Follow His Lead

Follow His Lead

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

In our Among Friends Bible Study this month, we are talking about “Influencing the World.” That sounds like a pretty formidable task, doesn’t it? “OK God,” we say. “I’ll get right on that. Right after I get finished changing diapers, cooking dinner, folding laundry…” The list goes on and on. And yet the genius of God’s plan for the world is that we don’t even really have to try. We don’t have to have a title. He’s IN US, and All He’s asked us to do is to follow His lead and share the gospel as we go.

 I can remember attending a summer church camp back when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It was at the end of the nightly service and God’s presence was moving powerfully. One of the camp counselors came over to pray for me, looked me in the eyes and told me, “You’re headed for the ministry.” “Ummmmm….no, probably not,” was my thought. I mean, I wasn’t opposed to teaching Sunday school, but I knew I’d never do something crazy like move to Africa. I mean, isn’t that what you do if you’re in “the ministry”?

 Well, God sure does have a sense of humor. Fast forward 10 years or so and I went on my first mission trip to South Africa. I loved it so much that I went back again the next summer, and by the time I graduated from college, I was ready to MOVE there to volunteer. I served in Cape Town, South Africa for nine months, helping to coach local basketball teams and teaching “True Love Waits” in six different schools. We were able to use that platform to have some after school Bible studies as well.

 It was in one of those classes where I met Junaid. Junaid was a lively South African sixth grader with a scar down his left cheek. I never asked what it was from, but I knew that Junaid didn’t back down from a fight. I happened to be in South Africa when the tragedy of 9/11 took place, and the very next day we were going to Junaid’s school in a predominantly Muslim area. I would like say that the vast majority of our Muslim friends and neighbors showed such compassion and love in the wake of that tragedy, but there were a handful of boys in one of our classes who had a bit of a different mindset.  In the weeks that followed, Junaid told us how he and his classmates were ready to go enlist to go fight against the Americans in Afghanistan. “You want to fight against US?”, we asked him. “No, Miss, not you…the AMERICANS.” I guess it hadn’t crossed his mind that we WERE Americans.

 Junaid made sure we understood that this was a “holy war”, and that he must defend his religion.  One day he got curious and asked us about ours. When we explained that God had sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins, he recoiled a bit.

 “No Miss,” he stated emphatically. “God doesn’t have any children or brothers or sisters.”

 “He does have a Son,” we countered. “His name is Jesus.”

In that moment it was like the Holy Spirit just fell down and flooded that cold, concrete schoolroom with a tangible warmth and love. I could see a small tear welling up in Junaid’s eye as he repeated softly, “Jesus.”

 Then just as quickly as the moment started, it ended when one of Junaid’s friends grabbed him arm and told him it was time to go. On his way out the door, he stopped, turned back, and said, “We’ll talk more next time?”

 We had several more conversations with Junaid. While I can’t tie this story up with a happy ending bow of how he accepted Christ or anything even remotely like that, I do believe that a seed was planted. And somewhere in my heart I fully expect someday to see a testimony of God’s goodness by a young man from South Africa with a scar across his cheek…if not on this side of Heaven then beyond.

 I know we can’t all go to Africa. We’re not all supposed to. Where is YOUR sphere of influence? It might be your home, your workplace, or your family members. There are people all around us each day, and as we go, we have an opportunity to show love…to show kindness…to plant seeds.

 I’d like to leave you with this passage from Matthew 28: 19-20 (TPT), which we know as the “Great Commission.” These were the last recorded words of Jesus on this earth before He ascended into Heaven. He told His disciples:

 19 Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 20 And teach them to faithfully follow[a] all that I have commanded you. And never forget that I am with you every day, even to the completion of this age.”[b]He’s with us as we go. And that makes all the difference. 

We would like to thank Becca Wilhite for writing this blog post.

Influencing Other Parts of the World

Influencing Other Parts of the World

Editor’s note: For the month of May, we are focusing on “Influencing the World”. In Mark 16:15 Jesus says to “Go into the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” One of the core beliefs of our church is that “The Church is meant to be the visible body of Christ, sent into the world to glorify God and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.” We pray that you will be encouraged to go out into your world to make His way known.

