He Walks Us Through

through-the-valleyWow ladies! Summer is definitely winding down to a close for this year, and we can feel it in the weather. I live in northeastern Oregon, and to be honest we usually get some pretty big heat numbers in the summer (over 100). This summer I felt God’s grace with some much more bearable numbers for this girl. I feel loved.

So I very quickly knew what I wanted to share with you for this article and time together going after God. What a blessing, to have other people investing and encouraging each other to go after God, press through the hard times, trust in God, and celebrate and give God the glory at all times! He WILL get us through, amen??!!

I was having an incredibly knot-spinning-in-the-tummy time not even a month ago with a situation that was not involving me, but I knew that God had put me in to be an influencer. Talk about scary and nervous.

I was walking around doing some jobs (really trying to keep myself busy so I could have some time to think), and I was asking God for a word because I needed to hear what He wanted to say for the situation. He gave me three words- “through the valley.”

Have you ever got an instant revelation from the Holy Spirit? Something that might normally take a whole sermon at church He somehow downloads into your spirit in a split second! It was like that! And, oh-how-I-needed-that-word!

Many of us are familiar with the Psalm from David in chapter 23. In verse 4, he says, “even though I walk through the valley…”.

That was it ladies. The victory that we desire and need is found when we go through the valleys in our life. Not sitting down and wishing the valley gone, or trying to dig and manipulate our way around it, but trusting God to get through the valley! He is faithful to complete that which He has started in us (Philippians 1:6). He will get us through.

Let me tell you, I faced the situation with these other people, and I can tell you today, that God walked everyone involved through the awkward moments, the frustrations, and the hard conversations, and the healing moments. And the victory is so much sweeter when we trust Him!

Can I encourage you today to trust Him with those hard spots, hurting spots in your heart? He loves you, and He is for you not against you (Jeremiah 29:11).

God, I ask for your help today with the spots in our heart and lives that hurt, are maybe calloused over and we need your help to go through our valley(s). God, we declare our trust in You, so we give you our hand and ask you to help us. Thank you for your faithfulness to us and the journeys that life has taken us on. Only with you can we sing of hope and victory, and we give you the glory and honor!! In your name, 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).

Dear Mr. Postman

mr-postmanI imagine the scene as something right out of the movie The Sound of Music. I’m talking about the scene with the children laughing and hanging from trees along the roadside. Truly, this is what my children confessed to doing, and they were proud of why they were doing it. They were shooting rubber bands at our mailman! I got there a little too late to actually catch them hanging from the trees and shooting at him, but the evidence lay all around the road and the base of the trees. Why would my children disrespect our dear postman this way? And where did they get all those rubber bands?

According to my children, he shot them with rubber bands whenever he was delivering our mail. They’d saved up all the rubber bands and waited in the trees to ambush him in retaliation. So, I sat back to watch the next time the mail truck pulled up. He placed our mail in the box, he greeted the kids warmly, they all ran down to greet him, a pile of rubber bands flew out the window at their feet, and there was a moment of calm while my kids armed themselves before the rubber bands flew back and forth. The laughter and goodhearted bantering went on for a minute or so then our mailman let out a playfully evil laugh and announced he’d get them next time before he moved on.  And so the battle continued and still continues to this day eight or nine years later.

This is our mailman. He is the antonym of disgruntled postal worker. He does some crazy things people aren’t too sure of sometimes. He sings with classic rock songs at full volume while he is driving his route. He knocks on our doors using his head. He starts rubber band fights with the children.  He will “race” me using his mail truck when I am out walking. He even shoots me with rubber bands if I’m not paying attention. Somehow, in all this he is an encouragement. It seems to me that he at least subconsciously knows this is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

The kids and I attended a field trip at the Post Office a few years ago, and we were able to share how much we appreciate our mailman with them. I shared the story of my kids ambushing him as a cute anecdote of how well he interacts with the people on his route. The manager responded with a smile and said he would have to talk with our mailman about misuse of work materials again. I was concerned we had caused our mailman some trouble, but when I tried to explain my reason for telling the story, the man stopped me with a smile and explained that it was more of a joke to discipline our mailman because he has been working there over thirty years which is longer than any other person working there right now, even his managers, and he loves his job; he is surely not going anywhere any time soon.

God willing, I hope that’s true. How many good examples of someone loving one’s job to the fullest do we get to show our children these days? So often we are surrounded by people who are counting the minutes until their shift is done. Store clerks do this out loud in front of my kids all the time. Job loyalty seems to be a thing of the past as well. It seems as if people take every job as if it is simply a stepping stone on their way to something “better.” Some able-bodied people in our community even consider unemployment “better” than a lower level employment opportunity. Where is the contentment in this? Where is the grateful heart in all this? Where is the joy?

