Persistent Prayer

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What does persistent prayer look like?

Well, I would like to share about my dad and how he came to Christ. It is a much longer story than can be told here, but I will attempt to give you the abridged version. I also would like to honor my dad and his memory while telling the honest truth. Admittedly, that creates some tension or conflict inside of me.

I believed in God as a very young child, but I would say that I surrendered my life to Him as Lord around twelve years old. At that point, I became very aware of the reality that my dad didn’t know Jesus or His love. During this time in his life, my dad drank too much, invoked fear in his kids to attempt to maintain order (and the fear was not unsubstantiated), and was in general a person living in pain separated from God. My dad fit the description of a hard-headed, hard-hearted man. Regardless, I loved my dad and certainly didn’t want to be separated from him for all of eternity.

So, at twelve I began to pray for his salvation. I was deeply burdened to pray for him. I am certain that many in my family were also burdened to pray for him, but we never really talked about it. I prayed that God would soften his heart and that he would receive Christ. God doesn’t ever remove a person’s freewill, and therefore the wooing of a hard-hearted person’s soul can take long time. As a matter of fact, it is never guaranteed that a person will receive Christ by their own choosing. But, persistent prayer and faith in God’s ability certainly can move mountains and the hearts of men, and God’s choice is always to seek and save those that are lost.

After two and half decades of persistent prayer for my dad, my life had changed significantly. I left home and married my husband, Andy, at nineteen. I shared this burden for my dad with him and he began to pray for my dad also. We began our family when I was twenty-two. We had two boys by the time I was twenty-four and we had moved eight hours away from our immediate families. My dad had already begun to have heart issues including a heart attack, bypass surgery, and beginning stages of congestive heart failure. The heart attack and surgeries that followed increased the urgency I felt for him. I knew, logically, he wouldn’t live forever.

It is easy to become discouraged when you can’t see God moving. But just like when you plant a seed underground, it sometimes takes time before you can see any evidence of anything happening.

God was moving. He was inviting my dad into a relationship with Him.

I would like to tell you that I got to witness my dad receiving Christ, but I didn’t. I would also like to tell you that I heard his testimony about receiving Christ, but once again, I didn’t. So how do I know my dad received Christ? Well, Christ began to grow inside of him. My dad changed in such a way that is only the work of the Holy Spirit. He started attending a church with my mom and sister. He became a giver. He operated out of love instead of fear and pain. I did get to see him humble himself on his knees in prayer at the front of that church that showed him Christ’s love, and Christ gave me a peace about my dad’s salvation. My dad passed away two years ago. I can confidently and joyfully say that we will be reunited again in heaven. So, I would like to encourage you. If your burden hasn’t been lifted yet, pray on. Our God is on the move.

We would like to thank Racheal Kasner for writing this post!

Keeping The Faith

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At the age of 26, I’m finally realizing that keeping the faith and trusting in God’s timing will be a part of my life for years to come. Faith is my strongest spiritual gift, but patience in God’s timing usually isn’t.

I grew up in a Christian home and attended a small church. It almost felt like trusting in the Lord was supposed to be easy. We didn’t talk about what trusting in the Lord was supposed to look like during trials and suffering. It was always broadened into, “Trust in the Lord always.” As you can imagine, when I started dealing with different struggles as a young adult, I didn’t understand why those things were so hard for me to deal with. That there had to be faith in action to believe that in all things the Lord is my strong fortress.

I want to share with you an experience where the Lord gently reminded me He alone has my every day planned. I am a momma to a sweet, sassy, nearly three-year-old girl. She made me a momma in October of 2015, a time when I didn’t think I was ready to be a mother. My husband and I had already made plans to further our education, but when we found out we were expecting a baby, all our plans changed. The Lord grew me in ways through that season (and still is) that I didn’t know were necessary. But He knew. And I had to surrender control.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017. I felt baby fever coming on and wanted to start trying for another baby. Once my husband was in agreement, I took control.  My trust was no longer in the Lord, but in our ability to conceive. “Well, we need to get pregnant by this month because I want Raelyn to be this old when we have the baby. I want to announce it to our families here,” blah blah blah. I think God chuckled, like I often imagine Him doing when I start thinking I am in control of it all. In March of 2018 I bought a tiny onesie. I prayed, telling the Lord the desire of my heart and again, surrendering control.

