Hostess with the Mostest

Editor’s Note: It’s almost FALL, y’all!!!! We will be focusing on hospitality for the next few weeks. Hospitality is so much more than what you produce. It’s the warm, welcoming atmosphere, it’s the peace you welcome others into, it’s the attention to the person in front of you, the listening that shows true hospitality. I know you’ll be refreshed and enlightened by the posts we have this month. Happy reading!!

I learned when I was a young child the duties of a hostess as I watched my Mom and Dad in their church work. They were very involved with the youth ministry, so they were always ready for expected and unexpected youth coming to our house and making themselves at home. My mom was an amazing cook, and she had the sweetest soul of anyone you would ever meet. She always had something special ready for snacks. My dad was deemed the best all around door-greeter and was loved by all. They were prime examples of “Love God, Love People.”

An important part of being a great hostess is setting an atmosphere of fun and relaxation.  My guests need to feel safe, comfortable, and know that they are welcome, to the point where no one feels like leaving. One way to do this is to make your guests feel important. Give them your undivided attention. When they leave your house, it’s not the food or the spotless floors they’ll remember; it’s your caring heart and your invested conversation that will make a bigger impact. You can make your guests feel loved as soon as they step into your home by treating them as VIPs. Each and every person who enters your home is very important to the Kingdom because they are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). You can extend this even further by offering your guests a word of encouragement as they leave your home.

One specific way you can set the stage of comfort, relaxation, and importance in your home is through the sense of smell. Smell is connected to memory, so yummy smells in your home can help trigger fun and happy memories for your guests or just help put them at ease. If you enjoy candles or essential oils, you might have some going near the front door, on your patio, in your sunroom, or in the living room. If you prefer the smell of baked goods, fresh baked bread, brownies, or cookies are all inviting smells and come with the added bonus of having a treat to serve your guests. 

God gives us the gift of hospitality so that we can glorify Him as we care for others. The blessing of the walls in our home provides safety and security for our families and can provide an atmosphere of care for the guests who enter as well. Romans 12:13 teaches us to share with those in need and to practice hospitality. When we open our home to others, we honor God and honor those who walk through our door. I Peter 4:9-10 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.Practicing hospitality makes us instruments of God’s grace and allows us to extend His grace to those with whom we come in contact. 

The Word tells us, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). Scripture goes on to say, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:11). As you seek out opportunities to show hospitality by inviting guests into your home, remember that you are also practicing generosity. Ask God to cultivate this fruit in your life and watch His blessings flow! 

We would like to thank Diana Brumley for writing this post!

Coals of Kindness

There’s a story that’s told about Abraham Lincoln. It was after the Civil War, and he was being criticized for his lenient treatment of the South. They had been defeated but Lincoln was trying to help them get back up on their feet. A woman approached him and in no uncertain terms let him know her opinion. “They are our enemies. They ought to be destroyed!” To which Lincoln responded, “How can I better destroy my enemies than by making them my friends?”

Mic. Drop.

The cultural atmosphere we find ourselves in today is no less divided. Masks or no masks….which lives matter….left or right….we all have convictions on these things, and it seems that just a quick surf through the social media world would tell you that you can pretty easily make some “enemies” just by voicing those opinions. But people are never the enemy. It says clearly in Ephesians 6 that “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the posers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12, NASB).

One of the things I really love to learn about is the cultural context of Biblical stories or sayings. I find myself sometimes just skimming over those parts I don’t understand; the ones my 21st century Western mind just doesn’t have a file folder for. One of those passages for me comes at the end of Romans 12. In verse 20, it says: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

I guess that I’ve always thought this alluded to some passive-aggressive way of getting back at people you don’t like. Kill ‘em with kindness. Heap those burning coals on their heads. That’ll teach ‘em. But the context of this verse paints a very different picture.

