Category: FOR HER

Written By Teresa Goodnight

Ever have someone walk into your life and you just instantly feel connected? Like you have been friends all of your life?  When Jamie walked into my house, it felt a bit God ordained. She was so lovely inside and out; I knew exactly why my long time BFF introduced us.  We had an instant connection we both felt.  Talking to her was so easy. We didn’t stop. Then, she started sharing her story.  It was her mission birthed from an experience she had buried deep inside her heart.  That is, until someone touched the scar and sent her reeling.  All of a sudden, I didn’t know what to say.  She continued pouring out her heart. We both realized, this story needed told.  We changed the entire focus of the next issue in fact.  People aren’t talking about it, but they desperately need to talk.  There are people in our churches who are suffering all alone and they need to know God loves them.  Someone needs to share that overflowing undeserved mercy and love God offers to all of us who have made mistakes–ALL of us. 

Someone needs to break the silence.  

Abortion is a tough topic in the world in general.  You can’t breathe it without stepping on a landmine.  In Oklahoma, one in four women have had an abortion.  In the country, that stat jumps to one in three according to local Catholic Charities workers.    “In the United States, where one half of all pregnancies are unintended, almost one third of women will seek an abortion by age 45.” according to the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG).  The stat doesn’t improve much inside the church.  It’s a decision defined as a woman’s right to choose what happens inside her own body.  For that reason alone, it’s a political hot button.  

Churches steer so far clear of it that in Oklahoma, 25% of the women in our congregations are left facing this alone.  Many believed what Planned Parenthood told them when they walked in the doors.  Then, when they found out it was different—they were left to suffer alone, without anyone to help them walk through it.  There was no one to help talk through the shaming—done both by well-meaning but hard core protesters and the convicting shaming led by Satan himself.  They were left without anyone to help them with that shame Satan uses to minimize them.  They are without anyone to help them know what God thinks about what’s been done and where to go from there.  These women, for the most part, are just alone.

So, we want to start this off and set the record PAINFULLY straight:  God absolutely offers the same grace, love, forgiveness, and removal of all sins as far as the east to the west to anyone who has made ANY mistake. 

To the liar, the adulterer, the person lacking any trace of integrity, the convicted criminal, fill in your blank here–He offers His love and grace as a free gift. We don’t have to earn it.  We do have to turn to him, humble ourselves, and confess our mistakes to him.  He absolutely will forgive anyone.  The difficult part of finding God’s grace though often comes in a battle of trying to find our own.  No matter what God offers, if we feel so much shame—and there’s no one to talk with us about it—we will find ourselves nursing our scar rather than ever being set free from it.

These women were encouraged to save this joyous occasion for a time in their life when they were more ready.  Some were told they were just carrying a blob of cells.  Some were told by the child’s father this was the only way to face the situation. Others knew exactly what they were doing.  Almost all believed they could just go on with their life just as it was after the choice was made.  Jamie said, “The biggest deception in this war on women is that you can just go on with life.  It’s just not true.  You are forever changed.  Your lenses for seeing life are altered.  The truth is, you will never be the same.” 

We run around offering God’s forgiveness He has promised to everyone who has made regrettable choices. However, somehow, as a church (and not all, but most), we’ve decided it’s just too controversial to address from pulpits, where we are supposed to help our congregations.  There are large churches in town, where we have heard it is absolutely a policy that abortion is not an allowable topic for discussion.  

We know the silence, because Jamie heard it.  Over, and over, and over again.  She even heard it when she tried to launch a recovery group inside her church and found her request lost in the shuffle in what seemed like purposeful avoidance.  She heard what no one wanted to offend her with loudly and clearly.  But, when no one addresses your pain, what you hear becomes a deep-seeded pain buried inside your heart for you to bear alone.  That is, until someone accidentally punches through.

Jamie is involved in a women’s group started through a local church.  The women get together, study God’s word and share things they are facing, needing advice or prayer.  They also laugh and fellowship together.  One day, at this group, Jamie mentioned something about not singing anymore.  The woman, unknowingly said to Jamie, “God will use your singing again.  He will.”  Jamie looked up at her with rage in her heart and thought “Don’t you ever say that to me again.  You don’t even know what you are talking about.”  Then, she left her friend’s house.  Jamie said, “I think I didn’t speak directly to her for a month. I just didn’t know what to say.”  Jamie then explained, “When I had come clean about my abortion my church in Minnesota asked me to step down from the praise and worship team. I had decided that this was the price I would pay for what I had done. I vowed that I would never sing again and that God didn’t need someone like me to lead people into His presence.”  Jamie locked away her torment, her pain, and so much more of her heart than she realized until her friend accidentally punched through. 

Jamie said, “I was so upset by what she said. I just felt she had no idea what she was saying, and the vow I had already made.”  Jamie continued, “Honestly, I didn’t even realize how much it mattered to me.”  She went on, “When I lived in Minnesota, I sang on the worship team at my church. The people there became like family to me.  I just knew my boyfriend would get saved and our relationship would change. However, I found out I was pregnant causing my two worlds to collide.  I didn’t know what to do. I talked with my boyfriend, who was very convincing that we would never be together if we tried to be parents right now. He wanted me to terminate the pregnancy. It was not something I ever thought I would even consider.  I just wanted everything to go back to normal and I was desperate to make things work with him. So I compromised everything I believed in for the sake of convenience and what I thought was love.”

Jamie shared, “I walked in to a waiting room full of other people aborting their babies. There were so many people. Really? Is it always this busy? Probably not. I waited and waited and was finally told that the doctor was involved in a car accident on her way to the clinic. My eyes were big as saucers and I distinctly heard God say, “Stand up and walk out. I’ll take care of you.” I shrugged it off, but was visibly shaken by the way this was unfolding. By this time, the waiting room was almost standing room only. I couldn’t believe it. People were laughing and talking like it was no big deal. Was I the only one that was battling a war in my spirit? They finally called my name and I went back alone. The counselor talked to me and told me they had to do an ultrasound to see how far along I really am. So I laid down and she put the cold gel on my belly. She asked me if I wanted to see and I said yes. I saw flashes of light on the screen and what looked to be a pinto bean. The beating of my baby’s heart was right there. Trying to grow, trying to live. The gravity of what I was about to do hit me for a split second and I asked her to turn the screen around. I prayed at that moment that God would just “leave me alone.”

Jamie said, “I was lead to the ‘procedure room’ where I was asked to undress from the waist down and the doctor would be in shortly. Fifteen minutes go by, then thirty, then forty-five. I finally poked my head out of the door and asked if they forgot about me. It was torture just laying there in a cold, sterile room without God’s presence and with the weight of my sin. Why didn’t I just get up and leave?” Jamie went on, “Once the doctor and nurses came in things moved pretty quickly. Bright lights turned on. Clanking of sterile equipment. The nurses were talking amongst themselves about who knows what and I was just laying there with tears streaming down the sides of my head. I finally spoke up and said, “How can you just talk like that when I’m laying here crying?” One of the nurses looked me square in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, we haven’t done anything yet if you want to change your mind you can.” I’ll never know why I didn’t get up and get out of there. It’s a question I’ve asked myself time and time again. I just knew that I wanted to go back to ‘normal.’” Jamie was so solemn, as she shared the events of that day.  She said tearfully, “I had no idea that my ‘normal’ would never look the same again. It was gone. There was no such thing as that anymore.”

