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E N C O U RA G I N G & E Q U I P P I N G W O M E N F O R A L I F E O F FA I T H Winter 2019

www.justbetweenus.org

When We Surrender, We Worship

by Laura Story, pg 16

Minding Your Manners This Season

by Susan A. Vernick, pg 24

26 The Power of Encouragement 32 My Husband’s Depression Affected Both of Us

40 Let Gratitude Transform Your Perspective! 1

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36 Understanding Forgiveness


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“Get ready for a month of motivation and encouragement! I highly recommend Cynthia Heald’s new book.” - Linda Dillow, author of Calm My Anxious Heart and Satisfy My Thirsty Soul

In The Faithful Way, beloved Bible teacher Cynthia Heald challenges you to remain faithful wherever you are in your walk. This 31-day devotional will equip you to say, “I have remained faithful” as you learn to live intentionally to bring honor to Christ. Topics include God’s perfect love, living wisely, grace, forgiveness, accepting correction, being watchful, and abiding in Christ. The Faithful Way will become your go-to inspiration, or gift for a friend, that offers daily encouragement. Each Day Includes: - Scripture - Reflection - Short Prayer

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Welcome from the Editor With Christmas around the corner, I decided to go back to the story of Jesus’ birth and really look at His mom, Mary. I wanted to transport myself there and look at the events through her eyes. What did I see? A young woman who was given a huge task that seemed to be the worst possible news she could receive—and by an angel of all things who said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31). Such great news had she been married, but she wasn’t. Talk about shock. I can’t imagine being asked to do something like that, something so impossible on every level. And yet Mary humbly said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said’” (vs. 38). Mary said yes. She had no idea where that yes would take her but she exhibited incredible trust in the God she so loved and served. The other impactful part of the story was her friendship with Elizabeth. Mary needed someone she could trust who would be by her side through the ups and downs of her yes. Luke 1:42 tells us that Elizabeth was Mary’s consummate encourager, “Blessed are you among women,” she says loudly and excitedly, “and blessed is the child you will bear!” And Elizabeth wasn’t just any friend. She had her own miracle story as an old woman carrying John the Baptist in her womb (impossible) who was also visited by an angel with a divine calling—a special woman like Mary. What an incredible picture of sisterhood we’re given through these two. Pregnant Elizabeth was

there linking arms with pregnant Mary reminding her she wasn’t alone. God knew she would need the love, support, and listening ear of another woman who would help her carry out this huge calling on her life. As you read through this issue, I want you to think of us as your “Elizabeth.” We want to walk alongside you helping you say yes to God where He asks and trusting Him with where He leads you. For those of you who are new to our family and those who arent’t, I want to say welcome and that, like Elizabeth, the doors of our hearts are always open to you for as long as you let us walk into your lives to encourage you on this faith journey together. I’m excited about this issue because I know you’ll be encouraged and pointed to the One and only Lover of your soul. We continue to learn lessons from Mary on page 26 and you’ll be able to peek into the life of a woman who has devoted her entire life to taking the Good News to lost boys on the streets of Africa. Our interview with April Holden on page 20 is sure to inspire and challenge you! I hope you know how much you matter and that you will make yourself at home with us just as Mary did with Elizabeth. We need each other. We were never meant to do life alone—God not only gave us the Incarnation (God with us) but He gave us Elizabeth-like friends to walk alongside us. We’re honored to be that kind of friend to you through the pages of this magazine! A Blessed Christmas from our hearts to yours!

Shelly Esser has been the editor of Just Between Us for the last 29 years.

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H OW C A N I REMAIN FA I T H F U L I N TO DAY ’ S WO R L D?


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Contents vol 30 no 1 W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

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24 26

by Laura Story

by Susan A. Vernick

When I Surrender… I Worship Worship is the lived experience of offering ourselves to a living God.

E N C O U RA Winter 2019

QUIPPIN GING & E

H E O F FA I T FOR A LIF G WOMEN

The Mystery Man How unexpected letters of encouragement changed a young woman’s life. by Marie Stancato as told to Esther M. Bailey

Lessons from Our “Black Dog” One woman shares what she’s learned through caring for her depressed husband. by Catriona Futter

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etweenus. www.justb

When We Surrender, We Worship

, pg 16 by Laura Story

by Susan A.

24 Vernick, pg

r of 26 The Powe t Encouragemen and’s 32 My Husb Affected Depression Both of Us ding 36 Understan Forgiveness

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2019

40 Let Gratitude Transform Your Perspective!

FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS call toll-free 800-260-3342, or visit our website justbetweenus.org. From Canada call 262-786-6478.

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Forgive, but Forget? There’s nothing easy about forgiveness, but as you discover the difference between vertical and horizontal forgiveness, your life will be changed. by Beth K. Vogt

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Minding Your Manners ason Se is Th

ER us W I N T just between

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Merry Manners to Brighten the Season Something as simple as good manners can be a light to all around us.

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Contents

CREDITS Founder/ Executive Editor Jill Briscoe

vol 30 no 1 W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

Editor Shelly Esser General Manager Mary Perso

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Assistant Editor Suzan Braun Web Director Mary Ann Prasser Editorial Assistants Aubrey Adams Carol Becwar Constance B. Fink Gayle Gengler Betty Hinds Cherry Hoffner Melinda Papador Jen Symmonds Susan Vanselow Ronnie Wendt

I N S P I R AT I O N Welcome Letter

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Between You and Me Joni’s Corner

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Bits & Pieces

10

Living on Purpose

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Art Director Kelly Perso

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Transparent Moments

Advisory Board Anita Carman Pam Farrel Judy Briscoe Golz Nancy Grisham Pam MacRae Elizabeth Murphy Jackie Oesch Stephanie Seefeldt

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Circulation Manager Suzan Braun Web Debbie Wicker Renewals Manager Nancy Krull Marketing Julie Santiago Director of Mission Advancement/ Social Media Ashley Schmidt Subscriptions Rebecca Loesche Julie Matthews Mary Richards Lin Sebena Software Support Rebecca Loesche

30 F E AT U R E S

20 FA I T H C O N V E R S AT I O N S They Called Us Love April Holden is serving street children in Africa despite illness, mistakes, and ever-changing plans

Editorial Intern Danae Templeton

by Lisa Elliott 30

Embracing a Mindset of Full over Busy Jesus promised us a full life. Then how come so many of us are missing it? Find out how there is balance in the fullness. by Michelle Stiffler 34

by Ann Todd 38

A Sweep of Gratitude Melvin can teach us a thing or two about being thankful. by Lynda Elliott 40

ENCOURAGEMENT Soul Refreshment

Correction:

Last issue there was an error in the “Grow Joy” article by Darlene Larson. The website was incorrect. It was www.Heartswithapurpose.com. We are sorry about that! 6

It Is Well

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Just Between Us (ISSN 1069-3459) is published quarterly by Just Between Us, 777 South Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045-3701. Make all checks and money orders payable to: Just Between Us, Subscription Orders 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045

Periodical Postage Paid at Brookfield, WI and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Just Between Us, 777 S. Barker Road, Brookfield, WI 53045. Just Between Us is a member publication of the Evangelical Press Association. Copyright ©2019 by Just Between Us. All rights reserved. Printed in USA.

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Chronic Hope

Gift Your Ministries: Group subscriptions are now available at reduced rates. Encourage and inspire the women who make ministry happen at your church or other places of outreach or service to others. Energize their relationships, refresh their faith, and become equipped as a team for facing ministry challenges through JBU. For more information, call 800-260-3342 today!

To order by phone, or for more information: call 800.260.3342. From Canada call 262.786.6478. Email: jbu@justbetweenus.org Website: www.justbetweenus.org

46 Real Faith

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We occasionally share subscriber mailing addresses with select organizations. If you would like your name removed from direct mail promotional lists, please call 800-260-3342 or email jbu@justbetweenus.org.

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The Homefront

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Between Friends

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The Journey to Soon I tried to comfort our two-year-old grandchildren, who were howling because their daddy was leaving for work. “He’ll be back soon,” I shouted soothingly. (It’s hard to shout soothingly above twin screams, but I did my best.) My best effort, however, did not alleviate the pain of parting. What does “soon” mean to a two year old? When one is a toddler, comfort is when “soon” turns to “now.” I’ve discovered that, like my grandchildren, I have trouble with “soon,” too. Waiting is not my favorite thing to do, especially for something extremely important: a child to be conceived, a teenager to give one little hint that they like belonging to me, or a relative to come to Christ. But nobody knows how quickly “soon” will come, except God—and He doesn’t tell. His knowledge is not withheld to tease, but to test. Waiting for closure always exposes the caliber of my faith, the intensity of my patience and trust. When I’m waiting for something particularly painful to be over, there’s bound to be some well-meaning saint who, often with ill-conceived satisfaction, says I’ll be deeper when it’s finished. I want to scream, “I don’t want to be deeper! I want to stay shallow and have the hurt go away soon.” I’ve learned, however, that what you do with the “journey to soon” is vital. Waiting does not mean passivity. Waiting works us over, making us pliable in the Potter’s hand. He molds the wet clay and forms a real grownup out of the child in us. I’m learning to take action while I wait. On a plane long ago, I found myself looking forward to a quiet flight, but sitting next to me was a squirmy eight year old. Buckling his seat belt like a veteran, he settled back—for all of a minute. He anxiously looked at his watch and I waited for the big question. A few more minutes of sighs, gazing out the

window, and a lethargic attempt to read a comic book passed before he turned to me. “Are we there yet?” he asked. “I’m afraid not,” I answered apologetically. “Maybe there’s food on this flight,” he suggested hopefully. “What are your favorite foods?” I asked. I hit a chord and made an eight-year-old friend. We launched into a catalog of our favorites until we finally reached our destination. As he disappeared into the terminal, shepherded by an air hostess, I prayed for him… and for his salvation. Maybe, I mused, no one has ever cared for his soul. Perhaps if we had arrived “sooner” I wouldn’t have gotten to know him. When waiting for God to meet urgent needs, things can be accomplished that only God knows. Decades ago, I watched my mother fight to the death with cancer. I cried out in agony, “Lord, release her ‘now.’” “Soon,” He replied. And two days before she died, she put her trust in Jesus. Waiting on the Lord does not mean waiting on everything else until the prayer is answered. It means cultivating an attitude of trust, casting the bundle of personal care on Him while we busy ourselves with whatever duties we must do. The devil loves to slow us to a dead stop, telling us we need to wait until things are okay again before we serve, teach, preach, or take up our daily responsibilities. He would paralyze us with the pain of waiting. This week a new problem has entered my life. I ask my heavenly Father, “Are we there yet?” I think I hear Him saying, “Soon.” Blessings,

Jill Briscoe is the Founder and Executive Editor of Just Between Us. She is also a popular author and speaker living in suburban Milwaukee, Wis., with her husband Stuart.

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by Aubrey Adams 20

Mary and Me The mother of Jesus has a lot to teach us. Mary gives us the courage to overcome our fears and say “yes” to God.

“But nobody knows how quickly ‘soon’ will come, except God—and He doesn’t tell.”

Photographers Wayde Peronto/ Babboni Photography

ADVERTISING Ellie Dunn For more information call 856.582.0690 ext. 2# or email ellie@carldunn.com.

Is Your Husband Thriving? Working through difficult questions and transitions when you’re husband is struggling with his job.

Between You and Me


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L E T G O D TA K E C A R E O F Y O U

Joni’s Corner

heart-to-heart with Joni Eareckson Tada

Email me! response@ joniandfriends.org.

He despises for reasons that are always wise, specific, and good, yet often hidden from our understanding here on earth. John Piper says t hat God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses—a narrow lens and a wide-angle one. When God looks at a painful event through a narrow lens, He sees the tragedy for what it is, and is grieved. He feels the sting in His chest when a child dies of cancer. However, when God looks at that same event through His wide-angle lens, He sees the tragedy in relation to everything leading up to it, as well as the good things flowing out from it. He sees a beautiful mosaic stretching into eternity. In heaven, people will delight in this marvelous mosaic, like a tangled embroidery of scarred lives flipped right-side-up to reveal the delicate and beautiful pattern never observed on earth. I don’t mind waiting to see that magnificent embroidery…and so I join you in trusting that what God has permitted will ultimately prove to be gloriously good! Joni Eareckson Tada, the founder of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, is an advocate for people with disabilities, providing Christ-centered programs for special-needs families through retreats. She has also delivered over 100,000 wheelchairs and Bibles to disabled people in developing nations. Her new daily devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, contains fresh biblical insights from her battle with cancer and chronic pain. Joni also serves as general editor of the new Beyond Suffering Bible, a special edition published by Tyndale for those who suffer chronic conditions, and their caregivers. She and her husband, Ken, live in Calabasas, Calif.

