Where Can I Find Belonging?

Not long ago, I was eagerly anticipating spring, and now, as the dog days of summer come to an end, I find myself anticipating yet another change.  Not only in the seasons, but in the pace of life.  Kids go back to school, routines return, and the opportunity for relationship grows.  Something about the onset of fall encourages community.  There is no better way to experience community than in a small group of people who meet weekly to love, laugh, pray, and live life together.  It’s what we call Life Group.

My husband Danny and I have had the honor and privilege of leading a Life Group for almost 10 years and we have been blessed with a myriad of life-giving, spirit-filled relationships because of it.  People come and go, but each person makes a lasting impact on my heart.  Memories of shared experiences (both joyous and tragic), of laughter, of tears, of sweet fellowship, and great food will remain with me forever.

And yet, my natural tendency is still to withdraw to my safe place and live life from the confines of that space.  Being what the professionals call an introvert has its challenges.  BUT GOD, through His unending love and grace, has shown me the freedom that comes from stretching myself, opening myself up to others, and allowing myself to love and be loved.  God created you for community, and if you don’t believe that, you are believing a lie.  My prayer for us as women is that we will stop believing the lies and cling to God’s truth.  

God’s truth about each one of us is that we are all He says we are and we can confidently put ourselves out there and find love, acceptance, and joy.

A friend told me recently, “Find joy today.”  That made me realize that if we really look, we can always find joy—maybe even in a group full of people.  So, if you have yet to find a Life Group, may I encourage you to visit one?  If you already have one, I pray that you will find new and refreshing joy rising within you as you embrace your group and the people in it.

As we anticipate this new season, may we hold tight to God’s truth and begin to anticipate the abundant life that living in community brings.  Romans 12 instructs us to live in harmony with one another and in Christ, each of us belongs to the other.  I am needed, you are needed, and together we are all necessary, chosen members of God’s Kingdom.  May He give each of us the grace and courage to step out of our safe place and into a place of belonging, relationship, and joy.

We’d like to thank Melissa Hooks for writing this blog!

“Honey, this is the faith tree.”

Seeds for my love of gardening were planted at age 10 when I first read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic, The Secret Garden.  I had the measles that summer, and was confined to bed for what seemed like ages.  Mom would darken the blinds each afternoon and read aloud as I closed my eyes and visualized the vine-covered walls of this extraordinary hideaway.

In this delightful book, a neglected garden is rejuvenated through careful tending, creating the backdrop for a neglected father/son relationship to be restored and new friendships fostered. I remember later reenacting scenes from the book in my grandmother’s backyard as I tended her daisies, black-eyed Susans, and honeysuckle. 

Actually, every garden tells its gardener’s story.  My grownup garden began in 1997 with the planting of a single tree.  No house existed on the lot we had purchased to build on because our country home was not selling despite several contracts which all fell through.  For many long months, I drove by our vacant lot, sadly praying God would make things happen faster so we could begin building our dream home.

One particular afternoon when my spirits were at their lowest, I drove by our lot and discovered a tree had been planted.  My farmer husband, as a surprise, had placed paper plates where the pillars of the house would stand, and had planted an oak tree right smack dab in the middle of our non-existent backyard!  Here’s what he told me, “Honey, this is the faith tree.  Someday soon we WILL build on this lot.  And someday our grandchildren will play under the overhanging branches of the faith we are planting right now.”  And you know what, 20 years later, he is right!!  Five grandchildren play under the shade of the tree in Noni and Papa’s backyard.  We are living in the promise fulfilled! 

And guess what?  We are the Lord’s garden!  And our lives tell His story! 

Isaiah 58:11 says:  

“The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry, And restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring!”

We would like to thank Susan Hurt for contributing this post.

Seeking Truth in Your Weakness

Editor’s Note: This semester we’ve focused on Titus 2 and the wisdom God’s word offers us in every season of life. Our prayer is that you will be encouraged by the posts to connect with God where you are now and be obedient to His voice.

