A Simple Christmas

A Simple Christmas

By Tammye Hamilton 

Remember when a few weeks until Christmas seemed like an eternity? Oh the anticipation of the big day!  

When our children were young, we didn’t put the wrapped presents under the tree until after they were all tucked in on Christmas Eve.  Mainly because we didn’t want them focused on the gifts and what they were going to get but also so they wouldn’t be tempted to guess or peek.  Some surprises are worth protecting! 

I am especially feeling that excitement this year because all of our children and their families will be with us for Christmas. I started planning our time together as soon as we heard they were coming. 

Every year for the past few years, I have chosen a word to represent what I wanted for the holiday season. Last year I chose the word ‘Joy’. I focused on having a joyful season and even though we were a small group for our family, it was joyful. 

This year as we get ready to celebrate our family traditions, I have chosen the word ‘Simple’. That might seem ridiculous knowing there will be at least 21 people in our house, including 6 children under 4. Okay, it is pretty ambitious.  

But somehow I know that it will matter. Like my mother before me, I tend to go a bit overboard this time of year. I put a lot of expectations on myself and I have wanted things to be more perfect than peaceful, but this year I’m committed.

So here’s my plan.  

Simple means simple. I am crossing things off my list that will add stress to this season of joy. I don’t have to decorate every surface of my house. Some of the decorations will stay in their boxes.  Every meal doesn’t have to be impressive. There will be lots of pizza. 

I will purchase and make fewer gifts. If ‘gifts’ is your love language this might be hard.  Gifters need to find the perfect present for everyone on their list. We have a few of these in our family. We draw names every year (big family hint) and our children, who turn everything into a competition, work hard to “out gift” each other. The winning gifts are not the most expensive but the most thoughtful.  Simple is the biggest blessing.  

I will be present.These moments I will have with my family will come to an end all too soon. They will return to their homes in other states and countries. I will spend every moment I have with them.  

If your children are small, you already know how fleeting the years will be. Being present in the moments matter. The way you live these special times together helps to shape your family identity.  

These memories will become an integral part of their futures and what their families will look like. Let their memories be of you simply enjoying togetherness. They might remember a few special gifts but they will really remember and cherish those quiet and noisy moments together.  Keeping it simple eliminates all that pressure and stress perfection wants to put on us. 

When the Son of God was born in that smelly stable so long ago, nothing about it was perfect and yet everything was. He came for us. He came to be with us and to redeem us. 

That is how simple the Gospel really is.  I hope your Christmas reflects that simplicity. Whether your family is large or you are alone, you can marvel in HIs perfect Gift. He came for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Meaning

Hidden Meaning

By Jacqi Ballough

In the center of our home, an evergreen Christmas tree covered with lights and cherished ornaments collected throughout the years is one of the first holiday decorations up. Once the tree is fully lit and adorned, the final touch takes team effort: a red star. Since my son was a toddler, he has climbed upon Daddy’s shoulders and while giggling with delight, set a red star on top. It is a family tradition. 

In fact, I am that person who gets so excited about Christmas that our tree goes up Thanksgiving week. And yes, I love listening to Christmas music beginning that week as well, and buying gifts, arranging the Nativity scene, preparing greeting cards, baking, and hanging the advent calendar! I love all of it! 

Why? It all points to Jesus! 

As a young mother, I yearned to share the true meaning of Christmas to our son and not become lost in materialism. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much but was ready to find out! By God’s grace, I had a friend who gave me a book, The ADVENTure of Christmas, by Lisa Whelchel. It explains the Biblical roots and significance of many of our traditions, even candy canes and Old Saint Nick. Through its short stories and simple holiday crafts, I have learned and taught both young and old for years. 

For instance, did you know circa 700 AD a missionary named Winfrid (Saint Boniface) was supposedly the first person to use the triangular shape of the evergreen as an object lesson symbolic of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit)? The color green represents everlasting life and the point at the top sets our gaze to heaven. 

And have you noticed the boughs of the tree extend like Jesus’s arms on the cross, reminding us of his loving sacrifice? For us He came, and for us He died bearing “our sins in His body on the tree (the cross), so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24)

Another fascinating legend is of Martin Luther’s contribution to our tradition. He was walking home one December evening amazed by the beauty of God’s creation and the stars in the night sky reflecting onto the evergreen forest. He was filled with awe and wanted to re-create the scene for his family. Therefore, he chopped down a tree, took it home, and set it in the center. Then in an attempt to mimic the stars reflecting onto the trees, he placed lit candles on the boughs. This is a wonderful illustration of how the heavens declare the Glory of God and Jesus is the Light of the World. 

And why do we place the tree in the center of our home? Because our lives are to be centered around Christ. Our actions, words, and heart. He is our salvation, hope, and future. Merry CHRISTmas!

 

 

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

By: Robin Houde

Do you ever find yourself striving to please others? As a woman I have often postponed spending time with God in order to take care of or do something for someone else. 

The bible is filled with stories of women who went against what was thought to be acceptable behavior. These women challenged societal standards as they followed Jesus. Mary of Bethany had a desire to know more about Jesus. She sat at his feet to listen to His word and ignored her chores. When her sister, Martha came into the room to fetch her and scold her for not helping out in the kitchen, Jesus pretty much told Martha that she worried too much.

Luke 10:40 -42 (NKJV)-  Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chose that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Martha was the type of woman who showed her loved for others by serving. Mary however, showed her love and devotion to Jesus by sitting at his feet, listening and learning.