Four days before Easter, we found out we were expecting. Come to find out, we are pregnant with TWINS, a double portion! Only when we fully surrender our plans, our faith, and our trust in God, can he begin to give us what HE desires for us. God reminds me that His timing is perfect, and that the plans He has for me are much better than the ones I could have for myself. And sometimes, His plans turn out later and much differently than we could have ever expected.

Are you waiting on God for the desires of your heart? Here are ways that I keep my faith at all times:

  1. Pray and listen to God (even if it’s just for a couple minutes).
  2. Study the word of God.
  3. Surround myself with others who speak life into me.
  4. Remember that God is always faithful.

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

Simple Beauty

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Almost six years ago we were house hunting.  We came across this 100-year-old house with amazing character, but I just didn’t love it. Nope, it was not for us.  I mean friends, it didn’t even have a bathtub!!  My HOME would need a bathtub.  The house search continued.  Every now and then, my husband Bret would drive by the house.  Probably the fourth time we looked at the house (bless our sweet realtor), I saw this house a little differently.  I envisioned a huge table full of people having great fellowship.  The porch wasn’t just a porch; it was a place where my family and friends could step on our porch and feel comfort and beauty. The steps led to our fortress.  Our safe place.

Those moments were where I realized the power of a home.  Our homes have much potential, we just have to envision it.  I want our home to be a place where my husband can recharge.  A place that my kids have a sense of belonging and know that no matter what else happens outside our walls, they have a place to be themselves.

So how do I make a place for my family and others full of beauty and peace?

Purge all of the unwanted things

            Purge all of the things that you don’t love, I mean LOVE, LOVE.  Purging, although tedious, can make room for the things that reflect you and the people in your home.  I love what Nancy Kelly says about purging, “Keep cutting back ‘til there is PEACE in your home.”

Make a place for your people

            Making a corner for each person in your home can help cultivate an atmosphere of peace and belonging.  My two older kids have a tea corner set up with everything they would need to make “a hug in a cup”.  An art table, with markers and paper, and a coffee station for mom and dad.  All of these spaces are created in various spots of the home so that each of us can explore creativity, solitude, and prayer.

Add elements of beauty

Beauty can be found in some of the smallest things and the most ordinary moments.  Potted plants, old books, or family photos.  One of my favorite things recently has been bees wax candles.  Lighting them as the kids get ready for bed brings such a peaceful renewal as they end their day.  We have a family full of cold natured people, so blankets strategically placed around the house offer a cozy feeling in our down time.  Smells can have such a connection to memory.  Fresh flowers from the supermarket, tree clippings in a vase, favorite scented soaps, or even an aromatic cleaning spray can make the smallest moment a memory.

Sally Clarkson puts it so well, “Instead of creating us to live in a house of weariness and colorlessness, God has made us to live in a home of full of soul beautiful elements.”

I encourage you, friends, to find what your beauty looks like in your home for your family and start reaping the benefits of a life-giving home.

We would like to thank Kendra Huey for writing this post!

 

Balancing Game

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Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

I was asked to share how I learned to balance life and my kids’ sports in this new era of idolizing kid’s sports.  When I saw these two statements “how to balance life” and “idolizing my kids’ sports”, I had to smile because I didn’t think I was balancing life or idolizing my kids’ sports.  I was raising, supporting, and caring for my children to the best of my ability.  I supported my kids in everything they wanted to do: FHA, Prom, Football, Basketball, Track, Band, Harvest Festival, etc.  My kids and I would travel in rain and snow to be there to support each other. 

I was a single mom for a lot of years and raised my three oldest children alone.  I had to work a lot of overtime, which meant they spent a lot of time home alone.  My parents lived a half a block away and that was a big blessing.  I am thankful for my parents who helped me balance my life and my kids’ life, and for the City of Hale Center, and for Jimmy and Carolyn Curry. I had people I trusted to help me along the way.

