IN TOWN THREE’S
A Ministry of Pink Gateway Women studiogmag.com
EMBRACED BY GRACE
features 5 7
Embraced by Grace by Katie Smith
in every issue 2 3
8 14 22 32 33
CONTRIBUTORS FROM THE EDITOR STUDIO SPICE
Cinnamon Rolls & Brunch Egg Bake by Lynda Grove
Roll It Out: The Benefits of Selfmyofascial Release by Emily Gilstrap
10 11 12 15 24 25 26 28 29
The Power of a Ponder by Dana Stone
New Girl in Town by Celeste Barnard
More than Words by Robb Brewer
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard by Michelle Hearn
Three’s Company by Megan White
Under Construction by Marcus Brecheen
Rock Your Season by Kelly Elliott
I Was a Good Girl by Katie Smith
The Front Porch by Penny Spurling
Simplify by Kristi Kennedy
Thin Mints by Kendra Hunt
10 Steps to Throwing a Spectacular Holiday Party by Erin Sullivan
by Sydnie Shreffler
Mommy Diaries by Destiny Vandeput
7. MICHELLE HEARN serves as a Pink group leader, writes Gateway sermon discussion guides, and teaches high school math. She and her husband of 25 years also minister to couples as budget coaches. They have two children.
8. KENDRA HUNT is a mom of two
boys, Kam’s wife, a group leader, and a part-time accountant. She has a degree in business but balances her nerd status with her love of dancing. Kendra’s passion is encouraging women.
9. KRISTI KENNEDY is the mother of five children, the executive director of the Bee Friendly Boot Camp, and a consultant with Tech Arts at Gateway. Kristi is the author of Overcoming Obstacles: Turning Tragedy into Triumph. 9
10. SYDNIE SHREFFLER is a staff writer at Gateway and is married to a man who is more awesome than she could’ve imagined. She loves to cook, craft, read good books, and watch offbeat detective shows. 11. KATIE SMITH and her amazing
husband Patrick moved to Texas from New Jersey two years ago. She loves books, Jersey bagels, Broadway tunes, coffee, and quirky people. She works as a staff writer at Gateway.
12. PENNY SPURLING has been married to Dr. John Spurling for 23 years, and they have two adult children. She’s passionate about being authentic and is always ready to encourage people to be all God created them to be.
13. DANA STONE is a coordinator for 1. CELESTE BARNARD is passion- 4. KELLY ELLIOTT is a stay-at-home ate about writing and speaking to encourage women. She’s the author of Reflections: 31 Daily Devotionals and recently released Brave Journal.
2. MARCUS BRECHEEN is the executive pastor of the North Fort Worth Campus. He served as a senior pastor for eight years before coming to Gateway in 2002. He is married to Lexa, and they have five children.
3. ROBB BREWER is the executive pastor of equipping at Gateway. He has a bachelor’s in pastoral ministry, a master’s in education, and is working on a PhD in education. Robb and his wife Jill have four children and two dogs.
mom to four boys. For 12 years, she and her husband Charley were missionaries in Mexico, which is where their children were born. She loves to preach and teach.
5. EMILY GILSTRAP has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 30 years. She has a bachelor’s in health education and a master’s in adult fitness management. She wants to inspire people to develop a healthy lifestyle.
6. LYNDA GROVE is an associate pastor of Pink. She’s married to her college sweetheart Kevin, and they have four children. She’s passionate about seeing women valued and encouraged. She loves to cook, entertain, and spend time with her family.
Pink at Gateway. She and her husband Todd have been married for 30 years and have four children and one granddaughter. She writes a blog at sochoosejoy.wordpress.com.
14. E R I N S U L L I VA N w or k s w it h Gateway’s events team. She loves breaking into song on a regular basis and wishes real life could be like a musical. She’s single and ready to mingle. Visit her blog at domesticsanddates.wordpress.com.
15. DESTINY VANDEPUT writes for an economic company by day and writes young adult novels by night. She, her husband, and three kids recently moved back to Texas from Europe and attend Gateway.
16. MEGAN WHITE is a graphic designer at Gateway. She’s an adoptive mama to two high school seniors. She loves to cook, brew coffee, and do hipster things with her friends.
from the editor
Why Studio G?
T he t it le, Studio G, w a s inspired by Psalm 144:12 which is a prayer asking God “that ou r daughters m ay be as pi l l a rs, scu lp tured in palace style.” The name reminds us that we, as Christian women, are in God’s studio as unfinished works of a r t. Studio G is committed to reminding us of the ways of the Master Sculptor as He continues to fashion us into “women of palace style.” In His studio, we discover who we are created to be and we come to realize our true worth.
Hello Sweet Friends, It’s harvest time. It’s the season of reaping! There’s nothing quite like the thrill you get when you’ve cultivated land, put a seed in plain dirt, nurtured the seedling with water, protected new growth, and pruned the excessive growth to reap a harvest. I know scientists can explain how all that is possible and necessary, but it’s still a gift from God worthy of celebration and thanksgiving. So I want to take a moment and say, “Thanks be to God!” What is happening around us is nothing short of a gift from God. Years ago, I had a thought: We (women) can make a difference. It was a turning point. We restructured our whole women’s ministry. We changed the language we used. We started cheering on each other’s efforts to let God use us to affect our world for Him. Now several years later, God’s girls are making a difference! We are changing lives and impacting our communities in significant ways. We have found amazing ways to demonstrate Christ’s love without abandoning our God-given roles of obeying God and loving our families.
In this issue, you’ll find articles about women who are doing this exact thing. You’ll definitely want to read Amy Ford’s story about how God honored her decision to birth life and, through it, gave her a vision for Embrace Grace. I love her passion and surrendered life. Like me, I’m sure you’ll be blessed when you read “Three’s Company” about Megan White who at the ripe-old age of 23 (That’s right, 23!) adopted two teenagers. And Pastor Marcus Breechen reminds us that difficult situations are the scaffolding God builds on, while Destiny Vandeput encourages all of us who have doubted our abilities and thought we weren’t enough. Okay, I am not going to give you any more hints about what’s in this issue. Go on and check it out for yourself! I hope you’ll find ways this season to pause, consider your influence, and celebrate with thanksgiving how God has used you for His glory. Blessings,
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Gateway Women’s Magazine
Winter 2014 Editor-in-Chief
DEBBIE MORRIS General Editor
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r e w o
Have you ever said something and the moment the words escaped your mouth you immediately wished you could snatch them back out of midair? We’ve all been there. It’s a horrible feeling. You see the hurt in the other person’s eyes and know your words wounded them. Or the room goes suddenly silent, and the looks on everyone’s faces seem to scream, “Did you really just say that?” You quickly try to decide if you should attempt to justify your words, play them off as a joke, or even pretend they just misunderstood what you said. But it’s too late. The damage has been done.
r e d n o
Why do we so often feel the need to say whatever is on our minds as soon as we think it? Today’s technology allows us to instantly express our opinions and viewpoints and offer advice on just about everything. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but there are also times when we’re too quick to give voice to our thoughts. We don’t think about what we say before we say it, and we don’t always realize the consequences of those hasty responses. When did silence become a bad thing? I think the art of pondering and taking a minute to think has nearly been lost.
Someone who took the time to ponder was Mary, the mother of Jesus. Luke 2:15–19 says, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
Not too long ago, Pastor Robert spoke about the power of words. The message focused on three truths: words matter, words cost, and words last. Words, once spoken, are forever. They can bring life, healing, help, restoration, joy, hope, and peace. Or they can bring condemnation, confusion, rejection, anger, division, and pain. We all want to bring life to those around us! So before you speak, try using this simple acrostic I saw the other day for THINK:
T: Is it true? H: Is it helpful?
Here we have a teenage girl who had just given birth to the Son of God. She’d traveled almost one hundred miles over the last week, mostly by foot! She had to have been exhausted and hurting. She was probably still dealing with the sting of criticism and scorn from the people in her hometown. Mary had every right to say just about anything she felt in that moment. She could have complained about the accommodations. She could have lashed out at those who had ridiculed her. She could have bragged that she was chosen to give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. Instead, she chose to quietly ponder everything that had happened over the last nine months. She chose to examine it all without uttering a word. She determined that her voice—her opinions, thoughts, and commentaries—was not the most important thing in that moment. She understood the power of pondering.
I: Is it inspiring? N: Is it necessary?
K: Is it kind?
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Taking the time to ponder and “think” before you speak can ensure that your words are truly “grace-filled”; that they speak life, restoration, hope, and joy into every situation you encounter and to every person you meet!
Is i t tr ue? | Is i t h e l p f u l? | I s it i n s p i r i n g? | I s it n e c essar y? | Is i t k in d?
What if we followed Mary’s example? What if before we spoke, we asked ourselves a simple question: How important is it that my opinion has a voice right now? Ask yourself that question when you’re in a meeting and someone voices a different opinion, or when a family member does something unkind, or when a friend snaps in a moment of weakness. How about when you walk up in the middle of a conversation and think you know what they’re discussing? Or when you aren’t receiving the type of customer service you expect at a local establishment? In those moments, it’s so easy to quickly voice displeasure, disagreement, frustration, or hurt. But those are the moments when more often than not, we really need to be silent and take the time to ponder. Examine your words carefully and consider the cost of what you have to say.
