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 On the days I didn’t, I felt down and withdrawn, like I was physically present, but inwardly wanted to hide.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.

Hello 2018!

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Well, I know it is a little delayed, but Happy New Year. And I do mean happy. It’s a new year – a fresh start. It’s an opportunity for us all to leave the past behind and experience new things. I am excited and expectant to see what God has in store for 2018. In fact, He has already begun to speak to me and show me new things He wants to accomplish in me and through me this year.

Now I recognize that some of you may not be sharing in my exuberance. And that’s ok. I’ve been there. In fact, I have just left a year of transition – a year where I’ve been challenged and refined. I have gone through some fires, but I’ve come out without any burns and am stronger than before.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. – Isaiah 43:2

It’s amazing what God can do in your life if you allow Him. For me, 2016 was a year like no other. And going into 2017, I foolishly thought that it would be all puppies and rainbows. Well, I did get a new puppy, but 2017 presented its own challenges. It was a year of repositioning and God reaffirming His call on my life. To be completely transparent, I went through some dry spells and times of questioning. But, through it all, God showed Himself faithful.

Ladies, we will all have seasons like this in our lives, but we must stay the course with the Lord. We need to stop looking at every hiccup as negative, and ask the Lord what He wants to show us through the process. We often dislike times of transition and challenges, but they can afford us the opportunity to go deeper in Him. Personally, I came out of 2017 more devoted, committed, and on fire for the Lord than I went in.

So, it is with full exuberance that I welcome 2018. My prayer for you is that you take full advantage of every opportunity Jesus puts in your path. I don’t know about you, but I want to take on all God has in store for me . . . for Women Get Real. So watch out ladies, we are about to get more “real” in 2018, and I am so glad you are joining us on this journey.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. – 1 Peter 1:6

 

Have Yourself a "Mary" Little Christmas

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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With great anticipation and excitement, we took out all of our Christmas decorations. My small living room was taken over by bins stacked in every free space. My kids were so excited to decorate the tree and see what their new ornament would be. It’s a tradition in my family to give each child an ornament that represents something they have experienced or enjoyed over the past year. We blasted the Christmas music and danced around the kitchen wearing Santa hats, and the wrapping paper went flying off the ornaments. All was merry and bright!

Fast forward one hour later… I have decorations EVERYwhere, my two year old is dropping and shattering ornaments as fast as we are hanging them, my husband was sneezing up a storm from the mustiness of decorations cooped up in our attic over the past year, and my kids don’t care anymore about decorating the tree and are happily eating snacks in the kitchen (another mess). I am left with bins exploding with red and green and a house in chaos. Ahhh! 

This little glimpse of my morning can easily become a way of life for me in December.  While I love the holiday season and enjoy making it special for my family, I can easily be swept away with the endless Christmas shopping list, searching WAY to long online for the best deals and gift ideas, cookie baking, end of year work projects, and Christmas parties. It can feel like each day is a race only to see the finish line in the distance.

The truth is all of us have a lot of extra things to plan for, take on, and do this time of year. These things aren’t bad! In fact, they can be very exciting and special, but we do need to be mindful to not replace the real heart of the season with all that we have to accomplish. I know it wouldn’t be realistic to suggest we just eliminate the “to do” list. Sure, we could all stand to simplify it a bit, but may I suggest we all take a lesson from Mary?

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Mary chose what was BETTER. That was to sit, undistracted, at the feet of Jesus and just take the time to be filled by His presence. What a gift Mary had! She was able to discern, amidst her busy surroundings, what was MOST important. Mary wasn’t being lazy, she wasn't leaving it all to Martha to make her feel overwhelmed. She just knew what was most needed in that moment.

We need to purposefully pursue a “Mary” Christmas this year. Sure, we need to take into account all we have to do, but we also need to set aside time during the busy season to just be with the Lord. Let Him fill you up by reading His word, listening to the beautiful lyrics of Christmas hymns, staring at the glowing lights of your Christmas tree, imagining the wondrous night of His birth, where He became the Light of the World. You NEED this, your family needs this, we all need this. There is no gift, no meal, no present more valuable than time in the presence of your Heavenly Father. So, I wish you a Merry “Mary” Christmas!

