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!

Parenting 101: The Art of Letting Go

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!

Jeremiah 1:4-5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born I set you apart.”

Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

These two verses have stuck with me for over 19 years.  They have been the truth that has sustained me as a mom:

         1.  God has known my children from the foundation of the earth.

         2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to treasure/ponder the destiny/purpose of Christ in her heart. 

I truly believe, to be able to parent well, our foundation of who our children’s real father is, must be established in our hearts.

The question is…how do we live out these two verses when we’re parenting our children?  I’d say the answer to that question is through PRAYER and SURRENDER.

When I was pregnant with Joshua I began asking God, praying that He would give me words to speak and pray over Joshua.  Words of truth, words of life, words of courage.  I soon had a song in my heart that I’ve sung over all my boys, nieces, and nephews, and every baby I’ve ever rocked to sleep.  The fact that God gave me a song, doesn’t make me special – it’s just a testimony to a living God who has abundant life and vision and purpose for our children.  He desires for us to position ourselves in a way to receive truth from Him so we can speak His truth over our children.  Prayer is powerful!

During different seasons of parenting I remember making conscience choices to let go of control and to trust God and His word, to surrender my fears and concerns to Him.  I started to stand on the truth of Jeremiah 1, and believe that if God knew my children before He formed them in my womb, then I could trust Him with their lives.

I have specific memories of my kids playing at 16th street park and me being over protective of the monkey bars and Jesus whispering kindly to my heart, “Let them be brave.”

Or, the 1sttime Brad took the boys hunting and my fear of harm coming to them surfaced and the Lord speaking to me, “Brad loves your boys as much as you do.  He won’t let harm come to them.”

All three of my boys are dreamers.  They have BIG dreams, dreams that honestly scare me.  I’ve been tempted, at times, to be the “practical mom” that puts doubts to their dreams.  Early on, while I was praying through some of my kids’ “big dreams” I felt the Lord speak these powerful words to me.  It’s helped me remember who the ultimate dream keeper is…He said, “Dreams shape us, don’t smash them.  Just keep pointing them to Me.  I can handle their dreams.”  

The words of Christ have liberated me as a mom.  It’s put motherhood in perspective for me.  I’m not in charge of their destiny, Christ is.  I can’t make them be someone, or keep them safe.  My job is to point them to Christ, to pray my guts out for them, and to ponder their destiny in my heart, just like Mary did concerning Jesus.  

I’ve learned that I can either treasure the destiny and purpose God has for my kids, or I can control and manipulate the situations that parenting bring.  I’ve done both, but I can tell you peace comes when I’m living a life of PRAYER and SURRENDER concerning my kids.  

Here are a few truths that I’ve pondered in my heart for my children:

  • God ordains their steps…Psalms 37:23
  • Every hair on their head is numbered…Luke 12:7
  • They are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalms 139:14
  • God is intimately acquainted with all their needs…Psalms 139:3
  • They are created in the likeness of God’s image…Genesis 1:27

I spent many years not feeling like a good mom.  I compared myself to others, and often felt overwhelmed and discouraged.  I remember the day my counselor told me, “Julie you’ve never given up.  You’ve stayed, and loved, and been present.”  It liberated me.  

I don’t know where you are today on your journey of mothering, but I can promise you, when you choose to stay, when you choose to show up, when you choose to pray the hard prayers and speak the words of Christ over your kids, God does His part in our children’s lives and we will see His hand accomplish His will concerning our children.  He loves them more than we do.  He knit them together.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made in His likeness.

I’m cheering for you mom!  I’m believing in you!  And I know, when we’ve prayed and surrendered, God moves mountains for us, that we could never move on our own.

I’m praying that God would impart in you an anointing for faith and an ability to speak destiny and truth over your child.  May He bring vision that will not only keep your child from perishing, but also keep you in a place of peace.

With all my love,

Julie

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!

Connect. Grow. Serve.

