Guest Writer: Monique Urton
I have written this over and over countless times. Truth is when I was asked to write this, I was just starting a season of figuring out who I was. I was asked months ago, and as I have gone through several different rough drafts, I wasn’t sure any of those were where God was leading me to write. My first instinct was to look at other articles to see how other people wrote them so I could get an idea of how I needed mine to be. I do not see myself as a writer, so I was intimidated at first. I do write poetry, but I feel like that is a completely different ballgame. I found it to be ironic in a sense that I was comparing other articles to how I should write mine about AUTHENTICITY. How can I truly be authentic if I am not confident in the words that God gave me to write?
The definition of Authentic as stated in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
1 a: worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
paints an authentic picture of our society
2: not false or imitation : REAL, ACTUAL
an authentic cockney accent
3: true to one's own personality, spirit, or character
I believe authenticity is being who God created us to be in His full image. To not pretend to be something we are not. This means, we have to accept every part of who we are, flaws and all. The things we see to be a hindrance, may be the one thing that brings glory to God. In the same sense, the things we think we can do might not at all be what we were called to do. You cannot work yourself into being something you are not. You cannot change who you are no matter how hard you work at it. It is not our works, but His purpose.
2 Timothy 1:9 “He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
I was blessed with many talents, not bragging, I feel like it is the one thing that holds me back from being authentic. I started to throw big birthday parties every year since my oldest was one. I would get compliments on how good of a mother I was. After all, the handmade cake, banners and favors really show how good of a mother I am. It made me feel good, especially because that was my main goal, to be the best mother, to make sure I was nothing like my own mother. I started to earn my identity from that, though unintentional. But that isn’t who I am, nor who God called me to be. I was indeed not a good mother based on my talents. I am a good mother because I am imperfect and show my kids that no matter how many times I fall, I will always turn to God and He will never leave me. I say sorry often, and try to show them how to repent and to do better. We are not our talents, we are not our works, though we are called to do good works, our relationship with God comes first. How can we know who we are if we do not know who God is? How do we know who God is and who He says we are if we do not spend time with Him?
Find out who you are, take time to truly know who He is. I feel most authentic, when I am completely surrendering to what He is calling me to. When I am completely weak, but show up and realize that He can use me when I feel completely useless. He calls us to know Him, to have relationship with Him.
Jeremiah 9:24 “But the one who boasts, boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
I wouldn’t fully be authentic if I didn’t add a poem, because I love writing poetry, and I feel that is where I can fully express myself in the best way with the least amount of words.
you have created me to be
more than I can ever see
Whether I’m on the mountain or in the valley, you never leave
you have called me out of the deepest pits
Even in the times where I didn’t want to exist
Gave me purpose
showed me what my worth is
I tried to do good works to please you
But I learned that my value is more than what I can do
It’s who I am, because of who you made me to be
The light that shows up when the darkness flees
We are not measured by how many times we fall,
but rather how we stand through it all
I count it joy to be faced with trials
Though I wish it didn’t last for miles and miles
Joy isn’t based on my circumstances
it’s based on where my faith is
Stand guard and keep a lookout
Sometimes it’s best to whisper when we want to shout
Letting go of who I thought I was
It’s amazing what surrendering does
I am loved
On the highest mountain
Like a fountain
You call on me
How will I answer if I don’t know who I can be
The best version of who you say I am
Sitting still like Daniel in the lion’s den
I am learning that letting go isn’t giving up,
It’s stepping aside so Jesus can fill my cup
So I encourage you to sit still and allow God to speak to you. I have to shut the World out when I listen too much to who people tell me I am, and not who God says I am.
Guest Writer: Laura Terry
Authenticity. I’m hearing this word a lot these days. When you read it, what comes to mind? Usually, the intended meaning is to be genuine, honest, forthright, and true-to-yourself –unapologetically so. These are suitable uses for the word and do encompass a partial view of what authenticity means. However, I think there is a bigger, more meaningful definition of the word that is missing in how it’s used today.
To be authentic means to be something original to a place and/or made by a creator. For example, the Louvre in Paris contains the painting Mona Lisa, an authentic work of art by Leonardo da Vinci. People have reproduced it, been inspired by it, and taken their photograph with it, but there is only one authentic Mona Lisa. Similarly, my grandfather has an authentic helmet issued by the US Army during the Korean War. He could take it on Antiques Roadshow and valuers would classify it as authentic because it was actually made during and for the War. Both the helmet and the painting are authentic because of where they came from and who made them.
Similarly, our most complete form of authenticity comes from God, our creator. To be truly authentic, we must not only be true to ourselves, but more so be true to who God created us to be. The Mona Lisa is only authentic because it was made by Da Vinci. It cannot be authentic separate from the one who created it. We cannot be truly authentic separate from God. Our completeness and wholeness and trueness come when Christ is in us and we are living our lives, not true to ourselves and how we want to, but true to God and how he made us to live.
Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Here Paul is saying that once we receive the Holy Spirit, it is no longer us living in our own will and being true to ourselves, but us living out God’s will by Christ’s example and being true to His Spirit residing in us.
Paul is such a great biblical example of authenticity. Before his conversion on the road to Damascus, he (called by his Hebrew name, Saul, at that time) was living quite true to himself and his own beliefs, and unashamedly so. He was persecuting Christians without remorse, and in fact believing he was right to do so. He was living out our current societal definition of authenticity. However, we do not see him actually living a full authentic life until after his conversion when he receives Christ as his Savior and begins his mission to live out God’s will in his life. Only then does Paul (now using a Gentile name in the mission field) say in Ephesians 5, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”
This, I believe, is biblical authenticity: To live in the example of Christ, who often stated where he came from and Who he came from; to have our souls filled with the Holy Spirit and to unashamedly show this to the world; and, to be living in the will of God, our maker, who has purposed our lives from the very beginning, and who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Sisters, hear me say that I know this can be hard. We can feel comfy and cozy at home with Jesus, but stepping into the world feels dangerous and judgmental and full of temptation to stray from our authentic life in Christ. The worldly view of authenticity, to just be yourself—any “self” is fine—without apology, is much easier. But it isn’t fuller. It is only as true as the length of your earthly life. But, sis, we were made for more by the One who loves us more—much, much more.
God, my Maker and Creator, help me to live an authentic life. Not one that relies on my own thoughts, feelings, and ideas, but one that desires to be in line with Your will and the intentions You set out for my life. In following You, let me feel the wholeness of Your goodness for my life and satisfaction in Your purpose over me. You are so good and in Christ, your son, my Savior, I find the perfect example of authenticity. Amen.
Sis, here's to living our fullest, authentic life! Love, Laura
Written By: Sue Holcombe
I am so very honored to be asked to write an article on prayer. This is not something I ever thought the Lord would have me do...But God! I am very passionate about prayer, and ever since I began this journey to write about it, the Lord has been showing me so much about prayer from His word – I have been amazed.
What first came to my mind is the scripture I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
At first, that seems a bit overwhelming, but it really is not. Prayer is all about communicating with our heavenly Father. What a privilege we have that he wants to hear from us all the time. The phrase “without ceasing” stops many in their tracks. Most of us think literally, I cannot pray 24/7. That is not the true meaning. We need to understand the full context. Paul first talks about rejoicing always, to have his joy in you. When we are filled with his joy and peace, it comes with great ease to pray, or have conversation with our Lord. I know for me it flows more naturally to be in communion with the father when I rejoice and give thanks for all that he has done. As I understand it, without ceasing, is keeping that constant connection with God. As each of us go about our full lives it is easy to think I haven’t even prayed today. This is so much more. You just have this ongoing conversation with your Abba father... Just you and him!
Now it is important to remember to listen. As believers that is a huge part that we miss. Communication is a two-way street. We share our heart with God and he always listens. We need to learn to be still and listen for him to speak. The last part of the scripture speaks of being thankful in all circumstances. For this is the will of God. I know we all long to be in his will. The word spells it out very clearly to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and to be thankful in everything. Now if only we could live that way, but we can. Do you know why? Because we are filled with his Holy Spirit! He is the one who guides, teaches and reveals the hidden things in our hearts.
The word also speaks about prayer in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything”. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. The scripture says it. Simply pray about everything. That means all things that are important to you are important to God. There have been many times in my own life that this became so obvious. One amazing story and answer to my prayers is my love story to my husband Larry. I had been praying to God for quite a few years to meet a godly man that he would have for me to marry. My prayers were personal, very specific and fervent at times. There were seasons of doubt that this may not happen to me. But God! He knew all along. I just had to learn to trust Him and His timing and to let go of what I thought I needed. His ways are really so much better than our ways. He brought Larry into my life at just the right time. We both prayed very much and had accountability and knew this was God’s plan. My husband will tell you, I still get very teared up when I talk about what God did in this season of my life, how he answered so many prayers and still does. Unbeknownst to me my own mother had been praying for the very same thing – and recognizes that God moved on both of our behalves.
I admire people who have such open intimate conversations with the Lord. It’s deeper than conversations with your best friend because God knows us so much better. There’s nothing we can’t share or pour out to him. He knows us and loves us so much. We have to remember there’s absolutely nothing that is going to surprise him or catch him off guard. If you have a worry or doubt, talking to God can relieve that concern. God always brings comfort in prayer time with Him.
I also love the scripture Jeremiah 33:3, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets. You do not know about things to come”. This is very powerful. This scripture is telling us to ask him. Well, here is that conversation/communication reminder again. The scripture goes deeper. He says ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets. He wants to reveal hidden truths to us. We must be willing to listen and seek him with a pure heart. For most of us, it is very hard to comprehend that God is that available to us, but He is.
