Gardening from the Heart

Genesis 1:11-12
“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’  And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

As I prayed about what to share about my garden and my experiences with gardening, my heart was continually drawn to look at the heart of the one true Gardener… God!

God has created each of us to plant our own gardens with His seeds. He has directed us to plan, prepare, plant and enjoy time in the garden, live in freedom, and enjoy our lives! 

In scripture, God refers to seeds as His words that are not perishable seeds, but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

Just as God has given us His seeds (words) to plant, sow, water and nourish, He has also given us talents to plant and grow flower gardens for beauty or vegetable gardens for nourishment. Which ever garden you desire, here are a few tips to help you design and grow your gardens.

Gardening tips : Easy Gardening 

  • Make a plan – Find a space – Check out amount of time for sun or shade in that space.
  • Check out Better Homes and Garden – Free garden plans (5 Easy Garden Plans ) or other websites.
  • Prepare – Clean it up and add necessary nutrients with fertilizer, compost and/or garden soil.
  • Flowers – Look around your neighborhood, visit with professionals or friends or check out Pinterest. 
  • Head to Nursery – Read the cards – Annuals vs. perennials – Sun vs. shade.
  • Budget – Know what you can afford and shop around! Sometimes people are thinning out their flowers and you can get free flowers – start from seed if you have time.
  • Plant – use a variety, mix colors and textures, add rocks or other decorative items.
  • Feed/Water – Water daily and feed once a month (dry fertilizer).
  • Deadhead – Cut off dead flowers. This allows for a second flush to develop. Weed. Add or move flowers as needed.
  • Mulch – Helps to control weeds and holds moisture.

My encouragement to you is: as you plant flowers and seeds in your gardens this Spring and Summer, take time and speak to the Ultimate Gardener and ask where your spiritual seeds can be planted! 

…Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) as you wait on The Lord for His seeds (words) to flourish in the hearts of the people God places on your heart. The Lord will bless your efforts as you design, plant, nurture and love your gardens.

“The glory of gardening: 
          hands in the dirt,
          head in the sun, 
          heart with nature.
To nurture a garden
          is to feed not 
          just on the body,
          but the soul.”
                           Alfred Austin

Happy Gardening!

We would like to thank Bambi Lutrick for writing this post!

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!

Life Group Hosting 101

Robert and I had been approached to lead a Life group and we prayed about this opportunity. But, we began to hear a small voice saying, “I have something else for you to do for me,” and He laid it on our hearts to open our home to those who needed a place to belong and feel safe. We were paired with leaders who were needing a new host home. 

Hosting a life group seemed natural to me. I love to cook and to love on people. So many people work, which makes it stressful to go home and fix a meal before going to a meeting, so it just seemed natural to fix a meal that they could enjoy. Through the wonderful world of social media I am able to let them know what the main course will be and they are welcome to bring side dishes (homemade or store bought). What better way to greet people than with the smells of food that have been prepared by the hands of people we cherish in our lives. And, of course, we always have dessert! I love the smiles and conversations we have over the meal.  

A home is a place to come together with family and friends. We were made to have a relationship with God. Bringing people together into our home to encourage each other was perfect. Our life group family has a special place in my heart and I want them to feel safe and loved as they approach our home and come through the door. So many times there will be a group of us standing in the foyer talking about how our week has gone since the last meeting and we give high fives and hugs as they arrive. Hopefully, we never scare anyone by standing there! Ha! There have been a few times that I felt stressed due to electricity being out for part of the day or no water due to the well being knocked out due to lightening, but my awesome God saw the need and used the people necessary to get the electricity on and running water before life group was to meet. God is always faithful to our prayers. Prayers from the Life Group leaders helps, also!  And at those times I was so thankful for the service people and  to have our life group people around me. We are family.

Each season of the year brings new opportunities for decorating a home. Each season and holiday brings out ways to remind us how God provides beauty for us. We want everyone to feel comfortable and at home when they arrive. What an awesome bonus of hosting a life group! 

For me, the most important part of hosting a life group is praying over my home. I pray for my family every day and ask that they be blessed and feel love when they come through the door. As I start to prepare for Life Group on Wednesday night which includes vacuuming, dusting, and all those things that have to be done…you know what I am talking about…I stop in each room and ask Holy Spirit to flood my home from top to bottom and wall to wall with His presence. I pray outside of my home that Holy Spirit will touch people as they drive up to our home and those that are driving by. I ask that each person that is here will laugh and cry as they need. I pray that my carpets will be stained with tears of joy and tears of healing. The Holy Spirit wants to move among His people and I have found that He does move in life group! 

If anyone reading this feels that tap on the shoulder or hears that voice telling you that He wants you to open your home for a Life Group I suggest you listen. It gives us such joy to be able to serve God and others in this way. Two of God’s greatest commandments are to love God and to love others.  Hosting a life group and loving people = hospitality.

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

1 Peter 4:8-98 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

We would like to thank Sharon Biles for writing this post!

This Is How I Fight My Battles

Have you ever been living your life in peace, and then seemingly out of nowhere, WHAM! You are spiritually knocked to the ground. You scramble to your feet still dazed and confused by what just happened as though you were caught in the shockwave of an explosion. Quickly you try to assess any damage to yourself and those near you and try to administer spiritual first aid. This happened to me recently, so let me get right to the point. SPIRITUAL WARFARE IS REAL!

