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:
Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It’s interesting how, when I think of transition, there was a time when I know my mind would have envisioned a mama, prone and sweating, working hard to cooperate with her body to go through the necessary stages of bringing forth life.
In later years, I would have focused upon the transitions of my children from nursing to weaning, diapers to potty training, beginning homeschooling, learning to read. Driving, dating, learning, growing, each with their own struggles, heartaches, challenges, and obstacles to overcome along the way. Some offered by us, some by God, some just by life.
In this season transition looks like a nest emptied one little bird at a time, college tuition payments and wedding planning. Young adults learning to live on their own, make their own decisions, pave their own way as they are led not just by the ones who love them, but by the One that loves them most.
As a Mama, I look over the last 20 years of transition in my children that have led to transformation.
Give me just a second as I take off my glasses and wipe my eyes…what a journey we have taken together.
What a privilege it has been for me to care for these precious ones the Father has entrusted me with. What a challenge it has been for me to learn to transition into being the Mama of young adults who waits to be asked what she thinks rather than offering freely…who looks forward to time that is free to spend together… who is no longer the #1 human in their life…. transition indeed.
It’s beautiful and painful and difficult and joy-filled and hard.
I can’t help but wonder as my Heavenly Father looks back over our journey together, His and mine… if He doesn’t experience some of the same in His Father heart.
We have journeyed together through all the transitions that have transformed me from a fearful, doubting, angry child in a woman’s body to a still-in-process woman of God confident of her Father’s unwavering love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
Give me just a second as I take off my glasses and wipe my eyes…what a journey we have taken together.
When I consider my own journey, it’s been more fluid and less defined than those transitions I previously mention. In fact, the only clearly defined moment I can discern is the one in which I invited Jesus Christ into my life to be my Lord and Savior, my friend and King, my Beloved.
Every remaining transition has been more of an ebb and flow. Moments where truth revealed meets with a human heart that sometimes has chosen to bow right away and sometimes has not…. There are those transitions that take longer than others. Regardless of how long each transition has taken there are similarities among them all. Each transition initiated by my Abba Father has always begun with TRUTH.
The eyes of my heart being opened to the truth of His Word. A Holy-Spirit inspired awareness of where the evidence of my life poured out stands in contradiction to His Word of Truth. A first step to take beginning the aligning of my life with His Truth. A leaning on and relying upon His strength rather than my own to assist in the walking out of that step.
When I am stuck, this is the process that gets me unstuck. It’s just a matter of my own willingness to yield to the process of transition for the purpose of transformation.
What I know is this. Our Heavenly Father never sets us up for failure.
He is faithful and kind in the way that He has only ever presented truth He knew I was ready to not only hear, but to act on. He has never called me higher to a place He did not already know that I, through Him in me, could reach. After all, what kind of a good, good Father would offer expectations to us that we were not capable of reaching?
And although even in this very moment there are transitions taking place to continue to lead to that ultimate transformation of looking, acting and thinking like my Savior, He always sees me, and you, through eyes of faith, love and in hopeful expectation on continuing to become who we were created to be all along.
We want to connect with you and encourage you! Click here to join our community of women over at our Sisterhood Conversations page!
Guest Contributor: Tanya Glanzman
A Graduate from Liberty University, Tanya Glanzman, LPC is passionate about helping others live the life of freedom, joy and peace Christ died for them to have. She works with a variety of populations and issues, specializing in women’s trauma recovery. As a survivor of traumatic childhood abuse, her heart is that every woman would know God as the Healer, Redeemer and Restorer He desires to be for them. She speaks and writes as My Father’s Daughter, offering hope and encouragement wrapped in grace filled truth, with the mission that every woman would know what it truly means to be a Daughter of the King.
Her first book, My Father’s Daughter, Embracing your identity as a Daughter of The King, was released in 2020.
Jesus said we would all experience trials, yet he went on to tell us not to worry because He had overcome the world. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). How do we hold on to hope when trials come and we don’t see a way out?