Prayer is... So many things. I’m quoting my pastor who said prayer is the essential activity of waiting for God, acknowledging our helplessness and his power. Calling upon him for help, seeking his counsel. He was speaking of it like being in a waiting room of a hospital. We are all in that waiting room at some time in our lives. Waiting on God to answer our prayers or to speak to us about our prayer concern. I really like where he said acknowledging our own helplessness and seeing God’s power. So often when we pray it is as a last resort. He does not want prayer to be our last resort but our first response. He wants to hear our joys, sorrows and our worries. There is also growth in the waiting time. I am quoting a good friend who wrote “One prayer may catapult you on a lifelong journey – No wonder it may take a lifetime to receive the answer to that prayer as we walk it out by faith in life”. The answer will come because God is Faithful! I have been much more intentional about listening for him to speak. I was at work the other day thinking over a matter, wondering if the timing would work out so I wouldn’t have to leave work. Just like that I heard His still voice say, “Why don’t you give that worry to me? You can see how I will work it out”. So I did. I prayed my concern to God and let it go and it all worked out perfectly. Such a humbling lesson. He wants everything, even those little concerns we don’t think about.
There are many times when we do not know how to pray. His word guides and directs us. In Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we are to pray for, but the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groanings .” I will say I have experienced this many times. I will pray in my own prayer language and receive peace, knowing the Holy Spirit is interceding on my behalf in that very moment. In Jude 1:20 it reads “But you, beloved, are building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Spirit.” It is a very powerful weapon against the enemy. The enemy cannot understand what is meant for God. In Ephesians 6:18 it says “To pray at all times in the Spirit with prayer and supplication. To the end stay alert, be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” This is so important. God is admonishing us to stay alert at all times and to be diligent to pray for believers everywhere – this is important for our church, community, family and especially our children.
As I am writing this I am praying for more wisdom – He spoke to me saying my Word is truth – it will speak on its own! I know we want God to give each of us more revelation of Himself. This happens when we pray in the Spirit. As we are built up spiritually, faith increases and there is such peace in knowing you are praying God’s perfect will. In I Corinthians 14:2 it says, “For one who speaks in a tongue, speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, because he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” In writing this I want to be sure you have understanding and clarity. God’s word speaks of having a private prayer language or speaking in tongues. It is not meant to be foreign or unknown to believers. We are all filled with His Holy Spirit and can ask for a heavenly prayer language. God withholds nothing from his children. He wants us to know He hears us and knows our very heart.
Just remember, God is always listening. We just have to open our hearts to him and have faith that he hears our prayers.
Guest Writer: Kelly Balarie
There, I said it! It felt good to finally get those two words off my chest. It meant I could rest. I’d done my part.
The person looked back at me and muttered, “I forgive you.” But, soon their actions spoke a different story. Every time I asked a question their response was quick and short. When I tried to make eye contact, they looked away. When I walked next to them, they directed conversation elsewhere.
I felt like the woman everyone hated. Remember her? She was the one caught in the act. She was unredeemable. She was unworthy.
““Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.” (Jo. 8:4)
What do we do – with her?
There she was…the bad lady.
There she was…the one caught-red-handed.
There she was…the one who should have done better, but she didn’t.
There she was…right in the open, for all to see – her shame on display.
I wonder, did this woman feel like she was being convicted 1,000 times? Like she couldn’t get off trial?
What do you do – when someone refuses to let you off the hook? For days? For years? For decades? When blame is still coming your way? When you can nearly feel the judgment?
What do you do when your mind spins out of control because you don’t know how to fix things? When their treatment hurts your insides?
I don’t have all the answers, my friend. I certainly don’t have everything figured out. But, I can share what I am still learning. Here it is:
1. I am not responsible for other people’s interpretation of events, their actions or retaliation.
After I have apologized to them and to God, I have done my part. I get in trouble when I take on another person’s burden as my responsibility. If they don’t want to forgive or release me from the offense they carry – that is not my duty to make them. That is between them and the Lord. I forgive, love in a healthy way, release the convicting work to the Lord and pray.
I think thoughts like, “God gave abundant grace to me, so I can extend abundant grace to them,” “I can be loving without being co-dependent. I do not base my worth on their response,” “I am responsible before the Lord to love others as I love myself. If I need to have some space, that is okay.”
2. Jesus experienced mistreatment, but He despised the shame.
Indeed, if Jesus was misunderstood, mistreated and hurt, and He was The Son of God, we cannot expect our life to be without these issues.
Jesus endured the worst pain, but scripture tells us, “He despised the shame” (Heb. 12:2). There are moments when we will have to endure suffering or go through harm. There are moments when we will have to die to us to become more alive to Him. At the same time, we don’t have to take on or absorb the shame. We can reject that, like Jesus did.
