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

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

BY WENDY MEZA

If there is one thing that I have learned over the years walking with Jesus, it is this: keeping the main thing the main thing is so important. This journey is a series of different seasons and different assignments until the day we walk into eternity and give an account before the Lord of our lives here on earth.

So many women and men start off this journey of knowing and loving Jesus with simple intentions. They love God so much and want to live their life in a way that pleases God and builds His kingdom. They start off "doing" out of the overflow from a relationship with Jesus. They are just "being." They can't help but be loving, faithful, thankful, sincere, and because of that, they are effective in everything they do.

Sadly, along the way, in the midst of positions and the "happenings" of ministry, people often get lost in the work of the ministry and forget what the main thing truly is staying close to Jesus and helping others stay close to Jesus. If what you "do" for Jesus ever takes you away from a close relationship with Him, and those around you, it's really important to take a healthy re-evaluation of the condition of your life and get back to the main thing.

Here are a few questions I often try and ask myself:

Is my relationship with God healthy and growing? Am I spending quality, uninterrupted time with Jesus and truly connecting with Him?

Are my relationships healthy, authentic, and growing? Are people more important than what I am doing?

Am I staying true to the last thing He told me to do or have I gotten off track?

I hope this was helpful and pray that each of you live successful healthy lives for Him. And, I pray that you would always try to keep the main thing the main thing! 

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. — Acts 20:24

But God . . .

BY JESSICA LANDMON

Don't you just love it when words are spoken, and they speak directly to your heart? I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with a friend just last week where that is exactly what happened. We were chatting about a situation that I recently went through, and her only response to me was "but God."

Now I know that some of you might be thinking that those words don’t sound super spiritual or even noteworthy. But, let me tell you that those words resonated deep in my soul. She spoke them with such power and encouragement.

What we need to realize is that no matter what circumstance life throws at us, God has the final word. We can list all the impossibilities of the situation and dwell on each and every negative aspect, or we can recognize that the Creator of the universe has another move He can make. The best part is that He doesn't need to play by the rules of the universe that limit us. His power knows no boundaries.

I know some of you are sitting there reading this blog with broken hearts and downcast spirits. But, I am here to tell you but God. You may be struggling with physical or mental health issues, but God can heal them both. You may have no job, no money in you bank account, and are about to lose your house, but God can find a way where there is no way. Your marriage may seem dead, but God will breathe life back into it. You may have been betrayed, attacked, and beaten down, but God will bring restoration.

Ladies, stop limiting the capacity to which God can move on your behalf based on natural solutions. We serve a supernatural God. Start looking at His promises. Memorize them. Claim them over your life and your situation. The next time you feel defeated, and the enemy whispers lies of hopelessness is your ear, simply respond back, oh . . . but God!

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. – Romans 15:13

 

Life's Waiting Room

BY RACHEL AXTMANN

It was seven long years. During that time, there were moments of great faith and times of deep discouragement. After seven years of praying and seven years of waiting on God, there were times when I began to wonder, is God listening? Does He even care? 

My prayers were centered on my husband and his career. After several years in his field, he longed for more responsibility and hoped to be promoted into the position he had studied for and worked towards achieving. Coupled with our decision for me to stop working to raise our children, it seemed the “perfect” time for God to intervene and bless my husband with his heart’s desires. And so, we began to pray for just that.

Initially, my prayers were filled with hope and expectancy. Mind you, I may have planned out exactly how this could/should all come to pass. You know – time frame, position title, salary – just a few of the small details. As the years went by, however, my plans didn't come to fruition. This all left me feeling disappointed and even angry at times. 

During my season of discouragement, there were some very important lessons. Had I not been in this position, I may not have had the opportunity to take in and appreciate all that the Lord was trying to teach me.

First, I became very aware that I wasn’t alone. Several women around me were in their own “waiting room” of sorts. Some were waiting to find the right spouse, others were waiting for their own job opportunity, others were waiting on a much-desired pregnancy, while others were waiting on healing. Even though learning this didn’t change my situation, it helped me see that I wasn’t alone and shouldn’t face my season alone. 

Second, while I didn’t understand what God was up to, I clung to this verse in Jeremiah.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11

I began to understand that God was at work to bring out the best outcome, but in His timing. Mind you, this doesn’t give us a free pass to sit around and do nothing while we wait for God to just miraculously pour out prosperous blessings in our lives. In fact, the opposite is true. God has plans for your life. But, you need to set out each day determined to use the gifts, talents, and current position He has given you with all your might. God can then steer your life when you are a “moving ship.”  It’s impossible to steer a ship that is sitting in the harbor with the engine off.  Seeing the truth in this, my husband continued to work hard and take on all he could in his current position. 