As Mary drank in Jesus' living water, her sister was fretting about getting dinner on the table and cleaning up the mess. It was Martha's natural desire to make sure that everyone else's needs were met but deep in her heart she was becoming frustrated and discouraged. She seemed to feel like Jesus didn't care about her either. How many of us go through life acting and feeling just like Martha? We get so caught up with making sure the needs of others are met that we end up feeling disappointed and alone. When we don't put our trust in God, we become frustrated and stressed out about how many tasks we need to complete. 

Think about the last time you flew on an airplane. As you were getting ready for takeoff the airline staff most likely went through some sort of safety briefing with the passengers. Part of it would have been demonstrating how to buckle your seatbelt and put on your air mask. They always say to put your own air mask on first, then assist others with theirs. This is because we need to have breath in our own lungs in order to help others breathe. We, as believers, have the breath of God in our lungs. If we allow ourselves to soak in God's refreshing word of truth, and if we allow Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit on a regular basis, we'll be so much more equipped to 'save' others. 

God wants you to know that your desire to serve others is important and valuable, however, knowing Him and being in His awesome presence should take priority over everything else. 

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.

 

Is Thank You Enough?

Is Thank You Enough?

By Mavis Tipton

Please and Thank You, two little phrases we learn before we can talk, and among some of the first words we say.

In the book “Good Manners, Matter” it tells us that 4 out of 25 good manners we learn tell us to say ‘thank you.’ 

What other words can express thank you, like ‘thank you?’  I don’t about you but sometimes it is difficult to find other words that express what is my heart.

Thank you can be an incredibly powerful pair of words, especially when the person you are thanking really needs to hear them and even better when it isn’t expected.

We all like to hear ‘Thank You’ for the things we do for others, even when we don’t need it or expect it.  It reassures us the act of kindness was needed and appreciated, and cherished.

Being thankful expresses gratitude, being grateful and blessed.

No matter how you may try to express ‘thank you’ differently – it still comes back to those two words.  How powerful they are.

Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of those around you.

Words escape us when we are to trying to say ‘thank you,’ differently and yet ‘thank you,’ is all that is needed and speaks volumes. Thank you shows respect.

How we respond back is important as well. Sometimes ‘thank you,’ makes us feel uncomfortable, but we need to welcome the expression and let the person know their happiness has brought us joy.  “I was happy to do it.”  “I know you would do the same for me or someone else.”

So why am I writing about “Is Thank you Enough?”, because I was in a setting where we were praying, and as this person prayed, they began thanking the Lord over and over, and in the midst of praying said, “Lord is thank you enough?”  Immediately the Lord spoke to me and said “Yes, it is when it comes from the heart.” 

The Bible is full of scriptures that tell us to ‘give thanks.’  They instruct us to praise and thank the Lord.  The Lord delights in the praises of His people.

1 Chro. 23:30 “And each morning and evening they stood before the Lord to sing songs of ‘thanks and praise to Him.”

In this scripture praisehalalmeans to praise, to thank; rejoice, boast about someone.  Halulis the root from which “hallelujah; is formed.  The phrase is a command:  hallelu-Jah (all of you must praise Jah). Also derived from halalis tehillah.  A tehillahis a praise, a psalm, or a song.  The Hebrew title of the Book of Psalms is Tehillim, literally “Praises.”  

The Lord created us to praise and give thanks. When it is done from the heart He never grows tired of hearing it…and yes, it is enough

As we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with expressions of praise and thank you, may each recipient know without a shadow of a doubt it is coming from our heart.  And if you aren’t quite there with it coming from your heart, do it in faith. Please don’t stop with the holidays, may we put into practice every day the following quote. 

Christine Caine says: “Let’s choose gratitude as our attitude.”

Happy Thanksgiving 

And

Merry Christmas

 

On The Radio

A Radio Message from God

By Denise Schmeer

Vacations are great!  There we were my husband and I, driving up I-95 to our final destination – Lake Lure, North Carolina.  The radio was tuned to a Christian station and we were happily singing along with the songs.  Eventually the announcer came on and, seemly without warning, posed this question: “What if tomorrow, we woke up with only the things we thanked God for today?”  

WHAT??  WAIT!!  What did he say?  WOW – to say that his words made my eyes pop out of my head is an understatement . . . a most startling thought for my vacation-focused mind!

Immediately, I found myself assessing what I had thanked God for yesterday.  Then, WAIT, I thought . . . Did I even remember to thank God for anything yesterday? My mind began to race.  I imaged, did I thank God for my children . . . my husband . . . our home . . . the food on our table . . . the country we live in . . . our Church family . . . the clothes on my back . . . every breath I took . . . our neighbors . . . the list in my head went on and on.  Finally, I calmed down, but what “food for thought!” I mean, are we remembering to be thankful in our daily conversations with our Heavenly Father, or are we just giving God a shopping/laundry list of things we need from Him?  How does that verse go?  Rejoice always, pray continuously, and in ALL things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God’s will for us is to give thanks in ALL things . . . Hmmmm . . . not just the good things, but in ALL things.  There must be a reason the Scripture says “all things.”  Perhaps because the hard things are what help us grow? The tough roads are what strengthen us and the rough patches are what open our eyes to see our blessing more clearly. As God walks with us through the trials of life, our faith increases, our hearts grow softer, His light shines brighter in us and through us. 

So, I will give thanks for “Mr. Radio Announce” and his wise and thought-provoking question:  “What if tomorrow, we woke up with only the things we thanked God for today?”  

Well, as for me, from now on, when my head hits the pillow and I close my eyes for the night, I am saying to God . . . “Thank you, God today – for everything and I do mean absolutely, everything!”

