Are You in Need of a Miracle?

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Healing, provision, deliverance, new life – Jesus is the source of it all. Many of you are waiting for your miracle. Many of you are losing faith. I want to encourage you today with this: 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 

Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Jesus healed an official’s son in Galilee. Jesus healed a Centurion’s servant. Jesus healed a man’s withered hand. Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead. Jesus calmed the storm at sea. Jesus casted demons into a herd of pigs. Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus healed a blind man at Bethsaida. Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Jesus fed the 5,000. Jesus walked on water. Jesus cleansed ten lepers. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

I have been rereading the Gospels over the last few weeks, and I am reminded of all the miraculous works Jesus performed while He walked this earth. These are just a few of the many things He accomplished. We see Jesus walk in authority and power, moved with compassion and love, doing miracle after miracle. All of this was done to bring glory to God the Father.

The good news is that these miracles were not just reserved for His time in history. He still heals the sick, brings new life, delivers us from oppression, heals marriages, provides financially, goes after the lost. So why do we struggle to believe?

Simple, we take our eyes off Jesus and instead focus them on our circumstance. Yes, sometimes there is no natural solution to our problem. Yes, we may have exhausted everything under our ability to get a resolution. Yes, everything may look bleak. But no, it is not hopeless with Jesus. He has the final say. 

Ladies, I encourage you to open up your Bible and reread the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Study the accounts of what Jesus has done. See how He was motivated by compassion and love to move with supernatural power in the lives of so many. Let your faith be strengthened. Invite Jesus into your situation, and let Him do what only He can do.

 With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. – Matthew 19:26

 

 

Don't Miss Your Divine Appointments

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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We all have appointments. Appointments to meet a friend. Appointments to get our hair done. Doctor’s appointments. Work appointments. Appointments with trainers, accountants, pastors, lawyers. You name it, our calendars are loaded with them.

But, today I want to talk to you about a different kind of appointment. An appointment where God puts you in a certain place or in front of a specific person’s path so that you can accomplish His plans and purposes. I want to talk to you about divine appointments.

I hope my mother doesn’t mind me sharing, but her actions this week really stirred me. She went for her routine breast screening on Monday, and that afternoon, she received the dreaded call back. The radiologist saw a little something suspicious on her scan, and they needed to take further images to determine the nature of the mass. Now I know a lot us, including myself, have sat in her seat at one point in life. But, it is her reaction that I want to showcase.

Her follow up was scheduled for first thing the next morning. Trusting God, she walked in full of faith. Instead of being all consumed with herself and her feelings, she looked outward and saw opportunities to do the Lord’s work while she was there in that waiting room. She ended up ministering to one woman about some dangerous things the woman was involved in, and she also had the opportunity to lead another woman to Christ. 

Ladies, God sometimes asks us to go where we don’t want to go. God sometimes puts people in our path that we just don’t want to deal with. And, God often positions us in circumstances that we just can’t understand in the natural. I encourage you to stop looking inward at yourself and questioning why you have to be where you are at, and start looking outward to see all the opportunities to do God’s work that are surrounding you!

For those of you who are wondering, my mother’s new images came back clean. Of course, this is still something we as women hope we never have to walk through. But, I can say with certainty, that her ability to see God’s plans in the midst of her circumstance enabled her to participate in God’s work. So, ladies, I don’t know what appointments you have this week, but please don’t miss your divine ones!

 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” – Psalm 37:23  

Keep It Out of the Cupboard

BY SHALYN C. WILLIS

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What I am about to tell you, I have told no soul. I'm going to be completely honest with you, I have been bad. I knew the right thing to do and yet I chose the opposite. I'll just say it. The other night, I was taking a teacup out of the cupboard to pour myself my nightly routine cup of tea. When I looked at the cup that my hand had grasped, I noticed a streak of soap residue from the dishwasher stuck to the side of the glass mug. At that moment, I had a choice to make. I could have washed it off and then used that mug, or I could put it back into the cupboard and no one would ever know that I had discovered the soap stain and didn't fix it. This being not one of my most shining moments, I put the mug back into the cupboard! Rebellious, I know! I couldn't even believe myself! After I had done it, I laughed to myself, but then I felt God speak to me through this irresponsible action. 