When trials come, and we know they will, the most important thing we can do is to switch our focus off our troubles and onto the Lord, the source of hope and healing. Instead of allowing our thoughts to be filled with worry, fear and anxiety, spending time in God’s word will give us peace that makes no sense in our worldly circumstances. Stand on the truths found in these 10 Bible Verses for hope and healing. Write them down. Place them around your house so you can be reminded of God’s promises for healing.
My doctor looked at me with compassionate eyes before looking in my file and then ultimately asking, “What made you finally come in?”
“I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I tried to endure and it was more than I could handle on my own. I had tried everything I knew to do and it wasn’t enough,” I replied, wondering if he would chastise me for waiting so long before seeking medical attention.
Even as I said it, I thought about how often I’m like that with God: trying to do things on my own before ultimately turning to Him for help when nothing I do makes the situation any better. So often we try to do things in our own way and our own strength, when God wants to give us His plan and His strength.
There is a reason God warns us not to depend on our own understanding—He knows better than we do.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take”
“I’m sure you suspect what might be going on here,” he suggested, with one knowing eyebrow raised.
“I do, but in this situation, I’ll let you be the doctor and I’ll be the patient for a change.”
He sent me for tests and then for more tests. Even then the results were inconclusive and left us with multiple differential diagnoses—none of which were good.
“I want to send you for another consult, STAT. I know you’ll be tempted to worry about this over the weekend, but I don’t want you to go there,” he cautioned.
Pain is a funny thing. It can take a normally strong person and drain every ounce of strength from you, leaving you weak and vulnerable.
Pain can make you question everything you know to be true, and doubt what you would previously swear by.
Pain can make you withdraw from your social network and from God, or reach out in need of help.
Gratefully, he took my condition and my pain seriously, and cautioned me not to let my thoughts run amuck on the playground of worry, fear, and anxiety because that is exactly where the enemy wanted me to go.
I knew what the differential diagnoses were, and I didn’t like them.
A friend wisely reminded me, “Doctors diagnose and help treat us. Surgeons operate. GOD heals!” He is our healer and He still heals today.
That was where my focus needed to be—on our source of hope and healing. As long as God is on His throne, hope prevails!
I had a choice to make: I could let my thoughts go down the rabbit trail with worry, fear, and anxiety, or I could spend time in the word, focused on scripture for hope and healing, stand on the truths in those scriptures, and determine to trust God with whatever we faced.
A Prayer for Trusting God to Heal
“Lord, I know this doesn’t take you by surprise. And I know that you are bigger than any diagnosis that looms. You are Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. You have not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind, so I choose right now to use my sound mind to trust you to heal whatever it is we are dealing with. I thank you for this current trial because I know you use the trials in our life to strengthen our faith. Use this even now, Lord, for my good and for your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
After asking close friends to agree with me in prayer, I spent the next several hours in the Word, trusting the promises of God, declaring scripture for hope and healing out loud and claiming them for myself.
When you need healing, spend time in God’s word. Stand on the truths found in these 10 #BibleVerses for #hope and healing. Write them down. Place them around your house so you can be reminded of God’s promises for healing. #faith
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10 Bible Verses for Hope and Healing
If you or someone you love is in need of help, hope, or healing, I encourage you to declare these promises of God out loud and claim them for yourself as well. God’s word is alive and active, and it will not return void until it has accomplished what it was sent out to accomplish.
1. Jeremiah 17:14
“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14 NIV).
2. James 5:14-15
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).
3. Jeremiah 30:17
“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 30:17).
4. Jeremiah 33:6
“Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jeremiah 33:6).
5. 3 John 1:2
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (3 John 1:2).
6. Exodus 23:25
“Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you” (Exodus 23:25).
7. Isaiah 53:5
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
8. Isaiah 41:10
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
9. Isaiah 40:29
“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).