Think this way. Say to yourself: I am not shameful; thanks to Jesus’ work on the cross, I am holy and blameless in His sight. I don’t soak in people’s judgments, mean words or issues, I cast off that shame and I walk by His truth.
3. I am responsible for my own actions, words and responses.
Here, I think this way: I am powerful. I am powerful to change. I am powerful to apologize and to do a new thing. I am not obligated or trying to please man, but I seek to please the Lord. I speak the truth in love. I exhibit the fruit of the Spirit by the grace of God. I, then, extend grace to others. At the same time, I am not a door mat and I use my voice.
It can be hard to walk in the world, when so much comes at us. I get it. Not everyone will understand us. That is hard.
But, at the end of our day, we have one goal in our life. It is this:
“but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.” (1 Thess. 2:4)
How does God want us to think? What does God want us to speak? What pleases and glorifies His holy name?
Sometimes, we figure we have to do something because it is the loving thing to do, but it is not love at all, it is obligation laced with bitterness. God calls us to authenticity and wholeheartedness. As we are honest and true before God, we can be honest and true before men. And, while it may not always be comfortable to do,it will always honor God. Why? Because we trust Him more than we fear men.
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10)
In my case, even if man doesn’t forgive me, God does. And, that’s enough. I keep love and carry peace, trusting God to take care of the other person. I let go and let God.
I pray that you are able to let go and let God too, when situations with people feel beyond control!
Prayer: Father, relationships can be hard. Forgive me for trying to control. Forgive me for fearing man. Forgive me for taking things into my own hands. I trust you. I let go today. I believe you will defend me. I ask you to move in the relationships that I am struggling with. I ask you to help me to authentically love. And, if I need to create some space, give me the right words and the courage to do so. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Guest Writer: Ginger Harrington
Reaching goals doesn't happen without effort. Moving from intention to action is the first step, but our daily choices help or hinder us from forward progress. Building consistent habits that support our goals is a powerful way to press on toward growth and success.
“It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It's what we do consistently.” ― Anthony Robbins
Have you realized you aren’t where you want to be in some area of life? Maybe you even set a few goals or made resolutions this year and your progress has been sporadic.
We all have goals, aspirations, and dreams. Even the most unmotivated people have things they want to accomplish in life. Most of us–the imperfect types–have a list of areas ripe for growth and improvement. In essence, we don’t want to stay where we are…like we are.
Physical health, spiritual development, and personal growth are areas we often target for improvement.
When it comes to reaching goals or building better habits of health, what holds you back? Motivation, time, knowledge, skill, finances, equipment, or even current level of health can be obstacles to moving from intention to action.
The Challenge of Consistency in Reaching Goals
We may start strong but staying consistent is challenging. Last year I had a goal to lose weight. I worked at it (most of the time) and was sort of successful in a frustrating way. What's that, you ask?
I lost the SAME five pounds at least five times. Maybe more.
I stopped counting. At times I stopped trying. Let's face it, lack of progress is seriously demotivating. I had conversations in my head that went like this:
Inconsistency kept me running in place rather than moving forward toward my goal. The Yo-Yo Cycle of inconsistency can keep us from making lasting changes. Consistency is a battle, and the struggle is real. Can you relate?
Move from Motivation to Habit to Reach Your Goals
Jim Ryun said this about the role of habits in accomplishing goals: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
A vital part of accomplishing goals is establishing small habits and routines that help us succeed. The word habit is defined as “a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.” ( source: https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/habit)
Practice bridges the gap between intention and habit. The positive habits we build form a support structure for the life we desire. Small changes and helpful habits can become part of our daily steps as we pursue our goals.
Athletes and musicians practice new skills until they become intuitive, part of their muscle memory. In many ways, practicing helpful habits is like developing muscle memory. What once felt unfamiliar, requiring great concentration, begins to flow automatically.
Focus on Progress Over Perfection
I’m discovering I tend to sabotage my good effort when I fall short or default to old habits. Failures and setbacks prompt a cycle of shame and guilt in my self-talk. How often do we allow today’s lapse to defeat our next step?
Elevating perfection over progress can derail consistency in creating new habits and accomplishing goals.
What could it feel like to change your perspective and expectations? What if you let go of perfectionism, recognize progress, and celebrate growth? Shift your focus to the next right step and make the next good choice. This mindset shift fuels motivation to keep moving toward our aspirations.
7 Ways to Move Forward with Consistency
The more we choose well, the more consistent good habits become. This makes it sound easy, but changing our thoughts and patterns is hard work that takes time and consistent effort.
Consider how these words from Philippians provide a pattern for pursuing your goals:
“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. –Philippians 3:12-14 NASB
Although this passage refers to spiritual growth and sanctification, we can discover some practical habits of consistency.
