Category: FAMILY

Written by Teresa Goodnight

“We’re so very sorry. Your son won’t be going home with you. We’re setting you up with palliative care to be with him while he is here to make him comfortable. There’s nothing we can do.” 

The doctors said something like that. The exact words never really made it into their minds. Ben and Noelle just sat there. “We were in a puddle on the floor. Broken. How could this be what God had planned for us? Everything I had asked God for…everything…He just didn’t answer one single thing,” said Noelle with more strength than she felt that night. “With what felt like no faith left,” she continued, “we prayed for him, both Ben and I, together. I say I prayed, but I could barely speak the words,” said Noelle.

Ben and Noelle started their journey together long before they knew they were starting THIS journey together. Some, like Ben’s dad, knew Noelle was the one for Ben from the first time they met. Both of them had such a heart for ministering to others through song. Their hearts wanted to share songs about God, praising God, strengthening anyone who would want to worship God with them. Even at the hospital, through this nightmare, someone brought a guitar—and there in their brokenness they sang worship songs with family and friends, both old and new, gathered around them. When praising God is just who you are, it just comes out no matter what path God has you on at that exact moment it seems.

In the beginning, the couple had crossed paths many times in the worship arena. They had a host of mutual friends and acquaintances. It wasn’t until Noelle was working at a homeless shelter in Amarillo and wanted to do a lullaby album for families that they really connected.  Noelle contacted Ben through MySpace, knowing his heart for music and worship—and she wanted him to be one of the contributors on the lullaby album. However, after Ben called her and they talked for several hours, they started a journey that led them here, to this hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas trying to sort through God’s plan for their lives. How was this His plan for bringing little Pierce into their story? How was God threatening to take him in what seemed such an abrupt disruption to their well-laid plans and dreams?

Ben said, “Our first Christmas, we weren’t officially dating. After my dad passed that February, I was going to Eskimo Joe’s. I needed to go play somewhere. Stillwater seemed as good of a place as any. Dad’s passing was unexpected and really hard on me. Noelle drove there with me. We already were really boyfriend and girlfriend I think, but I asked her officially that night.  That was 11-12 years ago. This June will be 10 years since we married in Cain’s Ballroom.” 

When Ben and Noelle married, they knew they wanted children. In fact, they spent several hours on a plane after Ben proposed thinking of the names of their future children. They knew they would adopt, along with the plan to have biological children. It was always the plan. Then, they quickly found themselves in the infertility doctor’s office. Noelle said, “We knew we always wanted to adopt. We had decided when we first got married we would try to have children and just see what happens.” Noelle then said, “We were quickly told we couldn’t have children. With our makeup together, there was less than a 1% chance we could conceive naturally. So, we did IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) a couple of times.” 

The couple was headed to the Texas panhandle to work on their album at Noelle’s brother’s studio. While there, they tried IVF. When they found out they were pregnant just a few weeks later, they were elated. Then, at just 7 weeks, Ben and Noelle lost the baby in a miscarriage.  Noelle said, “It was devastating. IVF is stressful all by itself—it’s really hard. It’s hard on your relationship. It’s just hard on everything. It takes the romance out of things.”

The couple then decided they would look into adoption sooner than they had thought. Noelle said, “We didn’t want to approach adoption as our consolation prize. It’s super important to anyone adopting to pay attention to that. I don’t ever want these kids to think the dialogue of this amazing way we became a family is because we couldn’t have biological children of our own.” 

The Kilgores still weren’t sure they were ready. They needed time to process everything as they moved into this new direction. Between the IVF, the miscarriage, the stress of the situation—it’s difficult for anyone faced with so much to find a bit of peace in anything they are trying to do. It really takes some time in front of God. It takes time to let Him heal the pain, the wounds. It takes time to hear His voice to know where the path is He has for you now. 

In just a short time, Noelle said, “We had a meeting in Tulsa with Dillon, an adoption agency. We didn’t want to do a domestic adoption and certainly hadn’t wanted to do one that was open, where the birth mom remained in our lives. It just didn’t sound like the right step for us.” So, they moved to Phoenix and started the process of adopting internationally. In their first step, the couple got on the list for Ethiopia. Ben said, “Noelle completed massive amounts of paperwork trying to get everything ready. Things weren’t really moving forward for some reason. Then all of a sudden, Ethiopia shut down for adoption.” Noelle and Ben both were frustrated. They were trying to follow God in this story of their family, but they felt they kept running into walls. In times like these, you really start to search your heart and soul—just trying to make sure you are listening to Him. We’ve all been there.

“So, we thought we had a plan—then it didn’t work out,” said Ben. Then Noelle chimed in, “We had this friend out there in Arizona, who said I have an adoption lawyer who helped my brother’s girlfriend’s family or something like that.” Noelle continued, “We had already done all the paperwork for the international path. We didn’t want to go chase a bunch of stuff, but then a month later, I woke up in the middle of the night and felt I was supposed to reach out to this lawyer. So, I reached out to him.”

Ben said, “We kind of went that direction, but we didn’t even know what domestic adoption looked like.” Then, he said, “One morning, we were on our way to Scottsdale for yet another fertility appointment. On the drive, the lawyer called us and said, ‘I have a boy that’s due in September if you are interested.’” Ben and Noelle both chimed in, “We were like WHOA!” They went to the fertility appointment, but immediately called back to put their yes on the table. That yes led them to Little Rock, to the CD-ICU trying to find the faith to just breathe. That boy was little Pierce.

When Ben and Noelle first talked to the young 17-year old mom, it was via Skype. She was Marshallese (native of the Marshall Islands). Ben and Noelle learned there’s a community in Arkansas of Marshallese people due to nuclear testing on the islands, which gave the inhabitants a pass to America. The birth mom came to Arkansas to live with her aunt at about 10-12 years old and her parents remained there. Noelle said, “There was quite a language barrier at the time we talked but the next day the lawyer called. The birth mom told the lawyer she wanted us. It was so fast, but we knew it was God’s plan for the story of our family. We did all the things to prepare. It was just a dream come true.” 

Ben had travelled to New York one week, when Noelle received a disturbing call. Noelle said, “One morning, the birth mom called. She was upset but I couldn’t even understand most anything she was saying with the language barrier. I just knew it wasn’t good.” The one thing Noelle did catch was the doctors had told the birth mom something was wrong with his heart. She wasn’t sure. Noelle went on, “I was just beside myself. How could this be? I just started getting permission for the doctors to speak directly to us. It was just surreal. We had a baby shower. The nursery was done. How could this be happening? How could this be God’s plan for us?” The cries of her voice broke her heart into pieces as she jumped into action mode.

