Intentional Pursuit: Practical Rhythms to Activate your Faith

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Practical Rhythms to Activate Your Faith STEPHANIE HUXTER FOREWORD BY LARA CASEY

Within a few minutes of being in Stephanie's presence, you know she's a woman who lives deeply rooted in the presence of God. But what's life-changing about being led and loved by someone like her is that as serious as she is about truth, everything she does is threaded with grace and compassion. That's why Intentional Pursuit is such a gift. It's a guidebook and a gift from a woman who knows the way to the throne room of grace and will let you follow her as she follows Jesus, without shame.

Rarely does one find a book that gets to the heart of the matter while also offering tangible and practical next steps. Stephanie weaves stories of everyday life, but also manages to capture other-worldly thoughts about the longings of our soul. These deep and wide thoughts are offered alongside captivating images that draw us into her story, making the reader want to know how to achieve that level of intimacy with God. Wherever your journey with God is before reading the book, Intentional Pursuit will take you to the next level.

Enjoy this book, her leadership, and the wild fruit that God will grow in your life.

There is no one better suited to write this book than my dear friend Stephanie.

Shannon Phelps, pastor, REVÉ Church, San Diego, CA

Jess Connolly, Bible teacher and author of Breaking Free from Body Shame and You Are The Girl For The Job

Deb Hopper, author As a pastor, I am always looking for beautiful, helpful resources that inspire women to grow in their personal relationship with Jesus and experience His extravagant love for them. Intentional Pursuit does all of that and more. Beautifully designed and thoughtfully written, Intentional Pursuit is the perfect companion for the Christian woman who desires more out of her relationship with Jesus.

“Intentional Pursuit” is what I see walked out in her day to day life: for herself, her family and everyone she invites into her home. She truly is a master at creating structure and sustainable rhythms in the areas of lifestyle and spiritual development. This book is desperately needed in the busy grind of our culture… offering you a deep breath and a fresh next step with God!

April Knight, founder of Well Crafted Retreats

Practical Rhythms to Activate Your Faith STEPHANIE HUXTER FOREWORD BY LARA CASEY photography by The Beautiful Mess

Intentional Pursuit: Practical Rhythms to Activate Your Faith Copyright © 2022 by Stephanie Huxter All rights reserved First NoHardcoverEditionISBN:portionofthis book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means–electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or other–except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without prior permission of the author. All Scripture quotations unless otherwise indicated are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation® (NLT®). Photography: The Beautiful Mess Editor: Kritsin Demery Cover and Interior Design: Stephanie Huxter Printed by Palmetto Publishing in Charleston, South Carolina

This book is dedicated to you. Yes you. I pray you know how deeply loved and cherished you are.



family to have our house for a week. Come, rest." What an invitation! We joyfully accepted. As we drove up the mountain to Stephanie and Brad's home, butterflies danced around us on the thistle as if announcing our arrival to the flora and fauna with which we'd spend the week. The sky turned orange and pink as the sun began to set behind the peaks. Our family of five poured out of the car after the five-hour drive, and we all stood there— silent. That doesn't often happen with three kids under ten! They were as in awe as we were. It was breathtakingly beautiful, making our small world and worries seem smaller as the towering mountains displayed their finery before us. Our stress from the day, the weeks—the years—melted with each changing sky hue. Psalm 121 seemed written across the heavens at that moment: ”I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” His presence was clear, and all was well. ome, rest. Her invitation was honey to my weary soul: "We've built this house for others to come and be refreshed. We'd love for yourC

There's a traditional Jewish song I love at Passover called "Dayenu." The transliteration: Had he brought us out of Egypt, Only brought us out of Egypt, Had he brought us out of Egypt, It would have been enough. Had he given us the Torah, Only given us the Torah, Had he given us the Torah, It would have been enough. Had he given us the Sabbath, Only given us the Sabbath, Had he given us the Sabbath, It would have been enough. The song goes on for several refrains to recount God's faithfulness. Thanks to Stephanie and Brad's generosity, it would have been enough if He invited us to come and rest at this home. It would have been enough if God showed us this sunset. It would have been enough, but there was more—rest and refreshment in the seemingly small things. We walked into the house to find a large gift basket with snacks and a note of prayer for our family. The invitations to "come, rest" were abundant at every step. Come, rest, and be refreshed by the mountain view. Come, rest, and be nourished by this food. Come, rest, and be filled by the scripture on the walls and beautiful prints created by Stephanie. Come, rest.

In the hustle and bustle of life, the invitations to "come, rest" are hard to hear, aren't they? It's hard to spend a moment resting when you have daily chores, laundry to fold, bills to pay, untended heartaches, schedules to juggle, lunches to pack, and a whole host of other responsibilities, right?

May Stephanie's insights and love grow your faith as they have mine. God's door is always open; come on in!

Lara AuthorCaseyofCultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life and Make it Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live On Purpose.

We have so many dear memories from that trip, and we came home knowing a new truth: God's invitations are all around us, not just in the mountaintop experiences. His constant invitation to rest from striving, idolatry, overwhelm, and the weight of sin is there at every moment, even in what feels mundane.

And yet, God's nudging persists, and you feel that ever-present tug: Come, rest.So,how do we do it when life swirls around us? Stephanie gives us a way forward: intentional rhythms. These practical rhythms of faith in our lives become daily, moment-to-moment invitations to come and rest in His presence. They ground us to the One who cannot fail us and tether us to a constant well of refreshment. They help us invite others in, too.

Our time at the Huxter home feels much like my time reading this beautiful book: an open door welcoming you home. Welcome to a new way of doing life. Welcome to the best part of life. Welcome to the source of life: God Himself.

"Where's my invitation?" you might be asking yourself.

For years, I inwardly professed, “I believe in God,” but there was no substance to my faith. I only attended church when my grandparents were in town for Easter, and even then, the message was completely lost on me. I never cracked a Bible, worship wasn’t in my vocabulary, and prayer was utterly foreign. I was not intentionally resisting God; I simply was unfamiliar with His ways. Not once did it occur to me that I might be missing out on the most significant part of life. I didn’t know there was another way to live; a lighter, freer, more hopeful way of life. I was unaware of the peace and purpose that were readily available to me. I never stopped to consider the possibility that I was letting something spectacular slip through my fingers. Let me rephrase that: Someone spectacular.



e don’t know what we don’t know. Until something changes or someone comes along to show us another way, we remain the same.

We love God, but with all of life’s commitments vying for our attention, we’re not left with much spare time to focus on Him. Noise and distractions are more prevalent than ever. Our calendars are bursting at the seams, the tasks constantly piling higher and higher. We live in a perpetual state of hustle—no wonder the chaos feels like it has infiltrated every part of our hearts and Thishomes.challenge is not a new struggle, however. Two thousand years ago, a lady named Martha faced the very same predicament we do today: Choose the Lord or choose the chores.

Because we live in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, it is easy to keep doing what we’ve always done without giving our actions a second thought. But just because we are accustomed to a certain way of living doesn’t mean it’s the best way for us to live.

What if there is more to life than checking off a to-do list each day? What if we could trade our anxiety and angst for assurance and peace of mind? What if we’re missing out on the most life-giving relationship because we’re too preoccupied with an endless round of work and social obligations?

While they were traveling, he (Jesus) entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 CSB, emphasis added)

In Scripture, we are told to pursue right standing with God. (1 Timothy 6:11) To live a full, active life of faith, we must try our best to please God and to be like Him. Together, we will learn how to juggle life and spend intentional time with God. We will start the discussion by remembering that He made the first move. God pursues us because we are cherished, valuable, and dear to Him. I NEVER STOPPED TO CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITY THAT I WAS SOMETHINGLETTINGSPECTACULAR SLIP THROUGH MY FINGERS.

Is it possible that we often feel stuck and frustrated because we are worried about too many tasks instead of focusing on the most necessary One? A life overflowing with contentment, purpose, and light-heartedness is available, but I fear we are missing it.

If distractions or a lack of routine have kept you from the daily practices of Bible study and prayer… If you sometimes struggle to be in an active relationship with God… If you want more direction, freedom, and delight in your faith… Take heart. God is able to move you from dissatisfaction and indifference to a life that brims with passion and excitement. He can help you create intentional rhythms so that you can continually grow and confidently walk in who He has created you to be.