Will I See You at the Manger?

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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The long-awaited child was born. This was no ordinary baby boy. This was the Messiah – Our Savior – Jesus. God sent His Son in the flesh to save mankind from eternal separation from Him. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

We read in scripture that the shepherds were out at night overseeing their flock when they had a supernatural visitation from an angel of the Lord. I can only imagine how they must have felt in that moment – awestruck, confused, afraid, but mostly curious. I’ve read this passage of scripture numerous times. However, it is their response that has resonated with me lately.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. – Luke 2:15-16

The shepherds are told about this amazing birth, and they responded immediately. They didn’t sit around and talk about it. They didn’t overanalyze it. They hurried off to find Jesus – every one of them. Now this may not sound significant to you, but there is a message that needs to be spoken here.

Many have heard the good news of Jesus’ birth, but are waiting to respond. Maybe this is you. Is there doubt in your heart, fear in your spirit, or are you simply too busy to receive Him? The same invitation made to the shepherds goes out to you today. How will you respond? Will you drop everything to find Him? Or will you make excuses as to why now isn’t a good time?

God sent His son so that you could receive salvation and spend eternity with him. There is no gift that will ever compare. A true miracle happened in that manger that night. History was changed forevermore. And today, God is inviting you to change your future.

Christmas is a great time of year to reflect on God’s love, Jesus’ birth, and His invitation for salvation. It’s an invitation that is open year-round, but there is no time like the present. So this Christmas, I invite you to join me at the manger. Jesus is waiting for you. Will you meet Him there?

Praying you find Christ this Christmas!

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10-11

I Want It All . . . And I Want It Now

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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This notion of wanting it all and wanting it now has become a reality in many ways. Think of all the ways we have become accustomed to receiving instant, quick gratification – high speed internet, same day delivery options, instant streaming of movies and television shows, apps to make reservations, request rides, and read reviews. We can order groceries and food online. We can even have it prepared and delivered. We get instant feedback on social media through likes and comments.

With all these “enhancements” to our modern world, you’d think they’d serve to free us up on some much-needed time and result in a slower paced life. But ironically, they are serving to make us more and more impatient with anything that doesn’t just happen instantly. 

Waiting in traffic is torture! If our internet is slow, we lose our minds. We opt for the self-checkout line to avoid waiting in line at the grocery store. Instead of calling someone and waiting for them to return the message, we text. When we receive a text, we can’t wait to respond. We need to grab our phones immediately. We even order our food in advance so we don’t have to wait at a restaurant. Waiting for the next episode of our favorite show… no thank you!  I’ll Netflix it. Watching a commercial? Nah! No time for these things!

So how does our current world of instant gratification affect our faith? I believe we may be tempted to put that same need for having it all when we want it (which is now) on God. It can be discouraging if we don’t get the answer to our prayers right away or if it isn't what we had in mind. I read my “verse of the day,” why am I not growing in my faith? Why does God feel distant? Why am I not hearing from God? I guess I'll figure this life out myself. 

BUT…

It takes time for good things to grow. God is trying to grow within us perseverance.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” Hebrews 12:1-2

Unlike our instant gratification culture, faith is a journey. The more you cultivate your heart in the things of the Lord, the more you grow…the more you grow, the more you reap a harvest. It takes intentional commitment and work to grow a faith that not only lasts, but thrives. Just like a seed needs time, water, sun, pruning and care before it reaches maturity, our journey of faith needs time set aside each day to read God’s word, to just be quiet and pray, to refresh, to be pruned, to fast, and to grow.

Ever hear the phrase, “what comes easy won’t last, but what lasts won’t come easy?” This is true of building our spiritual muscle. It takes patience and a daily commitment. Don’t throw in the towel if you get off track or if you hit a rough patch in your life and find that other things take precedence. This is when we need to cling to God’s love and grace the most. Begin again. Some of you may need to recommit yourself today to the work of gardening and tending to your soul.