In Hebrews 12:2-3 we read, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven and was the ultimate example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control while he lived and worked among men. In his earthly ministry, he was not concentrating on what each job he did would gain him, nor do I believe his thoughts were ever on when his shift would be done and he could kick back and relax. No, his focus was on where his purpose, power, and strength came from. This is where job satisfaction truly comes from, this is where we find our joy as well. Jesus focused on the big picture, and we can as well because He has shared it with us. We may not know all of the details, and things will always catch us by surprise if we are not armored in the power and strength of his Holy Spirit and armed with the Scriptures, but we can be confident and know joy when we work for God and not self or man.

This is what I am trying to pass on to my children. They are at the age now where they are entering the work force. They have been picking up odd jobs and helping wherever they can. Yes, they like the part where they can make a few dollars, but quite often they enjoy learning new skills and doing the actual work more. Once or twice they have complained about someone they have had to work with or how they have been treated. I point out to them that some of our neighbors have called to complain about our mailman and his odd behavior, but he still chooses to do his job with a smile on his face and rubber bands flying. Jesus was abused in so many awful ways and then he was sacrificed and conquered death as part of his service, and he did this in peace for the joy it was to fulfill His plan and promise. “We can only decide for ourselves,” I remind them. Then I ask, “Who are you working for? Man or God?”

Lord God, I thank You for being the author and perfecter of our faith. I thank You for your life gift. I thank You for the work you have given each of us. I have read and believe that the main principle You were trying to teach us with the book of Ecclesiastes was that the human quest for meaning and purpose can never be satisfied through earthly pursuits, but only by embracing an eternal perspective. I pray that today we your children may eat and drink and find satisfaction in our toilsome labor; please enable us to enjoy what we do have, to accept our lot and be happy in our work, and to see this truly as a gift from You (Ecclesiastes 5). 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.

Seemingly Insignificant

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Recently, I had a minor finger injury on my pinkie finger. While it wasn’t anything to obsess about, I had to keep it clean, wrapped, and dry for about 48 hours. Throughout the day I began to realize how much I used my pinkie daily without even noticing it. It was becoming inconvenient to have it out of commission for those couple of days. In the midst of trying to cook a meal on one of these days God brought the scripture above to mind regarding the body.

I pondered my day with an injured, what seemed insignificant, part of my physical body, and began to correlate the same principles to the body of Christ. Sometimes we think we hold an insignificant role in the body; nobody would notice if we were missing or didn’t do our part. Can I encourage you right now? Sometimes we don’t notice things until they are gone or out of operation. Just like a little pinkie finger I took for granted, it’s easy to take some positions for granted within the body of Christ and only notice when the job is not getting done.

So what can we do?seemingly-insignificant

My challenge today is two-fold. First, if you are the one that feels neglected and unappreciated, take heart, you’re probably doing such a good job that it’s a seamless part of the church. Although sometimes seamless feels more like seenless. I want to say to you, thank you! We appreciate you! Keep going!

The second part of the challenge is to commit to pay attention to things that operate within the body of Christ that you might be taking for granted and show your appreciation. Does someone clean the toilets for you? When was the last time you thanked them? How about the person that turns on the lights or programs your heat & air? Have you appreciated them? What about the person making the bulletin or sitting in the nursery? The list is endless. It’s time to make appreciation and gratitude part of our daily lives. It’s so easy to complain when things don’t get done or aren’t done the way we would like them to be yet so hard to say a word of thanks.

I survived my pinkie ordeal and boy was I grateful for full use of a seemingly insignificant part. Let’s not make the same mistake within the body of Christ.

Father, thank You for all the parts of the body of Christ. Open our eyes to see the positions and tasks we take for granted each day. Help us to have an attitude of gratitude. 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 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 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

They Didn’t Show

they didnt show b“What is wrong with me?” “Why don’t they like me?” “Did I do something wrong?” These are just a few things that were running through my head as I drove home alone in my Durango.

Ladies, I am thirty-five years old and I still struggle with the desire of wanting people to like me; wanting to be around me and be “friends”. I know that my worth is not determined by those who “like” me, but there are times that I feel worthless if someone doesn’t want to like me. I immediately go into a place of questioning myself.they didn't show b

I have always had a hard time dealing with rejection. This rejection would sometimes come from others, but mostly it would be from myself making something out of nothing. My brain often says one thing when it was not that way at all. Has this happened to you? I know I am not alone in this.

Here is the simple truth: I am worth more than silver and gold. In the eyes of Christ, I am worth more than diamonds. I am being continually refined. So are you.

