We are declaring February as BGC Love Month! We’ll be giving away bling, signed books, and home decor every week for the month of February! Check out our Facebook page to follow us and have a chance to win!
To kick it off…
We had a chance to sit down with Best Selling Author Holley Gerth and she wanted to give away some of her books to YOU! Special thanks to Holley for hookin’ us up! We’ll start with this one…Here’s a signed copy of her book “You’re Going to Be Okay”. You’ll have a chance to enter your name in multiple times.
Check out our Facebook page to participate!
Here’s how it works.
Like this post = 1 entry
Like and Share this post = 3 entries
Like, Share, comment = 5 entries
Like, Share, Comment, Tag a friend = 10 entries (yes, we said 10!)
I am in a unique position today. As I read and hear opinions from opposing sides of the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage, my heart gets it…from both sides. My position is unique because I identified myself as a lesbian and was part of the LGBT community for several years, yet I am now married to a wonderful man and together we have a beautiful son.
I would like to apologize for Christians who are not acting like Christians towards the LGBT community. It is not anyone’s job to condemn. God’s word tells us we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. I have no right or authority to consider myself better or more righteous than anyone else. For it is by God’s grace alone that I have been saved, through faith, which is not of myself. It is a gift of God so that I cannot boast for what I’ve done (Ephesians 2:10).
Because of my own past, I believe I have a great understanding of the hearts of those who are living within the LGBT community. When I read their thoughts, I totally get it, and my heart aches. They just want to be heard and want to love the person they love. They want that love recognized just as heterosexual love is recognized. They can’t help the way they were born. They didn’t choose it, it chose them. What is wrong with loving someone? After all…GOD. IS. LOVE. He CREATED it! Those are the same thoughts and words that came out of my mouth for several years. I knew I was born gay. I was the girl who hated wearing dresses and begged my mom for a San Diego Charger’s football uniform when I was 6 years old. My favorite thing to do was play tackle football, turn my G.I. Joe men into ruthless warriors, beat the boys in sports, walk, talk, and dress like a little dude. I was all “boy” yet I was still a girl.
So I get where the LGBT community is coming from because I was once a huge part of it. I lived the lesbian lifestyle for years and appreciated and valued everything it stands for. To this day, I have many LGBT friends and I adore them because they are beautiful people on the inside and out. Several have been in long lasting loving relationships with one another and have exemplified a strong commitment to each other for years. I believe it is possible to do that. But I also believe there’s more to it than that.
When it comes to my own personal journey as a lesbian, my parents and friends knew about it and I was free to live how I wanted to live. But something happened to me. I had developed into an alcoholic. I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous and was in and out of A.A. for a few years until I finally came to a place of complete brokenness and surrender. It was there that I began to rely on God in every moment of my life in order to stay sober. My sponsor in A.A. recommended not dating anyone while getting sober so that I wouldn’t shift my dependency from alcohol over to another person. She was well aware of how I identified myself and loved and accepted me anyway. I’ll forever be grateful for that. Her main concern was that I focused on God and healing. I didn’t dream where it would take me, but I knew it was working. I was staying sober. It was through that sobriety that I started discovering things about myself that I had never looked at before…ways I viewed men and women.
I saw great strength and power in the male gender and that’s what I wanted to possess. But I also rejected men because I didn’t trust, respect, or value them because of what I had witnessed in my life, different ways men had devalued women. I vowed that would not happen to me and I saw no use for men. I knew I could be successful without a man and would never have to deal with being hurt by one.
Then there was the other part of me that never felt good enough as a female. I rejected many facets of my femininity because I equated them with weakness. I held onto some of those feminine traits because I didn’t want to embarrass my family, or those traits didn’t show too much weakness, or they gave me power in some way. I came to rely on those qualities for success in many areas of my life. But when I saw women that possessed qualities I lacked, I was attracted to them…qualities that were nurturing, gentle, vulnerable, loving, feminine, and beautiful. When I received attention from those females it made me feel important. The more attention I could receive, the more value I felt within myself. Plus, it was easier. I clicked easily with women because they thought, in many ways, the same way I did…because they were women. Also, I TRUSTED women. They were SAFE. That connection also made me feel validated because of that internal rejection within myself about my own femininity. Plus, women were loyal. Not so self-seeking as I believed men to be. And I would be the protector and strong one…the one always in control.
As I continued my journey in staying sober and focusing on God, He began softening my heart towards men. As I grew in Him and my heart began healing, I was able to forgive men that I witnessed hurting others. I also made amends with men that I myself hurt and used for my own selfish gain. As that process continued I began to value men and see how special they really are and how they complement women just as women complement men. I also had the gift of witnessing Godly men around me who were amazing husbands to their wives. They displayed the biblical view of how a husband is to treat his wife. I saw their wives displaying Godly character as well towards their husbands. I couldn’t believe it, my thoughts were changing. My respect and value in men and in marriage began increasing. Along with that, I began to see myself as God sees me. The more I understood who He is, the more I understood who I am in Him. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, the daughter of the One True King. Beautiful. Radiant.
I began to realize that God created men and women to BOTH serve a great purpose. We were BOTH CREATED IN HIS IMAGE, and TOGETHER, when unified with one another, we represent the full of image of God and His relationship with us. That was such a new revelation to me. I never fully understood that until I began to study His word.
Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
A little later in Genesis 2:24, God says, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Marriage is an earthly tangible example of God displayed among us. It also shows the beauty of how much He loves us and wants to dwell among us because He is going through US to represent HIM. God created love so that we could experience Him and use that experience to glorify Him. The way we glorify Him is using love the way He intended it to be used…to represent Him.
In Matthew 19:4, Jesus was talking to Pharisees about questions they had regarding divorce. Although the supreme court’s decision does not pertain to divorce but to same sex marriage, Jesus is reaffirming God’s divine creation. Jesus himself said, “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but ONE. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
This was a very powerful statement by Jesus because He not only reaffirmed what God said hundreds of years prior, but he excluded any deviation from God’s original design by clearly stating man and woman. There’s no other way around that statement. He didn’t say, “A man will leave his mother and father and be united with the person he loves.” Jesus was/is all knowing because He was/is the Son of God. He knew what was to come in the future and that there would be this concept of sexual orientation. All He has to say is a man will be united with his wife and that excludes all other forms of two people becoming one flesh, and that’s exactly what He said.
There is also another divine representation of marriage that absolutely cannot be dismissed. A repeated theme occurs throughout the bible referring to the church as the bride of Christ and as Christ as the bridegroom.
A marriage between a man and woman represents the love between Christ and the church, where He gave himself up for her.
In Ephesians Chapter 5, Paul is talking to husbands and wives. He reaffirms just as Jesus did, as he repeats the scripture in Genesis stating “For this reason, man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Then Paul goes on to say, “This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the Church.”
And in Revelation 21, this chapter refers to the coming wedding between Christ, the bridegroom, and the church, His bride.
Marriage is the communion WITH God and the image OF God and the symbolic representation of His Son Jesus’ loving union with the church, His people.
Although I do believe there are same sex marriages that can experience happiness, I also believe this union denies the all-encompassing, magnificent, divine beginning of creation. A marriage between two men only represents half of who God is and the same with two women. It also denies the bride/groom relationship that is repeated throughout the bible – Christ’s loving union with His people, the church.
Any of us can deviate from God’s sexual design in many other ways other than just homosexuality. God has given us free will to do so. The terms “hetersosexual, homosexual, transgender, and many other forms of gender identity or sexual orientation that exist, are all man made terms. God made us sexual beings who, when unified, were meant to represent Him and His relationship with us. We must be careful to respect The Artist’s design. Afterall, HE created US.
Jesus paid a price so that we could live free of shame and condemnation so that we could be of service to God. Because of that, I can live in a peace and freedom that allows me to love others just as He loves us. Loving Him also means obeying Him and respecting His word because God IS the word.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God”
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
Love Really Wins
If we love Him, we will desire to keep His word. We will not be perfect in doing so because we are sinners incapable of living out a perfect life. That’s why we need Him in our lives. That’s why He gives us grace and His mercies are made new every morning. I personally will mess up every day. But as I put Him first in my life, He continues to transform different parts of me into the likeness of Him. That’s why I need Him in my life daily. He IS my daily bread. I cannot be transformed without Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing according to His will, because apart from Him, I am a sinner and will carry out every sin I want. Today, I want Him to be my daily bread because I have experienced how good He is. The fruit of putting Him first in my life is by far greater than any other way I have ever lived.
Jesus sat at the table and dined with sinners hoping they would see something different in Him, something better, something especially beautiful, and choose His way over their own. That’s what He wants us to do today.
If you are a skeptic or not a believer in Christ Jesus as the son of God, what I’m saying may not resonate with you. God’s word tells me this in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I highly recommend you research the word of God. The more I have studied Him, the more I understand His divine plan on this earth and the more His Sovereignty astounds me.
Today, I sit here blown away by the work God has done in my life. Ten years ago, I would never have imagined I would be sitting here writing these words about who God is and how He has transformed my life. There are many moments, especially as I cook dinner with my husband or enjoy the sweet embrace of my son’s hugs that melt me to no end, I shake my head in disbelief. He can do the same in yours if you let Him.
If you are in disagreement with how God has designed marriage, please know that I love you in the midst of our disagreement. I realize this post may cause me to lose friends simply because of my stance on marriage. I hope that’s not the case. I’m not here to stir up trouble. I’m here to kick it and experience life to the fullest. For me that consists of being transformed into the likeness of Christ so that others may know Him through my example. He loves and because I love Him and want to be like Him, I love too. That means you’re included because He loves you and therefore, so do I.
Love. Really. Does. Win.
I’m writing this letter about twenty years early (or forty if your father has his way), but one day you will read these words and they will connect. They will mean something to you. What I need to tell you can be summed up in one word: WAIT.
Let me explain…
Yesterday I was resting in my favorite chair. It was about 5:00 pm, and I had been feeling under the weather all day. I sat and watched your daddy take stacks of folded clothes from the couch into our bedroom to put them away. Stacks that I folded two days ago and that I could have easily put away, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. He didn’t say anything; he just did it. He did it for me because he knew I needed help. And as I watched him, I had to fight back tears because I suddenly had this thought: “I hope Molly finds this some day.” And I think you will, if you can remember to wait. Wait on the guy who finishes your chores for you – who comes through in little ways to let you know he cares.