The people of the Bible times obviously lived a very different lifestyle. No microwaves, no convection ovens. If you were going to cook for your family, fire was a necessity. Many times a town would have a community fire that was constantly tended so that it would not go out. Residents could come and gather hot coals which they carried back to their homes in buckets on their heads. Now, if you didn’t live far from the fire, this was no problem. You could get home in plenty of time and use those coals to cook your family a meal. Folks who lived on the outskirts had a harder time. They had to rush to get back to their homes before the coals went out. Neighbors knew this, and would take some of the hot coals from their homes and put them on top of the buckets of those on their way so that they coals would stay hot for their journey. They would “heap coals of fire” on their heads. It wasn’t an act of revenge or spite but rather an act of kindness. It helped provide and sustain for their most basic needs. It was life-giving.

I don’t know how many of us would say today that we have people in our lives who are flat-out enemies. I do think we could all agree, however, that the culture in which we live is increasingly trying to divide. I’m not here to tell you which side to take.

I’m here to encourage you to bring a Kingdom perspective to your circle of influence.

The Kingdom says love your enemies. The Kingdom says pray for those who persecute you. Romans 12: 17-18 says, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceable with all men.”

Am I saying you shouldn’t speak up? No. Am I saying having convictions about cultural issues is wrong? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that we’re called to speak truth in love…to walk in kindness and humility…to heap burning coals on the heads of those who would oppose us…to speak life and blessing. Uggh. That’s hard. But that’s Kingdom, and that’s who we’re called to be.

We’d like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this post!

Having Peace and Order in Our Homes

Editor’s Note: During the month of May, we will focus on learning to have peace in every aspect of our lives. Lean in and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in you. Let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) together! 

“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (I Cor. 14:33). 

As women who influence our homes and our families, one major way we can usher in the peace of Christ is by rejecting disorder and embracing order and all that means.

Order involves submitting ourselves to the government of God and His priorities. So first—always first—seek His Kingdom. That means we welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit and the reign of Jesus in our daily lives. Give room to His Word and to connection with Him, whatever that looks like for you. 

Order means we follow the biblical model for how we honor one another in our relationships. We yield to the grace of God within us to treat each other according to the fruit of the Spirit. 

But order for me also equates to having a tidy home. I experience a greater sense of His rest and calm when my space is neat and orderly. I am more free to focus on the people, the experiences, the moments, and the memories we are making together. Our environments directly affect our moods and mindsets. I know my family members function better when our house is generally clean and picked up. Not perfect! But tidy. Organized with purpose. 

Let’s ask ourselves: How does my home represent the rule and dominion of my King today? Is it time to get rid of some clutter? For instance, how many toys and games do your kids really use? It might be time to create some breathing space. (Now, books are a different story…Don’t mess with my books!) Items that served us in one season may not serve us so well in another. When our boys were younger, we would grab a  plastic sack and pick a random number like 27. The challenge was to fill the bag with that many things to get rid of, either to throw away or donate. Other days, I would write several “Missions from Mom” on hidden slips of paper. Someone would draw a surprise mission, we’d set the timer, and run to help each other accomplish one specific task before the buzzer went off. (Timers are magic!)

Streamline the kids’ spaces especially. It is really difficult to expect a child to be responsible for his or her own room if there is just chaos and disaster lurking in the toy bin or behind the closet door on the best of days. You cannot just say, “Go clean your room,” without first training your child and practicing with them what that means, step by step. We added very basic shelves to our bedroom closets and sorted items into cheap bins — not real fancy, but functional. Trust me, the sticker labels of the Brown childhood were not Pinterest-worthy, but the boys knew where their things belonged.

One of the most important ways to keep order in your home is to expect every member to simply pick up and put away whatever they were using when they’re done. Don’t get out anything new until you’ve dealt with what you were already using. Just form a habit early. Sometimes it’s the little things in life! They end up really making a difference. 

We called it the “Do It Now” principle at our house. Put the crayons or scissors back where they go instead of leaving them out on the table “in case” you want them again later. Fold and put the laundry away when it’s fresh. Empty trash from the car each time you get out instead of letting it pile up first. Help each other clear the table and do dishes after every meal. These jobs usually take much less time than we guesstimate when we’re dreading them or procrastinating.