There will always be moments where you don’t feel like you measure up to the status quo of those around you; like you don’t fit in. You may not fit in, but that is how God made you to be. You are made to be a different kind of woman. A woman who lives in truth and speaks that truth with how she lives her life. We are no more perfect than any other woman, but we know the truth of living a life in service to God in EVERYTHING we do and say.  Titus 2:7 and 8 says this: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

What I am getting at is this: If I am having feelings of rejection and worthlessness, what good can I be to the woman next to me who doesn’t know that truth of her worth? How can I encourage her and tell her that she is worth more than gold when I struggle to see that truth in myself?Rjection B

I don’t have to be liked by everyone and, let’s face it, that will just never ever happen. I will disappoint. I will say the wrong thing. I will not act as everyone thinks I should. I will not be the best friend to all. I don’t have to be the best at everything to please all people. I was not designed for this. I was designed to be a vulnerable woman who speaks life and truth and love to those around her in the only way that God has shown me how. I live life loved and I try to love those around me. Yes, even those deemed unlovable. Because those are the ones who need the most love.

They won’t always show up. You will have feeling of rejection. You will not always be liked by everyone. That is okay! You be the one who shows up. You be the encouragement to the rejected and you work toward liking the unlikable; OR at least pray for them. This isn’t an easy calling, but it’s worth every effort.rejections Arejection C

Lord, my heart isn’t always a happy love story of friendships and encouragement. Often, I feel left out and unlikeable, but that rejection does not define who I am in you. I ask that every woman who is feeling rejected, broke down, and unwanted see the truth of their worth in you and a path is brought to light for them to walk as a woman who lives a life of love for others. Bless lives as they walk past the unlikeable and open eyes and hearts to you because of their words and actions. Amen.

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Woman Ministries as well as the wife to David and the mother to their four children. Together, they make their home in Southeast Idaho. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women of all ages and customs. She loves to write and teach God's Word. Favorite Quote - "Make history with God and He will make history through you."

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Woman Ministries as well as the wife to David and the mother to their four children. Together, they make their home in Southeast Idaho. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women of all ages and customs. She loves to write and teach God’s Word. Favorite Quote – “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

 

For Them

ZzzziiiiiiinnnG! SnAp, CrAcK, sNaP, FssswwwhkhwwwiaK… Sniper fire accompanies the screeching hot tires and the roaring engine of a racing VBIED (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device) are obvious signs that the ‘Escalation of Force’ was “not adhered to” as the driver races toward the Hesko barrier ECP (Entry Controlled Point).  The sounds of the Ma-duce (M2)… ratta-tat-da-tat-da-tat, ratta-tat-da-tat-da-tat-da-tat, ratta-tat-da-tat-tat, and multiple M16s… ta, ta, ta, tatata, tatata, some with grenade launchers attached, resonated as they bounced off of the weighted vehicle and lit up the morning sunrise while the incoming attack sirens sound.  As I jump from my bed, and my feet land on the floor, ‘THwuMP’, I don my bullet-proof vest and Kevlar helmet, grab my M16 rifle and head to the concrete bunker for accountability and my orders.  This is an all too familiar routine, but it’s my life now.

The ‘Incoming’ sirens sound louder today.  They usually aren’t that loud. I’ve heard these sirens MANY times before, but this time… ‘BOOM’, “1 ONE THOUSAN…” ‘BOOM’, “2 ONE THOUS…” ‘BOOM’, “3…” ‘BOOM’, ‘BOOM’, “I didn’t hear the outgoing cannons go off this time” my ‘battle-buddy’ says ‘BOOM’, “THAT’S SIX” someone yells from over ‘there’ on the other side of our office trailer.  “Damn, that’s close!” someone else yells.  “Too close!” says another person.  “They’re walking them up on us… straight toward us.”  As the trailer floor shakes, it throws the computer screens around like an earthquake and the sound of dirt hitting and falling down from the metal siding reminds me of sleet falling on a tin roof.  As the “Iraqi drive by” concluded “we need accountability of everyone NOW” our XO, the commanding officer of the ASP (ammunition storage point) ordered.

As radio communication begins and reports of “’Pvt Snuffy with 6 accounted for, Sgt Sargent with 3 accounted for, 8, and then 2…” come rolling in; a few minutes after “in sequence, report” was given, I fade back to my family, the birthdays that I’ve missed, and the first steps of my 3rd daughter that I had to watch on the webcam.  I think of their first dates that I’ll miss, playing catch with my son in the lawn, teaching them how to shoot guns and change the car’s oil… this is my life now.

david uniformSacrifices are made, regrets and sacrifices.  My fellow Soldiers need to be accounted for and protected, that is my first priority… then, and only then, AFTER that can I be concerned about my family… “back home;” “Duty First” was our motto.  “Home…” now that’s an interesting concept.