The first and most important thing is to make God the Center of your life.  If not, everything will eventually fall apart. 

Secondly, my children were very disciplined.  They knew to come straight home from school, get their homework done, and then they could go outside.  They also knew to be in the house before dark.  I would leave every day before they got up for school.  They would get up when the alarm clock went off, make their beds, take turns in the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast (cereal) and walk to school.  If they had after school practice, the coaches would bring them home.

I leave you with this quote from Brian Dyson, Coca-Cola’s Former CEO:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some 5 balls in the air.  You name them-work, family, health, friends and spirit.  And you are keeping all of these in the air.”

“You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls- family, friends, health, and spirit are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed or damaged or even shattered.  They will never be the same.  You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

Raise, support, and care for your children to the best of your ability and God will do the rest.

We would like to thank Georgia Wall for writing this post!

Where Can I Find Belonging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Have to Taste to See

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Six months ago we brought our daughter Sadie home from China. For almost three years of her life she lived there. When we first got home so much was new to her. Her world was now turned upside down.  Sounds of a totally different language bombarded her.  Strange faces and people surrounded her.  The smells of a new environment, the clothes on her back…literally nothing in her life was the same as it had been just two weeks before.

Her little heart and mind didn’t know it yet, but there was so much good in store for her here in the U.S. and in our home. Among all of the scary and overwhelming “newness”, was a life filled with love, provision, safety, prosperity, and joy.

One of the big differences between here and China is obviously the food. For most of her life she had only eaten rice, breads, and some fruit. Once home, we would put something new in front of her and say, “It’s good; try it.”

Every single time she would protest.  Every….Single….Time.

She would push her bowl away, turn her head to the side and sit there. After a few minutes of sitting there, she would take a bite. That’s all it took, one bite, and then she would devour the entire portion.

Until then next time, then she would go through this exact routine again.

During this time God gently reminded me that at times I have been the same way.

Often times, God had laid His plan out before me, but I had turned my head and went my own way. God had given me opportunities to be His hands and feet, but I had pushed the opportunities away. There had been times His voice had called me to something bigger and deeper, but I chose to sit there in protest.

In Psalm 34:4-8 His word says,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lordheard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lordencamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Those are some pretty spectacular benefits promised in those verses. I say, “Sign me up!”

It wasn’t until I surrendered my will, and began to live my life for Him solely, that I began to understand just how GOOD He is. When I was totally dependent on God’s provision, that’s when I witnessed His miracles.

You see, we can know a lot about God. We can read about Him. We can talk about Him. We can love Him. But until we have tasted what He wants for us, we cannot fully understand His goodness. Just like Sadie, it wasn’t easy for me to take that first bite. God often leads us beyond what we are capable of in our own flesh. He calls us to try new and brave things. And that is scary! But it is when we give up our control and let God lead that we live a life of fullness.

If you don’t ever taste, you will never know how good something might be.

Don’t sit at the table and turn your nose up at what is before you. Let go of control and trust that God is good.

Just taste, and you will see!

We would like to thank Robin Sanders for writing this post!

It’s the Little Things

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Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the little things?”  These little things are unique to each one of us.  They refresh my soul day to day.  Unfortunately, I get stuck thinking about the BIG things.  When my focus is on the bigger, harder things of life, I get overwhelmed and the “little things” that keep me going, slip by.

Last week my husband and I bought our first home together.  I found myself focused on the BIG and forgetting to appreciate the little.  With it being summertime, there is an abundance of weddings, family gatherings, and traveling.  These things normally feel refreshing, but I quickly became overwhelmed trying to move and yet still do things that give me life.

The big picture said I’m not doing enough, I’m lacking in certain areas.  I was physically present, but emotionally I was stressed out and not living my best life. The enemy wants to rob us of our joy and make us victims of our circumstances.  Once I got my focus back on the little things, I was quickly reminded by God that He supplies everything we need according to His plans, His riches.