We do this spiritually don't we? I mean, if we are being honest with ourselves and others, there are things, stains, and messes in our lives that we take out and see, but rather than fixing them and making it better, we simply put it back behind the cupboard door. I know that for me, this hit home. This was God's slightly silly, yet profound way of revealing to me, that I have some unfinished business with certain areas of my heart. Things that I keep pushing under the rug, or tucking behind the cupboard door. But God is asking us not to put it back where we found it. He wants us to keep it out of the cupboard. By doing so, we will provide ourselves the opportunity to fix the problem, and wash off the stain. It's time we work on the problems rather than hiding them. 

Proverbs 6:4 says not to put off what can be done now. We are told this not as a warning or recommendation, but as a command! God doesn't desire that we are burdened with these issues longer than we need to. By continually hiding them and putting them away, we aren't allowing ourselves or God the access to work on the issues at hand. We are supposed to deal with things and move on, not be weighed down with the same issue for extended periods of time. But sometimes we don't keep stuff out of the cupboard because it means we have to be vulnerable with ourselves and others. 

I am not telling you this out of a place of achievement. Trust me, I am far from accomplishing my own advice, but the truth is it's not my advice. It is what God has been speaking to me. Ultimately, it is God's advice. Part of becoming dependent upon Him is to be willing to swallow the hard truth He gives. Trust me, I'm still swallowing this one! But in order for God to shape us into becoming more like Him, we have to be willing to keep those dirty, ugly parts out of the hidden places so that He has full access to help us overcome them. One day you will look back at the soap stained mug that you kept putting back into the cupboard, and be mad that you didn't let God reshape that part of your life sooner. We are in this together. I am being stretched and I pray that you will stretch with me. Keep it out of the cupboard, and let Him work on your heart. 

Women Get Real is excited to showcase this blog from Shalyn Willis, founder of Dependent Daughters. Shalyn, at only 17 years old, uses her blogs to help her generation become more like Jesus. Shalyn will be joining the Women Get Real team on the panel at the Becoming God’s Girl Conference on September 28th. If you haven’t purchased your tickets, do so today. We are almost sold out!

http://becominggodsgirl.eventbrite.com

Your Life Should Be a Masterpiece

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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The Bible is full of truths to help us live the life that He intends. Unfortunately, without exercising the right tools the right way, our lives will look nothing like God’s plan for it. 

Let me explain it to you another way. My daughter loves art and is very strong in drawing and sketching. A little over a year ago, she decided she wanted to expand her art portfolio to include painting. Now, she has natural artistic ability, but she has never received any specific painting instruction.

Full of passion and excitement, she set up her easel and started to paint. As you probably would imagine, things didn’t go as well as she hoped. She had all the right tools – paintbrushes, fan brushes, paint knives, and so on – and all the right paint, but she simply didn’t know how and when to use each one properly. The result was a frustrated teenager who could have easily walked away and said painting wasn’t for her.

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Flash forward a few months, she decides to go at it again. Wiser this time, she doesn’t want to do it alone. Instead she decides to paint along with everyone’s favorite Bob Ross, currently streaming on Netflix. He took her step by step through the painting process. Boy, what a difference! I may be partial because I am her mother, but what a masterpiece she created. 

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Ladies, in the same way, God wants our lives to be a masterpiece – a series of events wisely woven together to reflect the power and love of Jesus in our lives. It’s not our fault if we don’t know how to do it, but with the right instruction, we will succeed. But, you can’t do it alone. 

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you.

— John 14:26

The Bible at times can be confusing. When you don’t understand it fully, it can be hard to apply it correctly to our lives. We need the Holy Spirit to teach us, lead us, and show us the right choices to make. We must rely on the conviction that only the Holy Spirit brings when we are getting off course and dabbling in areas that are dangerous to our Christian walk. 

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

— Hebrews 4:12

I encourage you to not only read the Word, but allow it to transform you and guide you through this life. These are not just words on a page — they are the very words of God, alive and active, ready to produce fruit in your lives. This is your tool box. Again, don’t feel badly if you do not know how to use it all. But, please don’t try to go it alone. Invite the Holy Spirit into your life, listen to His instruction, and watch your life become the masterpiece that God intends. 