“It took a couple of days to get all of the permissions worked out. Then, the doctor called us and said this list of all the things wrong. It was like THIS long.” Noelle said as she made a gesture of a list extending about a foot long. “It included something about his heart, his lungs, his arm, and it just went on,” Noelle said. 

“Then, he said ‘I’m so sorry. I’m not sure how he’s even going to survive after birth.’”

The words cut straight through Ben and Noelle’s hearts like a cold knife had actually been plunged through them both. Being a couple sharing an incredible strength of faith in a powerful God, Ben chimed in, “We were devastated, but we immediately just started requesting prayers for him everywhere we could. We had friends sending out requests. 

There were literally thousands of people praying for him all around the world, dropping to their knees for him. We were praying for him to surprise the doctors and just be a marvel to them. We just knew God was going to answer our prayers. We knew this marvel was going to be our story. Then, there we were in Little Rock.”

The doctor explained to the Kilgores upon delivery, their new son had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a birth defect where the left side of the heart does not form correctly. That day, the day Pierce was born, the doctors began longer explanations of his inability to be helped due to his other health problems. Ben said, “Pierce had only one full functioning lung and now they also found a kidney problem. Because of these issues, the doctors said he can’t survive the lifesaving surgeries that they needed to do. They said they were going to make him comfortable.”  

Ben and Noelle just paused in the story. They had just been through so much, so quickly—and found themselves in what seemed like a bad dream. Ben went on, “The doctors and nurses rallied around us, but knew it was impossible he would survive. He was life-flighted to Little Rock to the Children’s Hospital. We were there several days; they looked at every way possible to have surgery. Their last resort was to have a surgery to open up his left lung to give him a chance to have his heart surgery. They came back again and said there’s just no way. We’re so sorry.”

That’s where they were when we started the article—palliative care for little Pierce. Ben said, “We were a mess because we really felt God had given us this desire. We dreamed of this boy, and believed God was really going to heal him before he was born. Our prayer was that his life would marvel the doctors. We had people all over the world praying for him.  It just didn’t seem real that he wasn’t healed.” Noelle said, “Pierce was strapped up to about every machine possible for his lungs, kidneys, and heart to sustain him comfortably.” Then, Ben said, “We just sat there—loving him. Waiting.”

Ben said the doctors had meetings to try to resolve tough situations in the hospital. The doctors wanted an echocardiogram of Pierce, which would get a picture of his heart and his breathing, as a way to see if he had a hypoplastic lung as well.” Then, Ben said, “Finally, they pieced together a picture of his heart that day to reconfirm everything. Our families were in the waiting rooms. The pulmonologist pulled us aside and confirmed for good that his lungs definitely couldn’t handle the life-saving surgery he needed.” Ben paused, then continued, 

“Noelle kept saying ‘He (God) didn’t give me ONE of the things I asked for. I mean nothing.’ 

She was so severely disappointed, broken on the floor wondering how God could have abandoned us in this situation.” As they talked, the intense pain from over 4 years ago was clearly brought back vividly in their hearts. The prayer they uttered in desperation over Pierce’s failing body was in broken desperation. “I prayed with what felt like zero faith,” said Noelle. “I just didn’t have anything left.”

The next morning Ben said, “Dr. Garcia, his heart doctor, said ‘Can I have a word with you in the consult room?’” Ben and Noelle walked slowly, knowing the doctor was bringing them to the consult room so that they could be alone to process more bad news. Then, Noelle said, “She said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ I stammered, wait, GOOD NEWS? The doctor went on, ’When he was born, his left side was 15-20% of the size it’s supposed to be. ‘We finally got a new pic of his heart today—it’s 75% of the size it should be.’” Ben said, “Noelle and I just stood there.” Then, he said, “The doctor went on, ‘He still has a coarctation of his heart. It’s an easy surgery, you go into the side and the repair is pretty standard. It’s honestly impossible to explain it.  We’ve seen growth like this over years but not in a few days.’” Ben and Noelle were overwhelmed. God had just marveled the doctors with their son.

Ben said, “It was just kind of crazy after that. A few days later, the nurses were doing rounds and we overheard them. The nurses said, ‘It doesn’t look like coarctation of the heart.’” Noelle said she chimed in on the conversation with a surprised face, “Wait! Did we just hear no coarctation? What?” The nurse told the couple to hang on, as she didn’t want to get their hopes up. Sure enough. In fact, Pierce’s heart was just great. The team literally had to kick them out of the NICU in the cardiologist department because Pierce had nothing that needed done to his heart anymore. 

In total, they were there 5 weeks and the team didn’t have to intervene with one surgery—not one. Later on, the couple said Pierce ended up having a surgery for a tethered spinal cord, but nothing with his lung, kidney or heart! They found out he had a horseshoe lung and it actually does the work of both lungs. When the doctor who delivered him came back to the hospital and ran into the Kilgores, Ben said, “She said ‘What are you still doing here?’ She was in shock. All the nurses were believers and they knew. It was a miracle from God,” finished Ben.

The Kilgores weren’t even sure how to share the depth of emotion they had been through. It wasn’t a roller coaster ride, unless roller coasters only go down and down and further down and then all of a sudden just before hitting the bottom, shoot back straight up to a height beyond the roller coaster’s rails. It was a work of God. There was no other explanation for Pierce’s recovery.  He went from palliative care to make him comfortable to scheduled to go home with his family.  Some miracles are so far beyond our understanding that we have to fall to our knees thanking God and praising Him for what only He could do.

The Kilgores have gone on to adopt two biological siblings of Pierce, Rosie, now 2 and Merrick, almost 1. Each have their own beautiful stories confirming for them that God knit these children together in their mother’s womb knowing full well they would become a family. Psalms reads “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb…You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, Oh God.  They cannot be numbered.” (Psalms 139:11-17 NLT).

Noelle said their family means everything to them. They couldn’t imagine doing life without their amazing children. God has so richly blessed them.

She closed, “Adoption has become this really beautiful passion of ours that has just wrecked our lives in the most beautiful ways.”


Adoption From the Kilgores

Adoption is now a really big part of the Kilgore’s lives. Ben said, “There are so many people struggling with the possible calling to adopt. They have real questions, real concerns–some they don’t even want to voice. We have been through so much. We feel we just want to help people who want to explore adoption from a real vantage point.” Ben continued, “God has really opened up some amazing doors for us for conversations with people who always wanted to adopt but were scared or didn’t know where to start. There’s so much fear of the unknown and questions. We’ve encouraged and watched as 5-6 couples went through the process,” said Ben.