Let's not let all the modern advances in the world around us seep into our perception of what it truly means to follow after Jesus. It’s so much more than a just quick fix in a time of trouble.

“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught…” Colossians 2:6-7

Standing in the Gap

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Four dead in California. Twenty-six dead in Texas. Eight dead in New York City. Fifty-eight dead in Las Vegas. And all this happened just in the last few months. No matter how often tragedies like this occur, my soul still grieves each time as it acknowledges the evil that is so present in the world.

The sad truth is that the world around us is changing. Sure, evil has always been there, but things have changed in this country. Now I know that there is a lot of finger pointing that is going on as we all deal with this ugly reality as a society. This blog is not about gun control. And, this blog is not about politics. Because the way I see it, this is a Jesus issue. Or better put, this is a lack of Jesus issue.

In an effort to be politically correct and accepting, this country has turned its hearts away from the Lord and rationalized all types of sins. Worse yet, Christians have allowed compromise and complacency to set in. Sure, we update our social media status and offer up our thoughts and prayers to the latest victims. But the truth is, the prayer life of the Christian is nearly non-existent today.

Are we truly praying for our country? Are we covering our elected officials in prayer each day as they make decisions that shape America’s future? Are we praying protection over our schools, churches, and businesses?

Someone needs to stand in the gap. Someone needs to seek forgiveness for this nation’s sins. Someone needs to pray for God’s protection for our nation and our communities. That someone is you. That someone is me. And it needs to start today. I confess that I don’t pray for this country as much as I need to, but if we want to see healing and revival, it must begin in us. We have power through prayer to make a difference.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14

 

 

. . . With Thanksgiving

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bogged down with the acts of hate and violence in our country, the devastating natural disasters, the friends and loved ones who are battling life threatening illnesses, and some of the struggles I’m facing within my own family. It seems my mind tends to gravitate towards dwelling on these things. But lately, I have been more aware of the unrest it has been causing me. Thinking about these things, and all of the uncertainties associated with them, cause me to lose my peace. It affects my mood and outlook.

For me, I tend to think about them at nighttime. My mind has a break from the busyness of the day, and it starts to shift towards those things that are more complex and seemingly out of my control.

After mulling over life’s problems, I do eventually give it all over to God in prayer. While I know in my heart that this is the most effective and powerful thing I can do, I’m not always as quick to release my worries or concerns about these issues afterwards. Even after I pray, I continue to cling to these unsettled thoughts as if I don’t really have true faith or trust in God’s sovereignty to work in and through the various situations.

After carrying the weight of these things with me for the last several months, it became clear to me that I was forgetting to put into practice a very important directive from scripture, which was keeping me in a funk. I was overlooking “thanksgiving.”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. – Philippians 4:6

I had been actively trying to turn to God with my anxious thoughts through prayer, but doing so without thanksgiving was keeping me bound to my current state of mind. Thanksgiving requires reflection and a present mindfulness of all of God’s blessings and provision. When we take time to truly be thankful, it does two things:

1.     It changes our perspective by turning our focus from our worries into gratitude.

2.     It gives us the hope and ability to trust in the many areas of the unknown. When we reflect on all of the ways, small and large, that God has provided for us in the past, it fills us with hope that He will continue to do the same today in our current situation and in our future.

Being thankful can initially feel really hard when you’re facing a significant battle in your life.  Let me encourage you to start with some of the small things – maybe even some things we often take for granted. When I began putting this into practice, God began revealing to me so many of the little things that I am truly thankful for. Let me elaborate.

I am thankful for the breath in my lungs, for electricity, for hot showers, for a safe home, for food to eat that is so plentiful with so much variety to choose from. I’m thankful for the beautiful season of fall, for windy days, warm sweaters and crunchy leaves. I am thankful for the promise of each new day. I am so thankful for the grace, love, and forgiveness of my Heavenly Father.

I’m not suggesting that simply being thankful is going to solve your problems, but I am saying that the very awareness of your many blessings is God’s antidote to dwelling on life’s uncertainties. In this beautiful season of autumn, let’s continue to take our requests and needs to God in prayer, but remember to offer our thankfulness for the abundance of His blessings in our lives, even amidst hardship.