Don't let inconsistency or discouragement tempt you to abandon your healthy goals. Celebrate the small wins of your forward progress. In Genesis 1, God "saw" that each day's work of creation was good. The meaning of the word "saw" is to see, to look at, inspect, perceive, consider. God recognized and stated the value of the good work that was accomplished. How often do we do this?
One healthy habit that is OH-SO-GOOD for your soul is to value small victories. Notice what went well this week. We often discount the small positive steps we make, but success creates energy for more success. Honor the good effort of each step forward as you build consistent habits to reach your goals.
What encourages you to press on today? Fight for consistency but give yourself grace as you pursue the positive habits for a life well-lived. What next step do you need to take toward your goal today?
Written By: Nancy Foster
What is “Ordinary”?
According to Webster’s Dictionary Ordinary can mean:
1. Of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events: Routine, Usual
2. a. Of common quality, rank, or ability.
b. Deficient in quality: Poor, Inferior.
Oxford’s Dictionary defines Ordinary as:
Not unusual or different or special or unexpected in any way; usual
Synonyms of ordinary include Normal, Usual, Standard, Natural, Typical
It seems that somewhere inside of us there is a desire not to be ordinary. It may be because we think we’ll be lost in the crowd. It may be that we equate ordinary with inferior.
There are seemingly infinite ways for people to express their uniqueness or their desire to stand out. Differences are expressed through clothing, hair, body art, vehicles, not to mention bumper stickers on vehicles. There are expressions that scream, “NOTICE ME! I AM HERE AND I NEED TO BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER THAN ME!”
Well, I have come to believe that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, however we need to see ourselves from a different perspective.
I’ve read that a jumbo jet has six million parts, forty thousand rivets on each wing and that it takes 43 days for skilled technicians to build. I would not dare to say that the smallest rivets were not important. If I heard the builders say, “Yeah, this one had some rivets left over. We didn’t know where they should go. We didn’t have time to look, but it seemed sturdy enough. We threw the leftovers away.” I would not get on that plane.
I don’t believe God made anything or anyone for which He doesn’t have a specific purpose. If there is a “specific” purpose, it can’t be ordinary. Look in the Psalms. Ps. 147:4 He counts the stars and calls them all by name. Why would anyone waste time on counting and naming the stars, unless there was a purpose? Unless it was important? Unless it brought Him pleasure to count and call the names of His own?
God says SO MUCH MORE about you and about me than He counts us and names us. He counts our hairs. (I wonder if He has named them too?)
Psalm 139:1-18 is a beautiful portrait of the intimacy we were made to have with God. It is evidence that we are not ordinary. You are not ordinary. You are not inferior. You were not an afterthought. You were made, on purpose, for a purpose, that God Himself wants to reveal to you and He is excited to do just that.
Read it slowly as if you are reading it to Him as He is listening.
1 O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. 2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. 3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do.4 You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. 5 You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! 8 If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. 9 If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10 even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. 11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night--12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. 13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. 17 How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! 18 I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!
Read verse 17 again and again…
His thoughts about you are precious. Precious means of great value, not to be wasted or treated carelessly. Let’s not discard God’s thoughts about us because they reveal our identity. They reveal our value. They reveal our purpose and tied to all of these is His pleasure. (Rev. 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.)
His precious thoughts cannot be numbered. This means He’s still adding precious thoughts about you to His repertoire. You cannot number something that is continually growing in number. He hasn’t laid you aside for the newer models coming along. His purpose for you hasn’t diminished alongside of anyone else.
Even though days upon days seem ordinary and nothing seems to stand out or make a difference, there’s much to be said for finishing the race and remaining faithful. When you look at yourself through the lens of the scripture, you will not see ordinary. You will see an extraordinary God who wants you to know He is near.
One of my favorite verses to mediate on is Zephaniah 3:17…
The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He is quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
(Skip Moen says the picture of “quiet in His love” is this: “I don’t need to say a thing.” Imagine a conversation between people who love each other deeply and intimately. One is weaker and needy. But the other loves so much that He says, “You have not shaken my love for you at all. I don’t need to say a thing.” This is the silence of approval. When God is quiet in His love, His smile is more than we need, to know we are His.)
And I would add, His smile is more than we need, to know that we are not ordinary.
Alerts, we get them all the time. Whether we set them or they are naturally set, it is inevitable that we will have some kind of an alarm or alert that goes off during the day. You may have just one, the one for waking up, or you may have many, one for every shift in your day. Your dog or cat will alert you when they want to eat, play, go outside, and so forth. Your kid will alert you of a diaper changing, when they need to eat, or that a project was due yesterday. I have an apple watch and try to keep up with closing all of my fitness rings or goals everyday. If I am sitting for too long I get a notification that it is Time to Stand. When I saw that the other day I really felt impressed that the Lord was identifying a need within the body of Christ. He is saying to you, “Time to Stand.”