Not a Spectator Sport

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Sorry to talk about the weather again, but we have experienced some crazy weather patterns in New England this year. Our latest run has been monsoon season – well at least it has felt that way. Just a couple days ago, I watched my husband take our dog outside in yet another torrential downpour. I felt so badly for them. Rain pelted from the sky soaking everything in its path, including my husband and sweet puppy. 

Fortunately, I sat dry and comfortable in the confines of my house. I knew it was raining. I saw it was raining. In fact, I heard it rain, but I didn’t experience the rain like they did. I was just a spectator.

Interestingly, as Christians, I feel like we do the same thing. We watch on the sidelines as others develop their faith, and as others roll up their sleeves and participate in promoting God’s purposes on Earth. We see God moving and we believe it to be true, but we aren’t experiencing the Christian life the way that God intends. 

Real faith requires action. It only truly develops when we live it out – when we experience the presence of God first hand, not simply by watching others. You see, Christianity is not a spectator sport.

It’s so easy today to read a devotional or a great book filled with spiritual truths that have been revealed to someone else. We do grow to some extent, but the most effective way to grow is when we hear God ourselves by spending quiet time with just Him. Furthermore, we need to be active with our faith, living out the truths as the Word of God commands, not sitting idly by assuming someone else will go in our place. Share the gospel, make a meal for an elderly neighbor, pray for a sick friend, or volunteer in children’s ministry. These are just a few ways we can be active in our faith and make an impact for Christ in our community. 

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. – 1 Peter 4:10

Ladies, true Christianity isn’t living off someone else’s accounts of God’s faithfulness nor is it being just a recipient of God’s blessings. It requires action and personal experience to make it real. It’s not enough to go to church and be fed. We need to receive spiritual revelation for ourselves. We need to be the church and serve. Every woman needs to roll up her sleeves and participate in God’s plans and purposes. Don’t be afraid to get wet and saturated with the things of God. We were never meant to be just spectators!

WATCH YOUR WORDS

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Being surrounded by all this technology, it was bound to happen. My daughter accidentally texted her friends a seven-minute audio of her and I talking. Once she realized she had done so, pure panic overcame the both of us. At that moment, all we could think about was what we may have been talking about. Did we talk about something personal or did we say something that could embarrass us? I think it’s safe to say that we all would react in a similar manner.

But this silly mistake got me thinking further about my words and all the conversations that I participate in. Obviously, they are not all accidentally recorded, but would I be concerned to learn that someone I didn’t intend to listen overheard me? More importantly, do all the words that come from my mouth honor God?  

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. – Proverbs 18:21

Yikes! That’s a harsh warning. The words that come from our mouths have the power to bring life or death. Yes, our words have power. And with that, we choose what kind of impact our words will have.

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. – Matthew 12:36-37

Ladies, I want you to think about the conversations that you have participated in in the last 24 hours. If they were accidentally recorded and played on social media for all your friends to hear, would you be concerned? Would you be ashamed? Obviously, this likely won’t happen, but the fact is that God is always listening. And He says that someday we will all give account for each and every word that leaves our mouth.

I don’t know about you, but I want to use my words for good. I want to be the kind of woman who builds others up and doesn’t waste her words on negativity, criticism, sarcasm or gossip. I want to be a woman who watches her words and uses them to glorify God, whether I’m being recorded or not.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

Not a Cloud in the Sky

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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My house is very quiet this week. With both kids attending different summer camps, I have some extra alone time on my hands. Quite honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself this morning given that the house was so silent, so I decided to bring my work outside. 

The weather is beautiful today in Connecticut. There is not an ounce of humidity in the air, which makes my hair happy. And if that wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, there is not a cloud in the sky. I mean, not even one. There are blue skies for miles. Oh, the beauty!

This got me thinking. I’m often writing about the storms and trials that we face as Christians. I probably do so because that seems to be where we need the most encouragement and support. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the matchless glory of the calm He also blesses us with as His children. We are to expect and cherish the cloudless, blue-sky days that He often brings.