Finding Your Way Back

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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Lately, I have had such a burden for those who have wandered from their faith. It saddens me to think about the women who once were on fire for the Lord and have slowly pulled away from Him. What troubles me even more is that there are many out there that have drifted away from God and haven’t even realized that they have done so.

Interestingly, I have rewritten this blog numerous times. I’ve been struggling because I want this message of hope to fall on the right ears. For you see, I am certain that God is calling His daughters back to fellowship with Him.

So in an effort to be anything but vague, this blog is for the woman who has chosen sin over Jesus because it is simply easier in today’s culture. This blog is for the high school girl who slept with her boyfriend, thinks she’s failed, and is continuing this pattern of promiscuity. This blog is for the woman who is living with a man who she isn’t married to because she has rationalized her sin in her heart. This blog is for the woman who has become lazy and indifferent to the things of God, and has slowly hardened her heart toward Him.

And this is why my heart is so burdened. Any one of us can fall into sin if we aren’t intentional about pursuing Him and putting a guard around our hearts and our minds. It is highly unlikely that we go to bed on fire for the Lord and then wake up the next morning with our hearts hardened toward Him. It is a slow progression caused by one poor decision followed by the next.

And once you pull away, it is very difficult to find your way back. This is true not because God doesn’t welcome you back with open arms, but simply because it requires some hard, deliberate choices that people often don’t want to make.

So how do you find your way back? Simple. The journey begins on your knees with a repentant heart. We need not only ask for forgiveness, but we need to turn completely away from the sin that so easily entangled us in the first place. This is the hard part.

God hates sin. He hates every part of it. And when we consciously choose sin, we are telling God we value it over our relationship with Him. If we want to return to fellowship with Him, we must reject the sin altogether. There is no limit to Jesus’ power to forgive no matter how “big” the sin is. But, we need to stop allowing momentary desires and instant gratification get the best of us and pursue the long course of obedience with God.

Ladies, if this message is tugging at your heart now, I ask you to take a moment to get right with God. Our time here on this earth is not guaranteed. Don’t let another moment pass you by. Pray with me:

Dear Jesus,

I come before you with a remorseful heart. I have made some choices that have pulled me away from you, and I want to make things right. Please forgive me for my sinful behavior, my complacency, and my indifference to you. I thank you for your sacrifice on the cross that washes away my mistakes. I ask for Holy Spirit power to turn from these sinful ways. Let me live the life you called me to live. I love you with all my heart. In Jesus' name, amen.

Cleaning House

BY SHILA ANDERSON

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Today I cleaned the house. I’d say that I hate to clean, but that’s not a nice word. What I will say is that I immensely despise cleaning. Since company was coming over, I actually had to do a good cleaning, not just my daily surface cleaning. It seemed like every dog hair that I swept up, every dirty sock that I found under the bed, and every toilet I scrubbed, my mood just got more and more sour.

Why do we have two dogs? Why does my daughter like to make slime? Why is my office such a mess? (I can only blame myself for that one). Why do I not have a cleaning person do this for me? Ugh. I was afraid my family would come home to a clean house and a crabby momma.

Then I remembered that I had just spoken at our conference about joy. How soon I forget. I needed a reminder of what I told people to do when they lose their joy. That teaching wasn’t just for the ladies, it was for me too. We need to start with the Word of God. What does the Bible say about joy? The Bible tells us to always be full of joy.

Always be joyful. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16

So, what do we do when things happen that make us lose our joy? First of all, we need to be thankful and count our blessings. You know what, I’m blessed that I have a home I can clean. I’m thankful for my two dogs. They may shed, but they are so cuddly and are always happy to see me. I’m thankful that we have enough clothes to wear, which is evident by our piles of laundry. I’m thankful that my son made the school soccer team. I’m sure his dirty soccer socks were "accidentally" kicked under the bed. We have so much to be thankful for. We just need to focus on the positive, not the negative.  

