Possible

Our key theme for the new year at our church is Possible.

You know the verse from Philippians 4 that says, “For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  It is one of my personal favorites. I use it in prayer often and when I am needing to tackle something that feels so very beyond me. Our pastors have been speaking on the possible with God. This past week one of our pastors shared a message of hope that lead us to be intentional. I am going to share with you some of her words and add in a few of my own thoughts as well.

The theme was this: Run with purpose in every step.

Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing is impossible.” Sometimes impossible is just life. It is the daily living that we have to get through. It is getting out of bed and taking that first step of the day. Our pastored shared what a normal day looks like in her life. I am going to share with you one of my “normal” days.

Wake enough to send David off on his day with an “I love you.”

Wake for real by 6:30 (normally that happens at 7) and grab on a sweatshirt.

Head to the quiet and still dark livingroom to sit with the hot coffee poured into the favorite mug. Grab up my Bible and study and open with a short prayer for focus

Spend an hour of study and prayer time in quiet. (This is usually interrupted by my son so I send him to his room to play or read quietly and not be loud.)

Wake the rest of the sleeping children to begin chores. This is usually met with resistance. We are not morning people.

Do my own chores and prepare for the school day. We homeschool.

Make sure they finish chores and get breakfast. I will continue to finish up my email or message checks and do anything I need to finish for the Titus II Woman blog, FB, or email.

Get the older two started with school and plan with the little two. I start school with the youngest right after lunch.

Lunch.

School.

Quiet time for them. Dinner prep for me and any other chores needing done.

Feed my family and welcome the hubby home.

After dinner chores.

Family time until bed at for the little two and ten for the older two.

Finish up anything I didn’t get done and pray for a day of peace tomorrow.

Now, you know that this list pretty vague. A lot happens in a day that we do not foresee and so every detail would literally be about 4000 words typed into a chapter f a book. It would probably be a pretty boring read for most people, but when you are the one living it, it sometimes just feels so very impossible to get through.

I have gotten to a point where I know that everything I do in this life needs to be done with purpose. Every step, every word, and every action needs to have a purpose behind it. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) Are you running with purpose? Here is what our pastor supplied us with on Sunday to let us know that we can do this.

  1. We have everything we need to succeed.  2 Peter 1:3 (NLT) says, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.”
  2. He has given us the instruction in His Word.
  3. He has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth and to remind us of the things Jesus has said. (John 14)
  4. He has given us a community of believers to encourage, pray, walk alongside us.
  5. You can do it.  Philippians 4:13, “For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Be intentional in the way we live. It is possible. We have the tools and the grace to empower us. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” I’ve have witnessed this in my own life and continue to walk each day asking God to just show me the steps for today.
  6. It’s possible.  Luke 1:37, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Sometimes we need to realize that God’s message to us is just to be practical. We don’t have to have a supernatural encounter to hear God or see God. It is almost always in the practical. Our pastor said this, “God’s mission should be our mission. We are called to share the “good news of great joy that is for all people.” It’s not about us; it’s about God’s purpose and God’s plan.” 1 Corinthians 9:25-26 are two verses that we can hide in our hearts to claim and redeem, “All athletes are disciplines in their training.  They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step.”

Lord, help me to run with purpose. I need to remember that my life is not about me, but it is yours and I gave it to you so that you could use me to accomplish your mission here. There are so many days that feel or seem like they are just impossible, but you have told me different. I know they are not impossible because I have you standing with me. Help me to always remember this teaching from you. Amen.

Tara DeMaris

Tara, graduate of Crown College, is the mother to four beautiful children.  Together, Tara and her husband, David, and their family make their home in North Pole, Alaska.  Tara is passionate about reaching the hearts of women and young ladies.  She loves to write and teach God's Word.  God put a desire in Tara's heart over seven years ago to start a ministry that reached women and today she has founded Titus II Woman Ministry.  God is showing her miracles and his hand at work every day.

Tara, graduate of Crown College, is the mother to four beautiful children. Together, Tara and her husband, David, and their family make their home in North Pole, Alaska. Tara is passionate about reaching the hearts of women and young ladies. She loves to write and teach God’s Word. God put a desire in Tara’s heart over seven years ago to start a ministry that reached women and today she has founded Titus II Woman Ministry. God is showing her miracles and his hand at work every day.