Available wherever books are sold MomentsOfPeaceForMoms.org

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Visit my site! joniandfriends.org

The Answer to Your Suffering We may not say it out loud, but we think it: Why does God allow suffering? Theologians have wrestled over this, but do their answers satisfy? “Suffering is a result of sin,” they say. “So, if God were to get rid of suffering, He’d have to eradicate all sin. That would annihilate all sinners. Thus, He permits suffering so that humans can continue.” Does that satisfy? Most likely, no, not if you are watching your child die of cancer or battling bone-deep weariness from chronic fatigue syndrome. Academic answers to tough questions about suffering can sound dry and technical. When a person is deeply afflicted, he doesn’t ask “why?” as though raising his hand in a theology class; rather, he asks “why?” out of an anguished gut. It’s how I felt 52 years ago after I broke my neck in a horrible accident that left me a quadriplegic. Two decades later, I started living with chronic pain. Then I was hit by stage III cancer. Answers don’t always help where it hurts: in the gut and the heart. When we are afflicted and ask “why,” we are like a hurting child who cries to Daddy, “Why?” That child does not want answers. They want Daddy to pick them up, hold them close, and hear him whisper, “There, there,

sweetheart, it’s okay. Daddy’s here.” The child wants fatherly assurance that everything will be okay. The God of the Bible gives that same Fatherly assurance. He is Abba-Father-Daddy who gives Himself, for He is the Answer. He does not give wordy advice; He is the Word, the Word made f lesh, the Man of Sorrows acquainted with our grief. I once challenged a friend to explain how a good God could allow terrible things to happen. “Joni,” he said, “think of God’s own Son. How could God allow such terrible things to happen to Him? Think of the heinous crimes God allowed leading up to the cross. Think of the treason, injustice, torture, and murder. Yet God permitted what He hated—the cross—to accomplish what He loved—salvation for a world of sinners.” Only God could pull off a paradox like that. Lamentations 3:32-33 asserts that “the Lord brings grief,” but “he does not willingly bring grief.” If that doesn’t make sense, remember that God tried it out on Himself. He willed the gruesome death of His own Son (taking no delight in it) because He prized something above it (our glorious salvation). The world’s worst murder became the world’s only rescue. “And Joni,” my friend added, “the same is true for you. God permitted what He hated, your injury. But it’s accomplishing what He loves: the image of Christ in you.” I learned that in our terribly broken world, God permits all sorts of things He doesn’t approve of. God wills what

Focus your heart on God through these five-minute meditations.


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Bits & Pieces

for everyday faith and life

How to Keep Christ in Christmas The Christmas season, for all its beautiful celebrations and holiday cheer, can quickly get over-busy with gift-buying, parties, and all the details that make the holidays run smoothly. Here are some simple ways to keep Christ the central focus of your life this Christmas season: • Set aside a special time to read the Christmas story in Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20. Consider reading this account with your family and discussing it together.

How to Survive a Spiritual Winter 1. Accept your season. The surrender, although painful, positions us to receive all that God intends for that particular season much better than if we fight it. 2. Create new spaces. See God through His Word in ways you haven’t before. Take walks, praying a verse back to Him. Ask His Spirit to direct your eyes to the ways He is working in the small areas of your life. Winter is a time when the inside can be nourished even when what is outside feels barren. 3. Don’t forfeit your dream for fruit. Our culture is largely oriented toward action, but dormant dreams are not dead dreams; they are often further opportunities for dialogue with God. He created you to desire fruit, and He desires fruit for you (John 15:8).

Words of Wisdom “Whatever your story is today— it’s okay. Because the writer of the story has written Himself into the hardest places of yours and is softening the edges of everything with redeeming grace.”

Live in the Word as you Live in the World New Bible Studies from Popular Authors

~Ann Voskamp

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This six-week study highlights significant concepts from the Book of Romans regarding the good news about faith, grace, daily life, God’s plan, relationships, and eternity.

Discover that there is goodness and blessing to be found in times of waiting by exploring the stories of women in the Bible who had to wait on God in this four-week study.

PARTICIPANT WORKBOOK | 9781501838972 | $16.99 LEADER GUIDE | 9781501838996 | $14.99 DVD | 9781501839016 | $49.99

STUDY GUIDE WITH LEADER HELPS | 9781501888625 | $14.99 DVD | 9781501888649 | $44.99

Excerpted from DesiringGod.org by Sara Hagerty.

• Give God one very special gift just from you to Him. Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. Maybe your gift to God will be to forgive someone you’ve needed to forgive for a long time. You may discover that you’ve given a gift back to yourself. Excerpted from Learnreligions.com, by Mary Fairchild.

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Write Us! Please send your short (250 words or less) snippets to: submissions@ justbetweenus.org.

Explore the lives of lesser-known female characters in the Bible and the ways they change the world by living God’s calling in this six-week study. PARTICIPANT WORKBOOK | 9781501882906 | $16.99 LEADER GUIDE | 9781501882920 | $14.99 DVD | 9781501882944 | $49.99

Be inspired by people in the Bible who have only a small mention, just a footnote in a story, but show even minor players can teach major lessons in this four-week study. STUDY GUIDE WITH LEADER HELPS | 9781501888540 | $14.99 DVD | 9781501888564 | $44.99

Excerpts and video samples available at AbingdonWomen.com. Abingdon Women Bible studies are available wherever books are sold.

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• Take a group Christmas caroling in a nursing home or a children’s hospital.


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Living on Purpose a life that matters with Jennie Allen

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looked, or made to feel small—because the truth is I am small and I’m not building my following—I am building Christ’s. Scripture is clear that when we receive praise and reward here—that’s all we get. We have received our reward. I know it seems backwards, but we should celebrate when we obey, serve, and create and do not get attention here. We need to be grateful for eternal rewards built from obedient invisible moments, not the jolt of feeling seen and important. And when we do get noticed or followed, we learn to keep that same attitude. Serve, see, love, and make much of God and the person standing right in front of us. Build small somewhere, with your real life people who will help you remember the real reasons you do what you do and the people who will challenge you if you start to think you are something! I have some of these people in my life that do a pretty good job of that! Is having a big platform or following a bad thing? Well, obviously it is not. But if you put your identity in it, your soul will get sick fast. May we desire to be helpful rather than important. May we see individuals and not follow numbers. May we seek to make God’s name great and not our own. Jennie Allen is a Bible teacher, author, and the founder and visionary of IF: Gathering. Additionally, she is the author of Restless, Anything, and her most recent book, Nothing to Prove. Jennie has a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Dallas, Tex., with her husband, Zac, and their four children.

Daily Quality Time with God

Get it today at amazon.com

And GRAB YOUR FREE Morning Routine Guide at http://bit.ly/lifechangemornings

Whether you’re dealing with difficult issues such as fear, insecurity, or heartache, Journaling Faith and Feelings into Action by GG Mack will help you learn how to spend daily quality time with God. This journal will help you change your focus so you can tackle anything life throws at you. You’ll find help for: applying and meditating on Scripture, inspirational quotes that will improve your thinking patterns, and a place to practice daily gratitude. Christian entrepreneur and author GG Mack, along with her mother, Glenda Grimsley, a psychotherapist, combined their efforts to help you embrace the plan that God has for you—a plan that keeps Christ first in your life.

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Visit my sites! jennieallen.com ifgathering.com

Obedience in Invisible Moments There is a lie we are believing straight from the enemy! It’s this... If it isn’t big, it doesn’t matter. Because we believe it, we make influence the goal rather than loving God and people with all of our life and gifts. Maybe you are serving in your local church, being a faithful employee, or wiping crumbs off the highchair for the tenth time today. You’re creative and faithful to what is in front of you, and God is using it to change the world. Yet you wonder if your work really matters because it goes unseen. We must stop this silly game of platform chasing and measuring our success by size, numbers, or reach! If you make influence your goal… …your work will become bland and unoriginal, …your heart will become consumed with what the world thinks, …you’ll miss the Holy Spirit’s incredible work right in front of you, …your soul will get so sick because it will never be satisfied, …and rather than give God away through your gifts, you will use Him to get somewhere. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands.” A few years ago, I authored and led a Bible study. It was smaller than

the thousands of people I lead when I travel and speak. I taught, prayed with people afterwards, and it was the greatest joy! What gifts has God given you that you’re sitting on because they don’t seem important enough? What can we do to fight this lie? Use Your Gifts. Use them anywhere, and at any time. Forget about size or impact or reach. Just do it for someone who needs what God has given you. As you see God meeting needs around you—you forget about all the people out there and see the people right in front of you who need what you weren’t giving because you didn’t think it was important. Take Breaks from the Internet. Never have everyone’s accomplishments been right in our space like they are today. Just pull away so you are sure your eyes are fixed on Christ and you are running your race and not looking side to side trying to run someone else’s. Celebrate Character over Attention. What do I mean by this? I will never forget my first Women of Faith conference. I had barely released one book and had only 100 Twitter followers. No one knew who I was, and they put me in a book signing line next to one of my heroes in women’s ministry! Her line wrapped the whole arena and I had three people in mine. I had a choice: I could compare and burst into tears or decide to celebrate that I get to go deeper with the few dear people right in front of me. They had tears in their eyes, they had photos of their adopted kids, and had been changed by something I said or did. I decided that day to celebrate every time I don’t get credit, am over-

Spend Some


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Transparent Moments breakthrough insights with Anita Carman

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ing of when the seat will be filled and how He can use it for another in need of family. At the end of the day, we realize how little control we really have; we simply get to be a part of what God allows to happen. When my granddaughter was born, I asked, “Is this the daughter I’ve always wanted?” I expected to feel differently. I found that my grandson was just as great a delight to me as my granddaughter, she simply gave me an excuse to shop for ribbons and lace. I knew then that the transition had been made where I no longer looked to my children or my grandchildren to fill my void. Jesus fills the void by giving me purpose—that includes my children and grandchildren, but encompasses so much more. When God defines our purpose, we find our voice the same way we encourage our children and grandchildren to find theirs. In this process, there is great peace!

Be the leader

God meant for you to be. Inspire Women’s Leadership Academy helps women find clarity by matching their God-given passion to their purpose for God. We teach you how to transform your emotions of loneliness, rejection, and fear into power to finish your mission for God as the Daughter of a King. For more information, visit inspirewomen.org/programs/leadership-academy

Anita Carman is the Founder and President of Inspire Women, an organization that inspires women across ethnicities, denominations, and economic levels to discover God’s purpose. It also funds biblical resources and scholarships to train women for missions and ministry. She has an MBA and completed graduate level studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Anita is the author of Transforming for a Purpose and A Daughter’s Destiny. She lives in Houston, Tex., with her husband. They have two sons.

Ministry on the Go Take treats to your local vet.

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Visit my site! inspirewomen.org

The Art of Loving and Releasing When I was in my childbearing years, I dreamed of having a daughter. My imagination always revolved around a daughter, probably because of how close I was to my mother. I was her best friend, never once questioning that perhaps she shouldn’t have leaned on me for that. I was consumed with solving her problems. Helping her find relief for her anxiety became my role in life. When she died, I felt displaced. God showed me over the years that I was never created for my mother, but for Him. My first awakening came when God gave me two sons who turned out to be pillars of strength in the family. The second was when God informed me that He didn’t give me children so that I could have a best friend. My role as a mother is to love them, raise them, and set them free to fly. The first time I thought about my sons leaving the nest, I couldn’t stop crying. After they left, I was holding my breath, waiting to inhale when they returned. That coping mechanism didn’t work very well. At first, when they were in college, I could look forward to the next time they would be home on break. But as they grew into adults, the time between visits grew longer and their planned trips home subject to

the demands of corporate America. I eventually realized that I had to learn to lay down my expectations. Meanwhile, God’s plan for me was not to put life on hold waiting to hear my children’s plans. I had to learn the art of loving and releasing. John Townsend described it as “feeling your heart rip but letting it rip anyway.” His teaching helped me in a time of transition. He explained that “The Hebrew word for ‘leave’ in Gen. 2:24 can be translated as ‘to abandon or make desolate.’ The idea is that for the child to individuate properly from the parents and to find their own identity and purpose, they must ‘abandon’ their parents and become emotionally, spiritually, and financially autonomous. A good parent will bear that pain for the sake of the child’s growth.” For some children, God’s plan for them is to stay close. They were meant to be part of the work God is doing through the parents or a source of continual support. For others, God’s plans may take them to other cities or even to the other end of the world. You may ask why, but God doesn’t owe us an answer. Why did God’s plan require Jesus to leave heaven? Why did the Apostles all go their separate ways? Why did Paul go to the Gentiles while Peter stayed in Jerusalem? Some missions require separation before God’s plans can be accomplished. The idea is not to force a plan, but to follow the plan God designed. In our desire to manage the future, we may feel tempted to fill in the names for the seats at our table just to have some assurance that the seat won’t be empty. But God knows the tim-


personal wrestling worship change offended feel it warm fuzzy emotional deeper conscious always-worthy

During this season of , my whole concept of began to .I discovered that God wasn’t if I couldn’t “ ” on a Sunday morning. Instead of worship as a and , experience, I began to see it as a , choice to praise my God.

by Laura Story

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PICTURED: LAURA STORY

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I Worship

body, and soul, to God. Give yourself up!” Paul’s readers would have understood the concept of sacrifice. He wrote to the first-century house churches in Rome, made up of Jewish and Roman converts to Christianity. Both groups were familiar with the practice of offering sacrifices in worship—Jewish or pagan—and both would also be reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf. One key word in Paul’s instruction showed me that he wasn’t talking about a martyr’s sacrifice: living. He wasn’t suggesting that followers of Jesus should all die for their faith; he was asking them all to live for it—with lives of sacrifice that were holy and acceptable to God. This kind of surrendered life, he said, is our true and proper response. Worship is a lived experience. I’ve heard worship described through the years in so many ways, as an hour-long service you attend on Sunday morning, or a genre of music played on your local Christian radio station. But I’d never heard it described, like Paul did, as a full-on, lifelong surrender. When we surrender ourselves to God, we worship Him. Surrendering doesn’t lead us into worship; our surrender is our worship. That seemed so profoundly simple! My first response was relief. In Paul’s worship paradigm, surrender outranks emotion. Of course, worship of God engages our emotions, but for Paul emotion wasn’t the main requirement. Surrender was. The proper response of people who have been given everything is to present their very lives to the One who has given them everything. This is our reasonable act of worship. My second response was a feeling of apprehension. Hold on now—a holy and blameless sacrifice? Me? Anyone who has ever met me knows I wouldn’t qualify for that. And Paul himself already said that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. I can’t present myself as a holy and blameless sacrifice on the basis of my track record, but I can present myself to God as holy and blameless based on His mercy! God does not expect perfection from His children. What a relief that is! When He looks at each one of us, He doesn’t see 17