Second, we need to do things that make us happy. We can sing. We can dance. We can laugh. I put on some upbeat praise music and as I scrubbed, I sang. As I vacuumed, I danced. By doing something that made me happy, I turned my frown upside-down.

Ladies, it’s so easy to be negative. It unfortunately comes naturally. But when you feel like you are losing your joy, make the conscious effort to fill yourself back up with the joy of the Lord. Praise God for who He is and what He has done for you. Remind yourself that Jesus died for you.

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I whom you have delivered. – Psalm 71:23

Remember that you are an overcomer. Find scriptures that speak to you. No matter what we are going through, we can be filled with the joy of the Lord. It’s up to us if we are happy or unhappy. We are in this together. Make a daily declaration with me that, “Today I choose joy.”

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

 

Breakthrough, Right Ahead

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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If you ever want to see some of the most breathtaking scenery on this earth, then I suggest you visit Alaska. This past summer, I had the opportunity to spend a week-long adventure in the southern part of the state. I have never seen anything quite like it. The mountains, the glaciers, the waterfalls, the wildlife – each sight was better than the previous.

But one thing that made a strong impression on me was the icebergs. Except for their presence in the movie Titanic, I never gave them much thought. To see them right up close fascinated me.

What's interesting about icebergs is that you only see a small percentage on the surface. To my natural eye, they just looked like a small piece of ice floating in the water, which really isn’t that impressive. But did you know that 90% of this icy mass lays unseen below the water? That’s incredible, and a little terrifying, especially being on a cruise ship.

But, I think I was so captivated by these icebergs because they are really similar to our lives. We too can only can see in part what is actually taking place around us. We tend to focus on the things that we discern with our senses – things that we can taste, touch, feel, smell or hear. But in reality, there is an entire spiritual world that is in operation.

Many of us have been interceding and waiting a long time for breakthrough in our lives. Whether we are waiting on healing, financial freedom or some other kind of touch from the Lord, we may begin to get discouraged when the answer is delayed. However, we need to understand that what we see in the natural is not all that is transpiring. There is a battle going on in the spiritual world.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

Each prayer we speak has power. And although we don’t see the answer always immediately, it doesn’t mean that in the spiritual world, our prayers aren’t causing a shaking. The enemy would love to keep us bound in discouragement and cause us to stop praying because we don’t see results. For he understands that our prayers have the power to change things and bring forth a breakthrough.

We need to stop focusing on only what we can see. If we could just get a glimpse of the scene under the ice, we would see the reality of what that iceberg actually is. If we could just get a glimpse of the spiritual world, we would see the battle between the forces of darkness and the power of God.

Ladies, don’t stop praying! Don’t stop believing! Keep your faith in check. Breakthrough is right ahead!

For we walk by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7

Storing Up the Right Treasures

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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I love to shop. I love to bargain hunt. I just love to find the perfect accent piece for my home or accessory to compliment an outfit. I could go to a flea market, a discount store, or a fancy mall. To me, it’s all enjoyable. I get it . . . you can either totally relate or you completely disagree! The point is, shopping is an area of my life that I really enjoy. It’s a hobby, my little escape from my usual responsibilities. But, if left unchecked, it can quickly become materialism.

You see, this peculiar thing begins to happen to me when I buy or receive something. I typically love it, and it brings me a level of happiness, yet, the more I have, the more I want. It’s like I never knew what I was missing out on until now. And oh boy, now that I have it, I want more of it! And “lucky” for me, there are tons of options available that can conveniently arrive on my doorstep in two days with free shipping. Be honest, who gets a little excited when you know a brown package is arriving at your doorstep that day?

The more I have, the more I have a desire to hold on to my things. Who knows when I might want to make a fondue dinner? And maybe I’ll wear that bridesmaid dress to an event someday? Those high heels that kill my feet – you never know, they might not bother me in a few years, right? Or the clothes that used to fit, maybe they will again? I find an odd sense of security in knowing that I have these items, knowing that I’m prepared for whatever may come my way. This kind of thinking, however, is very skewed in light of the wisdom found in God’s word.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

My heart can often become more loyal to my possessions than it is to serving God’s purposes and plans. The truth is, whether you have a lot, or whether you have little, my guess is that most of us have more than we actually need. Things, and the quest of accumulating more things, can weigh us down. More importantly, it can take our focus off our own real needs and the needs of others.