The question then becomes, How will we respond to His pursuit? Will we choose to give Him our attention the same way we would any other relationship we hold dear?

Are you ready to pursue the One who first loved you? Are you prepared to live a life that isn’t marked by exhaustion and checklists but is overflowing with goodness, beauty, and truth? Are you ready for God to show up in your life and move as only He can? As my vivacious daughter says, Let’s do this!

As we establish sustainable rhythms, we will start to see the fruit of faithfulness. We will embark on a life that consists of confidence, freedom, joy, hope, peace, and purpose.

In drawing to a close, we will discover the pleasure and beauty of getting away for a few days, whether alone or with a few friends, to have extra, honed-in time with God. We know we will have missteps and setbacks because we’re human, so right here and now, let’s choose to leave guilt and perfection at the door. We trust and believe in the power of grace. We will courageously choose to keep moving forward, taking one small step at a time. As if training for the Olympics, we are going to suit up with pockets of determination and diligence because we can do hard things. We will ask God for a double-portion of grit and grace, believing He will give us much more than we ask to receive.

Next, we will evaluate our priorities and consider if there is anything that needs adjustment. We will identify what steals our focus to learn how to eliminate those distractions. Little by little, we will begin to make changes that better align with the life we truly want to live. Then, we will move into cultivating intentional time with God by practicing the spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, listening, worship, and rest. We will come full circle as we put a specific plan in place so that when Monday morning rolls around, we know exactly how we will seek God.

Are you ready to pursue the One who first loved you?

a Christmas tree. As everyone else convened in the kitchen, I sat alone on my parents’ couch, taking in the view. The Fraser fir was breathtaking. Overflowing with shiny lights, dazzling ornaments, and glistening tinsel, the tree’s soaring presence filled the room. The fireplace was roaring, per my mother’s request. She loves gathering by a fire more than anyone else I know. As I settled into the corner of the couch, I surveyed my life. M oments we often perceive as ordinary, God sees as extraordinary. I didn’t realize my life was about to change drastically. I simply saw “Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.”



Our careers were both headed in the right direction. Brad was climbing the corporate ladder in a Fortune 500 company. I was working on national graphic design campaigns for companies like Cover Girl and Gillette. I even received the opportunity to teach at my alma mater, Winthrop University.

Amazing husband Loving family and friends career New house I had everything I had ever wanted, but out of nowhere, I found myself gasping for more. With every breath I took, this empty void felt as if it was deepening into an ever-widening chasm. Something vitally significant was absent from my life, but what was it?

I sat there feeling perplexed, dissatisfied, searching, perhaps even crazy. Unsure of what to do with these unidentifiable feelings, I shoved them under the proverbial rug and went on as though everything was fine.

√ Thriving

Brad and I had been blissfully married for six months. We were the obnoxious couple that planned over-the-top dates every Friday evening, never bickered, and assumed we had it all figured out. (Don’t worry, humility would come. But at the time, we couldn’t imagine anything other than our cloud-nine newlywed adventure.)

The Christmas tree, a supposed symbol of hope, felt as though it were mocking me. “Stop being so ungrateful. What is wrong with you? You are crazy; everything is fine. You have everything you need; nothing is missing.”

After Christmas break, I resumed my usual routine of driving 45 minutes from north Charlotte to Winthrop University in Rock Hill. In my class that semester, each student was instructed to design a music CD booklet, and they were free to select the band or musician. (These were preSpotify days, so the class assignment was relevant!)


During class one evening, I asked a student how her project was coming along. She walked me through her design decisions, but she predominantly spent the time talking about her church. I didn’t understand the excitement in her voice and the design that she had placed before me. Surely what I was seeing had not been created for a church band! The images felt alive, the colors were bold and bright, and the musicians wore jeans. The scene depicted looked fun! In my limited church experience, this is not what I had encountered.

What soe see as a coincidence, we can choose to see as God’s providence. If God can use a stirring, a student, and a sign to wake me up to his reality, surely He can use this book to pull you in closer, too.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly our thoughts can spiral? Did you know that 85 percent of what we worry about never actually happens?

Driving home that evening, I saw a sign that read, “Mosaic Church. 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. at AMC Movie Theater.” The church my student had spoken of so highly was right around the corner from my house.

Unable to shake the emptiness I felt while sitting on my parents’ couch and the intrigue that gripped me upon seeing the project and church that inspired its design, I nudged Brad to join me that Sunday with the promise of popcorn.Walking into church that day, I was a pile of nerves carrying around a massive heap of skepticism. I thought to myself, What will I encounter in this place? Am I going to be bored out of my mind or confused by the lengthy sermon? The people there are going to see through my put-together facade and know the truth: I don’t belong here. They are going to judge and condemn me. What am I doing here? I should go back to bed; this was a mistake.

That statistic rang true for me that day. I wasn’t met with the worstcase scenario; instead, I walked through those doors and was greeted by the friendliest, most delightful people. This church made me feel truly welcomed, as if they wanted me to be there. As I observed their interactions, they seemed to love one another, like a well-connected family. It’s as if Jesus knew what He was talking about when he said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

The truth is I didn’t feel lost, but remember, we don’t know what we don’t know. It wasn’t until God came along and opened my eyes that I realized how much I was missing out on, how I was, in fact, lost. It makes me think of the man who was blind at birth:

GOD PURSUES US FIRST Jesus clearly stated his purpose in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”

Perhaps what came as the greatest shock was the sermon. I understood what the pastor said! He spoke with clarity, explaining the meaning of the Scriptural text. Not only that, but the message felt relevant to my life. He addressed issues that I was facing and gave practical solutions to help Ime!no longer felt threatened. Instead, I sensed intrigue, and I daresay a touch of relief. These people had something I wanted, and I was determined to figure out what that thing was.

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said he was, and others said, “No, he just looks like him!” But the beggar kept saying, “Yes, I am the same one!”

Prior to his healing, this man didn’t know what a geranium or a giraffe looked like. He was unable to witness the splendor of a sunrise or sunset. Because of his physical blindness, he missed out on so much beauty. When Jesus opened his eyes, a whole new world appeared before him. I felt like this healed man. I began to see a world I had been oblivious to: God’s beauty, true character, and the riches of his grace. John 3:16 was no longer just a bumper sticker but a reality that sank deep into my soul. I began to see that God gave His one and only Son for me . I saw His pure, perfect, and holy love for the first time. I discovered that thing the people had when I walked into a church for the first time. That alluring, intriguing vibe they possessed was Jesus.

They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” He told them, “The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.’ So I went and washed, and now I can see!” (John 9:1-11)

There’s no question about it; God pursued me first. I was not looking for Him; I simply lived life the best way I knew. I sometimes wonder, were there moments earlier in my life when He was trying to reveal Himself to me and I just missed it? Was He always at work, making preparations for my faith, planting seeds the entire time, patiently waiting for the day when I would finally turn and see Him?

While I can’t comprehend God’s timing and the way He operates, this much I know: He pursues us because we are cherished, valuable, and held dear to Him. He takes the time to draw us in because He considers you and’s been a while since someone has spoken life over you. Allow me to remind you of truth: You are loved . You are important . You are chosen . You are worthy of pursuit. We are told in the book of Hebrews that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. That He is the incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity. Look in the rear-view mirror of your life. How has God established your faith? In what ways has He revealed Himself to you? How did He open your eyes? What did you see when He did? I BEGAN TO SEE A WORLD I HAD BEEN OBLIVIOUS TO: GOD’S BEAUTY, TRUE CHARACTER, AND THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE.

John penned these words, “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).


I asked Brad out on our first date. Bold, I know, but I’ve never been one to shy away from pursuing something that I want. We were part of an organization that planned outdoor group activities like backpacking, kayaking, and biking. They also scheduled single-mixers at local pubs and restaurants. One summer evening, Brad and I reluctantly found ourselves at one of these super-awkward parties. Throughout the evening, our paths crossed in group conversations and I liked what I heard. Brad was a well-spoken storyteller who obviously desired an adventurous life. He was kind, so cute, and clearly wasn’t afraid to take risks—a quality I admired—so I asked him out. Brad had a choice to make. His response was either going to be yes or no to my invitation. Thankfully, he said yes!