New Girl in Town Celeste Barnard
Sunshine was beating in through my window,
4 . G i v e he r y o u r nu m b e r. L et he r k no w y ou’r e av a i la b l e t o h e lp i f s h e n e e d s a ny t h i ng o r h a s qu e s t i o n s . Somet imes just know ing someone is there for her is all she needs.
signaling another warm and beautiful day. My kids were running through the house playing. Everything seemed to be normal, but I felt numb and uncomfortable. I was the new girl in town. Surrounded by unfamiliar people and places, I was completely out of my comfortable territory. I didn’t like being the new girl at all, depending on others to befriend me. I wanted to go back to my old town; people knew me, and said “Hello!” when I went to the grocery store and the local coffee shop … but not here. Trying to break into this new community seemed like it was taking too much effort.
5. Invite her over to a family dinner. Don’t worry about having a perfect house or meal; it’s the company she’s craving. 6. Bring her along. If you’re meeting up with friends—whether it’s for a book club, moms’ group, or Bible study—invite her. Introducing her to more people will help her feel less isolated in unfamiliar territory.
If you’ve ever been the new girl, you know it takes time for your family to adjust to a new place. I knew God wanted us here, but that didn’t make it any easier. I felt very isolated because I just didn’t quite know my place yet.
7. Think about her kids. If your kids are around the same age, set up a play date or a meet-up at the park. Change is hard on adults, and it can be hard on kids too.
In Romans, a woman named Phoebe, who was a deacon of a church in another town, was visiting Rome. It’s unclear how long she was going to be in Rome, but I absolutely love what Paul tells the Christians when she arrives: “Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me” (Romans 16:2). What great advice!
Whether you’re the new girl or you’re befriending her, just remember that transition is always hard at first. We all experience it one way or another, so think about how you would want to be treated if you were new in town. Transition is a lot easier when there are people around who care. Just because someone smiles at church and says they’re fine doesn’t mean they are! Go out of your way to make someone feel at home. I promise you, it doesn’t go unnoticed in God’s kingdom. And take it from someone who still remembers the woman who went out of her way to check on me and invite me to get-togethers, it makes all the difference.
That’s exactly what I was longing for when I was new in town. I’ve been here long enough now that I’ve found some very dear friends, and I can finally say I feel at home. Now that I’m on the other side, I’ve been thinking about how we can help others when they’re new. How can we make another girl’s transition a little easier? Here are some of my ideas:
1. Invite her to coffee. Coffee is common ground for most of us, and it’s a comfortable atmosphere to get to know someone.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.
2. Cook her a meal. The first couple of weeks in a new town are chaotic at best. She probably doesn’t have any meals planned, let alone gone grocery shopping. And I’ll bet she’s overwhelmed from unpacking!
Hebrews 13:2 (nasb)
3. Give her recommendations. Since she’s starting fresh, she needs to find a new dentist, doctor, hairstylist, and more. I’m sure she’d love to know the best restaurants and fun activities around too!
Cinnamon Rolls & Brunch Egg Bake Lynda Grove
ant to know a secret? I add an unspoken, never recorded, special ingredient to every recipe … love. It’s the one ingredient that turns food into a comforting meal. It’s the extraordinary ingredient that transforms a party or family gathering into a special memory. Love lingers over a hot stove and spends time (maybe perusing the takeout menu, but it’s still love!) making sure everyone at the table feels special. Love transforms the simplest of things into things to cherish. One of my fondest memories from my childhood is waking up to delicious, hot cinnamon rolls during the holidays. These gooey treats were my father’s truest expression of love. We all coveted these treasures and, most of all, the warm, heartfelt affection and hospitality that came along with them. Now that I have my own family, I keep the cinnamon roll tradition alive, but I also combine them with a delectable egg bake!
Take some time over Christmas to indulge in these cinnamon rolls and brunch egg bake, and enjoy adding your own heaping cupful of love to make it special for your loved ones.
CINNAMON ROLLS INGREDIENTS Cinnamon Roll • 1 package of Bridgford Frozen Ready-Dough®, thawed • 1–1½ sticks of butter, softened
Cinnamon-Sugar Mixture • 1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar • 1½ Tbsp of cinnamon
Frosting • 1½ cups of powdered sugar • 2 Tbsp of milk • 2 to 4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (optional)
DIRECTIONS Rolls 1. Buy one package of f rozen bread dough or make your favorite homemade recipe (that’s how my father would have made it). Follow the direct ions on t he package to t haw t he dough. Let it rise for 1½ to 2 hours. 2. Taking one loaf at a time, roll the loaf out into a flat rectangle, approxi mately ¼-i nch t h ick. Usi ng sof tened butter, spread generously over t he doug h. Then, cover w it h t he
cinnamon-sugar mixture. Add nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, or any ingredient you like. I always add pecans, my family’s favorite. 3. Starting on the longest side of the rectangle, tightly tuck the beginning edge and gently roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into 1-inch slices, placing the cut edge down in a wellgreased pan. Place the rolls side by side and lightly dust the tops with f lour to keep the dough from sticking to the cover as they rise. Loosely cover with a clean dishtowel and place in the refrigerator to rise for 2 to 2½ hours or overnight. 4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Let rolls stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking. Then bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Frosting Place all ingredients (including the cream cheese if you wish) in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until thoroughly mixed and smooth. Pour generously over warm rolls.
BRUNCH EGG BAKE INGREDIENTS
• • • • • •
1. Combine cheeses and sprinkle half in the bottom of an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish.
• • • • •
3 cups of cheddar cheese 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese ¼ cup of butter 1 4.5-oz jar of mushrooms, drained* ¹/3 cup of diced green onions* ½ of a medium red bell pepper, chopped* 1 package of turkey sausage (cooked and cut into bite-size pieces) ½ cup of flour 1¾ cups of milk 2 Tbsp of chopped fresh parsley* 8 eggs well-beaten with ¼ cup of water *Optional ingredients
2. Sauté vegetables with butter until tender. 3. Arrange vegetables over cheese, top w it h sau sag e, a nd spr i n k le w it h remaining cheese. 4. In a large bowl, blend flour, milk, parsley, and eggs. Pour over the layers in the baking dish. 5. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
More than Words Robb Brewer When my dad passed away more than a decade ago, we gave my mother a nice picture of the sun playing hide-and-seek over an ocean horizon. I took it myself, and it wasn’t a bad shot, thank you very much. On the bottom of the frame we attached a scripture to comfort her during seasons of loneliness and fear. The picture still hangs in her house. Like most believers, my home also has a lot of scriptures hanging on the walls, but I think we also like to hang the Word of God on the walls of our heart. These Bible passages are short, digestible, and usually the length of a tweet. (It seems God beat us to the genius of 140 characters.) We do this with good intentions, but we often only have a general idea of what these scriptures mean. They’re implanted through countless sermons and teachings, but we don’t really memorize these passages word for word or look at them in context, and when we do quote them, we usually miss an important word or phrase. You probably have dozens of these scriptures lining your soul. The problem is that we have a tendency to live our lives based on the handful of misquoted words hung on the caverns of our hearts without realizing that the Word—Jesus Himself—has become flesh and dwells among us (John 1:14). Jesus is more than terms on a page; He is the Word (John 1:1), and He is actively pursuing a relationship with us. He speaks to us through His Word—the Bible— and reveals things to us. His revelation offers life and light in the midst of our dead, dark days. God doesn’t just want us to feel good when we read the Bible; He provides life-giving sustenance in His Word through relationship with Jesus. Satan will gladly let you hang scriptures on your heart as long as you don’t get to know the Author. It’s not the words that save you; it’s the Word—Jesus. Here’s how the Bible can move beyond a guidebook and something we put on refrigerator magnets to becoming the source of our life and relationship with God.