10. Psalm 30:2
“LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2)
When you are in pain, instead of allowing your thoughts to be filled with worry, fear and anxiety, spend time in God’s word. Stand on the truths found in these 10 #BibleVerses for #hope and healing. #faith
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A Prayer for Healing
May I pray for you?
I pray for the one reading these words right now. I don’t know what they are facing, but you do. Whether they are in need of physical healing, emotional healing, relationship healing, financial healing, or something else, Lord we trust you to be their healer. You are Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. You are the Great Physician, our redeemer and restorer. Restore everything to perfect order, Lord. Work all things together for their good and for your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Guest Contributor: Dr. Michelle Bengtson
We want to connect with you and encourage you! Click here to join our community of women over at our Sisterhood Conversations page!
For more hope, stay connected with Dr. Bengtson at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
Emil Brunner has said, “What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life.” Hope. It’s what we all need. Without hope, what reason would we have to live?
Why do we crave it so desperately? In short, in a world that is so uncertain, we want control. We crave certainty and predictability. The problem with that is that it’s inconsistent with faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV).
The thing that God wants more than anything from us is for us to believe in Him, have faith in Him, trust Him, despite our circumstances, despite what we see. Keeping our faith means putting our hope in a God who never lies and always keeps His promises. It means choosing to believe, choosing to put our trust in Him, choosing to hope despite what we see or experience.
Scripture tells us in John 16:33 (NIV), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We all experience trials and difficulties: medical diagnoses, job loss, estranged relationships, financial despair, failed marriages, and so much more. Hopelessness gives us no reason to continue fighting, no reason to live.
In this world, we tend to use the word “hope” when what we really mean is “wishful thinking.” It’s the kind of hope that anticipates something that may or may never happen; things that we long for: “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow;” “I hope my team wins the game;” “I hope we can get together soon;” “I hope I’m not late for work.”
This kind of “hope” suggests something that has the potential to be but offers no guarantees. It’s really akin to tossing a coin. That kind of hope is fleeting and unsatisfactory. It does nothing to abate our worry, fear, anxiety, discouragement, or despair, and often leaves us sitting on pins and needles.
That’s not the hope that God offers. Scripture tells us, “Your word is my source of hope” (Psalm 119:114). Those who have a relationship with God are offered a hope that means certainty because we know the God who never fails, never lies, and never breaks His promises.
As we read God’s holy Word, one thing that offers a hope that does not fail is one little word: will. Every time God says, “I will…” it always happens. When He told Abraham that He would bless him and multiply his descendants, it happened. When He told Moses He would harden Pharoah’s heart, He did. When He said He would bless the house of Israel, He did. When He said He would provide a Savior to rescue us, it happened.
During life’s most difficult times, when we need to hold onto something certain at a time when uncertainty rules, we need only look at the promises God has given us, in order for us to have hope:
During those times that we are tempted to feel hopeless, we must realize that is because we are putting our trust in people or things that are uncertain and may let us down. Instead, when we will put our hope, our faith, and our trust in God, we know that He will not disappoint. God never fails and never disappoints. We can trust in God, our hope in Him, with rock-solid certainty.
We want to connect with you and encourage you this week - Click here to join us over in the Sisterhood Conversation group as we dive into hope this month!
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: DR. MICHELLE BENGTSON
Dr. Michelle Bengtson is an international speaker, and the author of the bestselling, award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights From A Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the award winning companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study” and the recently released “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises” (Sept 2019). She has been a board certified clinical neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. This doctor knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to help others be all God created them to be. Using sound practical tools, she affirms worth and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of thirty-two years have two teenage sons and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com and is on most social media platforms. She is also a host of the award-winning podcast, “Your Hope-Filled Perspective with Dr. Michelle Bengtson” at https://apple.co/2madPRo
For more hope, stay connected with Dr. Bengtson at:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
I had no idea what was above me. I was focused on the stop sign to the right of me, or the people crossing the street, or changing the radio station in the car that day...I was not caught up in what was above me. But, suddenly - and I can't say why -- I looked up.