Over time, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the message within the Harvest life group logo. But isn’t it often the CONNECT part of the equation that trips us up in the very beginning?  It was for me! At that point in time, we had just begun attending Harvest and my emotions were raw. In truth, I was a mess! It was the spring semester of my first year as an instructional coach. My dad was dying of a fast-growing brain tumor, and after being away from home and taking three weeks off from work to be by his bedside, I was feeling overwhelmed to say the least. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was that our son and daughter-in-law were soon to give birth to a special needs child who might not survive, and it was taking every ounce of faith and sanity I could muster just to go through the daily motions. I was spent! I had nothing left to give.

Who could possibly want to connect with me?

(ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT!!) The very weekend of my Dad’s diagnosis just happened to be the Harvest Men’s Retreat. David attended for the first time, and evidence of the difference it made to his faith was popping out everywhere, including his determination to attend life group. I literally slunck (is that even a word?) into Kim and Johnny Street’s home that first night of life group, with a determined, yet fake smile plastered to my face, knowing full well that if anyone asked me a single question I would dissolve into a puddle on the floor!

 I recognize now that it was a “small beginning” as prophesied in the Old Testament book of Zechariah :

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT

David and I not only stayed in life group that semester, but our faith began to GROW exponentially! Women prayed over me, spoke words of wisdom into me, and taught me how to declare God’s word over my circumstances to change the atmosphere around me! My dad was taken home to be with His Lord, our precious baby was born with a hole in his heart on Good Friday, and was miraculously healed and able to go home on Easter Sunday! 

Several semesters later, David and I were given the honor to SERVE as life group leaders. 

Since that fateful first night, the miraculous “small beginnings” we’ve experienced in life group read like the cover of a biblical National Inquirer magazine:

  • Boy recovering from massive brain surgery, befriended by his surgeon, chooses a medical career
  • Couple leaves divorce court, reunite after miraculous touch from Heaven
  • Couple’s son healed from years of addiction, now leads others to Christ
  • Answered prayers cross the country uniting Manhattan beauty and West Texas coach

(each example used by permission)

See, I had this unrealistic expectation of myself that I had to bring something TO the table in order to dine AT the table. But it’s the very act of accepting the Lord’s invitation to come to His table when we’ve nothing to bring that changes US. (EXIT PRIDE!)

I visualize the applause of heaven when we take that tremulous first step of faith to ring that stranger’s doorbell and  CONNECT to the body of Christ through life group. The Holy Spirit is free to GROW us, and as we grow we are then able to be used to SERVE others. We learn how to exercise our giftings to pray down His will on earth as it is in heaven. (ENTER MIRACLES!)

We would like to thank Susan Hurt for writing this blog post!

Hormones: Lord, Am I Going Crazy?!?

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!

A few years ago, I thought I was losing it. 

-My brain felt like molasses. 

-I would walk from one room to another, trying to remember what I was looking for. 

-I would wake up with a racing heart in the middle of the night.

-I experienced anxiety for no reason. 

-My energy dropped.

-I felt depressed.

-I believed I was getting dementia.  

Fear swept over me.

And then it all started to make sense when… I experienced a hot flash! I went to the doctor and found that I was in peri-menopause. That diagnosis hadn’t crossed my mind at 39 years old.  I thought this only happened to OLD women! 

When you don’t feel like yourself, there’s most likely a reason, and that reason could very well involve hormones. Our hormones change drastically in the seasons of puberty, post-partum, and peri-menopause. During our child-bearing years, hormones peak and plummet during our monthly cycles.  It’s okay and even wise to be concerned about your body when you aren’t feeling like yourself. 

I love what Stasi Eldredge says about hormones in her book “Becoming Myself”:

“Yesterday morning I wanted to buy a puppy; this afternoon I wondered how many years I would get for homicide.  Am I simply nuts?  Is this just the sin nature the Bible talks about, and I’m stuck with repenting of it again and again?  No, my dear sister.  There is an internal reality playing havoc with my world, but it is neither woundedness, nor sin, nor immaturity- not even a touch of insanity.  There are powerful feminine tides washing to and fro inside each of us, and they are having an enormous influence on our lives – and the way we perceive our lives.” 

