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!

A Standard of Grace

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. I know I wanted to hear everyone, so this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

A Standard of Grace. It sounds like such an unusual phrase, and it is. Standard, simply put, means a way to measure, value, or judge something. Grace, means to honor or credit to, to show favor, goodwill, or kindness. 

So, a “Standard of Grace?” This would mean that our measuring system, for ourselves, and others, is one that is based on favor, goodwill, and kindness. 

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a woman that measures myself and those around me by a standard of grace. Unfortunately, we see so little grace in our culture today. What inhibits us? What keeps us from living this lifestyle?

Perfectionism just so happens to be the reason this phrase “Standard of Grace” was first brought to my attention. It has gained popularity as part of a longer phrase, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.”  Perfectionism is a wicked master, one that keeps us all working our hardest to continually prove and perform. Perfectionism doesn’t allow us to show ourselves kindness, over even the least of mistakes. It doesn’t allow us room to breathe, doesn’t offer forgiveness when we have been anything less than, well, perfect. Perfectionism keeps us quiet about our mistakes, so that the impression of perfection can remain intact. 

1. Perfectionism

IF we can’t offer ourselves a little kindness when a mistake is made, how can we ever expect that we will genuinely offer it to others?

IF we can’t break free from our own silence, and be vulnerable about our weaknesses, our fears, our doubts, how will anyone ever feel safe coming to us with theirs?

IF we don’t react to ourselves with grace, we won’t extend it to others either. 

2. Insecurity

Where as perfection says you can’t fall short in any area, ever, our insecurities whisper lies to us a little more specifically. Our insecurities are the areas where we consistently feel “not enough.” The areas where, when we look over and see the someone who is enough, or who is more than enough, it brings pain.

Insecurities are the places in our hearts where fear and pain preside, and light has a hard time finding it’s way in.

Offering grace to ourselves in one of these areas, just feels like affirming our own lack of worth. Offering it to others, often feels disingenuous, false. We can find ourselves making excuses for why we struggle, and why they don’t. It ends up being an unkind situation to anyone that finds themselves in it, and brings honor to no one. 

3. Judgement

Judgement, typically stems from one of the other two. It’s not safe to offer grace to someone if they are highlighting our imperfections and insecurities. But, for many of us, it is probably the easiest of the three to identify as well. Being critical and judging others is like the bloom on a plant. It’s the part we see first, the part of the plant we use to identify what type of plant we are looking at. For me, when I find myself being critical, and judging others, I know it’s time to take a step back, and look at what is going on underneath the surface. In doing that, I have to step back and ask myself a couple of questions:

  1. What in the world is really going on here? What am I actually feeling right now?
  2. How can I extend kindness and grace, to myself, or to someone else, in this moment? 

But here’s the good news: Grace has another meaning as well. God’s ability. Grace is God’s standard. It is His standard toward us on our best days and on our worst. And God freely gives of His grace, His ability.

This is the reason that pausing, and asking why you can’t offer grace and kindness in the moment, works. Because it invites God’s presence, his perspective, and his heart, into that moment with you. 

Choosing to let grace be the standard by which we measure ourselves and others doesn’t come naturally. But God is right there for us, saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Let his grace, become your standard, because we cannot extend grace on our own. 

“Grace is God acting in our lives to do what we cannot do on our own.” 
- Dallas Willard

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this post.

You Can’t Rush God’s Promises

During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

Editor’s Note: This semester women from our three campuses have read Titus 2 and shared what God placed on their heart. May you be encouraged and challenged to connect with God and the power of His presence in this season of your life.

Ten months ago, Brent and I decided to try adoption again.  Our hearts were ready.  The timing was good.  Johnny would be 3 when Baby would arrive, so they could share a room.  The girls are the perfect age and would be so helpful.  He and Johnny would be best buds.  They’d play dinosaurs, giggle, and wrestle.  I had dreams.  After our first international adoption attempt, we said that we wanted to have the next one “handed over to us”.  This one was.  How could this not be God?  Doors kept opening, so we kept walking.

My husband was apprehensive the first three months.  We sought counsel from God, family, friends, attorneys, etc.  Over the next few months, I went to sonograms and grew a relationship with the birth mom.  After four months, Brent finally decided this baby boy was going to be our 4thchild.   Two days later, the birth mom started having complications.  We immediately texted our support system asking for prayers and wisdom.  Liam Jacob was born at 23 weeks and went to be with Jesus that same day.  I’ve never experienced pain like that before.

The joy I had was sucked right out of me.  How could this be God?  I felt angry at Him.  “We’ve been faithful.  We’ve done everything right.  Why are you taking this away from us?” I just didn’t understand.  I felt alone.

The devil knows when we are vulnerable, and his subtle deceiving whispers walked me into a season of fear, anxiety, and stress.  I didn’t notice it at first.  I just felt disappointed, confused, and embarrassed by another unsuccessful adoption.  “God, why do we feel called to adopt when it’s not working?”  When our birth mom was in the hospital contracting the night before Liam was born, I went up at ministry time during Core to receive prayer.  I tried to be strong, but I was disappointed.  That night God brought some healing and comfort through the prayers of my friends.

But after Liam passed away, unhealed emotional wounds became a stronghold in my life.  Ladies, we need to expose the devil when his lies feel true.  Find a few ladies that you trust, be honest and let His light shine into your situation. I couldn’t have done this alone. God has given us the gift of community. Throughout this process I received advice, wisdom, and guidance from friends.  I’ve been a recipient of what Titus 2 is supposed to look like because the ladies in my life have taken Titus 2 seriously.  What did that look like?