My immediate response was “Wow, it’s so incredible to think of all those kids lives being changed.” Then, we all broke in at the same time “Actually, all the lives.” Ben went on to clarify and said, “People are always like they are so lucky that you adopted them. It’s really everyone’s life that’s changed. If it wasn’t for those kids, we wouldn’t have a family. We definitely won out in this situation. These kids would’ve been loved no matter where they were.” We continued to talk about that feeling you have when you start out going on a missions trip. You just can’t wait to go there and help the people. Then, somewhere along the way–they help you. When you come home, you realize you went for them, but God used them to change you.  

The Kilgores also said that adoption changes your viewpoint of your relationship with God. Noelle said, “There’s not one single thing these kids could ask of us that we would not try to get for them. This picture of Christ adopting us and knowing that we have this now availability to him.” Then she went on, “At one point, it hit me–wait a second, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them and God feels that same way with us?” Romans 8:15 says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him ‘Abba, Father.’”

Ben said, “It’s hard to explain.  But they feel like they came from within us. Our baby pictures even look alike.” He continued, “People say ‘are you ever going to try to have your own kids?’ and other things that don’t sound right to us. There’s a whole article on what not to say to adoptive parents. ‘How much did you pay for your kids?’ is a good one,” Ben laughed. He said, “People just don’t get it and don’t talk about it. But they feel like my blood. I don’t know what it’s like to have a biological child. We don’t feel like we’d be lacking anything if we’d never had bios.  They are a part of us…our personalities are intertwined and God wrote this story,” Ben said. 

“There are so many sayings we have picked up over the years but ‘God makes families’ is my favorite. He definitely made our family. He saw it before it happened. He knew and He wove it together. He knit them in the womb with us in mind. So much like people are grafted together into Christ, we were grafted together. We carried them in our hearts and they’re ours and we’re theirs.” Ben spoke with such passion and love, it was easy to see how God used adoption and grafted these children into their hearts.  

Noelle said, “Our prayer and our hope in sharing and exposing the world to our story is that people feel encouraged and moved towards adoption if it’s on their heart. I know it would be a dream come true if the dialogue came where people were asked ‘Are you going to have children anytime soon?’ And the logical question is, ‘are you going to have a bio or are you going to adopt?’ Because it becomes such a normal thing that people look towards.” Noelle went on, “I have to give credit to Hollywood celebrities, who made it like this is a really great thing that you can be a part of. If a celebrity can have an adopted child, I can too. I think it has shifted people’s view on it.”  

Ben went on, “We think Oklahoma needs to eliminate the need for foster families. There are how many kids and how many churches? There should not be a kid without a home who doesn’t have one.” The magazine agrees with them. The “C”hurch SHOULD solve this problem. It’s not just a feel-good kind of thing, it’s actually expected of us by God. When I tried to isolate the perfect verse to demonstrate, my Bible App search overwhelmed me with so many verses calling out those who should help and not oppress orphans. Orphans are discussed throughout the Old Testament. James 1:27 (NLT) says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Ben shared, “I’ve been saying it that God has put it on our hearts to have a gathering of people who are interested and they come with their questions. Every time I mention it—people are saying let’s do it.” Ben said, “Noelle wanted to have several couples over to our backyard. It’s scary but we do hard things as God’s people and maybe we could help them see. We want to open our arms to people. We want to do that through our music, through our church. Our hope is that God will draw people to us so that they can be loved the way He loves. We want to talk about how we can be an advocate, a voice of encouragement and information.” Ben and Noelle’s hearts were flowing over with a passion for helping the “C”hurch realize our place to care for the orphans. 

Ben said, “People get intimidated. There are so many thoughts that go through people’s minds. People need to have a safe place to explore those thoughts.” One thought that had come to my own mind before, was if I would love an adopted child the same way I love my bio daughter. When you have a child who captures your heart, it’s difficult to think of how to add another. Ben said, “We have friends that have 2 bio and adopted their third child and had those same concerns. They wondered if there would be a difference in how they loved the third child.” Ben continued, “People with their own bio children struggle with those relationships as well. Every kid is different. How it started is just part of the story but you aren’t going to love ANY of your children the same way. You have to love them differently. We all have different love languages.” 

Ben finished, “It doesn’t make sense right now in your head but there’s something that happens miraculously.  You can’t explain it. You can’t describe it. You can’t say this is what you do to gain that perspective and feelings–they just happen.”

Ben and Noelle shared that when they were looking to adopt, it was a bit intimidating. There were so many agencies. Then, their friend, Nicole Nordeman, said Stephen Curtis Chapman was in town—and asked if we wanted to go with her. Noelle said, “Stephen shared his own story, which many of us know, as it was a way to lead and motivate us. It did.” Ben said, “We pray when we share our story that it can do something for people as well.” Ben and Noelle said, “We are humbled and excited that we get to be showcased in a way that tells the story of adoption in a positive light. People need to know adoption is a thing God is mindful of.”

The two were naturally so encouraging, “You have a perfect opportunity with the magazine to shine the light on the need, the barriers and how to help people overcome their fears.” Ben went on, “We’re smart people. God’s given us resources and time—what can we do? How can we come together as the “C”hurch and get this done? Let’s create a dialogue and mobilize into action.”

If you’d like to find out more about adoption or about creating a resource group for your church–reach out to us at adoption@communityspiritmagazine.com and let us help plug you in. You can also visit the Oklahoma Heart Gallery link below to find out how you can help children in Oklahoma needing to be adopted. It just takes one small step, one light in the dark–and we can light a fire that changes generations to come. #GoDoBe

http://heartgalleryofoklahoma.com

Written by Teresa Goodnight

One month shy of 36 years, that’s how long Cheryl Bauman, now 72, has been operating the Crisis Pregnancy Outreach (CPO) in Tulsa. 

Cheryl said, “In the beginning, we had no idea it would become a large, multi-faceted ministry. We just put one foot in front of the other and started walking. Immediately, God brought us a teen having twins. She stayed with a family and they mentored her. Then, things just grew from there.”  

Cheryl’s take is that people just have to be available. She said, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips those He calls.” She continued, “People get overwhelmed that they need to write these policies up right, have 20 meetings and maybe they’ll be ready. Usually those people just don’t get it off the ground. Sometimes you just have to say we’re willing and away you go.”  

That’s what she did. Now, CPO has so many things they offer–everything from parenting education for girls to helping with adoptions. Girls can even see a licensed therapist for free and then, they can continue to do so for the rest of their lives, if they want.  

The seniors of Tulsa continue to lead the way with their outreach ministries to our community.  Cheryl said.  “We’re not driven by money, because no one gets a salary. At CPO, we’re all volunteers. Each and every one of us has a heart to help women and babies God has placed in our path.”  CPO doesn’t factor in age, ethnicity, spiritual background–they just want to help with unplanned pregnancies. 