There I saw a brilliant display of nature. The sky was gorgeous. It was radiant, blue, red and purple hues strewn all over the sky. It seemed to convey the brilliance, the majesty and the beauty of God all at once. I would have missed it if I had kept my eyes on the million little things happening in front of me. I would have missed it if distraction had a greater hold on me than my desire to look up. I would have missed it if I wasn't aware that there is usually more than meets the eye.
Yet, I looked up. We are told in Scripture to -- look up.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:2)
Lately, I've been earthly focused. I see politics. I see news articles. I see what is not happening in my world. I see issues with people. I see problems.
Yet, essentially, God tells me -- Kelly, do not set all that -- look up!
I love how Isaiah 40:26 NIV says it... "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."
When we look up we don't get discouraged by what's raging all around. When we see higher, we get a higher perspective. When we look at what God has created, we remember He is Creator. We remember He can create a new thing at any time and at any moment.
This is rest.
Are you looking up -- remembering God's faithfulness? Giving thanks for what He is doing in your life today? Meditating on His Word? Singing of His goodness? Or, are you stuck in the muck of a million little distractions that are demanding your attention?
God is higher and stronger than everything and anything you may face today. Look up!
About “Rest Now: 7 Ways To Say No, Set Boundaries and Seize Joy”
If you feel overwhelmed, you're not alone. Three out of five people admit to doing more than they can manage. Thinking God requires this, we say, "I must be everything to everyone." Then we struggle and feel selfish and guilty when we say no, grow weary, or snap at someone out of sheer exhaustion. Is this what God desires? Somewhere along the line of being a good Christian, wife, daughter, or friend we lose sight of who we are in Christ. We put our performance above God and who he says we are. But what if we chose a more soul-full way?
Rest Now offers permission to breathe. It exposes the lies that distract, tire, and bully us, so we don't strive for rest but love from it, like Jesus did. Learn how to
- create boundaries that allow you to overflow with love
- say no so you don't hate yourself later
- ditch passive-aggressive behaviors in favor of healthy conversations
- embrace permission-giving thoughts to create mental space for God
About Kelly Balarie
Kelly is a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She’s a get-on-the-gloves kind of girl. By seeking God’s unending encouragement, she uncovers His deep callings right under the surface of her worst failings. Get all of Kelly’s Purposeful Faith blog posts by email for a dose of inspiration and encouragement. Kelly is a blogger at www.purposefulfaith.com, Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com. Her work has been featured on Relevant and (in)courage.me, and as the cover story on Today’s Christian Woman.
Earlier this year, our team gathered together to pray and decide on topics that we felt the Lord was putting before us to encourage, challenge, and strengthen women around the world this year through our blog, videos, and discussion on the Community. The topic of LEADERSHIP was brought to the table and immediately, two women came to mind... Pam Smith and Melanie Resendes. After talking with them and reading their thoughts on leadership, I (Lyndsay) was in tears. I needed to hear so much of this personally and I felt a big, fat confirmation that our choice in asking them to partner with us on the topic of leadership was 100% the Lord's influence and leading!
Pam and Melanie desperately love Jesus, their families, and the work God has put before them. While both are Boss Babes, each of them bring different strengths to their teams and have their own leadership style heavily influenced by Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are so blessed to call them each a friend and have this conversation together today! I'll let them introduce themselves and we'll let's get this thing started...
Melanie and Pam, thank you both for letting us glean from your fields here on the blog. We've got some real nourishment, encouragement, and refreshment from you both today! We appreciate your candor, vulnerability, and wisdom. You both have some deep wells and we are so so grateful for you, your ministries, and all that God is doing in you, through you, and around you.
We'd love to continue this conversation with all of you beautiful women on the Community so head over there and let's chat!
