Christmas & Memories

Christmas & Memories

Editor’s Note: We hope these stories warm your heart this season. Maybe you pick up a new tradition, or maybe these stories will be a fresh breath of air to your soul as you reminisce your childhood, or MAYBE they will serve as a reminder of the reason for the season. Whichever way they speak to you, we pray your hearts would be turned towards Him. We pray that Jesus would be your comfort, refuge and HOPE! Merry Christmas!

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love making precious memories and new traditions with my family. Growing up the youngest of 4 kiddos came with lots of fun times, too. My mom made sure each of us felt special and loved. One Christmas season when I was a teenager, my mom and I decided to do something different and get a real tree. We jumped in our little 4 door sedan and drove to town to get a tree. We were so overcome with excitement we didn’t even have the forethought to think of how we would get the tree in the car and unloaded; not to mention it was so icy! We got the tree home and the two of us slipped and slid all the way inside the house with this gorgeous real tree that ended up being too big for our little house. We laughed together hysterically for years to come at the site of us and that big tree in the trunk of our car, in the ice, sliding all around the driveway.

I will always remember how fun my mom was and how truly funny she was. She had a lung disease the majority of my life, but she never quit laughing, smiling or praying God’s truth over us. I found the memories of my mom and family during the Christmas season as some of my most treasured. Looking back on past Christmases, I think of very simple times that brought lots of laughter and joy, not a perfectly put together meal or extravagant gift. I pray my own family has great memories of a mom that laughed, played, and was intentional to create lasting connections.

May we all find joy in too big Christmas trees, not perfectly put together homes or extravagant gifts, and focus on the reason for the season: Christ’s most perfect gift to us.

Luke 2:10: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great JOY for all the people.’”

We would like to thank Christy Bennett for writing this post!

Contentment in My Family

Contentment in My Family

Editor’s Note: It can be difficult to walk through a long season, but God is our comforter. He is our strength, he is our provider, our deliverer, our refuge, our very present help in time of need. God is with us and is for us. He is not far away. This month, we are going to talk about contentment. Contentment in the valleys and contentment on the mountains. God is near in both places.

Do you ever look at your husband and think he has it better than you? That his role as a man seems a lot better or easier than yours as a woman? After all, it seems like all he does is go to work and provide the money while you pretty much take care of EVERYTHING else. Well, my friends, that’s exactly how I found myself during this season of my life: sulking, frustrated, and pondering those things.

This summer was not an ordinary season for my family. My husband works as an electrician for a company that travels all around the U.S., and typically, the summer is when his work slows down and he is home. However,  due to Covid-19, his crew has been out working more than usual. In fact, he was gone for a little over two straight months. During this time, it has been easy to look at my life and become resentful over the role God has given me as a woman. It has been easy to think my husband got the better end of the stick. He’s traveling, seeing the country, and has no responsibility other than providing for us and making phone calls to us. Meanwhile, I’m home dealing with the house, the kids, a child that just had surgery, a new grand baby, bills…blah blah blah! 

But God, in His sovereignty and because He loves me, opened my eyes. An opportunity came up for the kids and me to spend 2 weeks on the road with my husband, something we have never done for an entire 2-week period. We travelled with him through 4 states, stayed in hotels, and ate out for two meals every day. As much as I thought I would love to be in his place, this taught me what all my husband truly endured as he loves on and provides for our family. He drives hundreds of miles to his job sites, works long hours in the hot sun, then returns to an empty hotel room to eat his takeout or fast food alone. He doesn’t complain or act like it’s a burden; instead, he willingly does these things to give us a good life. And here I was, complaining about being a wife, staying home, raising kids and paying bills. 

In our first week on the road with him, all I could do was repent for ever believing that my husband’s role was more glamorous than mine. God has graciously opened my eyes to see the beauty in the specific roles He’s called my husband and me to. Neither role is more important than the other, but together, each one fits perfectly into God’s created order and design for balance in a marriage.

When we choose to embrace our roles as women in whatever place God has called us to, we can really begin to understand what it means to live in contentment and satisfaction.

So, dear friends, wherever you find yourself today in relation to your role as a woman or your role in your marriage, I pray that God will reveal to you the truth about who you are and what you contribute to this world. You are meant to be you—not your husband, not another woman—YOU! I hope He graciously opens your eyes to this beautiful and freeing truth just as He  did mine.