They aren’t there to judge, preach or pry. They simply want to help.

Help women discover the pregnancy options available and help pregnant women move forward successfully.

Cheryl says the women who come in are assigned a Christian mentor, who becomes their friend. They can call her day or night to hang out or to go to dinner together. Cheryl says, “Many of the girls who enter our program don’t have moms or they don’t have one who was invested in their lives. Many of them need a woman they can talk to about general things of life.”  

Cheryl said, “There are so many opportunities for people to volunteer in our organization and make a difference. We are always needing mentors. Usually those range in age from 25 and up.  For a 15 year old girl, a 25 year old mentor has a lot of valuable experience to share.” Cheryl said, “We’ve had women in their 70’s take on someone to mentor. They are happy to pour into a woman’s life and have so much wisdom to offer the girls.” Cheryl continued, “We are always needing women to drive women to their appointments–once a week or once a month. There’s usually 24 hours notice and if it won’t work for the volunteer, we just call someone else. It’s really a low pressure place to take part! We even have receptionist positions for just 2 hours a week. There are so many ways to get involved.”  

Cheryl said, “I always loved driving the girls. You always have a captive audience. You just sit in the car and visit. It makes such a difference when you are really investing in these other people’s lives. It’s what God calls us to do. It’s amazing to see these girls be transformed.”  Cheryl went on, “Sometimes they come in so broken and hardened. Then, over time, to see their hearts become soft and eager for the things of the Lord, completely transformed, there’s nothing quite like that.”  

Right now, Cheryl is searching for a house mom for their Sapulpa home. Cheryl said, “We own a home we bought in 2000, in Sapulpa. We can have 6 girls there comfortably or 8 in a pinch.    It’s a beautiful home. So, hopefully, we will be opening that again soon.” Cheryl said the house mom does live-in 24 hours a day. They are really looking for a woman who is a nurturer. “It’s the biggest thing,” said Cheryl. “These women need someone to really care for them and show them love. Many have never experienced that kind of care” she said. For the ones keeping their children, there is government assistance and other programs, but for those choosing adoption, Cheryl said, “They have no place to go. The vision was that they would have a home after they gave birth to recover and to heal. It’s been so successful.” 

One story, a girl named Mary, who was homeless and had several children she had placed for adoption. “After she picked her last family,” said Cheryl, “We asked Mary to come live in the home. She reminded us she had her tubes tied. So, no more babies. She just wanted to get back on the streets. She was a drug addict. We told her that we knew. We didn’t want anything from her. We just wanted to care for her as she recovered from the C-section. She finally agreed, but said, emphatically, she was only going to be there for 2 weeks. After a year, she moved out, eventually married, and now leads a beautifully successful life in South Tulsa. In fact, I had the pleasure of attending her celebration of being 10 years sober this past December.  She still can’t believe it herself. That’s why we do this.” 

Cheryl and I talked about their stats, as they have helped over 1,000 women in the last two years. Cheryl agreed, “Sometimes in the Christian population, we get wrapped up in those numbers. They do sound nice and they are incredible, but to even just have ONE miracle like Mary, that’s why we’re here. That’s what Jesus did” she ended.

The age of women being helped in the last years has increased into their 20’s and 30’s. So, their reach continues to expand. They just seek to be there for women, with love, without judgement. 

It’s a beautiful picture of being Christ in the world. The lives changed, the one life changed, that’s what it’s all about.   

Cheryl said they host a large gala in the spring to raise funds. There’s a huge silent auction, a live auction with Jay Litchfield, who donates his time to so many charities. Cheryl said, “There’s usually one shout out by Jay, at the end of the evening. One year he asked what we owed on the home for the women. We raised the funds that night to pay it off. It’s just exciting to see what God brings to help us meet the needs of these women.” Cheryl went on, “The last shout out, we started a scholarship fund and we’re sending our girls to dental hygiene school, to TCC, and they are becoming women capable of supporting themselves and their children.” Cheryl couldn’t stop sharing all of the ways they are touching women, even though she was interviewing from out of town. Her 27th grandchild had just been born and she was helping with all the kiddos in the house as her daughter recovered. Her energy at 72 is enviable to say the least!

I asked Cheryl about her plans, as she had a birthday since the first time we talked. Cheryl said, “I can’t imagine stopping. I will say to Stephanie Johnson, who runs adoption, ‘Am I still relevant?’ She tells me the girls still love my involvement. I can’t fathom sitting at home and doing nothing. That’s why I keep pushing.” In the fall when we spoke, she thought she could continue to volunteer until 75. So, I asked her if that was still the plan. She fired back with passion, “I’m pretty healthy. I’ve been thinking about it. I think I can make it until 80 now. Why would I not keep doing it?” I wholeheartedly agreed with her. Why wouldn’t she?  

The conversation turned immediately to seniors and the amazing impact they can have. Cheryl said, “Volunteering with these girls will absolutely revitalize their lives with energy and strength they didn’t even know they had. I see so many people just sit down in retirement and that was not God’s plan for us. I encourage people to come and get involved. Come to a support group meeting. Sit there and hear the girls’ stories. See if you don’t catch the fire.” Cheryl has seen women come to the meeting, then think to themselves, “I just love her. I could have her in my home for dinner.” 

Cheryl finished, “There’s just a connection that happens. Do what you are passionate about with what God has given you.

Because being a senior doesn’t mean you stop being a part of things that are important to God.”

If you would like to explore how you MIGHT get involved, reach out to Jennifer Brown at 918.346.4426 today or check out www.crisispregnancyoutreach.org. Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Tomorrow becomes next week. Then next week becomes next year.  Do it today!

Save the Date

March 30, 2019

Crisis Pregnancy Outreach Gala


Written by Betsy Gwartney Catrett

Well, what does THAT mean? Everyone? You might be thinking “I thought foster care was for abused and neglected children? It even works to help bio-parents learn additional skills and to obtain resources to reunite families, right? Foster care can lead to adoption for the children into a forever family–yes?” But really, how does THAT help everyone? Follow me for a few as I set this up.  

I met a man nearly 15 years ago along with a few other very inspirational people. I worked for Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division (DHS) 15 years ago. I was speaking at a mission’s banquet for a local church when someone pressed a piece of paper into my hand. They said, “Call this man.” So, I did. His name was Randy Martin. I was so utterly impressed with what I heard on the phone, that I flew where he lived to meet him and see for myself. 