For those who have walked with Him a long time, how wonderful that His pursuit never stops! I pray that we may all have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is!

God is the first to pursue us, but then He puts the ball in our court. Do we want His pursuit? How will we respond to His invitation?

If you have a pit in your stomach right now because you’re wondering why God hasn’t pursued you yet? Sweet friend, He has placed these words in your hand. A small sign of His love and pursuit is sitting in your lap. He is with you.

Our first response is receiving the gift of salvation. Jesus was crystal clear about how to get into heaven. He said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

If we truly believe Jesus is who He says He is, place our trust in Him, and receive the unmerited gift of salvation, then we can be confident that we will be with Him in paradise. It’s as simple as that.

Imagine if, after the wedding, the bride and groom ignore one another Monday through Saturday because they are consumed with the work and worries of life. On Sunday, they attempt to connect, but the conversation falls flat. They are perplexed by the disconnect.

I love theologian R. C. Sproul because he doesn’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat the truth; he says it like it is: “The pursuit of God is not a part-time, weekend exercise. If it is, chances are you will experience a part-time, weekend freedom. Abiding requires a kind of staying power. The pursuit is relentless. It hungers and thirsts. It pants as the deer after the mountain brook. It takes the kingdom by storm...The pursuit of God is a pursuit of passion. Indifference will not do. To abide in the Word is to hang on tenaciously. A weak grip will soon slip away. Discipleship requires staying power. We sign up for duration. We do not graduate until heaven.”

Allow me to create a parallel narrative. A wedding demonstrates the commitment between two people. When the bride and groom say, “I do,” a vow is sealed. At that moment, the couple is simply on Day One of their marriage.

But what about all of the days between the moment we first believe to the day we enter eternity?

After a little marriage counseling, they realize the problem: A brief weekly encounter is not enough; they need to remain connected every day. The couple begins to prioritize one another. They initiate deep conversations and plan weekly date nights. They even wake up early so that they can enjoy coffee together before their workday begins.

The husband and wife start to thrive. Their marriage becomes alive and active.Inthe same way, when we devote our life to Jesus, a promise is made, but a lifetime of courtship awaits us. We can’t seek God for one hour on Sunday morning and expect our faith to flourish. An active relationship with God requires a daily, intentional pursuit.

Maybe you are ready to take that first step by trusting in Jesus. If so, here is a prayer to help get that conversation started:

Did an idea pop into your mind as you read this chapter? Did you feel a nudge toward something? Go and do that.

As you start to pursue God intentionally, be patient. Early in my faith journey, I was doing my best to draw near to Him but felt like I was making little progress. In an attempt to encourage me, a friend said, “You can have as much of God as you want.” This only irked me more because I wanted to experience and recognize God.

What I didn’t consider is that relationships take time to develop. Intimately knowing someone doesn’t happen overnight. I needed firsthand experience with God to grow my perseverance and trust. As it turns out, my friend was right—we can have as much of God as we want. But it’s more than a singular moment or decision; it is a glorious, wild, adventurous lifetime pursuit!

The more we study His Word, the more we will see His character. The more we pray, the more intimacy we will feel. The more we worship, the easier it is to believe. The more we let go of control, the more freedom we will find. As we steadily make intentional efforts to connect with Him, our dedication and persistence will lead to a cultivated bond with God.

How can you intentionally respond to God today ?

Jesus, I know you made me and want me to obey you with all my heart. I know I have disobeyed and wanted to be my own boss. I have thought and done things against your directions. I am sorry. I know you gave up your life to save me from these sins and make me your child again. I accept your promises and ask you to save and help me from this day forward. Amen. Perhaps it’s time to rekindle the relationship you once had with Him. Think back to the moments you felt closest to Jesus. Ask for his help in reconnecting and reengaging in your faith.


What if I told you Jesus was a sweet and savory fan too?

Jesus was full of grace and truth. He didn’t pick one or the other; He demonstrated the perfect balance of both. We need compassion and conviction. We need second chances and repentance. We need confidence and humility.

We’ve all heard, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” Why in the world would you want a cake that you can’t eat? This expression means there are two options that someone wants, but they can’t have both because the options conflict with each other; they can only pick one. This doesn’t sit well with me since one of my favorite words in the English language is and . I love Cracker Barrel because I can order french toast and hash brown casserole. I desire savory and sweet. Have you ever dipped your fries into a Wendy’s frosty? Try it. You can thank me later. Chicken and waffles, apples and peanut butter, brie and fig, salt and caramel, pretzels and chocolate. These are all better together.

To have a full, thriving relationship with God, we must receive the good and the hard. We live in this balance by accepting God’s help and owning our choices. We will return to the concept of grace and truth in the remaining chapters, so lock away this nugget of wisdom as we move forward.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, NIV)


An essential element of any relationship is communication: speaking and listening. Given that our objective is to pursue an active relationship with God, each chapter will conclude with a guided prayer and a response from God based on Scripture. As you read this book, talk with God. Ask Him questions, wrestle with your doubts, invite the Holy Spirit in, and ask for help, guidance, and inspiration. He will meet you here.

LISTEN You(YOUR___________________________________________,NAME)aregreatlylovedanddearlyprized.Isentmy

(John 3:16, 1 John 3:1, Ephesians 3:16-17, Psalm 32:8, Proverbs 3:5, James 4:8)

One and only Son so that whosoever believes and trusts in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. See what great love I have lavished on you! You are called children of God! I desire for you to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through My Spirit so that Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. You don’t need to depend on your own understanding; you simply need to trust Me. I have a precious promise for you: come near to Me, and I will come near to you.

PRAY Father, thank you for pursuing me and waking me up to your reality! Continue to open my eyes so I may see how wide, how long, how high, and how deep your love is! I want to respond to You in earnest faith, but I need Your grace to do it. Show me how I can intentionally pursue You in this season of my life. I want a thriving, active relationship with You, Jesus. I know my faith won't be fully rekindled overnight, so grow my perseverance and trust. Lead the way; I will follow. Amen.

“The first act of love is always the giving of attention.”




DALLAS WILLARD ef ecently I was going through the motions of the morning grind: making breakfast, packing lunches, reminding my son to put his presentation in his backpack, and reviewing the day’s to-do list. I quickly jumped in the car and, in my haste, proceeded to spill an entire smoothie all over my lap and on every square inch of the front seat. The once beautiful rainbow fruit blend was now a sticky, inconvenient mess. Do you know what we get out of a hurried lifestyle? A lap of freezingLifefruit.isfull; there is no denying it. Apparently, human beings require 18 changes of clothes each day because the laundry has piled up again. Weeds are encroaching in the flower beds, the kitchen is inundated with dirty dishes, and LEGOs have plotted a mission to infiltrate every room of the house. We avoid responding to emails as if they were the plague because we know as soon as we send out one, two more will arrive. There are dentist appointments, work deadlines, science fair projects, soccer practice, and ballet recitals to attend.


Struggling to balance life is not new to mankind. Remember Martha?

Martha, I see you. I hear you, girl. Martha had good intentions. She wanted everything to be just right for the Lord. The problem wasn’t that she was cooking; the problem was she had become so preoccupied with the work that she had forgotten why she was preparing a meal in the first place. For years, I imagined Jesus being annoyed and frustrated with Martha, perplexed by why she wasn’t getting that the Lord incarnate was sitting in her midst. Today, after personally experiencing His patience time and time again, I now hear Jesus’s response in a gentle, loving tone as a simple reminder to Martha that she has been given the freedom to choose her priorities.Maryhad made preparations, too; it wasn’t that she was lazy. But when the time came to be with Jesus, she shifted her focus and chose to sit at ready for a challenge? It is possible to do our work and sit with Jesus.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

In order to evaluate if and how our priorities need to be modified, we need to look at what actually matters to us. There is no shame or judgment in the results; it is simply a way to take an honest look at what we value.

EXERCISE #1: Keep a notebook at your side for one week. Write down how you spend your time. At the end of the week, highlight different categories and do some basic math to calculate how you spend your time.

There is obviously nothing wrong with having a clean kitchen, but my point here is to shift our perspective: What if our priorities are simply out of order? Ignoring our responsibilities is not the answer, but the value we place on our tasks and assignments may need to be adjusted.