Be The Light

Be the Light

By Audrey Botts

 A few years ago, I was debating whether I should stay at my current place of employment.  I had been there almost 20 years and I felt like I needed a change.  

The working conditions were getting unbearable and I would come home drained and stressed from dealing with all the negativity in that environment.   The heavy workload was putting a strain on the few employees.  Our pay scale was low compared to other hospitals and our salaries had not changed in several years.  Employees were getting tired of the low wages, while other places were paying more…so they left.   

So, you may ask why was I still there?  Well, during this time I asked the Lord if I should seek employment elsewhere.   I waited to see if he gave me the “thumbs up” to go, but I heard nothing.  

There were rumors that the employees who had left were getting higher salaries than what they were getting at our facility.  I was envious and I wanted to leave too, but I still was not given the okay to leave. 

Then one day, I heard the Lord say to me; “Have I not provided for you all these years that you were alone?  Were you ever in need?  I will be the one who provides for you, not your job.  Your job is to be a light in this dark place.”  

“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill that cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16

I was so humbled by his loving words.  His words spoke life to me and showed me what my purpose was in this place.  

I never saw my workplace as a mission field, I only saw it as my career, a place to earn an income.  It had nothing to do with my faith, but I then realized everything we do in life has to do with our faith in Jesus Christ.  To share the gospel and be a light to the dark places.

I was so humbled by his loving words, where a realization came over me that this was my mission field. This is where God wanted me.   I asked the Lord for forgiveness and I stayed in my current job.  

A few months went by and I was called to our lab director’s office.   My director said “I had been underpaid for many years” and gave me a 10% increase in my salary.   Wow!  God is good! He doesn’t forget to take care of his flock.

My workplace is still stressful and it has its ups and downs, but it is where the Lord has me to be His light.  Do you know where your mission field is?  It’s probably right before your eyes.  

 

Guard Your Heart at All Times

Guard Your Heart at All Times

By Debbie Walker

My summer discovery was poison sumac.  It is a plant that has the same allergic reaction as poison ivy; rash, swelling, itchiness…NOT fun at all.  So, I have been an itchy, irritated mess on medication!  I got it while helping my Dad clear his driveway. I have thought a couple of times, “I was helping God!  Why this?” 

One thing that I have learned is to replace the question of, “Why?” with, “What do you want me to learn from this?” and, “What do I do with what I have learned?” 

So, what have I learned?  Well, I got this unknowingly.  I knew I was cleaning out plants or weeds, but I didn’t know what type I was clearing.  I went to town so to speak pulling out these weeds. I did not guard my skin at all or avoid this at all.  I know how to identify poison ivy so I avoided that plant. But I didn’t know what poison sumac looked like so I didn’t avoid it.

Our daily lives are often like this. We are careful to say the right things and bring encouragement in situations that we know are “toxic”. But we need to be careful in all situations to be positive and bring encouragement.  We need the Lord’s help and to guard our hearts so that we can bring the encouragement to others.  And to not be brought down with the poisons of this life that destroy.  

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Out of our hearts flows life so we should always be guarding our hearts so that we have good things coming out. We need to do this at all times so as to not be filled with the toxins of the world.  We are currently living in the world but that doesn’t mean we have to be the same irritated mess that we see around us.  Be the positive to others that we want to see. 

 

Warrior

The Warrior

By Robin Houde

I would classify my previous relationships with people as complacent. I tolerated people I didn’t love them. I mean yes there were close family and friends that I obviously loved unconditionally. I’m talking about difficult people, those that aren’t easy to love. 

There were many areas in my life that were lacking. I had a feeling that something was missing but I wasn’t sure what it was. I once thought that it was others, not me. That I wasn’t getting what I needed from other people. Not the other way around. 

It wasn’t until the Lord spoke to me one day. He reminded me that I’m commanded to love as Jesus loves, with mercy and grace. He said, “Those around you may not deserve it but neither do you.” 

At first I was really offended and I pled my case to Him. I defended myself by reminding Him that I’m involved in my church and that I do serve people, mostly with a smile on my face. 

I went on to explain that I’m very patient and let people cut in front of me in line at the grocery store as well as in traffic without getting angry. I wasn’t sure what more He wanted from me. 

It was then that He said, “I want your heart. I want you to LOVE it. I want you toLOVE THEM! If you don’t love them then you don’t love me.”  Wow! I was blown away to say the least.  1 John 4:8 (NIV): “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

I felt so convicted and ashamed that I had missed the mark. At that point, I fell to my knees and I vowed to make a conscious effort to love like Jesus. To love the unlovable. Love those that don’t deserve it. 

Of course, this lesson was two-fold. I also learned that with love comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness comes freedom! Love and forgiveness not only frees the one that receives this precious gift, but it also frees the one that it comes from. 

Mark 11:25 (NIV): “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything againstanyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Without love and forgiveness in my heart, my circumstances often had me feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Being a warrior at heart, this did not settle well with me so I fought. I built up these enormously tall, strong walls. I armed myself with weapons such as sass,sarcasmand attitude.

These weapons held me captive and prevented me from experiencing deep, loving, mature relationships and also kept me from my true potential in the Lord. 

You don’t have to be perfect or have it all together but you have to be spiritually open to the things of God or you won’t be able to hear His voice. 