Randy’s story started when challenged by a friend to attend a Royal Kids Camp (a camp for foster children). The following year his wife, Kim, also attended the camp. That was in 1995-96.  It has been non-stop ever since. Needless to say, “it got in their blood” – so much so that they shared their experience and thoughts with their church family and had literally hundreds get involved in the foster care work. They met with their CA Child Welfare organization, learning the gaps in the program and the various needs they had. Then they created solutions. Eventually, Randy resigned from the pastoral staff of this large and caring church and started Covenant Community Services. At the present time his organization runs a host of complementary programs serving the fostering community and is influencing on a national level! Check them out at www.covenantcs.net.

Randy’s story is only one of a myriad of unbelievable stories I encountered in my DHS days.  There was a single parent with teenagers. 

Her passion was for babies born to drug addicts.  With her dedicated heart, starting one at a time, she helped over 40 babies, many of whom needed support during withdrawal from hard drugs used by their mommy during pregnancy! (40 BABIES!). 

Another family stood out in a completely different way. This grandmother and grandfather, who moved to Oklahoma for the husband’s work, were living far from their own grandchildren. The silence of their home didn’t feel like home-so they got involved. The first children placed in their home came with an opportunity to mentor a very loving mother, who was just not mentally able to care for her children. This lovely grandparent couple was able to provide a forever family for these precious children, but also an understanding and supportive place for their biological mother and grandmother to come and connect. This couple went on to adopt 2 more children into their forever family. This made a whole new second family after guiding their own 4 children to adulthood. 

The last family is one that had a special heart for special needs children. I was totally blown away by their tenacity and love. They were not especially well off, but they were very generous.  They remodeled their home and built on extra rooms to accommodate the wheel chairs and special equipment that was needed for the special needs children they served. When I asked the mother of the home about her plans for retirement and how she would care for all these children (who would never be leaving the home), she assured me that she was not worried in the least. Why? Because her own biological children had the same passion as that of her husband and herself. She stated that they were already having lively discussions about who would take whom when they grew up and left home themselves.

You may be concerned that you just aren’t cut out to work with abused and neglected children.  And, maybe you aren’t. You could be built with totally different gifts. However, everyone can do something. For example, if a couple in your church is willing to take on the day-in-day-out responsibilities of a child, you and others in your church could empower them with the diapers, formula, prom dresses, fees for summer camp, respite care, date night resources, birthday party and Christmas gifts, etc. etc. etc. Chris Campbell is heading up a program called “111Tulsa” which believes that if every church in OK would support one family as a foster family, to care for one foster child, there would be no children in foster care in OK. Wouldn’t that be a testament for the “Buckle of the Bible Belt?”

But until that day comes, foster parents are needed, good foster parents who can show these kids the love of Christ. What good is just talking about it? The magazine’s theme is Go. Do. Be.  Why don’t you? Go call DHS. Do request the paperwork to file, find a family fostering and help support them. The open doors before you are quite limitless. The biggest surprise you will find is you might not be changing these children’s lives for the better as much as THEY are changing yours. Hurt people tend to hurt people. Changed people tend to change people. Take the first step to heal the hurt and change the rest of your life AND theirs.

#GoDoBe

JHONNY F. (14 Years Old)

Jhonny loves to go to the movies in his free time. His favorite all time movie is “Ironman”. He has a friendly smile and big eyes. When asked to describe himself in three words, Jhonny said “likes to dance.” He would love to have a horse of his own and he wants to be a horse trainer when he grows up. If he could have a car right now, he would choose a race car with blue and white stripes.

JOHN B. (16 Years Old)

This sweet young man is John. He is talkative, respectful and kind. He said that he would love to be able to help others whenever he could. He enjoys basketball and hopes one day to play in the NBA. It is his favorite sport and he is an excellent player. Of all the people in the world, John would like to meet Justin Bieber. He thinks he sings pretty good!! John loves the winter, especially when it snows. And although his favorite season is winter when it comes to travel it would be anywhere they have a beach!!

ZAYNA S. (15 Years Old)

Zayna is in the 7th grade and is quite a well-rounded young lady. She loves going to the lake to swim and fish. She’s creative and likes drawing people. Zayna really enjoys horses, puppies, cats and dogs. She says if she could have a super power, it would be to be invisible and be able to fly. She would like to travel to Florida by air because she has never been on a plane. Her favorite subject in school is social studies. Zayna likes watching the news.

BLAKE P. (17 Years Old)

Blake is easy to get to know, and an exceptionally imaginative young man. He enjoys playing video games and reading fantasy novels. He aspires to become a novelist, and is currently working on his first one —an epic tale about dragons!

JUSTICE K. (17 Years Old)

Justice, a very active boy who is interested in many sports – basketball, track and most of all mixed martial arts. He has been seriously involved in Mixed Martial Arts for 3 years. However, he still loves to play basketball. Although he has a beautiful smile, he does not like to smile in photos. His favorite subject in school is English.

DASHAUNIQUE P. (16 Years Old)

Dashaunique is an extraordinary young lady with poise and confidence who is creative, athletic and optimistic! She also likes to sing and play volleyball. She likes guinea pigs and hopes to become an EMT one day. She dreams of going to the beach, more specifically California, someday.

ASHLEY C. (17 Years Old)

Ashley is somewhat shy and a loving young lady. She loves to play board and card games such as UNO. Her smile melts your heart. She dreams of going to Mexico someday.

ANDREW N. (15 Years Old)

You cannot look at Andrew without first seeing his beautiful smile. It goes along with his upbeat personality and positive attitude, something he prides himself in. Andrew loves traveling and eating. He enjoys all kinds of music from country to hip hop. Hip hop is his favorite right now. Andrew’s number one wish is to be adopted. He desires to finish high school so that he can pursue his dream of opening a chain of Hair Salons. He knows that people feel their best when they feel beautiful and you always see that when someone gets their hair styled. He loves to see them smile and make their day. He would love to meet Michael Oher because their stories are very much alike, from the streets to adoption! He is believing and staying positive.

ALEX W. (16 Years Old)

Alex is a sweet and respectful young man. He loves science and learning how things are made and come about. He also loves animals like dogs but his favorite is the hedgehog. Alex enjoys watching anything that pertains to them because he thinks they are incredibly funny and cute. Alex would like to become a Diesel Mechanic and would like to start a rock band where he would be either the lead singer, drummer or the guitarist. If Alex had three wishes they would be to meet Wonder Woman, have a Classic Mustang and start learning how to play music for his band. On Saturday mornings you can find him watching cartoons and showing off that award winning smile of his.

BRADLEY B. (14 Years Old)

Bradley is an active boy, plays football or baseball in his spare time or he will be on his bicycle. He loves the movie Cars 3 and would like to be in the movie as Justin Bieber’s character. He would like to own a dog and name it Blackie. His dream job when he grows up is being a race car driver. He would like a Lamborghini, a Charger or a Camaro.