Wait on the man who looks you in your eyes and holds your gaze as he tells you you’re beautiful. Wait on the man who has a habit of telling you this when your hair is greasy, you’re makeup-free, and you’re wearing yesterday’s sweatpants. You’ll know he means it.
Wait on the man who gets up and goes to work. Wait for the guy who sacrifices in order to provide for his family. Wait for the guy who has a strong work ethic and takes pride in what he does. Wait for that man who dreams big and invites you to dream with him.
And when your dreams seem too big, too scary to ever come true, I hope you wait for the one who listens to your insecurities but then speaks truth into your heart and breathes confidence into your spirit. This man will bring you to tears by reading Proverbs 31 to you, telling you YOU’RE that woman, and believing it with every fiber of his being.
Wait for the man who thinks for himself – the man who stands apart from the masses unapologetically because he is rooted and grounded in God. Wait for the man who doesn’t need anyone’s approval. The man who teaches you how to be brave and courageous. The man who will fight for you and for what he believes in. Wait for this man.
Wait for the man who looks at the stars with you and ponders the mysteries of the heavens. Wait for the one who writes you poems…not all the time, but just enough to remind you how deeply his love for you goes. Wait for the man who buys you jewelry and flowers, but no stuffed animals (because that’s just cheesy)!
Wait for the man who makes you feel strong, capable, and worthy. Wait for the man who would never disrespect you. The right one will honor you even when he’s out of your presence. You wait on this man, and your heart will never doubt him.
Wait on the man who allows God to break him down and mold him into the man he’s meant to be. Wait on the one who has a calling to serve his Heavenly Father. Wait on the man who isn’t perfect, but who keeps pressing on, getting back up, and learning from his mistakes.
And finally, wait on the man who smacks your booty when he walks by, who hugs you for a full 60 seconds when you need him to, and who gives you amazing massages, even though you’re quite possibly the world’s worst masseuse and will never be able to repay him!!
My darling daughter, one of these days you will be wondering if it’s love and if some boy is the right one. My prayer is that your daddy will set such a high standard in your eyes, that you will never be tempted to settle for anyone less than who you deserve. Don’t get in a hurry to find love. Don’t feel pressured to give yourself away. WAIT. Wait on the Lord, and He will send you a man who is everything to you that your father is to me. God will grow the love between you as the years pass. Your patience will be rewarded.
(Check out Emily’s blog here)
I was never a girl scout. I never camped out. I never sold cookies. I never earned a sash full of merit badges.
However, the other day as I pondered God’s grace, His unmerited favor, I realized that in many ways I am trying to be a girl scout right now in my everyday life. And, in some ways, without really realizing it, maybe you are too.
For me, I have always thrived on order and doing my best. Making things “perfect.” I never rebelled as a teenager or any other time. I liked following the rules and receiving the praise that accompanied that choice. That was my identity, and I worked hard to keep it intact. Still to this day, that pretty much sums up how others would describe me because that is what the world sees.
Whether you are a rule-follower like me or not, you could still be an unknowing girl scout. Let me explain.
So many of us, get up each morning and put on a sash without even realizing it. It is a sash of our own making, each one different. As we go about our day, we work and we strive to earn badges to decorate our sashes, hoping those awards will prove to ourselves and to others that we have value. That we are worthy of their attention. These badges come in all shapes and sizes.
Some (like me) might be trying to earn the badge of BEST MOM as you precariously balance PTO, potlucks, car-rider lines, sports practices, bed times and bake sales—all with a smile to make it look as if “it’s no trouble at all.”
Others might be working to earn the BEST WIFE badge by catering to your husband’s every wish out of love and a hope that he will notice and return your love in some way.
Still others are striving to receive the MOST RELIABLE EMPLOYEE badge as you work your tail off day in and day out to gain the admiration and respect of your boss, and maybe a promotion as well. Working to pull yourself up the corporate ladder rung by rung as you aim for the top.
The list of possible badges could go on forever. BEST VOLUNTEER, MOST WITTY, MOST FUN AT PARTIES, PERSON WHO NEVER SAYS NO, MOST CONSISTENT BIBLE READER, MOST CREATIVE, PINTEREST WORTHY HOUSE, BEST PHYSIQUE, MOST ADVENTUROUS and on and on.
You name it. There’s a badge for that.
The thing we all have in common when we try to earn these badges is EXHAUSTION—physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or maybe all of the above. These badges we try so hard to earn and place carefully on our homemade sashes are only temporary, no better than stickers really. They NEVER LAST. We constantly feel the burden to do more and better to keep them in a place of prominence, where we and everyone else can see them. These flimsy badges fall off and fade so we must earn them again. It is a vicious cycle that leaves us feeling worn out and defeated.
The good news is we can stop. Right here. Right now.
We can rip off those homemade sashes that cause us so many headaches and heartaches and toss them into a blazing campfire because there is something better. MUCH BETTER. However, it is not found in ourselves. It is only found in JESUS.
Jesus says we can stop working and striving when we whole-heartedly place our trust in Him. In Jesus we can say good-bye to working and striving and instead embrace quietness and rest.
“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 32:17-18)
That. Sounds. Amazing.
This righteousness is Jesus’ perfect righteousness that He gives to us FREELY because of His grace, His unmerited favor. We couldn’t earn it if we tried. He left Heaven and came to Earth to do all that was required. His suffering on the cross, His death and resurrection was enough now and for all eternity to earn the only sash each one of us will ever need, and He holds it out to us as a FREE GIFT.