The sacred-secular divide is the pervasive belief that some things are really important to God, and that other things aren’t. This way of viewing the world isn’t Biblical, but it is deeply imbedded in our culture. So, while most of us would say that God cares about all aspects of our lives, the way we think and talk about our lives often reveals something different about our beliefs. Many times, we don’t even realize that we’ve bought into this sacred-secular divide. I’ll give you an example. I often hear people talk about their ministry as the 1 or 2 hours they spend in a week volunteering at a soup kitchen, leading a small group, or teaching Sunday School. While these few hours are undoubtedly important, they never mention the 40+ hours a week they spend teaching junior high students, working at a factory, or parenting their children. In our churches, we regularly have special commissioning prayers for ministry teams going abroad, Sunday school teachers, or small group leader, but we rarely think of praying over parents, farmers, bankers, high school students, or teachers specifically as commissioned to glorify God through their vocational roles. The average person will spend 90,000 hours working in their lifetime. I’m willing to bet that those hours matter to God. In fact, as believers, every aspect of our lives is not only important to God, but is an opportunity to impact the world for the sake of the Kingdom of God and to bring glory to Jesus.

My husband and I live in South Asia where we run a small textile company. We produce pillows, tea towels, bath robes, and other home goods for wholesale and retail in the US. At first glance, pillow stuffing and cotton material might seem spiritually insignificant, but we’ve learned that God can be glorified in so many beautiful ways when we view our work as an act of worship and an opportunity to influence those around us for His name.  

When we opened our business in 2015, we started with the recognition that this work was sacred ground, deeply valued by God. So, we began by offering prayer for our business and for our employees, who were all from Hindu or Muslim families. Prayers offered turned into prayers answered, and soon Hindus and Muslims wanted to know more about the Jesus who was showing up in such amazing ways. This desire to know more opened the door for us to begin studying the Word twice a week with truth seeking employees. And searching the Word led to obedience to and new faith in the Word become flesh! Just this week, one of our believing employees from a Hindu family took her struggling neighbor to the house of another believing employee who is from a Muslim background so that they could pray for the neighbor in Jesus’ name together. This is the Kingdom of God at work! It starts as small as a mustard seed, just a simple recognition that the mundane moments of our lives are sacred and can bring God glory. And soon, it grows into a big tree where people can come enjoy shade and find rest in God (Mark 4:30-32).

For those of us looking to influence the world, I suggest we start right where we are, with the simple recognition that every moment is an opportunity to impact those around us for Jesus’ sake. What would it look like if we woke up every morning asking God to guide each day? What if, daily, we offered to pray for a customer, school friend, employee, or neighbor? What if we viewed parenting as the most incredible discipleship program that we could ever have the honor of leading? What if we thought about how our work could become less about personal profit and more about Kingdom generosity? What if we invited the people we see on a regular basis to search God’s Word with us over a cup of coffee? To make a Kingdom influence, all we need is a mustard seed! What small steps can you take this week to impact those around you?

Connecting:

If you’d like to follow our business on social media, you can catch us on FB at facebook.com/Ziyada.bemore/ and on Instagram @ziyada_bemore. You can also support our artisans in their journey towards economic and spiritual freedom by shopping at www.Ziyada.org. If you’d like to receive monthly updates from us personally, we’d love to add you to our email list. Just send your email address to kori.covington@gmail.com!

Because of increasing hostility towards followers of Jesus where we live, we can’t have our names associate with mission work online.” Please pray for this missionary couple as they follow their calling to go out into the world and preach the gospel.

My Blooper Reel

My Blooper Reel

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

As I began writing this blog post, I fully intended on sharing moments when my children reminded me of how awesome I was at teaching them to be kind… but I only wanted to do that out of pride. So, here’s my blooper reel. 

I remember the first time I picked Barrett up from school with a poor report about how he was speaking to others. His teacher informed me that he had called someone an idiot. I instantly felt my cheeks get hot out of embarrassment. Not even seconds later, I started going through the different sources that he could have heard that word from. Surely, it wasn’t learned at home!

Mind you, he had just loaded up in the car with me as I picked him up from school. We were headed through an intersection when someone pulled out in front of me. Out from my mouth, in a rather elevated tone, I said, “My gosh, idiot” as I slammed on my brakes. If you’re wondering whether that humble pie tasted just as terrible as the first helping that I ate moments earlier, the answer is yes. 