What a relief!!  I’m not the only one who feels nuts! This made sense and was great news. 

You may be thinking, “That’s great Jill, but when I feel out of control, how do I handle my womanhood in a way that honors myself, others and the God who made me so complex?”  

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Be honest with God.  Come to Him with the good, bad, and ugly. Lay it at His feet. But then agree with what HE says about you. God’s word says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Speak life over your body, your mind, your emotions. When I’m feeling crazy, I pray God’s word back to him, “God, I feel like I’m falling apart, but your word says that you hold me together!  Colossians 1:17

Have you ever thought about how our femininity is meant to bring life? These chemicals that sometimes rock our world actually allow us to be physical life-givers. They help us to nurture others and create beauty. Our physical femininity should be celebrated, in a world where it’s often seen as a curse.  

  • Recognize the enemy’s tactics. In the Garden of Eden, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, there were consequences. God said, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

Whoa. Did you notice how God connects the pains of being female and our desire to control our husbands? When we are “hormonal”, some of us use manipulation, pouting, raging, emotional outbursts, and withholding from our husbands to get what we want. We disrespect them. In the moment, I may get what I want because of my control over my husband.  But because of my control, the less of a husband he is, and the less of a marriage we have. Track your cycle so that you know when you may be most prone to this temptation. When you realize you’ve been grasping for control, be quick to repent and ask your husband for forgiveness.  Be alert my friend! Don’t let the enemy win in your marriage.

  • Reach Out. At times we all need to get help. Ask for prayer. Go see your doctor. Schedule an appointment with a counselor, a trusted friend, or a Life Group leader for advice and wisdom. Read the helpful books listed below.  When you find yourself feeling down, it’s okay to take a bath, to lay in bed with chocolate and a sappy movie, to go to bed early, or to ask your husband for some extra help with the kids.  Some space can be good, BUT, don’t stay in that place too long. 

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

If you’re feeling hormonal, admit it!  Realize it’s the perfect time to run to God so that you can receive HIS mercy and grace and be the LIFE-GIVER you were made to be.


This post wasn’t meant to be a biology lesson or to debate hormone replacement. Check out these great books if you want more info, and call the office if you need a list of recommended Christian Counselors. 

  • “Jump off the Hormone Swing” — Lorraine Pintus
  • “Becoming Myself “– Stasi Eldredge

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

A New Chapter

Picture this, a 30-something-year-old woman, regretting ever mentioning trying something new. She’s terrified of the unknown. And to add to it, that little voice in her head kept whispering, “You don’t fit in. You’re not good enough.”  And then the worry sets in, “Am I going to have to speak in front of ALL those people??” Yep, that terrified woman was me and although I stayed calm and serene on the outside, under the surface I had totally lost my cool.

It turns out my inner monologues are overly dramatic and they almost convinced me to make yet another excuse as to why we are too busy and should wait another week.

End of story. Thankfully I did not allow that fear to control me and so my story began…

 I was determined! My husband and I had been discussing it for months. We were ready for more, ready to grow and really intrigued by all the talk about how awesome Life Group was. We had heard stories of the relationships created and the breakthroughs happening on Wednesdays and were hungry to get in on it. I browsed the catalog of friendly faces a 100 times looking for where we fit. It felt a little like I was shopping for friends online. I would add them to my cart only to remove them later because I wasn’t quite ready to invest.  But we finally bit the bullet and now we are walking to the door to meet our “new friends” for the first time.

What I found on the other side of that door was far greater than a couple of friends. I met real people. I mean, of course they were living, breathing humans, but they were REAL, down to earth, God loving people. And you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit all around us. There were men and women of all ages and in different parts of their walk with Christ. I met some of the most loving, caring, Spirit-filled women. As the evening progressed I realized I was not alone in my fears. These women were strong in their faith and not afraid to admit they had failed and they have scars.