I’ve recently heard this concept referred to as “completing the cycle,” and it still challenges me. Finishing what I start is not always my strong suit, but it appeals to my desire for a well-ordered environment, both internally and externally. It’s always worth it when I will put in the extra effort required to bring a task to completion. Now…I think I’ll go empty my dishwasher! 

Being a keeper of our homes is one of the roles we are created for, sisters (Titus 2:5). Yes, it takes consistent work, but what a gift! Small steps with Kingdom purpose yield peace-filled results. God bless you and fill your homes with His order and peace today!

We would like to thank Jill Brown for writing this post.

Having Peace in Our Failures

Editor’s Note: During the month of May, we will focus on learning to have peace in every aspect of our lives. Lean in and ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit in you. Let’s “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) together! 

I have totally, 100% blown it this week. In fact, I cannot think of one single thing I would call a win. Over and over, day after day, I have failed as a mother, as a wife, and as a business owner. There isn’t a single hat I wear that I have worn with excellence this week. 

I’ve yelled, I’ve been extremely short on patience, and I’ve spoken horrible, discouraging words over my children and my husband. This isn’t the case every week. But this week it is. It is my reality.

This afternoon I’m sitting here in my studio working while my kids are in the house, fending for themselves and vegging out on technology and carbs. As I have reflected on this week, the thoughts above ran through my head. I have this sinking feeling deep inside my gut.

If I had to name that feeling it might be “despair” or “shame.” Maybe “guilt.” Possibly “unrest.” Anything but peace. Whatever it is, it’s nasty and I don’t want to carry it with me. And because I know that God is a good, kind, and loving father, I know that He didn’t mean for me to carry this either.

So you know what? I’m not going to. 

You see, it was that simple. These thoughts ran through my mind. I recognized them. I recognize my faults and need to do better. I repent. But then I am choosing to move on. Despite my faults, I can cling to peace. Instead of carrying all of my failures, God allows me to take hold of forgiveness, grace and peace. I believe that this “peace” is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

Peace isn’t just about being in a state free from conflict. Peace is living through conflict but knowing there is a fresh start. Peace is living knowing that when I fail, there is another chance. Peace is knowing that even though I have totally blown it as a mom, my kids rest in God’s authority.

Each one of the thoughts we possess that do not line up with who God says we are, are the enemy’s attempt to rob us of our peace. If I choose to stay stuck in my failures of this week, I will carry turmoil right on with me into the next. Hmmm…Isn’t that just just what the enemy would want? He’s called the “thief” for a reason. And I will not let him steal my peace.

Ladies, let’s outsmart the enemy! Why would we choose to get stuck in his lies when Jesus offers us a better alternative? Peace. Wisdom tells us that we are better than our mistakes. We know we were created with a divine purpose. So let’s let go of our shortcomings and walk into peace.

We would like to thank Robin Sanders for writing this blog post!

Undo Shame

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

In Brene Brown’s words, “Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we have experienced, done, or failed to do make us unworthy of connection.”

Shame is one of the first things introduced into the world after Adam and Eve sin. And what did they do as a direct response to their sin? They hid. They covered up. They lied. They blamed. I can identify with their shameful feelings and their reaction to those feelings. What are some things you and I hide behind or use to cover up our shame? We use busyness, procrastination, alcohol, pride, eating, social media, vanity, shopping/spending, our careers, perpetual lying…

Self-identity shame comes in all forms and fashions. This is a list of some lies I have believed during different seasons in my life directly resulting from shame:

  • I will never be good enough.
  • I am unclean.
  • I have failed.
  • Something must be wrong with me.
  • I am not qualified.
  • I am unwanted.
  • I’m not as pretty as {insert name here}.
  • I am unworthy.
  • My kids literally acted like animals in public. I must be a bad mom.
  • I literally acted like an animal to my children. I must be a bad mom.
  • My kids were rude to a bunch of people today. I must be a bad mom.
  • Why doesn’t my marriage look as happy as theirs? I must be a bad wife.