TO INQUIRE ABOUT A CHILD:

CALL TOLL FREE 1-800-376-9729

Each child’s availability to be adopted is subject to change.


Written by Teresa Goodnight

Biology, the study of the human body. Anthropology, the study of humankind. 

Carson Lowe started Biological Anthropology not thinking much more about what to expect than that he was taking a basic course in college. After all, in this age of where we are to accept anything and everything, you would expect a college course to be fair and balanced. Right?   

“The professor started the first week in a 250 person class in a big auditorium talking about deities, creationism, and about a creator blatantly saying ‘There is no creator.  There is no deity,’” said Carson.  Carson said the professor went on, “He explained there is really just no God that created us. My fraternity brother and I looked at each other like ‘Did he just say that? Did he call us out that way?’”  

“We had never been told that as a ‘fact’ by an authority figure we were supposed to trust. It just threw me,” said Carson. He followed, “They are so quick to say not to offend anyone with genders or whatever the social issue is—and I’m sitting there as a Christian wondering where the balance is. I wanted to stand up on my table and ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ but the professor was kind of a jerk. He was pretty cold. You could tell he wanted an argument. He would spout off information that was just not true and how there just couldn’t be a God as if he were an authority with facts to back up his beliefs.”  

Carson first found himself wondering if the guy had ever seen the Grand Canyon or the ocean. He said, “God is so evident in everything around if you look at the complexity of life, but it was a little rattling to experience that kind of forceful declaration from a professor. Then, he continues that tone for the whole semester.” Carson stayed in the class, but was constantly in awe of the hard-pressed nature of the anti-deity rhetoric he taught. Carson said, “I don’t know exactly how God created what He created, but I do know He did it. So it was something to hear this guy just speaking against it with some kind of authority like he could possibly know.”  

Carson’s foundation with his Christian education at Mingo Valley Christian laid the groundwork to keep him centered during a time of attack. Carson explained his Christian education was spread throughout his tenure, but it was really ramped up with Nate Madden, his Bible teacher. During the college class, Mr. Madden’s lessons came rushing back to him. Carson said, “Mr. Madden taught a theology/world views class his senior year. It was basically about understanding your faith, what it is you are saying, and what it is you believe in. We even had classes in years past with him about what other world religions believe.” Carson felt he had been prepared to face this kind of pressure although he didn’t really realize it at the time it was happening. He said, “Mr. Madden taught us exactly what we needed for moments like this. In the class, it was really getting a hold on what I believe and then understanding what others believe so that I can have that conversation with actual knowledge.” 

Carson believed those years and years of preparation with Mr. Madden made such a difference. Carson said, “Those classes really sparked questions I had thought about before that had gone unanswered until the class. The training inspired me to learn more and to pursue my faith as my own. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they enabled me to be able to stand on my own two feet when talking about my faith–and in a way that wouldn’t have happened in the church and certainly would not happen in a public school.”  

It was “years and years and years” of doing school with Mr. Madden and the other teachers at Mingo Valley Christian that Carson felt prepared him for what he was facing.  Carson said “Mingo Valley went into deep theology for high school. You wouldn’t believe it. I would come home and have these complex conversations with my parents.  Sometimes, I was even explaining some of it to them just because the theology was advanced stuff.” Carson explained they were really diving into Calvinism for one. Then, his teachers would dive into some of the harder questions about the Christian faith, things he felt they would never get into in church.

Carson continued, “I didn’t realize it while I was there. I really didn’t. I was a bit arrogant in high school and I’m probably still a little bit arrogant. I was just going through that information, but I was retaining it, holding onto it, and then in college I was really clinging to it.” 

So I just analyzed everything I was taking in. It was all just surprising to me. I remember getting out of that class and wanting to give Mr. Madden a call and tell him like “DUDE! You prepped me for today. I fought something off today and I’m happy about it.” 

Carson continued, “When you hear that from an authority figure, you want to just believe it. I’m a trusting person, some might tease I’m a bit gullible, but when someone tells me something I am not very skeptical. I tend to believe what people tell me for the most part.” Then Carson explained, “In my faith, when it comes to people discussing theology and people discussing God, I have learned to keep my guard up in ways I don’t do in other areas of my life. I got that from Mingo Valley Christian, which is a very hard thing to do. Even when I hear a pastor talk about the Gospel, even when I’m sitting in my church, I’m fact checking and making sure ‘Is this guy preaching truth?’ and taking it to the Bible. It’s not because I don’t trust them, but really it’s because it’s my duty to stay true to scripture above all else.”

It’s amazing to me how much my Christian education from Mingo Valley has played a part in me keeping true with the Gospel. It built the groundwork for me basically to be able to run.  

Carson spoke highly of friends in several private Christian schools around Tulsa, confirming how incredibly lucky we are in Tulsa to have so many options. Each one has a different appeal—a different way of being a fit for your child. Large, small, Montessori style or a specific denomination you prefer–we are truly blessed.

To wrap up, I asked Carson what he felt like was his main message to the Christian community. Carson immediately replied passionately.

“Honestly I can say this wholeheartedly, that Mingo Valley Christian, or really just Christian education, as a whole, may have been the single most beneficial thing for my faith that I have had in my life.

That’s a bold statement considering I go to a good church. I’m in a Christian fraternity. I’m doing all these communities that are about the gospel, but none of them prepared me for the Christian faith more than Mingo Valley, or just Christian education has done.

“And, truth be told, I don’t understand if you have the resources to do it—I do not know why you wouldn’t regardless of what school. I think as a Christian parent, if you can, it’s almost foolish not to do it. You should do it.”

Written by Teresa Goodnight

Meet the queen of the remodel. Jenny has been redefining everything in her life for decades. It seems each year she finds a new project to launch – some by necessity and some by choice. Jenny was in shock when her seemingly perfect world came crashing down around her in 2006. She never imagined going through a divorce. Jenny has this gigantic heart with a passion for family and friends. “It just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t see it coming. So, it really knocked me off my feet.” Jenny grew up in a very traditional Christian family with divorce being more “something other people did” than anything she ever imagined experiencing. So, Jenny was thrust into single parenthood with two young sons – the lights of her life. “Yeah, I never imagined it all, but I would endure any of it again for the chance to be the mom of these guys. They fill my heart with more love and life than I can really explain, but I think you know. I really wouldn’t change a thing.”  