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Surrender When I

My first real job—if you don’t count a few summer stints in food service—was leading worship in a local church. My church needed a worship leader, and I was naïve enough to think that my brand-new music degree and the four guitar chords I knew might qualify me. I mean, I loved the Lord and I knew music—I could play and sing. Surely that was enough, right? It took God no time at all to show me how unprepared I was to truly worship Him, much less to help anyone else do likewise. Four months into the job, when my husband Martin became ill, I struggled to stand before a congregation of people singing songs of praise to God. How in the world could I lift my voice in joy when our lives seemed to be falling apart? How could I proclaim His faithfulness when my own faith was taking such an awful pounding? During this season of personal wrestling, my whole concept of worship began to change. I discovered that God wasn’t offended if I couldn’t “feel it” on a Sunday morning. Instead of worship as a warm and fuzzy, emotional experience, I began to see it as a deeper, conscious choice to praise my always-worthy God. But getting there wasn’t easy. I began to search the Scriptures for a solid definition of worship, something I could hang my hat on when my feelings didn’t automatically inspire me to praise. It was in the book of Romans where I finally found the answer I was looking for. The first eleven chapters of Romans contain what many theologians agree is the most comprehensive exposition of grace found anywhere in the Bible. After these eleven chapters full of rich truth, it’s as if Paul took a deep breath and answered the obvious question now hanging in the air: Considering all that Christ has done for us—making us right with God by His atoning death, freeing us from the penalty and power of sin, lavishing us with His grace—how should we respond? I wonder if his answer surprised them. It surprised me. “Therefore,” he wrote, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1, ESV). In other words, “Surrender your life,


the skeletons in our closet, our self-centeredness gone rogue, our past failures, or even our potential for future failure. Before He sees anything else, He sees in us the righteousness of Jesus. We don’t surrender our lives to God to gain His favor. We offer ourselves to Him in response to the favor He’s already freely shown us because of the saving work of Jesus! Paul’s words finally relieved me of my mistaken notion that worship is something that’s done out of sheer, sustained joy in the Lord. I’ve heard worship referred to as “worth-ship”—literally a time to show God His worth—and the worth of God is not something that depreciates or fluctuates over time. It’s solid, constant, steady. So, even though we may go through hard seasons when our hearts fail us, worship is still a reasonable act. No matter how I may feel about worshiping God in the moment, “The duty,” says C. S. Lewis, “exists for the delight.” Worship is not something that can be learned in a classroom or perfected with the help of a textbook. It’s way more handson than that! Worship is the lived experience of offering myself, moment by moment and day by day, to a living God. It is opening my hands and letting go of whatever I am clinging to instead of Him. It is acting as if everything He says about Himself and about me is absolutely true. When I surrender my life as a sacrifice to God, I am worshiping Him. Every moment of prizing God is a reordering of my own status. He reigns. Therefore, I do not. He rules. Therefore, I do not. He is sovereign. Therefore, I am not. When I say, “Not my will, but Yours, God,” I am worshiping. When I say, “I don’t know what’s best for me, God. But I believe that You do, and I’m going to trust You,” I am worshiping. When I say, “I like my plan, God, but if You have a better one, replace mine with Yours,” I am worshiping. When I serve others before pleasing myself, I am worshiping. When I want reconciliation more than I want to be seen as right, I am worshiping. When I look for ways to leave my faith behind so that others can be blessed when I am gone, I am worshiping. If the thought of opening your hands to God and offering Him your life sounds too scary, too big, too terrifying, try this: • Surrender the moment in front of you right now.

• Pray the prayer that’s on your heart today, this moment, even if you’re not sure of the words. (He’s promised to help with that, too!) • Help the person in need standing before you now, today. • Steal the quiet minute you have for prayer right now, instead of lamenting the half hour you don’t have. • Offer God the grief that’s eating at the edges of your heart today. It will only be bigger tomorrow. • Forgive the person who hurt you today. Don’t wait. Do it now. • Confess the wrong you’re sick over this minute, and fall into the bottomless forgiveness of God. He’s waiting. He’s right here. This is the moment for your surrender and for mine. Yes, we’ll take three steps forward and two steps back some days. No matter. Take the steps anyway. Take them now. I don’t want to be in charge. Really, I don’t. I just want to be His. When we surrender, we invite God into our story as our King, and we take our rightful place in His story as beloved children and heirs. That kind of surrender is the real secret to joy— joy that is never threatened by circumstances that change day to day. Who wouldn’t release their attempts to control life’s crazy twists and turns to live like a fearless, well-loved child instead? I give up. How about you?

In this sequel to Shades of Light, readers are invited into a journey of reflection through Katherine’s words and Wren’s paintings. A devotional guide is included with Scripture readings, prayer prompts, and full-color art, giving you the opportunity to ponder the depths of God’s love by meditating on Jesus’ journey to the cross.

Taken from I Give Up by Laura Story Copyright @2019. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, www.thomasnelson.com.

“A stunningly beautiful narrative of restoration and redemption in two women’s lives.”

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, author of Ordinary Graces

absolutely true

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offering opening my hands letting go

Worship is the lived experience of , moment by moment and day by day, to a living God. It is and of whatever I am clinging to instead of Him. It is acting as if everything He says about Himself and about me is .

myself

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You can get Laura’s title track “I Give Up” digitally. Visit Laura’s website at laurastorymusic.com.


faith conversations

As a critically ill seven year old in government-subsidized housing in Thatto Heath, England, April Holden gave her life to Jesus.

They Called Us Love April Holden is serving street children in Africa despite illness, mistakes, and ever-changing plans.

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JBU: You didn’t have a normal childhood. How did God help you rise above your illness and how has He used that pain to minister to kids in pain? April: In many ways, I did have a normal childhood with loving parents and a Christian upbringing. What was challenging were the frequent bouts of illness and then, during my teenage years, arthritis. Bullying was another hurdle, as well as a few other factors. My life experiences have been like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, enabling me to be who I am and to do what I do. My work with British children struggling with emotional and behavioral disorders was good training, giving me deeper insight into the causes and effects of their suffering. I knew I could relate to children in pain.

JBU: What hope can you give other people battling chronic illness? April: Depend on God; focus your thoughts on all that is good (Phil. 4:8). Negative thinking makes us sick. One friend taught me to always look for the flowers along the way. There are always good things even on our worst days. Allow others to help, and never give in to self-pity. God doesn’t always take away our illness, but He does give us the strength to go through it and carry on.

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by Aubrey Adams

Her living situation didn’t change immediately, and her constant health problems continued to cause great turmoil, but God was clearly in the details of her life from that moment on. As she began to spend more time attending church, she learned about this Jesus who died and gave His all to save her. In response, she promised to give her life back to Him, earnestly whispering she would do anything He wanted. She didn’t know how true that promise would become until God clearly spoke to her one day, saying, “You will work with homeless children in Africa.” April held on to that calling, never doubting it because she trusted the power of the words God had first spoken to her. April’s many health problems continued to persist as she pushed through her secondary schooling years and later into her university years. Her attempts to apply to missions were crushed with resounding “no’s.” Mission organizations were concerned that if she went overseas she would surely die. They even went as far as to question God’s call for her life. This left April deeply disappointed, but she pressed forward stubbornly, with God’s voice directing her steps. As she waited for God’s timing, she was growing spiritually healthier. God used her day-to-day situations and life to strengthen her for what lay ahead. Finally, in the beginning of 1993, she stepped out in faith again and approached another organization that supported her in traveling to Africa to begin putting her teaching skills to use. This is where she began to establish herself, learning the culture and language. Her doctors were concerned about her ability to physically cope with her health challenges, but as she moved forward, she found a deep sense of joy and peace knowing that the Lord, her Rock,

would never leave her or forsake her. As she put it, “His enduring promise, ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,’ (Matt. 28:20) was never more real.” God has used April’s faith in mighty ways since then. She and her team of capable men and women have crafted a ministry that has built multiple places of refuge for street boys in war-torn locations. Their teams have grown together rescuing, caring for, and teaching these children about the love of Christ, engaging them in life skills that will support them as adults. A book exploring her life journey, They Called Us Love by Deborah Meroff, was published last year. April now trains others how to minister to street children. April is quick to give God all the glory and understands the value of depending on one another’s different skills, personalities, and encouragement to reach the goal of loving those who are most alienated. JBU had the opportunity to ask April about her faith and her many years of service in Africa.


faith conversations

JBU: Talk to us about how you started your centers. April: I started working in an existing center so I could learn about the country’s street children and asked God which local church to attend to build relationships. He directed me to one and, after a few months, the way opened to ask the pastor what his church’s vision was for the street children who suffered such obvious needs. The youth wanted to do something but didn’t know how, so I shared my vision and he arranged for me to start training the youth group—single young adults between the ages of 18-25. We worked together to clear overgrown land at the back of the church property while fundraisers gathered support for the project. Bit by bit we built a drop-in center that later became a live-in residence, our first center. In a short time we were faced with the challenge of accommodating too many young children and teens in the same space. After many meetings, we were allocated some unused farmland on the edge of the church’s Bible college. We eventually opened a residence for teens which also served as a vocational training school. Later, another church requested help in building a similar facility, so we partnered with another mission group to set it up. Then we responded to pleas from a church in the west, a war-torn region in desperate need. Our staff started a feeding program which eventually led to establishing a center in a nearby, more stable area, to take in homeless children who had escaped the fighting.

JBU: How do we figure out God’s plan for our lives? What role does prayer play? April: We need to be in a close personal relationship with God so that we are used to hearing and recognizing His voice. Jesus said that “My sheep listen to my voice” (John 10:27). We also need mature believers who will pray and seek God’s will with us so that we are accountable and do not get deceived. In addition, the Lord has given us various gifts, skills, and experiences as well as a particular personality; all of these can guide us along a particular path. If we ask God to guide us and give us wisdom and believe wholeheartedly that He will, then we will know His plans. Only when we doubt does confusion enter in. Prayer is always key. Without talking to God, we have no direction to follow except our own and the world’s. Prayer was also essential for me to have the strength to go to Africa despite chronic health problems, to learn a language when I had failed all foreign languages at school, and to obey despite my insecurities. Without that connection to God and the support of others who prayed, it would have been disastrous.

JBU: Did you ever have a moment when you thought, “What have I done?”

JBU: How has your faith grown as you’ve stepped out into the unknown? April: I’ve learned how to really pray with faith from the example of my national brothers and sisters. I’ve also learned to accept peoples’ differences, but to take my identity from Christ alone. My faith grew beyond measure as I realized that the miraculous is still possible, and that I cannot do things in my own strength. 22

April: When I was living in the North, the Iraq War broke out and anger was rife against Americans. I was driving home from work one day when an angry mob started coming in my direction. A restaurant owner nearby urgently signaled for me to turn into his compound, but as I began turning, the mob surrounded me. Suddenly, four big men with their backs to me stood like protectors at both of my front side windows. I could only see the protestors through the rear-view mirror. The mob, thinking I was American, broke the back-passenger window as I drove into the compound. I looked back and saw the restaurant owner and four big men closing the compound gates against my attackers. I was shaking and very scared. I had to remain indoors after that incident, but a couple of days later, a friend went back to thank the five men for helping me. The restaurant owner was very surprised when my friend mentioned the four other men; he said that he had been alone that day. It would not have been possible for even five men, let alone one, to close the gates against a couple hundred angry protesters. I knew then, without any doubt, that angels had protected me.

JBU: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your life and ministry? How has it impacted your faith? April: The most dramatic challenges, such as the attack above and interrogations and deportation, were relatively short lived. The biggest ongoing challenge of my ministry has always been the shortage of people to do the work. There is always so much to be done for children and not enough people with a passion to do it. On a personal level, I have struggled both with the loneliness of being separated from my family and of being single. Though I have been blessed with friends who are like family to me, there is still a loneliness at times. However, the biggest challenge was when I had to leave the ministry in the North to be separated permanently from the people I loved—my home, work—everything I thought I would do until I retired. In early 2013, I was ordered to report to an increasingly hostile government for questioning. They interrogated me for almost a week, shouting and threatening me from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. before ordering me deported on a flight that left in two hours. That was such a blow to recover from, but God picked me up and helped me carry on.

Through the process, the faith of nationals made me understand the power of prayer. I have seen answered prayers, miraculous interventions, and God’s provision of homes and families, friends, and material needs. My trust in the Lord has also grown firmer as I have seen volunteers come to help at just the right time, with just the right skills. Knowing that I am never alone in this work and that God is always with me has made a huge impact. As I say to people who ask how I can travel to so many places alone, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all with me full-time. We are quite a crowd, in fact! When I lost so much after being kicked out of the North, my faith eventually grew as I learned to let go, depend on God alone, and forgive—leading to a deeper relationship with Christ than before.

JBU: How did someone so young know how to train others for this type of ministry? April: I taught for six and a half years before going to Africa; four and a half of those years I was a special education teacher working with emotionally disturbed children. I still needed more training and experience, which I did not get until much later, on the field. God can use us best when we feel unqualified. When we think we can do it, then He is not in charge. When we are weak and humble, then He is strong. Our qualifications and our experience are not what can change lives. I made a lot of mistakes, so that is why I am passionate about training others to do this ministry—so they don’t repeat my mistakes!

