The Birth of Peace

Five years ago, after three years of trying, we became pregnant with our sweet miracle Jude. From the very beginning we had complications with the pregnancy. I was always in a constant state of fear. We waited so long for this baby and our hearts ached for him.

At 34 weeks, my placenta ruptured. I found myself in the middle of the floor, and Bret called 911.  I started to replay my night. Did I feel him move last night? Fear crept in. I started to doubt, thinking, Did we make it all this way, and we are going to lose this baby?

The ambulance arrived within minutes. I was put under anesthesia and rushed for an emergency C-section. When I woke up I had an empty belly and a 6″ incision. As I waited to see Jude, anxiety and fear overwhelmed me, crippling me into multiple anxiety attacks. That anxiety and fear basically became a part of me and ruled the next year.  I would be so distraught with Bret leaving the house or simple day-to-day tasks. It took many months of constantly calling that fear out before I felt “normal” again. There was no way I was going to have another baby. Why would I knowingly put myself or my family through all of those emotions of another pregnancy?

Fast forward to almost a year ago. I said that the only way I was going to get pregnant was if we had a “Mary” kind of moment, where she wasn’t planning on having a baby but God had better plans. There was still so much fear that surrounded being pregnant, anxiousness for whether we would have the same pregnancy with bed rest, or if we would have an early baby, or an awful post-partum that included emotional and physical stress in our marriage.

At the beginning of January, I was in such denial that I could be pregnant that it took a friend coming over with a test and a Starbucks to actually confirm I was pregnant. I took the test(s) and…  No fear, no stress, no anxiety. Peace. God gave me this immediate and overwhelming peace over the pregnancy.

At 32 weeks Bret and I hit our knees in prayer about home birth. In my mind, I thought I was crazy for even pondering the idea of giving birth at home, but it was around this time I had a dream. The dream took place in our home with worship music in the background, and during each contraction I was on my knees with my hands lifted high, giving glory to God. It was after that dream that each time I thought of having Scarlett at home, I thought of that God-given word… peace.

The night that Scarlett came the lights were dimmed. Worship music was blaring in the background. As each contraction passed Bret would pray and proclaim over the labor, me, and Scarlett. We sang worship songs through contractions, words like “It’s your breath in our lungs.”

Not an ounce of fear ever swept in. That spirit of fear was replaced with boldness and peace. Scarlett made such a fast appearance it was unreal. This baby girl took her first breath in the most peaceful, spirit-filled way I could have imagined. The Holy Spirit was undeniably there. He transformed a birth that was surrounded by fear and anxiousness into a birth of peace and boldness.

I pray that by sharing our story, it can bring someone hope during the trials. God is eagerly ready to release us from whatever it is, fear, anxiety, or shame.  He hears our prayers and truly wants to give us our heart’s desire by giving us power through His Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 41:10 –

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 15:13 –

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This post was written by Kendra Huey. To read more about her, click here. 

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In a Moment’s Time

father-daughterMoments are what truly make up the fabric of my time these days. With a toddler in tow, anything and everything can change in a moments time. Peace can turn to chaos, to-do lists float out the window to the sweet land of “Mañana” (Where nothing ever really gets done ‘Tomorrow’), and a moment to myself translates into little fingers creeping under the bathroom door. So for me, it is easy to let moments tic-tock right out of my memory and go by unnoticed while the next moment of my day begins.

However, I did have a moment with God that did take up residence. My husband and I have been on a financial roller coaster these past couple of years, and God has provided more abundantly than I could have thought possible. In January, God even provided my husband with a new job.  I thought that with this transition my heart would brim over with joy. Instead, I went into complete task mode. All of my focus and attention went into our budget: Shoring up the last year and trying to “get ahead.” I found myself getting stressed and worried on how to get it all accomplished.