In 2015 Jenny began remodeling her single parent life of two outstanding then young teens: Peter (who is now 16) and Harry (14) by marrying her longtime love, Jason Sotkin.  Adding Jason’s lovely daughter, Lexi (16), and his suave young son, Reid (14), they were just two kids shy of the Brady Bunch.   As if that level of chaos wasn’t enough, they chose to add two gigantic dogs, Maggie and Champ to the family.  Peter and Harry each stay very busy with sports, primarily focusing in on basketball these days.  Lexi, on the other hand, is a vibrant young cheerleader at Jenks High School.  Reid, a tennis player by day and crafty skateboarder by night, is into gaming and is a freshman (as is Harry).  At a minimum, these kids could collectively be called a handful. It’s a lot to even write about, much less live.  

“Jenny, let’s take a step back just a bit because any one of these roles is a lot.  So, you are a Christian woman, a mom of 4, dog owner times 2, an entrepreneur, a work-out-aholic, plus, of course, a wife.  For 9 years though, you were a single mom.  You raised your boys on your own for the most part. What was the most difficult transition for you as a woman who had to learn to do things on her own?”  

 “Flying solo.  Definitely.” said Jenny.  “When my situation left me a single mom of my boys, I had to change gears. I took a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep and started mobilizing forces to be able to give them the kind of life I wanted for them.  It wasn’t easy.  There were nights I fell asleep long after them and rose much earlier, just trying to make sure I had everything in line. They would sometimes ask why I was so tired, and I just thought ‘Boy if you only knew.’”  

Back then, Jenny burned the candle at both ends with the boys in almost every sport imaginable.  It took a while for their family to find their groove, but once they had it, they HAD it.  Everything ran smoothly, although it left Jenny a little worn down at the end of the day. “You just do what you have to do.  People don’t talk about it a lot, but in a high percentage of divorces, most of the moms end up carrying more of the burden of keeping the kid’s lives straight.  Usually the child support doesn’t cover everything the kids are in.  It’s just hard.” Jenny said. 

As mentioned, Jenny was single for about 9 years before marrying Jason. “It’s a lot of time to get into your own rhythm”, said Jenny. “Dating is one thing but actually moving everyone in together—well that’s just SOMETHING ELSE!”   It was easy for them to see both the joy and the difficulties their family faced as they tried to find a new rhythm – together.  Jason added, “When you have dated a long time, you don’t expect it to be that difficult to blend the families under one roof.  But you really have a rhythm to your single parenthood style.  We did premarital counseling but found no difficulties in anything they talked about; however, there have been a lot of challenges we just didn’t think of. No one would’ve even thought of most of the things that have been super difficult. For example, one thing that seems small—groceries. You don’t think about it, but teens are used to their own things, including their own brands of certain foods. Suddenly, even the mundane parts of life became a merger and compromise situation.”   Jason added, “In fact, we didn’t expect anything that happened to happen.  It’s just hard to be prepared. You just have to listen.”  Then Jason continued, “We were both single parents and we were in a rhythm and had our own way of doing things. Then, all of the sudden you bring in 3 other people and the rhythm just changes.”

The fun bunch consolidated into Jenny’s lovely home that she had built in 2009. On her own, she championed one of the loveliest homes in the neighborhood on a tight budget.  She really is a powerhouse.   Now, with Harry and Reid suddenly sharing a bedroom, it might be said that they carried the biggest burden of the blend. Harry once enjoyed the room by himself, which makes this type of transition even more complicated.  The family quickly decided it might be better to spread everyone out a little bit if they could.  Reid (then 12) agreed which lead to him spending hours on Zillow searching for homes. In the end, the family decided to remodel an older south Tulsa house Jenny found to make it their own and to accommodate the needs of their new family of six.

The kids all had the same answers to the myriad of questions this life change brought about with a different twist on both the fun parts and the difficult parts.  Peter, Jenny’s oldest, said, “It had always been me, my mom and Harry. I mean, my dad was there when I was young. But really, all my life, just the three of us. It really didn’t hit until after the wedding. I mean, they were dating, and he proposed, but then they came back from the honeymoon.  3×2 now we’re at 6. Doubled my family.  I’m still adapting.  Can’t say I’m a 100% used to it yet. At first it was kind of chaotic but moving houses to a bigger house really helped.” 

Reid, Jason’s youngest said, “The other house, it was smaller. We could’ve been fine.  We planned to move but we kind of moved 3 years late, which no one minded.  Dad and Jenny were picky, which was a bit annoying.” Reid chuckled.  “I would always be on Zillow trying to help them find something, but they knew what they wanted. Trying to get good deals (gasp). It took forever to get a house.  When I first saw this house, it wasn’t terrible but it was pretty bad though.  Weird walls.  Now it’s amazing. I don’t know if you saw it before. It’s an insane transformation.” I could see in Reid’s eyes that he’s proud of what they’ve accomplished as a family with the new house. 

When asked why the remodel, Jenny explained, “After searching for quite a while, with the minimum requirement for 5 bedrooms, we decided we had to go with really great bones and remodel.”  So, while remodeling their family, they also decided to remodel a place for their new family to call home. “Remodeling was just a necessity for our situation.,” said Jenny. “I wanted to make an incredible family home for us to call our own.” Jenny continued.  “I think it took us a year just to figure out more about who we were and who we really are now, as a blended family.  So, with a little life under our belts and a lot of ‘my house’ comments due to it being mine before, we were ready to get this party started and over.” 

Jason chimed in, “We dated for 4 years, so I think the adjustment was more in moving 6 people into one place, not necessarily Jenny’s place. Even though you all know each other, when you go to live with someone it doesn’t matter what house. It’s a good experience for the kids, hopefully they’ll adjust much quicker when they get to college.” Jason went on, “The toughest thing is to take the emotion out of remodeling. You want it so right—it’s your home.  The other thing is patience. No timeline is going to work, and no budget is going to work. The kitchen had pillars. Jenny didn’t like them. I said get rid of the pillars.  They said the pillars didn’t support anything.  We tore them down. Then, they said ‘Whoops, looks like they did support something’ and there we were.”  

When asked about remodeling both family and a home, Jenny and Jason laughed that there are similarities in advice for remodeling both.  Jason said, “In some ways, the two are similar.  You can have all the plans you want, but it will not happen as you planned.  Of course, you also have to plan that it won’t happen on time and it will cost more than anyone tells you.”  They laughed. It’s kind of true of both situations.  

After a few beams and a lot of cash, the remodeled kitchen turned into a marvelous masterpiece with an island about the size of Texas (if I were guessing).  With seating for the entire family and a few friends, it makes the perfect gathering place for the new blended family to come together for a quick bite.  They also redesigned the master bath, the living room, added new lights, flooring and carpet for an exhaustively brilliant family home.  The remodeled house definitely hits on all points as one of the most elegantly styled homes in Tulsa.