Jamie said she left the clinic and went to eat with her boyfriend and then worked an 18 hour shift. It was done.  However, it would never be done in her heart.  Just a few months later, she was working her church booth at a music festival. She saw a booth across the walkway showing graphic video of mid and late term abortions. Jamie said, “I lost it. My mind began reeling, taking me directly back to the clinic, replaying over and over the decision I made. I started to shake and eventually knelt down on the ground to hide my emotion. My pastor’s wife came over and asked if I was ok. I eventually told her what I had done. She was heartbroken for me. She prayed for me, loved me and accepted me where I was. But in reality, no one could have shamed me or judged me more harshly than I had already done to myself. After some discussion, I was asked to step down from the praise and worship team. I understood. In my mind, this would be the price I would pay for what I did. I vowed to never sing again, I wasn’t worthy to lead anyone into His presence.”

The difficult part for Jamie was that she was now all alone.  There was no one to talk with about her situation.  Who would understand?  She said, “I just dealt with it the best I could.  I think I covered it up—buried it deep inside, and finally found the strength to move on.”  Jamie said she and her boyfriend broke up within a few months of the decision. She didn’t want to have anything to do with him.  She didn’t want to think about it anymore.  Then, she was back in church.  About two months later, she was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Israel where she met her husband. She went with her church in Minnesota and he was with his church from Oklahoma. They talked long distance for a while and he eventually came to visit her. 

During their first date, she just blurted out “I’ve had an abortion. Is that gonna be an issue for you?” Not exactly first date material. Jamie said, “I really was just so ashamed and felt so unworthy of anything.  I thought I would just go ahead and end it there. Turns out he actually did have to take some time to pray about how he felt about it. It just further seared into my heart the lie “What you did is unforgivable.” He eventually asked me if I would date him exclusively. I told him I wasn’t going to move again for a guy. So, he moved to Minnesota and the rest, as they say, is history.”

“I can’t really share all the emotions I experienced about my decision over the years. I couldn’t go back. It was done. I was never the same again and I had to learn how to be ok with that place.  It was a dark, lonely place—so I just decided not to go there.  I think I buried it and decided to go on with life.  However, the scar and the pain were always heavy on my heart.” lamented Jamie.  

After marrying, Jamie found herself pregnant.  About 5 weeks into the pregnancy, she miscarried. She was devastated. She said, “I just felt like I was being punished because of what I had done. Would I even be able to have kids? What if God decided He couldn’t trust me with children? I actually understood that. I was just heartbroken.” Fortunately, shortly after, she was pregnant with her third child.  She was elated.  She was so excited to get to meet her Jacob.  Jamie said, “I just couldn’t wait to hold him, to look in his eyes, to be the best mom I could possibly be to my baby, but my previous decision was always there haunting me in the back of my mind.  It crept up enough to shame me and condemn me until I suppressed it again.”  

When Jacob was born, Jamie’s heart was overwhelmed with instant love for his precious face. Being the best mother she could be to him became a top priority for her daily.  Then, just a few years later, she gave birth to her fourth child, Payton.  Payton was a bright, beautiful baby girl with a joyous heart.  Jamie’s life had never been more right with her better-than-dreamed-of family, except for that nagging voice of condemnation always trying to steal her moments of joy.

That’s where we started, Bible study with the friend who drove into Jamie’s scar like a bulldozer speaking words of encouragement that felt like a knife through her heart.  The incident forced Jamie to reexamine her choice, and search God’s heart for what He wanted to with it. How would He turn these ashes into beauty? Jamie said, “All I had was my story, my guilt and shame and a willingness to share it all.” With that, she began sharing her story with close friends, at first, and then acquaintances and eventually people she’d never met.

“The more I shared my story, the more I realized how many people were suffering in silence. I started to become painfully aware that we are in the middle of a crisis. Not only with abortion itself, but the souls caught in the aftermath.

I decided I wanted to do my part. I said ‘YES’ to God’s heart and am willing to do what I can to bring healing, wholeness and restoration to the hearts and destinies of men and women suffering with the torment of a sin that no one is willing to openly talk about.” 

Jamie said the more she talks about it, the more healing it brings–the more God shows her how much He loves her and how His grace covers her. So, that’s what she is doing. Creating space for men and women who have been touched by the effects of abortion. Jamie said, “A lot of people can’t explain why they feel stuck or why they feel depressed, unworthy or don’t feel ‘alive’ anymore. I didn’t realize until much later that the lies I chose to believe about myself as a result of the abortion caused me to sabotage my entire life. Once I realized that, I was blown away. I wasn’t going to allow Satan to steal my destiny. In fact, I was determined to fulfill the destiny God has for me AND the baby I aborted. Her life is going to matter.”

Talk About Destiny:

Jamie’s humble heart is in ministry to help men, women and families who have been touched by silence of sins like abortion to find God’s grace and healing.  Her message of God’s overwhelming mercy can be restorative to people facing Satan’s army of convictive thoughts like shame and guilt.  Let the church be silent no more. 

You can reach Jamie at: talkaboutdestiny@gmail.com.  Get her on your calendar to speak to your group, church or event.  

Caring for broken people is a beautiful path towards helping God’s kingdom be restored.  When restored, we can all operate from His powerful platform of mercy and grace. 

We can be the mighty warriors for Christ He has called us to be and ALL LIVES can come out of the silence and matter again.

Written By Missy Nicholas

Greeta and Jami had been friends since childhood and now were pregnant with boys, due on the same day.  Conversations assured the strengthening of their bond as they planned to raise their sons together, as friends.  I had not known either of them long and did not know either of them well; I was merely a witness of what was about to unfold.  I met Greeta after she found out that she would not raise her son because of a terminal prognosis.  He would only live for hours, if he lived at all.  She would love him for as long as she was given–just 8 hours after his birth. 

Jami’s pregnancy resulted in a beautiful baby boy–a drastic difference shattering all of those fantastic fantasies of fun. Instead of walking the same path, it seemed that a crossroads was forcing them to go different directions.  Jami organized for the normal things a new baby brings.  Greeta, bulldozed over with loss,  was preparing for a road of grief.  

Most friendships fall apart here.  Many relationships end when there is still affection left to be shared. We are not skilled at being in someone else’s reality when it is different from our own. We prefer swimming in the warm waters of comfortable emotions in order to keep our friendships intact.  The difference between what Greeta and Jami had planned and what occurred seemed too drastic to comprehend. Impossible, it would seem, to move through it together while remaining present in each others lives.  It’s often easier to allow these kind of differences to create distance and let the relationship fade into a memory with nobody to blame other than life’s tragic turns.  It wouldn’t have been the first relationship lost at the crossroads of “I don’t know what to say,” and “I don’t know what to do.”  And yet, what I witnessed between these two friends has forever changed my heart and life regarding love in the differences. 