It’s that time of year again: when everything that can happen to mess up my plans and screw up everything I thought I knew does happen. Almost as if I was getting a little too cocky, a little too confident, all the plates I was holding up fell and smashed into a million pieces. You know, the time when you throw up your hands and say, “Well, it can’t get any worse”? And yet somehow the world figures out a way to make it worse? That was me. Even though I’ve definitely, completely grown up now that I’ve gone off to school and can totally do everything on my own, my first thought was that I needed to talk to my mom.

I grew up with a mother who is fiercely devoted to whatever she does. She is stubborn, black-and-white, and conversely, one of the most sensitive and discerning people I have ever had the pleasure to be around. She’s also my best friend in the entire world. If there’s one thing I have learned after leaving for college last fall, it’s exactly how much I don’t know, and exactly how much she does. She sticks in her spot and knows what is right. As I was reading through Titus 2 this week, I latched onto that image immediately as one of my mother: wise, pure, honoring, submissive. (Also, a huge dork. It must be genetic.)

Recently, I have been really lucky to have a boyfriend that was my person, my best friend. We liked all the same things, shared the same interests in ministry, in travel, in books and poetry. He was the guy that made me laugh so hard my stomach hurt, who listened when I needed it, and made me look at the world a little differently. And last week, after a hard night of prayer and really dramatic arguments with the Lord (you know, the unbending Master of All Things?) I realized I had to end our relationship.

Friends, I fought that realization violently. And when I finally made myself confront him and confessed where I realized our issues were, he came back a day later and gave me all the reasons to stay together. I felt like a deer cornered by my own emotions, staring at that bright light, unable to move because if I’m honest…

I really didn’t want to.

Meeting my parents for lunch that weekend meant that I had to tell them everything, because I knew that I couldn’t trust my own decision-making. They gave little advice, asked few questions. And then my mom looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I know you’ll make the right decision.” With those words, I got a glimpse of what my mother has demonstrated her entire life: that she seeks the truth, in spite of her weaknesses.

So, I obeyed the Lord even as it cut me open. 2 Corinthians 4 says it better than I can: that we are “afflicted in every way, but not crushed… so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

Lean on His life, friends, and those shattered plates will be put back together.

Leah Jarvis from our Amarillo campus contributed this post.

Heart of a Mother

The heart of a mother is one that, for some, is hard to explain and even talk about.  When I think of how to explain those words, I immediately get a picture of my own mom.  Growing up I felt very safe and secure. Both parents were and still are strong Christians. My brothers and I were loved and disciplined in a Biblical way and really never questioned our upbringing. It was good. My mother kept the home fires burning.  She did mom things: cooking, cleaning, carpooling, attending sports events, and church functions. She was a fantastic model for me. It wasn’t until I faced challenges of trying to become a mother myself that I began to realize there was more to a mother’s heart than meets the eye.

 

At the tender age of 38 I thought I was ready to attempt this “mom” thing. Little did I know that the road it would take me down would be one of great heartache. My journey to motherhood began with a miscarriage. A few months later, I gave birth to  a little girl only to be with her for an hour before she took an early flight from this earth and said goodbye. Later I carried a child for only 28 weeks and had to say goodbye yet again. Definitely not the journey I had pictured. My faith was challenged, but it kept me from spiraling into despair, and yet my heart still had to grieve the loss.  God never left; He just had a divine calling on my life called adoption. On June 14, 2006, a 7-pound, 14-ounce big blue-eyed little girl was laid in my arms! What else could I say, but, “WOW!” The heart of a mother began to swell within me.

koricovington

 

That little girl is now 11 years old.  Time flies! As I examine my road as a mother, I have begun to understand what was going on behind the scenes of things my mother would do. It’s all beginning to make sense. I’m blown away by how the heart of a mother reflects, in many ways, the heart of God.  We read about His heart for us in His word.  He instructs us how to live, then commands us to instruct our children. He protects us and in the same way, instills in us the heart-felt need to protect our “littles”. Psalm 18 is a beautiful picture of how He fights for us. So we also are not afraid to fight on behalf of those in our care.