One Day At a Time

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)

The Lord’s Prayer, one of the best known passages of scripture. Apart from Psalm 23 and John 3:16, I would say this is the most quoted and recited passage in the scriptures. It transcends religious lines and makes its way into even the most secular of meetings. Yet hidden away in this great prayer is a mighty truth that is often overlooked.

My life lately has been filled with trying to make a budget for a new ministry and find donors to support it. Our family functions as missionaries where financial resources are concerned. While most days my husband and I can say we fully trust God to provide our needs, sometimes doubt creeps in and you start to worry. We had one of said days just last week. As a matter of a fact, the whole week was inundated with us trying to figure things out. Where was the money going to come from? How could we work around the financial wall we thought was in front of us? What about retirement? College for the kids? Home repairs and improvements? This discussion went on and on.

As I was praying about this struggle, I remembered a nugget of truth tucked inside this prayer. Give us today our daily bread. (Emphasis mine) God wasn’t going to give us a 15 year plan that day. He wasn’t going to show us how our ministry was going to be fully funded for this year or the next five. He wasn’t going to show us a formula to be able to save enough for retirement, college or other needs and wants. He was going to give us what we needed each day. Much like the Israelites could only gather manna in the desert, enough for each day, God instructs us to pray for to have him give us our daily bread.

UFF! I don’t like that! I’m a planner by nature. Type A to the hilt. Every personality test I’ve ever taken places planner, administrator, organizer or the like at the top of my list. “So God you really want me to pray just enough for this day? Really?” As I’ve pondered the Israelite story I think it comes back to training them in faith. 40 years it took them. Every day only gathering enough for that day, (minus the Sabbath day) if they kept more then they needed it rotted, was filled with maggots and smelled horribly….true story. (Exodus 16) But remember why they were wandering there anyway? They didn’t trust God when he said to enter the Promised Land. The fear of the unknown kept them from trusting the Lord to provide a way. Usher in a 40 year walk in the desert. Their only food? You got it, provided each day no more no less. What a lesson.

So back to me, us really if you’ve ever worried about the future, do you think maybe God is training us in faith when he asks us to depend on him to provide just our daily needs, not give us a 15 year plan. For planner like me it takes a daily decision of saying, “Ok God you got this, I trust you for today.” I just hope I can learn from history and avoid the 40 year walk!

Lord, I pray for those struggling with trusting you to provide. Sometimes you only provide our daily needs and for planners and organizers that sends us into a frenzy! Move in hearts and bring peace and trust that only you can bring. Help us trust you more each day in the walk of faith training called the Christian life. Amen

Amanda Keller

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan.  While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in Bismarck, North Dakota.  Amanda's passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter.  Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College.  "your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise." ~Andy Stanley

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan. While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in Bismarck, North Dakota. Amanda’s passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. “your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise.” ~Andy Stanley

How I Keep Perspective

Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)

Here is the very harsh reality of being a Christian. It sometimes sucks. Honestly.

I love My Lord and I will serve him, but this choice comes with cost. It is hard and there is but one certainty; a life lived in complete devotion to honor God in all you do gives eternal life in heaven. You will not find a single passage that says making the choice to follow Christ will be an easy path or safe. In fact, Jesus warns us that this will be a life of trial and tribulation. Persecution will come.

Growing up I always heard, “there is a reason for everything that happens.” That may be, but I have come to hate it when people tell me this after revealing a particularly hard situation that just feels impossible.  So, I decided that I will not use this phrase with anyone who takes comfort in me with their troubled heart. I decided that I would listen and not try to solve, I would be a shoulder or a friend and not be the answer to their dilemma.

Contrary to what many believe, I do not have the answers to much at all. I don’t even have the answers to my own hardships. I can’t be expected to know what to say or do in someone else’s walk. I have found that there is but one Person who has the answers and they are rarely revealed until after we have moved passed the hurt of the situation.