Imagine a new mom stepping out of her euphoria after childbirth enough to sit with her friend in grief because she just lost what you brought home.  Jami could have stayed home in the joy of her new nursery, relishing the gift of health.  Instead, she showed up for Greeta in ways nobody else could have.  Without knowing what to do or what to say, Jami bridged the gap between gratitude and grief simply by just being there. Later, she was brave enough through tears to ask Greeta to be the caregiver for her son, Jericho when she returned to work.  An uncertain and potentially damaging conversation.

Yet she extended an invitation to share in the blessing of life to her friend who had been swallowed by the grief of death.  Jami took a risk to find the solid ground of friendship instead of allowing it to get lost in the unspoken and assumed.

On the other hand, imagine a grieving mom, who experienced the birth and death of her own son cradling and loving her friend’s baby within days of her own loss.  Greeta likely didn’t have words but she was present with Jami in her joy, grateful for what her friend experienced though it was so tragically taken from her.  Resentment and bitterness were surely vying for a place in her thoughts, but she welcomed into her heart a healthy baby boy.  She allowed herself to sit in the joy of new life with her friend, when grief was still her constant companion.  She not only became the primary caregiver when Jami returned to work, but she loved Jericho in ways that only she was able.  She loved him despite her grief, and because of her grief–a love so rooted in grace it formed an amazing bond between these families. 

I have been just close enough to understand that between these two friends is an intentional and compelling love. The place between them can only be described as holy.  Holy, because moving between them is a love that can only be seen as the hand and the heart of God.

Missy Nicholas is a professional psycho-therapist, an amateur photographer and a lifelong writer.

Catch her blog at www.sunsetsandsnowflakes.com



CRITICAL UPDATE:  

This article was written in early January and we loved it so much, we wanted to share it in our Mother’s Day issue.  Two days after Missy published it in her blog, Jericho who is 3 years old was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia.  Now these women with their beautiful friendship are arm in arm fighting together again. Jericho recently had an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy, causing him to code in his mother’s arms.  After 40 minutes of CPR and 3 days in the ICU, Jericho shocked medical staff with his miraculous comeback.  As of the printing of this article only weeks after coding, Jericho is back to his chemotherapy regime. These two women are a living, breathing testimony of love and grace for one another and an example to each of us.

There is a Venmo account for Jericho Roberts, as well as an account at RCB bank in NE Oklahoma (just drop by or mail) if you would like to assist with medical expenses.

Written By Betsy Gwartney Catrett 

Celebrating the Joys, 

Minimizing the Pain, 

Maximizing the Gain.

Here we go!

As next to the last of 7, I missed out on Mothering 101.  I flunked babysitting, too. I didn’t know what to do.  So, when I married and babies came up, I felt, ummm STRESS. What was I to do?

I prayed and turned to God’s word for help.  I read Psalm 127:3 (NLT) “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” So how did that scripture truth jive with my feelings about motherhood?  NOT AT ALL.

So, I kept coming back to the Lord each night until my heart was at peace.  I told the Lord I trusted Him to guide our family size and my fears and concerns of ineptness as a mother!  By this time, I had already miscarried our first baby who was named Levi Joseph. Then, in barely seven short years, the gifts of Larry Paul (Lars), Lynden Dale (Len), Lance David, Lark Daniel, and then Luke Stephen were given to us.  Whaaat?  Don’t worry, it’s ok. 

Despite a wonderful life of exciting travel, amazing people, and treasured life experiences I couldn’t have imagined the one area that tops them all is being a mother!  Seeing the joy on each sweet child’s face when he entered into the light and life of spiritual birth and growing in that walk is ecstasy.   3 John 1:4 (NLT) “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

So, what do we do with the sorrows?  And I don’t mean just the sorrows, but also the

SORROWS. Thankfully not all of you, but many of you KNOW exactly what I mean.  I had SORROWS that ended up lasting for decades. Little by little I believe the Holy Scriptures washed my mind and gave me a heavenly perspective that eased my pain. 

Family life can be a lot like the “no pain no gain” aspect in the gym. We can reframe the pain, frustration, sorrow, embarrassment, shame into a positive purpose that maximizes hope, energy and honor despite what one is going through.

Let’s give it a try by looking at 4 important foundational beliefs. 

1.  First things first:  Salvation is about becoming spiritually ALIVE; born again into a realm for which we were designed, but by the human choices of Adam and Eve the entire human race died spiritually.  Focus on being ALIVE, not saved.  (Salvation is a wonderful by-product, but tends to result in us trying and trying to be “good.”)

2.  Next, create a family atmosphere of LIFE-LONG LEARNING, with an emphasis on MATURING in our understanding of intimacy with God and the activity of spiritual warfare.  We LEARN by listening for God and acknowledging when we hear Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).  We LEARN from mistakes if we take the time to debrief, process and look for the truths in the experience.  A post I read recently on Facebook went something like this: “Boy did I mess up; Dad’s gonna KILL me!” Or is it, “Boy did I mess up, I’ve GOT to call DAD!” What kind of response does your belief system produce?

3.  Rather than life being about perfect performance of whichever Christian list you choose to follow, understand that life is about LEARNING TO LOVE and LIVE IN UNITY and HARMONY.  (John 17:15-23, John 13:35) How in this world do we authentically love people whose choices affect us negatively and their styles of relating are so irritating and frustrating? Try this, realize that we reap what we sow.  When we experience what we earlier “dished out” we have motivation for growth and change.  The irritating person does, so do we!  Give the amount of love and understanding that you want others to give you (Luke 8:31).  Another helpful tool is to “Get wisdom, but with all your getting GET UNDERSTANDING!” (Proverbs 4:7) Understand that our Creator’s plan is for us to defeat evil together, thus He uniquely designed us and placed us in family systems.  No mistakes on His part!  As we understand one another’s strengths, gaps and growth areas we can mature together resulting in a powerful synergy that dispels darkness and produces intimacy, peace, and provision in every way. 

4.     Thus (and lastly), every family has a spiritual ASSIGNMENT given by God. (Exodus 34:7) Beliefs produce behaviors in every family.  Identify the behaviors that rob of life and love and the beliefs behind them, then ask God for the Truth with which to replace them.  You will be delighted with the new fruit your TRANSITION GENERATION created!

You see, your children don’t need a perfect mother.  They need a mother who will show them where to turn when searching for answers, how to humbly receive God’s  heavenly perspective and the life-learning of others, and how to ask God for power to apply what they know.  You can relax and know that Elohim, our Creator, has a Master Plan for bringing us to spiritual life and maturing us in intimacy and spiritual warfare that results in a victorious harmony that will thrill our souls and delight His heart!  By focusing on spiritual life, being a life-long learner, growing in one’s ability to authentically love and unify, and accepting ones family assignment you position yourself to celebrate the joys, minimize the pain and maximize the gain.  

Let’s GO!


Written by Mike Henry Sr. – Follower of One

The Offense

The Human Resources director of your company called. Suddenly, today is your last day. There’s a reorganization and your job is no longer necessary. You’re a great person and this isn’t personal. There’s nothing you could have done, but they don’t need you anymore. There’s a little severance, but you know it won’t last long enough. Meanwhile, it’s time to pack. 

Initial Reaction

“They” did it and it wasn’t fair. Or “They should…” The word “they” is a key.  When we focus on the past and we hold someone else responsible for what happened, we build walls of bitterness because we haven’t forgiven someone.