During these last few months, if I had focused on the little instead of the big, I might have noticed that…

  • The mountains displayed God’s Glory.
  • The graduate needed encouragement.
  • My husband is feeling blue.
  • God speaking to me, “Child, get up and pray.”
  • A song on the radio that could have healed a hurting place in me.
  •  Sometimes I need to cry.
  • Sometimes I need a hug.

God also has a way of refreshing my soul by speaking to me at unexpected times.  Like when I am on my way to work or home and the perfect worship song comes on.  One that will bring me to tears, exposing my heart, my fears, my thoughts, and bringing attention to my vulnerabilities and the power of God.

God is a God of details.  The instructions God gave the Israelites were very small and intricate.  David used five stones to take down Goliath.  Jesus used mud, five barley loaves. and two fish.  His disciples were deemed small in this world.  The small things of life seem so insignificant, unless we look at them with God’s perspective.

It just takes slowing down and intentionally recognizing and appreciating the moments that refresh your soul.  I can easily slip into negative thinking and allow my circumstances to dictate my feelings.  In those moments, I should be intentional in my thinking and ask God, “Where are you in this moment?”  When I focus on Him and what He is doing, my soul is refreshed.

Finally, brothers (and sisters), 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 4:8-9

We would like to thank Vanessa Talmadge for writing this blog!

Live in the Moment!

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Summertime is a stressful season for me each year.  Honestly, it’s rough for this momma who thrives on routine and is task-oriented.  I’ve always raised a large household of children and I feel the most settled when my children are in school.  I feel organized and accomplished with my time management.  I love my personal time, my time with God, getting my groceries bought, bills being paid. However, before summer even began, I felt God tugging on my heart to take a step back and enjoy these people he has given me.  Two of my children graduated this May and one is a Senior this coming year.  Three of my seven children are no longer living at home. This has been sobering for me.  What I’m doing with the time left with them suddenly hit hard; the years fly by and before you know it, they leave home.  Raising kids is hard work and I have regrets about not always being a mom who enjoys the moment and makes life fun in my home. This summer, I have allowed myself to be free from the expectations I usually would place on myself.  Here are a few ideas for you to think on:

  1. Don’t over think it, live in the moment.
    1. I spontaneously took my kids to the 10pm/late show at the theater (appropriate clean shows) in our pjs.
    2. We went to McDonald’s and ordered burgers off the dollar menu after 11pm.
  2. Create an environment for your kids and their friends to have fun. You want to be their greatest influence and want them to like to be around you.
    1. I have allowed friends to stay overnight often (friends of good influence).
    2. We took them to the park and cooked out.
    3. We let them build camp fires in our back yard where they could all hang out.
  3. Quality time as a family without technology distractions.
    1. We make breakfast meals together with the tv off and worship music on.
    2. We allow them to stay up late, laying in our bed talking and listening to their hearts.

I’m not advocating we be irresponsible and without structure this summer; there has to be a balance. I encourage you to lay down the routine and give yourself grace and permission to be free from your own judgements of what we should be doing with our children and the judgements of what other moms might think.  It does not have to be glamorous nor cost money to invest in our children lives.  You have exactly what it takes to be a mom, you’re exactly the right mother God created for your children.  God used the book of Ecclesiastes to speak to me when my journey to letting myself off the hook first began.  Go make memories with those precious little/big people in your house, don’t miss it!  And remember, GRACE upon GRACE upon GRACE, you can do it!

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work—this is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11-13

We would like to thank Brenda Martinez for sharing this post.

For the Love of Cooking

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trinarecipe2

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved food!  I got my first cookbook in the first grade and remember rushing home after school.  I went through all the recipes and picked the one that we had all the ingredients for, Quick Sugar Cake!  I mixed all the ingredients by myself, put it in the oven, and sat in front of the oven for 20 minutes while it baked.  When my cake was finally done, I took it out and waited 5 minutes for it to cool.  It was so hot I could hardly taste it.  Once my taste buds recovered, WOW, it was delicious!  I was shocked I had made it all by myself!  I was hooked and ate the whole thing!