His sash is infinitely better than our own. It is beautiful. It is eternal. It is completely COVERED by the blood of the Lamb and full of badges. Unmerited badges, gifts that we most definitely did not earn. Not a single spot remains empty because it is complete. We do not have to do a single thing to finish it. And, the badges found on His Sash are far better than those we try to earn. They proclaim not what we have done but the glorious riches we have in Christ. REDEMPTION, FORGIVENESS, AMAZING GRACE, MERCY THAT IS NEW EACH MORNING, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, UNENDING JOY, A GLORIOUS INHERITANCE, PROTECTION FROM THE EVIL ONE, UNFAILING TRUTH, ABUNDANT GOODNESS, THE HOPE OF GLORY.
These are only a handful from an infinite list from our infinite God. I believe the longer we wear His sash and choose it as our permanent, everyday accessory, the more gifts we will see it represents. As Beth Moore wrote, “Make us as eager to wear Your righteousness and holiness as You are to wear our sins.” (JESUS: 90 Days with the One and Only)
So, who is ready to trade in their old, worn-out sash for a beautiful, perfect, eternally-unfading one on which the badges say, “Beloved Daughter of the King”? I know I am. Let’s wear them proudly as we gather around the campfire to rest and sing praises to the one who makes it all possible. JESUS.
I hope and pray you will join me.
(And maybe we can munch on a few of those delicious cookies while we are at it.)
Questions to ponder…
What badge(s) am I trying to stick on?
What has Jesus given me that is better?
Bonnie shares her courageous story of how her world was turned upside down by the sudden tragic death of her husband. Facing the world now as a pregnant single mom and mother of a two year-old, her hope grew weary. But God’s faithfulness and love prevailed and Bonnie found more than she could have ever asked or imagined. Watch her story below.
Special thanks to Right Now Media for producing Bonnie’s story and for Bonnie’s courage to share her heart and truth with us. We don’t take it lightly. Thank you Bonnie.
“All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband. We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…”
Words from a post I wrote a little over a year ago titled “My Prodigal Husband“.
Words that still rang true exactly one month ago today…
But MAY I SHOUT a little here at BraveGirl Community today?!! Because…
MY PRODIGAL HUSBAND HAS RETURNED HOME!!! He is REALLY HOME! Can I get an AMEN?!!!
So they began to CELEBRATE .-Luke 15:24
Friends – I would love for you to praise the Father for His goodness and His faithfulness for what HE has done! I am in awe of His relentless pursuit of my man.
God NEVER gave up on him.
And can I just say that if you are reading this and you are in the wait for your prodigal to return, you’re in the wait for that miracle, you’re in the wait for that answer to a long awaited prayer…We SERVE a GOD who is Faithful and who is ON TIME…even when we don’t understand. I wrote a post titled In The Wait as I longed for my husband to return. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of who our God is.
My “wait” has been a 10 year journey and I have experienced every kind of emotion and heartache imaginable. And I can tell you, with confidence, that I would not trade a single day. Because without each and every trial- I wouldn’t have grown or known Jesus like I do right now. The fruit I am experiencing in this moment is priceless. It’s a sweetness of the Father lavishly loving on His children…It’s a contagious laughter that had been stifled by the lack of joy in my home…It’s a feeling of UNITY where the enemy THOUGHT he divided and conquered…
JESUS is the way maker where there seems to be NO WAY.
Below is a video of my husband and I having the privilege to share a small part of our story.
I pray it will encourage you wherever you are and whatever you may be going through to remember the relentless pursuit of God and that our Hope is in Jesus ALONE. He WILL NOT stop pursuing the one…
DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.
Scott and Cheryl share a part of their journey. Click here to watch: https://vimeo.com/225758712
Your Sister In Christ,
Thoughts on dreams:
Sometimes we get lost in our dreams as if that’s all they are: dreams. We don’t consider that God planted these desires in our hearts for a reason and that when the time is right, they will come to fruition.
Sometimes, when we least expect it, God gives us our dreams–plops them right into our laps. Other times, after much prayer and planning, we have to put that first foot forward and take a step towards putting that dream into action–a virtual leap of faith, trusting that the ground doesn’t fall out from underneath us and that God will show up and bless our obedience.
Another thing I’m learning about dreams is that when we’re right in the middle of where God wants us to be, the enemy will do whatever he can to make us doubt our dream. What better way to derail us than to steal our joy while in the midst of our God-given dream? Or make us doubt what at one time we were sure was God’s calling on our lives?
If the enemy wasn’t successful in talking us out of pursuing our dreams in the first place, he will darn sure try to make us abandon the mission once we’ve started it.
He might taunt us with the fear of failure or consume us with self-doubt and anxiety. He might rob us of joy or meddle in our relationships–whatever he can do to distract us from pursuing the path that God has called us to.
Because a daughter of the King who has embraced her calling is a dangerous force to be reckoned with, and her potential impact on the Kingdom terrifies the enemy.
So. Let me encourage you today. Be aware of the schemes of the enemy. Fight against whatever he is currently using in your life right now to keep you discouraged and off track.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…Stand firm.”
(Eph. 6:10-11; 14a)
Sister, be brave in the face of adversity. And keep dreaming big for Jesus.