If you’re praying and it doesn’t seem like your prayers are being heard or if you no longer hear His voice, you may want to check yourself. God’s Word commands that we do fight battles but not battles against flesh and blood. He also tells us to arm ourselves with weapons of warfare but not worldly weapons:  Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV):

So be a warrior, a warrior for the kingdom of God. Fight for your spouse, your children, your family, your friends. Fight for all that is good in the eyes of the Lord. And the Lord will bless you!  Deuteronomy 31:6you.” 

What's In a Name Anyway?

What’s in a Name, Anyway?

Denise Schmeer

My mother, Delphine Quinones Preziosi died on Good Friday, April 6, 2012 . . . just 66 days after my dad, Fortunato Preziosi.  They had been married 63+ years.  

Neither of them went by their “formal names.”  My mom never liked her name.  It was an unusual and somewhat uncommon name, so she shortened it to Del and everyone called my dad, Fred.  

I adored my Dad!  The relationship with my mom was . . . well, complicated.  I could never really seem to be the daughter she wanted to love. How do I know this?  Because, whenever I did something “out of line” or not to her liking, I would hear, “If you don’t listen to me, I won’t love you anymore.”  YIKES! Really, mom!!  

Nevertheless, on Thursday, April 7, 2016 while driving to work, I cried out to God.  “I miss my mom so much!  Please God, I just want to hold her hand one more time, give her one more hug.”  That was it.  By all accounts, a crazy prayer . . . but remember, “with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew19:26)

So fast forward to the next week, Tuesday, April 12, 2016 – a number of churches in Vero Beach were gathering at the Indian River County Fairgrounds for corporate prayer.  No praise and worship, no preaching, no speaker . . . just prayer – “A Scared Assembly.”

I arrived early, but another couple in our Cell Group arrived even earlier.  They chose a great spot for our group, but decided . . . no, they needed to move to another section.  So they did. 

We all sat together and waited for the rest to arrive. It was really starting to fill up and the friendly chatter was getting louder.  

While waiting we said hello to the people behind us.  I struck up quite a conversation with this older woman, who – it turned out – had just moved from California.  She had family in Vero Beach and had been to Central Assembly a number of times.  She said she thought she recognized me as part of the Praise & Worship Dancers. No, I love to dance, but I was not part of that group.  

By now, the room was really filling up and the chatter was even louder.  But remembering I had not introduced myself to this sweet older woman behind me, I turned around, took her hand in mind and leaned in to say my name was Denise and how much I had enjoyed talking to her.  She said her name was “xxxxx.”  What I thought I heard was impossible!  “What did you say your name was?” 

“Dell,” she said, “you know, like Farmer in the Dell.” I started to shake and sob.  Still holding her hand, I asked, “Could I just give you a hug?”  “Of course,” she said.  Then though my sobs, I tried to explain to her my earlier prayer to God.   

And so here was my prayer answered, a gift given. I mean, really . . . what were the chances I would be sitting in that exact chair right in front of her – a woman just relocated from California – a woman with my mother’s name – who thought I was a dancer?  By the way, did I mention, it was my mom who insisted I have dance lessons.  

The Scared Assembly Gathering that night was amazing!  Afterwards we all went off in different directions, but the powerful impact of that miracle remains with me.  

On the drive home, I once again began to shake and sob at the memory of the moment when Dell told me her name – remembering the hug I gave her and her hand nestled in mind.

God’s miracles happen all around us, every day . . . even the seemingly impossible is within our grasp, if we just ask, believe, have faith, and then wait.

“Now to the One who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us.” (Ephesians 3:20 ISV)

Running

Running

By Jacqi Ballough

The white line was just 30 feet away. I kept telling myself I could make it. I can do it. When running, the cliché of “I can do all things through Christ” comes out, although I was gasping for air and my body was undergoing a horrid suffering. 

My goal was the white stop-sign line. Now only a few strides away, I stopped to walk. I had literally been running for less than a mile and at every street had made these white lines my target, thinking that once I was there I could walk for a minute and then do it again.  

My problem: I would always stop exactly four or five steps shy of the finish line. Why?

Was it that I loathe running? Give me Pilates, planks, or a step aerobics class and I am an energizer bunny, but running makes me feel like I am going to die. I honestly don’t like it but know the cardiovascular exercise helps my heart. Unfortunately, it seemed my heart was not in it. 

During these attempts to run, I talk to the Lord in my spirit. I had been thinking about the wonderful job opportunity that I was offered. It was not only very financially rewarding but was also in a beautiful, elite place. I would be in a position of authority and was praised by the people I worked for. It was a “dream job,” but my heart was unsettled. 

Again, I asked, why? 

The Lord answered as I stopped before the finish line, “Finish the race.” 

I knew what the Lord had called me to do 11 years ago when our son was born. I had asked for a child and promised to raise him up to know Jesus. When it came time to send him to preschool, again I was reminded to train him up in the Lord with homeschooling. Now in middle school, the Lord is telling me to “finish the race.” 

The temptation to stop and run to a more glamorous job is real, just like the rich man who was told to sell all he had and follow Jesus, but dejectedly turned his back on Jesus instead. I knew I had to trust and obey God’s will for me to continue teaching our son. 

My reward doesn’t come with worldly glamor but with watching my son fall in love with Jesus. Watching him minister to the elderly neighbors, witness creation to his friends, and tell me his revelations from God’s word. These are things I have to treasure in my heart to finish the race well and ward off the weariness.

Thankfully shortly after saying “no” to the “dream job” the Lord sent a wonderful momma to encourage me in the race as well. She has been at it far longer than I, and I thank God He connected us.

Hebrews 12:1-3 states, 

Since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us 
strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And 
let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward.….Think about all He enduredso that you don’t become weary and give up.