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for writing this post!

Hearing God in the Gap

Hearing God in the Gap

Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered if God still speaks to us today? Or have you wondered if what you’re hearing is really God speaking to you, or just your own thoughts? If you’ve wrestled with these questions, you’re not alone. Hearing God, although our divine birthright as believers, can be one of the most elusive parts of our walk of faith but it’s not supposed to be. Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice and we can always trust that what He says is true. This month, we’re going to talk about hearing God and the primary way we do that: through relationship with Him. 

I’m throwing out a hard truth here: We don’t always get what we ask for when we ask for it. Sometimes what seems like a no is a not yet. And sometimes there’s a gap, a tension, between hearing God and seeing His word come to pass. 

The gap can bring discouragement and distance. When it doesn’t feel like God is answering our prayers, we might shut down altogether—and we might miss hearing His voice, the thousands of other conversations He wants to have with us while we wait.

How do you grow your relationship with God in the midst of a not yet? 

I spent years fixating on what I wanted God to do for us. I had a clear word from Him, and I sowed into it with prayer often. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me, it resulted in two unfortunate consequences. It focused my attention on my circumstances, on what was lacking. And when I didn’t see His word coming to pass, it caused me to question anything I thought I heard. Our relationship suffered because I had forgotten what His voice sounded like.

In early 2015, four years before God would answer our prayer, I reached a breaking point. I missed my Heavenly Father. Knee-deep in my grief and pain, I felt lost and confused, and I was desperate for His affirmation. But my ears felt clogged. So I committed to spending 40 days with Him, every morning, and I asked Him to give me a word every day. I didn’t spend that time praying for anything. In fact, I was mostly quiet because my soul needed to receive from Him. I needed to hear His voice again, to be reminded what He sounds like, and to remember what He says about me. During this season the Lord showed me that I had connected His love for me with what He was doing, or in this case, not doing. To wait for years and years, to get another no, another loss, over and over again, to watch those around me receive what I wanted (and sometimes they didn’t)—it all felt very unloving. 

But here’s another hard truth I learned: to equate God’s love with my circumstances is to manipulate who He is. 

I had to come to grips, and repentance, that I was angry because God wasn’t doing what I wanted. If He loves me so much, why wouldn’t He do this for me? The other side of that? I was withholding my love because He wasn’t doing what I wanted. Ouch. 

You know why I call that manipulation? Because it makes love conditional. If He loves me, He will do this for me. If He does this for me, I will love Him. 

When He showed me that His love is unconditional, the power of this truth transformed my life. It still transforms me even now. And it’s a good thing, my friend. I’m so grateful His love isn’t based on my performance. At the time, I wanted it to be because it felt like control. If only I could do something, He’d love me enough to answer my prayer. Today I’m so thankful He answered my prayer in spite of any works on my part. He loves me no matter what. And I love Him whether He’s answering my prayers today—or not. 

If you have heard God for something specific, and you find yourself in the gap, I encourage you to keep pressing into your relationship with God. Spend time with Him. Refocus your attention. Let Him remind you how much He loves you. Ask Him to show you what His purpose is during this season. Allow Him to refill your cup. Invite Him to speak truth over you, reminders of who He is and who He says you are. 

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” ~Zephaniah 3:17

We would like to thank Laura Brandenburg for writing this post!

Persevering Together

Editors Note: During the month of April, we will be focusing on marriage. We hope these posts encourage you to go to new depths in your marriage during this season. Marriage operates BEST when God’s plan is followed. Be encouraged today!

When Bryan and I got married in 2013, I thought I had it “all figured out.” Love God, love each other, and everything would be smooth sailing, right? I quickly learned that my expectations were wrong, short sighted, and I needed a lot of God’s grace. When I have struggled with stubborn independence, God turned me toward Himself in humble reliance. 

When I got married, I was very much in love but also very broken from past failures in love. I brought a lot of baggage to the relationship that I was unwilling to unpack. I instead thought it would be better to leave it packed up and stuffed away. My husband and I both claimed a faithful walk with the Lord; we attended church, but we both lacked purposeful seeking of His heart and His will ‪from Monday to Saturday. When you only engage on Sunday, you make yourself a prime target for Satan to get into the undedicated areas of your heart the other six days of the week. Many days I thought I was the problem in my own marriage, but the truth is sin was the problem. Even at my very best, I would never be enough to do it on my own. 