Did God speak to you through this conversation today?
What is He showing you?
How can we support you or champion you to grow in leadership and obey Jesus more today than yesterday?
You are so loved,
Pretty & Wise Co.
Who are you? To be honest, the issue of identity has plagued me for years. When asked the ever-common question like “tell me about yourself,” I’ve always wanted to curl up in a ball. I’ve never felt like the person I imagined I would become actually came true. Over the years, when the struggle of infertility seemed to define me, I’ve had a hard time fighting despair over what I felt my life was supposed to look like and the loss of my own expectations. To be honest, I only based my identity on fragile circumstances I thought I could control, and when I realized I had no control it was sort of hard to put one foot in front of the other.
For us, infertility meant building our family in a different way, through adoption. Adoption is born of loss. At the same time, adoption is a thing of exquisite beauty. Strangers become family, not through blood, but through intention. So much so, that studies have shown increased oxytocin levels in caretakers who were involved parents. The long and short of it is that even though you didn’t biologically birth a child, your blood chemistry can change based on care and commitment. But if we were living in a perfect world, adoption would not be necessary.
When my husband and I started the adoption process, loss was one of the biggest training points in our adoption education. Everyone in the “adoption triad” (the birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee) generally come to adoption with a sense of loss. Adoptive parents may have suffered from infertility or miscarriages, birth mothers face the fact that they won’t be able to raise the child they carried, and adoptees will have to come to grips throughout their life with their identity that their families look different than everyone else’s. Older children who are adopted, even into loving homes, have vivid memories of their first parents and the trauma they endured. They often have a difficult time wrestling with their new reality or identity even if it is a good one. Oddly enough, they sometimes long for their first families even if they are in a more stable, loving, and permanent situation now.
Sometimes, as believers we can also struggle with identity. We want to embrace God’s promise that we are children of God, but we are confronted daily with our past sin, pain, loss, and disappointment. We long for stability, yet we put our identity in things that are temporary.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.”
Our daughter is almost three years old and lately we watch a lot of animated movies (Thank you Disney plus!) If you’re not a fan of animation or Disney, bear with me for a moment, I promise I have a point. One of our daughter’s favorite movie series is Toy Story. In Toy Story 4, we’re introduced to Forky, a beloved friend and toy Bonnie, his kid owner, creates from items destined for the trash. Forky has a crisis of identity for most of the movie because he still believes he is trash and keeps running back to the trash can. The main character, Woody, keeps telling him, painstakingly, that Bonnie loves and values him. It takes much convincing for Forky to believe he does not belong in the trash bin. How many of you can relate? Knowing intellectually that we are loved by God but continually choosing the worthless things of this world because we don’t believe down deep that God’s love satisfies. God’s word tells us that we are holy and that we have great value, but yet often we do not feel holy. We do not feel like children of God. We do not feel worthy. We do not feel enough. Our past struggles sometimes scream at us that we are damaged, and even though it’s a lie, it feels more controllable to rely on the lie instead of trust in the whispers of God telling us the opposite. This leaves us disconnected from the one thing we truly need.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
“And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Simply put, sisters, God tells us who we are. We bear His image. The God who created every marvelous thing in nature, created us. Just as Bonnie fashioned Forky out of items that were destined for the trash and created her most valuable toy, God created us with design, intention and gives us our value. Christ became sin and gave his very life for us so that we could be saved from destruction. If we identify with our circumstances, we’ll find fear, brokenness and insufficiency. But just like Forky, we must constantly remind ourselves of who we are in Christ until His voice is louder than the voice of the enemy who tells us we are damaged. We must draw close to him as our Dad, even when we feel disconnected to that reality.
God is saying to us, “You are mine, and I take joy in you. You are my heart.” That kind of miraculous love is transformative, isn’t it? When we believe that, miracles are possible. God is not limited by bloodlines or brokenness. The same God who grafted wild branches into a natural tree is more than capable to transform sinful or broken orphans into children of God.