I use the word expect because sometimes we focus so much on all our problems and difficult circumstances that we don’t enjoy the times of calm that the Lord provides. I think sometimes we miss this because we are bracing for another storm or rehashing what just transpired in the last one. But, God wants us to enjoy these peaceful moments – to recognize that they are a gift from Him, and to use this time to meditate on His love and unfailing promises. 

So, I encourage you today to take a moment and bask in the sunshine. Embrace His love. Be reminded of His faithfulness. And know that even though you might be walking through the battle of your life, if you endure with the Lord, blue skies are straight ahead. 

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. 

Psalm 36:5

No More Shame

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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When I read through the Old Testament, I am intrigued by the life of Elijah. He is probably one of the greatest prophets ever and had an intimate relationship with God. He predicted the beginning and the end to a three-year drought, allowed God to use him to raise a child from the dead, and defeated the prophets of Baal in a dramatic showdown at Mount Carmel. Interestingly, as incredible a man of God as Elijah was, he experienced suicidal thoughts right after the great victory at Mount Carmel. Jezebel heard of his triumph over the prophets of Baal and vowed to kill him. Elijah fled in fear.

He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life.” – 1 Kings 19:5

I don’t know about you, but I am comforted knowing that one of the greatest men of God suffered from depression. It seems that there is a stigma that attaches itself to all mental health issues today, and as a result, shame accompanies the person that goes through it. The person struggles in secret for fear that people will judge her for this illness. And yet, a person dealing with cancer or diabetes receives the necessary love and support from friends and family.

Unfortunately, depression seems to be on the rise. I have been hearing almost weekly of a new person struggling with this, especially in the younger generation. People, just like Elijah, seem to have lost their purpose in the midst of these confusing times. Feelings of hopelessness have set in.

“But those whose hope is in the Lord, will not be disappointed” – Isaiah 49:23

If you are someone who struggles with depression, I have encouraging news for you. God delivered Elijah from his depressed state, and He can deliver you too. Elijah later went on to fulfill the purposes that God had planned for the rest of his life. His mental health didn’t define him. Elijah didn’t carry any shame for his depression, and neither should you.

“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11

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THIS BLOG WAS ORIGINALLY RUN BACK IN 2014. HOWEVER, IN LIGHT OF RECENT EVENTS, WE FELT IT WAS IMPORTANT TO REPOST IT.

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE AT 1-800-273-8255. 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Forget the Past

BY SHILA ANDERSON

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I have a confession. I never wanted to be on social media. I decided to join the social media world only when my husband and I started leading our church’s youth group, and we needed a way to “connect” with the teenagers. Teenagers don’t use email, so I really had no choice.

So why didn’t I want to be on social media? Was it the fear of putting my children’s pictures out there where they could be found by predators? Or, was it the old school mentality of not wanting to connect with people online when I could just call them or meet them for lunch? Maybe I’m just a private person and don’t want to share my life with the world? Well, it was a little bit of all of that, but most importantly, I was nervous about reconnecting with people from my past. You see, I’m not the same person I used to be.

I grew up a Christian. My mom brought me to church every week, but I really didn’t understand what being a Christian truly meant or how to live a Christian life. I was very self-conscious, had low self-esteem, and was a tad bit selfish. So, I didn’t always portray Christianity in the best light.

Joining the social media world opened me up to reconnecting with people that knew me back then. What would they think of me now that I am a God-serving, Jesus-loving, ministry-leading Christian? Would they think I was a hypocrite? Would my old friends realize that I was a new person – that my old life was gone and a new life begun? Or would they judge me for how I used to be?

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thankfully, God brought an old friend back into my life to show me the truth. I was speaking at a conference near my home town and recognized her beautiful face from across the room. I am so blessed to have seen her and to have been able to catch up with her. I admitted to her that I didn’t keep in touch with anyone from high school, and we agreed that we all have changed since then. It was such a blessing to see someone and realize that I was hiding for no reason.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? – Isaiah 43:18-19

Not only do I need to forget the former things and not dwell on the past, but I need to not worry about the past either. I believe God brought this friend back into my life to show me that I can move forward, without worrying what my old friends will think of me. 

I’m not scared of being myself on social media and reconnecting with those old friends now. I’m excited to share with them about what God has done in my life. In fact, I’m praying that God will use me to share His love for others and to show that through Christ, all things are possible. He can change us, give us confidence, and make us better people. 