The Word tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10). What happened next in our marriage required me to lean into God and let him teach me some of those precious truths of his Word. 

We were married only 18 months when the border trips started. What we both believed would be a great opportunity quickly turned into a driving wedge in our fragile marriage. At the best of times Bryan was gone once every 6 weeks for 7-9 days, but at its worse, he was gone two times a month. This continued for close to a year, with little end in sight. I lost count after over 30 trips; each time it tested our communication, patience, and resolve to each other. I would feel alone even when he would be home and abandoned every time he would leave. Each time he left, a little callus developed on my heart with the continued voice in my head, “he’s choosing work over you. You are 2nd to his job. If you were just _____ he wouldn’t want to leave home.” 

 During this time of hidden crisis, God began to reveal the issue was not in my husband’s lack of time but in my own lack of dependence on God. He began slowly to re-reveal himself through Bible study, books, and through a truly strong mentor in Christ. Even when I felt completely empty, she encouraged me to give back through getting involved. I dove into it with both feet: women’s ministry, high school youth, and a daily committed bible reading. God was gracious and gave me strength to know where I belonged: at his feet. His Word encourages, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). He was the needed strength when I felt like I was just a broken vessel.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).

The border trips were hard, but we were hit with even harder news that year. We had been trying for a child for several years but were told natural children would never be possible and IVF treatments were our only choice. Bryan had recently gotten a promotion that stopped the border trips, so he was home more now. Where we had failed in our previous challenges, this time we leaned into God like never before and prayed Psalm 55:22: “Give your worries to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will never let good people down.”  We endured 3 rounds of IVF back-to-back. It was a rough 6-months of treatment and bonding over seeking the Lord’s plan each day. Though this was a difficult experience, we were able to a build a supportive marriage and center it on the Lord. God worked on our hearts and showered us with grace while we continued to seek Him. Though saddened that our IVF attempts failed, we kept James 1:17 in our hearts and remembered that God’s timing is not that of the world’s. 

“Give your worries to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will never let good people down” (Psalm 55:22). 

Since our days of IVF, we have been faced with ups and downs, but God has walked beside us every step of the way. He has led us on an incredible journey, and we are being conformed more into His image every day. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

My prayer is that you would allow yourself to really seek God in each and every season. He has something so good for you and for your marriage if you are willing to endure through every trial and every success together.

We’d like to thank Kate McCandless for writing this post!

Lifting My Eyes To The Hills

My recent reflections have been over Pastor Brad’s past sermons on the attributes of God:  God is love, God is good, God is our provider, God is faithful, and God can be trusted. Our life group question following these sermons was, “So, if God is good, why did he allow [fill in the blank]?” This has caused me to think about “mountain top” vs. “valley” experiences. What a joy to be on a mountain high! On top of the mountain, the air is fresh and invigorating. Looking back down at that valley, you recall a difficult path, an environment full of stress, pain, and insecurity. But now, having arrived to the top, you rejoice in God, for He guided your steps. 

Andy Andrews, Christian author of The Noticer, writes, “Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you’ll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what’s a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination – our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak.” 

Together we journey this valley of “coronavirus insecurity” and individually we have other valleys we travel (health, financial, family, etc.). We all desire to get to the mountaintop. No one is excluded in these unsettling walks. Even as I share this blog, the enemy searches my walls for vulnerable places where I am unarmed. It is crucial for me to carry the shield of faith, fortify my walls with the armor of God by wearing His breastplate and helmet, carry the sword of the spirit (the Word), and pray always (Ephesians 6). 

God’s love, goodness, provision, and faithfulness are seen when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. As the body of Christ, God will lead us in an excellent way to serve our Christian family and community (1 Cor. 12:27; 31).   Look around and see God at work in His people; you don’t have to look too far. It might be a life group member offering services to help, an encouraging text or call, a shoulder to lean on, or knowing with confidence you are being lifted in prayer to the Almighty.

In this valley faith grows and the fruit of the Spirit is manifested through God’s people.   

Stop, look, and listen. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Spirit is at work; His fruit is bountiful (Galatians 5:22-23). I encourage you to share what God is doing during this walk of your life: what has He taught you, how is He directing your path, how is your faith growing, and how is He using you to further His Kingdom? Encourage and pray for one another as we walk through this valley, keeping our eyes on the hills from where our help comes. 