 

 

Impacting Future Generations

Impacting Future Generations

By Tammye Hamilton

I recently discovered that there’s a possibility some of my ancestors were actually on the Mayflower when it landed at Plymouth nearly 300 years ago. As I do research and gather information, it’s interesting to me that this amazing heritage was not passed down through the generations. I mean, that’s a big deal, right? 

In the book of Judges we read one of the saddest passages in the entire Bible. God has miraculously rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and led them into the Promised Land. Joshua and his generation have died and now “there arose a generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work He had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10) 

After all the miracles God had done for them, they failed to pass down the stories to their children. They became like the culture and worshiped their wicked gods. Soon, their children didn’t even know who their God was. 

As our culture gets darker and darker, it becomes more and more imperative that we make sure future generations know our God and what He has done for us.  

A recent Barna study shows that while 55% of Americans still identify as “Christian”, only about 31% of us actually practice our faith. Barna concluded that 48% of Americans are what he calls “post-Christian”. 

“In just two years, the percentage of Americans who qualify as “post-Christian” rose by 7 percentage points, from 37% in 2013 to 44% in 2015. Across the United States, cities in every state are becoming more post-Christian—some at a faster rate than others.” (The Barna Group)

Investing spiritually in our children and the children in our lives must be a priority.  Here are two things anyone can do to assure future generations know our God. 

First, introduce your children to the God who loves them. 

What a privilege it is to lead your children into a relationship with Jesus! For years, Jon set aside one night a week to talk with the kids about their Bible reading. They had to come to the meeting, usually a meal out together, with their notebooks and 5 questions for Dad. 

You may not be a Bible teacher like Jon but you can find the answers to their questions together. This can be an intimate time of learning together even if you don’t feel equipped.  There are so many resources available to help you. And your kids will love that you are leading them! 

Throughout your week, make sure you are focusing on the goodness of God in your lives. We talk about the big miracles and the little miracles we see Him do for us. We read about how He is moving around the world and we pray for the world to know Him. 

Secondly, take your children to church and become involved in children’s ministry. 

It’s alarming to me that so many Christian families do not regularly attend church. I understand some of their reasons but I feel they are robbing themselves and their children of necessary relationships. 

If attending church is not a priority to you it will not be a priority to them and they will go elsewhere for community.  

Jon and I have often been asked by parents if they should make their children go to church with them. Our answer is, “Do you make them brush their teeth? Do you make them do their schoolwork?”  

No parent fears their children will grow up and hate brushing their teeth. The same goes for being a part of a local church. If you take them, even when they might not want to go, there is a better chance they will make this important choice for themselves as adults. 

Also, look around for children in your life who you could take to church with you. So many people have met Jesus because a neighbor, an aunt or family friend took them to church! 

No church is even close to perfect but find one that teaches the Word to you and your children and get involved to help make sure they understand we need each other to grow in our faith.

It is our responsibility as believers to make sure future generations know God and what He has done for us. We can passionately introduce our children and those around us to a loving and relevant God.  

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Deuteronomy 11:18-

Open and Closed Doors

Open and Closed Doors

By Audrey Botts

This past summer, my family and I went on an amazing trip to the Pacific Northwest.  We visited cities in Oregon, Washington state, and British Columbia in Canada.  

We had an amazing time sightseeing in this region. We hiked the beautiful picturesque mountains of Mount Rainier, explored Vancouver’s temperate rainforest, and smelled the salty air of the Pacific NorthwestOcean in Cannon Beach, Oregon.[G1]   [G2] 

I’m so grateful we changed our itinerary from our original plan.  We would have missed out on an amazing adventure.   

Our original plan was to go to Bellingham, Washington to find information about my biological mother's background on a Native American reservation in the area.  

I knew this would be difficult and I needed more information than what was provided on my birth certificate.   I had done some investigating on my birth parents in the pastbut came to a complete halt when I tried to find my birth mother. [G3] 

The experience left me frustrated and wondering why she was a mystery.   I did not ask the Lord if this search was in his plan for me, I just proceeded with my quest.  I let my will guide my curiosity and wound up disappointed with no answers.  

This past year, I prayed that the Lord would open doors of opportunity as we visited Bellingham, Washington.  We investigated a few sources and found nothing.  It was not the Lord’s will to open doors at this time and I was able to be okay with that.    

I’ve learned that some doors are not open because they are meant to be closed or it’s just not the right time.   The Lord has a reason for everything and I should stay in his will for my own protection.

In Acts 16:6-7 “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.  When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to."[G4] [G5] 

I believe one day I will have the answers from my past, but for now, I am[G6] happy with the life the Lord has given me.  

You ask what’s the harm in trying to find your birth mother?   Well nothing really, but in the Bible, if Paul had gone into Asia, he would have not been received there and missed out on the opportunity to preach in Europe.  

The same could be said about my search, if I didn’t pay attention to the Lord, I would have been disappointed by the outcome. Instead, another[G7] door was opened to me and I had a wonderful time going to places I had never been to…what a blessing. 

Just know that God knows the end from the beginning and He only wants the best for you.  Closed doors make a way for better doors to open up in the future.

God bless!

Seasons

Seasons

By Mavis Tipton

Ecc. 3:1 “For everything there is a season…” I recently was reminiscing of when Buddy was attending South Eastern Bible College, now known as Southeastern University.

He didn’t have much longer before he would graduate and we would continue our journey following God’s plan for our lives.  

I was saying to Buddy, “I would be glad when we were through with school”, as money was always tight, and it was time to pay tuition again.  His reply to me was, “you may wish we were back in school, as we don’t know what lies ahead of us.”