“There must be more than this provincial life.”
– Belle, Beauty and the Beast
Maybe so, Belle. Maybe so.
I think it’s easy to get lost in daydreams of something better when what we already have is actually pretty great. (In Belle’s case, her adoring father, cute hometown, seemingly carefree schedule, unlimited access to books, various admirers, and not to mention her physical beauty and figure…)
I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Belle’s ache for the next big thing is relatable, there’s also something to be said for living a life of contentment.
I’m not talking about a life without dreams and aspirations. I’m talking about a life driven by gratitude rather than dissatisfaction. A life defined by the beauty of simplicity instead of the complexity and pain of comparison.
Like Belle, I’m guilty of getting lost in the wistful woe of wanting something more than what God has provided me with, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. I often compare my body to other women and deem myself inadequate if I feel I fall short. Sometimes instead of accepting the body God gave me and working to make it the best it can be, I wallow in what no longer comes naturally to me anymore, i.e. a fast metabolism and ability to eat a whole pizza by myself and not gain an ounce of weight.
There must be more than this provincial body of mine…who’s with me on this?
Perhaps you struggle with finding contentment with your physical appearance as well.
Or maybe you struggle with contentment in your marriage. Have you ever thought there must be someone else out there who could make you happier than the man you’re married to? Do you compare your husband to your friends’ husbands and take mental notes of what they do that yours doesn’t do?
Maybe your home/car/finances aren’t quite measuring up to what you dreamed they’d be at this point in your life.
What is it about your current situation that you wish were different?
Once you figure out what the biggest areas of discontentment in your life are, ask yourself this: Is the thing you’re struggling to live joyfully with something that at one time you considered to be a blessing?
You see, blessings grow dull and get blurred by discontentment when we allow comparison to creep into our hearts.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.”
There’s not a whole lot that sounds better than a tranquil heart after being worn down by years of discontentment and comparison. The question is, how do we honestly overcome the way we’ve grown to see our circumstances that for so long we’ve deemed as subpar?
My sister went to Honduras a couple of years ago and told me about a woman she saw there who lived in a house with a dirt floor. Yet, every day, this woman was seen sweeping her floors. She didn’t have very much, but she valued it anyway and did her best to take care of it.
Even though I didn’t see her with my own eyes, the image of this lady sweeping her dirt floors stuck in my mind. When I think of her, I’m struck by the beauty of her contentment and the value she placed on what little she had. This is how we are called to care for the blessings we have been entrusted with. I think we keep on taking care of our bodies because it’s the only one we have. We pour into and invest in our marriages because it’s what we vowed to do. We work our hardest for the employer that hired us because they did so in good faith. We value what God has entrusted to us, whether it be a dirt-floor house or just the smallest one in the neighborhood.
I think we start acting like what we have is valuable–we water our own grass–then we watch it inevitably thrive as most things do when they are treated with care.
May we begin to see our surroundings with fresh eyes, full of gratitude and grace so that we may be able to confidently claim contentment in all things. (Phil. 4:11)
It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.
Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.
I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.
As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.
Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…
My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”
My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.
Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!
I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.
There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.
Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!
With much love,
We hear about abiding. Abiding in Jesus. Abiding in His Word. Abiding in the vine. But what does that mean? How does this work? It should be easy, right? But some days, abiding can feel hard and maybe even scary. We feel far from God or question if we are “doing it right.”
A few months ago, I was praying and felt like God gave me this beautiful picture of what it looks like to abide in Him:
I look out. My view is breathtaking. I see Amazon-like rainforest stretching out as far as the eye can see. Lush green growth. Hills and trees far into the distance. I am up above it all but also surrounded by thick leafy green. My view is shaded and framed by branches and leaves, a thick canopy above me and a living floor of leaves and ferns below me. I am clinging to a vine, suspended high above the ground. This vine I cling to is The Vine. It is thick and strong and healthy. Even with my full weight on it, it is secure. I am confident it can and will hold forever and never fail if I continue to cling to it. So, I cling. I hold it with a death-like grip that makes my hands ache. I cling with everything I have out of fear of what will happen if I don’t. I am safe, but there isn’t rest.
As I cling there, I begin to look around. I see other vines hanging nearby. They aren’t nearly as thick and strong as The Vine, but I think, “If I just grab onto one or two of those as well, I will be more secure. After all, more is better. Right?” I reach out and grab one vine. Then I notice two more close by so I grab those as well. These other vines seem to be helpful. They seem to add to my security. They are things like money, recognition, relationships, careers, material things. However, with each small vine I add, my grip on The Vine gradually loosens as it becomes just one among many that I am trying to grasp.
Suddenly, one of the small vines fails and falls to the ground. I am shaken to the core as the earth seems to crumble around me, and I slip down until I grip The Vine once again. Over time, this happens again and again. All the other vines fail. Some quickly. Some over time. But one by one they all fail. They all fail to last. They all fail to give true security. They all fail to be trustworthy and faithful.
After surviving these failures and disappointments time and time again, I realize something.
THE Vine is still there. The one that has always been there. The Vine that is secure. The Vine that is strong. The Vine that has never failed and will never fail.
I realize something else as well. I am still clinging. Even though life has been filled with heartache, I am still clinging, and I still know deep in my heart this is the only vine that will last. I will cling only to it. The other vines are still there, always nearby. From time to time one falls to the ground. But now, their falling does not cause me to be shaken because I am holding on to The Vine.