Psalm 121  

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?  

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.  

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.  

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.  

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.  

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in   

From this time forth, and even forevermore.

We would like to thank Darla Newland for writing this blog!

Boundaries of the Mind and our Self-Talk

Editor’s Note: During the month of March, we will be focusing on setting boundaries in different areas of our lives. It’s our prayer that the posts we share this month will inspire you to set healthy boundaries that will help you live the abundant, blessed life that scripture promises, which glorifies the Lord and points those around us to Jesus. 

Let me set the stage: I teach 5th grade math. Yes, I know some of you just thought to yourselves, “Oh bless your heart,” but I’ve got a story for you that I pray will bless YOUR heart. 

I had just put a problem up on the board when I heard a collective sigh from my entire class and the moaning and groaning started. “This is too hard,” “I don’t get it,” “I’ll never be able to do this.” I stopped them and motioned to a poster in the back of my class that had been there all year but none of them had read. It said, “Don’t decide you can’t before you discover that you can.” One of my little girls looked at me and said, “Ms. Ludecke, why are you always so positive?” That got me thinking, and honestly, I’m positive because I spent so long allowing myself to be negative.

Self-talk is the inner monologue that directs every moment of every day. If we choose not to set up boundaries over our mind and the self-talk that flows through it, we make ourselves powerless against attack. A boundary is a wall that is built to protect our hearts and minds. Most people see boundaries as only being physical, whether that be in a relationship, a job, or with our time. All of these are important; however, if that is your only focus, it’s like putting a Band-Aid over a gushing wound. 

I recently read a quote that said, “Your brain is a supercomputer and your self-talk is the program it will run.”

The Bible says something similar in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our minds were created to be the thing by which all of our lives happen. If we allow the thoughts that stem from anxiety, depression, and insecurities to rule our lives, we will become the things that we have told ourselves we are. 

I’m reminded of a time not so long ago (lets be real—4 months to be exact) when I was struggling with a bout of depression. I allowed myself to go “there.” You know, the place in your mind where you wake up in a slump and find that you can’t do anything. I felt like I was failing as a woman and I was failing at my walk with Christ. I felt alone. But God never leaves us there. Sister, if that is you today, you are not alone in your fight! I love that God predicts how we are going to react to suffering before we ever do. He says, “Do not be anxious” because He knows this to be our tendency.

He also knows that the cure for anxiousness is our thankfulness and His peace. These two things together is what forms the ultimate weapon in guarding our minds, but let’s not forget: it takes an active stance to guard. 

So many of us just allow our minds to go unchecked. Another verse says it like this:

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Ladies, this is a fight. Build up your boundary walls because if you don’t, you are giving the enemy free reign to come and destroy. Even worse, he doesn’t have to do a single thing because your self-talk is doing the work for him. 

When I was younger I told myself lie after lie that I wasn’t talented enough, outgoing enough, or spiritual enough to have life-giving friendships. I even ate in the bathroom all throughout high school because I felt inadequate (don’t worry; I don’t do that anymore). God gives us the key to stopping this spiral of negative self talk. He says in Philippians 4:8 to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise.” 

So start by taking one negative thought captive and feed your mind the truth of scripture. You don’t have to tackle all of the negativity at once. Just start with one thought, then move on to the next. As this practice becomes a habit, God will completely change the way you think about yourself and give you peace. 

We would like to thank Savanna Ludecke for writing this post!

Helping Our Kids With Anxiety

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!!

With the beginning of a new school year, parents and kids alike start to feel the pressure: pressure to perform, pressure to fit the societal mold, pressure to uphold a strict schedule. Some kids take this pressure more seriously than others and begin to internalize fear. Anxiety can rear its ugly head in many different ways, making it difficult for a parent to identify and to help the child cope. As parents, all we want is to raise resilient, Godly, strong world changers, but they can’t be those things if they are not equipped with the tools to overcome obstacles.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, they could have a wide array of struggles such as: having difficulty sleeping, intolerance of changes in schedule, avoiding activities or events (such as school or social situations), having a need to control other people or events, crying or difficulty managing big emotions, having high or unrealistic expectations of themselves, or even physiological symptoms such as constant stomachaches or headaches. All of these symptoms of anxiety can make it difficult for kids to function in school as well as at home. So how can we help as parents? How can we help our children to walk in a spirit of peace, not of anxiety?