Third, I learned that we can plot our way in life, making many plans, and even achieve great success in doing so, but I sure don’t want to settle for what I think is best. I desire to align my desires with the will and plan God has for my life. Could there be anything more fulfilling than walking in the destiny of the one who created you?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my way, declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

As we began to release our own plans and clung tighter to our faith, God began to change the desires of our hearts. Slowly, the prestigious job title and position began to lose its zeal. God placed new desires in our hearts – ones that I am certain we wouldn’t have been open to had God answered our original prayers. Over time, we were filled with a greater desire to serve Him rather than to serve our own pre-set plans. In His perfect timing, way, and provision, the promotion came. Not to the position we were originally hoping for, but to something far greater – a full-time career in ministry. 

God’s answer to your season of waiting may not come when you’d like. It may not even be what you are hoping for, but you can be certain that He is working all things together for your good, when you purpose your life after serving Him. This brings me so much peace and comfort, and yes, even gratitude for the long years of waiting. May you find hope and even joy in a waiting room of your own.

The Story of Your Life

BY JESSICA LANDMON

Last night, my sweet girl graduated from the eighth grade. As you can imagine, it was filled with many emotions and moments of reflection. It seems like just yesterday that I was pushing her on the swings and having princess tea parties. But things are changing. She is changing. In fact, her story is just beginning.

Like with every good book, the first few chapters are dedicated to setting up the storyline. These chapters are more foundational in nature. But now, as she enters high school in the fall, a new chapter begins – one where I take a step back, and where she takes a big step forward in independence. This step will be filled with many decisions and choices that will impact how the rest of her story goes.

So what advice can I tell her? What guidance can I give to all the young women out there who are starting a new chapter in their lives? What advice can I offer to women who are in the middle or nearing the end of their story? Truthfully, it’s all the same.

First, and foremost, you need to decide who is going to author your story. Are you going to make decisions based off your emotions? Or, are you going to use the Word of God and the counsel of the Holy Spirit to set out your path? This is a big decision – one that will set out the course of your life. Following your emotions will only lead to failure and frustration. But, allowing God to author your story will guarantee a life of peace and fulfillment. I’m not suggesting it will be all rosy, but God will be with you every step of the way.

The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6

With that said, we can all agree that a good story is filled with all sorts of subplots: adventure, romance, friendship, betrayal, trial, success, and failure. We need to recognize that the ups and downs are a part of a successful Godly life. God is knitting together all the pieces, good and bad, to set you up for your destiny. Don’t run from the difficult times – grow from them.

Moreover, be true to yourself, and don't let culture be the standard that you measure your worth. There is no size, beauty or education requirement that makes you more valuable to God. Our identity is based in Him. So, make decisions that honor Him. The decisions you make today in this chapter of your life will catch up with you tomorrow.

“Someday your past will meet your present. Make sure she doesn't embarrass you.” – All Mascara Is Not Created Equal

We often hear phrases like, “You only live once, buy the shoes, eat the cake.” I would challenge you with something deeper because you do only have one story to live out. Make it count. Take the leap of faith. Make the most of the talent God gave you. Don't let fear or the opinions of others stop you from living out God’s story in you.

Ladies, what do you want the story of your life to look like? Do you want it filled with conformity and worldliness? Or, do you want your story to be one of a kind, written by the greatest author ever. The choice is obviously yours. And that decision starts today. 

Aging Gracefully

BY SHILA ANDERSON

I never really understood the term “aging gracefully” until the other day. Interestingly, you can find all kinds of tips and tricks on the Internet on how to age gracefully. There are creams and toners, Spanx, hair dyes and waxes, and even surgery and injections to help us to age gracefully. But, they have it all wrong. I believe the true key to aging gracefully is having grace with ourselves as we age.

I was just chatting with a good friend, and she told me she recently had Botox injections. She also had Cool Sculpting done to help freeze away stubborn fat. That made me sad. I would never think that she would need that done.

As I get older, I see an increase in wrinkles, cellulite, varicose veins and smile lines. But saying that, I know that comes with getting older, and I want to embrace my age. I will do my part to take care of myself, but I can’t make my looks be all that I focus on. I’m not a teenager anymore and shouldn’t expect to have the body like one. I want to love myself, with each passing year, just the way I am. 

So, why do we think we need to alter the way we look? Where are we getting these negative views of ourselves? Are we listening to negative comments, either from others or from ourselves? Is it the magazines or the shows with all the famous, skinny, beautiful women? News Flash Ladies – they get paid to look like that! They have makeup artists fixing them up. We need to remember that it’s their job to look good! Are we comparing ourselves to others? I know I personally will never be as fit as the running moms, that’s just not me. So, I can’t compare myself to them, especially if I’m not willing to do what they do in order to be that physically fit.

“But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!” – 2 Corinthians 10:12

Let’s look at ourselves through God’s eyes. How does He see us? He is the King of Kings, and we are His daughter. That makes us a Princess! He says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We have been knit together in our mother’s womb. We are loved . . . just the way we are. 