Can anyone relate??

Have you ever thought about how our culture makes money off of making women feel less than? That if you would just buy that one thing it will make your life better. For example, if you use this product on your cellulite, it will make it go away and you will be prettier. So therefore, if you have cellulite, something must be wrong. Hmmmm. You just took a bite from the forbidden fruit called marketing. So, you buy the cellulite product only to see zero results. Then you stop using it and swallow the lie that you just won’t ever be perfect enough.

BOLOGNA!

And what about social media? How does it tell you daily that you are less than? I’m not even going there. Ladies, so much of our brain power goes into shaming ourselves for the way we look. Something, somewhere is always screaming to us that we are defective. The truth is: we have been fed lies and manipulation for years.

We learn to fixate our thoughts on those feelings. For many years, I believed the lies the devil was feeding me. I strived and strived to become good enough. I stuffed and stuffed to become happy enough. I hid and hid to seem “ok” enough. It was a toxic, vicious cycle and it affects everyone at some point.

How did I break it?

  1. Attending Freedom in Christ – This was a huge part of my healing. My eyes were opened to the unconditional love my Savior has for me. For the first time, I heard the truth that I am right with God. There is nothing that I have done in my past, nor will do in the future, that will change my value in Christ. Mistakes, failures, scars, and all, he accepts it and loves it! I learned that my works-based righteousness wasn’t going to help my issues. I couldn’t do better, act better, or be better to please God. This took time breaking my old thought patterns and creating new ones, but daily surrendering those and allowing the Lord to speak his truths over my heart changed me!
  • A loving friend called me one day and said, “JuLea, I think you need help”. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking for her to tell me that and, quite frankly, I was embarrassed. But I knew she was right. I reached out for help. I started seeing a counselor and still do to this day. There is such a stigma associated with counseling, but what is so crazy about seeking wise help?

When we learn to identify this within ourselves, we can then start the change. Undoing the shame of my struggle was a catalyst to my healing.

The lies women struggle with are all different. But the path to identifying those lies are all the same. Don’t let fear hold you captive to your struggles. Shame has a way of isolating us. And isolation FEEDS our shame. So the result is more isolation and more shame. Exactly what the devil wants.

Shame is simply an emotion. Emotions are part of every human experience. You are human. Offer yourself grace TODAY!

Breaking these thought patterns about ourselves takes time, patience, and a lot of will power. Breath by breath, you will rise out of the waters. To not drown, you HAVE to move your arms, lift your head, and MOVE forward. Shame will begin losing its power over you. God helped me face and overcome shame and He will help you, too!

The good news is the discussion about your value and ability is OVER. It was decided on the cross.

YOU ARE GOD’S MASTERPIECE. Created for good works. God made you just the way you are. God is a perfect God – He doesn’t make mistakes.

You are WHOLE, COMPLETE, FLAWLESS, LACKING NOTHING. Jesus is your righteousness and your provider of everything you need. Philippians 4:19

Here are a few practical ways that can help you start winning your battle over shame that helped me:

  1. Pray, pray, pray in the spirit on every occasion without ceasing.
  2. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Or others.
  3. Live in a constant state of worship.
  4. Write notes on the bathroom mirror or the car to remind you of your value.
  5. Set an alarm every 30 min. to declare a truth of scripture over yourself. (Really, JuLea?!? YES, do it!!)
  6. Hang around life giving people who speak life into who you are in Christ, not who you were.
  7. See a counselor. Get help. Reach out to someone. Bring it to light. (This was huge!)

Believe what your Heavenly Father says about who you are today… not your social media. Our minds are a battlefield. Jesus died on the cross and has already won that battle you are facing today. Claim that ground back. Defeat shame and claim victory!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for writing this post.