I shouldn’t have been complaining as the Lord was so faithful to provided everything we needed from food to tuition for school and everything in-between.  We left school not owing one penny. God you are so Good and faithful.

The next season of our lives was answering the call for Buddy to become the pastor of Central Assembly in Vero Beach, Fl.  

This season required us to live by faith once again…but thenisn’t that what we are all called to do?  There are no expiration dates on “living by faith.”

Prov. 3:5-6Trust 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.”

Through every season of our lives, God has been there guiding us and leading us on the path He chose for us.  Most seasons have been filled to full and running over with the joy of the Lord, with excitement and anticipation of what the Lord would do next.  Other seasons have been hard and painful, but we learned and grew in those seasons, and best of all God our Father never left or forsook us.

When we are going through different seasons, we can be so child-like.  Having such great faith in our Father, knowing nothing is impossible with Him. Our Father is the best and knows everything.  

Then we hit those years when we aren’t a little child anymore, but we aren’t adults yet either, and somehow we don’t look at things the same…now we know more than the Father, yet He still loves us and doesn’t turn us into ‘potato chips.’

We move into adulthood, and we begin to see things differently, and once again we desire a closer relationship with our Father. We realize that He does have all the answers and the closer we draw to Him the better our relationship.

As I reflect on the pasts 49 years I have walked with the Lord, I am so amazed, blessed, over-the-hills-in-love with my heavenly Father, and so very thankful for His love and guiding hand in every season of our lives. 

My heart’s desire is to continually draw closer to the Savior of my soul.  To walk in love and obedience in each new season.  

And I have never once said, “I wish we were back in school.”

Going backwards isn’t God’s plan for any of us. His plan is for us always to be moving forward to the next new season.

 

When The Answer Is No

When You think the Answer is “No!”

By Denise Schmeer
As my children were growing up, I liked giving them these little “pearls of wisdom” to help them along as they matured into adults.  You know, wise words like, “Always say thank you – Have a Plan ‘B’ – Any secret shared is no longer a secret – Save 10% of everything you earn.”  But my all-time favorite was, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always – NO!”

At that time in my life, I was not a “born-again Christian.” I did not read the Bible, did not study God’s word, and so imagine my surprise when I realized my favorite “pearl of wisdom” came right from the New Testament!  In the Epistle of James 4:2 – there it was:  You do not have because you do not ask.  WOW!  

So that must mean God always answers prayers!  I’ve certainly heard many times, from many people that God didn’t answer their prayers, but it can’t be – that is not what the Bible says.  Now let me clarify – James goes on to say in 4:3 – You ask and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives.Ahhh . . . yes!

But I have definitely come to learn that God always – let me emphasize ALWAYS answers prayer.  Our prayers do not – let me emphasize DO NOT fall on deaf ears.  If we ask for something, anything . . . and it is in God’s will for us to have it – God will bless us with it.  I mean, think about it . . . when your children or a family member ask for something, do you ignore them?  Do you not answer their request?  Of course not!  You always give an answer.  Although it may not be the answer they want to hear . . . you still answer.  Do you think our great Father in Heaven would do any less for us, His children?  Of course not!  God sent His only Son to die on the cross to pay the price for our sins . . . does it even make sense that God would not answer our prayers? 

So, let me encourage each of you, no matter what your need is – go to God in prayer.  He answers every prayer.  Search your heart, know your motive, and ask our amazing Father in Heaven.  He is listening; He is waiting to hear from you right now!

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)

P.S.  By the way, all my other “pearls of wisdom” . . . yes – they are all in the Bible too, but that is a discussion for another time!

Known

Known

by Kellie Tipton

It was quiet in the truck that evening as we drove to the church.  My husband and I have taken this drive for many years each Sunday and this was no different.  You may be thinking that there had been some sort of argument or issue beforehand, but that was not the case.  In fact, this was a peaceful and reassuring quiet and I made note of that feeling.

As I thought about that moment throughout the week, the word “known” came to mind then a scripture.  So, as I looked into this word and the scripture that was being brought to my mind I was shown a song by the same name.  A feeling of warmth like a blanket wrapped around me as I listened to this song “Known” by Tauren Wells.

Known defined is acknowledged, familiar, genuine. I like the word genuine as it describes what I know our relationship to be.  But what also came to mind is 1 Corinthians 8:3 where Paul says, “But whoever loves God is known by God.”  Deeper than knowing God, is being knownby God.  He knows the good, the bad and the ugly and He loves us.  That is that feeling I had on that drive I mentioned earlier.  My husband knows my good, my bad and my ugly and he chooses to love me!  How much more precious it is to be known, fully known and loved by God!

Known

Tauren Wells

It's so unusual it's frightening

You see right through the mess inside me

And you call me out to pull me in

You tell me I can start again

And I don't need to keep on hiding

I'm fully known and loved by You

You won't let go no matter what I do

And it's not one or the other

It's hard truth and ridiculous grace

To be known fully known and loved by You

I'm fully known and loved by You

It's so like You to keep pursuing

It's so like me to go astray

But You guard my heart with Your truth

The kind of love that's bullet proof

And I surrender to Your kindness

I'm fully known and loved by You

You won't let go no matter what I do

And it's not one or the other

It's hard truth and ridiculous grace

To be known fully known and loved by You

I'm fully known and loved by You

How real, how wide

How rich, how high is Your heart

I cannot find the reasons why

You give me so much

How real, how wide

How rich, how high is Your heart

Now, I cannot find the reasons why

You give me so much

 

I'm fully known and loved by You

You won't let go no matter what I do

And it's not one or the other

It's hard truth and ridiculous grace

To be known fully known and loved by You

I'm fully known and loved by You

It's so unusual it's frightening

I'm fully known and loved by You

 

Hide and Seek

It is with great joy to introduce you to Robin Houde.  I have known Robin for several years.  Robin loves the Lord and serves Him wherever she sees a need.  Robin is gifted and talented in many areas.  Robin loves the Lord, and her gentle sweet spirit befriends her to all she comes in contact with. We welcome Robin as a new writer to Women Encouraging Women, please make her welcome.