Acquiring things can often be a band aid for what our hearts and souls really desire. Sure, we absolutely need to be wise to provide the necessary things for both ourselves and our families. However, we need to be on guard, not letting the pursuit of stuff sidetrack us from filling our lives with meaningful relationships with God and with others. You will always be left with a feeling of emptiness and searching apart from these two things.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-8

If you are feeling bogged down by your possessions or the constant acquiring of more, set aside an hour or two each week to clean out a closet or go through your cabinet. Simplify your life a bit by pairing down the items you have to the necessities. If you haven’t used it in a year, you very likely won’t ever use it! Donate the excess to a friend who is in need.

I have found that there is something far more enjoyable than acquiring, and it’s sharing with those who are most in need. This simple practice, done regularly, will have rippling effects. You will find your personal space to be less cluttered, you’ll have less to care for, and it will keep your focus off of your stuff so that you can turn your minds towards the needs of others. By doing this, you put yourself in the position of being a blessing to others. Now that’s storing up treasure in heaven, where it really matters!

When You Are Not Enough

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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I'm still recuperating after last week’s women’s conference, and I simply cannot let go of the message God has placed on my heart. I have witnessed first-hand how strong the enemy comes after God’s people, especially when they are pursuing God’s assignment. I can’t stress enough how we must fight our way through all the obstacles and attacks that the enemy may throw our way. Otherwise, we will never fully realize our God-given destinies.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called . . .” – 1 Timothy 6:12

But today, I want to focus on one attack that the devil uses against us all – telling us that we are not qualified or worthy enough to be used by God. He cleverly takes captive your thoughts and tells you that you are not smart enough, talented enough, or simply good enough for God’s purposes. And the truth is, you are not. I am not. None of us are. That is, none of us are apart from God.

We have a tendency to look introspectively at our lives, evaluating all the skills we can offer the Lord. This is probably because we have been taught to think like this since grade school. The world’s model for success suggests that you learn a skill, work hard, and eventually move your way into a position that you are equipped to handle. This isn’t necessarily how God operates.

You see, the Lord loves to call the unqualified and the weak, because His power and might are demonstrated most in our insufficiencies. He likes to stretch us and use us in a way that we aren’t necessarily familiar with. God loves to take a woman outside her comfort zone because she must rely solely on Him for strength. It is out of this desperation that our faith grows and we mature spiritually.

Ladies, you may be resisting God’s nudge for the next step in your life because you are afraid of failing. That’s probably because you are only looking at what you can accomplish in the natural. I get it. But, I promise you this, that if God is asking you to do something, He will equip you with supernatural power.

Remember, there is no shortage of women He could have asked to do the task that He's asking you to do. But He chose you . . . for a reason. So, stop resisting. Stop making excuses. Stop talking yourself out of pursuing God’s path. And the next time the enemy says you are not enough, I want you to remind him that your God is!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

 

How You Start Matters

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

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When I wake up in the morning, even before I lift my head off the pillow, my mind immediately clicks into gear. My thoughts rush in, and they typically run the gamut. Sometimes, it’s things I didn’t get to the day before. But, it’s always the to-do’s for that particular day – what my kids need or have going on, my husband’s schedule, the housework, grocery list, chores, errands, bills, upcoming expenses, work projects – just to name a few. These are just the usual, inescapable responsibilities. Mixed in are the other if’s. You know, the what if, I wonder if, and I wish if.

Before I even set my feet on the ground, I can often feel my heart rate rising. I begin to feel waves of anxiety setting in. I find this to be especially true if I grab my phone. Now, in addition to my own thoughts, I've added emails that need a response, news headlines (which are 99% of the time depressing), and the latest social media posts (which again are not typically uplifting or encouraging.) Bleh!  Who wants to just pull the covers up over their head and go back to sleep? I DO! And, this is all in a matter of 10 minutes!