DRINK IT. Water is good for scrubbing; it washes away dirt and offers a thorough cleansing. But a parched wanderer is never satisfied with a bath. Survival demands drinking water. Reading the Bible showers the mind, which is good, but ingesting it heals a blistered soul. You can “drink” the Bible through memorization and belief. Memorizing Scripture makes it instantly accessible in times of great need and doubt—those times when you really need to hear from God. But you must also believe. Life will offer you evidence that stands contrary to the Bible, like “God doesn’t heal” or “You’re in this alone.” Believing in the face of such manufactured evidence sets God as your source and offers a deeper peace than the passing words of man. LEARN IT. Part of the drinking process is learning Scripture. Learn about the various authors, the audiences they were writing to, the situations they were writing from, and their purposes for writing. You’ll discover the authors were no different from you and me. You’ll connect with their situations. God’s words to them will become God’s words to you. Avoid treating this as an invitation to biblical minutia. Instead, receive it as a way to dig deeper into the Word and connect with God. DISCUSS IT. Talk to other people about the things you’re seeing in Scripture. Don’t worry about being wrong. I imagine all of us are wrong about something in the Bible. When you discuss the Word, God shows up and contributes His own voice to the conversation. Everyone walks away with a stronger understanding of Scripture and a deeper sense of relationship with God and each other. The Bible is the most amazing document ever written because it stands as so much more than a document. It’s a love letter to all who will receive, and it activates God’s presence. When you know the Word Himself, Scripture comes to life.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard Michelle Hearn
ave you ever been disappointed or overwhelmed by a When we experience difficult trials, the enemy loves to feed circumstance? If you’ve been alive for any amount of us lies about God and ourselves. He might cause us to think, It time, there’s no doubt you have. During these times, shouldn’t be this hard, and this thought can lead to doubt and people tend to offer a lighthearted, well-intentioned resentment. It can spiral out of control into destructive patterns suggestion: “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” that lead to questions like, “What have I done to deserve this?” or That just adds salt to the wound, doesn’t it? Personally, I don’t ever “Is the Lord not who He says He is?” reply to that because I’m afraid all the fruits of the Spirit in me The Bible says we will suffer. James 1:2–3 says, “Consider it pure would fly right out the window! So where do well-meaning people joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many get this mantra? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is perseverance.” I find this scripture difficult to read at times faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. because I can’t say I’ve achieved pure joy 100% of the time. But I But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that find it strangely comforting to know it’s normal, expected even, to you can endure it.” Notice it says in times of temptation we won’t have disappointing and difficult times in our lives. be given more than we can handle. I’m so thankful for that, but what about when life hands you hardships, trials, and heartaches? In those moments, we must acknowledge that God is Lord over all. When we surrender our disappointment and pain to Him Paul was one of the most zealous messengers of the gospel. and trust Him no matter the situation, He gives us security, even When he was talking to the Corinthian church he said, “We in the darkest hour. Paul calls it setting your hope on Him. In were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so 2 Corinthians 1:8–10 (NIV), he says, “We were under great presthat we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). Was this the sure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life same great apostle Paul who suffered continually for the gospel? itself …. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves Who wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament? Yes! And he but on God …. On him we have set our hope that he will continue described his circumstance and turmoil as far beyond his ability to deliver us.” to endure. Ahhhh, what a relief to hear that from Paul! It’s such an encouragement to me because I know I haven’t been able to When we go through seasons that are far beyond our ability to endure some of life’s darkest hours. endure, God has the almighty ability to endure on our behalf! He will work out everything for your good. He is for you. He loves you. He will sit with you when you’re in despair. He’ll meet you where you are and be your strength when you have none.
The Bible gives us plenty of examples of people who encountered trials that were greater than their ability to endure. One of the most treasured women in the Bible, Mary, the mother of Jesus, watched at the foot of the cross as they crucified her son. John 19:25 says, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother.” It’s surprising she could even stand at all. Surely she thought, It shouldn’t be like this or It shouldn’t be this hard. That had to be far beyond what Mary could handle.
Next time you’re walking through a trial, remember you can’t do it on your own; God is the One who has the power to endure it.
THREE’S COMPANY Megan White
“But aren’t you like, 12?” is the question I’ve been asked the most when people learn about my family’s unique situation. I was 23 years old when I started the process of adopting Dianna and Dianne, twins who had just turned 16. In 2010, I star ted an organization that encouraged kids who were going through roug h t imes in t heir l ives. We spread our message of encouragement through clothing with uplifting messages. At first we showed random acts of kindness, but after six months, I wanted to do something more specific. I was waiting in line at Starbucks when I saw a flyer asking for school supply donations for a children's group home. That was it. That was where my heart was … with abandoned children.
I approached the group home, and my organization teamed up with them to do summer camps with the kids. We wanted to keep those idle hands busy and having fun. During the camp, we hosted cooking, dancing, singing, acting, and art classes. At the end of the three weeks, we had a talent show. We sold tickets, and the kids prepared a meal for the night while people enjoyed the show we’d been working on. This is where I met Dianna and Dianne.
Dianna and Dianne were of f icially placed in my home on July 31, 2013. Over the past year and a half, I’ve done a lot of things I’d never done and thought I wouldn’t do for at least a decade. I enrolled the twins in driver’s ed and have now been to high school orientations and parent/teacher meetings. I bought a house that was finished being built in September. (That’s another crazy story of miracles in itself!) I cook for three instead of one, and I’ve apologized to my parents about a million times for everything I did as a teenager.
I was immediately drawn to them. At the time, they were 14 and so incredible. I mean, these tiny 14-year-olds were questioning the way other girls were trying to get attention from boys. They were giving advice to older kids about handling situations. They kept their cool when I probably couldn’t have. Who does that? Their personalities were amazing, and I wanted to pour into them even more.
The adoption was f inalized on March 26, 2014. They’re officially my babies. They are officially stuck with me for the rest of their lives. Now in this story, I don’t want you to think that this was some easy task and we’re a big happy family. It’s been one of the hardest years of my life—not just with this transition and new role but with my family and personal life. But it’s also been one of the best years of my life. It’s been challenging, and I’ve failed practically every day, but I couldn’t be more thankful for Dianna and Dianne. They are better than me in so many ways. They have more grace, love, and patience for me than I do for them or myself. They’re wise beyond their years, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that they have incredible callings on their lives, and I’m just thankful that I get to be a part of it to see them come to life.
If ... anyone else had any doubts that this was supposed to happen, God was about to confirm it.
After the first summer camp, I started sponsoring Dianna, which meant she stayed with me ever y other weekend and during holidays and school breaks. Dianna became a part of my family. She was at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her sister Dianne had another sponsor during this time, but I came to know and love her too. On Christmas Eve in 2011, the twins shared some things with me about their situation that concerned me. I felt like the people around them weren’t protecting them and didn’t have their best interests at heart, and I really wanted to do something to help. I went to their caseworker to ask her advice. She said something that changed everything: “You could adopt them.” I paused for a minute and said, “I’m going to have to talk to my parents.” After I prayed and chewed on it for a few days, I brought the idea to my parents. They were hesitant, but who in their right mind wouldn’t be when their single 23-year-old says she wants to adopt two 16-year-olds? On January 7, 2012, I started the adoption process. As soon as that happened, doors began to blow open … not crack open or drift slightly open but blow open. If my parents or anyone else had any doubts that this was supposed to happen, God was about to confirm it. At work, I had the opportunity to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and my savings grew like never before. I went to Gateway’s Single Parent Families Ministry, and they were beyond incredible. They helped me set up counseling sessions for when the twins were placed with me and gave me gift cards to help them buy school supplies. I started cooking meals I found on Pinterest— and they were actually good. Within a month, I met three different people who’d been adopted as teenagers. Teen adoptions are rare, so that was a huge confirmation to keep going. And that was just the beginning. The miracles just kept coming. I didn’t pay for a single thing during the adoption process. The twins were placed with me just six months after I started trying to adopt them. And last but not least, the state of Texas granted parental rights of not one but two teenagers to a young, single adult! When you obey, God is so good.
Roll It Out
The Benefits of Self-myofascial Release Emily Gilstrap
When I started my new job at an aircraft manufacturing plant two years ago, I had no idea how much time I’d dedicate to injury prevention and pain management. Repetitive stress injuries and chronic muscle fatigue run rampant in this industry. Both mechanical and administrative employees suffer the effects of poor ergonomics, and these are only exaggerated by poor fitness levels. Maybe you hunch over a desk all day, lift your toddler dozens of times a day, or spend the day on your feet teaching—everyone is susceptible to injuries and fatigue! What continues to amaze me is how just a little TLC can bring immediate relief to tight, sore muscles. So, what makes up the TLC? Self-myofascial release, or soft tissue therapy, using foam rollers or various-sized therapy balls. These powerful therapeutic tools relieve stress and promote optimal muscle function.
or restriction. Just a short 5- to 10-minute session of foam rolling can result in benefits that are similar to a deep tissue massage (yes, please!) or stretching session.
What are the benefits? 1. Increased circulation and blood flow brings healing oxygen and nutrients to fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 2. Improved flexibility lengthens and realigns muscle fibers back to their original state. 3. Breaking down adhesions and scar tissue formed in the muscles from small injuries.
How do I get started?