Calm The Body

I would say the first step to easing anxiety is to help your kiddo recognize what it feels like in their body. Help them understand cues in their body that let them know they are anxious. This could include sweaty palms, stomachache, racing heart, tight throat, racing mind, or a feeling of having a weight on their chest. If kids can learn their triggers or cues, it can increase their sense of empowerment over their anxiety, leaving them feeling less helpless. Before kids can learn anything else about what is causing their anxiety or how to dispute their anxious thoughts, they have to learn to calm their body down. Think about it: if you, as an adult, are overwhelmed, flooded with emotion, and have all the physical cues that go along with anxiety, are you able to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend? Absolutely not, because your brain is in fight or flight and is not able to reason. Some great self-regulation strategies to calm the body are: 

  • Deep Breathing (in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds)
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique: Notice 5 things you see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing positive about yourself
  • Yoga Poses
  • Sensory Calm Down Kit
  • Drawing or Coloring
  • Building something with Legos
  • Wall Push Ups
  • Stress Balls
  • Music

Pinterest is an excellent resource for coming up with fun visuals and ideas to implement these strategies!

Capture Thoughts

The next step would be to help them take their thoughts captive. Talk about those situations that are anxiety-provoking and figure out what the enemy is telling them: “I’m not strong enough to handle this,” “I’m not going to make friends,” “The other kids won’t like me,” “I’m going to get hurt,” or “I’m not going to succeed.” Most likely, those things they are telling themselves during their moments of high anxiety are irrational and not truth-based. Having kids journal their anxious thoughts creates awareness and gives an opportunity to speak truth over those lies.

Speak Truth

I’ve found that having kids write down their anxious thoughts, then turning them around and writing “antidotes” or truths about who they are in Christ to dispute those anxious thoughts is so powerful. Teaching kids this powerful tool of recognizing the lies anxiety speaks and speaking truth over themselves is so valuable and creates a sense of empowerment. So often, kids (and adults) believe they are just a victim to their thoughts and feelings, but God tells us we are conquerors and have the ability to change those thoughts that lead to high anxiety!

My favorite antidotes for anxious thoughts:

I am strong: Psalm 92:10 “Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me.”

I am brave: Psalms 27:14 “Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!”

I am free: Galatians 5:1 “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.”

I have control of my mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline” and Philippians 4:8 “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every Glorious work of God, praising him always.”

I am a conqueror: Romans 8:37 “Yet even in the midst of all these triumphs, we triumph over them all for God has made us to be MORE than conquerors and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything.”

The Lord is my helper: Deuteronomy 31:6 “So be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

As we return to the school year routine, be on guard for anxiousness that might creep into your children’s lives. Pray these scriptures over them. Talk to them about what anxiety is and how they can combat it. And above all, use this as an opportunity to point your kids to the love, grace, and mercy of our Savior. 

We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post!

Creating Space for Others

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!!

Hospitality.  It really has more to do with a generous heart than with food or space.  It is not about elaborate meals or the perfect home.  It is about sharing real life together and living in community.  Hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard.  And most of all, loved.  I want people to feel warm and welcome in my home and full.  Not just having their tummies fed, although I do love to cook, but having their heart fed.  To know that they are wanted and that I am genuinely listening to them.

Why should you need to make opening your home a priority? I have a Pinterest board where I like to save ideas for recipes to make, parties to host, and a home to decorate.  How many of you can relate? Although the world tells us that hospitality demands more, it is definitely not about perfection.  Hospitality is actually more than that.  It is more of a spiritual discipline.  It has taken me years to realize this! 

Titus 1:7-8 says, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.  He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” 

No one was more hospitable than Jesus.

Although hospitality seems to be on the decline in our modern society, I find true delight in having friends over to just to sit and be real with me while I cook, organize, fold laundry, or watch the kids play outside.  While I may not be the chattiest of women, I enjoy listening and offering encouragement.  Letting friends see the inside of my home, the laundry going, the dirty dishes in the sink, the scatter-brained busyness life brings allows them to see inside my heart.  Hospitality is where we allow friends to see how we live and where our hearts are at.  It reveals the inward priorities of our hearts.  It reflects humility.   