 

My mom-heart gets foggy at times on what’s a true reflection of His heart. Actions that seem unimportant to me speak volumes of love to my child: a dorky valentine card, conversational candy hearts, a miniature box of chocolates, things that are no big deal to me are huge love actions in my house right now. These are opportunities to reflect His love in ways that my child can understand.

 

I love that the mom-heart He placed in each of us reflects His heart. What else can we say but “WOW!”

Kori Covington wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Finding God in the Midst of Disappointments

I want to share with you a profound revelation I had when walking through life with God this year.  My husband and I have been trying to conceive for about 4 years now.  The longer I go through the process, the more I realize what a common struggle it is for many marriages.  Along the journey, there have been ups and downs that have caused a lot of disappointment.

I bring up disappointment because of an experience I had at HCF’s Women’s Conference this past April, where D’Ann Cypert spoke directly to disappointment. She gave us tools to measure our disappointment. Each woman was given a cup and a bottle of water labeled “life.”  She asked us to pour a little bit of water into our cup as she was talking about a specific disappointment that was related to us.  I remember sitting there thinking, “I don’t know if this cup is big enough for all the disappointments!”

About a month after hearing D’Ann, I went to the doctor.  We had just gone through our first cycle of IUI and this was the 2nd week where I was to go in and have a pregnancy test.  As I was walking up to the building, God and I were having a conversation.

My conversation was a little like this: “God, you know how amazing it would be for you to just create a miracle!  I mean, I could tell everyone how marvelous you are and what a blessing this is in our life.  I could say that prayer works, you just need to have faith.”

Now, I believe that God has a sense of humor because I heard his voice clearly. His response was, “What if your answer is disappointment?  Will you still tell everyone how amazing I am?  Will you tell everyone about the blessings you have had in your life?  Will you praise me and thank me even if you are disappointed, and know that I am good?”

God is good.  In the end of Genesis, Joseph says:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

Joseph’s words to his brothers came from the perspective of many difficult circumstances, and the disappointments he lived through.  Joseph chose to look at the final product of God’s purpose:

God meant it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

The Bible is full of stories like Joseph’s where the worst thing that could ever happen to them actually happens!
Full of people who should have permission to give up hope because their situation is so horrible.
And God rescues them!

It’s not always in the way they wanted.  But in each case, God used it for His good and for His glory.

Finding myself in a position of wanting a family someday leaves me with two choices:

  • to sit in my disappointment and be a victim, or
  • choose to look at the pain and disappointment, and accept that in all things God has a plan and a purpose.

I can give it to God because I know that He is amazing and has a plan for my life.  He is a God of blessings, not disappointment.  He has never and will never fail his people—despite the outcome I want.

Why? Because our God is a good God.

This post was written by Tabitha von Haasl. To read more about her, click here. 

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The Heart of a Wife

man and wifeWhen I was single, I used to dream about being a Proverbs 31 wife. I used to pray and plead with God to bring my husband to me, and in exchange, I promised to strive to be just like her.

I knew how to sew. Check.

I loved to cook. Check.

I feared the Lord. Check.

The problem with my logic was that naively, I was only focusing on the lengthy list of what the P31 wife did, and never really stopped to consider what must have been in her heart. You know, who she really was. When I finally married my husband, Bryan, I quickly realized I wasn’t even close to making good on my promise to God. I identified much more with the contentious woman in Proverbs whose husband preferred to live on the corner of the roof. Can any of you relate?

What if we looked deeper into the story of this incredible Proverbs 31 woman and asked God to show us her heart? When I read about her without zeroing in on her many accolades, I am able to see a woman that, at her core, trusted God completely and was full of faith for her family.