A Baby Changes Everything

Christmastime is my favorite. I love the lights, the food, the spirit of giving, and the togetherness the season brings. One of my most favorite things this time of year is listening to Christmas music. I use “this time of year” very loosely; Addison and I have been listening to Christmas music since…September. Listening to Christmas music really helps me to reflect and prepare my heart for the true meaning of the holiday: Jesus, our Messiah. 

I’ll admit that last Christmas, I was in a bit of a fog, what with a new baby and still trying to learn the whole mom thing. But this year, I’ve been much more intentional and present in enjoying the season and making memories, particularly with Addison. In fact, I was emotional at the Plainview Christmas parade, seeing the joy on that sweet face and the sparkle in those precious eyes. I didn’t expect the tears, but I let them come, and I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing she is to my life. 

I think back to Christmas 2018 or even Christmas 2017, and I’m reminded of the song “A Baby Changes Everything.” My top-half-only decorated tree and my Amazon shopping cart are proof. And you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Addison is a gift from God. She’s changed my life in every possible way, but the changes have brought about blessing, growth, and fulfillment. 

I’ve soaked up all the time with Addison I can manage, and this season, my thoughts have gone to Mary, mother of Jesus. She felt the same level of love for her Son as I do for my daughter; yet her baby changed everything—for the world. The significance of her baby’s birth—the birth of Jesus Christ—is for much more than just Christmastime. A friend said something the other day that speaks directly to this: a thousand times in history a baby has become a king to rule a nation; only one time has a king become a baby to save all nations. That’s powerful, friends. 

The power in that truth, in fact, overwhelms me with gratitude for the gift of grace and salvation I could never earn and don’t deserve, but through His Righteousness, can accept and walk in. Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He was always God’s plan for our salvation. Plan A. God didn’t need plan B. He didn’t send His Son as a last resort. Jesus and his birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection were always God’s plan for us, His children. 

As I sat listening to my Christmas music playlist a few days ago, I was struck by the fact that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time of year, we should also celebrate the gift of salvation by grace through faith, the tremendous sacrifice of death on the cross, and the triumph and power of a risen Savior. The significance of His birth is much more than Christmas (Romans 1:3-4). Addison has changed my life in ways I never expected, and certainly, Jesus changed Mary’s life, too. But truly, a baby—especially this baby—changed EVERYTHING, and for that, we can only praise the Father and give thanks for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). 

I love this season. I love family traditions. I love Christmas music and lights on the tree. But more than anything, I love the reality of salvation and a new life in Christ the picture of a baby who changed everything brings. 

My whole life has turned around

I was lost but now I’m found 

A baby changes everything. 

Merry CHRISTmas!

We would like to thank Ashley Edlin for writing this post!

Rude Vs. Kind

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!

This morning I’m writing to you from my kitchen table. Even though I’m home today with a little man battling allergies, I’m filled with bone-deep peace. I wish I were a prolific writer, so I could fully describe the early morning beauty outside my window. The sun is weaving through the trees, and y’all, the breeze blowing through my window just speaks of fall. Can I get a collective pumpkin spice latte toast to this changing of season?

The challenge before me today is to write to you, my friend, about flesh vs. spirit in the context of rudeness vs. kindness. I know that the telling of a story is one of the most effective ways to communicate one’s heart. So, on this quiet fall morning, I’m tugging my mind back to a time when my life wasn’t as peaceful as it is today.

Let me set the stage for you. Seven years ago, give or take a few months, I had four children in the home. They were 16, 14, 10, and 2. The older three were all in some form of athletics on top of their demanding school schedules. I was at Wolfforth Methodist in full-time children’s ministry with my fingers dipped into several outreach ministries to keep my heart busy. I was stretched. I was alone. The father of my children was deep in a battle with alcoholism and was losing ground every day. I was hanging on by a fraying thread. 

I am an outspoken advocate for setting your children up for success, but this one Tuesday afternoon I had to make a quick trip to Target for dinner supplies in between work and picking up the older three from three different schools. I had to take my oh-so-exhausted-from-the-day two-year-old with me. It was a recipe straight out of the tattered “How to Raise your Children Better Than Your Parent’s Raised You” handbook. (Not a real book, but you know what I’m talking about, right?)