“After all, if you were cut out and grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree.”
Sometimes answers to the past are not readily found, but God is always near even when we don’t understand. Living in our new identity is a choice to believe in the unseen. We must cross the divide from what we know to be true and step out in faith as if our heart believes that it is true. We intentionally choose to walk in the truth of who God says we are, even when our circumstances don’t live up to what the world views as success. And when we do, we step back and watch the miracle maker write a story more fantastic than we could’ve ever written.
WRITTEN BY: LORI GREGORY
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John 15 is one of my absolute, hands-down favorite chapters in the Bible! Words penned in red spoken by my Savior, Jesus. I love the picture He paints for us. Check this out …
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit…
Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in Me…
I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”
Ten times in the first eleven verses Jesus used the word “remain”. I hope you are stepping in the truth of the matter here. If we want joy ~ we must remain in Jesus.
I looked up that word remain since it is the obvious key to joy. This totally blessed my socks off! Are you ready for this? By definition it means to continue to exist, especially after other similar or related people or things have ceased to exist. (Google Dictionary) Push pause and let that sink in.
Immediately the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” * came to my mind that says –
“Though none go with me
I still will follow
no turning back
no turning back.”
So, what does it look like to remain in Jesus Christ?
For starters, let’s get in the Bible and find out who this man is that refers to Himself as the Vine and the only One who can give us the joy that we are thirsty for. When you and I read the Bible and meditate on it, the Spirit of God will teach us not only who He is but also who we can be as His followers!
It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. A journey. That’s where the remaining comes in.
I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart March 12, 1981. My salvation and eternity were sealed that night! That part was once and done - I pray yours has been as well. With that established, let’s return to the analogy that Jesus gave us in John 15.
I became part of the vine that night. By reading the Bible, being taught and discipled by godly teachers and preachers, I have grown spiritually and the roots of my faith have gotten deeper. And guess what the fruit of that looks like? Yep, joy. Mmmmm say that word with me joy.
Joy is so different than happiness.
Happiness is dependent on my circumstances. Case in point: I purchased an adorable dress last summer. My post COVID quarantine-menopausal body has jerked the happy right out of my dance about that dress! See what I mean? Happiness is temporary and overrated!
Joy remains regardless of my circumstances because of who I am in Jesus Christ. Remember ~ it’s all about remaining in the Vine! The size of my dress doesn’t determine my identity nor the joy thereof! Can I get an amen?!
Now, take a sip of sweet tea or your favorite coffee and let’s switch gears.
Jesus gave us a heads-up in verse two of John 15. God, the Gardener, prunes every branch so that it will produce more fruit.
Sometimes God will cut things out of our life that brings us happiness. (Don’t spit that drink, sister!) He always prunes with purpose! He wants to produce something deeper in us. Something beautiful and more meaningful than temporary happiness. He wants us to have joy in His Son and our Savior!
The more I keep His commands and walk in His ways, the more He prunes non-essentials out of my life. As a result, the fuller and more complete my joy is!
I can’t produce joy in and of myself. No amount of retail therapy, pill, drink or earthly pleasure can bring me true, unadulterated joy! That, my pretty and wise sister, can only be found in Jesus Christ.
But take heed … you have an enemy that hates God and, therefore, hates you. Jesus gave us another heads-up about that schemer known as Satan. In John 10:10 Jesus warned us: “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
So, you know what we have to do? Guard our vineyard!
Song of Solomon 2:15 says, “Catch the foxes for us – the little foxes that ruin the vineyards – for our vineyards are in bloom.”
Mmmmm, girl, when you remain in Jesus by spending time in His Word and begin understanding who you are in Him, your joy-fruit will be in full bloom! That’s when you better watch out! Satan will attack!
He hits below the belt and he will use the people we love the most to try and steal our joy! He uses financial hardships, family drama, workplace chaos and the like to kill and destroy your joy!