The two quickest ways to identify what is truly important to you: Look at your calendar. How are you spending your time? Look at your bank statements. How are you spending your money?

I have a very important belief system about sinks. I think that our kitchen sinks have a vital role in life and were made for such a time as this. Are you ready? The sink’s purpose is not to remain pristine and beautiful, waiting to impress all who enter. No, ma’am. The sink’s purpose is to hold dirty dishes.

Friends! Let your sink fulfill its purpose! Don’t steal its joy by leaving it empty all the time! I’m pretty sure God won’t be greeting us at heaven’s gates with a giant banner that says, “Congratulations! Your kitchen was always clean!”


EXERCISE #2: Do a similar exercise with your finances by separating your monthly bank statement into different spending categories. What did you discover? Are you satisfied with the results you found, or do you feel challenged to rearrange some things in your life? EXERCISE #3: Set aside some time to mull over what you want your priorities to be. Grab a journal or your laptop and start making a list. You may write down things such as… • Cultivate a strong marriage • Grow closer to God • Be a good role model for your children • Pray before you get out of bed in the morning • Steward what you have been given • Have more fun! • Invest in your community • Work less so that you can be present more • Take better care of your body • Get outside more often • Serve in your purpose Now, do one thing today to start rearranging your priorities.


When I was a new believer, that statement would have frustrated me! Seek first the Kingdom of God. Not helpful. I don’t even know what that means. If you feel the same way, I have some encouraging news: Seeking God’s Kingdom isn’t something we add to our already busy day; it is the foundation on which all of our other activities rest. In other words, we need to learn how to approach our daily tasks while keeping eternity in mind. God is well aware that our to-do lists are never-ending. His solution, however, isn’t to give us more time but to train us to see things as He does. Baseball on its own is simply a game; it has no eternal impact. But coaching Little League with the focus of loving kids well and speaking life over them while demonstrating God’s standards? That is seeking God’s Kingdom.

… stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life… Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right ), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. (Matthew 6:25-26, 33, AMPC)

Ask, and ye shall receive!

Ladies, the struggle is real. I sometimes feel like I am balancing spinning plates on my head, nose, and feet, trying my best to compensate, pivot, and readjust so none of the plates crash to the ground. But alas, I hear the shatter.

I have a wild idea. Instead of trying to do everything on our own, let’s kick independence off of her high horse and ask God for help: “Lord, how can we juggle all the moving parts of life and actively seek You?”


Intentionally pursuing God doesn’t mean we compartmentalize our relationship with Him into a 15-minute quiet time. Instead, we get to include Him in everything we do. We can earnestly pray while we do the dishes. We can honor Him while we do our job with integrity and excellence. We can praise and worship Him while we exercise at the gym.

Mopping and dusting won’t help people see God. Praying for the ladies in your small group while you wipe? That is seeking God’s Kingdom.

My guy, R. C. Sproul, is back with another mic drop: “We do not segment our lives, giving some time to God, some to our business or schooling, while keeping parts to ourselves. The idea is to live all of our lives in the presence of God, under the authority of God, and for the honor and glory of God. That is what the Christian life is all about.”

A new dress from Target will eventually be thrown into the trash. But encouraging a struggling mom in aisle eight? That is seeking God’s Kingdom.

We don’t need another time management app. We need to practice including God in the details of our lives. What are you doing today? How can you include God in your work, chores, parenting, or hobbies?







“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers— most of which are never even seen—don’t think he’ll attend to take pride in you, do his best for What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. worry about missing out. find all everyday human concerns will be met."




Matthew 6:30-33, The Message

Mid-sentence, Carl abruptly turns to the right and yells, “Squirrel!” After this distraction, he returns to his explanation about the collar. This movie snippet has become a symbol of getting sidetracked. Memes and GIFs have been created to convey poor Dug’s short attention span. As silly as this example is, just like Dug, we are easily pulled away from what is in front of us. Maybe our priorities are in order, but those nagging distractions keep sidetracking our focus.

In the Disney Pixar movie Up , there is a dog named Dug. Dug is jubilant and playful, loyal to his new adopted master Carl. In one scene, Dug explains to Carl how his collar translates his dog thoughts into English.

Please read that again: “We will become so … preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them." Whoa. We do not have to accept distraction as a way of life; we can cultivate the discipline of concentration and self-control. We do not have to walk aimlessly through our days; we can live them with intention and WE CAN CULTIVATE THE DISCIPLINE OF CONCENTRATIONSELF-CONTROL.AND

John Mark Comer's must-read book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry , says, "For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them."

GOD WILL MEET YOU WHERE YOU ARE Some seasons of life are busier than others. Our calendar right now is straight-up bonkers. We are hosting numerous events, including a monthly goal-setting group, a high school prom, and not one but two weddings. Not to mention Brad is starting a new, highly demanding job, and we have several friends and family members scheduled to stay with us over the coming months. I am also attempting to finish writing in a timely fashion.Ifyoufeel like life is bursting at the seams right now between raising little people, working in a challenging job, finishing your master’s program,

purpose. We won’t get very far through our own strength, but when we ask God for His help to overcome this hindrance, look out: life is about to get laser-focused!Ifsocialmedia, unnecessary activities, alcohol, unresolved anger, television, or a bad relationship creates division between you and God, it needs to go. Let’s draw a line in the sand and say, “Enough is enough! With God’s help, today is the day I am going to get rid of these distractions so that I can focus more on what actually matters. I want His best . I am done settling for a mediocre life.” My daughter went through a phase of saying, “I can’t.” Every time she’d mutter those two words, my response was always the same, “You can . Because you have been given a spirit of power, love, and selfcontrol.” (2 Timothy 1:7) When you feel like I can’t , remember you can because you, my dear friend, have the Spirit of God helping you. What distractions do you need to get rid of? What is stealing your attention and robbing you of joy? Have you asked God for help?

God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears. Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray. Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him. Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness. (Psalms 34:4-9, MSG)

If you have five minutes to read a quick devotional, He will meet you there. If you play worship music in the car, He will meet you there. If you pray while you walk, He will meet you there. Just like Jesus multiplied the bread and fish, ask Him to multiply the time you spend with Him. He will always meet you right where you are.

caring for elderly parents, or anything else that feels overwhelming, can you sit with me for a minute?

Use your imagination and visualize this scene: I invite you over for coffee. You climb my steps and notice that I have hot beverages and fruit waiting on the porch. We each find our spot in the Adirondack chairs, and I ask how you are doing. You quickly understand that I am not looking to hear It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. I want to know how you are truly doing.

Tears start to flow as you express how overwhelmed and exhausted you are. I take you by the hand and say, “God sees you. He sees how weary and tired you are. He will meet you where you are.”

LISTEN I(YOUR___________________________________________,NAME)willcertainlycareforyou.Remember,you


PRAY Father, I confess I am often disengaged and preoccupied. Forgive me for losing sight of what matters most. Lord, align my heart with Yours. I want to make choices that honor You. I ask for Your wisdom and discernment so I can live with intention and purpose. Thank You in advance for Your help in re-prioritizing my priorities. I trust Your Spirit to nudge and guide me. Amen. cannot serve two masters. Make Me your number one priority and I will give you everything you need. I am going to teach you to number your days so that you can cultivate a heart of wisdom. Don’t allow worry to dominate your thoughts. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. You are precious and honored in my sight. I love you. 6:30, 24, 33, Psalm 90:12, Colossians 3:2, Isaiah 43:4)


On the first night of Emily’s group, I was bound and determined not just to show up but to be authentic. Stomach in knots and heart racing, I began to share my story with these new friends. I told them I didn’t grow up in church and had very little knowledge of Christianity, but recently something new had been stirring, and I suspected it was God. I was honest in saying that I had never opened a Bible, didn’t know what I was doing, and desperately needed guidance. STUDY I

R. C. SPROUL ef met Emily in my early days of going to church. She was full of spunk, confidence, and joy. She had an uncanny ability to make people feel

“The more I expose myself to the Word of God, the greater my faith will be.”


seen and wanted. So, when she invited me to join her women’s small group, I said yes.

To my great surprise, no one gasped in horror that I was at a Bible study but had never opened a Bible. Instead, they treated me respectfully and kindly by asking me genuine questions. They wanted to know about Brad, how we met, and what we did for a living. It was more than obligatory small talk; these new friends wanted to get to know me.