Disaster it was. He screamed throughout the entire store. Amid the frustrated looks from my fellow shoppers, there was one who stood out. She was on the journey with me. Through every isle and every turn, she was right there. Right there with me with the looks and the sighs and “the I can’t believe you brought your child into the store” frown upon her face. I couldn’t shake her. I bobbed. I weaved. I lingered. She was determined to travel with me. 

Finally, the checkout radiated before me, not unlike my vision of the pearly gates. I handed my little man a hundred-dollar bill to pay the weary cashier, and he wouldn’t let it go. What was I thinking?! He held onto that $100 bill with the same mighty grip he’d use on my red Sonic straw. You know the grip. I looked around to apologize for the wait, and who would be behind me in line? You guessed it! We made eye contact just as she threw her hands in the air and yelled (yes yelled) to all the surrounding shoppers, “Do you see this?! Do you see this?!” It was the final sword piercing my side. I was done. I was defeated. My thread was no longer frayed…it was worn completely in two. I remember climbing in my car that day with thoughts that could only be born of the enemy. I was a failure. I was not enough. I was a burden. I was done.

On this fall morning, I Iook back and wonder what if my fellow Target journeyman would have shown kindness in place of her exasperation…her rudeness? What if she had laid her hand on my shoulder and said, “it’ll be alright. This is just a season.” Would I have been encouraged? Refreshed? Through my story, my heart hopes for you to remember we don’t know the journey that others are traveling. The truth and the life challenge are that we are called to love one another…no matter what. We ALL have the capacity to be kind. It is written in our very DNA. God would not call us to love without equipping us to do so. Loving others is a choice. Rudeness is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Within you is the ability to bring a smile to the weariest of travelers. Challenge yourself to do so. Challenge yourself to live out the blessing of love and kindness. It carries the power to change lives, including your own!

We would like to thank Amy Davey for writing this blog post!

Indifferent Vs. Passionate

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!

The proverbial fork in the road. We have all approached it many times in our lives. A decision must be made to go either left or right. The more you think about it, the more it begins to look like that epic cartoon where there’s an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each voice trying to convince you that their way is the best. We could call this the battle between the Spirit and the flesh or the war within.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.  But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.” Galatians 5:16

I recently encountered that fork in the road.  In May I ended a 25 year teaching career that was dear to my heart.  A year ago, I felt God downloading into my spirit that a change of season was coming into my life.  As I prayed about it, the picture became clearer that I needed to put an end to the career I have always known.  As peace entered my heart on that decision, here comes another voice planting doubts and fears into my mind.  That voice was reminding me that I wouldn’t have a regular paycheck coming in every month to pay bills. I couldn’t claim my early retirement for two more years and I didn’t have another job lined up to fill in the gap.

My flesh wanted to listen to the last voice and totally ignore what the Spirit was instilling in my heart.  After all, I have bills to pay and needs to be met. 

But, I was promptly reminded that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ.”  Philippians 4:19

As the battle continued, my flesh wanted all the visible, tangible “guarantees” that this world has to offer.  We might call that the broad or well traveled road; it’s the one that feels safe.  Matthew 7:13-14 reminds us “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter.”

Despite what the enemy or your flesh may tell you, God doesn’t intend for you to walk this path alone.  In order to be different and changed you must choose the narrow road.  It also means that not many are going to walk that path with you.  What really matters is the ONE who WILL be walking with you.  When I transferred the trust I had in myself and the promises of this world over to the living God and His kingdom, He started opening doors I didn’t even know were there.

“Don’t be anxious about anything.  Instead pray about everything.”  Philippians 4:6

Open your Bible and declare over yourself the truths and promises God has given you for your life.  Spending time with Him through prayer and worship will put those voices in perspective.  God does provide!