So, instead of looking around for other vines to grab, I begin to look at and study The Vine. The more I pay attention to The Vine, the more I notice and love about it. I see how full of life it is. How it never withers. I notice tendrils perfectly placed to secure my feet and give my hands a rest. I spot another place where I can entwine my arms. Each of these revelations brings me closer to The Vine. I am becoming part of The Vine, truly abiding and resting in its love rather than clinging to it out of fear. I allow The Vine to wrap around me, it is a restful and relaxing place. My fears, once so strong,—fear of disappointing others, fear of failure, fear of death—have fallen to the ground along with the other vines. Those fears have been replaced by appreciation and admiration and love for The Vine that has held when all others have fallen. I am being held securely by The One True Vine.
In fact, I feel so secure and free that I begin to swing. I throw my head back, hair blowing in the wind, and I swing. I feel the freedom of a child on a playground, and I swing. I feel ready for whatever lies ahead because I am with The Vine, and I swing. I laugh and smile and breathe in life as I swing with Jesus, The Vine.
I am so thankful for this beautiful picture God has shared with me, and now I get to share with you. He has reminded me of it so many times when I begin to chase after and cling to something other than Him. He has also reminded me of these truths.
More of Jesus is the only thing that is truly and eternally better.
All other things will pass away. Everything else will wither and fade and disappoint, but God will remain forever—faithful, loving, and true. He will never leave me or forsake me.
Jesus came that I might have life and have it more abundantly. Abundant life is found when abiding in Him. When I abide in Him, He will abide in me. Wrapping His powerful arms around me. Loving me with His perfect and never-ending love. Speaking truth to my heart. Holding me in his nail-scarred hands.
I see you. The girl with too-thick eyeliner and overly contoured cheekbones. Your clothes reveal precious secrets about your body. The pictures you share with the world show a beautiful girl who doesn’t quite believe it, but you desperately try to convince everyone else that you do. Everything about your life revolves around getting him to notice you and then stick around. You compromise who you really are if it means the guy you’re crushing on likes you back. When he looks your way and smiles, you know he must be The One. He gets you. He says the things you need to hear. He completes you.
I see you. The woman who never has to share the remote when it’s time to binge on Netflix. You fill up your free time with all the things you’re into because you can. You schedule weekly girl’s nights and countless first dates, but long for the familiarity and companionship of a spouse. The image you project to the world is one of an independent and confident woman – and you are – it would just be nice to have that special someone to walk beside you. To fill the empty spaces in your heart. To help complete your life.
I see you. The wife who dotes on her husband, treating him like royalty. Your daily desire is to meet his needs above all others. Your social calendar suffers, but if his clothes are clean and his belly is full you don’t mind so much. To outsiders you appear to be the perfect wife, but you humbly brush aside their praise. Serving your man is the least you can do – after all, he’s a keeper! You’re so lucky to have him. You tell yourself it’s ok to obsess over his life because he’s seamlessly completed yours.
I see your striving, hurting, longing heart. I get why you’re tired of being single. I know how easy it is to pour yourself out for the one you love. I just wish you could see that it’s not a boy or a man you need.
No, he doesn’t complete you.
But Jesus can. He will. He does.
The Enemy has made you believe that everything you need can be found in an earthly relationship. The truth is, no relationship will ever come close to what it’s meant to be until your relationship with Christ has become the most important thing.
You see, I was that girl. Riddled with insecurities, I had daddy issues that left gaps in my heart. I met a guy who swept me off my feet and quickly became the axis on which my world revolved. To keep him interested, I morphed into a chameleon of sorts, molding myself into what I thought my boyfriend wanted me to be. I felt a constant need to be in this person’s presence so I let my friendships suffer. I lost interest in my own life and instead forced my way into every detail of his. He tolerated this for a while, but eventually the pressure I put on him to be my everything was just too much for him to handle. He broke up with me and utterly shattered my entire world. I didn’t want to be alone, but there I was. The pain I felt was magnified by the fact that I didn’t know who I was without him.
Months later, in desperation, I cried out to God. Literally. In my dorm room I crumpled into a pathetic heap and wept. I was suffocating myself on heartbreak and I could not bear one more minute of the intensity of it all. I opened my bible to Colossians, and there I read a verse that rocked me to my core:
“and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
In that moment, I began to realize my mistake. I had misplaced my affections. The ardor that my soul had been created to lavish on my Savior was being directed at a mere boy instead. What a tragedy! All this time I had been essentially worshipping my boyfriend and neglecting the Lord.
If you find yourself relating to my story, I’m here to tell you that Jesus Christ is better. If your identity is wrapped up in another human being, that relationship can never be healthy. Until you truly believe that you are a uniquely created, valuable, cherished daughter of King Jesus, you will continue looking for someone else to make you whole.
Just as He did for me, Christ tells you in His own words the truth: you are complete in Him. God alone holds the key that unlocks the deepest desires of your soul. He knows you better than anyone. He loves you so deeply and perfectly. Nothing else compares!
When someone breaks your heart, Jesus steps in to heal every wound.
When loneliness overwhelms you, Jesus offers comfort and friendship.
When you fix your eyes on Jesus, He breathes new life into your marriage.