It was then that God took a moment with me and revealed that I had applied a cultural norm from our society onto him and his kingdom. Traditionally, and in some ways even biblically, when a person either turns a certain age, gets a “big person job” or even gets married, they are to leave their parents’ home, authority and provision. The parents, in essence, have given their child the tools needed to fully provide for themselves. I had believed that since God blessed Derek with this job, that it was fully up to us to provide for all our needs. God had given Derek a big boy job and we were on our own. It was then that God spoke:

“Your age, marital status or income doesn’t determine my character and how I relate to you. You will always be my daughter, and I will always relate to you as your Father. Nothing can remove you from my Kingdom, you are forever in my home and under my provision.”

So I leave you with this passage from Matthew 6:30-33 (MSG)

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Love you all!

Abbie

This post was written by Abbie Kellum. To read more about her, click here. 

Re: Awareness of His Presence

woman-with-bibleDuring the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2016. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2017!

When I was in my early 20’s, I attended a Walk to Emmaus. During one of the talks, a woman told us how she spent her quiet time with the Lord every day. She had a cozy chair, in a specific spot in her house. She had a CD player that continually played worship music. She had a journal that she faithfully wrote in every single day. She read a chapter in the Old Testament, a Psalm, and a chapter in the New Testament. She used different colored highlighters to mark certain topics in her Bible. She seemed like she had it all together! So I took out my paper and made a checklist of all of these things. I figured that if I did everything she did, my personal time with the Lord would be….…EPIC!

Unfortunately, keeping up with her checklist for myself left me frustrated, feeling inadequate and like a failure. Can anybody relate to this?

I had to learn this truth: I will never experience abundance or fulfillment in my personal time with the Lord if I am fixated on the process itself. It’s not God’s intention for us to just feel good about ourselves, because we read our Bible today. Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your name.” He wants us to know Him, and He wants to reveal Himself to us. This takes practice, patience, perseverance, living in your truth, having an undivided heart, being aware of His Presence, and being vulnerable and obedient to His Spirit.

This looks different at different seasons in our lives. Currently, all four of my kids are in four different schools. I’m also a preschool teacher to fifteen 4-year-olds. I’m a pastor’s wife, a worship leader, and a life group host. I have thousands of loads of laundry to do. Somebody has to feed all of these people in my house. Then there’s the “driving everybody to all of their stuff” everyday! Life is pretty overwhelming right now in this season. BUT, my Father has things to reveal to me. And I want to know Him more every day. So I wake up very early, and I spend time with Him. I pray. I worship. I read His Word. And I listen.

But that’s not all!!! I have friends who speak life to me. I have a church family that surrounds me in prayer and love. God even reveals Himself to me in the 4-year-olds that I teach. You see, He is everywhere all the time. The time you spend with the Lord doesn’t have to be confined to your comfy chair in your special place in your house, with your vast assortment of highlighters, and all the right worship music. It is living life, being aware of His presence, and responding to His love by bearing good fruit to all He puts in our lives.  Jesus says in John 15:16,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.

You, Beloved, have been chosen by the Father. He has great things in store for you! Make the choice to commune with Him today and see what He reveals!

This post was written by Allison House. To read more about her, click here

Recommended Reading: Experiencing the Spirit

Experiencing the SpiritThis month we’ve been focusing on spending time with the Lord, and for our book review, I’d like to recommend Experiencing the Spirit by Robert Heidler.

If you’re new to the Holy Spirit or if you have questions about who the Holy Spirit is, Heidler’s book is a great resource full of straightforward explanations, grounded in Scripture for understanding the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit.

I was Spirit-filled many years ago, and even if you’re a seasoned Holy Spirit veteran, this book is still for you. I found it refreshing and inspiring.

Akin to Bill Johnson’s When Heaven Invades Earth, the power in this text is the testimonies he offers. Everyday people—like you and me—who experience God’s healing, His miracles, His gift of prophecy and words of knowledge, His manifest presence, etc.

Those testimonies build my faith and remind me that when I feel defeated the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.

And more than that, He’s asked me to minister to others, to advance His kingdom here on earth.

It’s not about me; it’s about Him. And His power demonstrates His love for others.

My constant prayer while reading this book has been, “Holy Spirit, come. Empower me to do your work.”

I want to have a deepened relationship with the Holy Spirit, to sense when He is moving, to hear what He is saying, to see how He is manifesting Himself. I want to encourage others, to see them set free and healed and filled with the power to overcome anything.