At the end of the evening, Emily suggested, “Let’s meet for coffee next week so we can read the Bible together. You can ask questions, and we’ll discuss the text.”

Emily and I met at Panera Bread the following week. After picking up our pastries and lattes, she suggested we start reading John 1. As I flipped through the seemingly endless pages, the name John caught my attention, 1 John! Ah-ha! Success! She grinned and said, “I had the Gospel of John in mind, but that’s okay; let’s start here.” I was unaware there was an author named John with four books accredited to him! Emily made me feel like there were no ridiculous questions. I asked everything I could think of: “What is the deal with the Trinity?” I was baffled by how God could be three different people and one at the same time. “What is a Pharisee?” It sounded like a magical container of some kind. “How can you have a relationship with God?” I could not understand how it was possible to know an invisible God. With grace and compassion, she began answering my questions— not as a theologian but as a friend. This single experience gave me the confidence to open the Bible for myself from that day on. That’s all it took for me. One invitation by one person and my life was forever

Neverchanged.underestimate the impact you can have on someone by simply extending the invitation to open up the Word of God together.

Not long after the coffee date with my new friend, I was given a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan at church one Sunday. It was a simple,

(Isaiah 55:10-12, my emphasis added.)

unassuming booklet that listed a section of Scripture to read each day. One by one, I followed the clear instructions and slowly worked my way through the Old and New Testaments.

While I found delight in putting a check in the pre-drawn boxes, the truth is, it all sounded like a foreign language to me. I did not understand 99.9% of what I was reading. Not only that, but some of the passages were straight-up bizarre! A guy was swallowed by a fish, a donkey was talking, Jesus got angry at a tree, and I won’t even go into how they used foreskin for protection. The book of Leviticus really threw me for a loop! Not only was I frustrated by my lack of understanding, but I also wasn’t seeing any results. I didn’t seem to be growing in my faith the way I wanted. It would have been easy to quit, but I had a nagging internal feeling that said to keep going. The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!


While I did not experience trees clapping their hands, I did learn that God’s Word never returns void. After reading the Bible consistently for a couple of years, a Scripture reference would pop into my mind.

Wouldn’t you know it, the passage would be exactly what I needed to hear at that moment! Often, the words brought wisdom, comfort, or guidance. It became even more exhilarating when a Bible verse would come to mind for a friend that applied to their situation! I was able to offer them supernatural encouragement!

Reading the Bible started to feel like a wild-goose chase! I’d start reading in the book of John, jump to Isaiah because of the Holy Spirit’s prompting, then to Hebrews, and back to John, the dots connecting over and over again. I could see how this massive book full of stories that spanned thousands of years somehow fit together. The more I was in the Word, the more I wanted to be in the Word. It felt like the mountains were beginning to burst into song! The Bible was starting to come alive for me.As I continued to read, I learned about God’s true character. I saw for myself how good, faithful, and kind He was. He taught me about my unique wiring and provided little breadcrumbs that would soon reveal the plans and purposes He had for my life. I felt seen and deeply known. God made me feel special, cared for, and wanted. He even gave me a new name. Early one morning, I read, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.” (1 John 5:4) I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to look up the meaning of my name, so I googled it. Stephanie (and Stephen) mean “crowned in victory.” I didn’t hear audible words, but in my heart, I felt him say, “You will be victorious because of your faith in Me.” I have victory tattooed on my wrist so I can be reminded daily of who I am and belong to. When I feel defeated, I look down at the ink-drawn letters and remember that He’s got my back.

“Study to know Him more and more, for the more you know, the more you will love Him.” George Whitefield My deep love for an invisible God still astounds me, and His perfect love leaves me speechless. As a young adult, I had zero biblical foundation. If God can multiply time and get me “caught up,” He can do it for you, too. You’re not too far behind, and it’s not too late.

I grin when I think about 90-year-old me gazing down at this well-worn identity, eagerly awaiting the promise of heaven. Our deepest desires are to be loved, live a life of meaning and purpose, and feel safe and secure. These deep needs will only be fully met through our relationship with God. No one else can take His place. You can have the most incredible husband, children, friends, job, talent, finances, influence—you name it. Apart from Him, you will not feel whole. Something will always be missing.

Today, reading the Bible is not a chore or an item on a checklist. It’s my favorite part of the day because I get to spend one-on-one time with my Father. It’s where we chat about the big and little things. It’s where He guides, instructs, corrects, disciplines, encourages, and equips me.


The Holy Spirit teaches the Bible to believers the way Jesus taught His disciples. My number one suggestion for studying the Scriptures, no matter where you are in your journey, is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. He will give you insight as you inquire and seek to understand His ways.

“I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

• Treat God’s Word with respect and gratitude

“Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

If you are reading this book, it means that you live in a country that allows religious freedom. May we not take this gift for granted but open the Bible daily, remembering that it is an awe-inspiring privilege, not an obligation.


• Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you

“...when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26)

The Creator of the Universe—the One who made the moon and the stars, the flowers and fields, ladybugs and bumblebees, and you and me—is the same God who wrote these words. God’s Word is worthy of our respect and reverence.

• Understand the context

God does not give us boundaries to withhold good things. He gives us commands to follow because He knows what is best for us. When we are disobedient and feel that uncomfortable gut check, we shouldn’t brush it off but rather take it seriously. His correction will always come from a place of love, so talk to Him about your shortcomings, apologize, and ask for His help correcting the behavior.

“My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Biblical commentaries are a great way to learn about the culture of when the text was written.

Are you reading the Bible to reinforce your thoughts and opinions? Or are you seeking to know God and understand His ways? We must approach the Word of God with a humble heart, remembering that He is God and we are not. Our job isn’t to know all the answers; it’s to remember that He does.

• Receive correction

“‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

• Check your motives

Bible verses can easily be taken out of context. Read the whole chapter or several chapters so you can clearly understand the writer’s intent.

I accepted His challenge, and while it took some digging, I did discover new things. Don’t just read the “good stuff,” read the hard chapters, too. They are there for a reason. Renew your childlike faith, be curious, and ask God questions.

• Put into action what you learn “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (James 1:22) We can read all day long, but we are deceiving ourselves unless we put God’s Word into action . We are transformed when we do what God says. Will we be perfect? Of course not. But little by little, we will become more like Jesus, one obedient step at a time.

• Let the Word challenge you “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12)

A few years ago, I was reading through the Bible. When I got to the book of Numbers, I thought, ughhhhh . As quickly as the feeling of disinterest came, the Holy Spirit interrupted me: “If you approach this book with that attitude, that is exactly what you will find. But if you read it trusting I included this text for a reason, I will show you the hidden riches.”

During my first visit to Lifeway bookstore, I walked in and came close to having a panic attack. Goodness gracious, I thought a Bible was a Bible! I had no idea there were so many different types. There were study and parallel Bibles as well as creative ones for journaling and coloring.


This section has been broken down into different stages of our Christian walk. Feel free to jump to the segment that is most relevant to you. You will find information and encouragement that is well-suited for your current season of life.

How to select a Bible

Some included devotionals; I didn’t even know what a devotional was! Then came the translation options. I was clueless as to what NIV, MSG, or KJV even meant. Some Bibles were tiny, while others were massive.

Completely overwhelmed by the choices, I walked out empty-handed. But I wanted a Bible. So a few days later, I mustered up the courage and returned to the store. Instead of attempting to decide on my own, I asked the store clerk for help. After asking several questions, she kindly pointed me to an NIV Women’s Devotional Bible. I read through a few of the devotionals and was pleased to find explanations of how the ancient text of the Bible applied to my modern-day life. While the book contained a lot of pages, the overall size wasn’t too intimidating, so I decided to go for it. I was victorious in purchasing my first Bible! I prefer a printed Bible as opposed to one online because it’s too easy for me to end up on Pinterest. But if the accessibility outweighs the distraction for you, then, by all means, use a Bible app.

Are you a notetaker? If so, I would point you to a journaling Bible. Large margins allow you to write thoughts, questions, and things you learn along the way. Pick a plan and read it daily Once you’ve selected your Bible, decide what you will read every day. Whether you read through the Old or New Testament, a Bible app plan, or follow the current She Reads Truth study, what matters most is that you have a plan. Knowing what to read each day will help you stay focused.