I often think about the importance of teachable moments in our home, but I’m better at noticing them when it stems from my children’s behavior. This one was clearly a heart issue that I was ingraining into my children and didn’t even realize it until HE was called out for speaking that way at school. That was a tough moment of truth for me.

I knew, before I ever had my own children, that I would have a major responsibility on my hands to raise them up to speak kindness and be respectful to the people they would encounter. Little did I know, I would fall hard on my face once I was actually in the motherhood role.

Now, I can usually find my way out of being wrong if I try hard enough. Can’t we all? I think God had to make this blatantly obvious that I couldn’t blame Toy Story 2 for teaching my child to say the word idiot in the right context, although, we don’t watch that anymore either. I did that. I taught him how to act out in anger and spread hate toward someone who couldn’t even hear me, thank goodness, in traffic. 

Here is something that I learned through the situation. I have a responsibility in my home… and my car to teach my boys, who will grow up to be men, that we can spread life in situations where our human flesh prefers death. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of yours mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  Little people are all ears and we, as their parents, have the opportunity to expose them to the world through the lens of Christ rather than the lens of a stressed out mom who forgot to check in with Jesus before speaking death over the “idiot” who pulled out in front of her.

The Bible puts it very clearly in Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

I had a responsibility to use my words wisely LONG before he could repeat what I spoke. I could have ignored the fact that I was the one who planted that seed in my 2 year old’s heart, or I could admit that my tongue is a powerful tool that God intends for us to use to spread life in ALL circumstances, not just the ones that loving is easy. It’s easy to correct your children when they forget to use their manners. It is much more difficult to turn around and realize that maybe they aren’t using their manners because we aren’t teaching them from the way that we speak. Or maybe I’m alone in this. Either way, the driver wasn’t the problem. How I responded to them was, and I can use those everyday mishaps as an opportunity to teach my children how to extend grace or I can use them to demonstrate what it looks like to spread ignorant toxicity. That’s my choice that leads to teaching them how to make their choice later on. Deep breath. We can do this. We can participate in raising up a generation who spreads life. Proverbs 15:1 says, “ A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”

Let’s be in the business of turning wrath away, starting in our own home!

We would like to thank Bonnie Kate Olson for writing this post.

The Power of the Tongue

The Power of the Tongue

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

Do you remember that little jingle that was exchanged on the playground growing up?  I remember singing it as a child after somebody uttered some string of words that hurt me… it went like this: 

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  

Just now, as I typed that phrase, I said aloud to myself: ‘Whoever made that silly thing up knew nothing of the human spirit’. I’ll be honest: I prefer a broken bone from a stick or stone over the spiritual destruction of words any day.  

I can think back on times in my life when my spirit was crushed. The kind of crushing that inevitably left painfully salient memories.  The most horrendous pain was caused by something someone said to me.  Words that cut so deep, creating wounds only Jesus and time could heal. 

You see, we carry a weapon of mass destruction around in our mouths.  But the same tongue that has the power to speak death, can also speak life.  Our words can build others up, or they can tear them down. (Proverbs 18:21)

When I was asked to contribute to the blog on this subject, my mind raced as I began to pray about and brainstorm on what angle to take.  I eventually settled on focusing on where we spend most of our waking hours: the workplace. 

As an educator, in 8 short hours, I encounter over 150 souls that I directly influence, and who influence me.  My eyes widened and my mouth went a bit dry as I typed that sentence…it can be a daunting thought if I’m not confident that my words are life giving.  I’m certain that your circle of influence is just as large, if not larger than mine.  The sheer magnitude of the responsibility we have every single day to pour life into those around us is staggering.  Unfortunately, I’m not perfect and I’m willing to bet you’re not either.

Even still, with all my imperfections and shortcomings, I’d like to give some practical biblical advice on how we can affect those around us positively.  And also how we can heal and help those we love to heal from the wounds that others’ words so often produce. 