The Command

‘And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ Matthew 6:12

Can we forgive others in the workplace the way we want God to forgive us? Do you want God to forgive you the way you forgive others? The way I forgive others often falls short of the way I ask for forgiveness. When I’m honest, I appreciate God’s forgiveness. I’m glad he created forgiveness and I know my efforts don’t measure up. 

Three Steps

Even though I’m no expert in forgiveness, I still practice. And in my practice, I’ve found 3 activities that help me move toward God’s command and away from my natural reaction. 

Name the offense. Often, we need to make ourselves aware of the offense we feel so we can forgive properly. Think about this event. Step into the pain. Think about the costs. Get it out there where you can deal with it. Some people think they’ve forgiven someone, but they still harbor ill feelings. They still blame their former employer for debt they incurred while unemployed. Or they blame their boss for a poor review or a less-than-expected pay raise. When we name the offense, we begin to manage it.

Give it away. Once you name the offense, give it away or give it to God. Ask God to give you a heart for the person or people who offended you. Then ask God to make it right. Unforgiveness keeps you stuck in the past. When you can trust God to make something positive out of your offense, you experience the benefits of forgiveness.

Make it unconditional. We didn’t earn God’s forgiveness. I’m unaware of many of the offenses I’ve caused. None of us truly understand the vast scope of the unconditional forgiveness we have each already received. Don’t revisit the offense months from now when something else happens. Remember that you unconditionally asked God to restore you from this offense. Remind yourself everything related to this offense bills to the same account.

Perfect Job

I have always wanted to work where I could screw up BIG without fear of penalty or job loss. When I turned my life to follow Jesus, I got my wish. But I often saw only the temporal. While the pain was fresh, I did not see my eternal boss give me repeat chances. I did not see my career as what God was doing in my life. Whatever offended me was visible, not eternal.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Keep it Real

When we focus on visible things, we can find offenses everywhere. For work-oriented problems where we were let go, laid off, or we lost money or status at the hands of someone else, these steps can be a quick guide for how to focus on the future. An unforgiving spirit keeps us locked in the past. We continue to bear the misery of the past rather than giving it away, or even using the offense as a springboard to a new future. We know God uses our stories. Let God use your offense. Name it. Give it to Him. And make it unconditional.

God willing, I will continue to work on my weakness forgiving others. I hope to one day be willing to ask God to forgive me the way I forgive others. For now, I’m grateful he forgives better than I.

_________________________________

Note: Often, issues at work are much less painful or costly than the others discussed in this issue of the magazine. But our workplaces are regular, daily places where we interact with others. Conflict and offense live there too and every grudge or bitterness we hang on to costs us daily. 


Written by Andrea Stephens

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning when the Fertility Clinic called with the crushing news that none of the eggs from the IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) procedure had produced an embryo.  We had tried so many other procedures but this was the time we were going to actually see what was happening by putting the eggs and sperm together in a petri dish and watching for results.  

But nothing.  

Nothing happened.

The doctor explained that the next step would be using donor eggs.  I could look at the profiles of women who had frozen eggs, select one, then have her eggs used in another IVF procedure.  But we had already decided that we would not take that route.  Though others were making that choice and joyfully producing little bundles of joy, we had decided we would draw the line at this point.  No third-party intervention.

To say I was devastated was putting it mildly.  I was already ten years into this infertility journey.  Hundreds of doctor’s appointments, invasive ultrasounds, blood draws, fertility drug injections, ovulation kits, six surgeries to remove painful cysts and endometriosis and I still had empty arms.  The hand-knit baby booties on my dresser, intended to be a symbol of hope, had become a disheartening reminder of the loss I felt from being childless.

I had already worked through the jealousy of birth announcements from friends.  The Lord had brought me to the understanding that what He was doing in someone else’s life had nothing to do with me and I eventually could rejoice with them.  I had already learned that taking non-emotional gifts like diapers to a baby shower helped me feel stronger (shopping for cute baby outfits could land me in a puddle of tears).  I had already mastered the art of redirecting the conversation every time someone asked me when I was going to start my own family.

I had also already worked through the tough God questions. Why won’t You give me a baby?  Why don’t You love me? What have I done wrong?  Is there unconfessed sin in my life?  Do You not think I would be a good mom?  Why won’t you bless me?  I promise to raise my children to love and serve You! The majority of my wrestling with God over my childlessness had been resolved with the biblical truth that my infertility was not a withdrawal of God’s love, not a judgment call, not a source of punishment, not proof that I’d been abandoned or forgotten about, and not proof that prayer didn’t work.

Yet, that day after the phone call, I felt like I was still missing something.   I still needed the Lord to comfort my heart and give me understanding.  As I sat and prayed, I sensed a whispering in my soul.  It’s time to focus on the bigger picture.  The bigger picture?  What could be bigger than God’s instructions to be fruitful and multiply?  What was bigger than the biblical accounts of God opening the wombs of Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, and others in the Old Testament?  What was I missing?  What piece of the big picture was not in my puzzle?

I decided to dive into the Gospel of John, paying close attention to Jesus’ words in an effort to understand what God wanted me to see.  So, first we learn that Jesus is the Word, John the Baptist came with a message of repentance, Jesus turns the water into wine, then he turns over the tables in the temple.  Got it.  In Chapter 3, the nighttime chat with Nicodemus about being born again caught my attention in a fresh way.  Jesus said we must be born of the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and believing in Him, God’s Son, brings eternal life.  Hmmm. The eternal.  The kingdom of God.  A different kind of birth.

I continued on.  Finally, in chapter fifteen it happened.  A huge clue was uncovered.  Jesus is the vine, we are the branches; we are to bear fruit—eternal fruit!  I was starting to get it.  Fruitfulness was being given a new definition.  In the Old Testament, fruitfulness referred to bearing earthly children.  In the New Testament, it was about abiding in Christ and producing spiritual fruit.

God, does this mean that Jesus brought a new focus, a new sense of purpose? Could it be that being fruitful was not connected with having kids?

Jesus’ focus was not on the earthly development of the family of God, but the spiritual development of the Kingdom of God.  How?  Share the good news of saving grace found in Christ alone, so others might receive Him into their lives and be born again, born spiritually into the Kingdom of God, into His forever family.

Thoughts of New Testament people without children or without mention of children flooded my mind:  John the Baptist, Martha and Mary, Priscilla, Dorcas, Mary of Magdela, Apostle Paul, and Jesus Himself! If having biological children was the end all, then God would owe Jesus, John, Paul, and others an apology for leaving their lives unfulfilled and incomplete!  Not possible.  God was at work in each of their lives, he loved them, He had an obvious plan for each of them and they fully completed their calling before heading to heaven. 

Whew.

As the idea of spiritual children twirled around in my heart, my head realized that according to this definition, I had lots of kids.  Through years in youth ministry and writing for teen girls, I had indeed seen many be born spiritually and had the joy of discipling them—growing them up in Jesus!