I don’t know why you have lost those babies that were placed within your womb’s. I don’t know why your family member, who has had such an intimate relationship with our Father, got the call that they have cancer and won’t live long. I don’t know why Christians are persecuted in the middle east or why ISIS attacks at every corner. I don’t understand imprisonment for a personal relationship with God. I just don’t have the answers.

My heart weeps for you and those who are hurting for reasons beyond our understanding. I have things in my own life that I will never be able to comprehend until I enter heaven one day and am able to ask Jesus as I walk by his side. And, even then, I will no longer care why I went through all this. I will never know the answer to unnecessary pain.

Ladies, we live in such a fallen world. We are part of the future of this planet; it will come to an end. Here is what I try to focus on to always remember that though I walk through the vale o the shadow o death…my purpose, no matter what situation I face, while I am granted one more day is to glorify God in all I do. Right where I am. Homeschooling. Cooking. Praying. Volunteering. Whatever it is that I am doing, I must do it to bring glory to God and know that all that I walk through is for His understanding and reach even just one more life. It isn’t the number of people who come to know God through you that matters, but that you did all you could to reach even just one.

Do you see how you can make such an impact when you change the way you choose to look at the world around you? God’s perspective. He is our King. We live to serve Him and Him alone. How are you living to glorify God right where you are? Are you mothering small children? Are you homeschooling your brood? Are you singing with the worship team? Serving with the homeless shelter? Being a friend to the friendless? Do you see your impact yet?

My Lord, I lose sight of my purpose because of selfish gain. I want to know Your plans for me and ask why most of the time, but I need to be reminded that it isn’t always for me to know. I just ask that you guide the path I am on and in whatever You bring for me to do, may I do it with a glad heart to honor You. I am Your servant; Your vessel. Do with my life as you please. Amen.

Tara DeMaris

Tara, graduate of Crown College, is the mother to four beautiful children.  Together, Tara and her husband, David, and their family make their home in North Pole, Alaska.  Tara is passionate about reaching the hearts of women and young ladies.  She loves to write and teach God's Word.  God put a desire in Tara's heart over seven years ago to start a ministry that reached women and today she has founded Titus II Woman Ministry.  God is showing her miracles and his hand at work every day.

Tara, graduate of Crown College, is the mother to four beautiful children. Together, Tara and her husband, David, and their family make their home in North Pole, Alaska. Tara is passionate about reaching the hearts of women and young ladies. She loves to write and teach God’s Word. God put a desire in Tara’s heart over seven years ago to start a ministry that reached women and today she has founded Titus II Woman Ministry. God is showing her miracles and his hand at work every day.

Filling Your Lamp

Since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by the women of the scriptures. They have been wonderful teaching resources for me as I have grown from a child to a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a daughter of God.  It has not been an easy transition. Let me tell you. I am human. I am flawed. I am stubborn. But now as I raise two, human, flawed, and stubborn daughters of my own, I look to the women of the scriptures to help guide me in raising my girls.

 My favorite women of the scriptures come from Matthew chapter 25, verses 1-13, the parable of the 10 virgins. If you are not familiar with the story, it’s a good one.  Traditionally amongst the Jews, the bridegroom would come at night for the bride, where her bridesmaids were attending to her. Upon his approach, the bridesmaids would go out with lamps and light his way to the home for a celebration. In this parable, Christ taught that the kingdom of heaven was like 10 virgins; 5 of them were wise and 5 of them were foolish. The ones that were foolish took their lamps with no oil; the 5 that were wise took oil with them to the house of the bride. They rested while they waited for the bridegroom to arrive. When the time came to go light the way for the bride groom, the wise virgins got their lamps ready and lit them. The foolish girls begged the wise girls for their oil, for they had none. The wise virgins told the foolish ones to go purchase some oil for their lamps. So they left to get oil, and the wise girls took their lights and were beacons of light for the bridegroom. They all went into the celebration together, and they shut the doors.  The foolish girls who had left to get oil missed the party. But that is not all that Christ taught. When the foolish virgins came back from purchasing their oil, they came to the door to be let in. They were told that they were not known to the Lord, and that they should be careful and watch for they do not know the day or the time which the Son of man will arrive.  Wow! What a story to teach us to always be prepared and do what we can for ourselves to be ready for the coming of Christ.