How to keep a gentle tongue

Proverbs 18:21 is possibly the most cited verse when it comes to the power of the tongue.  While it describes the life and death our words can evoke, it does not tell us HOW to keep a gentle tongue.  Paul tells us how though: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt .”(Colossians 4:6).  James also gave us a nugget of gold when he said “But everyone must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19).  Peter says to lead “with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:15).

These directives on keeping a gentle tongue are so important in every interaction, especially in the workplace.  Have you ever been in a situation at work where a superior used unkind words, derogatory words, words of condescension or even sarcasm to get their point across to you? I have.  And when this happens to me, a fire is not put under me to work harder.  In fact, the opposite happens.  I feel worthless, I feel bogged down by the words of the enemy seeping through my veins telling me that I do not have what it takes. I am completely deflated in those moments.  The intention behind the exchange may have been to get me to work harder, work better, be more productive… but, the opposite happens in those conditions.  People thrive when they feel encouraged, seen, heard, and empowered. People thrive when they feel supported. Let us not diminish the power of encouraging words in the workplace.  Words of encouragement light the fire that get our limbs moving and our creative juices flowing.  

Jesus was the perfect example of gentleness.  “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that were coming from His mouth” (Luke 4:22).  When we stay closer to Jesus, keep our eyes on Him, and begin each exchange with a grateful heart, I truly believe it’s nearly impossible to use words that are not gentle. The two are mutually exclusive. When we stay close to our Savior, He speaks through us, and His words are always gentle. 

How to heal after words of death have been spoken over you:

For true healing, I think it’s important that we understand what it takes for someone to use words in a hurtful way.  It was said so eloquently in our Among Friends Podcast by one of our own, Macy Williams.  She said, “Hurt people hurt people”. Simple, yet so profound. When you are hurt by the words from another’s tongue, having an understanding that those words derive from a place of pain in their own experience takes the pressure off you completely.  You then understand that you have NOT deserved their hurtful words.  It helps you to realize that their words likely have absolutely nothing to do with you at all and more to do with what they’re going through.  So, when we’re hurt by another’s words: let’s pray for that person.  Pray that God will guide them gently through whatever pain they’re experiencing.  When we team up with Jesus in prayer to ask for healing for the person spewing hurtful words, our hearts begin to heal in a real way.  

Kind words are like honey; sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.Proverbs 15:28

May we all be the deliverer and recipient of words like honey.  As you start your day tomorrow and all the days to follow, have a grateful heart tied close to your Lord and Savior.  Pray for those that you know are hurting and have the potential to use their tongues to destroy, just as we all need prayer when we are in pain. And stay in constant prayer over your own tongue.  Just as the Psalmist prayed, let’s also pray: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)

We would like to thank Elizabeth Loeffler for writing this post.

Speaking LIFE

Speaking LIFE

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

Proverbs 18:21 speaks to me in so many ways. When I first read it, I thought to myself, “This scripture is so familiar to me” and sure enough, I looked on my phone and already had a picture of this scripture that I used as my home screen. I had already been studying this scripture.

I’ve been wanting to change some things about myself since I let COVID-19 affect the “normal” that I had going on. I really wanted God to use me at work, the place that I consider my ministry and the place where God rules. I had found myself NOT loving anymore; not my co-workers; not my patients. I was tired of COVID, tired of upset and angry customers, and tired of the drama and gossip that goes on at work. I truly believe that God was using this scripture to remind me of how I should behave. Therefore when I ran across it in a devotional, I put a picture on my phone so that I could be reminded of it each time I opened my phone. I needed the reminder that God gives us the power to change things.

I started praying, claiming and speaking LIFE over my co-workers and my patients. I prayed for God to restore the LOVE for myself, my family and my work family. I wanted to stop the gossip and show Christ’s love. God’s word says that

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

I began to deepen my prayer life and began to pray “dangerous” prayers and speaking life over many areas: my finances, my marriage, my relationship with Christ, my health, and my job. Our Father is so good to answer our prayers. He specifically spoke to me about tithing. He told me to give more than 10%. I trusted and spoke truth over our finances. You cannot out give God! I even found out about some extra money that was sitting in a trust fund for me. Speaking LIFE and TRUTH over all parts of your life will change the way you live!