I’ve heard it said… “home is where your heart is” or “home is where the Army PCS’ (moves) me to next.”  Growing up though, “home” never meant that SO many adjustments had to be made, so many apologies given to the family, or that so many friendships having to be limited, because you KNEW that “home” was one PCS away.  Those that said, “home is where the Army PCS’ (moves) me to next,” usually have a ‘family tree’ style sign, you know the one that has the chain linking all of the boards together.  This military version shows all of the locations that they’ve been assigned to and possibly the unit also.  For example: Main board – Last name, second board – Basic training – Ft. Benning, GA, assigned unit – Ft. Lee, VA, etc.  Mine would be: SSG DeMaris – Ft. Leonardwood, MO – Aberdeen, SD. 452nd Ord. Co. (x1 deployment), 593rd RSC – Ft. Lewis, WA. HHC, 80th Ord. BN., – Ft. Riley, KS. A Co. 601st ASB, CAB (x2 deployments) – Ft. Richardson, AK. HHC, 725th BSB, 4/25 ID (Airborne).  “Home”… ya, that’d be nice… I’d like that, maybe someday!

After my injury from the truck’s roll-over, my life changed, I never saw myself as the same person!  The picture is how I saw myself; I couldn’t run like I used to, I couldn’t play with my kids like I used to, I couldn’t even stand at the sink to do dishes… like I used to.  The deployments had changed me too.  A little bit more irritable, a little bit more on edge, a little bit more aware… ALWAYS angry and not knowing how to not take it out on my family!  After all, it was never their fault!  for them1

After the back procedures and all the paperwork was ‘finally’ done, only 2 years later, I thought that I was done with the Army… ya, no!  The PTSD truly set in and my acceptance came to a realization when the SFC, Sergeant First Class, sat in front of the platoon telling us a story that sounded like he had been reading my journal.  Ha! Ya, right, like I wrote in a journal, I was too “manly” for that.. but if I had written one… he stole it and read it aloud for everyone to hear what I was and had been going through.  But… how did he know my thoughts?  I didn’t tell anyone, not even my wife.  This way I had “protected” her, and the rest of the family, from all of the… ‘ekhem’… “bull *crap*” that I had gone through or thought that she’d be better off not ‘experiencing.’  “Dude, you gotta talk to someone, anyone! or this will eat you alive” the SFC said over lunch.  (The above is a picture of an unknown soldier.)

for them2I never really knew that every time I suffered… she suffered either with me, for me, or in her own way and for her own reasons.  I never really considered that.  I tried SO hard to protect her, but I finally realized I wasn’t the strong one… never was.  She was FAR stronger than I could have ever tried to be!  THAT is why God brought her into my life!  So when I FINALLY got enough nerve to talk to her, she replied “ya… I know, I figured as much and when you were ready, you’d tell me.”  She didn’t see me any differently, she just loved me and tried anything to help me with what the Army had changed about me.

We all join the military, or don’t, for our own reasons.  Some because it’s in our bloodlines: our dad, grandpa, uncle, brother, etc. all joined, so…; some the feel of an obligation to… (fill in the blank); some to take on the world’s terrorists; some for the adventure and “excitement;” some were persuaded by the recruiter; like me, some for educational benefits; some out of love for our country and fellow American(s).  Whatever the reason, we all go through our days after our military service for the one reason that we have in common, good or bad… for Them!

I now wake up to the rooster’s crow, go out and check on the goats, feed the cows, say “hi” to the kittens and bunnies, and let out the turkeys, ducks and rest of the chickens.  All while knowing that my wife is working hard not only in the home, but also at her new job where she recently got promoted… Dang she’s so good!  And Hot!  I hear a lot more laughter these days versus the initial days after a return from a deployment or when I didn’t want to accept my new limitations.  I’ve learned how my mind and my body is coping and reacting to things differently now, but I still have those “bad” days, hours, minutes… I can’t seem to shake them.  It still is frustrating!  However, I am empowered by two things in my life.  First and foremost is God.  With His mercy and grace, I can and WILL overcome!  And ONLY second to God is my amazing wife and kids, who give me the love and strength to set new goals, reach beyond the reminds of the pain in my back and to fight for the laughter of tomorrow.  For them, THIS is my life now…

David DeMaris

David is a graduate of Crown College and is currently pursuing his Master's degree from Idaho State University. Ministering to teens through everyday life is his passion and what he has sought out to do no matter where he has been placed. He is the father to four beautiful children and strives to teach is children to see God in every moment of the day and lean on Him. David was in the Army for sixteen years and endured three deployments before being medically discharged in 2013. We welcome him this year as a guest writer.

David is a graduate of Crown College and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree from Idaho State University. Ministering to teens through everyday life is his passion and what he has sought out to do no matter where he has been placed. He is the father to four beautiful children and strives to teach is children to see God in every moment of the day and lean on Him. David was in the Army for sixteen years and endured three deployments before being medically discharged in 2013. We welcome him this year as a guest writer.