As I have studied this parable over and over again in my life and looked to share this with my children, I have looked to all of the little parts of the story. I have come to see myself as an oil (the spirit and light of Christ) lamp. I can shine bright and light the way for others to come onto Christ. Or, I can be dim and just sustain a little bit of light for myself, or I can be completely dark and empty and have nothing to give. A lamp can be full of oil (the spirit and light of Christ), but when you tip the lamp the oil (the light of Christ) can be poured from it. I liken this to sin. I sin. I sin a lot. I am imperfect. But I can add a drop back to my oil lamp each and every time I repent. So when I sin, oil is poured from (me) my lamp. When I repent, oil is added to (me) my lamp. There are other ways I can add oil (the spirit and light of Christ). Attending my church meetings and answering the call to serve in church auxiliaries is a way that I add oil to my lamp. Keeping the covenants I made at baptism helps to refill the oil. Keeping to the commandments refills the oil. Another great way I add oil to my lamp is to serve other people. My oldest and I like to work at the clothes closet and food bank and soup kitchens. Reading scriptures and prayer as a family are great ways to add oil (light of Christ) to my lamp. Writing for Titus II Woman is another way that I add oil to my lamp. Sharing my love of Christ and my testimony with all of the readers fills my lamp.  Will you leave your lamp empty, or will you shine bright for all to see?

There are so many ways that we can add oil to our lamps. Sisters, I testify to you that as we grow in our relationship with Christ and our heavenly Father, we will seek to find new ways to fill our oil lamps so that we can shine brighter and bring others to Christ, so that no one is ever left out in the dark.  I leave this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

How will you fill your oil lamp?

Alethea Gaukel

Alethea, Ally for short, has three wonderful children, whom she homeschools, and a fine husband, Chuck.  Ally grew up in northern California before making her home in rural northwest Missouri for many years. Recently they have moved to Idaho.  She loves helping others by being a friend, inspiring them to take action in their own lives financially, spiritually and in health.  She loves the Lord and wants to share His message.  Her family supports Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri as well as ReStart, an interfaith shelter system to help families  and grown foster children find places to live.  James 1:8, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him as of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (KJV)

Alethea, Ally for short, has three wonderful children, whom she homeschools, and a fine husband, Chuck. Ally grew up in northern California before making her home in rural northwest Missouri for many years. Recently they have moved to Idaho. She loves helping others by being a friend, inspiring them to take action in their own lives financially, spiritually and in health. She loves the Lord and wants to share His message. Her family supports Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri as well as ReStart, an interfaith shelter system to help families and grown foster children find places to live. James 1:8, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him as of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (KJV)

No Shame

We were running late for school. Ben couldn’t find his shoes and Deven didn’t like the socks I set out for him. Jabez wasn’t quite ready to wake up and the baby, Lydia, was ready for her breakfast nursing. Everything was chaotic and on the way to school. I yelled at the boys about the importance of getting to school on time.

When the babies and I got back home from dropping the boys at school, we settled in for breakfast and I scrolled through Facebook. I saw several posts; judgmental posts from moms in my newsfeed about other people. I saw a couple of shared “Mommy Blog” titles about some controversial parenting topics. Everywhere I turn it seems people are shaming other parents. Breastfeeding vs. Bottle-Feeding. Public Breastfeeding or Not. Co-sleeping vs. Crib sleeping Forms of Disciplining and many more topics are buzzing in parenting communities. On this particular day it all had me so frustrated. I do the best I can. I mess up, a lot, and sometimes I do great! But the “mommy shaming” is not from the Lord!

Romans 10:11 states, “Anyone who believes in Christ shall not be put to shame.” I receive that! It may not be specifically related to parenting, but I believe it applies! As a born-again believer of Christ Jesus, I don’t need to be torn with guilt and shame for the way I parent. I make decisions every day that I feel are best for our family and every day I make mistakes as a mom, but I cannot allow other people and their insecurities or self-centered opinions to wash me in shame.

In Christ, our mistakes are as far as the east is from the west; cast into a sea of forgetfulness. Christ gives us grace!