JBU: What did you learn from your mistakes? April: Dependence on God is vital, and so is receiving competent training and mentoring. We should never underestimate the importance of learning from others and sharing the load. Finally, local sustainability needs to be built into a project before it’s started. Don’t let it rely on your skills or depend on your finances; involve the community instead. Set up each project so that if the foreigners must leave the country, it will keep going under the direction of the national people you have trained.

JBU: Your willingness to be open and vulnerable is refreshing. How has that made you a better teacher and leader? April: I know what it is to be hurt, to fail, to make mistakes, to hurt others without meaning to, and to mess up. I know that God is able to use our failings if we are willing to learn from them, so I can understand when people around me occasionally make mistakes, too. I don’t expect perfection from them. Just as I have struggled to achieve more than my apparent potential, I have learned that God can take any person and use them beyond what human logic would say is possible. I continually pray for the Father’s eyes so I can see individuals the way He does. I am still growing and improving as a leader and I still have far to go.

JBU: How do you deal with all the suffering you see? April: It is difficult. You get overwhelmed sometimes, wishing you could do more. You just keep taking it to God and do the bit He has asked you to do. We cannot do everything, nor should we try to be God. When I do get overwhelmed, I rely on prayer and remember my call. God Himself keeps me going and uses close friends to remind me of why I am doing what I’m doing. In addition, it’s important to take time off to relax and have fun. I make a practice of writing down my blessings and praising God even if I don’t feel like it.

Jacob

A Boy Forever Changed by Love Jacob is a boy I’m still in contact with. His father died when he was small, and his mother remarried, leaving Jacob and his siblings with a grandma because the new husband didn’t want them. Jacob kept running away. Eventually, by the age of 10 or 11, he was on the streets full-time. We found him when he was 15. He turned up at the day center, and could only walk with the help of a stick. One day, Jacob didn’t come to the center. The other boys said he had collapsed so we took a found him and got him to the hospital. The doctors said he had TB, so when he left the hospital he couldn’t walk. We took him to a medical center to be fitted with leg braces, crutches, and other aids. As he grew, he was well behaved at times and loved working with the smaller boys; other times he was rebellious. When he turned 19, he left our program. It didn’t go well. Jacob kept getting into trouble and one day he disappeared altogether. Eventually we found him in prison, accused of selling alcohol. Because he was very ill, the police released him to our care. As he was recovering, he decided to surrender his heart fully to God. Yet he still struggled. With all of his health problems, the doctor told us Jacob had a maximum of six months to live. Despite all the strikes against him, Jacob overcame his challenges and lived to become a committed man of God and loving teacher to the younger boys in our program. When the center was forced to close, he was the one who stepped in to revive it. Today, Jacob continues to care for six boys full-time and run drop-in programs to help many others who live on the streets. He is a walking miracle—literally!

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April: Many times, but God always sustained me, and the children kept me going. If I got discouraged, I would spend the day with them. Now I don’t get to be so directly involved with them, but the passion of the adults we are training keeps me motivated. Whenever I feel down, my colleagues hold me up. We sustain one another in God’s grace.

JBU: Tell us about the day your car was attacked by an angry mob.


with cleanup if the situation lends itself. If the host insists you enjoy yourself and not help, please abide by their request. Be aware of how long you are staying and try not to overstay your welcome. If you are a weekend guest at a friend or relative’s home, a simple gift is a nice gesture, such as the newest bestselling book or monogrammed hand towels. Also, help tidy up and keep your “room” in order: bed made, floors cleared. Finally, remember to thank your hostess. • If your pet is traveling with you for the holidays or for other seasonal activities, please pick up after them and keep them under control, especially if there will be small children around. If your pet is not great with friends like Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer, and you know there will be many furry friends, then maybe this is the time you pass on bringing them. If you are a houseguest and your hosts invite Fido, then be certain you know the house rules ahead of time, such as if pets are allowed on the furniture. These simple gestures may not lead to directly sharing the gospel, but they do cause others to pause and take notice of your kind spirit, and that is always a good springboard for deeper relationships and conversations.

MERRY MANNERS TO BRIGHTEN THE SEASON

CHRISTMAS CARDS Sending a card, even an ecard, is a lovely gesture—a warm message with a couple pictures from the last year, perhaps with a Scripture verse. Steer clear of 1,000 word newsletters with 100 quarter-size photos of barely-visible people and events. Aim for simple and heartfelt, an option that invites everyone to smile along with you.

Simple, kind gestures to be a light. by Susan A. Vernick

INVITE AND SHARE

The Christmas season is fully upon us with all its celebrating, shopping, eating, and merriment. Whether it’s a family dinner, holiday celebration, concert, or church potluck, good manners and proper etiquette are most certainly welcomed guests. Maybe we are not only to enjoy the beautiful Christmas decorations and lights, but also to be a light.“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Something as simple as a kind word, a courteous gesture, or good manners can offer encouragement and kindness and, in the process, glorify God. So curl up with a cup of hot cocoa; here are some merry manners to brighten the season. Treat salespeople and cashiers respectfully, especially if they are not having a great day themselves. Always say “hello,” “please,” and “thank you;” this sometimes is all that is needed to offer a little encouragement. Try your very best to do this, regardless of how much you have on your plate or how hurried you may be. End with a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” 24

TECHIQUETTE Try to avoid staring into your phone, being on social media, or constantly answering texts and phone calls during your Christmas events such as dinners and holiday parties or even family events. Occasional check-ins and

sharing pictures are fine, but minute-by-minute check-ins take you away from those memory-making moments. Enjoy all the red and green festivities without being glued to that little blue screen. By doing this, you are open to meaningful conversations with those you love and those you may just be meeting. You never know when God may open the door to share His love.

MIND YOUR MANNERS • Always say “thank you” when you receive a gift, even if you do not particularly care for the item. You are thanking the giver for their effort, generosity, and thoughtfulness. • Dining etiquette should be a welcomed guest of honor at your dinner table or event. Review proper mealtime etiquette before attending dinner events. • Be courteous at holiday musicals or theatrical events. Keep phones off for the event so that others can enjoy the sounds and sights of the season. • Don’t be a Scrooge; be a pleasant guest. Be a low-maintenance guest by bringing a simple hostess gift that requires no preparation. Help

Susan A. Vernick is the seasoned author of two children’s books, Danny’s Special Collection and The Gift Box. She has also written for numerous print and online publications. Susan has an etiquette consulting business with her two daughters, and writes an etiquette column for the newspaper along with being featured on local TV. Additionally, she is the wife of a U.S. Army veteran and the mother of four children. She lives in North Chili, New York. Visit her site at: etiquettechics.net.

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RETAIL ETIQUETTE

Sometimes just kind small talk opens doors to share nuggets of God’s love. These are nice ways to brighten someone’s day and make kindness contagious. Some additional tips: • Do not hold salespeople responsible for issues that are beyond their control such as pricing or out-of-stock items. • Have your rewards card, checkbook, debit card, or credit card ready—as well as any coupons—when you approach the register. This helps avoid delays and keeps those customers behind you happy as well. • Try to avoid talking on the phone when you are paying for a purchase. Certainly, this is unavoidable at times, but do your very best to abide by this simple guideline. • For salons and spas, be on time…always. If you need to cancel, do so 24 hours in advance (unless in the case of an illness). Canceling may cause your hairdresser/stylist/technician to lose money. We should be determined to approach the season, regardless of all the hustle and bustle, with the fruit of the Spirit in the forefront of our hearts and minds. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

As the Lord opens the door, share the Christmas message. Invite those in your circle to Christmas Eve services or invite children in your neighborhood to your church’s Christmas play. Write a simple Scripture on a gift or cookies you are delivering. Pray before and during the season that God opens doors for you to share the gospel. Quiet yourself and be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading to be Christ’s hands and feet.“Then he said to his disciples,‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few: ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (Matt. 9:37-38). This truly is the ultimate goal of the season. Let the celebration of the season begin with a Santa-sized dose of etiquette so you can enjoy all those fun-filled events while staying on the road to success. Let us never forget that we are the light in a dark world and we are to share the love of Jesus all during the year, but especially during the awe and wonder of the Christmas season.


mystery the

man

e to d’s lov o G g n. owin ely sh oung woma v i t a e Cr ing y o a hurt tancat

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Unless involved in an emergency, every nurse on the floor began to gather by my bedside at mail time to share in the drama as it unfolded. For me, mail time was good therapy that counteracted the pain. Mail continued to arrive from various places in Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. The content bordered on the unconventional, but was always in good taste. It never failed to bring a smile to my face and curiosity to my mind. After six weeks in the hospital, I went home to the amazement of the doctors. A small but heavy package arrived. With the brick inside, the note read, “This fell off of my heart when I learned you were okay.” Another card read, “Hey, I’ll probably see you Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday—or maybe Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday. Who knows?” The familiar signature was followed by “P.S.–or Friday.” Would the mystery man finally reveal his identity? I received no visitor, but mail kept coming. Florida and Nebraska were soon added to the postmarks. Overseas mail from Scotland, England, and France made everyone’s eyes pop. The three-page letter from Scotland carried a return address from “76 Queen St., Castle Douglas, Kirkubrightshire, Scotland.” That was impressive enough even before I started to read: “I’m a long way from home. The rain here gets mixed up with the fog and, once in a while, you see a fish swim by five feet above the ground.” Three months had gone by since my accident and I was still receiving mail. I never tired of the game. Even after I went back to work, I looked forward to coming home to find a surprise to uplift me or make me laugh. One day a package came from Kansas, but this time something was different. There was a name: Dave Lefever. My mouth flew open, and I stood stunned. I knew him, but not well. His daughter Karen and I had been good friends through high school, but we had since lost touch. When I visited, I got to know Karen’s mother, but Dave was usually at work. Without even opening the box of candy, I headed to the Lefever home. “So, you’re the one,” I said. “Guilty as charged,” Dave said with his famous grin. Learning what happened to me had stirred his compassionate nature, and he wanted to do something positive to minimize the negatives of my situation. To ensure that his mission remained a mystery, Dave did not share the secret with his wife or daughter. How had he been able to keep the suspense going for all of those months? He wrote up several cards and letters and sent them to a friend in Kansas, who mailed them at various times from various places. Most of the other mail went by air. Working at the airport, Dave gave letters to pilots and asked them to mail them at their destination. Dave’s mission required a lot of planning and effort, but he pulled it off perfectly. Divine inspiration continued to affect the mystery man, too. Although he was not a praying man when he began ministering to me, Dave later joined his wife on her spiritual journey. Through little acts of kindness, he blessed so many people who 27

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rie S iley by Ma M. Ba r e h t s to E as told

In my first conscious moment after the accident, I knew it was bad news. Would I even survive? At age twenty, I hoped to do a whole lot more living before I checked out. I had been living life to the fullest over the weekend in San Diego. Along with my cousins, I took in the sights, shopped, sunbathed on the beach, and visited with my aunt. We weren’t the drinking, carousing kind, but too much of even wholesome fun can get you in trouble. After twenty-four hours with no sleep, I was in no condition to start driving home to Phoenix, Arizona. At the hospital, doctors were surprised that I had made it. My neck was broken in three places. “If she lives, she’ll be paralyzed from the neck down,” one doctor told my parents. I required a complicated procedure to restore my neck to proper position. During a long recovery period, I would have to remain immobile. It would be some time before I could expect to return to normal, if ever. In addition to my grim prognosis, the hospital separated me from family and friends. My parents could come to stay with me only on the weekends. How could I occupy the time? Once I settled into a routine, I began receiving mail. When a large bouquet of yellow roses arrived, my private nurse opened the card. “Hmm, a secret admirer,” she said. In lieu of a name or signature, the sender had drawn a caricature of a man with a pleasant face. “Do you have any idea who sent them?” the nurse asked. “Not a clue.” For the rest of the day, my mind whirled with questions. Roses spoke of romance, but I wasn’t seriously dating anyone. Did someone in my church group have a secret crush on me? I went over the names of the guys one by one, but dismissed them all. The following day I received a card postmarked Springerville, Arizona. Who did I know in Springerville? My mind came up empty. The message read: “Hey, drive like you’re going to the dentist.” In other words, “Slow down.” Again, the drawing served as the signature. Three more cards arrived on the same day. Two of them bore postmarks from two places in New Mexico and one from Arizona. The caption on a picture of the desert read, “The Desert is Alive.” Completing the thought, the sender wrote, “And so are you–ain’t you lucky.” That was my introduction to the colloquial style of the person whose identity was revealed only through the cartoon drawing. “Did you ever date a truck driver?” my nurse asked as she examined the postmarks with a quizzical expression on her face. Equally baffled, I said, “No. Never.” The card arriving from Dalhart, Texas, read, “Now I ain’t much at prayin’ but you sho’ put a lot of people on their knees.” When I showed my cards to my parents, my mom said, “People at church are praying for you, but I don’t think this person is from our church. Otherwise, he would be praying for you, too.” “At least the flowers and all the traveling say he should be able to support my daughter in style,” Dad said with a laugh. Although we had no proof, we all thought of my pen pal as a man.


crossed his path, like placing a rose on the piano at church to light up the face of the pianist. Looking back, I remember the prayers that went up for me at the time of the accident. I believe God answered those prayers by giving creative ideas to a man with the heart of an angel. At a critical time in my life, suspense, mystery, and humor made the difference between despair and hope. I still cherish the more than 50 letters I received, and I recognize the value of human effort combined with divine inspiration. Esther M. Bailey writes to inspire others on their journey of faith. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts’ Comfort from Beyond series, God allows U-turns, God’s Abundance, God’s Way, and numerous periodicals. She lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. Editor’s Note: While writing this article, Esther quoted from the more than 50 cards and letters she had on hand from Dave to Marie. In addition, she frequently checked out details with Marie Stancato to insure the authenticity of the story.

simple ways to

encourage others

Even small acts, done with an attitude of compassion and love, encourage and give hope to people during times of great distress and illness. Keep these ideas in mind as you seek to come alongside and lift a friend or family member’s spirits. • Send flowers or other small gifts. • Send daily cards/messages. • Sit with cancer patients during chemo treatments. • Research the patient’s condition and send a care package with things that would be helpful such as: lip balm, tissues, high quality skin lotion, and Biotene (for dry mouth), etc. • Send books by their favorite authors. • Send puzzle books or make up personalized puzzles like word searches.