What do you say ladies? Will you forget the past with me? Remember, we are a walking, talking testimony of God’s amazing grace. Let’s not hide that. Let’s allow God’s love to shine through us for everyone we meet - past, present, and future!

Suddenly

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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I’m a Connecticut girl, born and raised. Now in Connecticut, we see a lot of extreme weather – ice storms, blizzards, below zero temperatures, heat waves, and even the occasional tropical storm/hurricane. But, we don’t do tornados. Well, at least not until last week. 

Five, that’s right, five tornados ripped through a small portion of Connecticut, leaving mass destruction in its path. And you guessed it, my town was one of the worst towns hit. Thankfully, besides losing power and a few downed tree limbs, my property was left untouched. But this was not the case for many of my family and friends who still, over a week later, are trying to figure out how to clean up the mess. 

That night, my kids and I were minutes away from heading out to our evening activities. The weather channel mentioned that some severe thunderstorms would be rolling through the area. But, who knew the magnitude of that warning!

An unusual breeze started to pick up, and the sky turned a funny shade of gray. Then, an alert on my phone warned us to take shelter immediately. Off to the basement we went, and within seconds we lost power. I peered through the windows trying to see what was happening. 

Suddenly, a giant wall of darkness loomed over my street. Hail pelted my house and windows, as lightening flickered in the darkness. Violent winds shook the house and tremendous amounts of rain poured from the sky. 

There wasn’t much warning at all, and I certainly didn’t have time to prepare in that moment. Fortunately, we have a generator, bottled water, and lanterns, but I didn't feel prepared at all. Sound familiar? The storms of life that we walk through never give us much warning either. They just happen. 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  1 Peter 4:12

I'd like to tell you that trials and tribulations won't come our way, but there is no truth in that. The Bible tells us to expect them. And often, there is no warning – no Doppler radar or text alerts telling you to take shelter and retreat. So how do you prepare for these moments? 

The key is what you do before the storm hits. How you weather a storm correlates directly to how you prepare for it. Ladies, we are living in uncertain times. The news is inundated with reports of forest fires, volcanos, acts of terrorism and so much more. Add to that the difficulties and challenges we each face with our health and personal relationships, and one thing is clear. We need to be in sync with the Holy Spirit. 

We need to hear His voice every single day. In fact, I would encourage you to start your day in prayer and not to move on until you receive a fresh Word from Him. Let it overwhelm you, change you, and warn you for what lies ahead. 

I know we are all busy. We have jobs, family, school, even church that pulls at our time. We can easily become anxious and consumed with the cares of life. But, we need to carve out time each day where we can spend quiet time in the Lord’s presence so that He can do a work in our hearts and minds. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get caught in another “suddenly” moment.

Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. Luke 21:34

The Glory of the Lord Has Departed

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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I just recently returned from a family vacation in France. What a wonderful time we had! We ate cheese, crepes, and more macarons than I care to admit. And let’s not forget all the sites – the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Palace of Versailles. But, one of the things that stood out the most for me was all the beautiful churches and cathedrals that we visited.

The French, like most European countries, constructed the most impressive churches. In fact, every town, big or small, still has a giant church in its town center. I could (and did) spend hours marveling at the enormity and opulence of these buildings. Each detail was intricately designed to bring glory and reverence to our Most High God.

But interestingly, as beautiful and magnanimous as these churches were, they left me feeling empty and cold. A structure that was once created to bring glory to God was now reduced to a tourist site where visitors from around the world, with flip flops and cameras, came to observe architecture and art. Oh, how this grieved me. Oh, how this must grieve God. 

As I navigated through these hollow churches, my mind was instantly brought back to scripture where the priests, Hophni and Phinehas, were treating the Lord’s work with contempt. They showed disdain toward the treatment of the offerings and were sleeping with the women who served at the entrance of the tent of meeting. As a result of their sin, both men and their father Eli lost their lives. And worse yet, the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where the presence of God dwelled, was captured by the Philistines.

The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark has been captured. – 1 Samuel 4:22

Unfortunately, the glory of Lord has also departed from many of the churches in Europe. And if we are not careful, this can happen in all of our churches. You see, the steps that lead up to the departure of God’s presence are gradual – a compromise here, and an attempt to be culturally relevant there. 