Well, friends, it is April and that means SPRINGTIME! This is the time of year where God makes everything beautiful and bright. Everything is ready to bloom and the seeds we’ve been sowing will eventually lead to a great harvest! Proverbs 18:21 has shown so many blessings in my life. Speak the POWER OF LIFE over you and watch what God will do!

We would like to thank Leslie Wall for writing this post.

My Words Have Power

My Words Have Power

Editors note: During the month of April, we are focusing on “My Words Have Power”. Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Our words can speak life or death into those around us. Which will you choose?

After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 40 years. God was ready to settle His people in the land which He had promised them. But first, God had Moses send an appointed leader from each of the twelve tribes of Israel into the land of Canaan and report back to Moses what they saw there. Moses told the twelve scouts to see what the land was like, if it was fertile or unproductive. He sent them to see if cities were fortified or mere encampments. He told them to see if the people who live there were strong or weak, few or many. Lastly, they were told to bring back some fruit from the land. You can read all about this in more detail in Numbers 13:1-26.

Let’s pick up in Numbers 13:27-32:

27“They reported to Moses: “We went into the land where you sent us. Indeed it is flowing with milk and honey, and here is some of its fruit. 28However, the people living in the land are strong, and the cities are large and fortified. We also saw the descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.” 30Then Caleb quieted the people in the presence of Moses and said, “Let’s go up now and take possession of the land because we can certainly conquer it!” 31But the men who had gone up with him responded, “We can’t attack the people because they are stronger than we are!” 32So they gave a negative report to the Israelites about the land they had scouted: “The land we passed through to explore is one that devours its inhabitants, and all the people we saw in it are men of great size.”

The report from the eyes and mouths of the 10 scouts surmised how they saw themselves—like mere grasshoppers. And that’s when it happened. Words of defeat were spoken over the Israelites, and the Israelite community accepted those words into their spirit. They believed the report from 10 of the 12 spies—that they had no chance on God’s green earth to ever battle and win against the giants who occupied this land which had been promised to them by God. And so began their defeatist mentality. 

Have you ever had that happen to you? Have you ever been told you would never amount to anything? Have you ever heard voices in your head that said you weren’t good enough? I have. 

One of my earliest memories of feeling like a worthless grasshopper was as a young girl of age 4 or 5. Standing next to me, someone screamed to whomever would listen, while looking right in my eyes, “Why was SHE ever born?!” Her words spoken over me planted feelings of my worthlessness deep into my spirit.

I also remember struggling in second grade trying desperately to improve my handwriting so I could graduate from using a pencil to using my first blue BIC ink pen. For whatever reason, my being a left-hander proved difficult for me to master writing legibly. As our handwriting exam papers were passed out to each student after being graded, I was singled out before the entire class for being the lone remaining user of a #2 pencil. Unknowingly, this teacher had spoken words of defeat into my spirit.  

At the hands of 10 scouts, words of fear, doubt, and discouragement were spoken over every heart in the Israelite community. They had forgotten God’s promise—that He would give this land to them. They believed those powerful words of fear that had been spoken to the extent that they were prepared to head back into slavery rather than take a step of faith and take hold of the Promised Land.

In what area of your life are YOU struggling? I believe we ALL need to stop believing the lies in our hearts and in our heads that others have spoken over us or that we have spoken to ourselves.

Recently I read a book entitled Breakthrough-Living a Life That Overflows by Rabbi Jason Sobel, who is a Messianic Jew. In speaking of the time we are in now, Rabbi Jason teaches that the year 2021 is the beginning of a new decade. He states this is the decade of breakthrough as well as the decade of strength, and the decade of the mouth. Rabbi Jason writes, “We can become mighty and strong, and since this is the decade of eighty, the decade of the mouth, we need to openly declare, “I am strong in the Lord and the strength of His might.  I will overcome internal and external oppositions by God’s power.”    

Eighty is the number of the yesod. In Hebrew, yesod means “foundation.” This is a foundational decade and a foundational season. God is establishing new foundations in our lives. We need to remember the natural and the spiritual go hand in hand. If we are going to break through natural limitations, there are new spiritual foundations we need to establish. Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked are no more, but the foundation [yesod] of the righteous is everlasting.”