Shame reminds us of our mistakes, Grace gives us room to improve them! Shame blames us for bad things that happen, Grace comforts us when they do. Shame causes us to second guess decisions, Grace guides us in making the best choices. Shame compares us to others, Grace gives us boldness to stand firm. Shame brings doubt, Grace brings confidence. Stop shaming, comparing, judging other women and moms. And stop allowing yourself to be shamed!

In Christ–there is No Shame! In the coming weeks, I challenge each of you to extend Grace to another parent who perhaps does things differently than you. Or better yet–allow Grace for yourself when things aren’t going according to plan.

Tiffany Heth

Tiffany is the mother to four amazing children, all God's miracle to their family, and she cherishes every moment given her to be with them.  John, Tiffany's husband, and their family make their home in Iowa, where they minister to a congregation of fellow believers.  Tiffany is not only a breast-feeding, cloth-diapering mother and a pastor's wife, but she takes great joy in nourishing her family with the wild game that they have been fortunate enough to harvest.  "How great is the Father's love for us that we shall be called children of God, for that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

Tiffany is the mother to four amazing children, all God’s miracle to their family, and she cherishes every moment given her to be with them. John, Tiffany’s husband, and their family make their home in Iowa, where they minister to a congregation of fellow believers. Tiffany is not only a breast-feeding, cloth-diapering mother and a pastor’s wife, but she takes great joy in nourishing her family with the wild game that they have been fortunate enough to harvest. “How great is the Father’s love for us that we shall be called children of God, for that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Becoming Less

“He must become greater; I must become less.” – John the Baptist

becoming less

It’s true. He must become greater and I must become less. But I think sometimes if I am honest, though my spirit understands, my soul and my flesh lag behind. And the way that happens, isn’t always so obvious to me. Let me explain.

I really get Martha, in the Bible, when she was frustrated because Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus. Here she was trying to make a presentable environment; cleaning, preparing food, etc. and her counterpart is just sitting, watching Jesus talk. I mean, seriously, the productive mentality in me just goes nuts! I don’t want people coming over to my house when it’s a mess! And I certainly want to have something to offer them besides toys all over the floor, clean laundry piled up on the kitchen counter, and left overs of P.B. & J’s scattered across my kitchen! Yeah, I would be with her on the whole clean up committee thing, but we know the story: Jesus tells Martha that Mary (the one who was sitting on the job) had chosen the better thing.

There’s something for us to learn here ladies. I’m not just talking about a messy house, because honestly, even when I don’t have people over at my house, I don’t enjoy a messy house. I feel a lot better when I can smell the newly mopped floor and the clean laundry that I know is folded and ready to be put away. But it can even sneak into our ministry mentality. We get so busy “doing” ministry, for the Lord mind you, but somehow it becomes more about what we are “doing” than what He wants for us to be doing. Martha wanted to clean, but Jesus wanted her to just receive from Him.

I think in my life so many times, in ministry, in family life, and in my personal life, I get so focused on what I am “doing,” what I am “producing,” that I don’t really rest in him. Then it just builds upon itself. It becomes more and more about the results that I can produce than the life and the rest that I find in Him. I don’t want to base my self-worth off of my results, but rather find my peace in living, finding true rest at the feet of Jesus.

God, thank you, that you are constantly reaching out to show me that you desire relationship with me. That it’s not what I can produce, but rather the more I rest in you, the more truly effective I become. Show me how to trust you. That you work out all things together for my good, and sometimes the better way is just simply resting at your feet. Thank you, I love you. Amen.

Karissa Nelson

Karissa has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, but on top of that talent and gift God has given her, she is a mother to three beautiful children and a helpmate to her husband, Shane. Together they raise their family and minister in Milton-Freewater, Oregon where Karissa grew up. Her passion for worship and family surround her daily. Isaiah 30:15, "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'Is repentance and rest in your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength'" (NIV).

Karissa has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, but on top of that talent and gift God has given her, she is a mother to three beautiful children and a helpmate to her husband, Shane. Together they raise their family and minister in Milton-Freewater, Oregon where Karissa grew up. Her passion for worship and family surround her daily. Isaiah 30:15, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Is repentance and rest in your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength'” (NIV).