I figured out what it felt like to smash all of those lies that had been fed to me about who I am and I realized I AM accepted, I am not alone and I am worthy of our Fathers love. That breakthrough changed EVERYTHING. 

 I’m not going to say opening up and sharing was easy. I mean, it wasn’t like a switch that just automatically came on when I walked in the room. It took some effort and patience on the group’s part, and LOTS of prayer on mine. I remember the first time we paired up to pray for one another and I cried. Not like a couple of tears ran down my face, but flat out ugly cried. And you know what, she understood and helped me through it. The feeling of being able to just lay that down, and receive acceptance, was so freeing.

I had finally handed it over to God and instead of me cowering behind the walls I had built up for protection I was now out there fully believing that God was my refuge and the ultimate protector.

 As time passed I could not wait for Wednesday nights! I love to worship on Sundays and the messages we receive are always amazing. However there’s just something about sitting around a room with family, discussing how God is working miracles. We cry, we laugh, and we speak truth and life over one another. Proverbs 27:9 says, “The heartfelt council of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” And that is so true! It warms you from the inside out when we trust that the words spoken from these ladies are guided by the Holy Spirit. 

Today my husband and I have the privilege of leading a Life Group. Honestly not something that scared woman only a few short years ago would have ever considered. I added a new chapter to my story called Life Group. The relationships I have created and the newfound love I have for myself has changed me. I grew as an individual and my relationship with Christ exploded! If your heart has been wrestling with the idea of wanting more, but like me, you are afraid of not fitting in, I highly recommend you stepping out of your comfort zone and give Life Groups a try. 

We would like to thank Misty Rowell for writing this blog post!

You Can’t Rush God’s Promises

During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

Editor’s Note: This semester women from our three campuses have read Titus 2 and shared what God placed on their heart. May you be encouraged and challenged to connect with God and the power of His presence in this season of your life.

Ten months ago, Brent and I decided to try adoption again.  Our hearts were ready.  The timing was good.  Johnny would be 3 when Baby would arrive, so they could share a room.  The girls are the perfect age and would be so helpful.  He and Johnny would be best buds.  They’d play dinosaurs, giggle, and wrestle.  I had dreams.  After our first international adoption attempt, we said that we wanted to have the next one “handed over to us”.  This one was.  How could this not be God?  Doors kept opening, so we kept walking.

My husband was apprehensive the first three months.  We sought counsel from God, family, friends, attorneys, etc.  Over the next few months, I went to sonograms and grew a relationship with the birth mom.  After four months, Brent finally decided this baby boy was going to be our 4thchild.   Two days later, the birth mom started having complications.  We immediately texted our support system asking for prayers and wisdom.  Liam Jacob was born at 23 weeks and went to be with Jesus that same day.  I’ve never experienced pain like that before.

The joy I had was sucked right out of me.  How could this be God?  I felt angry at Him.  “We’ve been faithful.  We’ve done everything right.  Why are you taking this away from us?” I just didn’t understand.  I felt alone.

The devil knows when we are vulnerable, and his subtle deceiving whispers walked me into a season of fear, anxiety, and stress.  I didn’t notice it at first.  I just felt disappointed, confused, and embarrassed by another unsuccessful adoption.  “God, why do we feel called to adopt when it’s not working?”  When our birth mom was in the hospital contracting the night before Liam was born, I went up at ministry time during Core to receive prayer.  I tried to be strong, but I was disappointed.  That night God brought some healing and comfort through the prayers of my friends.

But after Liam passed away, unhealed emotional wounds became a stronghold in my life.  Ladies, we need to expose the devil when his lies feel true.  Find a few ladies that you trust, be honest and let His light shine into your situation. I couldn’t have done this alone. God has given us the gift of community. Throughout this process I received advice, wisdom, and guidance from friends.  I’ve been a recipient of what Titus 2 is supposed to look like because the ladies in my life have taken Titus 2 seriously.  What did that look like?