Robin Houde is a loving Mom of 3 beautiful daughters and Mima to 3 spunky grandchildren. God, family and friends are her main focus. She moved to sunny Florida from Upstate New York in the fall of 2013 and she’s blessed to have a work-from-home career as a Subject Matter Expert for information systems. She is very involved in her church and is a leader of The Well Armed Woman – Indian River County Shooting Chapter. 

Hide & Seek

By Robin Houde

When I was a child, I used to love to play hide and seek with my younger brother and my friends. It was so much fun! The anticipation of being ‘found’, oh how difficult it was for me to be still and quiet. I used to have such anxiety that I would feel like I was going to wet my pants at any moment. Then I would start to giggle at the thought of wetting my pants and that would make the feeling even worse!

I’d begin squirming and laughing until either I was found because I was no longer quiet and still, or I would leap out of my hiding place and run as fast as I could to the ‘safe’ place. Once I was ‘safe’ and even if I was ‘caught’, I felt relieved, happier. 

How many times have we played hide and seek with God? For me it’s been far too many. Sometimes I find myself so distracted by life that I know I’m not spending as much time as I should with Him. 

I know we’ve all been there. I don’t have the feeling of wetting my pants like the childhood hide and seek game, but I do often find myself feeling overwhelmed and anxious with life. I do have a sense of unease or like I’m off-balance or something is missing. 

That’s all very true. In those times I am missing something, and life is out of balance God is missing, rather I’m ‘missing’ God. The truth is, He’s missing me as well. In these times the Lord is calling me back to Him. He knows exactly where I am, but I’m not paying attention to Him. I’m not giving Him the quality time He longs for with me. 

Now that I’m older, I know that God is my ‘safe’ place that I can go to and He always makes life more manageable. Without God, life is hectic, but His word says it doesn’t have to be this way. That I don’t have to do it on my own. I can have peace, if only I seek Him.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace ofGod, which transcends all understanding, will guards your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When my girls were little I loved having them sit with me and we would read books, sing and play games together for hours. God has a desire to spend time with His children just the same. He is our loving heavenly Father. 

The next time you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or like life is draining your strength, just crawl up on His lap and spend time with Him. Read His word, pray and be still and you will find peace, one that’s everlasting.

Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

         God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

         He says, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

 

Do You Want Your Daddy?

Do You Want Your Daddy?
By Vicki Molinari


I crumbled to the kitchen floor, completely overwhelmed by my circumstances. As I wept, my face in my hands, the gentle touch of my toddler daughter caused me to look up. “Do you want your daddy”, she asked?

Sometimes, often times we learn valuable lessons from our children. This was one lesson I will never forget.

Life was hard! All within two years, I was married, became a step mother and birthed two kids fourteen months apart.

Young and invincible, we got married and had children much quicker than advised by most of our family and friends.

We were in love and believed that a loving God brought us together and with that, what else did we need?

So many things!

Things that would be revealed in time as we walked humbly committed to God and each other.

And so...The life lessons became many for the past 33 years.

Has it been easy? No!

Has it been worth it? Yes!

What was the lesson I learned that day from my sweet baby girl?

When she saw me crying, this two-year-old reminded me of love. 

She knew she could always count on the love, protection and strength of her daddy, Joel.  Just the same, I needed my daddy, Jesus!


The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you”.

Forever I have decided, when struggles come beyond my ability to see a clear outcome, I fall to my knees and seek the One who knows me the best. 

 

I want my Daddy, God!

 

Back To School

Back to School

By Jacqi Ballough

After a very leisurely summer, the idea of returning to the consistency of a school schedule brings some comfort, but also a heaviness. Helping my child with reading, writing, math, Bible, history, English, handwriting, geography, science, spelling, music, art, field trips, and P.E. can cause mental exhaustion. Then I remember all the household chores which also need to be accomplished on top of the school schedule and work. 

My brain begins to crave a never-ending lazy summer and wonder if I can succeed fulfilling all these roles. Am I trying to do too much Lord? Are my priorities in line with yours?

As a family we continually pray for the Lord to guide our steps, take the wrong people and obligations out, and put the right people and obligations in. Sometimes it is so clear, whereas at other times, it is foggy. 

In those foggy moments, I fear failure and become afraid of stepping out in faith. I have to shove those lies away and replace them with truth.

Scripture states, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. Be sure to stay busy and plant a variety of crops, for you never know which will grow – perhaps they all will.”  (Ecclesiastes 11:4, 6 NLT) 

What a relief! The Lord doesn’t want me to wait. He is encouraging me to produce and keep my life from being idle by investing my time, resources, and energy in a variety of people and responsibilities.

The best part of this scripture is the “perhaps.” There is no guarantee of success, but there is the possibility of total success too! The Lord doesn’t care about the earthly successes. He just wants a willing heart trusting and seeking Him. I believe the true victory comes with trusting Him to place us where we need to be and who we need to be with.