Don’t you?

I highly recommend this text! Read it and sign up for the Holy Spirit class November 13. Both will be a blessing! J

This post was written by Laura Brandenburg. To read more about her, click here.

Kitchen Sinks and Quiet Moments

kitchen-sinkWhere do you most feel the presence of God? I could give you my Sunday school answers such as: in my quiet time, during a worship service, or while deep in prayer.  While all of these may be true (I am one girl moved by worship!) I have a definite time and place I can feel His presence most.

Ladies, to be honest, I most feel the presence of God at my kitchen sink. Something about scrubbing caked-on casserole pans and muddling through dishes that would suggest I fed a small army all day opens my heart in a way to feel God’s presence.

Maybe it is the fact that I am finally alone—no toddler demanding all of my attention. Maybe its because I am worn and weary from a day of serving my family. Or maybe it is simply the fact that I am not rushing about—I am still and fully present.

Here, in His presence, I have received promises of His love and provision. I have received grace to finish the day. I have received comfort for my tears (Please tell me someone else cries while washing dishes!). I have received words of hope and direction.

The fact that I stand in His presence elbow-deep in dirty water suggests to me that He is waiting for me always. I don’t have to wait for Him until my next quiet time or, heaven forbid, until the next time I walk into church. What great news!

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths you are there.

Psalm 139:7-8

Are you fighting to get into God’s presence when you are already there? Has your connection with God been stolen by religious practices? I believe it is possible to miss out on real, true relationship in the pursuit of a religious experience. Sisters, you don’t have to stand on your head while reading the Bible cover-to-cover to get to Him.

I encourage each of you this week to let go of your pre-conceived ideas about being in God’s presence and simply wait for Him in those quiet moments. Your “kitchen sink” might be while you are driving, while tending to your flowers, or in the still of the morning.

Wherever you are, lean your thoughts and your heart to Him, and feel Him embrace you with his presence—because ladies, He is already there.

This post was written by Makenzi Wethington. To read more about her, click here. 

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

worshipHi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

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

It’s Not About Rules

not about rulesThere seem to be so many rules about spending time with God: You should pray first thing in the morning. But, also pray throughout the day. You need to pray about J(esus) O(thers) Y(ourself). Praying for 30 minutes is a minimum. Pray the Word. Be quiet and listen. Pray in a prayer closet. Pray with others. Pray by yourself. Pray for your children (for sure before bed!).

Nothing seems to be wrong with any of these guidelines. We WANT to pray effectively. We WANT to be taught how. We will do anything in our power to get it right…And that’s where it seemed to break down for me. I realized I am dependent upon God, even for—especially for—prayer.

I recognize that I have rules/guidelines for interacting with my friends and family, but that is not what I am most thinking about when I have fellowship with them. My awesome heavenly Father captures my attention so much more, and woos me into a love relationship with Him. I just want to be with Him. I want to be led by Him as I grow in my relationship with Him in prayer.

Not that my relationship with God has to have parallels with my human relationships, but I think it does bring up some things to think about. Just as I don’t interact with my husband in the exact same pattern every day, I realized it is the same with my heavenly Father.

Sometimes I can sit quietly in His presence and be refreshed. Sometimes it looks more like a great interceding for a matter that He has placed on my heart. Sometimes I sing a love song to Him (although not as often as I would wish, and certainly not with a microphone). Sometimes I pray for those matters that it says specifically in His word that we should pray for (like our leaders and for Israel).

Right now, I have a desire to grow in these things. I also don’t want my life to be so segregated, but to fellowship with God throughout the entire day.

I love having a sweet reminder of His presence when I see the sunrise. I love when I sense His leading as I seek Him silently in the middle of a difficult conversation. I love when He brings a Scripture to my mind. Walking with Him and abiding in Him all day long is my desire. But it is only in His strength. Thank you, Lord, that your strength is all I need.

I love Philippians 2:13 that says,

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

It’s all in Him. He gives me the desire to have greater fellowship with Him, and then He doesn’t leave me hanging—He gives me the power to do it. I’m grateful.

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