Beyond Our Steps

Do any of you have an annual event that blocks off more of your time and energy creating and preparing for it than the event itself takes? For me, this would be our church’s VBS week. As the director, I find myself praying over it, planning it, and supporting it year around. The heaviest part of the work falls in June and July when I’m advertising it, training and encouraging volunteers, and working with teams to build props and sets for this one week that we immerse ourselves in the beginning of August each year.

Oh, but it is worth it. I ride so high with the Spirit through that week. I almost become a kid again, and as the week comes to a close I find myself shedding a tear or two along with the kids who don’t want to go home. I actually have a process, or steps that I take, for decompressing in the weeks after the VBS week to help me “grieve.” I do! I have to for the good of those around me.

Step 1: I sleep! It is the first good sleep I have usually had in weeks, probably months.

Step 2: I pray. I pull out the registration lists and my volunteer lists, and I pray over all of the kids, youth, and adults I spent the week with and all of their families. We’ve just had an intense week together with GOD; it is time to thank the LORD for this experience and ask for His protection over all of us. It is prime attack time and we surely do need His mighty presence and shelter.

Step 3: I write. Kids love getting mail, don’t they? Well, I love them, and I want to let them know it. I have pictures taken of each child during the VBS week, and I send a copy of my favorite one to each of the kids along with a special note that I mail to them.

Step 4: I clean up. Sometimes I have to take down our sets and decorations immediately following the final night of VBS, but in my heart, my VBS sets and decorations are up until I have emotionally sent them home with each of the kids who joined us during our VBS week.

Step 5: I begin over. I take a deep breath and try to gently return to some semblance of life outside of VBS, but I end up studying programs and praying over the program we will use for the next year. Once I have made a decision and order it, then I can relax and dream up new fun for next year.

Listen, I wasn’t raised in the church when I was a child. The few years of my life that my parents sent me on the “Sunday School” bus were not the best for a lost little girl to experience, but I do have fond memories of the two times I attended VBS. It is such a blessing for me to be used in this ministry now as a Christ knowing and loving adult.

Each year I have been given a chance to create an exciting whole new world for the kids of our church and our community to walk into and feel at ease and safe in while they encounter God. For some of these kids it’s their first encounter. It is so important to me that it is a positive experience for them. God is love, and I want to show these kids His love through everything I have to give them. Actually, through more than I have to give them. I’m so thankful I have the power and love of Jesus in me because there are so many times when I fail or things get overwhelming. He takes control when I stop getting in His way, and then things go right.

He provides above and beyond what I can and what our little church is able to. He is always there. He is in all of the details of the sets, props, and decorations. He is there at the front door greeting each child with a high five or a hug. He is there walking the shy ones through the registration process. He is there comforting nervous parents and children going through separation anxiety. He is there celebrating in music and prayer on the stage. He is in the words of the lessons and activities. He is in every giggle and smile. He is there, and I am getting excited over joining Him all over again this year.

It’s January, and the new VBS curriculum will arrive any day now. I am looking forward to it, if you hadn’t already guessed this. I ask you to think of me and lift our little program up in prayer when you feel the nudge; I covet those prayers. I pray you are blessed in your calling and know the fire of the Holy Spirit in all your vision and preparation for this year’s event in your life. Be blessed dear sisters, be vigilant, and remember when things begin to go awry, fall to your knees in prayer so you will be out of the LORD’s way while He works.

LORD, Psalm 40 verse 5 speaks for me: “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” And Psalm 16: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Father God, I come before your throne in awe and wonder and filled with the anticipation of a child awaiting a special encounter with her Father. I pray my sisters here will know the awesome power of your hand in all they do. Bless them Father. Bless this year with revival and set our hearts on fire for You. Amen.

Lorinda Freeman

Lorinda has a passion and desire to teach children about the love of God.  She is a homeschooling mom of four and together as a family they work within their church with the children’s programs making sure the hearts of all the children are being taught God’s love for them.  Lorinda and her husband, Chris, make their home in Hibbing, Minnesota after Lorinda had endured extensive travel growing up as a Navy “brat”. 1 Thessalonians 2:6-13, “We are not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.  As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.  We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.  Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Lorinda has a passion and desire to teach children about the love of God. She is a homeschooling mom of four and together as a family they work within their church with the children’s programs making sure the hearts of all the children are being taught God’s love for them. Lorinda and her husband, Chris, make their home in Hibbing, Minnesota after Lorinda had endured extensive travel growing up as a Navy “brat”. 1 Thessalonians 2:6-13, “We are not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Well Doing

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9 (KJV)

I remember hearing this verse over and over in my childhood, memorizing it in girls groups and Sunday school classes. Somewhere along life’s events by misplacing the order of two small words I changed the context from well doing to doing well.