Interestingly, did you know that an average person could have up to 70,000 thoughts per day? That’s 50 thoughts per minute! According to research, as many as 98 percent of our thoughts are exactly the same ones we had the day before. Even more significant is that 80 percent of our thoughts are negative. We sure can get stuck in an internal mind rut, can’t we?

After reflecting on this, I have recently recommitted myself to starting my days differently. No, I can’t turn my brain off and just have it STOP thinking. However, I can choose what I am going to ALLOW myself to think about and do first thing with my day . . . my fresh start . . . my gift from God. Yes, each day is a gift!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Scripture is very clear. We need to seek first His kingdom! Before we do or think anything else, we need to commit ourselves to turning to God’s word and toward prayer. This choice alone will set your mind and heart on the things, not of this world, not on your endless to do list, but rather of value and great worth to our Heavenly Father.

Through this practice, I have experienced first hand the power to “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ,” as instructed in 2 Corinthians 10:5. When left to my own devices, my thoughts are downcast, filled with negativity, self-doubt, or sometimes just plain dread. When I seek God first, however, I become so keenly aware of the sharp contrast between my mindset and the mind of Christ. When I read and speak out these truths, my mindset changes from doubt and dread to hope and purpose. 

God desires that we end this cycle of obsessing about the negative and start seeking out and claiming the truth of God’s Word. Ladies, we need the life changing power of Jesus to infiltrate our hearts and minds before we set out to begin our days. If we want to make a difference in other’s lives, and if we want our lives to matter, we need to change. It all begins by taking hold of that secret place inside of us and opening our minds to receive what is good, lovely, and perfect.

What we think determines what we do and how we feel. Before you get going, get your thoughts in alignment with your creator. You can’t pour out into others what you first haven’t filled yourself with.

It is life changing to claim the truth in God’s word and make it personal. Doing this won’t change your to-do list, it won’t take away life’s hardships and struggles, but it WILL fill you with the power to face your day clothed in strength and in truth. Perhaps reciting these verses, or ones that speak personally to you, will change the way you take on each new day! Will you join me in seeking first His kingdom?

“I will clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Colossians 3:12

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

“I will seek his will in all I do, and he will show me which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6

“I am fearless.” Isaiah 43:5

“I have authority over the enemy.” Luke 10:19

“I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

 

Have I Taught Them To Fight?

BY JESSICA LANDMON

I was recently reflecting on the earlier days of motherhood, suddenly realizing that my little ones are far from little anymore. My daughter towers over me, and my 6’5 teenage “man-child” has his license and is no longer dependent on me to drive him places. This certainly is an interesting season for me.

And to add to that, I have several mom friends who will be sending their kids off to college soon. The common question that I keep hearing from each of them is – have I prepared my child for what's ahead? And, of course, this is every mother's concern. 

From the moment we bring our children home from the hospital, our lives transform into varying seasons of preparing our children for life’s next step. We often wonder if we have done a good enough job. Have we taught them to be kind and considerate? Have we taught them about social cues, looking people in the eye, and the power of a firm handshake? Have we taught them to be thankful and content with all that they have? Have we taught them to be independent and to work hard?

These are all important life skills, but lately I've been asking myself something even more critical: “Have I taught my kids to fight?” Now, I know that sounds like an odd question for a mom to ask herself, but it is definitely a valuable one. 

My children having a relationship with God is the most important thing I can teach them. And, I pray that they walk with Him all the days of their lives. But, living a life sold out to Christ is hard. I know this first hand. And walking in our God-given destiny is even harder. In fact, unless we are willing to fight, none of us will ever fully realize God’s full potential for our lives.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

There is a real enemy that wants to stop us, and our children, from moving forward into our destinies. We must fight. But, we must fight spiritual opposition with Godly tactics.

Are we teaching our children about spiritual warfare? Are we teaching them how important it is to have the Word of God entrenched in their hearts so that scripture naturally pours from their mouths when hard times come? Do they actually understand what putting on the armor of God is?