Have you ever done the magic flip? Randomly opened a page in the Bible hoping to find specific revelation? Certainly, God is capable and sometimes gracious enough to speak through this random method, but we will experience greater depth when we are intentional.

If you want to purchase your first Bible, I suggest the New Believer’s Bible NLT: First Steps for New Christians . It has a variety of features that will help you walk in your newfound faith.

If you decide to go the paper route, I suggest reading a few different translations before purchasing a Bible. This will help determine which version is a good fit for you. Read the first chapter of James in the NLT, ESV, and CSB translations on the YouVersion Bible app. Which one was easiest for you to read? Consider buying a Bible with that translation.

If you value beauty and well-thought-out designs, look no further than the She Reads Truth Bible . It includes devotionals written for women, and the text is absolutely stunning.

Bible Recommendations:

• Set a weekly lunch date with a friend to discuss Sunday’s message.

• Chat about the sermon with your spouse or kids on the way home from church.

Take it a step further:

• Review your notes on Sunday evening or Monday morning.

Keep a notepad and jot down the bullet points and Bible references your pastor teaches.


Ask a friend to read with you

Listen to an audio version of the Bible We will not always have time for a 3-hour, in-depth study of Genesis. We do, however, have access to incredible technology! The YouVersion Bible app has an audio feature. Simply press the play button at the bottom of the screen, and voilà, any book of the Bible will be read aloud. Listening on your way to work, between diaper changes, or while doing the dishes are great opportunities to be with God in His Word. Pick quality over quantity Give God your honest, undivided attention, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Uninterrupted time with Him is better than starting the day with a to-do list. Authentic moments reset our hearts and often readjust our priorities.

Ask your local church about Bible studies, invite a friend to go through an online reading plan, or join Bible Study Fellowship (, a worldwide organization that offers free, in-depth Bible studies.

Take notes at church

Cultivate What Matters, Write the Word Journal

Challenge your perspective I recently read this quote by Martin Luther, and it has challenged me to think about the things I let go of when I am in a busy season of life. “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

• Read a different translation. Try an easy-to-read paraphrase like The Message for a while.

Created in an approachable manner, this journal provides a short Bible reference for you to write down and space to jot thoughts or prayers for the day. It is undated, allowing you to go at your own pace.

• Change your surroundings. Read at a local coffee shop, in the park, or even in your car. Hello, carpool line!

• Purchase the She Reads Truth Monthly Subscription Box. Once a month, their latest book study shows up on your doorstep. This is a great option for intentionality and variety.

• Ask friends what they are reading and how they study. Share your tips and tricks. There’s so much to learn from one another.

Look at different reading plans offered on the YouVersion Bible app. Pick a few that interest you, save them under “My Plans,” then start reading one by one.

Could it be that in busy seasons of life, it’s even more crucial that we spend intentional time with God?


The Word is not dull; it is alive!

King James Bible

Get your vocabulary game on!

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us…

New International Version Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...

Amplified Bible, Classic Edition Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]...

Look up several different translations of a single verse. provides multiple translations of Bible passages on its website. Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, some words don’t fully convert to English. As a result, scholars have selected different English words that come close. These various adjectives are like a paintbrush, drawing a broader picture of what is happening in the story. Ephesians 3:20 is a great example:

Christian Standard Bible Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us…

Look at those action words! Immeasurably more, superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think! Yes! This is exciting stuff!

If a verse comes to mind while you are reading, chase it! If you think of another one, go there too. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and the Word to be a source of connection and adventure with the Father.

Commentaries: A Bible commentary explains how the Bible fits together and what it means. Often, historical background is included, along with explanations as to the meaning of a passage. These can be especially helpful in the symbolically rich text of the Old Testament. For example, the tabernacle is described in the book of Exodus. Learning the meaning behind the colors, pictures, and details helps the story come to life.

Go down rabbit holes

IF YOU WANT TO DIG DEEPER Blue Letter Bible App Interlinear/Concordance: Look up words that stand out to you with the Blue Letter Bible’s lexicon. It’s fascinating to study the original Greek or Hebrew language. It provides a greater overall understanding of the Scriptures in relation to their original, intended language.

Suggested Commentaries: David Jamieson,GuzikFausset & Brown Matthew Henry I prefer the printed version of The New Matthew Henry Commentary: The Classic Work with Updated Language for at-home study purposes. I find

this version easier to understand than others, and I like being able to highlight and take notes in the margins.

(1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

A word of caution when using commentaries. They can easily become a crutch, building your knowledge but not necessarily enhancing your relationship with God. I suggest talking to God while using these tools. Ask Him questions and let Him guide, teach, and draw you closer.

Recommended Book: Search the Scriptures: A Three-Year Daily Devotional Guide to the Whole Bible

Search Scriptures

“The study of God’s Word is essential to spiritual growth. Still, a daily encounter with the Bible can be difficult to sustain. Search the Scriptures that can support you in your discipline of daily Bible study. Using a question-and-answer approach, it helps you discover God’s truth for yourself. Its built-in flexibility and clear presentation allow you to use its contents according to your own needs.” Bible Journaling Bible journaling can be used for creative or study purposes. I use a colorcoded system for studying and building a legacy. What greater gift can we leave behind than the knowledge God taught us in His Word?

“While knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.”

PINK: Cross-references. These are Bible passages that relate to one another. The primary purpose of cross-references is to help build context for the passage you’re reading. Let the Bible interrupt the Bible.

PURPLE: Commentary. A Bible commentary is a series of notes explaining the meaning of Scripture passages.

As you dive into the Word of God, I pray that you discover the truth you have been searching for. I ask God to illuminate Scripture and make it come alive for you. I pray that your heart is softened as you begin to see His kind character and the wonderful promises that have been written down for you. Open your Bible every day, friend. It has the power to change everything .

GREEN: Different translations. By reading multiple translations, a wider picture is painted. This is especially helpful in passages that are difficult to

ORANGE:understand.Definitions and original Hebrew or Greek language. The AMP and AMPC translations are also helpful for digging deeper into the meaning of a word.

Color coding system:

BLUE: Your notes. Write down your thoughts, prayers, questions, and things you sense God saying. Consider writing dates and times down for significant moments. Feel free to adjust and create your own system.

YELLOW: Repeated words. When you see something repeated multiple times, pay attention. God is driving a point home.

PRAY Father, what an incredible gift it is to have access to the Bible. Your word is a lamp that gives light wherever I walk. Help me see this text as sacred, open it as often as possible, and cherish it. I want to learn more about your character and how you see me. I give you permission to refine and sharpen me as I open your Word and learn the lessons You want to teach me. I ask that you give me a firm, biblical foundation so that the patterns of the world would not sway me. Amen.

LISTEN (YOUR___________________________________________,NAME)

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants. When I send out my words, it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let Me transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know My will for you, which is good, pleasing and perfect.

(Jeremiah 29:13, Deuteronomy 32:2, Isaiah 55:11, Romans 12:2)



moment longer to soak in the new morning's stillness. But alas, the day beckoned. I made my way to the glorious machine that faithfully pours out piping hot caffeine each day. We praise you, Father, for the gift that is Withcoffee.myBible and journal in hand, I curled up in my favorite corner of the couch and began to read, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, Lord, I am coming.’”


MAX LUCADO ef pressed the snooze button, still exhausted from the previous day’s comings and goings. Weary from the repetition of life, I lay in bed a

"Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference."


I imagine the Father expectantly waiting by the phone, eager to chat with His kids, looking forward to hearing their voices. He wants to know what is on our hearts and minds. He’s willing and ready to jump in and help when we ask for it.

This was exactly what my sleepy soul needed, a good one-onone conversation with my Dad. I opened my threadbare journal and let the words rush out. I didn’t care about messy penmanship or reckless grammar; I was too focused on the outpouring of my heart. Father, thank you for this day. Thank you that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for the sun shining, the birds chirping, and this quiet space you have gifted us. I’m tired, Papa. The never-ending to-do list has worn me out. I can’t do all of the things. I need your help discerning the best use of my time and attention. I ask for a fresh perspective of what truly matters in light of eternity. Help me to see things as you do. I know your plan for me is not burnout, so guide my steps and help me walk according to Your Spirit. Thank you for being a good Father. You are so kind and gracious. I love you. Amen. Prayer, in its simplest form, is a conversation with God. It’s as if we have a direct line to heaven. How cool would it be to have “GOD” saved in your favorites on your iPhone? With the click of a button, you have the Great Almighty listening on the other end. That is exactly what happens when we pray!


