves we slip in and out of this mindset throughout our daily routines. The Word says in John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.” Dread, regret and the scarcity mentality squeeze the life out of us like a thief. 

Let’s expose those lies for what they really are: LIES. They are a little flavor of fear. The enemy uses fear to steal our joy and hold us back from everything God intended from us. 1 John 4:4 says, “Ye are of God little children and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” We quote this for the “big” stuff like healing, prosperity, emotional wounds, etc. but what if we used this also for mindsets that do not line up with what the Word says about us as children of the Most High King? 

Our flesh will not want to control those thoughts, but the word tells us to “take those thoughts captive that don’t line up with His word.”  Does this mean we run around acting like Pollyanna pretending that everything is hunky dory and we never get down? Of course not! Life happens. I have had to combat many mindsets that do not agree with the Word throughout my walk. Dread, regret and scarcity thoughts keep us living in the past.  Some days I can catch those thoughts quickly and apply the Word. Other days I find myself meditating on them longer than necessary, but I am further down the road than I used to be. Worship really helps me to refocus my thoughts. I also have a core group of prayer warriors that go to battle with me when I am in the “pit.”

Faith is moment by moment some days. So let’s watch for those little fears and thoughts that come to steal our joy. 1 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.”  Let’s go to our Father and allow Him to shine light on the areas that we walk in that don’t line up with His Word, then allow Him to bring victory in our lives. Jesus died for this very reason – you and me! He was victorious on the cross. His Word says we are “more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!” We have enough!

I have been listening to two songs: “Ain’t No Grave” and “Raise a Hallelujah” both by Bethel Music. They both are powerful!   The truth is we are all very blessed and have battles we are dealing with. Walk in life and life abundantly! It’s a choice and it doesn’t depend on what is or is not going right in our lives. Renew your mind with the Word and Praise!

We would like thank Dee Dee Ortega for writing this post!

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!

Life Group Hosting 101

Robert and I had been approached to lead a Life group and we prayed about this opportunity. But, we began to hear a small voice saying, “I have something else for you to do for me,” and He laid it on our hearts to open our home to those who needed a place to belong and feel safe. We were paired with leaders who were needing a new host home. 

Hosting a life group seemed natural to me. I love to cook and to love on people. So many people work, which makes it stressful to go home and fix a meal before going to a meeting, so it just seemed natural to fix a meal that they could enjoy. Through the wonderful world of social media I am able to let them know what the main course will be and they are welcome to bring side dishes (homemade or store bought). What better way to greet people than with the smells of food that have been prepared by the hands of people we cherish in our lives. And, of course, we always have dessert! I love the smiles and conversations we have over the meal.  

A home is a place to come together with family and friends. We were made to have a relationship with God. Bringing people together into our home to encourage each other was perfect. Our life group family has a special place in my heart and I want them to feel safe and loved as they approach our home and come through the door. So many times there will be a group of us standing in the foyer talking about how our week has gone since the last meeting and we give high fives and hugs as they arrive. Hopefully, we never scare anyone by standing there! Ha! There have been a few times that I felt stressed due to electricity being out for part of the day or no water due to the well being knocked out due to lightening, but my awesome God saw the need and used the people necessary to get the electricity on and running water before life group was to meet. God is always faithful to our prayers. Prayers from the Life Group leaders helps, also!  And at those times I was so thankful for the service people and  to have our life group people around me. We are family.

Each season of the year brings new opportunities for decorating a home. Each season and holiday brings out ways to remind us how God provides beauty for us. We want everyone to feel comfortable and at home when they arrive. What an awesome bonus of hosting a life group! 

For me, the most important part of hosting a life group is praying over my home. I pray for my family every day and ask that they be blessed and feel love when they come through the door. As I start to prepare for Life Group on Wednesday night which includes vacuuming, dusting, and all those things that have to be done…you know what I am talking about…I stop in each room and ask Holy Spirit to flood my home from top to bottom and wall to wall with His presence. I pray outside of my home that Holy Spirit will touch people as they drive up to our home and those that are driving by. I ask that each person that is here will laugh and cry as they need. I pray that my carpets will be stained with tears of joy and tears of healing. The Holy Spirit wants to move among His people and I have found that He does move in life group! 

If anyone reading this feels that tap on the shoulder or hears that voice telling you that He wants you to open your home for a Life Group I suggest you listen. It gives us such joy to be able to serve God and others in this way. Two of God’s greatest commandments are to love God and to love others.  Hosting a life group and loving people = hospitality.

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

1 Peter 4:8-98 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

We would like to thank Sharon Biles for writing this post!

Mindset of Peace

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!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:4-8 (ESV)

I’ve read and/or heard these verses countless times in my life. But over the course of a few weeks last summer, the Lord unveiled this passage in a new and fresh way to my heart. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to read these verses as individual thoughts, rather than how I believe it was meant to be read: as one principle – a promise sandwiched between responsibilities that we carry as believers. 

In verse 7, scripture promises that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in ways that are beyond our understanding. However, we aren’t passive onlookers in this process; we have a role to play. Surrounding this verse, we are commanded to rejoice and pray out of a place of gratitude rather than anxiety, and we are also instructed to use some serious self-control when it comes to our thought life. 

The Greek word “guard” used in verse 7 means to protect by a military guard to prevent hostile invasion. When I began to study this word several months ago, the Lord gave me a mental picture of a walled city. This city was in the shape of a circle, and it was surrounded by a concrete wall a couple stories high. There were gates spaced throughout the wall and several armed guards stationed at each gate to protect the city. As I saw this picture, Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “every time you focus on a problem that you’re facing rather than focusing on me, and every time you agree with fear and anxiety about the future, you send away a guard that is there to protect your heart. Your thought life is leaving your heart open to invasion from the enemy.” 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not careful, it can be easy for me allow my thoughts, feelings, and prayer life to be guided by my circumstances. This can lead me down a path of worry and fear really quickly! However, the Lord is calling me higher than that. I want to allow His goodness to shape these areas of my life. I want my heart to be filled with gratitude, and my mind to be filled with thoughts of things that are honorable, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. I want my prayer to focus on what’s on God’s heart, rather than be solely focused on what I’m worried about.

Here are some practical things that can help us fix our minds on things that bring life and peace:

  • Read God’s word and think about it throughout your day
  • Write down scripture and post it where you’ll see it often
  • Play worship music, and engage in worship while you work
  • Go back from time to time and look at pictures that remind you of God’s history of goodness in your life
  • Make it a habit to practice gratitude

When I am intentional about practicing these principles, I feel the guard of peace surrounding my heart and mind, even in the middle of real life. Would you join me in this journey? Let’s be women who are governed by peace rather than ruled by fear. 

We would like thank Catherine Dunn for writing this blog!