I began to take note of some awesome women God had put in my life throughout 

my baby journey, other childless but Kingdom-focused women.  He was using them—right then—to help me see there was a bigger picture.  Rhonda had a local Christian TV show for women and taught a seminary class for soon-to-be pastor’s wives.  Susie was editor of a teen magazine and led groups of girls on mission trips.  Gail had a puppet ministry that told little ones about God’s love.  Rebecca had a worldwide music ministry.  Lori was an award-winning second-grade teacher who developed a mentoring program.

The dictionary says that part of being a mother is providing affection, protection, nurture, and guidance.  It’s what many of us childless women do.  We love, we teach, we train, we coach, we encourage, we guide.  We are an important part of building God’s forever family.  It seems that on some level we meet the definition of a mom.

The various clues had come together!  This the “big picture” God wanted me to see.

Over the years, I have been so grateful for the truths God has revealed to me and grateful for grasping an eternal perspective.  Now I celebrate each Mother’s Day in a fresh way.  I celebrate all the ways God has used me to be a mom in the lives of teen girls during the previous year.  And I smile, remembering all the young ones who took my manners classes—allowing me to have a tiny part in parenting them.  And I focus forward knowing that I am a mother.  Just another kind.

-parts of this article first appeared in Just Between Us Magazine.


The BIG, FUN, PEOPLE-LOVING event!

Download Press Release Here

Community event. Open to everyone.  We are showcasing the amazing services available to the community for men, women, and families who need them. 

When: May 4, 2019 12:30pm – 4:30pm

Where: Union High School Stadium


Schedule:

  • 12:30 Congressman Kevin Hern, opening speakers, and band
  • 1:30 simulcast starts with Focus on the Family 
  • 3:30 closing speakers and band

During the event, the following fun, free activities will be available for everyone (especially children):

  • Bouncy houses
  • Scavenger hunts 
  • Obstacle courses
  • Giant 6 ft soccer ball game
  • Frisbee contests
  • Throwing contest 
  • Art sections
  • Face painting and more

Want a table?

Table/chairs provided – $0.00 to $300. Show the community the services you offer! (Pregnancy resource centers, adoption, fostering, medical clinics/services, mobile ultrasounds, churches, community groups, and more).

Email info@communityspiritmagazine.com to reserve your table!

Want to volunteer?

We’re looking for loads of volunteers to host games, sell beverages (cans/bottles), and more. Send us your preferences for areas and we will try to accommodate. 

Email info@communityspiritmagazine.com to volunteer!

Exhibitor List

  • Birthright of Tulsa
  • Mend Medical Clinic
  • Crisis Pregnancy Outreach
  • Go Life Mobile Medical
  • Northeastern Hope Resource Center
  • Pregnancy Resource Center of Owasso
  • Stay Close to Christ
  • Compassion Women’s Center
  • May Be Pregnant
  • James Mission
  • Good Samaritan
  • YouthCare of Oklahoma
  • OKDHS Foster Care and Adoption Recruitment
  • Refiner’s Fire Ministries
  • Nightlight Christian Adoption
  • Dillon Adoption
  • LilyField Adoption
  • Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Owasso
  • Tulsa Hills Youth Ranch
  • Catholic Charities
  • Broken Arrow Pediatrics

Written by Andrea Stephens

I’d been on mission trips before, but this one was different.

Having recently been given the opportunity to write a column in Focus On The Family’s BRIO Magazine for teen girls, I was invited to be part of their annual mission trip. That year they were headed to Costa Rica. Hmmmm. Sharing the gospel, leading a team of eager young women who loved Jesus, and getting to experience a different culture—I was in!

The plan was to have the girls, coming from all over the U.S., meet in Miami for several days of training. Then on chartered planes, all 250 of us would fly to San Jose,
(I thought organizing 250 excited teenager girls sounded like the challenge of a lifetime until several years later when the group had grown to 850!). Right after the early morning breakfast buffet, the girls were divided into twelve teams and taught choreography to a powerful 25-minute drama presentation of the gospel called Spellbound. They also had daily sessions of language learning and the opportunity to fine-tune their personal testimony of God’s work in their lives which they would be sharing at their various ministry sites around San Jose.

My main assignment while in Miami was to encourage my team during rehearsals, make sure everyone had called home at least once, help finalize costumes, and practice Spanish phrases. The days were long and rushed but worth every second once we touched down on Costa Rician soil, ready to tell others of the love of God and saving grace of Jesus. I was excited that these precious girls were about to be obedient to Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). Each morning I led team devotions, then getting on our knees, we asked the Lord to lead us, guide us, and grant us favor as we presented the drama at parks, schools, and open market squares. We asked the Holy Spirit to be at work in the hearts of those watching the drama and, in our hearts, as well.

Each night, at the close of an adventure filled day, all the teams gathered together to share stories and to thank the Lord for all He was doing. The worship offered during these times was very genuine. Coupled with my private morning devo time, I began to experience a stirring deep inside of me—an unsettled feeling that I had felt before. Call it a yearning, a feeling of discontent, a touch of heart ache. Being on a mission trip where I was able to spend extra time in the Word and prayer drew my attention to the stirring. At home, with the busyness of life, it is both easier and necessary to push down the thoughts and feelings that are trying to rise to the surface; the very things that the Holy Spirit is wanting to use to get our attention about something. Well, this was one of my somethings. So, I asked the Lord to explain this to me. And he did.

His answer came the next afternoon. We returned from ministry a little early so the teams had free-time until dinner. Ah! I welcomed the extra time to recharge alone in my room. I had been reading in the Psalms, so I picked up my Bible to continue looking into these/this collection of thoughts and prayers as expressed through their author, King David.
I was reading Psalm 63 when I got it. This Psalm talks about seeking God, thirsting for Him, and yearning for Him. Seeking, thirsting, yearning. Another word to express how David was feeling is the word longing. David was longing for God. This is when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to what was really stirring around deep inside of me. I was feeling what I was feeling because I was actually…homesick. Homesick?

The idea took me by surprise.

Yet it explained the days when I felt out of sorts, not quite comfortable whether I’m at work, in line at Starbucks, rushing through Walmart or reheating leftovers for dinner. I knew this was more than just needing a long soak in a hot tub with lavender scented bath salts. It would easily be mislabeled as loneliness or interpreted as depression. But those words did not accurately describe what I felt. These were times when it feels like something is missing and I just long for more. Now I understood. I was longing for my heavenly home. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not talking about an eerie death wish. I’m talking about a deep longing to be in that place where we, as believers and children of God, will experience belonging, satisfaction, wholeness, total acceptance, and of course, a love like no other.
When we have developed an intimate personal relationship with Jesus—the kind that goes beyond Sunday morning casual Christianity—our longing for home makes total sense. Girlfriend let’s do a quick review: We have been transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light. Yes, out of the Dominion of Satan into the Kingdom of God. We have become new creations—made new in our spirit which now houses the Holy Spirit, which now makes us children of the most High, ever-present, ever-loving Father! Right now we are citizens of Heaven, our real home. We are God’s ambassadors here on this earth from that moment on. We are on assignment, getting our orders from headquarters, fulfilling God’s purpose for us to love others and tell them about Jesus. (Colossians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Philippians 3:20, 2 Corinthians 5:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Matthew 22:37-39, Mark 16:15).