• Write out and send prayers you have actually prayed for them. • Make visits, but check with the person first to see if it’s a good time to do so. Remember to keep hospital visits short. ~Cherry Hoffner & Carol Becwar 28

OUR FAMILY STORY BIBLE

EXCLUSIVE EASY TO READ

make faith-filled memories with your family Cherished moments can be recorded throughout its thick, white pages as you and your family explore guided memory-creating activity spaces. There is also plenty of open space for recording key Bible verses and what they mean to you and your loved ones. go to ourfamilystorybible.com to learn more 29

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• Send gift certificates for home cleaning, home chefs, or other services (or offer to do those things yourself).

NIV


&

Mary Me

There’s a lot we can learn from the mother of Jesus.

My backyard swing is perhaps my favorite spot. It was given to me as a Mother’s Day gift twenty years ago and has moved with me to four houses. It’s where my husband and I, weather permitting, begin every day with a cup of coffee and our Bibles. It’s where Jesus and I meet the most. It’s where He and I have ministered to the weary, the broken, and the wounded. It’s also in this spot that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and I have frequently connected as I’ve taken time to process, pray, and “ponder things of God and treasure them in my heart” (Luke 2:19, 51). Mary and I connect on so many levels: • Like Mary, both of us had a personal encounter with the Lord as teenage girls. • We both know what it is to have our souls pierced (Luke 2:35). • We both know what it is to watch a son suffer and die. • We both know what it is to turn our mess into a message of hope that will “ripple” and reach generations to come (Luke 1:46-50). Like in Mary’s life, time and time again, the Lord has shown up in unexpected ways, stepping into my ordinary life on an ordinary day and extending extraordinary invitations that have led me to unforeseen circumstances. 30

The Lord has asked both of us to do the impossible made possible only by Him; the One who works best in impossible situations. It’s been in the context of these impossible situations that Mary’s example has helped me identify and overcome two significant fears that I’m sure we can all relate to!

1. Fear of Inadequacy There have been times when I’ve wrestled with my identity in Christ. I’ve been greatly troubled at His words and wondered what kind of greeting and invitation He’s extending to me. I’ve questioned the Lord’s calling in my life. I have felt like He’s chosen the wrong person. I’ve used Mary’s words, “But how can this be?” seeing as _______” and I go on to explain all the excuses why this cannot be! Giving God every reason why I cannot possibly do what He’s asking of me (Luke 1:34). That’s when all my deepest fears and inadequacies come pouring out: the fear of failure, rejection, and “not-enough-ness.” Through Mary’s example, I’ve learned: • It’s not who I am but Whose I am—not simply favored but highly favored, chosen, and called (Luke 1:28, 30).

2. Fear of the Unknown Fear of the unknown is a very real thing. It is debilitating, paralyzing, and stifling. And sadly, if we give into it, we’ll never know the good that can come out of it. We will never know what “could have been” if only we hadn’t given into our fears. I could never have guessed where the Lord would lead me to fulfill my calling: church conflict, burnout, ministry to pastoral couples dealing with all kinds of challenges, painful ministry transitions, the demands of hurting churches full of hurting people, and perhaps most profound of any of the above, the death of my own 19-year-old son after a year of battling leukemia. Whatever has been involved in my calling, I’ve learned the importance of turning my misery into ministry. • Mary has taught me the importance of a simple, willingness to comply with God’s plan—whether I understand it or not. None of us knows what the future holds. But we know Who holds the future. • Mary has shown me the importance of surrounding myself with those who come alongside, encourage, listen, and speak into my life. Those who “get it” or “get me.” People like Elizabeth was for Mary (Luke 1:36-56). • Mary’s journey reminds me that the Lord is not only with me, but He’s empowered me with His Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). As my backyard swing sways gently back and forth, I ponder all the treasures that my heart has stored up. My thoughts are transported to another place in time when a young teenage mother embraced her infant son for the first time before laying him in a manger. Then another scene floods my soul in the same heartbeat as that same mother embraced her adult son at the foot of a cross. Mary could have never known where her calling would lead her. But through her example, I am given the courage to face my own fears. Because, you see, perhaps what Mary has taught me most is that being called is really not about me at all. It’s about the glory of God. It seems fitting that as I wrap this up I use Mary’s words, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation (Luke 1:47-50). “Glorify the LORD with me. Let us exalt his name together” (Ps. 34:3). Lisa Elliott is a speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. She and her pastor-husband David live in Ottawa, Ontario. They have four adult children (three on earth, one in heaven), a son-in-law, and three grandchildren.

?

How Many Marys How many Marys, Lord, were there? How many times did you try? How often did Gabriel venture Through the myriad stars of the sky? How many miniscule humans? How many a devout little maid Heard your request for a body And answered you thus so afraid. “My love, Lord, you have it. My will, Lord, ‘tis thine. I, to mighty Jehovah, my worship assign, But my body, my body, my body ‘tis mine.” How many Marys, Lord, were there, Till Gabriel found her at prayer? How many angels in glory, Were wondrously envious of her? And how did it feel, Lord, to see her, And watch at your feet as she fell? As she yielded her soul and her spirit And gave you a body as well? “My love, Lord, you have it. My will, Lord, ‘tis thine. I, to mighty Jehovah, my worship assign. And my body, my body, my body, ‘tis Thine!”

Ministry on the Go Find a super funny card and mail someone a good laugh.

~Jill Briscoe 31

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by Lisa Elliott

• It’s not about what I cannot do—but what Christ can do in and through me. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)! • It’s not about what lies ahead—but about my humble obedience and simple faith in the fulfillment of His promises (Luke 1:38). Which leads me to my second fear.


Lessons from Our “Black Dog” Moving on from depression. by Catriona Futter

A large “Black Dog” lives in the center of our marriage. It was Winston Churchill who first described depression thus. For much of our quarter-century marriage, my husband has suffered from depression, and I have battled to live alongside him well while maintaining my sanity and emotional well-being. The “Black Dog” left him feeling bleak, trapped, hopeless, emotionally numb, and me struggling with isolation, frustration, and loneliness. I was torn between loving support and angry resentment about the impact of this awful, and oh-so-common illness. I was seeking to honor the marriage commitment I made before God—but how to pray? How to keep going day in, day out in a marriage so different from that which I had envisioned? There are many different breeds of “Black Dog,” and I speak only from our own experience. Depression robs the sufferer of the ability to engage with or enjoy much of life, depleting them of energy for much other than self-preservation. And for the person alongside—partner, family member, friend—it is devastating to see a mere shadow of a loved one. I mourned for the engaging, funny, inspiring, and creative man that I knew was in there somewhere, the man I had chosen to marry but who had been consumed by this “Black Dog.” It is possible to move on from depression—we are there now. But what have we learned along the way that might encourage others living with a “Black Dog?” Three things stand out that, had I applied them earlier, might have saved us both a fair deal of heartache.

1 Talk about it.

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2 Take time to understand yourself and what it is that you need. Once it was known that my husband was depressed, I found that well-meaning friends would focus their concern on him. Through gritted teeth I would answer questions from them as to how he was, waiting in vain to be asked how I was doing amid this consuming darkness. There is no blame intended here—when someone is not well, it is entirely appropriate to express concern for that person. But in living alongside someone with depression, often your own life feels put on hold. I would swing through a gamut of emotions, sometimes in the course of a week or less, sometimes over months. It included everything from deep concern and grief for what he was suffering; loneliness because of the loss of connection between us; anger at the injustice of it all and how invisible I had become in the relationship; resentment at all that I was doing to run our lives and those of our children without his support; to shutting down as a form of self-preservation. All these emotions are valid. The challenge is what to do about them. For years I kept them locked away inside and pretended to be “fine.” Needless to say, this did not serve me well; it is exhausting, and I was losing sight of who I really was. It took me a while to realize that I needed to make time to pay attention to my own needs. I needed to bring those emotions to God, shout and rail at Him, and allow myself to be loved and nurtured by my heavenly Father. If you are living alongside someone with depression, chances are they need your consistent understanding and support, so you need to be resourced to provide it. It is not selfish or disloyal to talk with trusted friends about how you are, or to address your own needs. It is essential for your own emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Do some fun activities just for you that serve as outlets for some of your pent-up needs. Exercise and get regular small breaks. Take time with God to allow Him to fill you up. But don’t lose sight of the person who is behind the “Black Dog.” Seeing depression as a third party helped me to separate the illness from the man I loved, and therefore avoid either blaming him or cutting myself off from him in despair.

3 People are worth fighting for. Depression can make you feel that life is on hold—numb, cheated of enjoyment and wasted years. It can make you fear that this is as good as it is going to get, and subsequently shut down to hopes and dreams. Ask yourself: is this the life I really want to be living? It was dealing with the “Black Dog” that eventually prompted us to take stock, talk about it to others, and get help. But more significantly, it made us look much deeper at the bigger picture of our marriage. For us, the “Black Dog” had come and gone, and its power to dominate our lives had lessened, but its legacy was a pattern of dysfunctional communication. There was a gulf between us that would only narrow if we both chose to move. Looking at my own unmet needs was not enough, I needed a willingness to admit where my attitudes and behavior were wrong. It was all too easy to blame all our struggles on my husband’s illness and his reactions to it, but

I was torn between loving support and angry resentment about the impact of this awful, and oh-so-common illness.

some brutal self-examination showed me some harsh truths about myself that were not pretty. How willing was I to let go of my resentment, learn to be more gracious and humble, and let others in? I was heavily invested in being strong and self-reliant (partly as a defense mechanism but now an issue of stubbornness), but where was God in that? A process of learning to surrender to God followed, letting go of my hurts and letting my Father love me. I healed with His help to see where and what I needed to forgive, and to seek forgiveness. I can’t change my husband—only God can do that—but I can choose to love him, to see who he is and is becoming, and not remain stuck in who he has been. For us, the “Black Dog” eventually prompted us to take stock, learn to communicate better, grow to understand our own needs, and seek God’s help in changing ourselves and not each other. While I would not have chosen this path, I can now see that I am who I am because of it, because of God’s extraordinary grace and ability to redeem and transform. This whole experience has taught me much about being willing to surrender to God and allow Him, through His Holy Spirit, to graciously, lovingly, and oh-so-patiently, work to change me. If you are living alongside someone with depression, take time to seek help together and to talk about how you are. Recognize that you have needs too, and they are valid. And allow God in His infinite loving grace and patience to hold you, to mold you, and to shape you. Catriona Futter is a Christian Life Coach and speaker who is passionate about equipping people to discover and live out their unique, God-given identity and purpose. She runs her own business Equip for Life Coaching from her home in Glasgow, Scotland, offering individual coaching, team coaching, and speaking. She blogs at http://equipforlifecoaching.com/blog/. Article first appeared in Woman Alive, July 2019. Used with permission.

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Fear, failure, guilt, anger, withdrawal, shame—often these emotions kept us pretending that things were okay and not opening up to others, perpetuating the isolation and loneliness for us both. For men, it seems especially hard to talk about their mental health, but depression is an illness. I would now say to my husband, “This is not your fault, nor does it make you a failure. I want to see you enjoy life more—let’s seek help together.”

It’s okay to not be fine, it’s okay to ask for help, and you are not alone. The first time I shared that my husband was depressed and I was very lonely within my marriage, one of my dear prayer partners—whom I thought I knew well—burst into tears. She thought that she was the only one lonely in her marriage. Once it is out in the open, the darkness of isolation starts to lose some of its power, and we can invite others to walk alongside us and stand with us in prayer.


If you were Alice, happening upon a Cheshire cat on your journey through Wonderland, it wouldn’t be collective madness, but collective busyness: “I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy here!” Some seasons of life are busier than others, and I’ve come to accept that I’m in one of those seasons. One Sunday morning, a friend asked how I was doing and I heard myself answer her question with, “I’m just busy.” The answer to how I was doing as a person, as a woman, as a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and mentor was “busy?” Was busy my personalized state of being? I wasn’t okay with that. My relationships, emotional well-being, and overall sense of enjoyment were in jeopardy if the only thing I was aware of was my busyness. I decided to get my life back by doing a little reflective inventory. Personal inventory can be tricky, because choosing can be tricky—even a bit overwhelming—but intentional choosing was my only way out of the default busy mode. Busy had been dictating my reasons and excuses for could, should, or didn’t. It was time I chose the priorities consuming my hours. I re-evaluated routines, commitments, and pursuits. I prioritized a list of good endeavors and revisited values. Then I made the tough choices on what should stay and what needed to go. I quit my part-time barista gig because I wasn’t content missing the awards ceremonies and class performances of my youngest children. I joined a gym because the mental load of creating new workouts was draining me more than the actual workouts. By breaking from women’s Bible study for a semester, I cleared time to meet one-on-one with women who encouraged and inspired my spiritual growth. It was exactly what I needed as I stepped into a mentoring role at a women’s center. I refreshed my inspiration board and paired down my environment: my closet got a good cleaning, as did the bookshelves and kitchen cabinets. Here’s what I found at the end of all my evaluating, cleaning, and choosing: my streamlined, intentionally chosen life was still full. Jesus promised a full life to all who follow Him (John 10:10). This full life is a gift; something to be embraced, and as I did so, I discovered balance in the fullness. You can, too! The journey begins with a first step.