Don’t put up with that! O Holy No!
It’s times like this that we are going to run to Jesus and tell Him to catch those foxes that are trying to steal, kill and destroy our vineyard of joy! Because, listen to me, those ‘people’ are not our enemy! Paul told us in Ephesians 6 that we don’t fight against flesh and blood! There’s a much bigger war that has been waged! Before you freak out, there’s good news!
Jesus went on to tell us in John 15 and 16 that we would face all kinds of trials and tribulations in this world. So, girlfriend, let’s not be caught off guard by them. Don’t get down and discouraged! Because in John 16:33 Jesus said, “Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
(I can’t believe John didn’t use an exclamation point right there!!)
Whew, that deserves a HALLELUJAH!
That’s the Vine that I want to remain in right there! HE is my Source of joy and the ultimate Defender of my vineyard!
Let’s put this ensemble together …
If we want joy, we must …
*I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, WORDS: St. 1,2, Garo Christians; st. 3 John Clark
Written By: Tina Craighead
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Tina Craighead is a speaker, blogger, and leads Still Waters Ministry. You can catch up with Tina on facebook, her website, or by email!
Photo by Nika Akin on Unsplash
What’s worship really made of? Is it a list of pre-planned songs we sing at our Sunday morning services? Or is it our devotion to diligent Bible study and prayer? Or is it so sacred and beautiful that it’s hard to define? I’ve been asking myself those questions these days because my life has taken a turn in a direction I never expected. Let me back up so I can paint the picture for you.
I used to be a traveling worship leader and Christian music artist. In those days, the essence of worship meant singing mostly. I thought worship was all about congregational singing, as well as my own private singing unto the Lord, and of course, church attendance. Our lives were full of sacrifices and discomfort as we led worship services on very little sleep or convenience sometimes.
It was a dream of mine since childhood to write and share the music God gave me with the church at large. I got to live that dream out for a few years. But then, life for my husband and myself changed dramatically. Within one year, we closed our business, church that we pastored and eventually my dream ministry crumbled. It was overwhelmingly challenging to pick up the pieces of my broken life and move on. But somehow, by God’s grace I pressed on to the next season.
That season involved a banking career that served to polish some of the rough places in me. I refer to that time as a providential prison. I felt trapped and I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps you have been in one or currently find yourself there. If so, hold on because God has a purpose for you there.
One of the things I truly learned in my prison season of confinement was the foundational truths about worship. It’s more than a song, more than a religious service, more than a script we follow. Worship is a complete and total lifestyle that flows from a heart of adoration fueled by obedience. Simply put: we worship God by being obedient in whatever He tells us. It’s how we express our love for Him and to Him.
I want to back this up by looking at Abraham’s life of obedience and worship. After 25 years of waiting on the promise, God gives Abraham a son. I can only imagine the tears of joy Abraham and Sarah shed over their bouncing baby boy. I’m sure Abraham carried a gleam in his eye when he met new people and said, “That’s my boy, Isaac” with a lump in his throat and a shaky voice. “We waited a long time for him!”
I’m sure fatherly pride spilled over into everyday life when Isaac did even small things well, like watering the sheep, or cleaning up their pens. Abraham probably went overboard with his parental praise of Isaac. How could he not? Isaac was the child of promise. To say Abraham was a doting parent would probably be an understatement. Wouldn’t we all feel that way?
So we can all feel the stab of pain in Abraham’s heart when God issues the strong command in Genesis:
Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.
“Whom you love so much”........
Whom you waited so long for.....whom you cried over for many years.......your pride and joy.........your promise
Has God ever asked you to take the very thing He gave you and lay it down on the altar as a sacrifice? Perhaps a ministry that you care deeply about and waited for a very long time for? Or maybe it was a career you loved and you were at the top of the world there? What about a relationship you thought He brought into your life that was a promise fulfilled? But now He is asking you to put it on His brazen altar.
