Purposeful Faith

Category - blessings

Can I Just Stay Here a Little While?

Post by: Jami Amerine

It was an ugly cry; nostrils flaring; with an occasional snort/hiccup/whimper/wail.

On my white blouse, there were traces of snot and black tears.

I knew full well, this meant mascara was streaming down my cheeks and that I looked – dreadful.

This made sense because this how I felt, dreadful.  And vain as I am, I didn’t care that I looked a wreck. Pieces of my heart were going to being left in this “men’s” dorm. My sons would now live here, in halls that smelled like feet and corn nuts.  Here on the second floor of a dormitory I had blazed past 1,001 times during my studies at Abilene Christian University, I was about to leave not one son, but two.

The “man-babies,” John and Luke tried to pity me, bless them. But truth be told, their demeanors could not hide the thrill.  A new episode, a world they have not known, outside the confines of our rules and our ideals. To the man-babies the halls did not reek of burnt pop-tarts and jock itch spray, to them it smelled of freedom. The future was labeled clearly over the doors of Mabee Hall, rooms 208 and 255.

Luke pat/hugged me and kissed our foster daughter that sat casually on my hip. She was oblivious, but I couldn’t help notice that the hug was accompanied by a gentle escort out the door. “I’ll call you mom, and thanks.”

The door shut and a sob escaped me.

And my blurry eyes were relieved to see him as he ambled toward me. At nearly 6’4” my baby boy was as unacquainted as acquainted.  John lifted his cleft chin in my direction with a casual “hey, I am around the other side.” The corners of his mouth quivered as he tried to be cool and not appear too giddy. In a swift movement he lifted his foster sister from my arms and in lanky, cowboy booted strides escorted us to his new room.

Just like Luke, my hug goodbye was laced with a gentle shove out the door.  John had to run back to his car and then meet friends, so he was a little more abrupt. I stood surrounded by student workers hauling mini fridges, parents no better off than I, and the buzz of adventure vibrating in the stale air.

I thought out loud, “I didn’t get a picture of them in their rooms!” I looked toward the exit and yelped, “John! I wanted…” and caught the last glimpse of John’s back before he swiftly turned onto the staircase.

And that picture is burned in my mind.

I keep looking at it. I can’t stop replaying it.

Soaked with tears and the heavy weight of the end of a cherished chapter, I made it to my car. I buckled the baby in her car seat and waited for my husband. In the distance I could see Justin and our two youngest sons heading toward me. We would leave here and go home to our new normal. We’d done this before when our oldest daughter moved into the dorm, on the same campus two years before.  But this was different.  Maggie is my friend, with John and Luke, I know the man-babies wouldn’t be around or text or call like Maggie does.  I know… nothing will ever be the same.

I turned up the radio to blaring toddler tunes so the littles would not be alarmed by my sobs.  I made grilled cheese for the boys; I choked down a salad, and bedded everyone down for a nap. I kicked off my shoes, grabbed a box of Kleenex and climbed into my bed.

I know you think I wanted to stay there; to hang out a little longer at that dorm and make sure they had everything they needed.  Alas, it was time to go. And here, now, in cool sheets with a red nose and swollen eyes I let loose in the place I longed to be. Alone with my God, I cried and prayed. My phone buzzed, I needn’t look to see, words of encouragement, messages of “been there… it will be okay, they’ll be fine…” Had I responded I would have said, “Please leave me alone, I just want to stay here a little longer.”

I didn’t want encouragement. I didn’t want to pull it together or stop the waves of heartache.  I wanted to weep and reminisce.  I wanted to lie there, imagining my head in the lap of my Comforter – my only Hope.  As sad as I was, and as much hurt as I felt, I was right where l wanted to be.

Our society doesn’t grieve well.  We pick up and trudge on to the next thing. We hate to hurt. We despise the low places and we do our best cover the agony with sensory indulgences… an ice cream cone, wine, or new stilettos.

Can I Just Stay Here a Little While?

Will you let me own this hurt?

Here I lie crumpled at the foot of the cross. In this place of my brokenness, there is a view that I can only see through the eyes of my suffering.  Let me stay.  Not to wallow in self-pity, but to weep in the arms of my Father.  Just for a while let me hurt. Just for a little longer let me embrace the great Healer.  He knows me, He remembers what I remember.  I know the man-babies have to go, I am not so dull. But just let me stay here a little longer and visit with the only One who can see the snapshots stored in my heart and head. Here in the quiet, surrounded by decrepit tissues and a tear soaked pillow case I need only to grieve without excuse. No condemnation, no pity, no “pull yourself together.”

Can I Just Stay Here a Little While?

Please, for here with my God is my favorite place to be.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4

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547592_3961306391397_890561921_n (1)Jami Amerine
is a wife, and mother to anywhere from 6-8 children. Jami and her husband Justin are active foster parents and advocates for foster care and adoption. Jami’s Sacred Ground Sticky Floors is fun, inspirational, and filled with utter lunacy with a dash of hope. Jami holds a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (yes Home Ec.) and can cook you just about anything, but don’t ask her to sew. She also holds a Masters Degree in Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Her blog includes topics on marriage, children, babies, toddlers, learning disabilities, tweens, teens, college kids, adoption, foster care, Jesus, homeschooling, unschooling, dieting, not dieting, dieting again, chronic illness, stupid people, food allergies, and all things real life. You can find her blog at Sacred Ground Sticky Floors, follow her onFacebook or Twitter.

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3 Ways to Remain In God’s Love

Remain In God's Love

In the movies I watch, they tend to throw out the command, “Stand down!”

It’s this moment where the person in charge, usually some Captain or Corporal or Chief gives a word that calls all effort to halt. It calms the strong ambitious and unruly one wanting to push ahead with might, power and strength.

“Lay it Down. Give it up. Cease-fire. Stand Down.” 

There is a Creator, a Captain and a Care-taker, who has a much higher view than we do. God sees the good ending to our present moment, far more clearly than we do. He also sees all the steps we need to take to get there.

The Captain knows, what you do not know.

Where are you prone to push ahead?

To overexert yourself – speaking a rash word, entering in when you should step out,
getting angry, rather than getting alone with God?

The commander has a word for you too: “Lay it Down. Give it up. Cease-fire. Stand down.” 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. Jo. 15:9

Standing down is remaining in God’s love.

I don’t do this. Remain.

Even right now, I am thinking of all that I need to do. I am writing these words, but my heart is thinking of the house I need to rent, the kids I need to get enrolled in school and the work that I need to do today. I only have 2 weeks until school starts. I want to start working. I need to get this post written. I am a hypocrite.

“Lay it Down. Give it up. Cease-fire. Stand down.” 

What might it look like to leave – seen stress for God’s unseen love?

To just walk away from the overwhelming nature
and let God’s overwhelming nature pacify the fears?

I can’t help but think, where God is, light is. And, where light is – clarity focuses.

Are you, like me, looking for a way to go?

Perhaps, you and I are approaching it all wrong. What if instead of flicking on every light, we stayed in the dark and waited for his light to lead?

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:3

Power is not in forging ahead, it is in standing down.

I don’t need to do, Jesus already did.
I don’t need to act great, Jesus is.
I don’t need to hide lies, for grace lies in repentance.
I don’t need to pretend I know, God knows.
I don’t need to fix, God already has the answers.
I don’t need to hide, unless it is in God’s shelter.
I don’t need to perform, the curtain closed and love won.
I don’t need to fear his leaving, God is steadfast and good.

“Lay it Down. Give it up. Cease-fire. Stand down.” 

To stand down? It looks like this:
1. Lay it down: To give God what you’re trying to own.
2. Give it up: To step out in faith, knowing that his goodness will lead to a good result.
3. Cease-fire: To stop blaming other people, problems or circumstances.

In Christ, I rest.
Needing nothing less.
Nor nothing more.
For He is the door to my more.
He sees the battlefield.
He knows my way.
His battle is won at the end of my day.

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Choose to Celebrate the Beauty

Celebrate the Beauty

Post By: Angela Parlin

He smiled from ear to ear, with a patch of fuzzy hair standing straight up on top of his five-year-old head. Big eyes twinkling, he grabbed my hand from behind the kitchen sink and led me out to the back deck.

“Stay RIGHT there, Mom. I gotta show you something you’re gonna LOVE!”

He descended the stairs, filling the air with his mile-wide smile.

I stood there spilling tears under the sky on a windy Friday afternoon, because some days, I start to understand. These are the days of my life, and they aren’t always easy. I often don’t want them to play out the way they do.

But these off-schedule, messy, monotonous days are always full of beauty—and God gives us the opportunity to choose to see it.

Will we choose to celebrate the beauty found in our own right here, right now?

Sometimes I realize how much I miss. I don’t always enjoy the little gifts in my life, because I’m focused on my to-do lists. Or I’m honed in on my plans and the way they should go. Or I’m fixated on some disappointment. I need these stop-everything moments. I need this reminder–to celebrate the little things.

He climbed up on the green swing seat and asked me if I was ready. He asked if I was watching.

“Go ahead, honey. I’m watching. I’m ready!”

Then my last little tiny, who’s growing way too fast, started pumping his legs back and forth, keeping his eyes on me. I cheered, like he’d crossed the finish line of his first marathon.

And I cried. Because he’s adorable and he’s smart and he’s taller now and his feet can reach and when did I miss him working on the swing?

So many times, I’d pushed him back and forth in that spot, encouraging him to pump his little legs, so that when I walked away, he could keep on swinging. So many times, he just didn’t even want to. He wanted me to push him instead.

Not this day. This day he felt the thrill of figuring it out on his own, of kicking up dirt and swinging high into the air. All by his big self.

So I stood there swinging between pride and joy, but also fear and loss.

I know I’m going to miss these days, and I don’t like that feeling. To fix it, I want to try to be present for every ordinary sliver of daily life with each of my kids. I want to save them all up and hold them in my heart forever.

Of course, every is impossible. Right? We’re only human, and we will miss things. We can make an effort to be present with our people, but there will still be limitations.

One day, we will miss this–and there’s nothing we can do to change that.

What comes next will also be sweet. But it will be different. So today? Let’s love the opportunities God gives us. Let’s ask Him to fill our hearts with wisdom, as the psalmist prayed.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12, NIV

While lost in thoughts about seeing beauty and living fully and all that is to come in our lives, my little man asked a question I’ll never forget.

“Isn’t it FUN to watch me swing, Mom?”

Oh, buddy. You have no idea. I LOVE to watch you swing.

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Angela Parlin

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

Palaces that Prepare Us

Prepare Us

I am delighted to welcome Sheree DeCouto from Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, GA to Women’s Ministry Monday. Sheree’s words encourage my heart – even our best dreams, can still be difficult.

Thank you, Sheree.

Post by: Sheree DeCouto

Is it just me, or have you ever wondered what happened after Cinderella and Prince Charming rode off into the sunset? As a little girl I bought the “happily ever after” ending hook line and sinker; as a grown woman I’ve learned that palace life doesn’t always turn out to be what I expected.

Whether it be a relationship, job or ministry… our happily ever after scenarios often lets us down.

I’ll never forget the day I landed my first full-time job in women’s ministry. I thought I had arrived. For years I had dreamed of what it would be like to work for God. My head was full of all the wonderful things I was going to do for God now that He had brought me to my palace, so to speak. Finally, someone had recognized the call of God on my life and given me a chance to make my dreams of becoming a published author and sought-after speaker come true.

Needless to say, palace life has been harder than I expected.

Lately, I’ve been studying the ultimate dreamer Joseph, and I’ve wondered if he too might have grappled to reconcile his expectations with his reality. Obviously, he must have been disappointed when his brothers sold him as a slave. But, I wonder what he thought when he was purchased by Potiphar, who was Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, and put in charge of his entire household. It was a lofty position for sure. Could he have thought, Someone has finally recognized my potential; I’m finally at a place where my dreams could come true?

If you know Joseph’s story then you know Potiphar’s palace was only another step in his journey. It was a place where he gained valuable leadership experience learned the importance of integrity. When I consider his time at Photiphar’s palace as simply a step toward God’s ultimate calling on his life I am encouraged re-think my own palace experience.

All of us yearn for the happy ending but few of us experience joy during in the journey toward it. I’ve found hope by remembering these three truths:

1.     It’s not our final destination: All of life is preparing us for the ultimate happy ending when we meet Jesus face to face.

2.     Tests are part of it: Make no mistake. . . our dream job, dream marriage, and dream life will be full of  challenges to test us. (Thankfully they are all open book tests; the Bible gives us the answers we need!)

3.     Our reaction in the gap between expectation and reality determines our level of joy. We choose our response when life doesn’t turn out the way we expected. Joseph’s life story gives us an excellent example of how to move past our past and toward the ultimate call of God on our lives. In the end Joseph considered God’s will more valuable than his own desire for success.

What palace is God using to prepare you? Are you passing the tests, or has your chosen response kept you from enjoying the journey? If I’m honest, I have to admit that the gap between my expectation and my reality caught me off guard. I haven’t passed all of the tests. But today I’m determined to consider God’s will more valuable than my own desire for success. I choose joy in the midst of my circumstances and I thank God that He is still preparing me for the ultimate happy ending.

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About Sheree

Sheree(3)-0051Sheree serves on staff as the Women’s Ministry Director at Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia. She is a Bible teacher, speaker, spiritual coach for leaders, event coordinator, writer, and mentor–and that’s just what she does for her day job! She is also a wife, the mother of three sons, and a mother-in-law to her first daughter-in-love. Her passion is to bring the “real” factor to everything she does. Whether she’s speaking to a large audience, writing, or mentoring, her goal is to be transparent about the struggles she faces so that others feel free to do the same.

What Pours Out from within You?

Outpours

Marcia Kuyper is joining us today for Women’s Ministry Monday and, boy, am I delighted about it. Her words struck a chord with my heart. They are both encouraging and thought-provoking. I am confident they will bless you as much as they did me. Enjoy!

Post by: Marcia Kuyper

I could see he was annoyed with me.

My husband Tom set our vitamins out on the counter, and I, knowing a better system, “politely” questioned his arrangement.

The tension was subtle, but I was keenly aware of his frustration with me. It makes me mad when he gets annoyed with me.  I was thinking, “What right does he have to be irritated with me, after the way he hurt me?”

I say out loud, “You are so bugged with me.”

My conflict avoiding husband gave it to me straight.  He courageously began to tell me about the way I affect him.  I knew he was talking about more than the arrangement of vitamins.  He was talking about our life together.

I didn’t want it to be about me.

I looked down at my Bible, which was open to Luke, and I paused, asking Jesus to help me have ears to hear.  “Lord, help me listen, truly listen. Help me listen for what’s being said beneath the words. Let me listen the way you listen… love the way you love… lay down my life the way you laid down your life.”

I looked at the words before me in Luke 7:36-50…

“And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”

And I hear it loud and clear…

“Marcia, I have something to say to you.”  I pause…ask again for His help in my listening,  and then I reply,

“Say it Teacher.”

I’ve read this so many times.  I get the meaning of these words, but this time, His message hits home in a more personal way.

To love the way Jesus loves,
I must receive all the love and forgiveness He offers.

I must let the blood of the Lamb cleanse me from ALL unrighteousness,
which includes my SELF-righteousness.  

I’m  listening, so He gently shows me that I am the pharisee in this story.

I realized I was saying : “I would never do that.”

I didn’t say it out loud, but in my heart, I was saying, “I would never do that.”

It’s pride. I hold on to a small sense of superiority, and that is what comes out when pressed.

Tom was courageously being more direct and bold, because he loves me and values our relationship.  I was tempted to react in a self-protective way, turning the fault back on him, but this time, by God’s grace, I was able to have ears to hear what He wanted to teach me.  I am learning that, until I own my part, until I own my sin – my inability to come under him, my resistance to letting him lead me, to learn from him, to listen without pushing my words  – we will only get so far.

Is there something God wants to say to you?

With Jesus as our teacher and guide, like the woman in Luke 7:36-50, we have the opportunity to let Jesus love us fully by giving Him access into every corner of our lives.  Even the things we don’t speak out loud.  It is here, in this place of admission and confession, where we experience His loving forgiveness and respond with extravagant gratefulness, just like this exposed woman did.

She, the woman, poured out her most costly possession (perfume), He poured out His blood for our redemption.  As I wrestled with Jesus over my unforgiveness, He helped me identify and spill out my pride, which released in me an outpouring of love and forgiveness for Tom.  What might your spontaneous outpouring of gratitude look like?

May you receive His love and forgiveness today in a way that overflows in love, forgiveness and gratitude.

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About Marcia Kuyper

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 10.14.39 AMMarcia Kuyper is the Women’s Ministries director at Open Door Fellowship Church in Phoenix Arizona. She leads Bible studies and Retreats, counsels couples and women in marriage and family and has a deep passion for God’s Word and His people

Marcia teaches with her husband at the A Time for Us Marriage retreats and Marriage preparation classes for engaged couples. She also shepherds and teaches a class for young marrieds and singles called C’est La Vie.

Marcia is a wife to Tom, mom of four, and grandma to seven, soon to be eight…

She spends a lot of time… planning vacations.  🙂  She loves reading… (Favorite authors: Oswald Chambers, Henri Nouwen, Elizabeth Goudge… too many to list.) the beach, snow skiing…

Raised in a Jewish family, Marcia came to know Jesus as Savior in high school.  She is so deeply grateful that Jesus pursues her and never stops loving her.

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He Who Knows…

Post by: Jami Amerine

Five and a half years ago, in the midst of heartache and tragedy, we decided to increase instead of decrease. We were walking wounded; run down, depleted, on empty. Perhaps it seems foolish, go ahead “guffaw.” But I had a dream about a little girl named Allison.

Allison, of Noble Birth.

That is what the name Allison means.

Of Noble birth. 

And so I made a phone call to my husband, and he hesitantly agreed, we would adopt a child.

Nine months from that day we met our son, Sam.

Sam was instantly one of us. We cared for him as a family, the least of these brought light, hope, and laughter back into this house.

Yet, so certain was I of the reality of Allison, we dove right into foster to adopt care.

Next month we will finalize the adoption of our new son, “Charlie.”

So?  Where the heck is Allison?

I love Jesus. I believe in a one on one relationship with Him. I believe He wants to commune with me.

Was I wrong?  And more importantly, by telling the Allison story did I somehow mislead others? Oh my! What if my words caused someone’s faith to falter? What if I lead someone down a path they should not go?

This morning, as four-year-old Sam stumbled, sleepily from his bed, two-year-old Charlie greeted him cheerfully.

Charlie chirped, “Morning Sam! Hey, widdle buddy? You wants some breawkfast?”

Sam, sleepily glared, and growled, “No. Stop being cute Charwglie, I not in da mood.”

And we laughed and laughed.

These boys are brothers. “Brothers from other mothers” is our tease. A tapestry has been woven and in it is a picture of a family. That family has seen some hard times. That family has seen miracles. That family has had hopes and dreams and prayers… some came to fruition; others float aimlessly on a breeze.

We aren’t sure what will become of them.

But, this much we hold true: HE KNOWS.

The God of Israel, healer of our hearts, Yahweh, Our Beloved… knows.

And what He knows is what we cling to in desperation.

What He does or doesn’t do, that is where we put our faith.  He is good. Bad things happen, still, His favor rests upon our heads.

And I have asked Him, “Lord, where is Allison?”

And time and again He has answered. Chilling encounters with a foster baby with the middle name Allison, a distance cousin… Allison.  A near placement of a little girl named Camilla, when I looked up her name meaning?  It said: “see also Allison.” And just last week a friend sent me a touching video with an adoption story – the birth mother? Allison.

I keep these things near to my heart. I choose to believe the Allison was a personal message for me, a cue to start a journey.  Tonight as I rocked a little foster baby to sleep in our home, I know not what her future holds. No, her name is not Allison.

However, there was a calling. There was a need. Our God spoke, and in spite of what we thought made sense, we answered, “Here we are Lord.” The hurts, the scary times, the unknowns, none of that matters as long as we follow where He who knows, leads.

As the calling has expanded, we have seen things we had not known. We have loved immeasurably. Our borders have grown. Our numbers have increased. We have multiplied rather than divided.

And these children that have joined our ranks? They and their birth families have taught us so much. We love them, all of them. So much good has come about from He who knows.

He who knows when a sparrow falls or a hair from our head is plucked, He is waiting for us to believe Him, wholly. He who brings us through it all, Our Father in Heaven, can make all things work together for His GLORY. He assigns greatness to us, not because of who we are, or what we do, but because of who He is. He who knows cannot be contained. His mercies are new every morning. Like sweet dew on a delicate and fragrant rose petal, He is the freshwater our souls cry out for. King of heaven and earth, He who knows all things, brings to each of us, His children the grand title: “of Noble birth.”

But she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami

Get all Purposeful Faith blog posts by email – click here.

547592_3961306391397_890561921_n (1)Jami Amerine is a wife, and mother to anywhere from 6-8 children. Jami and her husband Justin are active foster parents and advocates for foster care and adoption. Jami’s Sacred Ground Sticky Floors is fun, inspirational, and filled with utter lunacy with a dash of hope. Jami holds a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences (yes Home Ec.) and can cook you just about anything, but don’t ask her to sew. She also holds a Masters Degree in Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Her blog includes topics on marriage, children, babies, toddlers, learning disabilities, tweens, teens, college kids, adoption, foster care, Jesus, homeschooling, unschooling, dieting, not dieting, dieting again, chronic illness, stupid people, food allergies, and all things real life. You can find her blog at Sacred Ground Sticky Floors, follow her onFacebook or Twitter.

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3 Ways to Embrace Positivity

Embrace Positivity

I sulked. I whined. I cried. My knee hurt.

Ever noticed when things feel bad,
the whole world turns bad in the blink of an eye?

I will not like the school my kids will attend.
My summer will amount to boredom.
My future book will go bust.
My efforts will not succeed.
People are going to laugh at me.
I will never laugh again.

Ever noticed, after you think badly, you think God hates you badly?

Negativity makes you fall further….

God doesn’t bless people who wallow.
He doesn’t help those who can’t help themselves.
He doesn’t want a sour puss like me.
He gets angry when I can’t dwell on truth.

He has distance reserved for me, because I am distant…I figure.

Are you heading down, down, down too? Thinking of all you aren’t, don’t have and will never get?

Half of me is tired of feeling tired. The other half is ready to pull out some fighting gloves to get positive again. Care to join me?

3 Ways to Embrace Positivity

1. Acknowledge you are feeling down. Let God grab that feeling and hold it. Know that he doesn’t get all red-faced, hot and bothered about it. He doesn’t steep with hot air when he thinks of you. Instead, he looks at your trial with tenderness. He cares.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Ps. 34:18

2. Confess & return to His presence. embrace positivity

The past is in the past. With this, there is no reason to wad your bad rap sheet and to stuff it in your pocket. Christ doesn’t require you to carry it around. Simply, say I am sorry, really mean it – and throw it out.

So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Lu. 11:13

3. See faith in all things.

If you believe in what a good God can do, rather than what you can’t do – just imagine what he could do – through you. This is faith.  Consider it a weapon for worriers. Something we can pull out, stand tall in and believe in.

We can pull it out and say:

This kingdom may look against me, but God is for me.
Justice on earth may seem impossible, but God will be just.
Promises seem far away, but God’s Word is as good as gold.
Lions want to snap my head off, but God can keep their mouth shut with a blink of his eye.

“For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—Who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.” Hebrews 11:32-33

We can conquer kingdoms, no matter our size. We can uphold justice, even if we are a stay-at-home mom. We can obtain promises, despite our continual failings. We can stop the mouths of lions, who may look like teenage boys with ferocious appetites and foul-sounding speech. Who knows what we can do – if only we believe.

With God, all things are possible.

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I’ve Unknowingly Sidestepped Christ’s Love (You Could be Too)

to Be Loved

I stood in front of the mirror, deciding I looked great. You women know how those body slimming mirrors work in dimly lit dressing rooms…you’re all ten pounds lighter and skin tones more brilliant. Then you get home.

I pulled the white dress out of the bag. The zipper wouldn’t move. It was getting stuck somewhere between fat and fabric.

My face sank. Yank! Soon enough, I looked like a beet.

Things were tightening in around me; I called in the troops. Husband wasn’t strong enough.

I pressed him to press on.

“We don’t give up on these types of things, I assured him. This is far too important to call it quits.”

He didn’t quit. He’s not that type. It zipped.

And as everything pulled together, I looked in my mirror, to see if it could possibly be as good as I remembered.

Wait, what is that? Those little dots?

Somehow, what resembled spattered pizza grease made my brand new white dress look tainted. I shrugged and figured hair could cover it well enough. I left for church, stained. Toddler son caught a glimpse, sealing the whole experience, and asked, “Mommy, are you getting married today? Is that your wedding dress?”

Ahem. No.

Mike Archer (6)

Beloved at Church

My hair was doing its job. My mouth was singing praises. Things were alright, especially since I wasn’t expecting much on this off-to-a-rocky-start day. God has other thoughts – thoughts unlike mine. Ones that work despite half-kept appearances, plummeting feelings and flawed days.

He whispered, “Kelly, you are my bride.” 

I wanted to laugh. Argue even. I hardly was… Didn’t God see what I was wearing?

I sat. Pastor got up. He was going to be talking about women’s roles in the church. I held onto my seat. This kind of message can go anywhere; I wasn’t sure where we were headed.

Pastor Mark Henry said:

1. Husband is to love me like “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph. 5:25 (Tall order there!!!)

2. I am to “honor husband and lovingly respond to his leadership and care.” (Vente latte order here!!!)

3. This is a picture of intimate love. It is also is a picture of Jesus relating to Father God.Mike Archer (8)

Something rocked me, the bride. I thought, “Yes. Just think, we gawk, ooh and ahh over that one moment. The moment Jesus requested, relied and relinquished his rights, by saying: ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42)

Jesus trusted Father.
And, Jesus followed Father, no matter the cost.

Through this, we see a unified and magnified triune. 

We see, as onlookers, the presence of all peace move in tandem with God’s intended purpose.
It saves. Testifies. Redeems.

Do I let it work on my behalf?

The thought occurs to me: to feel like the bride of Christ, I must humbly accept the blessings that correspond with lowliness and selflessness. 

The Aisle of Clarity

I must allow in, what the world and my controlling personality stifle.

I must let my husband love me by leading me, not because he will do it perfectly, but because God will love me perfectly – as I do it.

I must give Christ the chance to make my stained dress white, clean and sparkling. He often does this through man.

I must receive what is love, even if it looks different than my rigid definitions of it.

I must avoid rushing in, questioning paths and offering advice to my husband so that space and grace can make room for Jesus Christ to walk in and love me.

I must avoid blocking love so I don’t feel like a dirty and deserted bride on her wedding day.

This won’t be easy, but it will be easier when I remember:

I am beloved.
I am cared for.
I am adored.

All man is faulted.
God is not.
His love works past man’s worst or best efforts. Mike Archer (7)

Will I give – faith in God’s plan – a chance to work for me? Will you?

To bend so low that only a knight in shining God could rescue in the gap of defenselessness***?

What might it look like for you to run into God’s arms of refuge – to find yourself loved – as bride?

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***Side note: This type of humble bowing is not done in a way where, we women, justify slaps or abuse. It is also not intended to tell us to go against the Word of God in blatant disregard. If, however, you find yourself in this place, you are not alone. You have a liberator and a door. He will help you. He will love you with compassion and gentle leading. Please consider wise counsel. Contact your church or a therapist for help. My prayers and heart are with you. Please remember, you are no less bride than I am. May your wise steps lead you to feeling this in your heart as you proceed forward. 

Out of Sight and Out of Mind

Out of Sight

I want to extend a warm welcome to Kari Stainback. Her words hit the tender places of not being seen and chosen. I couldn’t be happier to feature her words as part of the Ministry Monday Series. Welcome Kari!

Not long ago at a family gathering, I happened upon an endless version of the game “Peek a Boo” with a toddler.  Over and over and OVER again I put a scarf over her little head and said, “Where did Lucy go?”

Then I’d yank the scarf off to her gleeful shrieks and reply, “There she is!”  The giggles and the fun lasted for longer than I thought possible for a game to continue with a baby.

What made Lucy giggle so profusely as she participated in this game is that she was learning something called “object permanence”.  It is the developmental process that allows children to understand that an object continues to exist when it can’t be seen, touched or heard.  Prior to this stage, in the first few months of a baby’s life, they think when an object is “out of sight”, in their minds, it ceases to exist!  So when Lucy couldn’t see me, she just thought in her tiny toddler mind, “she’s not gone, she’s right there and boy howdy that is hilarious!”

Object permanence is very important because it gives us the ability to understand that objects that we may have never seen in our lives actually exist.  For example, I’ve never been to France nor seen the Eiffel Tower, but I know that it exists even though I’ve never physically seen it.  Throughout our childhoods as we become adults, object permanence moves from the physical to the abstract as we gain more experience with the world around us.  And, by God’s grace, it lays the foundation in our brains to develop faith in the triune God.  We can know, by faith, the One who we have not seen physically, but we can be sure He is with us.  In Christ, He is our ultimate permanent object.

Some of my favorite verses that teach us this truth are:

“My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”  (Exodus 33:14)

“Just as I as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (Joshua 1:5)

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I feel from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:8-9)

“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5b)

Sometimes, I don’t feel God is near.  Perhaps, you, like I, tend to think, “Does God really care? Does He know I’m feeling alone and forgotten?”  

For years, I thought I experienced loneliness because of my singleness.

I find, loneliness tempts us to find comfort by escaping through activity, or shutting down or drowning our sorrows in food or drink, or my personal favorite: cruising the mall on Saturday nights.  It’s easy to give in to despair and resentment, to stop reading the Bible or praying. I keep learning, none of these leads us to lasting peace.  What does lead to peace is something Amy Carmichael wrote about in her poem, “For In Acceptance Lieth Peace”.

Our loneliness may not go away,
but it can be accepted as God’s will for today and that turns it into something beautiful. 

Recently I had an ugly bout with loneliness, all of my familiar temptations to doubt and escape swirled around me.  I did not feel God’s presence.  All I felt was the dread that the loneliness had returned and that it would only get worse in the days ahead.

I found His presence.

I opened my Bible and read it, listening for the Word He had for me.  It came!  I prayed and thanked the Lord for being the One who would never leave me or forsake me.  He gave me peace. The very next day God sent me a surprise of His love in the mail, something only He could do in His perfect timing.  It was a quarterly magazine from the seminary from which I graduated.  On the back was a graphic of a tree, rooted in Christ Jesus, with its branches filled with names of single men and women who have furthered God’s Kingdom throughout church history.

To my utter amazement, in the far right branch I saw my name.  Underneath the graphic was written the verse, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35).  

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About Kari

CounselingandCare (1)Kari Stainback is Director of Women’s Ministries at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX.  She coordinates women’s Bible studies, discipleship and special events.  Kari is a Licensed Professional Counselor and does pastoral counseling for women in the church.  She is also a board certified supervisor of counselors.

Kari joined the staff of PCPC in the fall of 1999.  She has been in her present position for 15 years.

Father’s Day Note: You are a Great Daddy

Great Daddy

You do things.
You get me coffee.
You clean the pans that have scum left from the night before.
You give me time to execute my dreams.
You love your kids.
You give them your best.
You think about how I am feeling.
You encourage me in my dreams.
You tell me I can.
You show me you care.
You make sacrifices and time.
You give me the best Apple computer a writer could ever want.
You think about what I will delight over…

…all while being daddy of two, leader of home and strong at work. 

If there is one thing a woman wants, besides God, chocolate and new clothes – it is a man that loves her. I have that in you. You are mine and I am yours. When I see you, I see Jesus.

If there is one thing a kid wants, besides candy and toys – it is a daddy who cares.

You make breakfast a coveted affair.

great daddy
You lug them around on your shoulders.
You tackle and toss and take your kids places they have always wanted to go.
You laugh and dance and fuss over little things.
You bring little gifts home from work.
You make time for stories.
You pray morning and night over things that count.
You take them on new adventures.
You do breakfast tours in new cities.
You make your minutes count.

great daddy

They know.

And what I know is all these small moves of love, will end up as giant leaps of the heart kind. They will know significance. Believe in it. They will know belonging. And rely on it.

They will know they can because daddy always believed they could.

They will believe Father Daddy will carry them because you did.

great daddy

They will know Jesus because you reflected him.

She will find a good man because you are good man.

They will remember. They will remember the “You are courageous” comments. They will remember the “Don’t give up,” words. They will remember the, “Spin for me” requests. She will remember the, “You are beautifuls.”

You are sowing security. You are making it the fabric of our family, the knitting of our future. It counts. It will reap rewards.

We cheer you today, daddy.
You are a man doing well.
Working hard.
Giving your all.
We applaud your generosity, your heart and your passion – for us.

Love,

Wifey and Kids

P.S. From your little boy: Daddy, I love you, daddy. You are strong. My heart feels glad to be with you, daddy.

P.S.S. From, your even littler girl: Daddy, you make me feel happy.

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