  • The book a friend gave me on miscarriages.
  • The hug another gave me.
  • The text to check on how I was doing.
  • The encouragement from another friend, “God wants you to know He hasn’t given up on this dream, so you don’t either.”
  • The prayer from another, “Allow disappointment to happen.  You don’t have to guard your heart.”
  • The spoken words of my Father to me, “I am faithful. Your plans pale in comparison to what I have for you.  Keep trusting deeper.”

Does it hurt? Yes.  Is it sad? Yes.  Did it bring Brent and me closer? Yes.  Is my relationship with my Father any different because my trust in His plan didn’t work out? Yes.  It’s actually stronger, because I’m certain He has a better plan for us.  

When we guard our heart and mind in truth, we won’t be shaken.  When we call upon the name of the Lord, we won’t be shaken.  Titus 2:13-14 reminds me that we can have hope.  We find peace, worth, and infinite value in our Lord.  You will endure hardships and the Lord WILL be with you.  Don’t lose hope, Friend. He’s got this!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for this post.

One Word

With the new year coming, most of us already have things we want to change… to do differently… to start over on… we want a fresh clean slate and a new focus. I want to share with you an idea that has helped me so much the last few years, hoping it might help you too.

It’s the simple practice of choosing ONE WORD for the upcoming year. Not a phrase, not a statement, just a single word. In reality, it’s not choosing a word, but asking the Lord to reveal what one word HE wants to be your focus for 2019. Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, which are easy to fail at, a one-word focus can simplify your life, illuminate your path and bring direction and boundaries in all areas of your life.  

The first year I did this, I immediately knew what my word would be. 

BOLDNESS.  

This word was both exciting and terrifying to me, because I was timid to speak up, afraid to be in front of people, and more comfortable hiding in the background than leading out front. But God had put a desire for boldness inside of me, and I knew without it, I could never become who God meant for me to be. I just needed my Father to open my heart to where he was moving, and I needed to agree to walk hand in hand with him as he strategically put opportunities and challenges in front of me.  

Challenges that would draw boldness out of me.  

He gave me courage to say YES to speaking up with my thoughts and opinions, speaking in public (even in front of hundreds!), taking risks, praying big prayers, leading out front, and so much more. He showed me over and over what BOLDNESS looks like in me, and he did not let me fail at what I was fearful of.   

When you start asking the Lord for a word for 2019, the Holy Spirit will begin revealing a word that agrees with what your heart longs for. It could be a character trait, a discipline, a fruit of the Spirit, an attribute of God, a spiritual gift.  But it will take a relationship with the Lord to stay focused and listen and follow where he is leading. There will be highs and lows as God uses this word to light up your path, and also reveal things that need to change. But remember, the Lord is giving you this focus not to see you fail, but to help you succeed in the plans He has for you and His Kingdom. 

If you’re serious about this, you’ll come up against tough decisions and opposition. I suggest sharing your word with a few trusted friends so that when discouragement comes, or when you get distracted, they can help you re-focus. An important way to keep this word front and center in your life is to post it in places where you will see it often, like your car, your desk, or your bathroom mirror. I have a cute little 2×3 frame that sits on my desk and reminds me often of my word. I also love making these for my friends and encouraging them to stay the course throughout the year. See the attached photo above of the frames I made for my friends. Super simple.

This year my word has been TRUST. From a car wreck in February that could have ended my life, to unexpected challenges in health, leadership and relationships, the Lord has so much more deeply established my trust in Him. I’m pretty sure I already know what my word is for 2019, and as usual, it’s both exciting and scary!  

I wonder what your word will be?! If you ask God, I know he will show you and walk with you step by step to places you thought you could never go. Your word will be greater than yourself, but not greater than our powerful and loving Father GOD. 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 109:105

“No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14.

We would like to thank Jill Moudy for writing this post!

Worship is a Choice

I grew up in a traditional church with traditional worship. I love the theology of hymns and the memories that they stir up in my heart. Hymns like: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “How Firm a Foundation”, just to name a few.

The words of these songs were written on my heart from a very young age. But to be honest, I really didn’t know what they were talking about, other than Jesus and God and the Cross. It wasn’t until I went to church camp in the 7thgrade that I experienced what we call “modern worship”. The worship team was cool and had long hair and played loud guitars and drums. I had never seen anything like this before. We rocked out to Dennis Jernigan and Vineyard worship songs. We sang lyrics like, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

I wasn’t just singing lyrics that I didn’t understand. I was entering into a relationship with a Loving Father, Who knew me, was pursuing me, and longed for me to surrender my heart and life to Him. So I did. I entered into this holy place of worship. From the depths of my soul, God became alive to me.

That was 30 years ago. I’ve learned so much since Jr. High. Worship is a choice. There have been times in my life where I’ve chosen not to worship. There have been other times that worshiping was all I longed to do. Being a worship leader has pushed me to go beyond what I can naturally do, see, and experience. Spending time in worship has made the Scriptures come alive.Worship has heightened my senses to Who God is what His plan is for me. It brings peace when everything else is falling apart.

Psalm 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

This is the kind of truth that comes from a heart of a worshiper.

After all these years of worshiping and going deeper in my relationship with God, I can go back to those precious hymns and hear the wisdom from worshipers of long ago.

“O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise

The glories of my God and King

The triumphs of His grace.”

Yes! Let us be worshipers whose souls sing out from obedient hearts. Let us bring praise to God, Whose grace has triumphed over sin and death. Let us worship our great Redeemers, Whose love invites us into freedom and victory!

We would like to thank Allison House for writing this post!