  • The book a friend gave me on miscarriages.
  • The hug another gave me.
  • The text to check on how I was doing.
  • The encouragement from another friend, “God wants you to know He hasn’t given up on this dream, so you don’t either.”
  • The prayer from another, “Allow disappointment to happen.  You don’t have to guard your heart.”
  • The spoken words of my Father to me, “I am faithful. Your plans pale in comparison to what I have for you.  Keep trusting deeper.”

Does it hurt? Yes.  Is it sad? Yes.  Did it bring Brent and me closer? Yes.  Is my relationship with my Father any different because my trust in His plan didn’t work out? Yes.  It’s actually stronger, because I’m certain He has a better plan for us.  

When we guard our heart and mind in truth, we won’t be shaken.  When we call upon the name of the Lord, we won’t be shaken.  Titus 2:13-14 reminds me that we can have hope.  We find peace, worth, and infinite value in our Lord.  You will endure hardships and the Lord WILL be with you.  Don’t lose hope, Friend. He’s got this!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for this post.

Seeking the Healer, Not Just the Healing

**During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

Editor’s Note: This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

You know that plan for your life? The one you’ve been dreaming about since you were a little girl? Mine somewhat looked like: getting married to a great man, having a job so great it didn’t feel like a job, and having two, maybe three kids by the time I was thirty, three years apart max. Does that saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans” ring a bell?

The married a great man part, nailed it!

The having a job so great it doesn’t feel like a job, I’ve got that one in the bag.

The two, maybe three kids by the time I’m thirty, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, we have been INCREDIBLY blessed with an all boy, ornery, “just like his daddy”, fun, three year old after an incredibly traumatic miscarriage and two years of longing for that positive pregnancy test, and we are SO thankful for him.

But who knew you could still battle infertility after having a successful pregnancy? I didn’t. But, here we are again. The sting is just as fierce as the first go round, and the hurt is just as deep, but seeking God and His plan over my own has left me in a true state of peace.

We all have that one thing, or maybe more than one, that we want healing from. Whether it be a life altering disease, a broken marriage, a financial situation, the broken heart of losing a loved one, an addiction… mine is infertility.

Mark 5:34 says, “Jesus said to the woman, ‘You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain’ ”. This has been a comforting passage for me over and over again, but I remember a particular morning during Sunday morning worship, crying as I asked God, “Why have you not fulfilled the desires of my heart? Why have I been left unhealed? I have always had faith in you and give you the glory!” I heard Him whisper, “Seek me. Not just the healing that I can provide you.” You might as well have knocked me over physically, because I was floored! Isn’t that our human nature though?

I’ll follow God, so then I’ll be blessed.

I’ll tithe my first 10%, so I’ll reap a hundred fold.

I’ll praise His name, so that I may be healed.

And the list goes on.

But what if we stopped looking for our own benefit and just started following, praising, seeking and loving God above all else just because He is God and he is GOOD!?

Trust me, I’m preaching to the choir here, we are in the same boat ladies. I mean, of course I want God to show me His plan for my family, give me the joy of a second child, and bless my family like only He can, but my trust in Him and His perfect and detailed plan has to be based on how good He is and how he loves me, not what He can do for me, because let’s be real, He’s already given me His all.

That true state of peace I talked about earlier? It has been found during this time of my life when I have decided to quit dwelling on the things I don’t have yet, and thanking God for the things He has blessed me with. Seeking His mercy on the days that I fall into that “why me” trap, His love when I worry about what or what doesn’t lie ahead, and His goodness everyday are a few of the things that keep me longing for the Healer, not just the healing.

I wish this was one of those stories that I could tell you that my prayers have been answered because of my trust in Him. But just because that hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean He is done and that His plan is not perfect.

Keep seeking, trusting, and loving Him. Because He is GOOD.

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