There are numerous self-myofascial release tools available with varying sizes and densities so it can be overwhelming trying to What is fascia? decide what to get when you’re standing in the aisle at a sporting A thin membrane of connective tissue called fascia surrounds goods store. It all depends on your goals and what your particular each one of our muscles. It allows the muscles to slide back and issue is. For beginners, the softest foam roller would be best, and, forth smoothly when they’re contracting or stretching. When your as a general rule, make 10 to 15 passes across the target muscle. body experiences any type of trauma, whether it be a fall, repeti- You’ll want to spend a little more time on your tender areas or tive stress or overuse from intense exercise, microfibers form “hot spots.” I suggest either hiring a personal trainer to give you in between layers of connective tissues and bind them together. a brief tutorial or check out online resources demonstrating selfThis binding allows your body to heal, but it also causes the fascia myofascial release techniques. to become tight and restricted, making it lose flexibility, which Personally, this simple tool has done so much to revolutionize my results in discomfort for the rest of the body. own fitness. It’s a consistent part of my pre- and post-workout Why should I do self-myofascial release? regime. Once you get started, your body will thank you, and selfImagine a sweater with a loose thread. The moment you tug on myofascial release very well may become a regular part of your it, the rest of the sweater fibers begin drawing in to the point fitness routine. Say goodbye to aches, pains, and sore muscles! of injury, causing restriction in all the surrounding fibers. Our muscles behave ver y similarly when we experience trauma. Myofascial release helps return your fascia to a normal, healthy state, which allows your body to move more freely without pain
CONSTRUCTION Marcus Brecheen No one makes it through life without encountering problems. We’ve all gone through hard times and made it out on the other side—and often we’re better for it. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the difficult things that happen in life are merely scaffolding for what God is actually building in us.
hadn’t gone through that challenging and frustrating season, we wouldn’t have learned that lesson about giving value to only what is truly valuable in God’s eyes. Our financial trouble was just the temporary scaffolding that helped us learn about God’s economy. In Matthew 7:14, Jesus says, “The way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” You’ve probably read that verse a million times. So have I. It’s easy to speed read familiar verses, so let me paraphrase and emphasize what Jesus said: The way is hard that leads to life. Not very many people find it.
Scaffolding is a temporary structure that supports the people and materials necessary to transform a building under construction into its permanent form. While there, the building might look like it’s in shambles, but it’s really just in the process of becoming something else. But scaffolding is temporary … and so are difficulties.
To grasp this thought, we need to understand that Jesus is life and becoming like Him isn’t an easy process. While walking through difficult seasons doesn’t feel good, there’s a satisfaction that saturates our soul when Jesus becomes larger in us. When the scaffolding is removed, Jesus remains—and so do the lessons we’ve learned and the character we’ve gained.
Yet that’s not how we approach our difficulties most of the time. We look at them like they’re the sun instead of the shadow, the fire rather than the smoke, the ultimate truth rather than the secondary truth. We generally walk through the valley of the shadows with feelings of failure and regret rather than seeing that season as an opportunity for growth. What would happen if we endured these times with an awareness that God was using our difficulties to give us a lavish gift we couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to receive otherwise? If you could see the other side of the valley, would you say “Yes” to the promise, knowing what hard times lie between? I think we all would.
We need to understand that Jesus is life and becoming like Him isn’t an easy process.
When we’re in those unexpected seasons of difficulty, we have to exercise our faith and form new spiritual habits to get through. Once we learn God’s ways, the difficulty, like the scaffolding, is removed. That season of growth is now complete, and we can reap its benefits.
It all comes down to this: God’s goal for us is almost always different than our goals for ourselves. One philosopher said that people, like water, always seek the easiest way through the valley. Most of the time, we search for the easiest way. God’s goal isn’t our ease, but our transformation. I don’t think God is focused on making us comfortable. Instead, He cares a great deal whether or not we look like Jesus. And when that happens, we find the life that Jesus was talking about. It just takes some scaffolding to get there.
When Lexa and I were first married, we compiled some credit card debt that took us a few years to pay off. It was miserable. Every month, we had to pay hard-earned money for things we no longer enjoyed. That misery forced us to learn how to handle money God’s way, and as we did, we learned something even more important than budgeting—valuing what is valuable to God. If we
Emb�aced by Grace T
he day I met with Amy Ford, she was eager to show off pictures of a new office suite the ministry was closing on that day. She was bubbly with excitement, scrolling quickly through her phone to find the pictures. Amy never thought she would be where she is now, but over the years, she’s learned to love and embrace the unexpected. At 19 years old, Amy’s life changed forever as she dealt with the reality of an unplanned pregnancy. She was unwed and pregnant, facing extreme guilt and embarrassment. Overcome by fear, she thought an abortion was her only way out, her only option. “I decided I would just deal with the consequences of a broken heart later and get the abortion and pretend it never happened,” Amy says. So she scheduled an appointment for the abor tion, but the day she and her boyfriend, Ryan, went to the clinic, she had a massive panic attack. Overcome with the sheer gravity of what she was attempting, she hyperventilated and passed out in the room. Walking out of the clinic, she told Ryan (now her husband) that she was still pregnant and they were just going to have to do this. She said to him, “You’ll thank me later,” and they kept their baby boy. Fast-forward 10 years. Amy sat in Gateway’s Pink Impact Women’s Conference worshipping with thousands of other women, waiting on a word from the Lord. “The presence of God was so big. And Christine Caine came up to the platform and said, ‘I want
everyone to close your eyes; and I want God to speak to you right now whether it’s in a vision or words or an idea. What is God putting in your heart to do?’ so I closed my eyes and had a vision.” Amy remembers it so clearly. She saw snapshots of herself 10 years earlier—alone, scared, and pregnant. She saw visions of friends not making eye contact and people silently passing her by in church hallways. Nine months of fear and loneliness came flooding back into her mind. Then the images shifted to current snapshots, happily married with a few kids, throwing baby showers for her girlfriends. Afterward, Amy shared the vision with her friend Salina. That’s when Salina said, “I heard God say, ‘Help the mommies and the babies.’” Just a few hours later, and with the help of godly counsel, they decided to start a small group for single mothers-to-be. With a clear mission, to honor and minister to single, pregnant girls, this small group would become the launching pad for Embrace Grace. Wishing the church to be a place girls run into instead of a place where they are shamed, Amy ventured to make sure the three precious girls in their first class knew her story and heard what she wished someone had told her 10 years earlier: “You are welcome here. You can do this. It might be hard, but you can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone.”
THE BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT
Amy with Baby Jess EMBRACE GRACE STATS • 60% to 70% of the girls are referred by alumni. • 30% to 40% of the girls are referred by pregnancy centers, online research, etc. • 60% of the girls who attend have never been to church. • The age of the girls attending ranges from 15 to 30 years old. The majority of the girls are 18 to 21 years old. • The abortion rate within a churched population is the same as the abortion rate outside of the church. • The first semester of Embrace Grace at Gateway Church had 3 girls in attendance. • 63 girls attended the most recent semester at Gateway Church. God provided for each girl to receive a lavish baby shower and Princess Day. • September 2014 marked the 13th semester of Embrace Grace at Gateway Church. • Embrace Grace became a nonprofit in 2012. • More than 52 churches across the United States and Canada have started using the Embrace Grace program.
This small group ministry that started in 2008 with a vision and three young, pregnant girls meeting once a week has grown tremendously in the past six years. Embrace Grace is now a nonprofit working with churches in 13 states and Canada to affect the lives of the next generation in their time of greatest need. Catapulted into existence by two friends at Gateway Church, a pro-love movement has swept the nation, calling churches to not only save babies of unplanned pregnancies but also provide the moms with the support and love they need. Pro-love: A movement coined by Amy Ford and Embrace Grace. Pro-love is a step above pro-life. The Pro-Love Movement calls for people to save the babies and the mommies with unplanned pregnancies.
A NEW LEGACY Embrace Grace has three main goals for girls going through the program: connection with God, relationship with others, and renewed identity. Because most of the girls who come to Embrace Grace have never been to church, Embrace Grace adopted a curriculum that allows leaders to tell their testimonies, then allows the girls to connect with one another before diving into topics like salvation, overcoming past wounds, and who God is while also shedding light on sin, forgiveness, and grace. Embrace Grace doesn’t promise to fix all their problems, but it does point them to the One who can. Unfortunately, Amy has heard many girls say, “I thought you were going to go over my list of sins. I thought you were going to tell me I was going to hell.” But Embrace Grace does the opposite: It loves these precious girls back to spiritual health, often drawing the lines for new family legacies. Amy is still frequently asked why Embrace Grace doesn’t spend a lot of time on purity and sin, and she says, “God takes care of the sin part. We just introduce them to His heart and how much He loves them. And whenever they develop a relationship with Christ, their heartbeats begin lining up with God’s heartbeat; and all the things they were doing before, they don’t want to do anymore.” Above all, Embrace Grace gives girls with unexpected pregnancies hope and a look at the God for whom nothing is unexpected. When Amy speaks about her unplanned pregnancy, she says, “I know that I sinned, and I know that I have the consequence of my sin for everyone to see for nine months, but the baby isn’t a sin. It was just what I did to get the baby. But the baby is life, and the baby is a miracle and a blessing. The baby was planned by God.” Most of the first semester’s curriculum was adapted from a book, but Amy says, “We started adding our own stuff every week, and after 12 semesters, it really became our own.” They later published their own curriculum called Embraced by Grace for use within other churches. It’s tailored to be a helpful tool for anyone single and pregnant whether they’re planning to parent or choosing adoption. In it, they added time in the semester for a baby shower, a celebration-of-life shower and a princess day, all of which have drawn many girls to the program and therefore, to the Lord.