Some of you might struggle with standing, due to being out of alignment. You need some adjusting. When you are in need of a chiropractic alignment your first appointment with the chiropractor sets the tone for the kind of adjustments as well as the frequency. Once you have had some adjustments made because of muscle memory, sometimes the adjustments can make you feel worse than you did before you had work done to your body. Give it some time and future tweaking, your body will fall right into place and be the best it can be. Much like a chiropractor helps to get you in alignment, the Holy Spirit brings alignment to you. The adjustments are corrections, you might need minor correction and other times you need major correction. Have you met with the Father for the plan? Are you following through with the plan? Or are you ashamed to be the vessel the Lord works through? You must check in frequently with the Holy Spirit. If you fail to meet with him, you can still get by and do the work, but not to the capacity the Father has called you to. You might even think that you are doing the will of the Father. Have you stopped to consider that maybe you were meant for more or to do something else?
So what does this correction look like? The Lord is not short of creative ways to reach us. Consider the account of Baalam, found in Numbers 22:21-39. Baalam thought that he was going to do the right thing, but God was angry because initially He told him not to go with the men to curse the Israelites. God allowed Baalam to go with the condition that he would “...still do only what I tell you.” On his way Baalam could not see the weaponized angel of the Lord on the, but his faithful donkey could. Baalam was so mad about his donkey’s disobedience that he beat her 3 times. Then the Lord opened up the mouth of the Donkey and they carried on a conversation. Once that was done, Baalam’s eyes were open and knew exactly why his beloved animal dared not move forward. God’s correction to Baalam helped him to see that God was the one in charge and to really be aware of how important it was to say only what God told him. Because Baalam obeyed, it showed the king of Moab, Balak, and those surrounding the Israelites that God is the one who blesses His people. All glory to Him! When you are on the road towards your destiny, it may not be the path that God intended for you to go on, but because of pressure from others or your own desires, He allows you to go, but with condition. You must be careful to do all that He says to do. God’s glory from your obedience is much greater than what any earthly man might try to honor and buy you with.
Much like the way we correct our children, because we know our children, our discipline is done out of love. We know that if we yell at our toddler who is about to cross the street, they might not like the correction at first, but in the end you saved your child’s life. Some correction may hurt at first, but I would much rather suffer a little than to suffer a lasting consequence. If you allow yourself some honest feedback and time in the Word, in worship, or in prayer then you can learn to receive the small adjustments the Lord brings to your life. The Lord knows how to correct you and because God loves you, he will allow correction to come. Come into alignment with His word showing that your are a good steward of what belongs to the Lord; you will then see the moving of the Lord on your behalf. When you are in alignment, Jesus is first! Now it’s time to Stand! Stand for Jesus. Stand for your family! “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” Joshua 24:15. Stand for what is right! Proverbs 3:12 says, “For those whom the Lord loves He corrects, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” Be encouraged that the Lord loves you.
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Mary Gough
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Sometimes we need to trim something dead from our life in order to grow and thrive.
The other day my daughter Caroline and I went to get our hair cut. My hair was a frazzled mess of split ends, and we could barely get a comb through hers without a lot of screeches, “ow’s!” + tears… It was time for a trim.
Caroline has this long, beautiful, red hair that has only been cut a handful of times in her 7 years of life. She has asked us to cut it short several times before, but we have said “no, not until you’re older” pretty much every time without thinking twice. (Why is cutting our children’s hair so emotional for us parents??)
So, this day we went in to get our cuts and they took Caroline back first, then me, with another stylist. I could see Caroline a few chairs over, but over the course of the haircut and chatting with my stylist, I stopped watching to see how Caroline’s trim was going…until she was done and came over to see me. Well…. that “trim” that she was supposed to get somehow turned into about 5 inches….and my baby girl with the long locks of gorgeous red hair now had a much shorter cut and looked about 2 years older.
I wasn’t ready, y’all.
But the smile beaming on her freckled cheeks told me that she was delighted with this new ‘do, despite any of my own reservations about it. So, I beamed right back and told her how beautiful she looked.
As the day continued, I noticed a little more pep in her step and as she bounced around the house. Her freshly snipped locks bounced with her, and she seemed lighter, freer, more her true self…not a little girl weighed down by a thick, hot, burdensome weight of unnecessary hair on her head. She even played soccer better! She was more alive. She had needed that haircut.
Can you relate to Caroline?
Sometimes there are areas of our lives that need a good cut, maybe even a whole new makeover, when a little trim just will not do.
That toxic friendship that thrives on gossip and wine O’ clock? That romantic relationship not rooted in the Lord. That job God told you not to take, but those benefits were too good to turn down and now you have no peace, time for your family, or time for the ministry He called you to. How about that business venture that makes you feel like you are “doing something” more than “just being a stay-at-home-mom?” Hmmm…. That one stung a little.
In John 15 I find these words of Jesus refreshing to my soul.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” -John 15:1-3
Did you catch that?