Kitty Love

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

kitty love

Our family has two cats (I apologize to those of you who are NOT cat people…we also have a dog and a pond full of goldfish and a crested gecko if that helps).  Princess Buttercup (aka Miss Butt) and Pepper are sisters that my two youngest sons adopted a few years ago.  These girls are opposites in personality, but they love to be together.  They play, snuggle, and groom each other.  Even as one walks out of the house and the other is coming in, they stop and smell and give a little kiss to each other.  It’s all very sweet.  Miss Butt is not a wanderer, but she is now missing.  It’s been over a week and chances are she’s gone for good.  Pep’s has been lamenting the loss of her sister.  She searches in the familiar spots for her snuggle partner, confused that her sister is nowhere to be found.  I see her hesitate each time she comes in the house, waiting for that familiar comfort.

Pepper is a very unusual cat.  She actually acts more like a happy puppy.  She follows when I take the dog on walks, greets all the neighbors as they walk by our house, and rolls over on her back for a tummy scratch, but she’s pretty independent like most cats.  She doesn’t mind if we love on her, but it’s not really her first choice.  Her first choice is to sleep curled up with Miss Butt on someone’s bed or in a sunny window.  But with her sister missing, Pep seeks out a member of the family anytime she’s in the house (even the snarky dog).  She chooses to seek comfort with any warm body, because she doesn’t have the option to get comfort from her sister any longer.  She stretched out on me this morning as I was reading my Bible (in the dog’s chair!), and I couldn’t bear to make her move when I was done…

As I sat in the chair with this warm kitty on my lap, sun streaming in the window, I thought about all the times I sought comfort in places that weren’t my “first choice” just to feel not so alone in the world.  When I was young, it was being “friends” with people who weren’t always kind, didn’t share nicely, and didn’t care that their teasing hurt me deeply.  As a teenager in a new town, it was people that offered drugs and alcohol as comfort for the woes of adolescence.  As a young college woman, it was in the arms of young men that had even less idea than I did about what real comfort was and how to give it.  The physical comfort, like drugs and alcohol, are only momentary and leave behind more regret and shame than anything else.

As a young, married adult who now had a relationship with Jesus, I sought comfort from my husband (not that this is bad…he just can’t always give me the comfort that I need).  As a mother, with an empty tank that needed replenishing to refill my little ones’ tanks, I sought comfort in things that the world saw as acceptable:  food, daytime television, Christian romance novels, gossip, and material objects like clothes and household goods.

Not that I’ve arrived, but It’s times like this morning that God brings to mind how far I’ve come.  Life is so busy sometimes that we forget to reflect on all God has done in us.  That first acceptance of a changed life is all well and good, except we often move forward and forget to stop and reflect on all we’ve become through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  This morning it was one of those times, and it was good.  Realizing just how good God is.  Our lives are a process and through that process we can discover that God is always good and He always has our best in mind.  He alone should be our first choice for comfort, because He alone is perfect and safe.  No thing or activity, no substance, no person will ever give you comfort like Jesus does.

Some days, maybe most days, it’s a real challenge to believe that.  Our entire society bombards us with so many different things to comfort us, to make us feel good and fulfilled.  But God says, “I am”.  I am everything you ever need or want.  I won’t ever change.  I won’t ever reject you.  I won’t ever have something else more important than you.  I want to be your first choice for comfort, no matter when or where or why you need comfort…I am.

I’m so thankful that Pepper chose my lap this morning to get her comfort, because in that quiet time I was able to reflect and praise God for all the comfort he has given me over the years. I see how He has used the troubles and pains of life to help me grow to a place where I know it is only through Him that I can truly be comforted.

Lord, please forgive us from turning to other people and things for comfort.  You promise us comfort and we can trust that promise.  Remind us that when we’re alone or troubled or hurting that You alone can show us the compassion and comfort that we so desperately want.  Help us to take that comfort that you have shown to us and share it with others.  Open our eyes to see the hurting people that need You and your comfort.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Stacey Ray

Stacey is the mother to four sons ages 15 to 21, and the wife to Rex, one very understanding husband.  Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development.  With this same passion in mind, her family supports many other outreaches including Children’s Vision in Bogota, Columbia (an orphanage and school) and She is Safe, India (a ministry empowering women and children to avoid human trafficking by giving them value and worth in their communities). Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s favorite quote is by Chip Ingram:  “I am nothing without Jesus. But in Him and through Him I can do great things!”

Stacey is the mother to four sons ages 15 to 21, and the wife to Rex, one very understanding husband. Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development. With this same passion in mind, her family supports many other outreaches including Children’s Vision in Bogota, Columbia (an orphanage and school) and She is Safe, India (a ministry empowering women and children to avoid human trafficking by giving them value and worth in their communities). Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s favorite quote is by Chip Ingram: “I am nothing without Jesus. But in Him and through Him I can do great things!”