A GLIMPSE OF GOD’S LOVE The same year Amy received the vision from the Lord that started Embrace Grace, she had excitedly thrown 13 baby showers for friends. She watched as her friends gushed over baby clothes and reveled in God’s provision, and she believed that the Lord wanted to provide for those whose babies were unexpected too. So she set out to include a baby shower event in the Embrace Grace curriculum. Embrace Grace asks people in the church to sponsor a girl for the shower, and each semester, small groups, employee groups, and individuals come out in droves. No matter how many girls are in the program, God covers the cost of the shower through volunteers. The Embrace Grace team has never had to go out and buy last-minute gifts for anyone. The volunteers purchase and wrap the gifts, and when they attend the shower, they meet the girl for the first time to encourage her and celebrate with her. Some of the volunteer groups color-coordinate their gifts or give Bibles highlighted with their favorite verses. The event is usually full of laughter and grateful tears. Amy describes it this way, “They get an over-the-top baby shower. I mean, tissue and paper flying everywhere. It’s so amazing to be in the room and see this happening. There are girls that give their life to God and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior the day of the shower because they’re so overwhelmed that women they’ve never met before have gone out of their way to buy them gifts and cheer them on as they open their presents. To them, that’s huge! They start to see a glimpse of how much God loves them, even though it’s the teeniest, tiniest glimpse of how much God loves them.”
To read more stories of how God used Embrace Grace and unplanned pregnancy for His glory, check out Amy’s book, A Bump in Life. Pictured above, left to right: Ryan, Jess & Amy At some point in the day, the Embrace Grace team of volunteers goes to each girl and places a crown on her head. They hold up a mirror and tell the girl how beautiful they are on the inside and out. They tell the girls not to forget this image because that is how valuable they are. Then a four-course meal is served on fine china, and the beautiful girls go home filled up with love, hope, and the knowledge of God’s love and destiny for them.
IT DOESN’T END HERE The Embrace Grace lifestyle doesn’t end with the semester. Often, girls who have gone through Embrace Grace in years past will show up to offer encouragement and hope to the girls currently going through the program. Every semester, one or two girls come back and want to lead an Embrace Grace group of their own. The girls going through the program frequently become lifelong friends and continue encouraging one another in their faith and new life as moms.
IN HER HONOR When a girl is pursuing adoption for her baby, the shower is a little different. Instead of a baby shower with onesies, burp cloths and mobiles, she gets a Celebration-of-Life shower. After she has the baby and the adoption is final, Embrace Grace throws a big party for her to honor the sacrifice she made for nine months to save her child. They bless her with things that will help her begin again: new clothes, jewelry, and items to start school or begin a career; anything to make her feel special.
There are also a couple of follow-up courses that Amy and the Embrace Grace team have started to develop, including Embrace Life. This small group is for new single moms and goes through some more practical and spiritual aspects such as dating, purity, identity, coupon cutting, etc. There are also other classes being developed for the mothers of girls going through Embrace Grace and for the “baby daddies” as well. The vision is to help and support the entire family through the experience of an unplanned pregnancy.
“During a recent celebration, a woman drove three hours just to come be a part of the shower. She didn’t know anyone. She just saw it posted online. She came and gave the girl a big hug and said, ‘If it weren’t for girls like you, I wouldn’t have kids of my own. You bless us with such beautiful miracles.’ Sometimes the adoptive mom will come too, and then there’s definitely not a dry eye in the place. It’s just so beautiful,” Amy says.
Embrace Grace will pursue other ventures and big plans in the future, but for now, Amy is just thrilled to have come to where they are. She talks about this ministry with open hands, willing to receive whatever God decides to place in them or take away from them. She loves Embrace Grace, but she knows it’s all for the One who gives the grace. She says, “We have an open heart to what God wants to do with this ministry. We’re just along for the ride, and it is so fun!”
PRINCESSES ONE AND ALL Another event that has become the exciting finale to the Embrace Grace semester is Princess Day. Asking people to give their time and talents, Embrace Grace coordinates a day full of pampering, including makeup, hair styling, massages and more, with a time of ministry to top it all off. The team prophesies over the girls and encourages them, calling out their specific talents and gifts. “Many of the girls come from a lot of darkness. They don’t have a lot of people to speak life into them,” Amy says. So one of the main goals of Princess Day is to give each girl a look at how God views them.
To donate or get involved, visit embracegrace.com.
Get to know Amy more on the following pages.
What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done? The first time I spoke from the platform at Gateway Southlake was probably my most terrifying experience. I had really bad stage fright. I remember Pastor Jan Greenwood could sense my nerves, and before the event started, she took me by the hand and walked me back and forth across the stage and told me, “You’ve got this. You are not alone. Be brave. God is with you. I’m praying for you.” It was the sweetest moment ever. And guess what? I did it! I might have peed my pants a little, but I did it! And since then God has opened many more doors for me to speak on stages across the nation and on TV and radio shows. It really does get easier, and anytime I get nervous again, I just remember Jan’s encouragement.
What’s your most embarrassing moment? Once I went to the hospital to v isit an Embrace Grace momma who was going to have her baby that day. I got the room number and just walked on in and saw her legs up in stirrups with a doctor yelling for her to “PUSH!” The mom said, “Shut the door and get out! My baby’s head is coming out!” I apologized and ran out with my cheeks red. It’s been a few years now, and that mom and I still giggle about it!
Who makes you laugh the most? My four crazy kids. A bad day is impossible when I come home to their cute faces. As I type this, the two youngest kids have drums and are marching around the house banging them … and neither of them have on pants. Priceless.
Amy & Ryan on Their Wedding Day
All About Amy
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
How did you meet your husband? The summer before my freshman year in high school I saw this cute guy at my private school who was working in the daycare with the kids. He was teaching them how to play basketball. I stood there watching him and admiring his cuteness. He walked over and started talking to me and asked for my number. He called me that night, and we talked for hours that night and every night after. The rest is Ford history.
What hobby or activity do you like to do for fun? Would it be really shallow to say that I like to shop for fun? Because I do … there I said it.
What’s your idea of a perfect day? Sundays at home with the family. Having the football game on (even though I don’t watch it) and yummy food. It’s the perfect day.
Great things never come from comfort zones.
Who are the four people you’d most like to sit down and have dinner with (living or dead)? Jesus Christ, the “Apparently Kid” (Google it , h e’s hy s t e r i c a l ! ), a n d R o b e r t a n d Debbie Morris.
The Fords: Judah (3), Ryan, Jess (16), Landry (8), MacKenzie (12), Amy.
Who is the most influential person in your life?
My husband Ryan. He can talk me into anything.
Revived: From the Me I Used to Be by Kerrie Oles and Love Does by Bob Goff.
What do you want your legacy to be? I never want the Love Bomb Revolution and the Pro-Love Movement to die! Random acts of kindness and loving without limits can change the world!
Favorite ice cream?
Favorite date spot?
Since my kids despise sushi and almost cry when I want to eat it, I get my sushi fix on date night.
Mi Cocina. The sunset fajitas there are amazing.
Marble Slab cheesecake ice cream with strawberries squished into it. Oh my goodness!
Favorite place to travel?
Favorite place to shop?
Last year, I went to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for my husband’s Ironman race and it was beautiful! Who knew? I want to go back someday.
I love to treasure hunt at Ross, Marshalls, and T.J.Maxx … but when there’s no time for fun and games and it gets serious, Free People never lets a sister down.
Favorite musical artist?
Kari Jobe. As soon as she opens her mouth I feel the Holy Spirit move. Oh, and it’s a bonus that she is so adorable and wears the cutest shoes ever!
Nacho Libre. “Precious Father, why have you given me this desire to wrestle and then made me such a stinky warrior?” This movie never gets old.
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10 Steps to Throwing a
Spectacular Holiday Party Erin Sullivan
y job includes planning events, and I’ve figured out that events are really just big parties. I define a party as any fun gathering with food, so it could be anything from a baby shower, a book club, or a Gateway Group to a Christmas party, men’s conference, or wedding. After planning many parties over the years, I’ve learned some great tricks that can help make any party spectacular!
3. HAVE SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE TO DO. This is especially important if many of your guests don’t know each other. Nothing is more boring or awkward than standing around uncomfortably at a party with no one to talk to. So make sure you have a game or project for people to do at their leisure. Who knows, maybe your junior high bestie and high school bestie will become fast friends fighting over the best gift at the white elephant gift exchange!
1. DEVELOP A GOOD PLAN. What’s the main goal of your party? Establish the vision at the very beginning. Your plan can be simple or elaborate, just make sure you can wrap your mind around it before you start inviting guests. Plan to send invitations at least two weeks before the event. As the scale of the event increases, so does the timeline for invitations. For example, allow two weeks for a casual dinner party and eight weeks for a wedding.
4. DEVELOP A TIMELINE FOR YOUR EVENT. I plan my preparation according to when everything needs to be finished and work backward from there, so I always start with developing a timeline. Annual Christmas Ornament Exchange 6:00–7:00 pm | Guests arrive and go through buffet 7:00–7:30 pm | Ornament swap - Be sure to have a trash can close by. - Have each person share why they chose the ornament they brought.