Today, we are building mega churches with cafes, state-of-the-art sound equipment and giant stages. In and of itself, this is a great way to preach the gospel to more people. But it is only great if we continue to focus on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the churches too. Without the Holy Spirit, we will no longer feel conviction for our sins and will lose sight of our very purpose, which was the case with Phinehas and Hophni.

Please understand that I am not against building big churches. In fact, I am all for it. I just feel that what has happened in Europe should be used as a warning. Ladies, we need to pray for our churches. We need to pray for our leaders. We need to pray for our Pastors. And please pray for the Holy Spirit to be ever present in our church services and all that we put our hands to.

Bloom

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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Last fall, I purchased a lovely bag of bright tulip bulbs. After planting them, I had high hopes of a seeing their beauty welcome spring into my backyard. Amazed by the process of it all, I began considering the lifecycle of these firm, little bulbs that I put into the ground.

After a little investigating, here’s what I learned. In order for the outer shell of the bulb to become so tough, the once blooming flower, impacted by the end of summer heat, sends all of its remaining energy down into the bulb, making it firm and ready for the chill ahead. We plant these little packages of stored energy underground to rest and go dormant.

BUT something IS happening while this bulb is resting. We can’t see it happening. There is no visual evidence, especially in New England buried under blankets of snow. But after some needed rest, the stored energy in the bulb begins to grow roots. Once the roots are firmly established, the bulb uses its last tiny bits of remaining energy to push the sprouted leaves up out of the soil and bud flowers, just in time to welcome a new season.

This simplified little science lesson can parallel our personal journey of maturing in our faith. Just as we plant a bulb for the purpose of seeing its colorful vibrancy fill our yard, it can be our tendency to crave the outward display of a life of faith – to speak kindly out of love, to exude patience, to administer wisdom, to walk fully in our spiritual gifts.

But often times, it’s the “stuff” that’s going on in the dirt that determines our ability to bloom well, to reach our full potential. Winter dirt, like our hearts at times, can be hardened, filled with “little rocks” of pride and “roots” of resentment. We can even experience dryness from seeking to go, go, go and get it all done without taking the needed time to be watered and refreshed.  To overlook these things and hurry on past will result in sprouts that never fully bloom. Before we can anticipate and expect a harvest of beauty outwardly, we cannot neglect to do a little digging and needed growing on the inside. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

When we welcome God into our “dirt,” He may lovingly reveal some necessary tilling and pruning. He may point out areas where you need to begin trying less in your own efforts and relying more on His strength. Whatever it may be for you, I promise, this work on your heart will reap a harvest that only multiples in beauty over the years, just like I hope my tulips will.

Let’s not just live only for the outward prize, those things the world values and acknowledges. Let’s also willingly greet the “winter” seasons of life as an opportunity for growth on the inside, with firmer, more established roots in Christ Jesus.

Let your roots grow down in him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:7

Don't Miss the Significance of the Cross

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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What a special day! What a special weekend! What a special time of year! I truly love the Easter weekend and all the family traditions that come with it. I caution you, however, amongst the busyness of this time of year not to miss the significance of it all.

Every year, my son and husband set up a wooden cross that they built several years ago from a tree in our back woods. I simply love seeing the empty cross perched on the hill in my front yard as a reminder to me and everyone who drives by that our Savior lives. However, in the midst of running around, it is easy to view putting the cross up as yet another thing to check off my list, rather than focusing on the true impact of its meaning. 

When I take a step back from the to-do list and focus on the why, I can almost hear the sound of pounding against the wooden cross. This thunderous sound resonates in my mind and spirit, bringing me right back to the cross at Golgotha nearly 2,000 years ago when they nailed Jesus to the cross. Each swing of the hammer drove a nail deeper into His wrists and feet, placing Jesus securely on the cross that would ultimately kill Him.