When we view life through our natural eyes, we will remain stuck in Egypt. When we view life through Holy Spirit eyes, we will be empowered to speak breakthrough over our life. Just like the Israelites, each of us falls into one of these two groups: those whose sight leads to “breakthrough thinking,” or those whose sight leads to “stinking thinking.” Both affect what comes out of our mouths. There is a spiritual significance here—there is power in the mouth.

Paul tells us that God is for us (Rom.8:31).  If we want a breakthrough, we need to know who we are in God and develop an understanding of what He is capable of doing for us and through us. God wants you to excel in both your identity and also your destiny! Knowing you possess a royal identity and a priestly calling is a critical experience that leads to more significant breakthroughs in your life. 

Coming into agreement with God and His promises for our lives is an essential part of any breakthrough we experience. Remember:  Our words hold power!

Speak life over your situation.

Speak life over yourself, your spouse, your children, and your coworkers.  

Speak His Truths into every facet of your life and be watching for the breakthrough to come!   

We would like to thank Cristie Harrell for writing this blog post.

Beauty in Small Things

Beauty in Small Things

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways, is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

The smallest of details can have the biggest impacts. What might seem insignificant to some will have the biggest impact on others: a quick phone call or text to someone God placed on your heart or a card sent to another that comes just in time for them to not feel alone and abandoned by others.

Changes and adjustments in life come and go, and it sometimes leaves us feeling lonely and discarded, but when you take time to be purposeful about the small things, the beauty of Christ’s love comes shining through. Change can be scary, but just a little encouragement can mean the world to someone who is facing those changes.

Jesus cared about the small things. The woman at the well, the children that the disciples told to go away, Martha in her grief, His disciples when they didn’t understand Him, and the well-being of His mother, even as He was on the cross. Jesus loves and cares about us, even the small and intimate things in our lives. Small details, carefully thought through, can change the world around you. We get so busy and wrapped up in our own lives, our own worlds, that we forget to stop and take care of what matters most. It’s the little things that count.

Those few minutes you take to spend with God each day makes a huge difference in how you receive and love others. It’s the small moments of time that are spent in communion with Abba Father that seem to have the biggest impacts. Praying for others may seem insignificant, but it has a powerful impact on the one for whom you are praying as they fight their battles. Taking time to push everything aside to share some quality time with your spouse says “you are worth my time,” and I want to invest in our relationship. The few minutes you spend in quality time with your children tells them they matter and are important. Housework and laundry will always be there, but your children won’t, so take time for the small things.

Take time for the small things that you need in your life. An hour of quiet time with God. Time to enjoy the beauty that God gives us every morning. Time in fellowship with friends and family. Times that you just sit and think about how much our Father adores us, how generous He is with His love, and then time to just worship Him.

There is beauty in the small things. Stop, take a deep breath, and take it all in as you hear God whisper “well done, my beloved daughter. You are my treasure, and you have chosen well to remember and pay attention to the small things.”

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

Beauty in the Home as an Empty Nester

Beauty in the Home as an Empty Nester

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

This month, we’re focusing on what it means to have a beautiful home, especially in light of Titus 2:3-5 which says:

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

I’ve been able to find beauty in many seasons of my life, but this season of being an empty nester is beautiful in a very unique way. 

My years of being busy at home look different now than they did when my girls were still here. As parents of two girls who are grown now, we enjoyed many fun-filled and active years of cheerleading, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, and all the fun school and social activities that our girls were involved in. I was honored to get to be a stay at home mom and to be their chauffeur to all the events they loved to do. I thrived on what the girls and all of their friends would have going on; I just enjoyed the noise of laughter in our home for years. 

But time marched on–much too quickly, I might add–and the house is now quiet with just Lanney and me (and our rotten dogs). We do have two precious grandkids that we love to have over and spend time with, but for the majority of the time, it is just us. In all honesty, becoming empty nesters was an adjustment for us both. We had tried over the years to make sure that we still took the time for each other. We didn’t want to wake up one day with our girls gone and on their own only to discover that we no longer knew each other. We are now at a time in our lives where we can go on dates once a week, even if those dates consist of running to lunch and shopping at Costco or something pretty simple. We love finding opportunities to truly enjoy each other’s company. Lanney is my safe place and my best friend. I am so thankful that we took the time to prioritize nurturing our relationship with each other, even in those crazy years of also raising our children. 