Daughter, we’re all incomplete. We’re all looking for love and acceptance – it’s just way easier to access than we dare to believe. My prayer for you today is that you will find your wholeness and identity in God alone. That you will let Him complete you as only He can.
As Mother’s Day weekend approaches, I’m looking forward to the special treatment I will receive from my own family, but I’m ten hours away from my mom this year and it will be the first time I won’t get to spend it with her. It makes me think of how difficult this day will be for so many women for so many different reasons.
I lost my dad when I was just two years old and every June when Father’s Day arrives, I feel like I’m hit over the head with reminders that I didn’t even get the chance to have a relationship with him before he was taken from me.
I dread Father’s Day. I can’t hardly stand to log onto Facebook and see all of the heartwarming photos and posts about how much everyone’s dad has enriched their lives and made them who they are. I fight back tears every year at church when they ask all the fathers to stand and I am reminded just how unfair life can be.
I know there are so many of you who dread Mother’s Day too. Some of you have lost your mom at a young age, or maybe even recently. A lot of you live far away from her, like I do. You might have a mother you haven’t spoken to in years or a biological mother you’ve never met, but always wanted to know. You might still be dealing with feelings of abandonment or a broken mother-daughter relationship. So many of you are longing to be a mother yourself, but are struggling with infertility. You are mourning a miscarriage or the loss of a child. Whatever your pain associated with motherhood is, I feel the ache of the empty place in your heart right along with you.
If I could, I would reach through these words and hold your hands so tightly. I would tell you that God sees you. He feels your pain and knows your heart’s cry. He loves you and knows you more deeply than any earthly mother ever could and you are blessed because you know Him. I also know it’s much easier to say those words than to let them sink into your soul and believe they are true.
Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the LORD will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10)
So, try this. Look around you this weekend. Are there strong women in your life who have wrapped their arms around you when you needed it? Do you know a kind woman who has fixed you a meal or taken you shopping? Do you have someone you can count on for sound advice? Maybe God has placed a woman in your life to help fill the void, but you’ve never thought of her that way before. Maybe you are blessed with an incredible dad who has tried his best to make up for what’s missing. God provides, even when we don’t acknowledge it or give him the glory like we should.
Have you been that mother figure for someone else? If not, could you be? Is there a young girl in your life who might need some extra love and attention? Is there a motherless teenager in your youth group you could invite out for coffee? Could you step in and help out an overwhelmed single mom? Is there someone who needs to hear the infertility story that you’ve been too afraid to share? Is it finally time for you to answer the calling on your life to foster or adopt? Maybe you could send flowers to another hurting woman for Mother’s Day this year. There are ways to help fill that void in your life and it might just be to help fill someone else’s.
So for those who are struggling on a day that most people associate with brunch and Hallmark cards, I pray you won’t associate it with grief, pain, or loss. I pray that God will replace those feelings with good memories, a willingness to help others, thankfulness for the relationships that you do have, and hope for what is to come. I pray that when the enemy tries to remind you of what you have lost, God will remind you of all that you have gained by living a life for Him. I pray that you will take that time and look around and honor the women who have been there for you.
For me personally, I couldn’t be more thankful to have a mom who stepped in and played both roles for my older brother and me after my dad passed. The strength and courage it took to suddenly find herself as a single mom at 30 and then later raise 9 kids in our mixed family is beyond my maternal comprehension! While it’s so hard to understand how God can allow a young parent to be taken from his children, He helped fill the void through my relationship with my mother and for that I am so grateful. She has enriched my life and made me who I am. Thank you mom.
And when Father’s Day approaches and I’m struggling, I know God will remind me of His goodness and faithfulness and these words I share with you today.
I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child. (Isaiah 66:13)
I remember when the comments first started. They would sting. Walking through the store, I would suddenly be blind-sided by words. Words.
“Look, mommy, that girl has cancer.”
“Look, daddy, that girl doesn’t have hair.”
Sometimes there were no words. Just a darting glance or an uncomfortable parent shushing their child. I pretended not to notice. I learned how to quickly flash a smile to somehow communicate that it was okay. That I was okay with the stares. With the remarks. It was more than this recovering perfectionist wanted to handle.
My daughter’s bare head often draws attention. I have become accustomed to reassuring others that it is not cancer. That it’s only alopecia. Only alopecia. As if that somehow disqualified us from the battle.
A battle for which I was ill-equipped. A battle against whom or what, I wasn’t sure. Little did I know, I was being prepared for heart surgery. I was about to be forever changed by one familiar story and one precious little girl.
The story was David and Goliath. One I had heard many times before. One whose familiarity put it at risk of losing its’ impact, but it’s hard to ignore something that God keeps putting in your face. This story kept finding its’ way to me – in teachings, on the radio, in conversations.
I wanted to get it…to learn what I was supposed to learn, so I read it over and over and over again, for weeks, each time asking God, “Where am I in this story? Show me what I need to learn.”
At first, I imagined that I was David coming victoriously against the giant, but that seemed too easy; almost juvenile.
Then, I feared that I was Eliab, David’s oldest brother who discouraged David from battling the giant. In the name of being “realistic”, I had become discouraging…
“Don’t you hear what the doctors are saying? They said there’s no cure. They don’t even know what causes it. Why should we expect any different?”
I wanted to accept defeat. My husband wanted to fight — for us, for our daughter, for an answer…for Hope.