So this longing in me was not a bad thing, it was a good thing; not a negative feeling, but a positive one. Have you felt the longing? Perhaps you chalked it up to PMS or your biorhythms being off or a general dissatisfaction with life. If so, knowing it is a desire to be more deeply connected with your Heavenly Father is very freeing. And very good.
So what do we do to help satisfy the longing until the day our Heavenly Father calls us home? We spend more time in the Word, pray without ceasing, surround ourselves with worship music, serve Him by serving others, fellowship with other believers—all things that help us keep our hearts and minds set on Jesus so that we will have peace for our longing. And we choose to rejoice in the Lord always and give thanks in everything (Philippians 4:6-9). Yes, I have learned to be content and grateful for the stirring inside of me. It is confirmation that I am connected to my Heavenly Father and that my longing will one day be fulfilled when I live in my heavenly home where I will spend eternity.

None of this would be possible without the sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf by going to the cross. He willingly chose to die a painful criminal’s death in order to break the power of sin and death, to pay the penalty I could never pay for myself, to provide the beautiful gifts of salvation, forgiveness and grace, and to open the door for me to be in direct relationship with my Father-God. Because of God’s incredible love, He would have done all of this just for me. But He didn’t. He did it for you, too.

This month as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection let’s also rejoice that we experience a sense of longing every now and then.

Let it be a reminder that because we have accepted Jesus into our lives as Savior and Lord, we are now the children of God. Our culture teaches that we are all God’s children yet the scripture is clear that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God. We are all God’s creations, yet we become His children through Jesus. (John 1:12). In God’s selected timing, we are children who will one day be home where that longing will be turned into fullness of joy. (Psalm 16: 11).

Written by Andrea Stephens

My puffy brown parka is being moved to the back of the closet. My gloves—the red, the lime, and the black ones—await their turned to be tucked away in a drawer.  My boots, which are all black except for the chocolate and ivory imitation snake-skin cowboy boots that I had to buy once I moved back to Oklahoma, are being returned to the big suitcase that stores them during the warmer months (my creative way of dealing with small closets).

Yes, it is time to shed the winter outerwear and prepare for the spring months.  I look forward to leaving the winter days behind and enjoying longer days of sunlight, warm breezes, and the first sighting of purple crocus and yellow daffodils. (I love that God programmed these two flowers to be among the first to bloom. Purple and yellow are opposites on the color wheel.  When placed together, they create a strong visual pop that is energizing to our senses.  Our Father knew we would need a little pop at this point in our lives.)

Are you looking forward to this change of seasons?  Perhaps you are so busy with the things of life that you aren’t especially tuned into the shifting of seasons.  Or maybe you are one of the thousands of women who are emotionally moved by the grey skies and leafless trees.  Women are especially sensitive to seasonal changes, meaning that the unpleasant weather happening around us can greatly affect what is happening inside of us.  Shorter days, cloudy skies, freezing rain, cold winds—can contribute to felling down, sadness, lack of motivation, and even sensing distance from God.

The official name for this is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) but in layman’s terms it is having a bad case of the blues!  An ongoing dose of blah.  Of course, there are other things that can land us in the blues like never-ending laundry, figuring out dinner again, a newborn that refuses to nurse, an argument with a friend, being laid off, so many possibilities.  Ugh.  Life can just be hard, right? 

The good news for us is the truth that this is one of the very reasons Jesus came to earth.  On that pivotal day in the temple when Jesus stood and read from the scroll, the text announced His purpose which included setting free the oppressed, downtrodden, heavy-hearted, and well, just plain blue!  (Luke 4:18 – 19).  Jesus came Himself to rescue us from the everyday blues.

Stephen S. ILardi, PhD, researcher and author of The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, has developed a clinically-proven program he calls Therapeutic Lifestyle Change or TLC.  When applied, people successfully come out of the blues. 

ILardi shares that TLC has lots of benefits.  Not only do you boost your feel-good potential, you might also experience “weight loss, increased energy, lower blood pressure, improved cardiac health, better immune function, reduced inflammation, greater mental clarification, enhanced sense of well-being.”  Those are awesome side effects!

So, let’s take a look.  Here are his six suggestions, along with a few of my own (I’m quite experienced with battling the blues).

1.  Eat to Beat the Blues.  While increasing fruits and veggies combined with cutting back on all things sugar is highly important, so is eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, walnuts, chia and flaxseeds.  This benefits your brain as well as your body.  Dr. ILardi recommends taking an Omega-3 supplement with a 2:1 ration of EPA:DHA. (Check with your doctor before taking any new supplement).

2.  Get moving.  Physical exercise releases your body’s natural feel-good hormone called endorphins.  If you are not used to exercising, start with simple heel lifts and marching in place, then a brisk walk outside or at the indoor mall.  Work up to brisk walking, biking (outdoor or stationary), pilates, or whatever you will enjoy.

3.  Get lost in a healthy activity. Doing something that keeps your mind occupied on down days will help lift your mood.  Try working a puzzle or a word search game, playing solitaire, baking something to share with a neighbor or reading the latest Karen Kingsbury novel.

4.  Soak up the rays.  Sunlight exposure is a definite blues blaster. There are special sun lamps available that are helpful during the cold dark days.  Try creating more light around your house—flip on some switches, open the curtains.  Light some candles and enjoy their warm glow.  While you sit near a window, think about the super sunny days of summer that will be here soon.            

5.  Be with people—especially other believers.  Social interaction can lift your morale (being alone and isolated can lend itself to feeling blue).  Do what works for you—invite friends over, visit family members, go to the movies, join a gym, volunteer at your church or a local non-profit.  Even window shopping at the mall at least gets you out and about—just beware of using a spending spree to help yourself feel better.                        

6.  Get the right amount of sleep. Deep sleep is needed for our minds and bodies to stay balanced. So, do your best to get the recommended 8 hours per night. However, if you are finding that your favorite activity on grey days is staying in bed all day, we need to talk!

7.  Scripture says to take your thoughts captive—yes, cuff them, lock them in jail, and throw away the key!  (2 Corinthians 10:5) Then we need to change or redirect our down ways of thinking. King David, a famous Old Testament personality, identified with feeling down and with choosing to refocus his attention.  In Psalm 42:11 (NLT) he recognized that he felt down in the dumps, that he didn’t understand it, “Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?”  But then he encouraged himself in the Lord when he said, “I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!”  David not only had a case of the blues, he was trying hard to understand it.  Ever been there?  Redirecting your thoughts and using positive self-talk will help.  Putting your hope in God is also key.  Hope is confident expectation of what God is going to do.

8.  Read, Pray and Praise.  These are the three most important keys to overcoming the blues.  God’s Word is spirit and life.  It is alive and active.  Reading the scriptures early in the morning can set the tone for the remainder of the day.  Prayer does the same thing.  Talking to God about how you feel, what you are going through, what you need will lighten your heart as you choose to trust Him.  Listen quietly for His response which usually comes in a still, small, voice.  Add praise—the best blues buster ever.  Whether you love traditional hymns, modern worship music, or a combo of both, make praise part of your daily routine.  Sing, dance, kneel, raise your hands, just do it.

9.  Hahahahaha!  Do or watch something that makes you laugh.  There is scientific proof that laughter helps people heal physically and emotionally. Even scripture says that a joyful heart is like medicine to your overall well-being (Proverbs 17:22).  So, what makes you laugh?  Get more of it!