My husband, Bryan, is a farmer, and when we got married, I couldn’t fathom the measure of faith that I would need to be a farmer’s wife. In the five years we’ve been together, I can’t think of very many things that Bryan has asked of me. He is the most giving and caring man I know and demands little from me as a wife. But, the one thing he does consistently ask of me is to have faith. He asks me to pray, often. For him. For rain. For rest. For peace. For us. He knows and understands that when I choose to trust God and have faith for our family, his heart can trust in me.

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. ~ Proverbs 31:11

Sure, I could make my own lengthy list of what I think the heart of a wife should look like.
Submissive.
Loving.
Honoring.
Gives respect.
Selfless.

But, aren’t these qualities that must flow from a heart full of trust and faith?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not depend on your own understanding. Submit to Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

I truly believe that the most loving thing I can do for my husband is to trust God and receive faith from Him. I’m kidding myself if I think I can trust and submit to Bryan if I can’t first trust and submit to God.

It’s when I’m spent and exhausted, depleted of peace, even fearful at times, that submission, honor, and respect for Bryan have to be forced and if I’m honest, are a burden. However, when I am full of faith, putting all my trust in God, I find that submission, honor, and respect become a mantle. They flow from the heart of a wife that is full and satisfied.

To me, the heart of a wife embodies many things, but in the deepest parts, I believe it holds a steadfast trust in God and a capacity to receive great faith from Him.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

This post was written by Amber Curry. To read more about her, click here. 

7 Must Wins: Overcoming the Fear of Lack

7 must winsThis week is our final installment of the Must-Win series. If you missed any previous posts, you can start with Part 1 here.
As a reminder during this Christmas season: Jesus came so that you do not have to live in the fear of lack, but out of the abundant life that He gives! 

Overcoming the fear of lack changed my life.

The fear of lack led me to some ugly places. It motivated me to do things of which I am not proud. It made me feel like I was in a constant state of not having enough and not being enough. You know:

Not smart enough.
Not quiet enough.
Not rich enough.
Not skilled enough as a wife/mother/friend.
Not pretty enough.
Not organized enough.
Not serving enough.

It manufactures lies and pain. The lies sound something like my own accent whispering, “Why don’t you try harder? After all God has done for you how can you be so ungrateful? You are a disappointment.”

The fear of lack waits until I am about to accomplish a goal and then it moves the goal line just a little further out of reach.

God says otherwise.

He says I am complete, whole and lacking nothing. Because I performed well enough? No. Because Jesus Christ went the distance. Through His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, He exchanged His righteousness and integrity for my lack.

Now my work is not to grovel. My work is to BELIEVE I am who He says I am.

He bestowed upon me dignity, beauty and worthiness. He says in Christ I am enough and I have enough.

This changes everything. I quit demanding from others what only God can give me. It’s not my husband’s or my kids’ fault I can’t be myself. I choose to show up and be seen because I am enough.

What is at stake if I lose this battle with the fear of lack? Wholeness.

At some point I have to drive a stake in the ground and believe that God is not holding out on me. He truly gave me what I need to do life in this season of life. It’s up to me to engage and take action. Show up. Be seen. Believe that I have something to offer because of who I am in Christ. This is not perfection. This is COURAGE. And it is INSPIRING!

Will I experience failure? Yes. Will I get some sand kicked in my face? Probably.

Am I saying I have to give my life to something I don’t want to and don’t enjoy? No. I’m saying I quit hiding behind excuses for not speaking up and not acting on what God has called me to even when the going gets tough. God extends an invitation for us to come awake. LIVE. Dare greatly in the arena instead of playing it safe as a spectator of my own life.

Friend, your life counts. Your family needs you to engage and quit believing that you’re not enough. Your workplace needs you to show up and let your ideas be seen. Your community needs you to speak up for what is right and decent.

What actions will you take when you believe you are whole, complete and lacking nothing in YOUR life?

This post was written by Jodi Leigh LaFrance. To read more about her, click here.