Maybe I’m the only one, but somedays I don’t feel like I’m doing well. When my kids are fighting, the bills are stacking up and my husband and I disagree on things, I can’t say I am doing well. I feel weary. I keep striving to do well and miss the mark.

But, if I go back to the original context I find that life isn’t about doing well, it’s in well doing. What is well doing? Doing the right thing, doing what is good. It can be discouraging continuing to do the right things and receiving no word of thanks or not seeing the tangible results of your decisions. By thinking that I have to be doing well to keep going I limit what God can do.

I have a plaque in my house that reads, “Everyday may not be a good day, but there’s something good in every day.” In the midst of the to-do list, the screaming at your kids (you promised yourself that you weren’t going to do that anymore), the leaky faucet and the car breakdown, there was something good that took place. There was some well doing that happened, even if the day felt like you weren’t doing well.

It’s so easy to lose hope when you don’t “feel” like anything is going your way; when life “feels” overwhelming and you can’t “see” a difference. Feelings are such a carnal thing that the devil loves to have a hay day with. The last part of this verse gives us hope! “For in due season we will reap, if we faint not.” When God’s timing all fits together perfectly you will see a harvest, if you don’t faint; if you don’t give up. Keep going even when feelings don’t match. You will “see” and “feel” like you are making a difference when God wants you to. That’s what this life of faith and trust is all about.

Father, I pray for those like me who have misplaced two small words in life and have concentrated on doing well instead of well doing. Help us to carry on doing the right things and doing what is good even when it doesn’t feel good and we don’t get the results we’d like to see. Help us to trust you and your timing. Encourage our spirits to know that in due season we will reap a harvest if we don’t faint. Thank you Lord. Amen.

Amanda Keller

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan.  While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in Bismarck, North Dakota.  Amanda's passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter.  Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College.  "your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise." ~Andy Stanley

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan. While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in Bismarck, North Dakota. Amanda’s passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. “your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise.” ~Andy Stanley

Wilderness Walk

It was a subtle blindness. I didn’t know that I had glossed over eyes or a heart that wasn’t as it should be.

I have been learning about my heart lately. Not the anatomy, but the spiritual. I’ve been learning about where I place my goals and desires and I have been in a bit of shock at my realizations.  I’ve had some areas of my life that are “in line” with God’s Word and other areas that have swayed to a different direction.  It was slow and it was subtle. “Subtle Blindness”.

I thought I was doing good things for God – I was, but my heart was searching for the reward of doing the good. That’s not a sincere heat. That’s selfish.  All this time these trials that I have been facing have been meant to grab my attention to refocus on what God called me to do and I walked into the fog of doing what I thought was good and godly.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t God’s plan.  Something can be good and pure and holy, but not be part  of God in you.  Ellen  does many good things and helps with many very good foundations, charities, etc., but that doesn’t mean her reward will be eternal.

What do I desire most? Wealth, land, recognition, popularity, love, etc? Or do I want God’s intimate relationship? I am not saying that God doesn’t allow wealth or happiness or other conveniences, but if those are my soul focus then I won’t have a heart filled with God. Without that kind of heart there is no purpose to this life I live.

I’ve been walking in a wilderness for what feels like forever. In reality its been three years, give or take a few months.  Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go, so they can worship me in the wilderness” (Exodus 7:16 see also Exodus 5:1; 8:1; 20; 9:1; 13; 10:3).  Not just once did he make this request, but seven times.  Seven happens to be my “lucky” number so my eyes widened when this information came across my screen. Not one time did Moses mention the destination of the Promised Land. Why? Because this wasn’t the destination Moses had in mind.  It was the wilderness where the Isrealites could meet God and form the same relationship with Him that Moses possessed.