2. BE SURE YOU CAN PULL OFF YOUR PLAN. If you have time to handcraft invitations that match the food cards that match the décor that match the party favors which all tie into the thank you notes, then go for it! But don’t shoot for all of these if you feel tight on time or your budget doesn’t allow. It will only stress you out! Keep your plan attainable.
7:30–8:30 pm | Games and dessert 8:30–9:00 pm | Let people mingle Based on this example, I’d want to be ready to receive my guests at 5:30 pm and would need to be pulling food out of the oven at 5:50 so that it would still be hot when people arrive. Do as much
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as you can the night before (setting tables, placing décor, cooking in advance), that way you can leave the last-minute details for the party. I always put notes of things I need to remember during the party on my timeline so I remember to do them.
8. WELCOME YOUR GUESTS AS THEY ARRIVE. This might seem basic, but there’s nothing more awkward than walking into a stranger’s house and having to figure out where to put your gift or find some water. The best welcome in my book is a hello, a smile, and a refreshment! If your guests don’t know everyone, make sure to introduce them to each other. A little trick I use is to not only tell guests each other’s names but also give a little fact about each of them so they can find common ground quickly.
5. DELICIOUS FOOD IS A MUST. Whether you cook it, bake it or have it delivered, make sure your food is good and that people don’t leave hungry. People always associate a full tummy with a fun party! And hopefully you’ll have great leftovers for a few days!
9. RECRUIT “COVERT” HOSTS. I like to enlist my good friends who can work a room to help make sure no one feels alone or isolated. I ask them if they would be willing to include or sit by guests who might not know anyone. You’ll be amazed how much pressure this takes off you and how much more fun your guests will have as a result.
6. BUILD TIME INTO YOUR PARTY SCHEDULE TO GET YOURSELF READY. My party mantra is “If you feel good about yourself, you’ll feel good about your event!” Guys don’t seem to appreciate this as much as girls do. It’s amazing the difference it makes when you take 30 minutes to freshen up before your event. When I don’t make time for myself, I feel off and self-conscious—it’s worth starting 30 minutes earlier.
10. HAVE FUN!
7. BE READY FOR YOUR GUESTS. Be ready for your guests to arrive 30 to 45 minutes before the party is scheduled to start. This way you’ll be ready for that friend who is always conveniently early, and you won’t be frazzled when someone rings the doorbell and your wet hair is in a towel.
If you’re not having fun, your guests will notice. Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned, and that’s okay! Just step away for a second, take a deep breath, and ask Jesus to change your attitude. Whether the problem is spilled apple cider or burned cookies, just remember that parties are what you make them. Put on your best smile and get back out there and join in the fun with your friends! Parties are my favorite, and I hope these tips help you enjoy throwing them as much as you love attending them!
Rock Your Season Kelly Elliott Seasonal stress. We’ve all been there. And I’m not just talking about preparing for Thanksgiving dinner or finding the perfect Christmas gift. I’m talking about the onset of stress that accompanies being stuck in a certain season of life. You know what I mean … we’ve all seen someone walking their God-given path and thought, “Wow, that’s awesome. I wish I was doing that.” Then we proceed to try and get where that person is. In the process, we get frustrated because we’re trying to get out of the season God has us in to go where we want to go.
to accept those limitations instead of fighting against them; it’s quite freeing. It takes the extra pressure off of trying to have it all in the same season. Instead, keep sight of the blessings found in your season—some of them might not be around forever. Don’t let challenges and limitations eclipse the precious things God has for you in your season.
Find God’s Purpose What does God want to do in your life right now? You might not think there’s a purpose for your season, but I’d encourage you to pray and ask Him about it. There’s a reason you are where you are! There’s something God wants to accomplish in you during this season. Once you realize that, you’ll be able to walk through the challenging times with grace, knowing God has a plan!
A lot of our frustration about this boils down to the fact that we don’t understand the season we’re in. We want to have everything in every season, but God didn’t set life up that way. He doesn’t give us all the blessings or all the challenges in one season; He spreads them out. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Flip that around, and it says, “There is a season for everything, and a purpose for every time.” That puts it in perspective a little, doesn’t it? If we want to break free from seasonal stress, we need to look at our lives from God’s perspective. But how do we do that? Here are some tips I’ve found to be helpful during times of seasonal stress.
Rock Your Season God gives you grace to walk through and emerge victorious in every season of life. It’s when we stray from where God has called us and start trying to do what others are doing, that we end up overburdened and stressed out. Matthew 11:30 says, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” When we stick with His yoke and His purpose, we can see our season with greater clarity and begin to rock it! I encourage you to clearly identify your season, find God’s purpose in it, and then stay within the parameters of His grace. You’ll begin to find a rhythm and ease of life. Remember that saying “yes” to God’s plan and purpose means saying “no” to many other things. If everyone seems like they’re in a different season than you, don’t worry about it. You’re about to rock the season God has planned for you!
Identify Your Season You can easily categorize your general life season—youth, college-aged, single, married, mom, empty nester. But within those categories are many individual seasons like getting a new job, buying a house, getting pregnant, raising toddlers, discipling teens, and caring for elderly parents. Each of these seasons comes with its own set of limitations. Maybe you have to cut your budget or don’t have as much free time. I think the key is
I WAS A GOOD GIRL Katie Smith I was a good girl. I grew up in a Christian home. I got straight As in school. I obeyed my parents. I dressed modestly. I smiled at everyone. I never got mad. I only drank soda on special occasions. I went to church camp every summer. I didn’t need a curfew because I was always home by 11:00 pm. I loved my family. I took care of my friends. I was president of the marching band. I volunteered at my church and in my community. I drove the speed limit … mostly. I had some bad moments—most of which other people would call regular moments—but overall, I was a good girl. I was also trapped. Let me explain: Being good isn’t bad. None of these things trapped me. What trapped me was thinking I couldn’t be anything but perfect. That mentality served me well all through my school years, but when being good becomes a façade or a hiding place or a reason not to be vulnerable with people, then it’s bad. When being good becomes about my perfection and not the Lord’s, it’s a problem. When I first got married, I remember sitting in my house and envisioning the “perfect wife” mocking me for screwing up dinner or not vacuuming every day before my husband got home from work. The “perfect wife” was my goal, and I was missing the mark by miles. So I didn’t attempt anything I couldn’t do perfectly or get at least an A- on some imaginary scale, and I kicked myself for every little thing I did wrong. I cried bitterly when I messed up trying to make my mom’s legendary baked ziti, and I never tried to make it again for fear my husband would see me as imperfect. My good girlness was rearing its head as a problem I didn’t know I had.
(And by the way, my husband already knew I wasn’t perfect when I cried over squishy ziti.) Am I the only one who does this? We try so hard to be a living witness for Jesus that we forget He is the only perfect one, and our job is to live by grace, drawing people to us with our transparency and testimony, not our perfection. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to live good, holy lives that are pleasing to the Lord, but perfection should never be the goal. Somewhere along the way we lose sight of the godly reasons for pursuing goodness, and we pursue perfection instead. The enemy likes to get us to exhaust our own strength trying to be something we can’t, and then, when we inevitably fail, he mocks us, sending us spiraling into depression, fear, and sin. Jesus never asked me to be perfect. He asked me to follow Him, love people, and seek His perfect will for my life. Once I learned that this good girl-ness was a mask I hid behind so I never had to show any weakness or imperfection, and that the root of the problem was pride and fear of failure, I learned to let it go. I learned to let people into my struggles. I learned to let people speak into the hard parts of my life. And I learned to be vulnerable about the things the Lord has saved me from. Lost people don’t want a perfect good girl without any problems telling them about Jesus. That girl is unattainable. That girl is fake. Lost people want to see someone who is transparent and says, “Hey, I’ve been there. And God helped me through it.” Put down the mask, sweet friend. I’ll put mine down too. It’s time to fess up. We’re not perfect, and that’s perfectly okay. Struggling with your good girl-ness? Check out Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freedman.