Still, I continued asking, “Lord, show me. Where am I in this story?” Then, God gave me understanding. I hadn’t been asking the right question. Instead of being so concerned with who I was in the story, I needed to be asking a very different question. I needed to be asking, “Where are you in this story, God?”
When I started asking the right question, the story came alive…
I saw myself, a soldier on the hillside. Crouched down. Terrified and dismayed. The enemy was across the valley shouting his terrible shouts. Taunting,
“Why even bother to fight? Did you not hear what the doctors said? There are no answers. There is no cure. There is no hope.”
My thoughts were distorted. My heart was paralyzed. Without realizing it, I had begun believing the lie.
I had begun believing the enemy. I had begun believing in hopelessness.
But God has a way of changing things…
He sent a David to bring Bread to the battle lines — broken to give life for weary souls. Bending down low he saw what my mouth refused to speak, “This is too much. I can’t do this. I want to surrender.”
But God doesn’t leave His children on the battle lines to fight alone. He enters the battle with us. No…He enters the battle for us. With grace and mercy, He spoke the words my heart desperately needed to hear,
“Do not lose heart. I will fight for you.”
Then, He set off toward the giant. Reaching into the stream he chose five stones. No sword. No armor. Just stones. With stones in his pouch, He stood before the giant who was still shouting, “Come down and fight me. If you win, I will become your subject. But if I win, you become my subject and serve me.”
Most of us know how the story ends. With one stone, David killed the giant and sent him tumbling to the ground. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he severed the head of the giant using his own weapon against him making victory a reality.
This battle is one that God has used to teach me much.
My battle was not so much about my daughter’s diagnosis, but more about learning to choose which god I would submit to in the face of my trial—
the god of hopelessness or the God of Hope.
Throughout this journey, one message has echoed loudly…”Don’t waste your trials.”
When we face a trial, no matter how big or small, we are faced with a choice. We must choose whether we will believe God’s promises to work everything together for our good and, consequently, submit to His work in our lives. If we choose not to believe His promises and don’t allow Him to work in our lives, then we let our trials go to waste.
Trials are a blessing that have the potential to deepen our walk with Him.
Through this experience, God has grown me to be a true student of His Word. To truly see His Word as the Bread of Life necessary for the sustenance of my soul. To see His Word as the well from which I draw my hope, strength and peace. My heart reveres Him as Holy and cherishes time spent in His presence. My thoughts regularly turn to Him throughout my day.
God has taught me the importance of being honest with Him. When I was trying to pretend like everything was okay, God was instead giving me permission to not be okay. I had to learn to simply surrender and cry out to Him. I needed to slow down enough to experience the gravity of what was happening.
God has taught me to trust my husband’s leadership. Under the weight of fear and doubt, I was unintentionally hurtful. I learned to pray in new ways for my marriage. Not only for a spirit of unity, but also for a hedge of protection around my husband…from me. I began praying that God would give him a wife worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). I learned to respect my husband’s opinion even when he disagreed with the doctors. Together we learned that doctors don’t always have all the answers. I learned to trust that God was leading him, too.
God has taught me gratitude. He took my grumbling heart and transformed it to see everything as a gift. Now, my heart can recognize even the smallest of gifts…like eyelashes.
God has shown me that He cares intricately for Brianna. Shortly after turning 3, she told me she wanted hair on her head, for the first time. I delicately explained to her how God made her beautiful without hair. But, God had a different idea. A few weeks later, God led me to cross paths with an organization that provides real-hair wigs to children with hair loss. Through this organization, Brianna received the gift of hair. This was a reminder that God has his hand on Brianna’s life and that He is taking care of her.
We never know how God might choose to answer prayers. It’s not our job to know. All He asks of us is to simply trust Him and His plan. Brianna’s story is just beginning. We know God has great things planned for her. She has already touched so many hearts. Through her, God has deepened my walk with Him. He has strengthened my marriage. He has proven that He is taking care of the details of our lives.
The battle has changed me. Some might think…, “It’s just hair.” I know. I tried to tell myself that for a year. I would feel guilty every time it felt like a big deal to me. I didn’t understand why it was so hard; why it was such a struggle.
What I learned is that every battle is personal. I am her mother. It is my nature to protect her. For me, it’s about protecting my daughter’s heart. It’s about shielding her from the arrows that will come when the world starts telling her a different definition of beauty. It’s about helping her find strength, when she starts feeling different.
And now that I’ve been changed by the battle, it’s about sharing with her what I have learned. I will share with her a powerful secret.
That God gives the biggest battles to His fiercest warriors.
I will train her for battle and teach her to use the right kind of weapons.
Battles are about accepting every ounce of who God is
in every moment and in every season.
It’s about allowing God to work in every circumstance, the good ones and, especially, the difficult ones.
Whatever you’re facing, right now. No matter how big or small. Find your hope in Christ. Cling to Him. Hold onto His promises. He has equipped you for this battle. Hopelessness has been defeated.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).
Jennifer lives in Arkansas with her husband, Jeff, and their four daughters. She is a Christ-follower who doesn’t like to be put in a box. She has experienced first-hand the sweetness of God’s redemptive love and has a passion for helping others see the beauty of God’s way. You can find her sharing stories of faith and encouragement on her blog, www.jennifermariepowers.com. And catch her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jennifermariepowersblog/