Although Jesus was innocent, His death was not in vain. He chose to stand in our place as an atonement for our sins in order to break the hold of sin and death over our lives. There is no greater gift given to mankind.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24

So, in the busyness of this weekend, full of Easter egg hunts and other family traditions, I pray you stay fully aware of why we celebrate. Keep your thoughts focused on the one who saved us all from eternal separation from God. And remember, this is our big weekend – our time to proclaim to the world all that Jesus has done. Don’t miss an opportunity to share the cross with all those you come in contact with. There is no better time of year to share Jesus.

 

The Days of Our Lives

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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Each Monday, when I find myself chatting with other moms or friends, a common conversation starter is, “How was your weekend?” And without really thinking, I automatically say, “Oh, good, how was yours?” But I’m embarrassed to admit, that sometimes, I have to really think about it for a few minutes. Like, good gracious, what DID I do this past weekend? I know I was busy. I did a lot for sure, but what was it again? 

This little Monday conversation starter has got me thinking a bit more introspectively lately. Each small decision on how I spend my time corresponds to the degree to which I am living an intentional life. If I’m not intentional about my decision making, the temptation for me personally is to choose to not miss out on anything – both for myself and my children. It all sounds so “good” that I may choose busyness and temporary pleasure over choices that are directed to long-term goals.

For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

Did you realize that God has created GOOD WORKS for us do BEFORE we even entered the scene? But take a look at the pivotal word, SHOULD. Should we walk in them? We have a choice. The question I ask myself is, am I? I so want to say a resounding YES! But if I allow myself to really be truthful, here’s what I consider…

Do I want to instill faith in my children? Is it important to me that my children have a relationship with their creator, not just knowledge of Him? If so, how am I spending my time to ensure I am doing my part? I can’t put that responsibility in the lap of our church, Christian friends, or even a Christian school.

Furthermore, do I want my children to learn the art of face to face socialization in a society dominated by screens? What am I doing to model this? Do I want them to appreciate and embrace the importance of community with other believers? If so, what am I doing to model that for them? Do I want them to serve others? How do they see me doing it? Do I want to grow stronger in my faith? If so, how does my time reflect that goal?  If I want to be more psychically fit, how I spend my free time will directly impact this, either positively or negatively.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

How do we renew our minds? How do we know His good works? We do this by intentionally reading the Bible. Listening to sermons is wonderful, blogs are great (wink, wink), reading Christian books are also good, BUT do not let the voice and words of others take precedence over the one TRUE voice of your Heavenly Father. He will show you the path to take and the good works to do when you pursue HIM above all else. We just have to be willing to walk in them.

Real Love . . . I'm Searching for a Real Love

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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Clothing would fly out of my closet and into heaps on my bedroom floor. The more I took out and tried on, the more frustrated I would become and the faster the rate I would yank more things out – throwing them into the mounting pile. “I hate my clothes!” I would yell to my mother. “I have nothing to wear! Everything looks so stupid on me.” (Insert teenage tone)

Time to repeat this dramatic scenario in the bathroom while getting ready. “Ugh, another pimple! Great! Why does my hair look weird and bumpy when I put it up? Oh, never mind, I’ll just wear it down, AGAIN! My skin is too blotchy, my eyelashes are so tiny, my nose is crooked. I’m just so ordinary. I feel ugly!”

These were my thoughts and feelings on more than one occasion as a teenager. My identity came from my own warped sense of self. On days I thought I looked good, I felt more confident. On the days I didn’t, I felt down and withdrawn, like I was physically present, but inwardly wanted to hide.

If I was dating someone, my relationship status caused me to feel loved and cared for. I craved constant companionship. So, having a date or hanging out with friends, or just having a plan in general, boosted my self-worth. I felt like I fit in, like I was “doing the right kinds of things.” This probably explains why in my teenage years, I was single for no more than a few weeks before beginning a new relationship. I was in constant need of love, affirmation, and approval from others.

When we find our sense of worth and identity from others or even from our own perception of ourselves, we are often bound to feel less than enough. We fall into the comparison trap and begin to feel we don’t measure up to the beauty standard, social standard, or success standard the world has for us. We reach one status level to only find it is immediately replaced with the NEED for the next. Our emotions are on a constant, never-ending roller coaster ride, with more lows and twists than highs.