When obstacles arise, will they know to press in with prayer? When fear and anxiety cripple them, do they know how to silence the lies of the enemy? When it seems like their dreams are an impossibility, do they know to chase after them with power and strength from on high?

Moms, these are the questions we need to be asking ourselves. Listen, I'm concerned just as much as the next mom about whether my kids will be ready for the real world. But, I'm realizing that the best way to prepare my kids for this crazy, unpredictable world is to teach them to fight. 

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:12

Summer Rest

BY SHILA ANDERSON

I love summer. I love having my kids at home. I love not waking up early. I love swimming and sunbathing and relaxing. I love vacations and getting away from it all – from the overscheduled sports and dance and the work and the dishes! I love to unwind and take a break.

The problem is, when I’m in vacation mode, I tend to take a break from everything, including my quality time with God. 

I’ve been feeling very dry, and I have had a lackadaisical summer feeling about everything and wondering why God hasn’t been showing up. God’s not going to just show up and help me along when all I’m doing is reading my Bible really quickly so I can check the box and start the day. The reason I’m feeling distant is because I’m distancing myself. My idea of being relaxed and taking a break is only making me stressed and edgy because I haven’t invited God to join me on my “days off.” 

There is a way to take time off and still invite God to join you. In fact, the more we invite Him, the more relaxed we will be. 

My Netflix binge watching maybe isn’t the best use of my time. And a few of those episodes are not so uplifting. Perhaps, I can skip that “one more episode” at midnight and actually get a good night sleep instead. Maybe, I should pray and ask God if this is really something I should be watching?

My kids love listening to the most current music, but I need to be diligent about putting my Christian radio stations on too. Did you ever listen to some of the words of those songs, on Radio Disney none-the-less? I need to be careful what I’m letting my children fill themselves with (even if they don’t understand what the lyrics mean) and filling myself with as I listen alongside them. 

When leaving the house in the morning to do something fun, we should be inviting God to join us – to show us favor and be with us all day. When we try to do it on our own, it’s just exhausting.

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. – Hebrews 4:9-10

We need to take time to rest. Let’s find time to rest in His presence. When we unplug from the world, we need to plug into Jesus. That’s the best rest we could ask for. 

So ladies, let’s relax the remainder of this summer. Let’s enjoy the sun and the vacations and the not so rushed schedules. But, let’s not forget to invite God to join us in whatever we do. Let’s remember to put Him first and keep Him with us all day. Just because we are vacationing from work and dishes, doesn’t mean we need to take a break from God.

Keep Stepping

BY JESSICA LANDMON

Life is tricky. And confusing. And sometimes, downright complicated. But, I think we can all agree that we want to live this life to the fullest. We all have varying ideas as to what this means. For me, I truly want to live the life that God has called me to live. Nothing more. Nothing less.

With that said, I’m very aware that being on the right path is important. I have learned through the years that the best (and safest) place to be is on the path God wants me on, even if it doesn’t make sense in my own head. However, I have also learned that this, in and of itself, is simply not enough.

Let me explain. To be on the right path is crucial, but this is only part of living a successful, fulfilled life that honors God. We need to constantly be moving forward, chasing after the things God has in store for us, not sitting idle for the next thing to be deposited into our laps.

Many of us have started on our journeys strong, but now hesitate to keep going forward for a number of reasons. Maybe the road has gotten difficult, and fear has crippled us. Perhaps, we have simply become lazy in our pursuit of God’s plans or just too busy with things that aren’t part of God’s best for us. In any event, this is a dangerous place to remain.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  Will Rogers

God is constantly pushing us further in our walks. He wants to stretch us, change us, and most importantly use us for His purpose. It's not enough to be headed in the right direction. We need to head out and keep moving forward, conquering new things. If we stay stagnant, we may miss opportunities that God has put into place for us. Or worse yet, we can get run over!

Ladies, we need to stop waiting for conditions to be perfect, and for all the trials and hardships to be removed. Start chasing after the life God planned for you. Step out in faith. But most importantly, keep stepping.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:12