Raising kids together has been so fun, but an empty nest has its own unique joys. We can sit back and relax some and know that God has got our kids in the palm of his hand and that our job as parents is not over, it has just changed. It’s a good feeling. If I can encourage couples with young kids in any way, it would be to say to make sure you make your spouse your priority. That is hard when your kids are young and are so demanding of your time, but you will not regret having time with your spouse without the kids at least once a week, even if it’s just to grab a babysitter and go get a Coke. You might be able to find others who also have young children, and you can exchange babysitting favors for one another. Your kids will have fun playing with friends without mom and dad, and you and your friends can invest in your marriage relationships. One day those kids will grow up and have a busy life of their own, and you want to look at each other and not be strangers living together.  

As I have thought about pouring into my relationship with my husband, it has made me think of how this correlates to our relationship with Christ. As important as it is to make time for your spouse, it is even more important to make time for the Lord. We must make sure we make time for our Savior and for that relationship first and foremost. I know this can also be a challenge with young kids in your home. But find a moment–early in the morning, or after your family has gone to bed, or anytime in between–to focus on praying, spending time in the Word, and listening to what God has to tell you. You won’t regret prioritizing this relationship. We don’t want our husbands to be strangers once we’re empty nesters, but we don’t want Jesus to be a stranger when we step into eternity either. 

Marriage is fun! There are seasons of difficulty as well as seasons of joy, but God has given us our mate to experience it all with, and we are so blessed to have each other. Embrace each other and each stage of your relationship–it’s God given, and it’s beautiful. 

We would like to thank Christy Bennett for writing this post.

Beauty in the Unbeautiful

Beauty in the Unbeautiful

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways, is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

When I think about those words in the title, I can vulnerably admit that I most often identify with “unbeautiful.” I wasn’t even sure “unbeautiful” was a word, so I looked it up in the dictionary, and in fact, it is a word. According to the dictionary, “unbeautiful” predictably means “without beauty.” If I honestly answer if I feel like a woman who is with beauty or without beauty, it’s without beauty. Unbeautiful.


So when I was asked to write this blog, I had a Sarah moment (Genesis 18:12-15) and laughed internally. “What could I possibly have to say about beauty in my home? They must have mixed me up with another woman they meant to ask to write this post.” But no sooner than that thought came into my mind, I heard the Lord whisper to my spirit, “I can make all things beautiful if you’ll just give me the ashes.”


Those words come from Isaiah 61:3, but let’s look at verses 1-4. In my bible, the heading on chapter 61 is “The Year of the Lord’s Favor.” I know so many of us would not look on the last year of our lives favorably. It’s been difficult in many ways–maybe even unbeautiful. Maybe that sense of being unbeautiful extends beyond the last year of your life. Maybe, when you really think about it, you don’t remember the last time you felt beautiful or you felt like your home was beautiful. I understand that feeling. I’ve been there, too. But the Word of the Lord says that we
can live in His favor. Because of Jesus, we DO live in the Lord’s favor. The Messiah came to bring into existence His new, liberated people, and it’s our responsibility to pray into existence His new, redeemed world. That, my friends, is far from unbeautiful. That is a beautiful honor and
calling.


So how do we live out this beauty in our lives and in our home? We trade all the things we find unbeautiful–poorness, brokenheartedness, captivity, and being bound–for what the Lord has anointed for our lives–good news, binding up, proclaiming liberty, and releasing freedom (Isaiah 61:1) so that He can open a new era of blessing in our lives with some exchanges of His own: a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of a faint spirit. He makes these exchanges so “that [we] may be called oaks of righteousness…that
He may be glorified
” (Isaiah 61:3). Being an oak of righteousness means being grand, fruitful, lasting, and strong. This oak of righteousness is a reference to Psalm 1:3: “[She] is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all
that [she] does, [she] prospers
.”


Close your eyes and picture a big, mature oak tree in a dry climate. Despite its environment, it thrives because it has a constant supply of water. That tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for others. Ladies, I believe the God of the universe is calling us to become beautiful oaks of righteousness, not for ourselves, but for those closest to us–our husbands, our children, our families, our friends, our coworkers, our community. When we plant ourselves in the Word of God and allow Him to be our constant supply of water–of everything we need to survive and thrive–we prosper, but so do those who are near to us. We need to recognize that He has made us and our circumstances beautiful, not for ourselves, and not even necessarily in a material way, but so that we can bring benefits for others.