Ladies, through this Spirit versus flesh battle, we have to realize that we can’t change God or the enemy, but they BOTH can change us.  So which one are we going to follow and listen to?  One is out to deceive, kill, steal, and destroy while the other is out to love, guide and improve our lives.  The well traveled road may appear safe but isn’t necessarily the right road.  It caters to the flesh and provides temporary comforts.  The less traveled road might appear rough, but through the Spirit it leads to some AMAZING outcomes!  Faith pushes out guilt, fear and greed and gives us a hunger for God’s power.

Whatever battle you are fighting right now remember that through the cross Christ is faithful and has already conquered any battle we may have.  We have victory through Him over those worldly voices.  You are a daughter of the King and we can say Thank You God for making us overcomers!

We would like to thank Kathy Jones for writing this blog!

Busy Vs. Intentional

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!

“Crazy-busy is a great armor; it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do, is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” – Brene Brown

When I read this quote over a year ago, it stopped me in my tracks. I was busy. And yet, I kept picking more up. When I was in college, I knew that those who couldn’t sit in the silence had something wrong with their hearts. They were scared to stop – and yet, 12 years later, that is where I found myself – scared to stop. For me, as for many of us, our busyness is our numbing. It is our flesh’s attempt to keep the pain at bay. It’s the enemy’s attempt to keep us from what God really has for us – because if we are numbing the bad, we are also numbing the good.

I didn’t want my flesh to continue winning. I didn’t want the lies of culture which made me see busyness and exhaustion as symbols of status and productivity to keep winning. I wanted to seek and find victory in this area of my life. So with my eyes opened, I began to seek God’s truth over the busyness. One word began rolling around in my heart – intentional.

In everything I did, I began to monitor my heart, and my intentions in why I was doing it. When choosing how to spend my time, I began to ask some questions:

  • Why am I doing this? Am I doing it as unto the Lord, or unto man? (Col. 3:23)
  • Does this line up with my goals, vision, and God’s direction for my life?
  • I also began to ask, “Jesus, what do you want me to do with my time today?” (When I practice this consistently, I find that my productivity actually skyrockets, even though I don’t set out to do as many “things.”)

In addition to monitoring my heart and motives, I began to put some boundaries in place, to guard my heart, and my time. The Bible says that “Above all else, guard your heart” and I discovered that when I didn’t guard my time, the first things to go, were the things I had in place to guard my heart. Below are just a few ways I have found to guard my time:

1. Choose – You get to CHOOSE. For many years, I felt like my schedule was dictated by others. Whether this was my kids, husband, boss, co-workers, etc., I did not feel I had the power to choose how to spend my time. It was all already allotted for. I often felt swept away to care for everyone else’s needs and not my own. This is not a good place to live life from. And you know what? Not choosing, is still choosing. Be intentional.

2. Say No – As I learned to choose, I learned that one of my options was no. NO IS AN OPTION! So many times, we as women feel like we can’t say no, because we are going to let someone down, disappoint them, or leave them in a tough place. But the truth is – God will provide for them even as he provides for us. You can say no.

3. Make a Schedule – When I had my first child, and became a stay at home mom, I loved the flexibility that it provided me. I could go and do what and when I wanted, and take care of my business when it was convenient for me. This was all very true. But at some point, the flexibility of it became a hindrance to me. I believed that my flexibility was for everyone else’s benefit, and my business (laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) became the last things to get taken care of. By the time I had four kids…this was out of control. So, I made a schedule. Monday mornings, we clean, Wednesday mornings are meal-prep, Thursdays are other projects (cleaning out a closet, clearing a flower bed, other projects that just need to get done), and Fridays are for a little more fun. I now work part-time, so my afternoons, while my kids are napping, are for my work. Having a schedule, and some boundaries, has greatly changed how I am able to be intentional with my time.

4. Make Dinner in the Morning – As part of my schedule, I meal prep. For me, that means that on Wednesday mornings, I make all of our dinners for the month. I’m not a fan of cooking anyway, but I find that taking care of it in the morning, allows me to be fully present with my kids during those crazy afternoon hours between after school and dinner. This has changed our lives!