EMBRACING A MINDSET OF R

BUSY

Shift your mindset for greater joy. by Michelle Stiffler

FOC

US

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2, ESV). Mental semantics are often dismissed, but words hold power. “Busy” had the power, but I took it down with one little

EMBRACE

BO

AR UND

IES

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’…” (Matt. 5:37, ESV). Priorities and purpose require resources, and resources have limits. Assessing and addressing my available physical, mental, and emotional resources—along with my resources of time—had to become a weekly, and sometimes daily practice. I couldn’t choose my limits, but I could choose the boundaries I made to protect them. Establishing boundaries involves two steps: defining them and enforcing them. Influential factors such as public opinion, the desire to please, and instant gratification can make enforcing healthy boundaries far more difficult than defining them. As my mindset and heart connected, protecting my priorities became easier. I liked giving my best self rather than feeling everything or everyone was taking all I had. When I wasn’t able to serve or help on a project, I’d simply answer, “I can’t right now. My life is full.” No excuses, no blaming, and most of the time, no guilt.

EMBRACE

WISD

OM

“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind…that I may discern between good and evil…” (1 Kings 3:9, ESV). When Solomon famously asked God for wisdom, he wasn’t simply asking to know good things, He was asking for discernment: the ability to sense and identify the best option in everyday moments. Solomon understood who he was—God’s servant. As God’s servant, Solomon wanted to live his one life wisely. Adopting the “God’s servant” mindset fit well with my “full” mindset. My life has purpose; it is worthy of protecting. As God’s servant, I answer to Him for how I live it out. He has given me the autonomy to make personal decisions, and He will continue giving me wisdom if I continue to ask. Worrying about common opinion and outside scrutiny isn’t part of using wis-

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FULL

OVE

EMBRACE A BETTER MINDSET BY FINDING A BETTER

word: full. My life was full, and that wasn’t a bad thing. My days were full of laundry and meal prep because my home was full of family. My agenda was full of meetings because I was part of incredibly fulfilling teams. Birthday parties and graduations weren’t time-sucking obligations, they were celebrations of wonderful relationships. My life was full, and my heart was full, too. I began viewing the fullness of life and my sense of purpose as a package deal.


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Understanding the difference between vertical and horizontal forgiveness. by Beth K. Vogt

what is vertical forgiveness? Vertical forgiveness is what we experience when we reconcile with God. It’s the miraculous offer of grace to every person by our loving Father. This truth is woven from the beginning of the Bible to the very end. God’s forgiveness is summed up so beautifully in Col. 1:13-14: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” And yes, there’s an action on God’s part—a rescue—based on our understanding that we’ve sinned. But this forgiveness also requires action from us: that we recognize our mistakes separate us from God and that we then accept His offer of grace. God’s love is unconditional, but there is a give-and-take interaction when it comes to forgiveness—it can only happen when we respond to God’s offer. Reconciliation that happens between God and every individual on earth is a heavenly transaction that takes place at the cross of Jesus.

what is horizontal forgiveness? Horizontal forgiveness is the reconciliation that occurs between human beings—between family members or friends or colleagues. Our relationships with others get strained or sometimes completely broken for all sorts of different reasons. Our relationships with others might be hurt by trivial reasons when we’re overtired or we jump to the wrong conclusion or we take something someone said out of context. Or our relationships might be damaged for serious reasons like verbal or physical abuse or neglect. Horizontal forgiveness was tripping me up with my family. Why? At different times through the years, I’d tried to talk with them about what I’d experienced—I’d even had family members approach me to talk about what had happened in my childhood. And I’d been told that nothing had happened. Nothing had happened. My desire for honesty and healing had been met with a slammed door. Even so, I’d gone on to work through the pain and consequences of other people’s wrong choices and I’d found healing. I’d also chosen to forgive everyone involved, despite the fact that they chose to ignore what had happened to me. Then why, if I’d forgiven them, was interacting with my family so stressful?

Comprehending the difference between vertical and horizontal forgiveness set me free from the lie that I hadn’t forgiven my family. Just like vertical forgiveness is a transaction, horizontal forgiveness is a process that occurs between people. I can be willing to forgive my family, but if they don’t acknowledge that an offense occurred, then horizontal forgiveness is blocked. The process is incomplete. I was incorrect when I believed I was an unforgiving person. The truth is, I was struggling to make something happen that I was powerless to do on my own. As my counselor explained incomplete horizontal forgiveness to me, he said, “This is when you stay at the foot of the cross and keep your heart right with God. You want to stay ready to forgive when and if anyone in your family admits the abuse happened.” Understanding the difference between vertical and horizontal forgiveness changed my attitude about forgiveness in several ways: • I’m conscious of God’s forgiveness toward me on a daily basis. Spiritually and mentally, I stay at the foot of the cross from day to day. I want to ensure my heart stays right with God and that I don’t become bitter toward my family in any way (Heb. 12:15). • I’m always on alert to forgive. Even though the relationships with my extended family are strained, I choose to stay ready to forgive—knowing that on my side of the process, I’ve already forgiven them for what has happened. Should someone choose to talk about the abuse, my posture toward them needs to always be one of forgiveness, not anger. • I acknowledge forgiveness is an ongoing process. So often, we can treat forgiveness as a one-and-done experience. It’s important to realize forgiveness takes time and to allow both ourselves and others the space they need to heal and to forgive. God is gracious toward us when He forgives us, too. In His omnipresent view of time, God’s forgiveness is yes-and. He has already forgiven us and He also stands ready to forgive us whenever any one of us chooses to accept that forgiveness by acknowledging our sin and recognizing our need for God’s grace. Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind doors marked Never. Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, as well as a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner and a 2015 RITA Award finalist. Beth’s latest novel is Moments We Forget, book two in the Thatcher Sisters Series (Tyndale House Publishers, 2019). Visit Beth at bethvogt.com.

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forgive, but forget

For years, I believed I was an unforgiving person. I found myself confronting the same painful issue with my extended family over and over again: questioning whether I’d forgiven them for both the abuse I’d experienced as a child and for their response that nothing had happened. Despite working through the issue with a counselor for several years, I found myself caught in some sort of emotional infinite loop, unsure if my forgiveness was complete. To complicate matters, my family members— parents and siblings—weren’t even aware of my ongoing struggle. The battle raged on in my head and heart, and I wondered what was wrong with me. Why was I the only one who was anxious about family gatherings? Why was I the only one who walked away emotionally and physically exhausted? Why couldn’t I forgive them in such a way that I experienced resolution? If they were fine, the problem, and the unforgiveness, had to be mine. Again and again, I’d pray over the past. Release it to God, forgive them, find a sense of peace. But only for a time—until I had to interact with my family again. My conclusion? My forgiveness must be faulty. It wasn’t until a trusted counselor shared the idea of viewing forgiveness from both a horizontal and a vertical view that I understood what was causing my frustration and was able to exit the infinite loop. Comprehending the difference between the two set me free from the lie that I hadn’t forgiven my family. Imagine what a cross looks like: the vertical bar reaches from earth to heaven and the horizontal bar stretches east to west. That’s our visual for the two types of forgiveness. Sometimes when I’m sharing about vertical and horizontal forgiveness with someone else, I’ll use my hands to form the two parts of the cross.


thriving? Is Your Husband Trusting God through painful changes.

In the spring of 2016, I was soaking in the warmth of the glorious spring sun on the patio at a retreat center in central Wisconsin. In between sessions at a mother-daughter retreat where I was speaking, the director slid into the chair next to me, kicked off her flip flops, leaned her head back, closed her eyes and asked, “Is your husband thriving?” Whoa. That one question turned my life upside down. The last few years had been excellent, but tricky. Personally, I was in the perfect role, serving as the part-time middle school director at our 38

church and full-time mom. It was the culmination of all my experiences, gifts, and passions. I was a part of an amazing team of pastors and leaders. I was writing, planning, organizing, and starting to get into the speaking circuit. In short, I was thriving. But my husband wasn’t. His role was not utilizing his gifts and certainly not engaging his passions. He was weighed down with working on tasks he dreaded, but he didn’t agree with. He’s an extremely hard worker and always gives 110 percent, but he was growing weary. No, he wasn’t thriving. After hearing that question, my husband and I began to pray, even begging the Lord to clearly lead us. For the first time in my life, I chose to step back and take the role of prayer warrior more seriously than ever. I’m a girl

He asked Abraham to sacrifice the son God had promised him. He told Moses to ask Pharaoh to free millions of people and take them to the desert. He told the Israelite army to fight with a shout and trumpets rather than swords. His Word reassures me that even if I don’t understand, I can still trust in the God who is in control, even when it seems like thriving is far off. The day we accepted my husband’s job offer, we lay wide-eyed in bed wondering what we had just done. The day we put our house on the market, I cried myself to sleep. The day we told our employer and teammates, we cried in the church office. The day we sold our house, I bawled. There was no going back. But God was—and is—in control. God was faithful. God remained the same when my world seemed to be spiraling out of control. God listened as we held our tongues rather than defend our decision. God was watching as we chose the high road in an effort to protect our church and its staff, who seemed to throw us under the bus to church leaders. God comforted us as we told our inconsolable children. God encouraged us through His Word and through our faithful friends who prayed for us even when they didn’t want us to leave. God led us as we stepped out in faith to honor Him with our lives. How do we respond when God calls us to leave all that is familiar? How do we get through? Here are three steps—decisions to trust—that have made all the difference for us: 1. We draw close to God. Even when I was angry, I needed to blast the worship music. Even though I didn’t always hear His voice, I needed to pray and read His Word. I needed to trust Him even when I didn’t feel like it, or especially when I didn’t. 2. We praise God for the friends who selflessly prayed for God’s best for us. We praise God for the friends who cleaned our windows and packed our stuff to prepare to sell our house. We praise God for the friends who prayed for us and daily texted us verses, quotes, and encouragement through their own tears of loss. 3. We obey God. With trust comes obedience. The words “obey” or “obedience” are used more than 140 times in the Bible. As we grieved great loss, we obeyed because we were confident God was calling us to more. We knew we needed to use our gifts and strengths and passions to their full potential. We could have stayed and been very comfortable, but Jesus never asks us to be comfortable. He never says our life will be easy. He asks us to trust, to obey, and to be willing to give it all up for His sake. Psalm 55:22-23 states, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken… But as for me, I trust in you.” We have moved across the country. We’ve left everything we know and love. Our kids are in a new school. I’m fun-employed, having been stripped of my identity as middle school director, speaker, and mentor. I’m trying to re-learn what it means to be a child of God, daughter of the King, wife, and mom. And my husband is thriving. Ann Todd is a pen name.

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just between us W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

by Ann Todd

who likes to be in control. I tend to make my decisions and then ask God to bless them later. We were looking at a big life change, and I wanted— no, I needed—it to be from the Lord, not from me. I wanted God to lead my husband, who was leading my family, and I did not want to get in the way. I wanted to see him thrive. In an effort to protect our church and ministries, we took our time seeking the Lord, sharing our restlessness with only two couples, as we began to explore opportunities. We looked into West Africa. We investigated China. We carefully sifted through opportunities locally and nationally. I was on Zillow.com every night. Door after door closed. But, last fall, a door opened for him and for us. But would I still thrive? “Oh no,” I asked myself. “Are we really thinking about this?” I didn’t want to move. I loved my job. I loved my students. I loved my team. I loved our house. I loved my best friend. All of our family and friends were here. It was all our kids knew. We had just flipped our house and designed it to serve our ministry perfectly. Our kids attended one of the best school districts in the state. I couldn’t bear to tell our parents. We’re comfortable here! It’s easy here! Comfortable. Easy. Home. My husband’s job interview process dragged on through the holidays and then longer while my husband led teams overseas. With each passing phase, I was both excited, scared, and lonely. I wanted my amazing team to be praying for us. I wanted my prayer warriors on their knees helping us to confirm our decision. I’ve never been so lonely in all my life. It’s all I thought about, yet I could not talk about it. Each January 1st, we sit our kids down and write down our goals for the year. My husband and I also decide on a word for the year. My word has been trust. I knew this year would be big, so I needed to trust my Almighty God. He already knew where we’d end up. He knew the timeline. He knew how it would go down. The word “trust” is used more than 170 times in the Bible. It means “to believe, to lean on.” Proverbs 3:5-6 became my mantra: “Trust in the LORD… and lean not on your own understanding.” I don’t understand God’s timing, I don’t understand why God closes some doors and opens others, but God’s Word explains that I am not alone in trusting God when I don’t understand. He asked Noah to build an ark in a desert.