The Front Porch Penny Spurling A few years ago when we were looking to purchase a house, I told my husband, “It has to have a front porch.” I love houses with front porches, the kind that wrap around the whole house. He asked me, “Is that nonnegotiable?” I gently smiled and said, “Yes! It’s nonnegotiable.” In time, we found a house, and it did have my front porch. It didn’t wrap around the whole house, but still, it was there.
childhood. You see, growing up, I spent almost every Sunday night
So, why was it so important for me to find a house with a front porch? Well, it all goes back to the fond memories I have from my
those nights on the porch is that there wasn’t any fine china
after church hanging out with my family at one of our friend’s houses. We’d hang out on the front porch while our parents sat and chatted for what seemed like hours. We played games, swapped stories, learned how to jump over the bushes, and even played a little tag. These nights were part of what would become normal in my life. Some of the things that stick out to me about set on a polished dining room table. No one spent their entire
Sunday afternoon preparing. There wasn’t a catered meal that
pray for each other—especially when troubles come and words like cancer or heart attack are a part of the conversation.
cost a week’s salary, and, most of all, there wasn’t a sense of fear if someone found some dust on a mantel or end table. Laundry often sat on the staircase, and if something didn’t go as planned, no one seemed to care. These evenings were filled with conversations long after the last “Amen” had been said, and most of the time, we ended up snacking on popcorn and grape Kool-Aid. The Lord reminded me of those fond memories just the other day as I was driving in busy traffic. I’d been thinking about my daughter who was about to go off to college. Then, all of a sudden, I began to tear up and started to cry uncontrollably. You know the kind—the can’t-breathe, can’t-see, stuff-coming-out-of-yournose cry. After I determined I was not having some kind of emo-
It must make the enemy so angry when God’s children choose to walk out His Word and bear one another’s burdens. I believe Satan is most effective in our lives when he succeeds in making us feel like we’re all alone and have no one to turn to. It’s in those times especially when we need to remember to reach out to those friends who really care. I know how badly I’ve wanted to invest in people, to invite them over to my house with the front porch, but I also know how many times I’ve found myself thinking, I don’t have the right furniture. What would I serve? What if everything isn’t perfect? or a million other reasons why I couldn’t invite someone over to talk.
tional meltdown, my first thought was to call one of my closest friends. Without a thought as to what was going on in her day, I just started to dump all my anxiety and emotions onto her. And
I think it’s time we all invite our friends to our front porches. You may not have a literal porch, but we could all stand to adopt the mentality it represents.
how did she respond? Well, she did exactly what she always does! She listened to my fears. She heard my heart, encouraged me, and reminded me that everything was in God’s hands. Later when I thought of those precious moments talking to my friend, God took me back to the front porch all those years ago. I thought, That is what my parents were doing while we played. They were talking and sharing with each other about life, kids, and dreams. They were living life together! Not only the pretty, made-up life but the ugly, stuff-coming-out-of-your-nose life too. They were sharing deep needs and holding each other accountable, encouraging one another to do all God had planned for them. For those nights to happen, our parents had to decide that they were not going to live this life alone. They wisely chose to live out what the Bible teaches (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12). They chose to be vulnerable and care for one another’s burdens. My parents took advantage of the opportunity God presented when He placed these dear friends in their lives. They chose not to worry about the cares of this world and be more aware of the things our heavenly Father gives us. They chose to accept each other without judging. They chose not to compare or envy what someone else had or didn’t have. They chose to find time in their busy lives to
So I’ve decided it’s time for me to take some risks, to go out on a limb and be real with what is on my heart and my desire to do life with my friends. I want what my parents have with their friends. I want to know that one day when I look back on my life, I will be surrounded with friends who know and love me. That’s what was on my heart that day when I broke down crying on the side of the road. I knew I had to make a choice. Would I be vulnerable and reach out to a friend? Or would I hold it in and bear it alone? I’m so thankful I decided to pick up the phone, because I discovered I had a real, lifelong friend who would always be there in my time of need. I think it’s time we all invite our friends to our front porches. You may not have a literal porch, but we could all stand to adopt the mentality it represents. Don’t be afraid to share your heart or show the real you (snotty tears and all) to your closest friends. It can be scary, but the reward of being truly known is well worth it in the end.
drop everything at the mention of a need. I know we live in a busier time, with more technolog y than I will ever learn, and things are just a little more complicated. But what I have often wondered is, What would our friends say if they really knew our “stuff”? I’m sure times haven’t changed that much. One thing I do know is those four couples, my parents and their friends, wouldn’t go back and change a thing about their transparent friendship. And even though they can’t get together every Sunday night anymore, they make it a priority to vacation together every year and send each other the latest pictures of their grandchildren. Most of all, they still make it a priority to
Simplify Kristi Kennedy Have you ever stopped to examine what you do with your time every day? Where do your hours, minutes, or even seconds seem to go?
were able to get back to regular family devotions and had time to catch up and talk about each other’s lives. Another six months went by, and I felt God prodding me with those words again: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” After a lot of prayer, I realized my volunteer responsibilities were taking much more of my time than I realized and I needed to step back. So, God gave me a simple focus—stay home.
I’m sure you’ve heard that you’ll get bogged down spending time on good things if you don’t focus on the best. And then there’s this phrase: “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy!” There’s certainly some truth to that. I think sometimes we’re busier with the less important things than we realize. Notice I didn’t say unimportant, because most of what we do is important to us in some way. It just might not be the most important.
Since making this decision and commitment for this season, God has blessed my family in so many ways. Primarily, I’ve seen it in the fruit of my children. Life is busy. It’s easy to get caught up doing all kinds of “good” things for all kinds of “great” reasons. But, it might behoove us to ask God on a regular basis if we need to simplify anything and stay home for a while.
About a year ago, as my mentor was giving me insight and advice, she said something that really hit me: “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
What priorities do you need to put back in the forefront of your life? For me, it was more intimate time with the Lord, more quality time with my kids, more focus on teaching them, and more dedicated time with work. Wow, now I can’t even imagine how I did all the other things I had on my plate even after my first attempt at simplifying life!
Okay, I thought, that’s probably good advice because life with five kids can get pretty busy. So, after cutting some things out, I thought I had simplified. I thought I was done. It’s funny how if we haven’t quite caught the message, God will intervene. And that’s what He did. Not long after, our house flooded and we had to move in with some friends—my mentor’s family.
I challenge you to ask Him today: Is there anything I need to simplify? Is anything I’m doing stealing from what’s most important? Is anything sabotaging my family relationships? And when He speaks and reveals those things to you, obey immediately. The sacrifice only stings for a second, but then the sweet benefits blossom after we obey the voice of the Lord!
Visiting someone and living with them are two very different things. They truly get a chance to see the real you! After being there a couple of weeks, my mentor approached me to talk. She helped me realize that the things I’d cut out of my life six months before were a good start, but I needed to simplify more. So, I cut out two more big, full family commitments—which were great, godly things—so my kids and I could spend more time at home as a family. It made such a huge difference in our lives! We
Thin Mints Kendra Hunt
he beginning of the year arrived, and it was time to seek God during our annual churchwide fast. For the fast, I started the Paleo lifestyle with an accountability group, and we had to track our diet, sleep, water intake, exercise, and vitamins. The three people who did the best were going to win free entrance to a color run. Being the frugal girl I am, I was highly motivated to win and save the entrance fee. I was up for the challenge!
The 45-day challenge started on a Monday, and I was well aware that my oldest son’s birthday would fall on the Friday of my first week. Even though I knew I’d be giving up pizza and Gigi’s cake, I decided the fast was worth it. The morning of the party, I did all of the prep. My husband Kam helped me finish up the last-minute details when he got home from work, and as we were rushing around to get set up, the doorbell rang. I kept working, but Kam headed to the door. He was gone for a while, but I could hear little girls’ excited voices outside our door. When he returned, I found out my very generous husband decided to change a girl scout’s life by buying all of her cookies—35 boxes.
It was Sunday morning, and I knew before my feet hit the ground that those cookies were still there. It was as if they knew I was on my way to the kitchen. I reminded myself that I’d made it all day Saturday without a Thin Mint and I didn’t die. I could do it again. But then I started reasoning with myself. Girl Scout cookies are only sold for a short time each year; this was my only chance to have a Thin Mint. (A girl and her cookie cravings can get a little dramatic!) By the time evening rolled around, I caved. Kam was picking up toys, the boys were in bed, and I marched over to the kitchen counter. I’d already settled the dispute in my head to concede to the call of the cookies. As I reached for the box, it felt unusually light. It was empty. Are you kidding? Kam looked over and said, “That box has been empty all weekend. The kids finished them at the party!” An empty box had been dominating my thoughts all weekend. I’d devoted so much mental energy to the battle of me versus the cookies. At that moment, God spoke to my heart. This is exactly how the enemy works. He attacks our thoughts with a box full of nothing. Growing up, my dad taught me that an enemy who uses deception has no power. If Satan had any power, he wouldn’t have to deceive us.
Noooooo! While the girl was blown away and couldn’t contain her gratefulness, I was having buyer’s remorse. I would rather have given her the cash and let her keep the cookies than have 35 boxes of cookies in my house. I was mentally prepared to resist the birthday treats … but Thin Mints?! I didn’t possess that kind of super power.
Using deception is the only way Satan can gain an advantage over you when you have a relationship with God. The enemy knows all too well that when Christ lives in you, you have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. He is left to mix a poison that contains one part truth and two parts lies, hoping you’ll be enticed to take a drink.
I had to continue preparing for the party, so I didn’t really have time to show my total disdain over this purchase. But once the party started, I confessed to Kam that I’d had a change of heart about our previous decision not to hand out party favors. And, guess what? I had 35 boxes of cookies! Kam brilliantly suggested we send the kids home with the cookies. Phew, my problem was solved! After the last guest left and we began to clean up, I glanced over at the counter where the mountain of cookies had been and saw there was still a box of Thin Mints left. I’d successfully resisted pizza and cake, but my willpower was waning. I kept my mind busy the rest of the evening while I cleaned up. No lie—I would almost swear I heard that box of cookies call to me as I put away the leftovers. We put the boys to bed, and I considered the day a success. It was a great party, but I was more proud that I’d stayed away from sugar. Saturday morning came, and I headed into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee and get my boys breakfast. As I turned on the light, I saw the box of Thin Mints still on the counter. The boys spent the day playing with the new birthday toys while I mentally fought the call of those crazy little cookies. Saturday night came, and it was time for bed. I’d made it another 24 hours in the house without touching the box of cookies.