He cuts off the dead parts, and then He prunes us where we are ALREADY producing fruit, so that we will produce MORE. Have you ever been told that if you want to grow your hair out long, you need to cut off the dead ends first? It sounds counter-productive at first, right? Why would I cut something that I want to grow?
Why? Because it is holding you back from your true potential. It is keeping you from walking in the freedom Christ died to give you. It is keeping you from increasing your fruitfulness. It is DEAD WEIGHT.
For us to get back on track to the good and the glory God has planned for our life, we must let Him cut-away certain things that are not bearing fruit. This refining process is not pretty, or without hardship. In fact, it can be quite painful. But eventually, we are able to see the full perspective, and God’s hand in it. We see how losing that friendship, job, or whatever needed pruning from our lives led to healthier relationships, more fulfilling jobs, and more opportunity to serve a better purpose for the Kingdom.
Jesus goes on to say this: “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:3-5 NLT
Without direct connection to Jesus, we cannot produce new fruit. He is our Source. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Staying connected to Him produces perseverance, character, hope, purity of heart, cleansing of hands a transformed mind, and a life more abundant than we can ever dream of or imagine. That’s great news, right? But wait, there’s more…
One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes from 1 Peter 1 and it says this:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the entire world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him, and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3-9.
What an incredible promise! Our inheritance of living hope in Christ Jesus is unshakable. We can have confident expectation in a perfect, face-to-face union with the Maker and Lover of our souls - secured for us by Christ’s sacrifice and culminating in our one-day arrival in glory. We can rejoice in these trials knowing that the reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of souls, an eternity of rejoicing with glorious, inexpressible joy! Can you even fathom what that feels like?
Be encouraged today, sweet friends. You can be certain. In fact, you can bet your life on it, that He will use every situation to produce more fruit than you could ever imagine, for your good and His glory.
And that’s even better than a fresh haircut.
Guest Contributor: JEssica Chandler
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While I was thinking, praying and looking through scripture on how to begin this article, I began to catch myself comparing my writing and thoughts to others before myself. Comparison can be a dangerous rabbit trail that can be hard to get off of. It sometimes becomes our everyday thought process where we go through each part of our day comparing ourselves to others. Comparing two different people is like comparing apples to oranges because God created each human being in a unique way with certain personality traits, characteristics and behaviors.
One that always gets me is “Ugh why do I have to wake up so early?” “Can’t I sleep in like my husband?” That silly thought of that comparison goes through my mind every morning as my alarm goes off. It becomes hard to be content with our schedules, routines, lifestyles, and everything that goes on around us. Comparing houses, jobs, people, children, material things or even faith can be a tough thing to break free of.
Looking back on our lives, we have so much to be thankful for, even when we lack the things of the world. God has proved his faithfulness over and over by providing for our needs and He desires for us to be content with what we have been given. That is the big word that gets me everytime. Contentment. Today’s world tells us that you can never be content with the material things you may have and to always want the newest product.
As I am writing this, my thoughts turn to everything that I have been discontent with, especially in my adult life. I still find myself displeased with certain aspects of my life such as my job and house but always have to remind myself, what really matters? Does it matter that I please friends or that I am pleasing God with my thankfulness to what He has given me?
Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If we were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Every time I compare myself with others, I remind myself of that verse and ask myself, am I wanting to please God or others around me in this world? That is a difficult thing to grasp and to change.
Today, I am here to encourage you with something I feel God has put on my heart recently: The gifts that God gives are endurance, peace, perseverance, strength, salvation, love for others, faith and much more outweigh the material objects in this world. What God gives you far outweighs what the earth can give you and God’s gifts last an eternity. His gifts are like precious jewels that can never be repaid nor replaced and I am so thankful for what He has given my family and I. He is ENOUGH for you, for me, and for all of us. His love and grace and forgiveness is nothing that can be compared with. We are so blessed to be a part of his kingdom and we get to share those gifts with others!
Now as we move forward together in this, God calls us to be thankful for what He has provided us with, not what we lack. Instead of comparing ourselves with others, we can have this attitude of acknowledgement and thankfulness that God has placed a gift within us that is far greater than any material or earthly object.
Daily, I remind myself to THANK God for His goodness, His faithfulness and provision in my life and others around me. He is more than enough for us and everything we have is from Him, so it makes sense for us to use it wisely and be appreciative of everything that we have. Honor comes to mind as I am writing. Honor the One who paid the price for OUR sins. Honor the One who gives us all that we need. Honor God by thanking Him and giving to others in generosity, because He is enough.