Melvin can teach us a thing or two about being thankful. by Lynda Elliott

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“I’VE BEEN HAPPY IN LIFE BECAUSE I MADE UP MY MIND WHEN I WAS A VERY YOUNG MAN THAT I WANTED TO HELP PEOPLE. LIFE’S NOT ABOUT WHAT SOMEBODY WILL DO FOR YOU. IT’S ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR SOMEBODY ELSE. I LOVE GOD AND I LOVE PEOPLE.” —MELVIN

might be bringing me good tidings of great joy. After all, it was the season for it! Exactly a week later it wasn’t raining as before, but it was windy and cold. Melvin shook my hand at the front door. “It’s a blessing to get a hot breakfast on a cold morning, isn’t it?” Melvin took a sip of coffee, then sat tall in his chair. “There’s one thing I need to make very clear,” he announced. “I love Jesus. That is the most important thing. My mother died when I was born. I never knew my daddy. My grandmother raised me and she was a wonderful person. I’ve been married to one lady for 45 years. Jesus has always been good to me. I owe everything I am and have to Him. I’m a thankful man.” This is a man with a message, I thought, grabbing my pen and notebook from my purse. When the waitress brought our overloaded plates, I asked Melvin about his eyesight. “I was born this way,” he replied. “I can see a little bit, but my wife, Dorothy, was born totally blind. People didn’t think we could make it, but we’ve raised five children. She was even the first black woman to get a music degree from the university. The Lord has always given us work. Before she retired, she taught music to handicapped children. Me, I’m 72 and still working. I can’t see much, but I don’t feel handicapped because God helps me do whatever I need to do.” The words of Paul echoed in my mind: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). With his love for Jesus and his determined spirit, Melvin was living proof. Enthusiastic and eager to talk, he wrapped his hands around his cup of coffee. “I’ve been happy in life because I made up my mind when I was a very young man that I wanted to help people. Life’s not about what somebody will do for you. It’s all about what you can do for somebody else. I love God and I love people.” Suddenly I was curious. This dear man could hardly see. Selling brooms on the streets of Little Rock could not be financially lucrative. Melvin was the one who needed help! “So how do you help people?” I asked frankly. He sat up proudly. “Every morning, unless it’s under 30 degrees or snowing, I wait on the corner for my bus and pray that God will send somebody that day who needs my help. Then I watch to see whom He sends across my path. Even a smile or a kind word helps people in this rough old world. I feel like I’m successful in life because God always sends people I can help.” 41

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just between us W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

A SWEEP OF GRATITUDE

It began when my friend, Carolyn, and I met for breakfast in Little Rock on Black Friday. Red and green lights twinkled around the door and windows of the Satellite Café. Even at 8 a.m. there was a waiting line. Customers stood in groups, rubbing their cold hands together, waiting to share a hot breakfast before swarming into the stores for bargains. I could feel the cheery excitement of the holidays, but it was laced with the usual stress that spoils the season with layers of anxiety and fatigue. Carolyn and I were seated by a large window, and it had begun to drizzle outside. “Oh, no,” I groaned. “We’re going to be dashing around in the rain!” “Every year,” responded Carolyn, “I promise myself that I won’t get into a frenzy the next year, but I always find myself stressed all over again!” Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an elderly man on the other side of the window, making his way carefully down the sidewalk. He was carrying a black umbrella in his left hand, sheltering himself from the rain, and balancing several brooms on his right shoulder. Beneath a thin gray coat, he was dressed in a plaid flannel shirt and brown pants. A striped ski cap protected his head and thick glasses covered his eyes. As I watched, he smiled and stepped politely aside to allow a couple to rush by. “Who’s that?” I asked. “That’s Melvin. He put several of his children through college selling those brooms. He’s almost blind and in his seventies, but he keeps on keeping on. I don’t know how he does it.” Melvin ducked through the doorway into the restaurant. Waiting customers smiled and cleared the way for him. A few shook his hand, others patted his shoulder as he moved quietly from table to table, smiling and asking, “Do you need a broom today?” Suddenly the Holy Spirit spoke to me: Interview him. Instantly I was energized. When the elderly gentleman approached our table, I made a purchase, then said, “Melvin, I’m a writer, and I wonder if you might let me interview you. I have a hunch that your life is very special.” Melvin paused and thought for a moment. Then he smiled. “I’ve been asked to do a lot of interviews and I’ve always said no. But this time I’ll say yes.” We set a time to meet the next Friday for breakfast. I felt unexpected anticipation, as if Melvin


This article first appeared in the winter 2004 issue of Just Between Us.

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Embracing a Mindset of Full Over Busy (continued from p 35)

JBU: How have you seen the love of Christ change children’s lives? Your own?

dom. People won’t always agree with every choice I make, but being God’s servant, I don’t have to comply with the agenda of everyone else. I only need to follow God’s ordered steps for me.

April: He gave me the physical and spiritual endurance to run with this ministry for 26 years! My own life has been and still is continually transformed by the love of Christ as I experience more and more the length, width, height, and depth of it. There is also the fact that all but a handful of the many boys I first worked with grew up to be men of God. Statistically, this outcome just isn’t possible. I have seen boys’ lives completely transformed by God’s love, boys who had been on the streets for eight years or more, in and out of prison, suffering multiple traumas, addictions, and abuse. Both bodies and minds were permanently healed. Helping to heal their wounded lives, break their addictions, realign their thinking, and then to see this work spread across Africa are all miracles! Aubrey Adams is a freelance writer, editorial assistant with JBU, and volunteer. She and her husband, Chris, live in Merton, Wis., with their two daughters. Editor’s Note: For safety reasons, all names, locations, and identifying details have been changed, and “April Holden” is a pen name. We are also unable to include a photo of April. It’s hard for us as believers, especially in the West, to even comprehend that we could be in danger for our faith, yet there are thousands of Christians all over the globe living that reality. Let’s take a moment to pray for April and our other sisters around the world like her.

Ministry on the Go Give your coworkers chocolate when they’re having a tough day.

Led by Laura Mullenix, founder of BethNuah Ministries.

www.bethnuahministries.com

TRUST

just between us W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

Lynda Elliott is a former regular columnist for JBU. Additionally, she is a life coach.

They Called Us Love (continued from p 23)

EMBRACE

BUSY

NES

S

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…” (Phil. 4:12). Boundaries, wisdom, and a better perspective reduce the frenzy of busyness, but they will never eliminate the daily load of busy work and occasional hassle. I’ve come to accept them as the cost of being alive. Life has its busyness, and I’ve embraced it. I flex when needed, rush if absolutely necessary, create space for rest, and make appropriate compromise for the sake of a less-frenzied rhythm. It’s the composure of contentment Paul talks about and I like the way it feels—and looks! When unexpected things happen, and my full life gets downright heavy, I ask God for the grace and strength to do what I can. I focus on Him and the people He’s placed in my life. I trust, and I embrace busyness. And I’m discovering the full life Jesus offers. It is very good. Michelle Stiffler is a mentor at a nonprofit for vulnerable women across Phoenix, Ariz. Once a pastor’s kid, now a married mother of four (ranging from preteen to adult), her work has been featured on incourage.me, Focus on the Family, TheBetterMom.com, Ruminate magazine, and ProGrace.org. Visit her at OneMoreTruth.com.

Trust always seems to have a smile on her face, and a kind and encouraging word to offer. Her eyes slant heavenward because she trusts in Him. Oh, she has had her fair share of stormy seas, shifting patterns in her life, disappointments, losses, and horrible things that have come out of the blue without warning. But still she stands on solid ground, trusting that she will not be swallowed up by life’s unpredictable left turns. Her sister, Faith, has been a great help and comfort to her when life does feel overwhelming and the unpredictable takes her off course. Faith lifts her up, reminds her of His promises, and sits with her until the storm passes, and it always passes. I guess that’s why, even in the eye of the storm, Trust still has a smile on her face and a kind and encouraging word to offer. Faith has helped Trust be able to stand on a firm foundation. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) —Joanne Knox

Excerpted from Like Syrup Over Pancakes by Joanne Knox. Copyright ©2019. Used with permission.

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As he buttered a biscuit and covered it with jelly, I began to feel that the coffee shop was holy ground. This man had it all figured out. He was calm and secure. I could feel the peace of the Holy Spirit coming from within him, even in the midst of a busy coffee shop. He wasn’t fretful or anxious like the rest of us . . . well, like me! Had I actually complained about the opportunity to go Christmas shopping? He navigated the crowds and the weather every day without complaint. “Has anybody ever helped you along your way?” I asked. Melvin paused and smiled. “Yes, once somebody gave me a new pair of shoes. But what’s most important is, ‘Whom have I helped?’ People keep saying, ‘Melvin, you’re an old man. Why do you keep selling those brooms?’ I tell them these brooms are my lifeline to people, and I’ll keep carrying and selling them as long as I can.” “Tell me about your children.” “Dorothy and I put two of them through college. Two died and one is not as close to the Lord as he should be. But prayer—that’ll make the difference. Jesus suffered for us, so why shouldn’t I suffer for my child?” Then he added confidently, “My child will return to the Lord.” “How would you like your children to remember you?” I asked after my new friend took one last bite of fried eggs. A tear slid down from behind his thick glasses. “I want my children to remember that I was always there when they needed me, that I was a family man. I want them to remember that I loved Jesus, and that I never let them go hungry. I want them to believe that I was a good man.” I reached across the table to touch his hand. “I know they’ll always remember you exactly like that.” He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes. Then he looked straight at me. “You know, you should never expect somebody else to do more for your children than you do. I’ve been there every time my children needed me, just like Jesus has always been there when I needed Him.” “Melvin,” I said as the waitress appeared with our check, “the world would be filled with happy children if they all had fathers like you.” He gestured toward his brooms propped by the door. “I don’t worry, and I’m not afraid of anything. I have peace of mind. I’m grateful for whatever God does. If I sell one broom, I’m thankful. If I sell ten brooms, I’m thankful. God has shown me that my family will always have everything we need. It’s not about money. It’s about God providing. I always tell Him, ‘Whatever You want is what I want.’” The strong impact of gratitude on Melvin’s life, and on those around him, was impossible to miss. There was much he could have complained about. Instead, he chose the path of gratitude and service. As Melvin and I hugged and parted ways that December morning, I knew my holiday would be more focused—and more filled with gratitude—because of him. Once again, God had sent Melvin somebody to help! And, as I pulled out of the parking lot onto the holiday-busy street, I remembered my conversation with Carolyn, complaining because we had to go shopping. I had been so ungrateful. No more! By God’s grace, I was going to be intentionally grateful—like Melvin. A few weeks later, I caught a glimpse of my divine messenger, brooms over his shoulder, off on another adventure. I had no doubt he was counting his blessings and looking for the next person God was sending his way.


encouragement / soul

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encouragement / real

faith

Sharing His Word With beautiful, unique

Christmas Cookies by Sheri Hawley

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Frank pulled me close.“Sheri, (I started to turn him away and felt the Holy Spirit whisper, ‘You may be entertaining angels unaware.’) we have to give him these things, honey.” Obedience is essential, but seldom easy. I began filling the very grocery bag I had just emptied while tears rolled down my cheeks. Through the crack in the door, I caught a glimpse of our visitor wearing a pitifully thin jacket. As he and Frank talked, he stomped the snow from his worn shoes. Just beyond, I glimpsed his wife and small children wrapped in blankets, huddled together against the cold. Obviously, the heater no longer worked in their old sedan. I added applesauce to the other staples and handed the bag over to Frank. After praying with the man and saying goodbye, he came to encourage me. “God won’t forget us, sweetheart!” The next morning, we received a call from the meanest woman I had ever met. She wanted us to come to her house right away. Cynthia impatiently yanked open her door as we stepped onto the porch and wasted no time with pleasantries. “Aren’t you having the youth to your house this afternoon?” It sounded more like an accusation than a question. “Hello, Cynthia. Yes, we are,” Frank responded with his disarming smile.

She reached around to a table and shoved a cardboard box at him, then a second one at me. “Here! You’ll need these,” she pronounced. We tried to thank her, but she waved away our appreciation and slammed the door with us still standing there. Frank and I rode home in total silence. Once inside, I began unpacking the boxes Cynthia had thrust upon us, as tears stung my eyes. In those cardboard boxes, I found milk, eggs, flour, sugar...all the ingredients I had given away the night before to our “interstate visitor,” plus, prime cuts of meat from her freezer and canned vegetables from her own garden. Our heavenly Father used that moment to teach us an object lesson about His faithfulness that would last us a lifetime. That evening, the youth piled into our kitchen. We baked cookies, drove to the nursing home, sang carols, hugged frail bodies, shook trembling hands, and distributed Christmas cookies. The miracle of those cookies is as fresh and powerful for me today as it was when it happened all those years ago. Luke 6:38 will always be my reminder to obey quickly and gladly: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” God doesn’t forget, and He always rewards generously.

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Sheri Hawley serves as an associate pastor for Garden Grove Church and still works alongside her husband, Frank, after 38 years. They have three daughters, three sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. Sheri is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., with BA degrees in both history and Bible.