 5. Leave Margin – Leave some space! This way, when a friend calls, and wants to have a play date, or a family member needs help, you have the margin to do so if that is what you CHOOSE to do.

6. Be Where Your Feet Are – In an effort to intentionally use my time well, I try to be fully present. I used to think I was a master multitasker – but the truth is that multitasking just made me stressed and frustrated. I was never fully present wherever I was. I was always trying to get more done than just being there. Now that I’m fully present, I’m also much more pleasant 🙂

The real key to being intentional and not just busy? Walking with the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says “walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your flesh.” My flesh, and my enemy want me to stay busy – just to keep me busy. To keep me distracted. But when I choose to slow down, and walk with the Spirit, He guides each and every step. Our victory over busyness has already been won, we just need to choose to walk that out – right beside the Holy Spirit.

We would like to thank Brooke Kellum for writing this blog post!

Reframing Beauty – Part 2

Beauty. A word that truly has so many meanings in our world. A word that we have sometimes let define who we are, how we see others and the kind of worth we put on ourselves. We see magazine articles with titles that read “5 Steps to the NEW Beautiful You”, “Beauty Hacks You Never Knew”, “The 36 Most Exciting Beauty Products to Try in 2019”, you get the idea. Our world has turned the word “beauty” into something that can be obtained by the next product, the most popular spa service, the new outfit, or what we can DO to be like the girl in the magazine, the mom of 3 that just doesn’t age, or our friend that we long to look like. 

Unfortunately, the beauty industry has found a market that makes millions based on women’s insecurities. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you know me and follow me on my Divine Bliss Facebook and Instagram, you know I LOVE the next beauty product. I am all about it, as it is such a fun, creative, exciting hobby-turned-job for me. BUT, it is critical that we as women don’t find our true sense of happiness in a beauty that has been marketed. 

Song of Songs 4:7 says “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you”. When I think of things with “no flaw”, I think of precious, perfect, loved, pure, and unblemished. Now obviously, these things may not be a reality from the outside. I mean, we have all had blemishes. There are times we may not feel loved or perfect, but that isn’t what we are talking about here. 1 Peter 3:4 speaks to this. “Rather what is inside the heart… is great worth in God’s sight.”

True and perfect beauty comes from our identity in Jesus.

Another way I see beauty from within shine, is when we operate in the fruits of His spirit like in Galatians 5:22-23. For example, an act of love that is beautiful could be taking a friend’s kid to the park so that friend can have a much-needed break. I see the mercy given to the husband or child that made the same mistake, again. I see the selflessness of serving others, and genuinely taking the time to see the heart of those around us, not just going through the motions. God does not see our beauty as something physical as if we were models in a magazine, but He sees the true beauty in our hearts, spiritually, as the models of His fruits. 

At the same time, taking the word “beauty” out of it, God designed us to further His kingdom and to take care of ourselves while doing it. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. We hear a lot about “self-care” these days, and I truly believe we are hearing so much about it because we as women get so caught up in taking care of others, we forget to take care of us. In my profession as an esthetician, I get to see the benefits of women loving on themselves, therefore getting to love on others. Here are some practical self-care tips:

  • Take time to enjoy a spa service to refresh your soul, and relax, not just to check off a list to make you feel better about your insecurities. 
  • Invest in a good SPF to protect the natural beauty God has created in you.
  • Try out a new, fun lip gloss that brings out your confidence.
  • Treat yourself to a makeup tutorial because it is FUN to you, not because you are trying to “keep up”.
  • Get a pedicure with a friend to catch up and sow into relationships. 

The beauty industry, unfortunately turned somewhat superficial, doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. There are so many different areas in this industry that can be good for you by brightening your soul and filling your cup, so that you can shine bright for the most beautiful One. 

It’s not about what we wear, it’s not about trying to be like someone else. It IS about WHO we are in Christ. It IS about the true beauty the Lord has put in each of us and it IS about being able to express ourselves confidently. Who is ready to reframe beauty with me?

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this blog post!