If you take the time to read the Bible cover to cover, you’ll find that the enemy has one main plan: to deceive. In Genesis, he deceives Eve into thinking that eating the forbidden fruit will make her life better. In Revelation 20:7–8, the Bible says that Satan will be released, and he will go out to deceive the nations. Satan’s desire to deceive is not a one-time event. Today, I encourage you not to let an empty box rule your mind. You have the immense power to choose life! We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” Well, I’d tweak that a bit to say, “You are what you think!” No matter what the enemy is trying to deceive you with, don’t let him rule your thoughts. Instead, set your thoughts on the Lord. I think Philippians 4:8 says it best: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” 31
Mommy Diaries Destiny Vandeput
“Momma …” a small voice says from beside my bed. I heard her walk in before she said a word, the pitter patter of her tiny feet pulling me from my dreamless sleep, but I lay still and keep my eyes closed. Maybe she’ll give up and go back to bed.
myself together. “Momma’s not mad at you, sweetie. Momma’s just tired. Let’s go get you cleaned up.” This was life for me. My third child was born just two days after my firstborn turned four years old. I was up to my eyebrows in diapers and giggles and baby talk and fits and cuddles and boundaries and feedings and diapers … did I mention diapers already?
“Momma …” No such luck.
I don’t remember a lot of details from that season, but you know what I remember with crystal clarity? The feeling that I wasn’t good enough. That there was something fundamentally wrong with my mothering skills. Why couldn’t I just find the “joy” so many moms talk about? Don’t get me wrong, I was happy. I loved my babies more than life itself, and they brought life to parts of me I never knew lay dormant. But the truth of the matter is, more days than not, I was counting down the hours to when they would all be asleep. When I wouldn’t hear “Momma, Momma!” and there were no accidents to clean up, no meltdowns, no battles of will.
“What, baby?” I ask her, the ball of emotion already rising up in my chest. “My bed is wet.” I sit up in bed, raking my hands through my hair. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I groan in frustration. I look at the clock and it’s 4:00 am. It’s been just one hour since I was up feeding my newborn, just two hours since my toddler mistook going to bed as a short nap and was up playing in the middle of the night. I had the telltale signs of mommy fatigue and at that moment I began to crumble. Putting my hands over my face, I begin to sob. I fall into the pit of my own self-pity and cry, thinking over and over again, I just need a break.
A few years later, I was talking to another mother who is one of the most organized people I know. Surprisingly, she confessed that she felt like something was wrong with her because motherhood seemed too hard. She knew her kids were great, so she concluded that she was the problem.
Then I hear the quiet gasp of my four-year-old and, with the moon filtering in through the window, I can see the tears streaming down her face. Her lower lip quivering, she says, “I’m sorry, Momma. I didn’t mean to.”
I smiled and told her my story and her eyes went wide with recognition. She wasn’t alone like she feared. I’ve come to realize that as a mother you may not feel grace for every season and that’s okay. There will undoubtedly come a time when you think you don’t have the skills or the patience and you’ll feel like there is something integral you’re missing as a parent.
I pull back the covers and put my arms around her, not caring about the wetness or the fact that now I’ll have to change before going back to bed too. “Shhh,” I tell her, trying desperately to pull
Sorry to break it to you, but there isn’t a secret formula. No special radioactive goo that will transform you into Supermom. (Can you tell I have boys?) But there is hope because I know something you need to hear: You are enough. Did you catch that? Let me tell you again. You are enough. 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that God’s “Grace is sufficient for you, for [His] power is made perfect in weakness.” God’s hand is there to hold you up when you’re feeling weak and to give you a high five when you’re totally rocking your mom status. Is it hard at times? YES! Will you feel like you fail more than succeed? YES! But that’s all part of the adventure, and we must continue to push forward so we can encourage our children to become wholehearted followers of Jesus. Philippians 3:13–14 tells us, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” You are seen. You are needed. You are enough.
You might be a mom if … 1. You don’t hear the toy that has been singing on repeat for the last hour, but the moment your kids get quiet, you panic.
2. You used to cook gourmet meals and now you’re liv ing off goldf ish and half-eaten chicken nuggets. 3. You’ve been washing the same load of laundry for three days because you keep forgetting to dry it. 4. You rate physical pain on three levels: pain, excruciating pain, and stepping on a LEGO . ®
5. No matter how tired, frustrated or sleep less you are, one smile from your kids immediately reminds you it’s all worth it.
Fall Fiction Favorites Sydnie Shreffler
There’s something about good fiction that doesn’t just pull you from your couch or back porch, but yanks you out of the present and deposits you into another time, another place. You become the heroine. You learn what she learns and hurt when she hurts. You experience God through her eyes and grow through her adventures. Then, inevitably, you’re called to dinner or your husband pulls the book from your unwilling hands and tells you it’s time for bed (guilty!), and you return to reality as a new version of yourself. Whatever the heroine learned has translated to what God has been teaching you lately. When she found freedom from her fear of the unknown, you were able to let go of your own fears too. The best stories not only show us a plotline but also help us see just how much God loves us. That is what a good book is … not just well-written words on a page but something that transforms you into the best version of yourself. Something that holds a mirror up to you and your relationship with God, challenges you, and draws you closer to Him by the end of the story. I found that in each of these stories and I hope you will too!
LOVE FINDS YOU IN GOLDEN NEW MEXICO by Lena Nelson Dooley
THE RIVER OF TIME SERIES: WATERFALL by Lisa T. Bergren
THE CHRISTIANSEN FAMILY SERIES: TAKE A CHANCE ON ME by Susan May Warren
My love of history and Christian fiction made me right at home as I started this novel. I’d known Lena for a while but had yet to read one of her books even though everyone had been encouraging me to. When I did, I wasn’t disappointed! A combination of a deep love for the Lord and some intense research create an absolutely lovely narrative in the harsh beauty of the New Mexican desert in 1890.
I don’t particularly like reading first-person narratives, but a friend told me I needed to reevaluate my perspective because I was missing out on a fantastic story. I finally listened and was absolutely, irreversibly hooked by line three of Waterfall. I finished the first five books of the series within a week and a half—that’s how riveting they are. Every page keeps you wondering what did happen, what could happen, and what on earth is going to happen next.
I love how family sagas make me feel welcomed into the family, to observe, to cry, and to laugh at the kitchen table with everyone. There’s a sense of belonging to the story. That, for me, is the mark of a true master, someone who writes and sucks me into another time. Susan May Warren is one of those writers, and this is one of those stories. I know because I started with the third book at a friend’s suggestion and knew I couldn’t not read the first two.
Gabi Betarrini is questioning God and angry about her father’s death when she begins a journey through time that helps her gain a deeper understanding of who exactly God is and discover the limitlessness of His power. Between searching for her lost family, sword fights, handsome knights and becoming a symbol of freedom, Gabi discovers who she is and who God calls her to be—whether it’s in the new millennium or medieval Italy.
To Ivy Madison, a woman without a family, it seems like the Christiansens are perfect: Christians and owners of a historic Evergreen Lake resort. But when she wins a date with Derek Christiansen in a local auction for charity, she gets more than she bids for with the brooding and wounded eldest son. As they navigate their turbulent pasts and begin to fall in love, they both come to a deeper knowledge not only of themselves but of God as well. This knowledge helps each of them wade through the difficulties of life and become a better friend, sibling, and person by the final page.
We follow the story of Madeline Mercer, recently orphaned and penniless in a world where women have no power without wealth. Her path crosses Jeremiah Dennison who doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t think he has any reason to. He has always taken care of himself and is doing a pretty good job at it—except for the restlessness and anger building in his heart. Their journey toward each other, through obstacles, judgment and pain, is beautifully sweet. Lena recently published the final book in another series she writes called McKenna’s Daughters. This year, the first book in that series won a Selah Award for historical fiction.
Lisa released the fifth and final installment of another series, Deluge, earlier this year.
Next year, Susan will publish the highly anticipated fourth book in the series, Always on My Mind.
Laugh! A Pink Night | Southlake Campus
Laugh! A Pink Night | NFW Campus
Pink Impact | Southlake Campus
Laugh! A Pink Night | Southlake Campus
Laugh! A Pink Night | NFW Campus
Pink Impact | Southlake Campus
Pink Impact | Southlake Campus
Pink Impact | Southlake Campus
Laugh! A Pink Night | Southlake Campus
Pink Impact | Southlake Campus
Pink Impact | Southlake Campus
Laugh! A Pink Night | NFW Campus
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Published on Dec 6, 2014