BeYoutiful

There are many things that are learned in this wonderful world of mommyhood.  Many are shocking, some are funny, and some are just down right not fun to learn.  I can remember when I was pregnant with my 1st child, I was that soon-to-be-mom who wanted to be that strong woman who just strolls through labor…13 LONG hours later my thoughts were much, much, different.  I had learned that day that child birth, although magical and miraculous, was simply AWFUL!  I would never wish that pain on anyone. Although the process was excruciating, the outcome was AMAZING and in a moment the pain that once was, was now forgotten.  Out of that little bundle of joy came many new learning experiences.  Many I look back and laugh at, such as realizing that “poop” will always come with crazy experiences. Some I cry about, such as seeing all the “firsts” of life and most of them I still cherish because they were moments that God, in all his awesome power, showed me things and taught me things that have changed my heart forever.

Jump ahead 6 years and 3 kids later and I was standing there in the bathroom getting ready for the day, doing my hair and putting my makeup on, while my little shadow just sat and watched.  be youtifulMy 3-year-old daughter sat there on the counter as she did everyday just watching me and playing with my things and she said something to me that struck my heart that I still hold onto today.  She said, “Mommy, can I look like you someday?” I looked at her and I told her, “Oh baby, God made you beautiful and he wants you to look just like you!”

Those 7 little words rocked my world that day.  It hit me on a physical, emotional, and especially a spiritual level.  My daughter wants to look like me!  Well what does “me” look like?  God used my 3-year-old daughter to speak to me and to show me that who I am reflects on who my daughter will learn to be. What do I look like physically? Am I showing my daughter how to take care of herself and love the creation she is? Am I showing my daughter how to control her emotions and deal with feelings correctly?  Am I showing my daughter how to love?  Am I showing her that Jesus is my everything and that He loves us?  What does “me” look like?  Do I even like “me”?  Do “I” want to look like “me”?  All these questions, feelings, and expectations flooded my heart and mind. It didn’t take me long to take an inventory of things that I have said to my children, different ways that I have reacted or responded to life, several things that I have tried teaching them myself.   That day began a journey for me of living a more intentional and purpose driven life with the motivation of living a life that I would want to look like. One that reflects what Jesus looks like.  When we accept Christ into our hearts the very essence of the word Christian simply means to be “Christ like”. Who are “you”?  What do “you” look like?

Those mornings in the bathroom with my daughter became precious moments where I began to teach her what my heart longed for.  We made it fun, so for every little thing I did or used to get ready we used it as a life learning tool.  When we did our hair, it became a reminder to think about good things. When I put on eye makeup, it became a reminder of protecting what we look at and see, to always look for opportunities to show compassion. And when I put on lip gloss, it became a reminder to watch what we say and to always be encouraging and nice.   It became a practical and hands on way to teach my little girl nuggets for life. I want her to be just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.  1 Peter 3:4-5 “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”   (NLT)

Now, five kids later and 15 years of being a mom, you would think I have this mom thing down, but “ohhhhh, no!”  I have messed up more times than I care to admit, yelled more times than I would like to share, and just down right have felt like an awful mom and person more times than I want to remember.  There are many days that I do not want to look like “me” and the “me” that my kids, my husband, my family and friends see is not the “me” I ever want to be, but in all those moments of feeling like a failure I am reminded of those 7 little words “mommy, can I look like you someday?” and I begin to ask for forgiveness and then try again.

No one is perfect and I know I am not going to be a perfect mom, wife or friend, but I do know that the more I yearn and learn to look like Christ, the more Christ will be seen in me and that is who I want people to see in me…Jesus.  Life is a learning story and we will always have others around us that we learn from and who learn from us.  So let them see a “you” that represents Him.  You are an amazing and beautiful creation and I pray that God begins to show himself to you and that you continue to walk in His shadow and learn life from His perfect will.

Lord, bless the mommy who so desperately wants to teach her children about your love and design for their life. Not only do we ask that you give us eyes to see the beauty in our moments with them, but give us a heart that will show them compassion for all you have created. Show us who we are in you, because that is who we want to be. Amen.

Danielle DeBoef

Danielle, a graduate of Trinity Bible College, is a woman whose passion is driven by her family. She is the mother to five awesome missions and her heart to provide hope to women who are hurting is fueled by her “never give up” moments. God has brought Danielle out of darkness into hope for a beautiful future with her husband and through that experience she has unique experience that can help other women walking through brokenness.  Together, Danielle and Derrick started a ministry called Finishline Ministries where they spread hope to seemingly disqualified.  Danielle and her family make their home in Illinois.