In the fall of 1981, my husband, Frank, and I became pastors for the first time. We were young, naïve, exuberant, and sincere. That was a lot of energy to thrust upon thirty settled souls tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina. Our first Christmas outreach would be for the local nursing home. The youth group would sing carols and hand out cookies. One small glitch—there was no outreach budget. I would have to stretch our personal finances to include the party and cookie ingredients. The day before the outreach, I drove to the grocery store to purchase all the needed items. My tight little fist opened reluctantly at the register as I relinquished dollars so carefully squirreled away for this celebration. Back home Christmas music played while I put things away, and my joy soon returned. Within the hour, a knock came on our door. Our church was visible from the main highway, and the parsonage was situated off the parking lot. People frequently stopped by asking for gas or food. Frank and I dubbed them our “interstate visitors.” We helped as many people as possible from our own meager supplies. Frank came back into the living room where I was working. “Honey, you’ll never believe what this guy asked for. He didn’t want money.” “He asked for flour, sugar, milk, and eggs! The very things you just bought.” Frank’s smile was huge. He obviously was unprepared for my Scrooge-like response. “I’ll make a bag of canned goods, but he CANNOT have the cookie ingredients.” My voice was resolute.


encouragement / chronic

hope

Living Well When It Hurts by Adriana Hayes

Visit my sites! chronichopeblog. wordpress.com or madebyadri.com

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Reaching women for

CHRIST

and what is true guilt over sin that we need to seek forgiveness for. For example, self-guilt may say I need to ask my daughter for forgiveness because I was in too much pain to accompany her class on a field trip, which she was disappointed about. Yes, it’s something we should talk about and her feelings are legitimate, but I have not truly sinned against her. However, if I get frustrated and say something to her that hurts her feelings, simply because I’m frustrated with my constant pain, then that is something I need to apologize both to her and God for. 2. Talk about your pain with friends and family. We all have different comfort levels when it comes to sharing about our health. I (obviously) am open to sharing quite a bit with whomever will listen. Sometimes, however, I find I am not actually communicating as much as I need to for the people around me to understand my needs. Occasionally, this is because I assume that they should know exactly how I’m feeling and thinking. Other times, it’s because I do not want to sound like I’m always complaining about the pain I’m in. But chronic pain can vary in intensity from dayto-day and the people who love us, need help understanding that. Especially if it is suffering that is unseen. For example, one day I may wake up feeling pretty good physically. Since I’m having a “good” day with my

pain, I’ll unload the dishwasher, do a few loads of laundry, run errands, cook dinner, etc. The next day, however, I may wake up with pressure in my head and every nerve and muscle in my body aching to the point where it is a chore to get out of bed. As the day goes on, I won’t explain how I’m feeling, but instead get frustrated that no one is helping with things around the house. But why should they? Yesterday, I did do everything and so I have to communicate (not complain) why things are different today. 3. Start your day with serious prayer, especially on the days when you feel like it is going to be near impossible to love or serve anyone, because of your pain. Ask God to be strong when you are weak. He will give you exactly what you need for that day. It’s usually on my most painful days that friends will tell me I look the most beautiful. I can assure you that it’s not because of the makeup (although that certainly helps), but rather Christ’s love shining through me. No matter where you find yourself on the daily spectrum of trying to live and love well in the midst of chronic pain, give yourself permission to lean into the power and presence of your compassionate Savior. You can surrender your pain, emotions, fragility, and brokenness all to Him—resting in His promises to shine through you—even on your darkest days.

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Adriana Hayes is a freelance illustrator, professor, writer, and speaker who finds joy in helping others discover how God can bring “chronic hope” into their lives. She lives in Brookfield, Wis., with her husband, Chris, and three daughters.

I don’t think anyone would argue with the statement that we, as women, juggle a lot. By nature, God created us to be helpers and nurturers. We are amazing multi-taskers and, more often than not, we end up putting the needs of others above our own. So, it’s not surprising to me that one of the questions that women most frequently ask me is, “How do I continue to ____ well while living with chronic pain?” I’ll let you fill in the blank for yourself, but being a 30-something mom, many women I interact with, fill in that blank with “mother” or “love your husband/ kids.” Maybe you’re single and your blank would be filled in with “serve” or “work.” Or possibly, your children are all grown and your spouse has passed away, and your blank is completed with “finish my life.” Pain complicates things. It pushes us to our outermost limits and can reveal the worst about our sinful nature. But I’m guessing, none of us want to be known or remembered by how cranky we can get. I know I don’t. Thankfully, as believers in Jesus Christ, we know that God can use even the worst circumstances in our lives for good and our sinfulness doesn’t have to define us! As I’ve struggled my entire life with chronic pain, I’ve experienced how ugly pain can make me, but I’ve also discovered how I can turn that ugliness around. 1. Ask God to show you what you do and don’t need to ask forgiveness for. Pain can produce in us a great sense of self-guilt over things that we should not be feeling guilty about. God’s Spirit and Word can help us discern what is self-induced guilt


encouragement / it

is well

THE PERFECT PERSON DOESN’T EXIST

...with My Mind by Elizabeth Murphy

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Visit my site! espeaks.net

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Sometimes I need to see things written down, so when my mind begins to wander, I grab a pen and get to work. By the time I am done, I find that God has guarded my mind and changed the way I think. As it says in Prov. 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” When I speak to God and allow His Word to inform my crooked thinking, He sets me straight and makes it well with my mind.

My personal favorite is Phil. 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” When I can tell I am thinking crooked, I take my thoughts and situation and ask, “Does anything in my mind fit in the blanks below?” I mean anything—pray and struggle until you find something.

entic, TRUE (real, auth

te, correct) sincere, accura

e standard, ct, reason, som) fa ith w ity m RIGHT (in, etcohinfcaorlly, morally, or legally proper or principle

“For years Richella Parham has been a kind and consistent voice of truth in my own life. . . . Mythical Me is a thoughtful blend of personal story and solid theology, and I’m grateful to Richella for writing it.”

EMILY P. FREEMAN, author of The Next Right Thing

) mirable quality

NOBLE (of an ad

ected; ward or unaff

tfor PURE (strwaiitgh h evil or guilt) untainted

LOVELY as or mind,

heart appeals to the (a beauty thate, highly pleasing) well as the ey , o regard highly

BLE (t ADMIRA with wonder) ect often mixed

Do you ever find yourself stuck in the comparison trap? RICHELLA PARHAM helps you pick up practices that encourage you to walk in the freedom of Christ with confidence in yourself.

with resp

g quality: ing outstandin

ossess EXCELLENT )(p od remarkably go

HY (deserving of

PRAISEWORT

praise)

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just between us W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

Elizabeth Murphy has been a soughtafter speaker for the last 15 years. She serves on several non-profit boards, teaches Bible studies, and is an author and regular columnist for JBU. She and her husband, Mike, have four sons and three granddaughters. They live in Brookfield, Wis.

I was driving my boys to a friend’s house and got terribly lost. They were too young to help and this was before cell phones and GPS, so I just drove around hopelessly talking to myself. In frustration I sort of yelled, “I am so confused I can’t even think straight!” The most literal of my children then replied from the car seat in the back, “So are you thinking crooked?” Crooked thinking is what gets the best of us, and we can lose our minds. In my case this is not always a bad thing because my mind is the source of so much of my trouble. In Romans 12:2, God tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” “Conform” means to bend to and around something. I picture an accident featuring a speeding car and a stationary pole. The car has indeed bent in half to conform to the pole. It’s hard to tell where one stops and the other begins. That’s what happens when we can’t keep our own thoughts separate from the culture that surrounds us. We are changed in our thinking from the outside in, instead of God’s way, from the inside out. Instead of reflecting the mind of Christ, we look just like the world around us. I am discovering that changing this mindset takes a lot of work. I have to pursue a different way of thinking, which means I’ve got to run after it, go get it, actively apprehend it. God offers help when I can ask Him to examine my thought life and helps me to think His way. “Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind” (Ps. 26:2). The Bible provides many ways to replace our thoughts with His.


encouragement / the

homefront

Make a Joyful Noise by Pam Farrel

Visit my site! Love-Wise.com

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Thank God for Them

Philippians 1:3 models this: “I thank my God every time I remember you.” People can tell when you appreciate them. By thanking God for someone with this “attitude of gratitude,” it builds a sense of deep respect, honor, and gratefulness toward the person. In short, we like people more and are willing to stay in their lives when we’re also praising God for them.

Hold Them in Your Heart

Philippians 1:7 explains: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart, [for] all of you share in God’s grace with me.” Our goal is to be “partakers of grace,” and we can do this as we hold others in our hearts. This means we choose to not make a relationship about a list of behaviors. Instead, we carry others with constant love. When a relationship is based only on behaviors, no one can stay good enough for long enough to succeed. God’s love and grace always trumps human imperfection.

Express Joy to Them

Philippians 1:4 challenges us to love with joy and prayer: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” We are drawn to people who express joy when they see us. Knowing someone is praying for you can build a relationship. That’s why praying for someone, and letting them know you are praying, is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Multiply Love by Applying God’s Love

Philippians 1:9 encourages us to love more like God: “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” We can deepen our understanding of a verse by reading it in a few different translations or

As you love like Jesus, your relationships will become healthier and more enjoyable. paraphrased versions. I find joy in seeing how to love in the expanded vocabulary definitions in verses 9 and 10 in the Amplified version: And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]. As you love like Jesus, your relationships will become healthier and more enjoyable. And as we bring our happy, hopeful, positive attitude of joy to each relationship, we will be easier to love too!

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just between us W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

Pam Farrel is a bestselling author of 45 books including coauthoring Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience. She has been happily married for 37 years and enjoys traveling. Pam and her husband, Bill, live on a houseboat in Oxnard, Calif.

Recently, we enjoyed a family vacation, and one of the traditions I love when we’re together is the taking of the family photo. Some in our family smile more than others, but usually a bribe of a trip to the family fun center or an ice cream cone will get everyone beaming with joy. Philippians is a book about joy— about how joy enriches relationships. Because I was recently writing a book on Philippians, I immersed myself in an audio version of the book. Hearing it read like the letter it was penned to be highlighted how much the Apostle Paul had to say about relationships. When we bring joy into the realm of relationships, it blesses those we love. Negative attitudes and actions erode a relationship, but joy, gratefulness, thankfulness, and appreciation strengthen relationships. When we allow God to infuse our hearts with these positive emotions, it aids us in bringing our best selves to T.H.E.M.—all those we love and value. Let’s look at four key ideas from Philippians chapter one that can help us take our eyes off of ourselves and onto T.H.E.M.:


encouragement / between

friends

HOTTIE LISTS, CLOGGED PORES, EATING DISORDERS, AN D FREEDOM FROM IT ALL.

The Hurt of Unanswered Prayer by Shelly Esser

Email me! sesser@elmbrook.org

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Those feelings can gnaw at the very core of our soul—plummeting us into despair and discouragement and a “why even bother praying attitude.” If I’m honest, there have been times I have thrown up my hands in my heart and refused to pray on because it felt like my prayers were deficient. What that did, however, was only break down my fellowship with God resurrecting a huge wall. I thought I had to protect myself from the hurt and disappointment that God’s silence brought. As a result, my trust in God began to die a slow death with every unanswered prayer. Answered prayer falls within the many “mysteries of God” category. There is simply no human understanding as to why He answers one person’s prayers and seemingly not another’s no matter how hard or long they both pray. Perhaps we’re looking at it all wrong: answered prayer according to our own finite, shortsighted perspective. Because of the hurt that can develop with no answer month after month and even year after year, we can find it safer to pray as few prayers as possible. But we’re led back again to our trust issue with God. Will we trust Him or won’t we? Author Lysa TerKeurst says: “God loves us too much to answer our prayers at any other time than the right time.” God sees it all and if He’s withholding an answer, He has a reason—and that’s where our trust

comes into play. Even when I continue to see my unanswered prayers met with a painful silence—He asks me to pray on—and more importantly to seek the companionship with Him that is at the heart of prayer. Philip Yancey put it this way: “If our sole focus is only on unanswered prayer, our faith will be shaken and even threatened because we will not always understand the timetable of God. It is the companionship of God that will carry us through as we will cling to Who we know God to be not what we expect or think He should do. If your faith is hinging on an answered prayer, then every time an answer doesn’t come in the way you expect it, you’ll lose a little piece of it. Our lives of faith have to be anchored to God Himself, not our answered prayer.” As I thought about the hurt in my heart that day after that excited mom shared her answered prayer with me, I knew I needed to let God heal the hurt. And that started by being honest with Him about my inner anguish and disappointment. After I got up off my knees and washed my face, I made the choice to see my unanswered prayers as divine opportunities to trust in God’s sovereignty and perfect timing and to continue worshipping Him—even in the silence. Because ultimately this life of faith is all about companionship—it’s about a relationship with a person Who knows far better than me what timing is best!

He Numbered the Pores on My Face is for teens who long for beauty, love, and rest. Girls will relate to Scarlet’s stories as she discusses hottie lists, eating disorders, and haphazard beauty in a way that is both humorous and thought provoking. Through it all, she describes how she found peace by learning to see life not through a mirror but through a Savior who shapes who we were, who we are, and who we will be. Available now wherever books are sold.

SCARLET HILTIBIDAL is a very professional wife and mother to her

family in Middle Tennessee. She loves sign language with her daughters, nachos by herself, writing for her friends, and dreaming of being a famous chef while spilling the cheese dust from the macaroni box on the kitchen counter and using it anyway. She treasures the freedom of resting in the work of Jesus and hopes to help others rest as well. 55

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just between us W I N T E R 2 0 1 9

Shelly Esser has been editor of Just Between Us for nearly 30 years. She and her husband have four adult daughters and two sons-in-law, and live in Menomonee Falls, Wis.

A while ago, I received an email from a woman I met: “It’s been years since you added my daughter, Betsy, to your prayer list. I want to thank you ‘muchly’ for the wonderful answers of a restored relationship with her…and best of all seeing her come back to a strong faith in God!” I had prayed for prodigals every Tuesday, primarily because of the burden I had for some of my own daughters. I gladly added her daughter to my list, as I had many others. While I rejoiced in her wonderful news, I mourned about my own unanswered prayer. For a moment, I ashamedly cried, “Lord I started this prayer time at your prompting on behalf of my daughters. How could you answer her prayer and not mine!” Instead of being filled with joy, there was a sting of sorrow. What is it about unanswered prayer that hurts so much? Why is it so soul-wrenching? I think it’s because it directly attacks our belief system and view of God and how much we trust Him. Ultimately, it can pose an incredible threat to our faith. But had God not answered my prayer? He had. It just wasn’t for my child. I can’t agonize over it as it gets me no where. Rather, I need to keep on my knees and not lose heart. I need to worship Him despite what I can’t see, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). And that’s what we hold on to. Otherwise, we can so easily fall into the comparison trap. “He must not love me as much as Betsy’s mom or He would have answered my prayer too.” Or we secretly wrestle with what haven’t I done to gain God’s favor too?


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Winter 2019  

Winter 2019