We see this same image in Jeremiah 17:8. This tree is settled with resources no matter what happens. You see, beauty requires some perspective. Most days, I have laundry in the basket, dishes in the sink, toys and books scattered in the living room, and a desk you can’t really see because the piles on it are far too high. The outside of my house needs some TLC, I don’t have a pretty backyard, and my flowerbed needs to be weeded. So the enemy sometimes tells me the lie that my life is unbeautiful. But that’s a LIE. Sure, my house can get messy and sometimes chores are left undone, but I have an actual living, breathing, walking, talking miracle that lives within the walls of my home. She’s a two-year-old blessing, and she calls me “Mommy.” If you don’t know my story, I’ll have to share the miracle of her life with you some other time or in some other post, but even in the last few weeks, doctors once again told me how impossible her life is. But that’s just the thing. Our God is a God of the impossible; He’s a God of miracles. And I get to experience one every single day. If that isn’t beautiful, then I don’t know what is.


The next time you find yourself believing that you are unbeautiful or that some area of your life is unbeautiful, spend some time with Jesus. Ask him to show you what parts of your life He wants to exchange and make beautiful. It would be His greatest pleasure to help you find beauty in the unbeautiful.

We would like to thank Ashley Edlin for writing this post.

Your Home, Your People

Your Home, Your People

Editors note: During the month of March, we are focusing on “Beauty in the Home”. Titus 2:3-5 tells us that women should encourage each other in the ways of the Lord. Focusing on bringing beauty to the home, not just in material ways,  is an important part of having a peace-filled family.

I love beauty. I love that God is the ultimate creator and source of beauty. And I love the fact that because we are made in His image, we are, by nature, also creators of beauty.

I also love all things “home.” It’s my very favorite place to be. I could spend hours just looking through picture-perfect homes in magazines. But what the magazines don’t share is that God has given each of us an incredible opportunity to express his rich beauty, love, and hospitality through our homes in a way that’s completely unique to how he has created us and the home that he has given us to share.

In the last 10 years, my husband and I have lived in a tiny university-owned apartment, a sweet, small rent house, and our very own home. Through each of our homes, I’ve gathered some practical ideas for creating a beautiful and welcoming environment (that probably won’t be featured in the next home and garden magazine article).

Decorate with what you like. Instead of trying to fit everything into one particular style, choose pieces that you love and that fit your lifestyle. You might find that, like me, you’re somewhat eclectic. Your home doesn’t have to fit into a box, so don’t try to force it. Our homes should be an expression of who we are and our love for the people in our sphere.

Embrace the process of making a home. Unless you have a huge budget (and probably not even then), a home that fits you and your family doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process—a living, breathing, expression that is built over time. When I try to make everything look designer-put-together and finished all at once, I always end up not completely loving it. Let your home breathe a little. Let it become, over time, a place of retreat for anyone who enters your door.

Display your fondest memories. These probably won’t ever be magazine-worthy. They’re amateur pictures from your favorite vacation. Pictures your babies drew for you as a way to show they love you. Papers and sticky notes filled with scripture that some of your sweetest friends posted all over your house while you were gone for weeks in the hospital with your husband. These things make a home.

Prepare your home for guests. Pick up around the house. Put on some worship music. Brew a pot of coffee. Light a candle. Pray for the people that you will be welcoming into your home. Invite the Holy Spirit to minister to them in your house.

Focus on people. It’s easy to get caught up in whether the house looks perfect enough, or whether everything is done before guests arrive. But your people are much more important than any unfinished task. Don’t feel pressure to point out or apologize for every little thing that you think is wrong or unfinished about your home. They won’t care. They probably won’t even notice. Pay attention to the people in your house more than the tasks or things. It’s such a sweet opportunity to love on them that you don’t want to miss.

Like the author Myquillyn Smith shares in one of my very favorite books, The Nesting Place,

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

We would like to thank Catherine Dunn for writing this post.