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

There have been many days when a friend dropped by and I thought about how the weeds had not been pulled in my driveway or how the dog should have been to the groomer much sooner, or my makeup wasn’t in its presentable state, or countless other reasons why it was not the best time for me.  Lord, help us to put aside our distorted views of hospitality and teach us what it truly means to welcome people into our homes and our hearts.  Being hospitable and allowing my friend into my heart creates a defining moment for both of us.  My friend would never have known of their possible inconvenient timing and I would forget about all of my possible excuses once we are together visiting, being hospitable to one another.

Each time we invite someone into our homes, we are inviting Christ in.   

Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 

Hospitality might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it is really very life-giving.  It allows us to offer what we have in a service to one another. It allows us to exude friendship, community, and love.  Hospitality is a blessing when we take the leap and do what God allows us to do.  

We would like to thank Bonnie McIntosh for writing this blog!

Seeing God’s Goodness in our Suffering

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!!

It’s been a little over a year since my husband and I lost the last two of our precious embryos with a failed IVF cycle. Our first IVF cycle, 6 years ago, was successful and gave us the two most amazing gifts we’ve ever received: Elliott and Sam. And because of that success, we never imagined our second try failing, but it did, and we were left heartbroken and disillusioned. All of our dreams of adding to our family were crushed by a 30 second phone call with news of a negative pregnancy test. 

As much as I wish it weren’t so, we will all find ourselves in seasons of suffering.

The Bible promises us that we will suffer and yet it’s here where we wrestle with what we know to be true about who God is and what our feelings try to manipulate us into believing.

I can remember being so angry with God and questioning how he could ever allow us to walk through such devastation. I withdrew from Him, my husband, and my friends. I could actually feel my heart growing hard. 

I think it’s natural to withdraw or retreat when we’re in pain but I know now that God never meant for us to retreat and then isolate ourselves. His Word tells us to retreat and find refuge in Him.  (Psalm 46:1, Psalm 27:5, Psalm 71:3, and more)

I’m so grateful God reached down to pull me out of my pit of grief and I’m even more grateful that I chose to grab His hand. I was so blinded by everything I was feeling that I had forgotten His goodness. He’s been good to me all of my days. 

There were three things that I’d like to share with you that helped me to see God’s goodness in the middle of my suffering. Three things that I know will help you to see His goodness too. 

1) Gratefulness

One of the first things that popped into my mind after we lost our babies was how grateful I was for Elliott and Sam. I always knew they were miracles, but even more so after our second IVF cycle wasn’t successful. 

Psalm 50:23 says that giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors the Lord. Gratefulness to God when you’re angry with Him or when you don’t understand what He’s up to or when you’re hurting so deeply you can barely breathe…oh yes, that’s a sacrifice. But gratefulness has a way of helping change our perspective. It keeps our eyes focused on Jesus. There is always something to be grateful for. 

2) Other Believers

Matthew 18:20 says that God shows up when two or more gather in his name. If you’re suffering right now and feel like God has abandoned you, find a friend or family member and start praying in agreement over your situation and God promises He will show up on the scene. 

3) Standing on the Promises in God’s Word

Here’s where I have been standing and it has been solid ground for me:

  • Psalm 73:21-26 – God holds me, God is the strength of my heart
  • Psalm 23:1-4 – He refreshes my soul, he gives me His presence and His comfort
  • Romans 8:28 – He works all things for my good

And the list goes on and on….

Can you imagine the impact our lives would collectively have if we as women would rise up in the midst of being deeply hurt and make the beautiful choice to still walk out biblical truth? To stand on the promises of God for us? Can we make the choice today to say, “God I believe your Word is true and I will not let my circumstances change that belief.” 

No matter what we’re suffering through, there is good news for each one of us: God has created a beautiful path for us through our suffering, a journey that’s redemptive, healing, and life-giving. 

I love this prayer from one of my favorite authors, Lysa Terkeurst. I hope you will pray this with me today. 

God, even though my circumstances don’t feel good right now, I know that you are still good. So, I’m choosing to praise You. I praise You for being trustworthy. I praise You that You are with me in this moment and You stand in all of my tomorrows as well. I praise You for being the wisdom I can lean on when I have none of my own. I praise You for being my strength when I reach the end of my own. And I praise You that even though my circumstances change, You never do. You are forever faithful, forever loving, forever my good and gracious God.

We would like thank Amber Curry for writing this blog 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!