I thought I had at least a fraction of the relationship Moses had with God. Nope. I did good things, preached good words, and loved good tings, but my destination was on the blessings I would get from God for all the good I did. I was so so so wrong.

This God/human relationship isn’t about all the things and feelings He can give us.  It’s knowing God as a Father and praising Him in the wilderness. See, no matter how long or how hard my wilderness may be, I still have a Father who loves and guides and is faithful.  He wants to bless me, but my heart needs to be on the relationship and not the blessings. I need to praise him my wilderness.

Do you feel like you are in a wilderness of your own? I must encourage you to search where your heart destination is.  Are you focused on good things and what you will get in return? Are you searching for something not of yourself, bot of God? Are you praising  Him right where you are? I know it’s no easy; this life we call Christian. It was never promised to be easy. If it were everyone would choose it. Take heart I knowing that God is searching for an intimate relationship with you, His daughter, too.  Start by praying with me and spend some time searching the truth of where your heart is at.  Journaling your thoughts and prayers is a great help.

My Lord, I thank You for revelation of what’s good and what’s of You.  I praise You in this place of wilderness and searching where my heart is so that I may have a intimate Father/daughter relationship with You. I ask that You reveal the truth of my desire, my goals.  What do I honestly seek? Le that be You and if it hasn’t been all on You, please help me to turn my focus to knowing You deeper.  Your Word says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Exodus 19:4). Lord, bring me to You. Amen.

Tara DeMaris

Tara, graduate of Crown College, is the mother to four beautiful children. Together, Tara and her husband, David, and their family make their home in North Pole, Alaska. Tara is passionate about reaching the hearts of women and young ladies. She loves to write and teach God's Word. God put a desire in Tara's heart over seven years ago to start a ministry that reached women and today she has founded Titus II Woman Ministry. God is showing her miracles and his hand at work every day.

Tara, graduate of Crown College, is the mother to four beautiful children. Together, Tara and her husband, David, and their family make their home in North Pole, Alaska. Tara is passionate about reaching the hearts of women and young ladies. She loves to write and teach God’s Word. God put a desire in Tara’s heart over seven years ago to start a ministry that reached women and today she has founded Titus II Woman Ministry. God is showing her miracles and his hand at work every day.

Flood of Memories

Christmas is a happy yet sorrowful time for me.  I have many happy memories of getting together with my cousins at my grandparent’s houses. In recent years I have had close family members pass away.  The anniversaries of their deaths would cloud up this joyous season.  I started to really dread this time of year.

This year as I opened up the Christmas decorations, I couldn’t stop the flood of memories that came with each ornament.  The wreaths that my children made, the ice skate ornament that Grandma Cummins gave me, the bulbs that hung once on my mom’s tree and the ones given to me.  Each one with its very own memory that would open more doors to memories of Christmases past.  The joyous memories soon lead to memories of those no longer with us.  However, this year, God spoke to me. I took one of the ornaments and it said “ But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11

We celebrate Christmas because of birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Because of Jesus and the relationship I have with him, and of those that have passed before me had with him, I will see them again.  I should not be sad, I should be joyous, it’s because of His birth that we can have a relationship with God. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6.  Someday I know I will see them again in heaven. Until then I have the memories of the joyous times I spent with them, and I will cherish those times and be thankful to God for them.

Shannon Smith

Shannon is the mother to three wonderful children and wife to Scott for almost sixteen years. Together their family makes their home in northern Minnesota on a 40 acre farm. They love all things outdoors including hunting and fishing and taking care of their chickens and cow. Shannon’s passion lies in teaching her students, writing and reading. One day, it is her dream to write a children’s book. Shannon’s heart is to love the Lord and be used of Him. Shannon has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Bemidji State University.

Shannon is the mother to three wonderful children and wife to Scott for almost sixteen years. Together their family makes their home in northern Minnesota on a 40 acre farm. They love all things outdoors including hunting and fishing and taking care of their chickens and cow. Shannon’s passion lies in teaching her students, writing and reading. One day, it is her dream to write a children’s book. Shannon’s heart is to love the Lord and be used of Him. Shannon has her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Bemidji State University.