This is a practical approach to getting out of the winter blahs.  It helps lift and helps prevent the blues.  TLC has physical and psychological benefits for everyone!  Simply put, getting out of the blues is about taking care of yourself.  Often times women put themselves last on the care list with husband, kids, job, errands, etc. coming first.  You need some TLC as well.  A little Therapeutic Lifestyle Change will not only be good for you but for those you care for.  You’ve heard the expression put your own oxygen mask on first.  This is not only important in the case of cabin pressure change on an airplane but for you as well.  It is necessary for your role as women to take time for yourself; to grab bits of time that come open during our week to workout, meet a friend for coffee, attend bible study or prayer group, take a nap, drink a protein smoothie, even a 20-minute chair massage at the mall—one of my favorite self-care treats.  You are worth it and those you care for think so, too.

Note:  If you or a loved one is experiencing a severe case of the blues, it might be clinical depression.  Reach out to your family doctor and to a Christian therapist for help.  Depression is treatable with various therapies, possible medication, and lots of TLC!

If you are in need of a therapist, we do recommend Christian Family Institute www.christianfamilyinsitute.com at 918.745.0095 or Counseling Services of Tulsa www.counselingservicesoftulsa.com at 918.574.2722.  Let them know Community Spirit sent you!


Written by Andrea Stephens

She was sitting in the front passenger side of their SUV when she and her husband graciously volunteered to play Uber and give me a ride to the airport. Seeing her from the side only, it was her hands that I noticed first. They looked different. Didn’t they? How weird that the backs of her hands caught my attention, but they did. They were thinner. I could tell because the veins were more prominent.  

She had definitely been sticking to Weight Watchers (Wellness Wins) and it was working. Oh, I wish that were true for me! In spite of the 200 0-point foods and the very cool app that tracks your progress and gives you the point score for nearly every single food in the grocery store and item on a menu, I fell backwards off the Weight Watchers wagon at the first sight of the Daylight Donuts in the office break room. I can’t fully blame the doughy sweetness for the weight I had gained since starting this new job, but they were my Monday morning delight. Ugh!

Paris! She just got back from Paris—as in France, not Texas. The land of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the fragrant springtime cherry blossoms, and the love that is in the air (though I’m guessing that is an overrated belief). How I’d love to see Leonardo de Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Claude Monet’s Water Lilies or Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror. As a former art student, who still likes to dabble in oils, it’s always been a dream to see the master’s original works. Oh, I wish I could go there! Yet the cost of a trip like that is hefty. Ugh!

I listened intently while she told about the latest book she was reading in preparation for writing her dissertation (that mega paper required to obtain a doctorate degree). She explained the verse she had selected, described how she studied it in the Greek language to dig out more meaning, and how it fit into the theme of her paper. I was intrigued. Oh, I wish I could do that! I love to study God’s Word and learn. I finished my Master of Divinity degree two years ago. The idea of continuing on toward a doctorate degree excited me. I felt it calling my name. But how?  Where would I find the time to make it happen? Ugh!

As you’ve read my wish list, did you think about what’s on your wish-list? Any place to visit, class to take, healthy eating goal to set? Maybe your wish list has a Christ-like characteristic like patience or unconditional love that you want to be more intentional about developing.  Does it include a relationship that needs mended? Maybe it’s a homeless shelter where you’ve been meaning to volunteer or that mission trip that tugs on your heart year after year? Maybe you’ve thought about adopting or fostering a child?

While the things we wish for might be good, there is one major problem: wishing! We can wish all we want but as we know, wishing will get us where? Nowhere! Wishing doesn’t move us toward turning a wish into a reality. If desires stay at the wish-level they have the potential to create disappointment. Focusing on what we don’t have, don’t do, or won’t become could keep us from seeing all of the wonderful things we are blessed with. Wish-level thinking can also threaten to cause us to slip into a poor me state of mind, which leads to moping around instead of getting motivated to take action.

Whatever your wish or desire, here are a few things to ask yourself before moving ahead.

  1. Is this a pure desire or is it fueled by one of the three tactics the enemy uses to pull me away from the things of God: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. Check your motivation.
  2. Is this all about me or can it be repurposed into something that will advance the Kingdom? Check your purpose.
  3. Will this develop me into a better version of myself—leading me closer to becoming the person God created me to be? Check your goal.
  4. Does it glorify God? Check your focus.
  5. How is your peace? While praying about your desire/wish do you sense the Holy Spirit’s peace? Colossians 3:15 tells us to let the peace of Christ be the ruler in our hearts—like an umpire—He calls the shots. I like how the Good News Bible puts it: Let the peace of Christ guide you in the decisions you make. And the Amplified: Let the peace of Christ [the inner calm of one who walks daily with Him] be the controlling factor in your hearts [deciding and settling questions that arise]. This Holy Spirit peace thing is a really big deal. Check it.

Based on the answers to these questions, adjust your wish accordingly.

Now, stop wishing and do something about it. This will get you started:

  1. Pray.
  2. Share your desire with a trusted person.  Choose someone who might help you think through the pros and cons or who will give you honest feedback.
  3. Create a plan.
  4. Pray. How’s your peace? Feeling anxious or excited?
  5. Set specific goals. Prioritize them.
  6. Break each goal into doable parts.
  7. Pray. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s yes, no, or wait.
  8. Set a target date.
  9. Pray.
  10. Get started.

Forget wishing.

Something things you have to make happen—as long as you are in God’s plan for your life. Remember, the main way you know is to follow after His peace and review the 10-point checklist.

As for me, I said goodbye to the Monday morning donuts at the office and went back on Weight Watchers. Taking care of myself and honoring this temple of the Holy Spirit outweighs a donut splurge. We so easily forget the biblical teaching about our bodies being the actual temple or home of the Holy Spirit, whom God sent to actually live inside of us, is actually TRUE! (Check out 1 Corinthians 6:19).

I have started a Let’s go to Paris fund—but only after I checked into adding a Kingdom purpose to the trip. I contacted CRU—one of my favorite international ministries—and learned that I could be involved with campus ministry while in Paris. Perfect! I can enrich my soul by experiencing the beauty of the God-given talents of the master artists and enrich the souls of those who are new in their walk with Christ.

And about that doctorate degree? I applied to several seminaries with plans to start classes in the fall. I will have a total of 5 years to take the classes, then write my dissertation. I love a writing challenge, so I’m in!

Wishing didn’t make any of these things happen. Prayer and action did. I know that if I can do it, you can do it! Happy wishing and happy creating new realities in your life.


Finding a Way Around The Temptation

Written by Andrea Stephens

Life has had me living in several different states over the years.  

With each new location, I have had to look for the positives with the goal of learning to embrace where I was living.  This didn’t come naturally; I seriously had to challenge myself.  This was especially true when I moved to a small town in South Louisiana.  They talked with such a drawl.  They referred to “making” groceries and cooking up a pot of red beans and rice specifically on Mondays since it was cleaning day and they wouldn’t have time to fuss with dinner.  I was missing the palm trees from my last location.  So, I purposely learned about bald Cypress trees and the Spanish moss that hung from them.  I also took a liking to nearby New Orleans with its jazz music, beignets (French donuts), and artists around Jackson Square.  However, one event caught my eye—the Crescent City Classic.  This well known 10K was not just any hometown race, it was one that welcomed costumes, marching bands, and dressed up dogs.  The route would take us through neighborhoods that promised to be lined with festive folks cheering us on from their front porch swings.

