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 4:8 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!

Ungrateful Vs. Grateful

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!

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always taught me manners. Manners like, “yes ma’am,” “no ma’am,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Since becoming a mother a little over 9 years ago, I have tried my absolute best to pass down the trait of manners. Now, the question is…do we really mean it? Are manners just us going through the motion because that is what we are taught? 

To be completely honest with you, I have not always been so grateful or had a heart of “manners” in certain circumstances. At times, I have acted in an ungrateful manner. I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say we all may have at some point in our lives.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s pleasing to the ear and heart to hear someone say, “Thank you!” with a pure and grateful heart. 

Growing up in a household of seven with a father who worked as a full-time minister, you learn to be grateful. My father gave everything he had to pursue the calling God had placed on his life. What did that mean 25+ years ago? It meant limited income. I was raised to be thankful for every meal placed in front of me and every piece of clothing that was placed on my back, which my mother worked so hard to perfect through her sewing. Through all things, God always provided time and time again.

We often forget to be grateful for the needs for which God has provided. Instead we are caught up in being ungrateful for the things we want but don’t or can’t have. 

It is discouraging when you see children and teens acting as if they’re owed something or deserve something. Unfortunately, as adults we, too, act like this. We often act like ungrateful, unappreciative children in our relationship with God. Can we just ponder on how that must make him feel? He is the God of grace, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. But yet, we forget to give Him thanks and often times we take what he has given us for granted. We can catch ourselves feeling as though he has forsaken us when we are not at the place we want to be with our job, finances, physical ability, or our health. When we do not succeed in what we want, we get upset. 

As grandparents, parents, aunts, siblings, and people of influence and authority, we need to be an example and teach our loved ones to have a grateful heart. In scripture, God teaches and commands us to give thanks in all things. Evaluate your heart and ask God to change the ways of your heart and to forgive you for any thoughts or traits of feeling ungrateful. 

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
– Thessalonians 5:18

Dear Heavenly Father,

We come before you and ask that you renew our minds and our hearts. That in all things and in all circumstance you would give us a heart of overflowing gratitude, not for what we have or how much we have, but for what you have given us. Let us remember to always give thanks in the calm and through the storm, on the mountain and through the valley. It is in your mighty name we pray, Amen.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

We would like to thank Jerika Longoria for writing this post!

Drunkenness Vs. Sobriety

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!

I have never met a person who doesn’t struggle with meeting his or her needs outside of Christ at some point and in some fashion. It is a battle we all face:  flesh vs. Spirit or life vs. death. 

We find ourselves feeling insecure, so we eat another cookie. 

We are struggling at work, so we spend more time on social media. 

We’ve been listening to negative self-talk, so we criticize and lash out at the ones we love the most. 

We feel stressed by the dishes in the sink, the toddler at our ankle or family dynamics that are less than perfect, so we reach for a glass of wine.

These ways of ‘coping’ are often the small foxes that keep us from living the abundant life Christ has promised us.

Many years ago, the Lord showed me a passage in the book of Proverbs that has stuck with me.

Proverbs 23:29-35

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”

So, let’s consider alcohol, and how often, in the flesh, we use it to meet our needs, or help us cope. My question to you is this:  Have you embraced the lie that alcohol will help…

You fill in the blank. 

Society has lulled us to sleep on this issue. They have called us “legalistic” for speaking up against the lies about alcohol. They have told us the Bible says not to be “drunk” with wine, not that we can’t “drink” wine. But I would say, I’d rather live a life that relies on the Spirit to meet my needs and comfort my pain, than believe the lie that alcohol is somehow able to do that.

I’ve lost count of how many families I know who have been destroyed by the effects of alcohol. How many church leaders have walked away from the faith and brought pain to the body of Christ because of alcohol.  How many teenagers have found themselves in compromising situations because of alcohol, their innocence stolen from them. How many husbands, or wives, have walked away from their families because of alcohol. 23 years in ministry puts you smack dab in the middle of people’s pain. And each time a person has been effected by the devastation of alcohol he/she will tell you, “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.”

I’ve loved our recent blog series on walking in the flesh vs the Spirit. It has reminded me that we all struggle, but there is a real God who lives within each surrendered Christian heart, empowering him or her to deny the flesh.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

2 Corinthians 3:17

It is the Spirit that sets us free from the flesh.