Danielle, a graduate of Trinity Bible College, is a woman whose passion is driven by her family. She is the mother to five awesome missions and her heart to provide hope to women who are hurting is fueled by her “never give up” moments. God has brought Danielle out of darkness into hope for a beautiful future with her husband and through that experience she has unique experience that can help other women walking through brokenness. Together, Danielle and Derrick started a ministry called Finishline Ministries where they spread hope to the seemingly disqualified. Danielle and her family make their home in Illinois.

According to His Will

Have you ever heard someone say “I deserve to be happy” or “God wants me to be happy”?

Perhaps you’ve said it yourself a time or two. I know I have. Usually when I was trying to justify sin or rationalize why I needed to get my way.

It reminds me of my son, Jabez. He’s two. He is so jolly and happy, but very persistent in getting his own way, which is typical for this stage of his life. It’s Jabez’s way or no way. He believes that everything he wants should be given to him, everything he does should be acceptable, and no one should ever stand in his way. As his mom, don’t I want my son to be happy!? Of course!According to his will1

But I want him to be well-behaved, healthy, safe, and understand boundaries.

I believe the same is for God: he loves us and wants to be happy, but also righteous.

Society tells us that if it feels good, we should do it. If we want something, we should have it.  And boundaries don’t necessarily apply to us.

I know, I’ve been there.

But what Scripture tells us is when we delight ourselves in Him, he will give us the desires of our hearts, according to His will. (Psalms 37:4).According to his will2

Happiness isn’t about having our way, but about finding joy in Jesus. It’s not about doing whatever we want, but about following his Biblical standards of living.

When we argue that God wouldn’t want us to be unhappy, there’s usually an underlying sin we hope to justify, but, if we were to come under God’s umbrella, we would find true joy and peace. No need for justification.

When we argue that God should give us what we want at all cost, we are acting like my sweet, tantrum-throwing Jabez, saying “Mine!” If we take a moment to say “its all yours, God” then we will begin to find our heart’s desires fulfilled in ways never imagined.

When we refocus our hearts from entitlement to surrender, from haughtiness to humility, and begin to see joy in Christ alone rather than superficial, temporal, happiness, I believe we will be running over with blessings from Him.

Lord, I ask that you help me surrender all of my own desires and demands to your perfect will. Help change my heart to honor you rather than elevating myself. As I do this, I ask that I be filled with true joy that only you can bring.

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

Nose Blind

I am embarrassed to admit I went nose blind! It took the repair man to bring to light the foulness lurking in the remote areas of my basement.nose blind 1

Twelve years ago my husband was serving the military in Iraq. With stateside training and boots on the ground he was gone 14 long months. During that time our daughters and I tried a number of distractions; ice cream, movies, park visits, to name a few things to pass the time. I on the other hand would spend the wee hours of the morning painting walls, refinishing floors and rearranging things to pass the time. Our basement (my husband’s man cave) became a catch all for paint cans, old rags, wood scraps and more. I never really went ‘down’ there as it made me miss him all the more so I would just ‘toss’ the left over materials down the stairwell or heap stacks on the steps.

My mother came for a visit during his tour of duty and she graciously adopted two cats for our girls to enjoy .  I was okay with the gesture and agreed the cats would offer great company. Well, the cats were lively to say the least. Bonding wasn’t happening as well as I had anticipated. Sometimes the fact that they were out of sight, out of mind, was a blessing to my stress level. Perhaps I should have questioned their whereabouts more. This is where the repair man comes in to play.nose blind 2

A pretty big job needed to be accomplished in our home and I cleared my blocked basement steps so that he could go down there and do his work. I didn’t venture ‘all the way down’ since I figured my husband left it in an acceptable manner.

After the work was completed the repair man/friend of the family made a point to speak directly to me and basically asked if I was aware of what our cats were doing in the basement. I said, “What did you see?” He replied that is wasn’t what he could see but what he could smell. He said it was quite obvious that the cats were marking in a certain location and that it seemed to be an ongoing problem. I could tell that he didn’t enjoy being the messenger, but he also cared enough for our family and knew that a problem like this left unaddressed would become a more serious issue that could overtake our lives with multiple consequences and costly damage. Without delay or argument (since I still could not smell the evidence) I went right to work dealing with the issue.

nose blind 3

 

 

 

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

What I value in all of this is that he didn’t have to get involved, but he took a risk as a business person and family friend. He spoke it factually and without drama and he even helped some with the solution. Pardon the pun, but I thank God this repair man stuck his nose in our business.

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

 Our first response should not be to bristle when we are given honest and constructive feedback in our spiritual lives. I agree, it is not pleasant and is extremely humbling to have someone point out a blind spot in our life. When brothers and sisters in Christ who genuinely care, come alongside and speak truth in love, it is iron sharpening iron and an opportunity for us to grow more like Christ.