While the importance of the issues surrounding my teenage years have become less significant as I age, I also want to be careful to not sum this message up by saying, “I’ve figured it all out and I don’t struggle any longer! Phew, so glad to be done with that silliness!” Nope . . . wrong! Yes, I have matured. I no longer throw my clothing out into a big heap and whine to my mother about my wardrobe selection, thank goodness. (Well, sometimes I still complain to my husband, lol). And, I’ve become a bit more forgiving and accepting of my flaws, but I still struggle to see myself as worthy and loved. When I look around me in fact, it’s near impossible. The comparison game always makes me feel that I don’t measure up. As I age, sure, the areas of need or struggle shift, but the emotions are still the same.

I can often still find myself looking to others for approval. How about you? I’m tired of it, and my guess is, you might be too. We were created for so much more.

Let’s get real . . . If you’ve reached the end of your rope, it’s the perfect time to make a change! Won’t you join me today in shifting our focus to the truth and the eternal? It is the ONLY thing that works to change our perspective. We need to take our selfish minds, which are focused on who we think we are, and shift them to who God says we are.  This isn’t a one-time deal. Every day I need to make this decision to keep my worth in check and aligned with the truth, and you do too!

When you look up to your Heavenly Father, instead of looking around you, look at what the Word of God says about you:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are . . . – 1 John 3:1

All the Single Ladies

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Well, it’s that time of year again. Red and pink hearts are splattered throughout the stores. Ads for roses and chocolates have ramped up. And brace yourself, your social media feed is about to get hijacked with sweet notes and shout outs to loved ones. That’s right . . . it’s Valentine’s Day!

Now if you are married or in a relationship, this is a fun time of year. But if you are single, some of you are just praying to get through it. This “holiday” may bring up memories of failed relationships or stir up feelings of loneliness. So often, women think the solution is looking for anyone who can be their “Valentine” and fill that role. But, if there is one thing I can warn you of, it is this: DO NOT SETTLE!

Now I realize that it is easy to be tempted to search for a man with qualities that the world deems important – wealth, success, prestige, and Chris Hemsworth good-looks. And, there is nothing wrong with a man who possesses those traits, but it’s simply not enough. Also, women are sometimes tempted to settle for a man who doesn’t share her faith because she truly believes that once their married, she will win him over. Please don’t get caught up in that trap.

As a Christian woman, you should be looking for man who proclaims the same faith and belief system as you. You should be looking for a man who is sold out to Christ. Ultimately, you should be looking for a guy that loves Jesus more than he loves you. That’s right, a man who truly loves Jesus and has a relationship with Him will love you better than any other man can, because he understands how to love like Jesus.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. – Ephesians 5:25

If I haven’t convinced you yet, then please consider this. Life throws some pretty nasty stuff at you. And although I consider myself blessed, I have walked through some rough seasons – a call from my doctor that knocked the wind right out of me, an unexpected death of a family member and a beloved family friend, some difficult seasons of parenting, and a betrayal from someone I trusted.

Needless to say, I’ve gone through stuff. We all do. It’s inevitable. And yes, I have leaned into Jesus with everything during those seasons. But, I can tell you that the worldly measures of a good husband go out the door when you walk through a season of difficulty. No amount of money or power a man possesses can compare to a man who will get down on his knees and pray with you. This is the best gift God can give you in a partner. 

Some of you are growing weary waiting for Prince Charming. While some of you are getting caught up in the romanticism of it all, forgetting what is really important in a husband. But please don’t rush God and push His hand. He has the perfect partner for you. One who will give you butterflies in your stomach when he enters a room, make your toes curl when he kisses you, AND one who will hold your hand and pray with you during the difficult seasons of life.

So, to my single ladies, don’t release your heart to anyone that hasn’t released his heart to Jesus first. If you wait on God for the right man, you will never regret it. He’s out there, and he is probably praying for you because that is just the kind of man he is.

I found the one my heart loves. – Song of Solomon 3:4

 

Getting Real About Fear: Part 1

BY JESSICA LANDMON

Living in today's day and age is stressful and, at times, overwhelming. No wonder so many women are struggling with fear and anxiety. Since fear is something I've struggled with in the past, my heart can so relate. Join me in part one of my session on fear as we discuss what fear actually is and what kind of things could be a trigger for it manifesting in our lives.