I’ve come a long way since then.  I love to read about food and cooking, and I love to eat (don’t judge)!  One of my favorite things to do is have people over and serve them a meal.  Several years ago, a dear friend told me that I had the gift of hospitality.  I had never heard of this before!  Since then, God has showed me that I can use my love of cooking for His purposes.  This gave me a new way of looking at how I can reach out to other people; it is a way to get to know new friends.  Through this whole process I’ve learned a few important lessons:

  1. Everyone enjoys being invited and included! I love to see the looks on people’s faces when they are invited over.
  2. You do not have to be a chef to entertain in your home. People just enjoy the fact that someone cares enough to invite them over!  You can even invite people over and just order pizza! It’s about the fellowship, not the food!
  3. Your house does not have to be perfect.It does not have to be clean enough to eat off the floor.  It does not have to be a mansion!  There aren’t many mansions in Plainview anyway!  Be happy with what God has blessed you with!

Hospitality is defined as:  The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.  In the New Testament, the Greek word “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers”.

With summer approaching, venture out, invite people over!  Remember, it isn’t about the food, it’s about the fellowship!  One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I’m sharing two recipes with you.  The first is a recipe that my sister-in-law gave me.  I love it because it feeds a lot of people, and it taught me how to bake a brisket!  The 2nd recipe is my beloved Quick Sugar Cake!

3 DAY BRISKET
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic saltSAUCE:3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. ketchup
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 tsp. ground mustard
4 tbsp. Worcestershire
1/2 c. water
2 tsp. celery seed
6 tbsp. butterDay 1: Baste the uncooked brisket well with 2 tbsp. liquid smoke and 1 teaspoon salt. Wrap in heavy foil and refrigerate overnight. Day 2: Cover with teaspoon onion salt and garlic salt. Wrap and bake at 300 degrees for 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight.Day 3: Slice thin, cover with sauce. Wrap and bake at 325 degrees for about an hour. Sauce: cook all ingredients until well blended.

Trinarecipe

We would like to thank Trina Lewis for writing this post!

Freedom

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Freedom. It’s a word packed with emotion. This time of year, the word may conjure up images of waving flags, “rockets red glare,” and military heroes. We hear it used and mis-used on the nightly news with regard to human rights and civil & political issues. In the spiritual context, we Christians have profound freedom from the power of sin and death through the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Savior Jesus. Those are amazing, beautiful freedoms. But can I be honest about a freedom that I’m struggling with?

You see, I’m entering a new season of life. My oldest daughter recently graduated from college, got her first “big-girl job,” moved to Houston and is beginning her dream-career as an interior design professional. Isn’t that wonderful? And my youngest daughter just finished up a successful high school career with lots of friends, great grades and athletic awards. She has even received some nice scholarships and will move into the college dorm in the fall. Perfect, right? So, if I am such a blessed woman whose prayers for my children are coming true right before my eyes…why am I choking back tears as I write this?

To be honest, I’m afraid of the “freedom” that will replace the countless hours of busy-ness I’ve invested in my girls. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a tired momma. The 22 years of laundry, homework, practices, games, concerts, awards assemblies…as joy-filled as they were, have taken their toll. More time to devote to my marriage, my home, my work, and yes, to ME will be nice. But this new-found “freedom” will have its pain and its challenges.

Thankfully, I serve a gracious God who offers “freedoms” to help me through this new season:

  • Hebrews 4:16 says I have the freedom to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, knowing I’ll find mercy and grace to help with my uncertainties and even my loneliness.
  • Galatians 5:13 reminds me that I am to use my God-given freedom to serve others humbly in love. I’ve been diligent to remind my daughters that God has a purpose and plan for each of their lives; maybe I should be reminding myself of that same truth.
  • Finally, on those days when I completely blow it and melt into self-pity because my chicks have left the nest and I miss them terribly, He gently reminds me that I have freedom from condemnation because I belong to Him (Romans 8:1).

    Wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you take full advantage of the freedom you have to approach your loving Father. Let Him walk you through the changes in your life and watch as He makes each season beautiful.

 

We would like to thank Lea Stukey for this post!