Deborah was an Old Testament Judge, who already had her plate full settling Israelite disputes, when she conveyed a commandment from the Lord to Barak. Barak was to assemble 10,000 troops and battle King Jabin’s army victoriously. Unfortunately, the command to Barak was met with, “Only if you go with me.” (Judges 4)

Can you imagine if Deborah responded, “Seriously! The Lord said He would give you victory why do I need to go hold your hand? I’m already dealing with all these Israelite disputes and don’t have the time. The command wasn’t for me anyway. It’s your job.”

Thankfully, Deborah replied, “Very well. I will go with you…the Lord is marching ahead…” She didn’t make excuses or blame shift. She was ready and willing to serve the Lord and her comrades who needed her.

Lord, like Deborah, give me the wisdom, energy, perseverance, and perspective to accomplish your will. I do love learning alongside my child as he goes back to school, and know there is no way I can be a housewife, mother, and teacher in my own strength. I need You. Please go before me Lord.

 

     

God's Timing Is Always Perfect

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to one of our newest writers Debbie Walker.  I have known Debbie and her family for many years.  It has been a blessing to watch Debbie and her family grow in the Lord and step out in faith to fulfill the calling He has placed upon their lives.  Please make her welcome to Women Encouraging Women.

I grew up in a non-Christian family but attended VBS each summer. As a high school athlete, I was invited to attend a Christian sports camp and it was there that I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Ned and I met while I was in high school and we were married in 1992 and have been blessed with three amazing children. We moved from Indiana to Vero Beach, FL in 1993 to work at a Christian kid’s camp. It was while there that we became connected with Central Assembly and enjoyed being very active members there until God called us into full time missions with Youth With A Mission. 

For the past ten years, we have served in YWAM and currently live and serve in inner city Richmond, Virginia.  

God’s Timing Is Always Perfect!

Debbie Walker

I was recently sharing with a friend about what has been going on in our lives the past few months and how discouraged I have been.  I told her that for the past 10 years we have been serving as full-time missionaries and God has provided.  However, the past two months June and July, God had not provided, not even for the rent.  

I then went on to explain that He had “finally” provided around mid-July and we were able to pay the rent.  I said, “Luckily, we had mushrooms growing from our ceiling, so that was enough of a reason according to the state that we live in to not pay the rent on time.”  

When I said that, it hit me.  God had provided…just not in the timing or the way that I had wanted or hoped for.  He provided the rent but He also provided the mushrooms.  

God does provide and He is not bound to the “normal” parameters of provision that we see or think about.  I didn’t want to have to wait and I didn’t want to have to go through the ordeal of moving furniture and having a huge piece of my ceiling torn out and replaced. I didn’t want the construction dust and people in my house. But it is not about what I want.  

Life is always about glorifying God and about what He wants to teach us.   I don’t know all of what God was teaching me during this process but I do know some things.  

During any trial, we must stay confident in God’s promises.  He will provide and He will take care of us.  It will always be in His way and in His timing but He will do it! 

We must stay encouraged and looking to God.  I had to lean into God’s Word and I also had to seek out people who would encourage me. Somedays, I had to go to a friend to give me an encouraging word because I was just so discouraged.  

And, we must also stay true to what God has asked us to do even when it gets tough. Remember the last thing that God has told you to do and stay faithful to that word and His direction.   

These are just a few of the things that God taught me during this time.  I just need to trust and obey Him regardless of what seems to be going on around me.

Phil. 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

 

Faith Is Like Crisco

Faith is a lot like Crisco

By Denise Schmeer

I was recently reminded of a scene from the movie, The Help.  It was the exchange between the maid, Minny Jackson (actress – Octavia Spencer) and her employer, Celia Foote (actress – Jessica Chastain). Minny is teaching Celia about cooking and she starts to explain about Crisco.  The dialogue goes . . .

[Crisco] ain't just for frying. You ever get a sticky something stuck in your hair, like gum? . . .That's right, Crisco.  Spread this on a baby's bottom, you won't even know what diaper rash is . . . shoot, I seen ladies rub it under they eyes and on they husband's scaly feet...Clean the goo from a price tag, take the squeak out a door hinge. Lights get cut off, stick a wick in it and burn it like a candle . . . And after all that, it'll still fry your chicken.

It occurred to me that Faith is a lot like Crisco! Why?  Because, like Crisco, Faith isn’t just for praying.  Have you ever felt totally stressed out?  That’s right, Faith.  Worried about those bills growing faster than your paycheck . . . Faith. Are your teenagers acting sullen and sassy . . . Faith.  Need a little more joy in your life . . . Faith.  

Thank God that to each of us He has given a measure of Faith. And what a powerful gift – I mean, the Bible reminds us that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthensus.  (Philippians 4:13) All we need to do is use that gift of Faith.  Whateverwe ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  (Mark 11:24) Faith again.  

Everywhere you turn . . . that Faith gift is there for each of us.  And, like Crisco, you just need a little . . . and a little goes a long, long way. But perhaps this is where the comparison stops because, with Crisco, eventually you have to go back to the supermarket to buy more.  But not with Faith – it never runs out, it never runs dry, it’s never too little.  

So I encourage you right now to lift your eyes to Heaven, smile, and thank your Heavenly Father for Faith.  That amazingly great gift that comforts you, calms you, strengthens you, heals you, and allows you to do things, know things, and understand things when the world around you appears to be spinning out of control. 

As for me, next time I’m in Publix or Wal-Mart and I see a can of Crisco . . . FAITH!

 

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)