I want to be the kind of woman that is happy swimming in public with my kids, instead of being concerned about how I look in a bathing suit. I want to be the woman that doesn’t stress over which picture to post on Facebook based on how good I look in it. I want to be the woman with smile lines because you know what, I like to smile. I want to be real. I want to be me. I am blessed, I am happy, and I am beautiful.  

I hope that you too will have the grace to love yourself, just the way you are. No matter how old you are, let’s make a pact that together we can give ourselves grace to age. Come on ladies, age gracefully along with me!

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” – Robert Browning

 

Get Out of Your Own Way

BY JESSICA LANDMON

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I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I simply want to use every bit of talent God trusted me with and use it for His glory. This seems simple enough. But if I am truly honest with you, I admit that I often get in my own way. You see, the female mind is an interesting place. On one hand, it is full of dreams, vision, and hope, but on the other, it can also be filled with negative thinking, fear of rejection, and a desire to control. We are often the ones who are holding ourselves back from our calling. Let me explain.

First of all, we are our hardest critics. We tend to focus on all the negative attributes in our lives, rather than God’s power at work within us. We allow feelings of inadequacy, shame, and insecurity hold us back from fully realizing our potential in Christ. The biggest problem is that we think that we have to have it all together to be used by God. That is a lie. It is the Holy Spirit power alive in us that enables us to do anything.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. - Ephesians 3:20, NIV

Second, as women, the fear of rejection is especially real. From those early days in gym class where teams were being chosen, right through womanhood, we have dealt with acceptance issues. What happens if we put ourselves out there and people reject us? What if we volunteer in ministry and we are told no? What if we apply for that job and we get turned down? What then? We allow this fear of rejection to cripple us, and consequently, we never take that step of faith.

And lastly, we often try to make things happen in our own strength. We think that in order to get to point A, we must travel a certain route, one that makes sense in our own mind. This is wrong thinking.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” – Isaiah 55:8, NLT

God’s ways are higher than ours, and much better. We need to lay down our ideas and preconceived notions, and allow God to do His work. By putting our hands in it, in an effort to control, we simply make a mess. We need to completely submit to God’s ways.

It is time to get out of your own way and walk in the calling God set before you. Will you be courageous enough to trust the Lord and His plans for your life despite your insecurities? Will you lay down your fear of rejection and hold on to the promises of God? Will you relinquish control and embrace the unknown? If your answer is yes, get ready for the Holy Spirit to take you on an adventure beyond your wildest imagination.

Ladies, your destiny is waiting . . .

Waiting on a Promise

BY WENDY ARROYO

I am currently sipping coffee out of my "I'm engaged, duh" coffee mug looking down at my beautiful engagement ring, teary-eyed, thinking about what a whirl wind it has been the past few years. 

Everyone around me has been celebrating my soon to be husband and I as we plan and enjoy this season. It's been full of joy, lots of planning, and new things that have stretched us, but through the change, it has been beautiful. 

What they do not know is that just under two years ago at 28 years old, I was living with my parents, wondering what was going wrong in my life. I had left a director position and was working a couple of part-time jobs trying to figure out my next move. I had devoted my life to the Lord faithfully and was committed to building the Kingdom. I worked alongside my parents for several church plants, traveled the world telling people about Jesus, but there I was 28 years old fighting fear of the future and anxiety of the unknown. I was also fighting being upset with God, and if I'm honest, blaming Him.

I don't think I realized it at the time, but in my heart, I couldn't understand why God was blessing everyone else with this gift of marriage, but not me. On New Years that year, I was in flight to visit my hometown and found myself in a puddle of tears at midnight as I re-surrendered my future to Jesus. Alone. In the air. 

My now fiancé, JC, walked into my young adults group one night that year and at the time, I didn't give him a second thought. Ten months later, he came back into my life and our story began.

I will save our full love story for another day, but this is the biggest lesson I learned – sometimes the only reason you are where you are in life is simply because it is just not time yet to be anywhere else. That's it! It's not because you sinned or made a bad decision that changed the course of your life. Sometimes, it's just simply that you are still waiting for the promise to come to  pass in His perfect timing. Everything else is just not for you. It's just a season of FAITH 

Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that you cannot force your days to unfold in the timing you want. All you can do is trust in the one who always keeps His promises. And, it's hard. 

But, oh how He keeps His promises! All of them! 

I still get teary-eyed when I look down at my ring because it is evidence of faith meeting sight. It is evidence of God hearing every word, every time, and loving me through all those moments of fighting for the promise, all the while never knowing God had more than just a spouse for me. He had a place for me in this season. He has truly directed my steps.

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!  Luke 1:45

I won't lie and pretend the road ahead looks easy or hasn't been laced with some trials, but it is Him that set me on this road, and it is Him that will walk me through this journey of being a good wife. 

I don't know what promise you are holding on to, but I do know that God's promises are worth fighting for. Keep moving forward because I know that one day you too, will reach that moment when faith meets sight. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23