I have read about it before, I knew theoretically it was real, but I had never experienced a full-on attack at this scale. Why am I telling you this? So that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes–2 Corinthians 2:11. Make no mistake, our enemy’s mission is to steal, kill, and destroy. I don’t want to become a casualty of this war, and don’t want you to either!

I think sometimes we view war and warfare as a manly endeavor, but I assure you that our enemy indiscriminately targets men, women, and our children. He does not war by gentlemen’s rules. So, each one of us must put on the full armor of God, take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, and stand firm against the enemy.

As we grow deeper in our relationship with the Lord and firmly establish our obedience to Him, we expand the kingdom of God. Because of this, we become targets of the enemy. Don’t fear, don’t retreat, and don’t surrender. Be ready.

The actual definition of warfare has a connotation of strategy and preparation. So how do I prepare myself for victory in this battle?

  • Establish God’s Word as the authority in your life. Victory belongs to the Lord, but you have to equip yourself to fight in this battle with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Don’t be untrained with your weapon. If it were not for the solid rock of God’s Word, I would still be lying paralyzed on the battlefield.

Warfare Strategies that have worked for me:

  • Pray in the Spirit.

Ephesians 6:18, which comes right after putting on the full armor of God, says “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

Praying in the Spirit has helped me be still and listen to what God was speaking to my heart. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.

  • Meditate on God’s Word. 

Joshua 1:8 says 

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

The word meditate in this verse is actually speaking and not just thinking. Simply put, I speak God’s Word out loud over myself. Speaking His truth over ourselves is powerful.

  • Worship…worship…worship

2 Samuel 22:4 says “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.

This has been SO powerful to me. Some of my recent favorite battle songs that have made faith and courage rise up in me include “Surrounded”, “Raise a Hallelujah”, and “Tremble.” I encourage you to compile your own battle playlist.

  • Gather with strong believers who will cover you in prayer and speak God’s Word over you. 

1 Peter 5:8 says “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

In nature, lions target the weak that are separated from a herd. Isolating yourself makes you more vulnerable. So, I have shared my experience with strong Christian friends who will rally around me. I encourage you to do the same.

My hope is that we are all battle ready, because like it or not, spiritual warfare is real. Great news about this battle is found in John 16:33 – “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Stick close to Jesus, dear sisters. Be bold and courageous! He wears the victor’s crown!

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner 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!

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!

The Unexpected Expiration Date: Divorce

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!

Every story is different. He cheated, she cheated, finances, loneliness, abandonment, alcohol, drugs, mental and physical abuse, etcBut such stories end with an unintentional expiration date leaving many women not knowing where to turn.

We had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when a series of events began to unravel that revealed betrayal, defrauding, and sexual immorality. At one point, there were hopes of reconciliation, but a turn of events left our family shattered, in shock, and broken. 

No one gives us a book on how to be divorced when we first get married, yet community and family love to tell us how we should act or how we should “handle” our situation.  NOTHING can prepare a woman of faith for the demise of wearing The Scarlet Letter: D among your believer friends and family. 

I did not know how to be single.  It was so difficult to hang out with a singles Sunday School class.  Even being divorced, I did not feel single.  I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BE DIVORCED. 

What I discovered after being raised in a church community is the church community is “family-centered”.  The divorced single is not always the most welcome in a “family community”.  The adjustment is not easy. I hated being alone. 

What I did discover through the guilt, the anger, the bitterness, and the daily emotional roller coaster was that I learned to embrace something new I had not known. And that was SILENCE.  And in that silence with God and his ultimate stillness, I just learned to listen and let God be God. There were no dramatic downpours of spiritual renewals, but stillness and peace became my comfort and solace at night when coming home from work that finally granted me SLEEP I had not experienced in a long time. 

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

When I learned to BE STILL and LISTEN, I learned to embrace SILENCE and hear God’s words and voice for my life. I became a better person and a better mom to my college age girls. I asked God to use what I had gone through to help others find their way through this path of divorce, so they would not feel so alone as believers. 

No matter your story Women of Faith, JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU when you don’t know what to say or where to turn. 

Even as a believer, when you don’t know what or how to pray, Christ intercedes and prays for us. His grace is bigger than our insufficiencies.

“I have prayed for you” Luke 22:32

“Jesus prays for you as well” John 17:11, 20

There must be a recovery and restoration of YOU. RAISE the BAR for yourself and expectations of relationships.  

“You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you” Isaiah 43:4

Don’t settle for less than God’s best for YOU.  There is life after divorce.  There is HOPE.  

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11

No matter how difficult the situation, FORGIVENESS must take place in your heart.  The need to SALVAGE (not required to go back into a relationship, but gain insight and understanding) a relationship when there can be no RESTORATION to the relationship…Pastor Brad, Sept. 2018

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for those who love God….” Romans 8:28

I finally realized that I was OKAY being alone and understood the basis of truly relying on Christ instead of another human being for my happiness.  When I came to that place after being single for 5 years (went back to school for Ph.D.) following 25 years of marriage, the Lord allowed me to meet Chris Buford.

And a new chapter in my life began……  

We would like to thank Debra Flournoy-Buford for writing this blog!