This is my prayer today:
Thank you for your faithfulness in our lives. Thank you for giving us all we need, and when we are in need, let us remember that You are enough and Your goodness will satisfy our needs. Let us remember that You are the great provider and no one else. Let us remember that You provide us with everything we have, and let us be thankful for that. We know that you are enough for us! We love you,
Written by: Savannah Moore
I am very excited to share with you the heart of a woman I have known for several years. Her name is Julie. Not only is she a sweet friend and Christian sister, but she is a small business owner and an amazing artist! Here at Pretty & Wise, one of the many things we want to do is champion women in what God has put on their heart. Each one of us has a mission or calling that we can use to glorify Him. I interviewed Julie so we could share with you Julie’s story and her Godly heart behind her business.
For those who might not know, what does LittleJul offer?
Little Jul began as a handmade leather handbag business. I approach almost all my work as an artist doing one-of-a-kind pieces. And I’m so excited to be introducing a new collection of handbag products to my customers! I will share more about that below!
If you visit www.littlejul.com you will find some finished leather products for sale including handbags, jewelry and some hair accessories. I really enjoy doing vendor events as well and offering products of greater variety in person. Another portion of my business is various custom orders. Sometimes I remake a bag someone has really loved and worn out or make something in a favorite color such as a custom tote or clutch. It's also a lot of fun just to make specialized gifts and even repair sentimental pieces.
What is the inspiration behind LittleJul?
Little Jul is a product of all of my artistic and creative experience. I learned to sew and did a lot of arts and crafts from a young age with my mom. I studied art in college which is when the business name was born and when I first tried to sell a couple little sewn handbags in a store on consignment. Working with leather came more recently after my babies got a little bigger and a little more independent. When I found some time to get lost in the creative process in my home, between household chores and keeping children alive I felt so engaged and enlivened by the work. I just wanted to sell pieces so I could keep making and learning. The name is a simple nod to making a little something of value with my hands. I want there to be true little jewels among my works – pieces that bring light and joy and value to others.
How has your vision for LittleJul changed recently?
Little Jul began with just enjoyment of learning how to make leather handbags. I loved creating designs and the puzzle of construction and would really become engrossed in it. But during that learning time I also was dissatisfied and without vision wondering how this work of my hands could be of use to God.
Two years in (little profit- no paycheck) I realized I had to make something more of this or be satisfied with a hobby business. I had zero contentment about the latter option. So I started pressing into prayer about Little Jul.
Sure enough, God gave me some simple and clear inspiration and direction in my Bible reading time. Just as God told Moses, His words would be enough, I felt God’s calling to share His Words because they are always enough. No sermon, no explanation needed. Just share His Word right there on handbags. I realized I could stop doubting myself as an artist if I just focused on Him and not me. Because God’s word is more than enough.
God gave me a measure of talent and a desire to create. And I have a unique ability to bring God’s word to a niche of women who love His word too and want to share it in a simple way. Many of us don’t know where to start or how to share our faith in our everyday life. I believe the pieces in my new collection will start some conversations with other women - women standing at a store register with you or at a soccer game – women either like minded, needing encouragement or seeking. And who knows how God will work from those little moments and little seeds of truth.
How do you see your business growing your heart for God?
My work is now becoming my offering and I’m excited to see how God will multiply it! I feel so excited about my work this year and I’m motivated to share it with the world in a way I didn’t feel before. Fear has kept me small for a long time. As an artist, I’ve always felt incapable and inferior. But now whenever I feel insecurity knocking, I can remember that when I am following God – walking with God, I have no reason to give those fears power over me. With Him, there is no failure. Struggle- yes. Learning and pruning – yes. But failure- no. I'm learning to have and chase dreams with Him. And I'm learning to step forward in faith and belief in God's promises.
How can your business help others grow toward God?
My first collection focuses on God’s promises and releases April 2nd. Just as God kept promises to Moses and many others in scripture, God keeps His promises today. And there are so many rich promises in the Bible! I poured over choosing verses that show hope and encouragement and speak of God’s promises to us. Some of my very favorite verses are in this collection! And I hope someday to hear about how these verses on purses made a difference in someone’s life!
What do you see next for LittleJul?
I am just open to God’s plans and timing for Little Jul whatever that may look like. But I am very curious to see what God wants to do with this collection launch. I would love for this idea of custom painted handbags with scripture to be a large part of my business going forward because I feel like I am pursuing the Great Commission. I don’t want to live small and quiet. I don’t want to hide the light Jesus gave me under a basket. I want to share Him unapologetically.
I hope that you enjoyed reading about the heart behind LittleJul. As Christian women there are always going to be moments when we feel resistance about moving forward with what God has placed before us. We hit struggles we didn’t see coming, moments of apathy, heartache, and sometimes more serious things like illness. Julie is a great example of overcoming those things and trusting in God’s promises.
Julie’s new collection launched on April 2nd and is full of beautiful hand made items. Please take a moment to go over and admire (and purchase!) some of her work at www.littlejul.com . In support of the launch of this new line LittleJul has partnered with us for a giveaway as well! We will be giving away this hand painted, handmade beauty:
The Pretty & Wise Collective features: