Love Your Body: Revive Sexual Purity

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

Love Your Body Like God Loves It

My goal for 2017 is staying aware of God’s presence and listening to His warnings. The word the Lord gave me: “Revival.” Today is Love Your Body Monday, and I want to talk about reviving sexual purity.

  1. Last Friday was the March for Life— the rights of the unborn. For the first time in history, a Vice President addressed the crowd and talked about “Life is winning again in America! Society can be judged by how we care for our most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, the disabled, the unborn. Science is illuminating when life begins!”
  2. Six days prior was the “Women’s March”—the right to kill the unborn by abortion. Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty described that march: “I was blown away by the vulgarity and the young children there!” I discussed that march in last week’s blog, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t: Some Women Are Still Like Eve: Believing the Serpent.

Two marches embodying two opposing concepts:

  • good vs evil
  • life vs death
  • peaceful vs angry
  • a body as God’s creation capable of creating and sustaining life, vs self-rights to use “my” body to create and kill life

In last week’s post, Eve and Adam ate from the forbidden fruit and sin entered the world. They immediately knew they were naked. (Genesis 3:2-3) Let’s continue:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

Satan was watching and saw God say:

  • Eve would become the mother of mankind
  • Nakedness should be covered
  • Man would always know good from evil

Satan already knew he could easily deceive man. The stage was set for Satan to do his work as ruler of this world in each of the above areas:

  1. Destroy humankind by having them kill each other in wars, murders, riots, terrorists, and abortion–sanitizing it with a name like “Planned Parenthood.” Slow propagation through infertility, normalizing LGBT lifestyle, redefining marriage, and creating gender confusion.
  2. Exploit and pervert sex, promote promiscuity, adultery, pornography, provocative seductive clothing, immorality, and lust, using media, marketing, entertainment, and Hollywood as the vehicle to idolize, romanticize, and normalize sin to each generation.
  3. Start a political liberal progressive atheistic movement that demonizes purity, virginity, celibacy, monogamy, Christianity, and the sanctity of life—remove God and the Bible from the public squre.

Time has proven that what one generation does in moderation, the next generation does in excess because Satan goes after the children!

Satan’s tactics have worked. Christians talking about abstinence or purity  . . . are laughed at . . . called prudes, dreamers, delusional, judgmental, preachers, and worse. Many give up even trying. Pastors don’t talk about the hazards of sex outside of marriage . . . the moral, sinful, and physical consequences on our bodies . . . God’s precious holy temples.

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh. 17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:15:20

Why aren’t pastors telling young people and congregations that when you have sex with another person you become one with them? Hook ups, one-night stands, date sex,  living together, casual sex . . . every person you EVER had sex with . . . your souls united because that’s how God made us “the two become one flesh (Gen. 2:24) in sex.  God meant for it to be in marriage. Satan the great Deceiver would say, God didn’t really mean that. Yes he did.

Let’s Start a Pure Body Revival

One woman wrote to me: My mother gave me birth control pills at 13 so I wouldn’t get pregnant with all the low life boys I would have sex with in my passage into womanhood.

That broke my heart. We need a sexual revival in our country. Let’s start educating our young men and women. Parents, churches, mentors teachers taking the time to teach kids what really happens spiritually when you have sex, not just the physical mechanics, but share verses like those above and ones on purity and holiness, do Bible studies together, and talk about why God wants His people to only have sex in marriage. Explain that sex is not a natural or expected part of a relationship unless you’re married, regardless of how the movies or TV depict it, or what your friends are doing.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word. Psalm 111:9

In Forsaken God? I wrote, “Young people need to hear how to use the Bible as a benchmark to distinguish truth from lies. They don’t need condoms and birth control pills and talks on safe sex; they need to know how to make choices based on eternity, not just avoiding maternity.”

Sexual revival applies to all ages and it won’t be popular, but we can pray for God to empower us and give us the opportunity to spread revival in our sphere of influence. Our culture ridicules men and women who vow celibacy until their wedding night. Rampant casual sex—hook ups, dating sex, friends with benefits, living together—reduces sex to lust, not love. The world, deceived by Satan asks, “What’s love got to do with sex?” Even many Christians choose to be a part of this world rather than set apart and pure for God who tells us “So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” –Lev. 20:7 (NLT)

Single moms and single women this means you too. You must set the example and role model for these young women and girls and for your daughters and sons. I was a single mom and I’ve been on both sides of this discussion. Yes, I was a virgin when I married my daughter’s father. We didn’t have birth control pills when I was a teenager. My mother wasn’t a religious person, but she told me emphatically that sex was for marriage. Sex can make babies. White wedding dresses are for virgins, and no boy or man is worth forfeiting that one-time sacred privilege. I believed her, and I waited, and I’m glad I did. She set a moral compass for me and I stuck to it.

In Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter, I share how my moral compass shifted in my divorced, single years and I did not set a good role model for my daughter. I’m here to tell you that Satan is a liar. God made our bodies to glorify and honor Him, and praise God He is the God of many chances. For those who feel it’s too late, they aren’t a virgin or are too sexually impure so what difference does it make, God is the God of renewal. We can come before Him and ask for forgiveness for our past, repent, rededicate our life and go and sin no more just like the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well.

Satan makes the sinful life look exciting and enticing, but anyone who has come out of the dark into the light will tell you loving your body the way God loves your body is the only way to a joyful, peaceful life.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

Many will think I’m idealistic and sexual revival is impossible. I’m not naïve enough to think women and men are going to stop having sex outside of marriage, but maybe some will. The theme of this year’s Walk for Life was the Power of One. They stressed the importance of reaching the next generation, which is my passion too.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

I want to share two books: both from the Robertson family of the Ducky Dynasty TV Series. The Robertson’s are vocal about their faith and belief in Jesus Christ and family.

Sadie Robertson was seventeen when she wrote Live Original: How the Duck Commander Teen Keeps It Real and Stays True to her Values and I included this quote in my book Forsaken God?: Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten

When you put your relationship with God first and you also have a great relationship with your family, you can risk having people get upset with you for standing up for your beliefs. You can risk being rejected because of your values, and you can even risk losing a boyfriend if the relationship is not going in a godly direction. You can risk looking or acting different from other people. You can do these things because you know you will be okay without them. You know God is with you and for you, and I hope you can also know your family is standing beside you, but even without your family’s support, you can know that God is there.

Jase Robertson wrote in Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family, and Fowl about his decision as a teenager to remain sexually pure until marriage:

One day after hearing my buddies talking about sexually transmitted diseases and asking my dad about it. I don’t remember the specifics of his speech, but I would never forget the last thing he said. “Son you keep that thing in your pocket until you get married and you’ll never have to worry about it.” He told me. The timing of our conversation was perfect when it came to my staying sexually pure.

I eventually came up with a plan of action. On the first date, I would share my faith with the girl and declare my intention to wait until marriage before having sex. In a way this held me accountable, and it also got rid of any girls who had a quick roll in the hay in mind. I also decided to stay away from the “second look”—noticing a good-looking woman, then dwelling on her for a second, more lustful look. I tried to notice the beauty and feel the attraction to a woman but ultimately pursue their spiritual makeup. . . . God changes us from the inside out, and that helps us look at other people the same way.

Jase did stay sexually pure. He and his wife Missy were both virgins on their wedding night. With God all things are possible!

We need to build a new culture of purity, a new culture of life. A new normal.

Let’s make purity popular again!

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

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An article I wrote for Crosswalk that might be helpful Have You Forgiven Each Other for Premarital Sex?

If you’ve had an abortion, I recommend Pat Layton’s book Surrendering the Secret.

For more thoughts on Revival of Titus 2 Women see this month’s About His Work Newsletter.

A Bible study I wrote for First Place 4 Health goes into depth about keeping our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits pure and holy: God’s Best For Your Life. Study on your own or as a group.

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Remember Not Every Woman is “Happy” on Mother’s Day

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My daughter Kim and I were just on the phone making Mother’s Day plans. As we chatted about what we would do to celebrate her being the mother of my three darling grandchildren, and me being Kim’s mom . . . my mind wandered back to a Mother’s Day twelve years ago that wasn’t so happy for Kim.

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, Kim shares a painful and heartbreaking Mother’s Day:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Some of you identify with Kim’s cry out to God.

“I hate Mother’s Day!” admitted a dear friend longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for sixteen years. I stayed away from baby showers, church, and pregnant friends. I didn’t stop praying, but it was the worse pain.”

Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church on Mother’s Day a few years before we adopted my son.”

Someone You Know is Struggling with Infertility

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

Avoidance only adds to these hurting women’s feelings of isolation and loneliness. When you don’t know what to say or do these suggestions might help: “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do and to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.”

It breaks my heart to hear that many women say the one place they feel the loneliest is in the church. Doesn’t that break your heart too? Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or like outcasts.

How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day … and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Mothers of prodigals are another group of women who dread Mother’s Day. They may not know where their child is, or know all too well where he or she is, and that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms need comforting, a hug, and assurance that this day is for them too.

Mothers Who Have Lost a Child

A mother who has lost a child, lives with that grief every day, but Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of the precious child they lost. I can’t imagine that pain, but I watched the sadness in my Granny Reed’s eyes that was always there over the murder of my father, her beloved son, a week before his 37th birthday. She had six other living children who she loved dearly, but there was always pain for the one she lost.

Women Who Have Lost Their Mother

Mother’s Day is about celebrating your mom, but there’s a void and ache that never goes away when your mom is no longer living, and Mother’s Day becomes a sad reminder of all the years you celebrated her on Mother’s Day. It can also be a joyous time of remembering, but still there’s no one to buy a card for, give a hug to, and a special gift for the years she devoted to raising you. Even after you become a mom yourself and your children are celebrating you, there’s a generational celebration as you are still somebody’s little girl, just all grown up.

I hope that you will not ignore but love on the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a child or their own mom, who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug this Mother’s Day.

If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

Lindsey Bell shared another helpful blog post on my website 6 Thing Not to Say to Someone Who is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

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Dear God, Why Can't I Have a Baby coverproddaughterbookcoverjpg1-661x1024

 

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6 Things NOT to Say When Someone is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone Is Hurting

My friend, fellow author and a The MOM Initiative mentor mom, Lindsey Bell, has a new book, Unbeaten, that I wanted to share with you this week. In today’s blog post, Lindsey shares about something I write about also in both Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer (The-Top-Thirteen-Things-to-Do-or-Say to Someone with Breast Cancer) and Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? (The Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility). It’s hard to know what to say, or not say, to someone who is in deep emotional or physical pain and so often we say something that hurts rather than helps. We’ve all been there: had something hurtful said to us, or said the wrong thing to someone else.

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

By Lindsey Bell

One of the most important aspects of mentoring is ministering to someone who is going through a hard time.

Unfortunately, there is often confusion as to what is best to say when someone is hurting.

We want to encourage people, not make their pain worse, but we don’t always know what to say.

After each of my four consecutive miscarriages, and during the years of waiting, testing, and grieving, people tried to say things to me that would comfort my broken heart. They meant well, just as most people do when they attempt to comfort someone who is hurting.

Unfortunately, many of their well-intention words did more harm than good.

Here are a few things you should never say to someone who is hurting (and a few ideas of things you can say instead).

  1. You just need to trust God (or God’s timing or God’s plan, etc.).

While this might be true, it’s not a helpful thing to hear right after a loss or while the pain is still fresh.

Instead, say, “I’m so sorry.”

And that’s it. You don’t have to offer answers to someone going through a hard time.

  1. There’s a reason for everything.

Really? Are you sure?

I guess this might be true. There probably is a reason for everything, but maybe that reason is simply that life stinks sometimes. Maybe that reason is that bad things happen.

Maybe there isn’t some theological, deep reason that God allowed this trial into their life. It’s possible, of course, there is a deeper reason. Maybe God is planning to use this situation in some really huge way.

But isn’t it also possible that this bad thing happened simply because it happened…not because it was a part of some huge plan?

Instead, say, “This stinks.”

  1. At least you have….

At least you have another child…. At least you had X number of years with him. At least you have …

I think the reason people say this is because they want the person who is hurting to focus on his or her blessings.

And though it’s certainly helpful to count your blessings, there’s also a time and place for grief. People need to grieve, and pointing out the positives in their situation does not help them grieve.

Having one child does not make the loss of another any easier to swallow. (It might serve as a distraction, but it doesn’t negate the loss of the other child).

A loss is a loss, so it’s better not to minimize that loss by bringing up the positives in the situation.

Instead say, “Can I pray for you right now?”

And then actually do it. Right then. Right there.

  1. Next time will be different (or God is going to fix this or something similar).

I can’t count the number of times people told me this. After our first miscarriage, they told me our next pregnancy would be different. It wasn’t. After our second miscarriage, they said it again. It wasn’t.

The truth is, we don’t know what the future holds, so it’s better not to pretend that we do.

Instead, say, “I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?” Or, “I’m running by Sonic. What kind of drink would you like?”  

People mean well when they say, “Let me know if I can do anything.” But most likely, people won’t take them up on their offer. Instead of offering general assistance, offer to do something specific.

  1. I know how you feel.

No, no, you don’t. Even if you have gone through something very similar, it’s not exactly the same because you are not the same person.

No two pains are exactly the same.

Instead, say, “There are no words.”

Because really, there aren’t. There are no words that will instantly fix their situation.

  1. God won’t ever give us more than we can handle.

This statement bothers me for two reasons.

First, is makes it sound like God is the one handing out the painful situations. God allows death, but I don’t think he “gives” it to us.

Secondly, I’ve never seen this idea in Scripture anywhere. In fact, I’ve seen many examples of the opposite.

I’ve seen God allowing really hard things into peoples’ lives so they will learn to trust in Him.

Instead, say NOTHING. Just be there.

What other things would you add to this list?

If you received this post by email, leave a comment here.

This post is part of Lindsey’s blog tour to celebrate her new Bible study and devotional, Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain (and you can too).

To celebrate her book, she’s giving away a HUGE bundle of books! Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win. You can get more entries by commenting on other blogs in the tour as well. Get a full list of participating blogs here: www.lindseymbell.com/unbeaten-is-here-win-this-huge-bundle-of-books.

Unbeaten Cover

About Unbeaten:

Why does life have to be so hard? If you’ve ever asked this question, you’re not alone. Difficult times often leave Christians searching the Bible for answers to some of life’s most difficult questions.

Questions like:

Does God hear me when I pray?

Why isn’t He doing anything?

Does He even care?

In Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain (and you can too), Lindsey Bell walks with readers through the stories of men and women in the Bible who went through difficult situations. In this 10-week Bible study and devotional, she addresses many of these questions and helps readers learn how they too can be unbeaten.

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About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of the Bible study and devotional, Unbeaten, and of the parenting devotional, Searching for Sanity. She’s a stay-at-home mother of two silly boys, a minister’s wife, an avid reader, and a lover of all things chocolate. Lindsey writes weekly at www.lindseymbell.com about faith, family, and learning to love the life she’s been given.

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Seek Community During Infertility

Yesterday was Easter, the hope that every Christian has of eternity because our Savior died on a cross and arose three days later. That’s the only true and meaningful purpose of Easter. Many families gather together to celebrate Easter and fun traditions for the kids are Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts, and the little ones all dressed up in their Easter outfits. And that is why Easter can be a heartache for a mommy-in-waiting who has dreamed of having a little one to do all those fun things with at Easter. Her life can seem hopeless, even in light of the hope of the Cross. A day that should fill her with joy, only reminds her more of her empty arms. It’s for that reason that some couples struggling with infertility avoid family gatherings at holidays. My daughter and step-daughter know about this personally as they shared in my book Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?

Today’s guest post is written by Lisa Newton, author of 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility:

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“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”- Galatians 6:2

When you’re struggling with infertility, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to connect with other women who are also dealing with it.

Oh, it can feel like a big risk to befriend someone else in similar circumstances as you. You may start to worry about what you’ll do if her treatments work and yours don’t. Or how do you tell her when you get pregnant and she’s still not? You might think that dealing with your own pain and your own suffering is hard enough. Why would you want to open yourself up to someone else’s pain, too?

But Galatians 6:2 directs us to share each others burdens. It doesnt make sense from our earthly perspective, but when we connect with others who are struggling our own burdens are eased in the process.

When I first received my infertility diagnosis, I kept it to myself. I didn’t share it with friends or family because I thought I needed privacy. I’m an introvert, so I often quote the verses that describe Jesus withdrawing to solitude in order to pray (Luke 5:16). But I came to realize God’s presence is near when we are in community (Matt. 18:20). His comfort, encouragement, and wisdom often comes to me through conversations I have with other infertility survivors.

And the fact is that Jesus’ entire public ministry happened with eleven other men—his community! So if I want to be more Christlike, I must seek out community. Now I can’t image walking this journey without the prayers, love, and support I receive from my infertility community.

The fact that you’re reading this post means that you’re open to the idea of hearing about other’s experiences with infertility. Let me encourage you to take it a step further and reach out. You don’t have to start your own blog and publish every detail of your experience. Just take a small step and share a part of your story with someone.

I’d love to connect with you over at my blog. There’s also a wonderful online infertility community on Twitter. If you’d prefer an in-person connection, check out the RESOLVE website to see if there’s an infertility group in your local area. Or, if you know of someone who’s currently suffering from infertility or has suffered from it in the past, ask them if they’d be willing to go out for coffee and talk a bit.

Be brave. Bear someone’s burdens. Have your own burdens eased in the process.

Have you experienced your burdens being eased by community? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.  

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Lisa Newton blogs about her infertility journey and the faith that gets her though it at AmateurNester.com. She lives with her husband, Tom, their orange cat, Hemingway, on the Central Coast of California. Shes the author of the 31 Days of Prayer During Infertility eBook and was a 2014 nominee for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Associations Hope Aware for Best Blog. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  

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Expecting the Unexpected at Christmas

 

Our guest post is from author/speaker Julie Sanders. Julie and I are Mentor Moms on The MOM Initiative team, and today Julie talks about the unexpected happenings that each Christmas brings to all of us, starting with Mary, the mother of Jesus. In my Bible study Face-to-Face with Elizabeth and Mary, I talk about how Elizabeth, who was expectant with John the Baptist, mentored Mary through those first three months after her visit from the angel Gabriel telling her she would be the mother of Jesus.

I also know how difficult this season can be for women with an expectation of being mothers this Christmas season. In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, my daughter Kim describes the worse Christmas of her life when all three of her siblings had children and she was still struggling with infertility. She had plans and expectations of being a mother that Christmas, but her arms were empty. Little did she know that the New Year would bring her two babies within nine months!

If you’re going to be around friends or family who are struggling with infertility and worried you might say the wrong thing or don’t know what to say, the blog post I wrote during National Infertility week will help you: “Hug an Infertile Couple This Week.”

If you’re the infertile couple, dreading the holidays, the post 10 Ways to Survive the Holidays When You’re Infertile is for you.

“Mary” by Julie Sanders

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Her betrothal was still fresh when her expectations dissolved in the light of the angel’s arrival. To be old enough to be promised was to be mature enough to bear a child. Before Mary even had time to adjust to changes in her own body or warm up to the name “Joseph,” everything she anticipated fell away. There would be no joyous gathering of girlhood friends, envious of her new status. None of the other girls wanted to swell with a child before uniting with a husband.

When what we expect falls apart, it’s easy to feel paralyzed. At the first sign of a change, Mary was troubled and frightened. She had questions. Before she had time to learn the physical ways of womanhood or enjoy intimacy with a man, her body would be taken over for purposes bigger than she could conceive.

“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. ‘”(Luke 1:30)

No experience has the power to stir a woman’s hopes like that of becoming a mother. Whether she enters in through adoption, infertility, or traditional pregnancy, a mother learns to sacrifice her expectations for the gift of raising a child. Instead of being paralyzed by the sudden uncertainty motherhood brings, confidence can be found in knowing, “There will never be a time when our children are out of God’s sight or apart from His presence,” (from EXPECTANT, Calling the Shots). Every journey is unique, but every heart is expectant.

Most of us have plans for this Christmas season. No one anticipates interruptions like job loss or a life lost. Such unexpected events never appear on our wish list. We rarely address the severity of suffering in our Advent readings. But in the erasing of our expectations and the dissolving of our decisions comes God’s opportunities to display His grand plan. He takes our hand, leading us to unwelcoming inns, simple stable accommodations, and to exile in Egypt. Our Father lets us glimpse the greater glory found when life encircles the Prince of Peace.

Motherhood has a way of causing our expectations to fall away. From the moment young Mary received her angelic message, nothing unfolded as she imagined, but she found the greater glory in God’s greater plan. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Let’s agree that this Christmas will probably not be according to our plans–hold loosely to your expectations. Let’s look for God’s greater glory with hearts that are expectant.

Father God,

I want to treasure Your actions in my life. I want to glimpse the glory of being part of Your story. Help me to hold to my expectations loosely and to welcome your plans for me.

 Cropped Courtyard

 

Julie lives where tea is sweet and grits are cheesy. She and her husband of 25 years have two nearly grown kids. EXPECTANT: 40 Devotions for New and Expectant Moms was born when God brought a group of young couples into their lives, just as they began to long to grow their families. Julie loves to teach God’s word to women in her hometown and across the globe; she is passionate about fighting human trafficking and helping women of all tribes and tongues find God’s peace for life. Check out Julie’s blog home Come Have a Peace  (www.juliesanders.org) and Marriage Mondays to find reasons for peace and information about her ministry.

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EXPECTANT is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Follow Julie at:

Facebook: with One Minute4MOM

Twitter: @JulieSanders_

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When God’s Gift is “No”

Our guest blogger today is a dear friend and fellow author and speaker from San Diego, California, Cindi McMenamin. Cindi and I met at Mt Hermon Writer’s Conference the year she got her first book contract with Harvest House and we’ve remained encouragers and supporters of each others careers ever since. She interviewed me for stories in several of her books, and the secondary infertility story she shares below is in my book Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?

I know you are going to enjoy what she shares from her new book–

When God Sees Your Tears by Cindi McMenamin

When God Sees Your Tears by Cindi McMenamin

Do you know what it’s like to ask God for something and to keep receiving a “no”?

I do. And it hurts. But I’ve learned through the years that God’s “no” is often a gift greater than what I had originally asked for.

Whether I was trying to get a book published, trying to have a child, or trying to pry open a door of opportunity, every time I received a “no,” I later learned what God was really saying was “Wait, I have something far better for you than you thought to ask for.” Yet all I could see in front of me was a rejection letter. More waiting. Another closed door. Discouragement.

God’s Gift to Hannah was “No.”

Hannah, a woman we read about in the Old Testament, knew that discouragement, too. She longed to have a baby. Yet we find twice in the first few lines of her story that the reason for Hannah’s infertility was “because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5-6).

Ouch! Now, I would feel so much better if that sentence about Hannah read, “because she was unable to bear children.” But that verse specifically tells us that the Lord was the One withholding from Hannah the one thing she wanted most in life.

We’d like to think God is behind only the blessings we receive in life and, therefore, we have a hard time wrapping our minds around the possibility that God would allow—or even arrange—certain difficulties to come our way. Yet, that is one of the primary ways He—

  • awakens our need for Him,
  • grows our dependence on Him,
  • shapes our character,
  • and draws us closer to Him.

In Hannah’s case, she became so desperate to have a son that she poured out her heart to God in prayer, promising to give her son back to God if He would finally give her a child. It was then, after Hannah came to that place of complete surrender, that we read God’s gracious, yet timely, response: “And the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son…” (1 Samuel 1:19-20).

Sometimes “No” means Wait

Hannah got her long-awaited son, but years later than she had anticipated. The apparent “no” from God was really “wait.” And the wait turned out to be the best blessing of all. Hannah didn’t have just any baby. She had a son named Samuel who became one of Israel’s greatest prophets and priests. He anointed Israel’s first two kings and helped turn the nation’s heart back toward God. Wow! Hannah simply asked God for a baby. But God wanted to give her—and a nation—so much more than she asked. So He waited and did it in His timing, not hers.

Scripture tells us that God can do “all things. No plan of (His) can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Scripture also tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). So if every gift is from God, and you’re praying for a “gift” and it’s not arriving, God is the One who is deciding to withhold that gift. And I have learned that some of God’s “gifts” are the very things He decides to withhold.

 

Sometimes “No” is a gift from God

God’s “gifts” sometimes take the form of difficulties, losses, frustrations, and outright pain. We don’t originally see them as gifts, but more like disappointments, aggravations, or even rejection. But they are gifts, nonetheless, that are given to us to grow us to a new level in our spiritual life or to prepare us for something better that God has in store for us; or perhaps to even help us see something extraordinary about God that we couldn’t see before.

I remember not wanting to accept one of the “gifts” God was giving me, primarily because I saw it as His withholding, not as His giving. I struggled with not being able to have a second child (what doctors now refer to as secondary infertility). It was a struggle because I remember “claiming” Psalm 84:11 as my promise that I would have another child: “No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly (NASB).”

“Surely another baby is a good thing, God,” I prayed. “Certainly You will not withhold.” And yet, God did. Apparently, what God considered a “good thing” in my life was not birthing a second child, but birthing a writing and speaking ministry, instead. Although, at the time, I felt that God was withholding something from me, I can today see His withholding as a “gift” in terms of a different life direction that He had for me.

Through the years, I’ve seen repeatedly that God’s idea of a good thing—and ultimately what’s best for me in my faith walk with Him—may be completely different than mine. Although my opinion has often differed from God’s in His early stages of withholding something, I have learned not to question the wisdom and actions of an all-knowing, all-loving God who is much more capable of managing my life than I am.

I do not have a second child today because the Lord had closed my womb. But I could also say, “I am living the dream God has placed on my heart through my writing and speaking because the Lord had closed my womb.”

Because the Lord had . . .

I could give you a lengthy list of other “gifts” that I have received at God’s hand, but didn’t originally see as gifts because they all included the phrase because the Lord had…

           I didn’t marry Mike because the Lord had changed his heart.

           I lost a good friend, because the Lord had taken her away.

           I went through a season of loss, because the Lord had shut the door.

There are other ways of looking at those same “gifts” (or withholdings):

          I married Hugh because the Lord had changed Mike’s heart.

          I was spared further hurt, because the Lord had taken her away.

          I can minister to women today because the Lord had shut that door.

What because the Lord had phrases have affected your life and caused your tears to flow? Are you a woman who is where she is today . . .

                       because the Lord had closed that door?

                        because the Lord had changed his heart?

                        because the Lord let you get cancer?

                        because the Lord had not healed her?

Oh, my friend, God has His reasons for why He has allowed or prevented something from happening in your life. And it’s not because He wanted to punish you or make your life miserable. It’s not because He didn’t love you or didn’t care about you or didn’t hear your prayers. It’s very possible that He wants to bless you from another angle. And it’s very possible He wants you to realize that the one thing you need the most—your one missing piece—is Him.

 

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and award-winning writer who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the best-selling author of When Women Walk Alone(more than 120,000 copies sold) and a dozen other books including When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and her newest release, When God Sees Your Tears, upon which this article is based. For more resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and relationships with God and others, see her website: www.strengthforthesoul.com.

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindi

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Adoption According to God’s Plan

Mother’s Day is next weekend—a joyous day for mothers with children and a torturous heartbreaking day for “mommies-in-waiting.” In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, my daughter Kim vulnerably shares the pain of being childless on Mother’s Day and then the amazing blessing of becoming an adoptive mommy to my precious grandson, Brandon.

Our guest blogger today is my dear friend and fellow The M.O.M. Initiative mentor mom, Lori Wildenberg. Lori and her husband, like my daughter and her husband and so many couples who share their story in Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?—had their plan of how they would become a family. In every case, the couple found peace in surrendering to God’s plan.

Lori and Tom’s Story

Our Plan

As newlyweds, my husband and I had a vision—we discussed and agreed:

• Four kids. Check.
• Three through birth. Check.
• The fourth through adoption. Check.

We had a lot of love to share. We would have three kids and complete our family with an adopted child. We would be great parents so we could provide a nice home for a child that needed one.

This was a good, solid, even honorable plan. Clearly, God would bless this and be on board with our plan.

Yes, adopt a fourth child. Perfect.

Why Isn’t Our Plan Working?

We (by we, I mean me) became consumed with the goal of conceiving. I was hooked on doctor visits; placing all my hope in the medical field. Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goal.

Every month, for thirty-six months, I vacillated between determined and disappointed. Hopeful and heartbroken.

Finally, after three years, Tom and I decided it was time to ask God about His plan for our family.

Together, we realized our hope had been misplaced.

Following God’s Plan

God sweetly directed us to stop. Stop trying. Stop the doctor visits. Stop looking to medicine. Start looking to Him. He is the One who creates families.

In His great goodness, He had already given us a heart for adoption. And…the three years of infertility had given us perspective.

Had we gone into adoption thinking we were going to do some awesome, sacrificial thing to help a child, our love might have been conditional.

What if the adopted child didn’t appreciate our sacrifice and helping hand?

In His wisdom, the Lord flipped our emotions and thoughts inside out.

We traveled to Bogota, Colombia to receive our precious bundle from God. Holding her, I knew I wanted my daughter more than she needed me.

My motivation was purely selfish.tom with courtney1

 

God did a great thing by bringing the three of us together. Then He turned our plan upside down.
• First through adoption. Check
• Three through birth. Check.
• Four kids. Check.

No medical involvement only supernatural intervention. (The only planned stork arrival was number one!)

Thankfully, His ways are not our ways.

What Not to Say to An Adopting Couple

Recently, Janet did a blog on 10 Things Not to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility. Here is my list of don’ts regarding couples who are adopting.

Don’t Say:

  • “Once you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.”
  • “What do you know about the child’s real parents?”
  • “How much did you spend?”
  • “Will you be able to love this child as much as your biological kids?”
  • Most questions fall into the none-of-your-business category. The goal of adoption isn’t to get pregnant, it’s to have a child. By the way, an adoptive parent is a real parent.

Do Say: “Congratulations. I am so happy for you.”

And as for love…love multiplies, it endures, it is forever.

Lori Wildenberg, mom of four, wife to Tom, and a licensed parent and family educator, is the co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. Lori is passionate about coming alongside parents to encourage, empower, and support. Her straightforward, realistic approach mixed with transparency, warmth, and gentle humor, engages her audience, and assists moms and dads in their quest to parent well. Lori has co-authored three parenting books—Raising Little Kids with Big Love and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love scheduled to release May 2014. To schedule Lori for one of your events go to www.loriwildenberg.com or www.1Corinthians13Parenting.com.

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Hug An Infertile Couple This Week

 

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You may not have April 20-26 marked on your calendar as National Infertility Awareness Week, but 1 in 6 couples check their calendar frequently to see if they’re pregnant or how long it’s been since they filed adoption papers or when will the infertility tests be back . . .

An Ignored Group

With millions of couples experiencing infertility, a large percentage of the population feel shunned. Yet, you probably know someone dealing with infertility in your neighborhood, your church, your family, your friends, your co-workers . . .Maybe it’s you struggling to become a mommy or experiencing secondary infertility and know what it’s like to feel invisible in a group.

Many of the “mommies-in-waiting” sharing their stories in my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey expressed the sorrowful complaint that they felt ignored by friends and family, even in the church–especially in the church.

Often we ignore the infertile couple because we don’t know what to say to them. Or the infertile couple doesn’t talk about their painful situation because people say hurtful things.

People Say The Darnedest Things!

Your loved ones will say all the wrong things. All of us who have gone through infertility agree on this point.—Laurie, A Mommy-in-Waiting

Dear God,

People keep asking when we’re going to start having children, as if I’m making a conscious decision not to! I try shrugging it off with an answer that we probably will “someday.” Inside, I’m dying. Why are people so insensitive and why do they feel it’s ok to ask something so personal? Everyone seems to think they’re a doctor and they know the answer to my infertility. Then the advice . . . the number one thing everyone seems to say is, “Oh, you just need to relax.” Or “You’re young; you’ve got plenty of time.” UGH!!! Help, God, they’re killing me!

Wounded by Words, Kim

Kim is my precious daughter whose struggle with the heartache of infertility was often intensified by well-meaning—yet wounding—words. Many infertile couples’ stories mention how thoughtless and hurtful people’s comments and advice can be. Debbie wrote, “I’ve experienced people in the church say some of the worst things ever to me with every good intention. Probably one of the most insensitive and painful is, ‘Maybe God never meant for you to have children.’”

You can be sure thoughtless, hurtful comments aren’t from God, who instructs: “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim” (Proverbs 15:4 MSG).

10 Things Not To Say or Do To Someone Experiencing Infertility

I believe in the front of every church directory there should be a list of things that you shouldn’t say to people during times of grief, just like emergency preparedness in the front of the phone book.—Debbie, A Mommy-in-Waiting

Most people don’t mean to be hurtful: they innately want to say and do the right thing. They offer a cliché or something that minimizes your situation or feels patronizing because they’re uncomfortable being around someone suffering. Here are ten helpful tips from Mommies-In-Waiting:

DON’T…                                                                               DO…

1. Talk about people you know with infertility.                    1. Let me talk about mine and listen

2. Tell me God is in control, or has a plan.                            2. Show me God’s love.

3. Tell me to pray harder.                                                      3. Pray for and with me.

4. Pity or patronize me.                                                          4. Show compassion.

5. Avoid me. It makes me feel rejected, different.                5. Keep normal contact with me.

6. Tell others, unless you have asked permission.                 6. Honor my privacy.

7. Offer unsolicited advice or suggestions.                            7. Support my choices.

8. Resent how my infertility affects you.                               8. Remember, this is about me.

9. Ask personal questions or give advice.                              9. Curtail curiosity.

10. Assume it’s a “female” problem.                                     10. Respect it’s personal.

Suggested Responses for the Infertile Couple

We will speak the truth in love.Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

Following are frequent unwelcome comments and suggested responses. Non-satirical humor often defrays uncomfortable situations. Your goal isn’t to offend or embarrass the person. The responses shouldn’t be said sarcastically, defensively, or angrily. Use this as an opportunity to be a good witness:

1. “When are you two going to start a family?”

Response: What makes you think we’re not trying?

2. “You just need to relax, take it easy, rest more, or take a vacation.”

Response: Then I might have two problems—no baby and no job!

3. “You aren’t getting any younger!”

Response: Are you fishing for an invitation to my next birthday party?

4. “You’re young, you have plenty of time.”

Response: Time is the one thing we have too much of now.

5. “You should take________”—they name some food, herb, or drug.

Response: I’ll check with my doctor about that.

6. “You should try_______”—they suggest some sexual position.

Response: You mean we’re supposed to have sex?

7. “We need grandchildren.”

Response: We need to be parents first.

8. “There must be some hidden sin in your life.”

Response: Jesus forgave my sins when I became a Christian.

9. “You aren’t praying hard enough.”

Response: Are you offering to pray for us?

10. “If God wanted you to have children, you would.”

Response: Ouch! That hurts.

Remember: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).

*Some excerpts from Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey

Kim's family 2014Daughter Kim’s family today! Thank you Lord for these 3 precious blessings

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Because We’re Better Together

I’m so excited to be a part of The M.O.M Initiative’s First National Conference and I wanted to share all the details with you. I will be keynoting and presenting four workshops along with many gifted speakers, authors, moms, and grandmas! Following is all the information and please let me know if you’re attending.

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Need to know you’re NOT ALONE? Ready for a fun weekend GETAWAY with your GIRLFRIENDS? Need to be REFRESHED & REFUELED?

Join us at BETTER TOGETHER where 19 authors & speakers CONVERGE in ONE PLACE to minister to YOU with over 40 WORKSHOPS to meet you where you are!

BETTER TOGETHER is a conference by The M.O.M. Initiative, for women of ALL ages and in ALL stages of life!

SOMETIMES…we just need a weekend to laugh together, cry together, and discover you’re not alone in your journey. BETTER TOGETHER is a weekend to connect with women just like you….moms, wives, single moms, moms in blended families, divorced moms, moms of teens, moms of toddlers, grandmas, working moms, stay at home moms, mentors and ministry leaders.

With powerful keynotes from moms and ministry leaders just like you, and over 40 breakout sessions that are taught by experienced leaders and include a wide range of topics such as:

  • When Motherhood Should Come with a Training Manual
  • You Can’t Be 1/2 a Mom (for moms in blended families)
  • Walking Beside Your Child with Special Needs
  • The God Who Sees You
  • Bully Proof
  • Balancing Life and Ministry
  • Fight for Your Family
  • The Making of a Mom
  • Lord, Help My Marriage
  • Building a Top Notch Team
  • Reaching the Hard to Reach Child
  • Nothing Too Broken (Find hope & healing for even the deepest wounds)
  • Godly Girlfriends: The Sprinkles on the Cupcakes of Life
  • Praying for Your Prodigal
  • Lifegiving Hospitality ~ Start Simply but Simply Start (Hands on cooking class)

And MANY MORE BREAKOUTS that will meet you right where you are!

You’ll experience an amazing time of worship with The Journey Worship Band, you’ll learn, you’ll share, you’ll grow in Christ… and as a woman… and as a mother… and as a mentor… and as a ministry leader.

Expect to have fun, meet other moms, find hope and encouragement, and laugh…a lot!

  • Great worship with the live band
  • Lots of giveaways!
  • Late Night Bash with the M.O.M.s on Friday night!
  • Lots of opportunities to shop in the Exhibit Hall!
  • 15 Minutes w/M.O.M. appointments where you can meet a M.O.M.
  • Lots of workshops (over 40) to help you in practical, personal & powerful ways
  • Panel Talk on Saturday with some of YOUR questions answered by the M.O.M. team!

Here are the details:

When: July 31st – August 2nd, 2014

Where: Trinity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida

How Much: Only $49 ($39 for groups of 10 or more)

How: To register or find out more information, visit www.themominitiative.com and go to “Conferences”

Seating is limited so you will want to get your tickets now and invite your friends!

You’ll be empowered, encouraged, refreshed and refueled…ready to fulfill your God-given calling with the confidence of knowing you don’t have to take your mom journey alone.

Don’t miss THE Southeast’s MOM conference of the year, BETTER TOGETHER by The M.O.M. Initiative…

Because we are ALL better together!

So come, BRING A FRIEND and make it a CONFERENCE EVENT FOR THE WOMEN IN YOUR CHURCH or MINISTRY!

CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU THERE!

 

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Who Needs to Hear Your Story?

Sharing Your Story

Another term for “your story” is “your testimony.” A testimony focuses on God, not us. It describes our lives before we turned them over—or returned—to God and on how He changed and transformed us. Your story doesn’t have to have a “happy ending” for you to share it. We give our testimonies to show God’s faithfulness in spite of the circumstances, to let others know they’re not alone, and maybe just to stop someone else from making the same mistakes we did.

When people tell me their hardships, I often advise them to begin journaling because it’s recording the story that will become their testimony.  We must be willing to share our hurts and hang-ups and how God helped us through difficult times. It’s our witness to His faithfulness. It’s the opportunity to give purpose to a crisis. Otherwise, we spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves. Revealing is the first step to healing.

The Bible tells us that“the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Hidden sin has us in a death grip that will kill us from the inside out. But exposed sin loses its power. We don’t have to worry about others finding out about our past. We can “Thank God we’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set us free to live openly in his freedom!” (personalized from Romans 6:18 The Message). One of the steps in most recovery programs is openly telling one’s testimony to a group. Public sharing frees us and allows God to minister to someone in the audience who is going through something similar.

When I told people I was writing Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter and would be including my daughter Kim’s story, they often asked, “How does she feel about that?” I assured them she wanted her story told to help others and, in fact, wrote portions in her own words:

Mom, I want to share my story in your book because you also need my perspective. How can you effectively write about you and me if you don’t know what I was feeling? You can’t teach others what to do correctly if you don’t know what works and doesn’t work with kids. I’m so thankful I’ve come to know the Lord, that my life is so blessed, and that I didn’t make too many serious mistakes along the way. If I can help you save one daughter by sharing my story, then that’s what I want to do!

Your testimony won’t always be shared in a public setting. God will bring people across your path and the Holy Spirit will prompt you to share one-on-one. When people ask Kim and me how we made it through, the best answer we can give them is, “We couldn’t have done it without God.”  And that’s your best answer too!

Kim and I had the opportunity to share “Our Story” at a Mother Daughter Tea at The Journey Church the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Watching my sweet daughter articulately share her prodigal journey as I shared mine, I could only imagine how God was smiling down on us. So many women came up and thanked us for being open and vulnerable.

What story is God asking you to tell and who needs to hear it? In all of my books, I give others the opportunity to have a venue for telling their story. I am currently receiving stories for my next three books. If any of these titles spark your interest, please contact me.

  • How Good is God? I Can’t Remember….10 Ways to Never Forget God’s Faithfulness
  • Dear God, Life is Hard
  • Mentoring: A Way of Life from the Pulpit to the Pew

 

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16 The Message)

 

Excerpts in this article are taken from Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.


 Kim and me Mother's Day Tea
Kim and me sharing “Our Story” at The Journey Church Mother’s Day Tea
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