It is the Spirit that empowers us to live in victory so that we are not attempting to meet our own needs, but leaning into Christ to have those needs met.

This reality is liberating. When we stop and realize we are living in a way that brings pain to ourselves and others we can repent, turning from our sin, and instead begin walking in the freedom Christ has for us. I would much rather be honest with my emotions, face my pain, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring me freedom, than live in the cycle of hurt that alcohol brings. 

I want to challenge you today. If you struggle with turning to alcohol to meet your needs, be brave and reach out to me. I want to help you find true healing that comes from a living God who knows you intimately and is always ready to meet your needs. 

With all my love, Julie Snellgrove

Lack vs. Enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hospitality in the Natural and Supernatural

I figure if you are reading this then you have a heart to share God’s love everywhere you have influence, especially in your home for life group or when having guests. My friends would probably not call me a hospitality guru, but my husband and I have hosted life group for a while and have tried to watch and learn to pick up a few things (both natural and supernatural) along the way.  

I started paying attention at my mom’s house. It is decorated in the same exact things she put out in the 70’s, has a lot of clutter, and few places to sit, but everyone in my family wants to be there.  I figured out—apparently all that doesn’t matter.  Even if she isn’t consciously thinking about it, she is combining some supernatural and natural things to make people feel loved, valued, and RELAXED.   You can tell she values people above things, isn’t uptight about a single thing, is accepting and never, ever critical or judgmental of anyone.  I think because of that, the peace and love inside her house is palpable.  My sister-in-law even jokes that if she and my brother ever divorce that she gets visiting rights to Mama Jane!  Mom always has a variety of goodies out like nuts, M & M’s, and fruit slices, but she lays out from the beginning of an event what she wants people to do and how to serve themselves.  I think people feel comfortable because of it. 

At my own house, I always try to pray over our time together before life group.  If God’s Breath and Being isn’t on what we are doing, it is not worth doing!  I walk around my house and pray for God’s peace to be manifest, that people would feel God’s love, that His presence would be felt, and that our words will be sweet and led to accomplish His purposes for the night.  

The supernatural seamlessly blends with what we do in the natural.  It makes me think of a time a while back when I was asked to make dessert for a dinner where church leaders were serving a meal for a guest minister.  I made a strawberry cheesecake which is a complicated recipe (for me) and takes two days to make.  During that time while I baked, I determined to pray over the cake—that it would be refreshing and delightful to those who ate it, a blessing to them, and make them feel loved.  It was the weirdest thing because people kept talking and talking about that cake!  I just smiled because I knew it was the touch of God on it.  I am so grateful for his supernatural touch on my natural work.

A natural thing we try to do at life group is to be relaxed since it seems to help our friends be able to relax.  In our life group, if anything seems awkward, you can bet that we will just call it out as awkward and laugh about it.  I don’t want this to sound flippant, but we joke around about “Greeting people warmly” when we are at the front door.  Laughing about us awkwardly greeting someone seems to take the tension off us and also new friends coming in.    

We have a few other day-to-day things that we try to do as well.  We try to make sure the house is clean and doesn’t stink (hard while the dog was still alive), have all the things out that we will need for the meal, and turn on lots of lights throughout the house.  We want the temperature to be comfortable for everyone, so we have blankets everywhere and pass them around to (and joke about) our cold-natured friends.  When I see someone get cozy at life group with one of my blankets, I know we have made them feel at home (or frozen them out totally 😊).  I have a drink dispenser that we put water and slices of fruit in.  I promise it isn’t hard to slice a couple of limes or oranges and dump it in the water, but we have one member that jokes she keeps coming back because she loves our “fruity water”.  Whatever it takes! 

Life group is so important to my spiritual well-being.  I absolutely love how the church leaders have it set up and organized.  It is a low-pressure way to be spurred on to know my Father better and to help others, too.  Life group gives me an excuse to be blessed by the gifts and wisdom in others that I wouldn’t have any other way.  I know you, too, can find a group that you love! Check out the directory online or in a seat pocket at church!

We would like to thank Karen Earhart for writing this blog!