Now, I am not a runner, but the idea of walking the 6.2 miles with a group of friends just to enjoy the experience sounded perfect.  We got signed up, dressed up, lined up, and took off at the blast of the starter’s gun.  I was excited, full of laughter, snapping selfies and pictures of the craziness going on around me.  As I strolled along, friends at my side, a little something started to bother me.  I was being passed.  And not just by the more athletic types but by women with strollers and dogs in tutus.  The bothering increased.  Then a cackling couple of elderly ladies wearing PJs, fuzzy slippers, and big pink rollers in their hair went flying by!  That was it.  No more.  Something in me snapped and the leisurely fun walk with my friends went out the window.  I just could not allow myself to be passed any longer by anyone not sporting a serious pair of Nike’s.  I quickened my step, ditched my slow companions, and kicked it into high gear.  To my left, to my right—I was now watching for anyone who even thought they might make their way to my side.  Never mind the blisters I could feel forming on my toes and the pain in my right knee (I did mention that I’m not a runner, right?), I forged ahead until my very winded self crossed that finish line.

Funny thing, I was no longer in a celebratory mood.  And, I was also by myself since my friends stuck with the original plan of walking the race and enjoying the journey. Standing there alone, questions started rolling in.  What just happened to me?  Where did that competitive urge come from?  Why did I feel compelled to keep others from passing me by?  How could I have ditched my friends to feed the growing feeling inside of me?  The answer?  I had fallen right into the comparison trap.  

As clearly demonstrated on that festive New Orleans morning, comparison can shift our focus. Like a thief, it sneaks in when we least expect, steals our confidence and robs us of self-acceptance.  When we compare our value to the value of someone else we usually find ourselves lacking.  Instead of being content with who we are and where we are in our own life, comparison has us looking at her haircut, her toned thighs, her put together kids, her shiny new SUV, her husband’s promotion, her flawless complexion, her fabulous vacation, on and on with endless options.  

Looking too long at her can spiral down into all kinds of ugly.  It definitely does not bring out the best in us.  In fact, the scripture calls comparison unwise—that’s a nice way of saying it’s just plain stupid!  For instance, comparison leads to jealousy.  There is nothing good about that, especially when it leads to bitterness and a critical spirit.  Leah and Rachel, two sisters whose story is found in Genesis 29 and 30, perfectly illustrate this downward progression.  Due to their trickster father and no fault of their own, they wound up married to the same man, Jacob.  It’s no secret that Jacob adored Rachel, leaving Leah unloved.  But God enabled Leah to give 

Jacob the one thing that Rachel could not—babies! Leah hoped that giving Jacob children would win his heart so that she would finally feel loved and valued.  Yet with every new birth, Rachel’s spirit of comparison intensified the jealousy toward her sister.  It led to her desperate demand of Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”  Jacob defended himself saying, “Am I God?  He is the only one able to give you children!”  But rather than praying and waiting on God, Rachel came up with a plan.  She reasoned that if she gave Jacob her servant, Bilhah, and if Bilhah had kids, Rachel would take them as her own.  Isn’t it amazing what us women can come up with to make ourselves look and feel better about our lives?  Rachel’s cockeyed scheme got her what she wanted.  In fact, Bilhah had two sons, which thrilled Rachel making her think she was winning the baby race.  But not so.  Leah followed Rachel’s poor example and gave her servant, Zilpah, to Jacob to make more babies.  Phew! Talk about a blended family!  Eventually Jacob had 12 sons by 4 different women all because of jealousy.

Scripture is very clear about jealousy.  It wreaks havoc in our lives.  “For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.” (James 3:16).  In talking to the immature believers at the church in Corinth, Paul says, “You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other.  Doesn’t this prove you are controlled by your own desires?  You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.”  Jealousy and selfish ambition (wanting what we want with little regard for others) are red flags for those of us who want to live as true examples of Christ.  They tell us we are comparing ourselves to someone or something else and we need to stop it.  We need to examine it, figure out the cause, and take it to the Lord so He can heal it. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Leah and Rachel’s story had a happy ending?  This unfortunate competition between them resulted in a bitter, broken relationship between sisters.  This was not God’s best for them.  It could have been so different.  Instead, it caused their children to be just like them.  Comparison and jealousy among their children lead to the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers.  Thankfully their story ended in forgiveness and reconciliation, a lesson they could have taught their mothers.

I’m thankful the sisters didn’t have social media, which of course, fuels a spirit of comparison.  Filters, lighting, cropping—it allows for deceptively perfect posts that threaten to deflate us and even infect us with a case of paranoia.  It’s easy to start thinking my posts look pathetic—my life is pathetic—I am pathetic!  This shame-based line of thinking leads many women into a depressed attitude of why try? and for some, why live?  The pressure and the lies, spinning in your brain repeatedly, not only steals your peace, joy, and contentment but worse than all that–the belief that God really loves you. Trust me, the enemy is doing a happy dance when he finally has you at this point of despair.  After all, this was his goal.  For Satan, whatever causes you and me to doubt the goodness of God gets chalked up as a win in his playbook.

It’s just not worth it. But it’s just not going to go away on its own.  So, how do we stop playing the comparison game? The important thing is that we make an intentional decision about how we’re going to react when we recognize it in our lives.  Here is a list of suggestions on how to deal when the temptation to compare is lurking around your heart.  

Give them a try.

  • Celebrate her blessings and successes.
  • Realize that you don’t know her back-story.  Until we really get to know someone, we see their put together self and their life highlights on Instagram but we don’t know what’s behind her smiling face. The truth is, everyone is going through something.
  • Embrace what you value. This is what brings meaning and purpose to your life. It is part of what makes you, you!  Beware of comparison diminishing what brings you joy and fuels your passion.
  • Pay attention to your self-talk. It’s a proven fact that our thoughts directly affect our feelings which can then affect our behavior. Listen to what you are saying to yourself. As scripture instructs us, take your negative thoughts captive—lock them up and throw away the key. Then replace them with positive thoughts.
  • Take a break from social media. This will help you wholeheartedly lean into your own story and concentrate on being the best you.
  • Practice gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal will keep your heart attuned to the good in your life.
  • Grant grace to yourself and encouragement to others.
  • Compliment someone on the very thing that is tempting you to go green with jealousy.
  • Be your own kind of beautiful. Let’s be honest, women are the worst at comparing their looks. It’s very freeing when we embrace our unique look and learn to thank God for His perfect design for us.  
  • Change your audience. Make God your audience of One.  Let’s heed Paul’s words to the early church and set our minds on things above while fixing our eyes on Jesus.

When our eyes are in a love-lock with His, we won’t be looking around comparing ourselves to her! 

A friend recently shared this thought with me: A flower does not think of comparing itself with the flowers around it—it just blooms! Let’s do the same to the glory of God.