Friends I have been here. Actually, I am here right now. It’s not easy and it doesn’t make sense. But this is the essence of true worship: obedience flowing from a heart in adoration of God.
Abraham defines his act of obedience as worship:
The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
Abraham didn’t say he and Isaac were going to sacrifice an offering, he said “we are going to worship.”
We can make sacrifices all day long to try and show God our love and devotion, but that’s not worship. Those are nice and all, but it is obedience that moves God’s heart. Think for a minute about Saul when he refused to wait on Samuel to make the sacrifice but took matters into His own hands and made the sacrifice. He thought (as we mistakenly do sometimes) that God would honor the sacrifice because it cost him something and showed his piety and earnestness toward God. But as we all know, God was angry and declared that He would remove the kingdom from Saul. And just 2 chapters later Samuel says this:
Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.
And with those words he pronounces judgment and the removal of the kingdom from Saul. Sacrifice is not always worship friends; obedience is.
I believe the reason God chose David over Saul was his heart of obedience and worship. Yes he made mistakes, but his track record of obedience is quite astounding. He rarely EVER prematurely acted without a word from the Lord and then he always followed through with swift obedience. That’s why God referred to him as “a man after my own heart.”
Friends, just because something seems sacrificial and hard doesn’t make it the thing God wants from you. Sometimes whatever God is asking of you might involve sacrifice (like it did with Abraham) but even in that He provides what is needed! Just like he did with Abraham and the ram caught in the bushes, which by the way was a symbolic foreshadowing of Jesus, God will provide the sacrifice. Your act of worship is the obedience part. But sometimes God may be calling you to a quiet life of a wife and Godly mother to your children, but you really wanted a platform ministry. So you think sacrificing, staying up late, working really hard to get opportunities is what God wants from you and that it’s your duty to build this ministry, career, etc. But what if God is calling you to obedience to focus on your spouse and children right now? Can you do that?
The truth is that when you obey God to lay down your own ideas of sacrificing for Him and instead obey Him, He considers that worship! And He blesses and honors that. You will have the privilege of experiencing His presence in such a powerful way. In all of my years on this earth, no calling or success has ever compared to experiencing His powerful and beautiful presence in my life.
When I truly worship, I encounter the living God who fills me with such love I become undone. Let me give you my real life example, if you would be so kind to hear me out.
A couple of months ago, a group of us felt the call to start a prayer room. Within a month we were hosting multiple worship and intercession sets during the week and I was helping lead several of them. I enjoyed it immensely, but it was a sacrifice. Some of the sets were at 5am. We were interceding for our communities, churches, nation, the world etc.
I thought that God must be pleased with our sacrifice, surely. But then I started to feel a tug at my heart. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I wasn’t being a caring wife or mother. I was so focused on the prayer room that my family was getting crumbs from me.
The tug on my heart started to turn into overwhelming conviction. My husband works out of town and rarely comes home. I decided to decrease my outside ministry drastically and go be with him several times a month. I did it because I love him of course, but also because I felt the Lord issue a command to me. As a wife and mother, I feel my primary calling is to help my husband and care for my daughter as well. So I am obeying the Lord and focusing on my family.
That’s worship to the Lord, friends. It’s a beautiful, sweet smelling scent that is rising up to Him. Don’t cave in to the pressures of this world’s view and systems that tell you what’s important and that you have to sacrifice to get what you want. No, you have one need: to be obedient to your God. Sacrificing to get something from God is manipulation. Ouch! It’s counterfeit worship in real terms. That’s the reason God cannot accept it.
So I encourage you today to rethink your view on worship. Get into alignment with God and how He defines it. Let your worship and love for God flow from your obedience and experience His beautiful presence in your life. This is what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.
Written by: Shana Strange
Shana is a recording artist, worship leader, speaker, writer, and podcaster (and so much more)! Catch up with her on Facebook or her website: www.shanastrange.net
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