All Things Made New

Life group was a life changing experience for me. Although I am an extravert most of the time, I am very much an introvert when it comes to being around people I don’t know. 

Like most folks, we came to Harvest from a church that had literally beaten us to death! We were so broken and hurt, I wasn’t sure I’d ever open my heart again to another human being. My husband and I were in the process of restoration and rehabilitation in our marriage and desperately needed the support and love of others to help us stay on the right path, but I was terrified to open myself up again and let anyone else in. 

Our first Sunday at Harvest was amazing! We were only coming to visit, and 6 years later… (well, it didn’t take very long!) we joined and started attending life group. I was very quiet, and just listened as we met each Wednesday.  

Slowly, I began to enjoy the fellowship and prayer time with other women. I prayed with them but not out loud. I prayed silently.

As I learned to open my heart to God, I learned to open my heart to other women, and my life has literally changed before my own eyes. 

God healed the brokenness, healed the wounds, and led me to a place that I could love and trust other women again. He showed me that there are women who have a heart like His and want the best for His daughters! 

I cherish the relationships that God has provided through the women in life group, the women of Harvest! I became a life group leader because I want to pass on what God has blessed me with! I want other women to know the love of my Dad, Jesus! I want them to feel special and treasured like Jesus treasures me. We are daughters of the King, and I want other women to know what it means to be His princess!

Through the relationships that are born in life group, we learn how much we’re loved by Father, and can pass that love on to others. Life group is a life line and keeps us connected to the body of Christ!

We would like to thank Janie Keller for writing this post!

Creating Space for Others

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!

The Heartbeat of Heaven

There is an adorable metal sign in my classroom that says “Joy”. It is one of the first things you see when you enter my classroom, but sometimes its meaning can go unnoticed.

Something I have really had to distinguish between is JOY and HAPPINESS. As I have been reading the book Defiant Joy by Stasi Eldredge, I have made the realization that sometimes I mix up the two and really let it define what kind of day, week, or even year I have had. 

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “Joy is the heartbeat of heaven, the very light that emanates Jesus heart,” Stasi writes in her book. It is not the happiness you feel when you bite into a delicious brownie, but the joy you have that God has provided all things, with the expectation that He will continue to provide for your needs. 

Joy is free for us all. It is not fleeting because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It does not disappear in times of death and despair when we feel at our lowest points in life. Instead, Stasi refers to it in her book as “The heartbeat of Heaven.” Heartbeat, which means life. 

Happy moments will come and go, but, as Stasi puts it, we serve a “God who laughs at the sneers of the enemy, who stares suffering in the face, and proclaims with fierce love, ‘You do not have the final word.’”

So let joy be your heartbeat as a reflection of the God you serve, a God you can expect good things from. 

We would like to thank Sarah Perry for writing this blog!

Mindset of Peace

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:4-8 (ESV)

I’ve read and/or heard these verses countless times in my life. But over the course of a few weeks last summer, the Lord unveiled this passage in a new and fresh way to my heart. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to read these verses as individual thoughts, rather than how I believe it was meant to be read: as one principle – a promise sandwiched between responsibilities that we carry as believers. 

In verse 7, scripture promises that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in ways that are beyond our understanding. However, we aren’t passive onlookers in this process; we have a role to play. Surrounding this verse, we are commanded to rejoice and pray out of a place of gratitude rather than anxiety, and we are also instructed to use some serious self-control when it comes to our thought life. 

The Greek word “guard” used in verse 7 means to protect by a military guard to prevent hostile invasion. When I began to study this word several months ago, the Lord gave me a mental picture of a walled city. This city was in the shape of a circle, and it was surrounded by a concrete wall a couple stories high. There were gates spaced throughout the wall and several armed guards stationed at each gate to protect the city. As I saw this picture, Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “every time you focus on a problem that you’re facing rather than focusing on me, and every time you agree with fear and anxiety about the future, you send away a guard that is there to protect your heart. Your thought life is leaving your heart open to invasion from the enemy.” 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not careful, it can be easy for me allow my thoughts, feelings, and prayer life to be guided by my circumstances. This can lead me down a path of worry and fear really quickly! However, the Lord is calling me higher than that. I want to allow His goodness to shape these areas of my life. I want my heart to be filled with gratitude, and my mind to be filled with thoughts of things that are honorable, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. I want my prayer to focus on what’s on God’s heart, rather than be solely focused on what I’m worried about.

Here are some practical things that can help us fix our minds on things that bring life and peace:

  • Read God’s word and think about it throughout your day
  • Write down scripture and post it where you’ll see it often
  • Play worship music, and engage in worship while you work
  • Go back from time to time and look at pictures that remind you of God’s history of goodness in your life
  • Make it a habit to practice gratitude

When I am intentional about practicing these principles, I feel the guard of peace surrounding my heart and mind, even in the middle of real life. Would you join me in this journey? Let’s be women who are governed by peace rather than ruled by fear. 

We would like thank Catherine Dunn for writing this blog!

Seeing God’s Goodness in our Suffering

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

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.

One Word

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

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

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

BOLDNESS.  

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

Challenges that would draw boldness out of me.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfection is a Liar

A few weeks ago, I re-entered the Facebook world. I had stepped back from it after a revelation in my life about comparison.

Facebook was a gate the enemy was using on me. I was allowing it to control me and that was not healthy.

I found myself looking at all the great women on there, with their clean, well behaved children. Their organized perfect lives. Their incredible birthday parties. Everyone else’s great fashion sense, etc, etc etc………..

It led me to compare myself to all of them. And to all of their stuff. And to all of their relationships. And that left me feeling like I was never gonna measure up.

It was cultivating a seed of jealousy in my heart.  

I don’t throw fantastic birthday parties for my kids. We wear wrinkled clothes. We have discipline problems around here. I don’t have much fashion sense sometimes.

I had to learn how to shut that gate, stop comparing myself and start intentionally focusing on what God says about me. By doing so, my life has changed!

I intentionally have to declare over and over and over:

I am chosen by HIM (1 Thes. 1:4).

I am anointed by the Holy One (1 John 2:20).

I am a saint and loved by God (Romans 1:7). 

I am enough for Him, and I am enough for my family. They weren’t given to me by accident. My kids and my husband are on purpose.

And you know what? They love their birthday parties. They love being home. They say things like “hey mom- thanks for washing my band shirt!”

Believing in Who I am in Christ,  has allowed me to be REAL. To be who HE created me to be. Perfection is a liar. We are just regular people. Doing regular life in Plainview, TX . But we have an extraordinary God, who loves us, supports us, and leads us.  I am so okay with that kind of regular.

So now, I can get on Facebook and enjoy and celebrate all the beautiful faces and beautiful lives I get to be a part of! It is so freeing. My identity doesn’t rest in what I am not, but rather in what I AM!

In this week of Christmas, I pray that you will have a revelation.  That you won’t have to struggle with expectations and comparison the ways I have. That you will know who God says you are, and that you will have freedom, to be your real self. Just the way He created you. And that you will know the love of our Father like never before! Love came down to you. Love took on flesh, and became man for you. Lets celebrate that this Christmas!

We would like to thank April Hall for writing this post!