Let’s pray together: Oh Father, help me to turn away from arrogance and grant me humility to receive a good word spoken in due season for Your glory and my sanctification. Create in me a heart that is free of pride and that desires to grow in areas that are weak. It is humbling to admit blind spots exist but foolish to deny it. May the words of scripture that I read or that are brought to me through the body of Christ be a welcomed sight and received with joy. I am your workmanship. Mold me and transform the dark, foul areas of my heart. Everything comes to light eventually so let me respond by saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24) ~ Amen

Cindy Nyberg

Cindy comes into Titus II Woman Ministry with a gift of writing and speaking. Her passion to share the goodness of Jesus Christ spills from the page and into your heart. Cindy is known to light up the room with the joy of Jesus and contagious laughter! Admittedly she says her one and only hobby is enjoying great conversation with friends over a good cup of coffee. She volunteers her time with multiple ministries within her local church. She is the wife to Tracy and mom to four amazing kids. Together, Cindy and her family make their home in Nebraska. “Only one life ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last”-Charles Studd.

Cindy comes into Titus II Woman Ministry with a gift of writing and speaking. Her passion to share the goodness of Jesus Christ spills from the page and into your heart. Cindy is known to light up the room with the joy of Jesus and contagious laughter! Admittedly she says her one and only hobby is enjoying great conversation with friends over a good cup of coffee. She volunteers her time with multiple ministries within her local church. She is the wife to Tracy and mom to four amazing kids. Together, Cindy and her family make their home in Nebraska. “Only one life ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last”-Charles Studd.

Simmer Down Now

I’m on the backside of another VBS season. I’m just past the sleep-24-hours-a-day-weep-when-I’m-awake point. I’m right in the middle of writing letters to all the kids and putting away all of the sets, decorations, and materials. For some reason, this has me pretty touchy, a little defensive about EVERYTHING.

Our VBS week was a success – some kids made a decision for Christ, some came forward to ask questions about their salvation and to repent of their sins, and the kids brought in over $900 for our mission focus. Plus, we had fun! I mean, what trumps the sweet sound of children praying together, of them singing “Amazing Grace” with all of their hearts, or the sound of an autistic boy’s laughter while he is playing with the “Jesus Saves” life preserver saying with us, “Jesus saved Miss Bridget, and Jesus will save Adam. Jesus saved Miss Lorinda, and Jesus will save Adam. Jesus saved Miss Carol, and Jesus will save Adam.” while he placed the ring over each person’s head? No, I’m at the point where it’s the good things that happened at VBS echoing in my heart and mind.

This is what I want everyone else to remember with me right now, but this is also the time for evaluation. I understand this. I want to grow and build a better program. There has to be evaluations and constructive changes…so I told myself as I read the evaluation.

I don’t like being human, y’all. I’m so tired of my flesh reactions. I can see it coming, I can feel it rising, but, like a pot of cream unwatched on high heat, my emotions become an uncontained, hot, sticky mess before I can do anything but start cleaning it up.

UGH! I want to be able to hide for two or three weeks after VBS week. I want to go somewhere alone where I won’t open my mouth except in prayer, and my pen would be used for journaling and writing letters to each child for follow-up and closure, not for unsent (thankfully) rebuttals to casual comments family and friends have made.

simmer down nowSo, here’s the irony of it all. I want to rest, but I am being restless instead. I am commanded by God to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15). Well, Jesus is my Sabbath! He is the law (Matthew 5:17).  And I have not been resting in Him as I should while coming down from a pretty intense VBS season. In fact, I can think of many instances during the season when I was in prayer over the children, the volunteers, all our families, and needs during the VBS season, but I wasn’t resting. I can even remember prayer over my attitude, but I did not rest. In all honesty, I was taking Him for granted. I knew I was serving Him where He had me to be, I knew He is always in control, and I knew He was already making everything work out, but I was still reacting rather than actively resting in His presence. Here I am still reacting. What was I so upset about in this evaluation? I was told to delegate and find more coordinators to break up the work and relieve the burden I have been carrying on my own.

Forgive me, LORD. In Exodus 31:13, You explained something I forget all too often about why we must rest, You told Moses to say to the Israelites: “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” This is why You cried out, Jesus, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29) But I have been too thick to listen. Perhaps I am why You also added Proverb 20:30: “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.” I don’t believe I need to physically be beaten right now, but I do believe You allow me to feel beaten emotionally so I will be purged of the pride and sin of my heart and mind. Thank You for the wonderful people You have placed in my life to love me and remind me of who I  truly am, and what I should be focusing on. To keep “The Main Thing, The Main Thing.” You are that Main Thing. 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.