This simple, childlike view of prayer has not always been my perspective. At the beginning of my faith, I found prayer to be daunting. Was I doing it right? Was I required to get down on my knees with my fingers interlaced? Was I saying the wrong things? How in the world was I supposed to talk to an invisible being? I tried praying silently in my mind but just wound up thinking about my grocery list. I attempted to pray out loud, but that felt crazy. How did this prayer thing work? If you feel intimidated by prayer, please know that you are not alone. For the vast majority of us, prayer is a practice that requires cultivation. Learning how to pray is part of the process of growing in our relationship with God. Our faith will flourish as we develop and activate this connection with Him

The Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, and Strength Finders were created to identify our individual characteristics and personality types. God has never duplicated a human being. Even identical twins are not the same. The only thing my twins have in common is that they share a birthday! With that in mind, it stands to reason that we all pray differently. You may find it easiest to talk with God while walking outdoors or driving to work. Maybe you are an early bird who prays before the sun comes up while the house is still quiet. Perhaps journaling helps you process your thoughts and go deeper with God. It may be that you connect with God while praying alongside others. As we discuss prayer, I want to encourage you with two suggestions: Embrace the way you have been created and be open to praying in new ways. Trust God to guide you in the process and be willing to learn methods that may be unfamiliar to you.

Just like toddlers, we, too, are susceptible to hissy fits. We don’t like waiting. We don’t like when things don’t go our way. We don’t like being told no when we want to hear yes. While outbursts shouldn’t be our goal, when bad attitudes do arise, we can trust that God will be our safe place.God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1) He is big enough to handle our big feelings. We can bring Him our tears, questions, and doubts. We don’t need to walk on eggshells, worrying about saying the wrong thing. We don’t need to put on a fake, smiling face before coming to Him. If we have an authentic relationship with God, our conversations with Him must be honest. Remember grace and truth? We can be honest with God and give Him the respect He deserves.


There was no reason to hide my anger. God knew how I was feeling, so I poured it all out. When our kids were little and had temper tantrums, my sister-inlaw gave me this insightful piece of encouragement, “When your kids give you their worst, take it as a compliment. It means that you are their safe place. They are comfortable having a meltdown with you because they know they can trust you.”

Cancer is not a stranger to our family. This disease has reared its ugly head in my life, my sons, my parents, and many other loved ones. Recently a friend was diagnosed, and I was heartbroken over the pain and struggle she was about to endure. I had a full-on meltdown with God. I cried tears of frustration and agony while asking God why. Why does cancer exist? Why do so many good people endure so much pain? Why do the hits keep on coming? Why won’t you let us come up for air to catch our breath?

I returned to God a couple of days after my outburst and apologized for my behavior. I asked for forgiveness and admitted that I wasn’t actually mad at Him, knowing He was not the one to cause cancer. I turned my focus from the problem to the promise: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)

God is worthy to be praised even when things are bad because He is the One who will mend and redeem everything. He will rectify every wrong, bring beauty from the ashes. God is incredibly worthy of our respect and adoration.


We lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for ten years. While we loved our church and friends, we knew it wasn’t our forever home. In 2015, I began asking God, “Where do you want our family to live? We will go anywhere you say.” Bold prayer, right? Anywhere was particularly risky, considering

“So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. ” (Hebrews 10:22-23, GNT) When was the last time you had an honest conversation with God? Before you flip the page, take a minute to talk with Him. What are you grateful for? What is consuming your thoughts right now? Are you confused, heartbroken, or frustrated with a situation? Perhaps your most authentic prayer is simply, “Hi, God. It’s been a while. How are you? Help me to reconnect with you. Amen.”

we had two nine-month-olds at the time. What if God asked us to move to a foreign country, thousands of miles away from our families? Or, heaven forbid, He called us to a city covered in snow most of the year? I’m a southern girl with a deeply rooted love and affection for sunshine.

The long list of what ifs didn’t scare me, though, because I trusted God. I believed Him when He said, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Goodness gracious, the Lord is so kind. He easily could have directed us to a specific place, which would have been fine, but instead, He was giving us a choice.

Bob Goff says it magnificently, “I think a father’s job, when it’s done best, is to get down on both knees, lean over his children’s lives,


I was confident that He would go with us even if He called us somewhere challenging. I reasoned that with God at our side, there was no reason to fear. So for a solid year, I prayed those words repeatedly.

When we think of discerning God’s will for our life, it’s easy to conjure up the image of a Commander ordering, directing, and forcing our footsteps. While He is the Boss, I wonder if, more often than not, He is more comparable to a Father than a Chief?

“Lord, where do you want us? We will go anywhere.” One day, I heard His familiar whisper, “You choose. I’ll use you wherever you are.”

and whisper, ‘Where do you want to go?’ Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, ‘Let’s go do THAT together.’” God was inviting us into a new kind of adventure! Through the process of elimination, Brad and I eventually landed on Asheville, North Carolina. The area met our criteria of having abundant outdoor activities, quiet spaces, and a slow pace. It kept us on the East Coast to not move us even further from our family, and there were several church communities we were interested in, which was a top priority. Decision made! Asheville, it was! Now, we needed to find a home. For months, we looked at property after property, never feeling like we found “the one.” Just as we were about to take a break from house-hunting, a new piece of land came on the market. This wasn’t your average place to build a home, however. It was ten acres on a mountaintop. As we started driving up the deserted, incredibly steep, twisty driveway, I said to God, you have to be kidding me. I’m not a huge fan of heights, so this edge-of-a-cliff entrance did not thrill me. Nevertheless, up and up we went. We reached the summit expecting to discover beautiful mountainscapes and cascading hilltops, but instead, we were met by tall grass and scraggly trees. No long-range, pristine mountain views, only overgrownThisbrush.parcel of land that was once meant to be the pinnacle of this mountain community had been abandoned and forgotten. Yet, Brad and I both saw the opportunity in front of us. The possibilities of this land were staggering. We knew it could be a special place with some vision, hard work, and years of cultivation.

The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.” Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 36:34-36, NIV, my emphasis added.)

(ExodusAs33:15-16)impressive as this place was, if God wasn’t in it, I didn’t want it. So over the next few days, I immersed myself in the Word, asking for His confirmation that we were supposed to purchase this land.

Could this be the place God had in mind for us? Was He going to make the impossible possible? I walked to the far side of the land to get quiet and talk to God. Father, this is crazy. That driveway is scary. Do You seriously want us to raise two young children on a mountaintop? I don’t know how we’re going to afford this dream. Everything about this is so impractical, but… I can see the potential. Then I heard them: church bells. They were chiming in the valley below, and I heard quietly in my spirit, “I give good gifts to my kids.”

(Look up James 1:17) This wasn’t good land; this was exceedingly-immeasurably-farmore-abundantly-beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or wildest dreams kind of Iland.walked from the bottom of the mountain to the top and prayed Moses’s words, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”

... whoever takes refuge in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13)

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah 1:19)

While God gave us the freedom to choose the town we wanted to live in, this decision felt different. I remember telling Brad, “If we don’t buy this land, we will be deliberately disobeying God.” We didn’t know how we would build a house up here, but we were confident that God was instructing us to take a leap of faith and move forward with it.


Repeatedly, I felt the Holy Spirit guide me to verses about mountains and land.

... the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)

As my favorite author, Mark Batterson, says, “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers.” We have story after story of how God made our home possible. This house—what we call Huxter House on a Hill—has been a haven, a place of peace, and a shelter from the storm for so many people. We have hosted worship nights and weddings, parties and proms. In March 2020, our house turned into a sanctuary, as our church filmed its Sunday services from this mountaintop.

That is a perfect segue into our next approach in prayer. In the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus shows us how we are to keep praying and never give up .


Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:1-8)

Be brave and gutsy with your prayers. Don’t hold back! He is GOD. Nothing is too hard for Him! Boldly ask for dreams and ideas that will benefit other people and glorify His name. Ask God to fill you with His courageous and confident Spirit, then follow His lead. Do you have a prayer that feels absolutely beyond the bounds of possibility? Friend, that is where God shines! Ask Him for the unimaginable. What is the most audacious prayer you’ve ever prayed? What was the outcome? If you are still waiting for a response, I double-dog-dare you to ask again .

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

The judge completely ignores the woman’s request, but she refuses to give up. Day after day, this determined lady comes back again and again. Eventually, the judge says to himself, "This woman is driving me crazy." The widow then receives the justice she sought.


Jesus explains His point: If an uncaring, unfit, ungodly judge responds with justice in the end, how much more will a loving and holy Father give what is right to His children? We will not always get immediate results when we pray. There will be moments, perhaps even years, that will require us to be more tenacious than we ever thought possible. We will need to put on our boxing gloves and fight for the prayers burning inside of our chests.

We must learn that prayer never gives up and is based on absolute trust and faith in God. We can fully count on the Lord to answer when, where, and how He chooses. God expects us to keep asking, seeking, knocking, and praying until the answers come. (Matthew 7:7-8) We are called to be people of persistent faith. Do you have a loved one so far from God that it feels impossible to see them saved? Have you been begging God for years to give you children? Do you feel as if you have been stuck in a cycle of fear and doubt? Are you desperate for healing? I realize these circumstances aren’t small, but I urge you to ask again .



I decided to start a magazine in 2012 due to a series of God-ordained events. I wanted to create a wedding publication that provided beautiful inspiration and equipped newlyweds for marriage. Additionally, it was a subtle way of getting the Gospel into a worldly market because the content was based on Christian beliefs.

For months, our team prayed and planned. This was no small task, and there were a thousand moving pieces. When I say this wouldn’t have been possible without God, I am not exaggerating. There were so many things outside our skill set and available resources, but we saw God come through time after time. “Of course, He did!” became a catchphrase around the office. (By office, I mean the tiny log cabin Brad and I lived in at the time. Don’t despise humble beginnings, friends.)

But the clearest answer to prayer we saw happened a few days before sending our first issue to print. Publishing a magazine is not a cheap venture. The first issue, distribution, and launch party were going to cost $25,000. We had miraculously sold $6,000 in advertising. The reason I refer to this as a miracle is two-fold:

a) The magazine didn’t exist yet! We had nothing to show our potential advertisers. All we had to offer was our passion and vision.

b.) I was the one attempting to sell our print ad spaces. Unlike my extraordinarily talented husband, who could sell ice to an Eskimo, I am likelier to give something away rather than ask someone to sign on the dotted line. After deducting our advertising earnings, we still needed to come up with $19,000. So we prayed. We specifically asked God to provide $19,000.

Three days before the magazine went to print, I was at a friend’s house when I received a call. Brad was on the other end, giggling. Straight-up giggling, but before I could question his unusual behavior, he said, “I know how we’re going to pay for the magazine!”

Well, fast-forward to the giggling phone call. Brad had dinner with his friends that evening, and halfway through the meal, one of them said, “Business has been going well. We’d like to pay you for the design work you have done for us.” Then he slid a check over to Brad. Guess the amount? That’s right—$19,000. I couldn’t believe it! I would have rounded up simply to make it a nice, even number. But no, this check was for the exact amount we prayed want to see God come through in your life? Pray specifically.

When my children were toddlers, I bought each of them a Bible with wide margins and had their name engraved on the front. Once a month, I take out their Bibles so that I can intentionally pray for them. I ask God to draw them in and keep them close. My number one prayer for my kids is that they would know God. Not because Brad and I do,


Brad had a few friends who started a business a couple of years prior. At the time, they needed marketing materials but couldn’t afford to hire Brad. He offered his services and simply said, “If you’re ever able to pay me, great. If not, don’t worry about it. I’m happy to help.”

Have you ever been pushed to the brink, wondering if God will show up? In my experience, He’s never late, but He’s usually not early either. While I would have preferred a little more margin and extra breathing room, God came through in the nick of time.

• Set a daily alarm to pray for a specific situation or person.


jot down prayers, notes, and song lyrics in the margins. I write down details about our life here and now, things like, “I want to be a movie maker when I grow up” (Dawson, age 8) and “I want to have three kids; their names are going to be Ada, Karis, and Joy” (Maddie, age 8).

With a little effort and forethought, intentional prayer can make a lasting impact. Ideas for intentional prayer:

• Put a sticky note in your car to remind yourself of prayer requests.

• Purchase a prayer journal such as the one available from Val Marie Paper (

• Download the Pray First app.

Perhaps He will speak life and identity over them when they struggle to find their place in this world. When and how God uses this small, faithful act is out of my hands. But I do not doubt that He will multiply prayers and promises through it.

but because they want to. I pray they experience for themselves how incredibly good He is, how faith makes everything else come alive and brings light to a dim world.

I place these little snippets of their childhood next to relevant verses so that they can return to God’s words and promises and remember Who has I will give them these Bibles. I wonder if God will say something prophetic through this intentional task. Maybe He will remind them how cherished and loved they are when reassurance is needed most.

• Instead of telling a friend, “I’ll pray for you,” ask if you can pray together at that moment or send an actual prayer via text.

• Join the prayer team at church.

Prayer has the power to change our circumstances. Prayer moves God from the fringe to the center of our lives. Prayer can influence schools, cities, and nations.


• This year, I wrote down the names of my kids' classmates. I keep the list in my Bible and pray for this sweet bunch every chance I get! Make your own list of people you want to pray for, and keep it somewhere you see often.

• Offer to pray for people on social media. This is hands-down my favorite way to utilize our online influence.


• Frame photographs of your family and pray for them when you see the pictures. I have a photo collage in my office with the people I pray for most often.

When we pray honestly, boldly, persistently, specifically, and intentionally we will see God move! My buddy, Mr. Sproul, is back with another profound piece of wisdom, “Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.”

Prayer continues to exist long after we are gone, impacting future generations. But most of all, prayer keeps us close to the One who loves us the most.

I recently found my first prayer journal tucked away in a keepsake box. It is a tiny book with a whopping 20 pages. At the start of my faith, I found large journals intimidating, so I opted for this itty-bitty version.

“I am here, Lord. Send me.”

That was the first prayer I ever wrote. Little did I know what request I had just made! The Bible was brand-new to me at this point, so I was not familiar with the verse from Isaiah, “Then I heard the Lord asking, ‘Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?’ I said, ‘ Here I am. Send me. ’” (Isaiah 6:8, my emphasis added) Ask the Holy Spirit to guide and prompt your prayers because He will do it.

Written on the first page is a single yet profoundly powerful prayer. A prayer that I daresay did not originate from my stellar insight or knowledge.

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You are welcome to be shamelessly persistent. Remember how I walk in grace and truth? In prayer, that is your road to follow as well. Pray audaciously and submit humbly. Follow up every request by saying, "I want your will to be done, not mine.” If you want to be my follower, you must give up your own way, express a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow me.


PRAY Father, teach me how to pray! Help me develop and activate this connection with You so my faith can flourish. Put a fiery spirit within me that never shrinks back because of fear or settles for second best. Train me to pray honestly, respectfully, boldly, persistently, specifically, and intentionally so that I can personally see You move! Amen.

(Luke 11:9-10, 5-8, Luke 22:42, Matthew 16:24)



Do you struggle to be in an active relationship with God? Have distractions or lack of a routine kept you from the daily practices of Bible study and prayer? Are you looking for more direction, confidence, and joy in your faith?

Discover the life-giving rhythms of drawing close to God. Fellow faith sojourner Stephanie Huxter shows how it is possible to juggle life and spend intentional time with God. In an easy-to-read, approachable manner, Stephanie offers women the opportunity to lay down their to-do list and make room for God to move. Full of beautiful inspiration and practical application, this book will awaken your desire for a more dynamic faith. Stephanie Huxter's central aim is to live a faithful life, one day at a time. She lives with her husband Brad and their two children in Asheville, NC. Passionate about creating beautiful spaces where people can catch their breath and connect with their Creator, the Huxters regularly invite people to their mountaintop home. Learn more about their ministry at

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