The remodeled house gave way to helping with the family blending as well.  Teens thrown together to be siblings are in a much different place than young children.  Teen identities really take a stronghold when those ages hit.  As Jason pointed out, “It wasn’t just our rhythms that were thrown off a bit.  It was the kids’ rhythms as well.  Everything was just different.”  “It’s really difficult to merge very active kids, for starters.” Jenny said.  “I have basketball players, cheerleaders, and a tennis player with activities in every possible direction.  I have had days while Jason was travelling, where all 4 kids had an activity at 6:30. Sometimes you just get one there super early, one early, one on time and one a little bit late.”  With so much chaos, it’s difficult to say there is even a rhythm to be found.”  The kids were going in 4 different directions even on the day of our interview – with Peter rushing off to Bedlam.  I honestly couldn’t catch where all of them were even heading it was so crazy.

Directly after the remodel, Jenny decided her next adventure for 2018 would be to launch a brand new company—HaPe Chic (a combination of her sons names, Harry and Peter!).  Jenny’s new company offers some of the most trendy women’s clothing items on the market.  Jenny’s experience in the fashion industry was at the ground level but her sense of style has always left friends in awe. As I told Jenny, “Now, you’ve launched your own HaPe Chic clothing line. It’s exhausting me to just get to my questions regarding everything you do these days.  These are all really big changes and roles.  Are you ever overwhelmed by all you have on your plate?”

Jenny replied with a roaring “Yes ma’am!  I want so much for my family. I love traditions and time together, but I just found I needed a little ME time too.  It’s chaotic yes, but it is soothing as well because I am really loving the business.”

Jenny’s favorite part is meeting with friends and customers both in her home as well as events around the city.  “It’s a great excuse for me to stay plugged in with my tribe of women.  We have photoshoots, mimosa events and a lot of fun with the clothing line.  I couldn’t be happier with the success.” 

Jenny’s drive, strength and determined nature are some of the things Jason loves most about Jenny.  Jason said, “Jenny is a very determined person and she kinda keeps me on track. When she sets her mind to something, it’s pretty much going to get done.  She makes things happen.”  When I watched Jenny in action preparing the house and the kids for our interview, I could see both her command of the situation and a little bit of sweat on her brow.  It’s a skill to push through the chaos to make everything come together.  As you can see from the cover photo, she rounded the troops for a great photo. 

Blending a family is not easy.  It comes with amazing highs as well as a few lows.  However, it is incredibly worth it as you create something new out of two really good families.  

Remodeled and Blended from The Teens Parents always have a perspective on the family blending, of course. However, there’s a bit of truth to the old adage “out of the mouths of babes” when it comes to putting families together.  Younger children can be more adaptable, because they haven’t quite found all of their grooves yet.  Teenagers are a lot more set in their ways, but are also old enough to have adult-sized opinions on situations.  It’s tough deciding the difference between listening to justified concerns versus making them to the line with discipline. Blending a family is difficult for the parents, but the kids have more adjustments than anyone might think.  Let me share just a few more of their thoughts on family blending with you.

Lexi, the couple’s only daughter, shared “It’s different being a new family.  For one, we obviously grew up with different sets of morals I think. I grew up with a more lenient family. Overall, it’s benefitting every person to experience this. I think we’re all learning from each other and it’s helping us all grow.” For all the kids, it was a tiny rumbling of ‘there are different rules for each of us’ as an underlying comment.  As Lexi said, “I think there are more of us now.  So, it’s just difficult for them to keep up with each of us.”  As an adult listening to their comments, I realized it’s more of a norm for any family to have different sets of rules for each child—because each child is different.  Some privileges are earned, and some are lost. Even in a non-blended family, there are a lot of ‘that’s not fair -type complaints.  The goal is the same for each child: primarily—get them to a place to have a successful life, whatever that path may be.  One thing teens need to know though is that the path to get there rarely ever looks the same.

One difficult part for Lexi is, “The girls at school don’t realize Harry is my younger brother. They all have crushes on my brothers.  They like to flirt with them. It’s just awkward.”  I’m pretty sure Lexi isn’t the only sister out there with that dilemma with her brothers.  But now she has two additional good-looking ones, which can lend itself to a lot more attention from her girlfriends.  That said, Lexi continued, “Being a blended family helps a lot with a lot of stuff.  I don’t know what I’d do if we had never met them.  I love them. The kids have never gotten in a fight. We’ve argued but never actually fought. We’re pretty
chill really.” 

I asked Lexi about her experience with Jenny as we all know the difficulties that could occur with moving two women into the same household.  “So, what’s been different?” I asked Lexi. “For one thing, I’ve been in cheer my whole life.  Jenny is at every single thing.  I really appreciate that.  All my friends know her.  She tries to teach me how to be a woman. I don’t believe all the same things she does—I think the men and women should have equal roles in the house.  But I respect her.  I mean, she drives us around everywhere we need to go.  I think the biggest part is she’s just very involved. She still makes time to be there for EVERYTHING.”   

In talking with Peter, I wanted to know the real side of having a “new dad” in his life. One of the traumas of divorce can often be the absence of the father, as often moms end up with primary custody regardless of the plan or circumstances.  It’s difficult to truly do a 50/50 split with bedrooms, school districts, friends and activities.  Peter’s dad lives in Texas, which although somewhat close, keeps him generally at bay.  Peter said, “It’s interesting.  It’s like always you have your dad and then there’s Jason.  My grandpa has had a very big influence on my life growing up, coaching my sports teams. I’ve always viewed him as my father figure—just not living in the house. Advice, life lessons, my grandpa has always been that go-to guy, but Jason and I have gotten a lot closer lately. He’s stepped up into a bigger role of that in my life as I’m growing up into more of a young adult.  He’s starting to teach me a lot about what you should do, how to do this, how to do that–things that matter.  I’m gonna be outta here on my own in 2 years.  So, there’s a lot to know.” Then Peter went on, “Honestly getting closer, to know Jason more, has been my favorite part. Having that void of a father figure and watching him step into that part has meant a lot.”

Peter’s not alone in having a grandparent step in to fill the absentee role of a father. Many grandmothers and grandfathers step into these roles for several reasons.  It’s often a result of exceptional grandparents filling the voids they see in their grandchildren’s lives in whatever way they can.  Our boomer population has honestly raised quite a few grandkids; however, it was easy to see in Peter’s eyes that having a new dad around was a big deal to him.  As young men start to mature, it becomes really critical for the father figure to give them guidance on everything from dating to adulthood.

Of course, being the adoring son, Peter also threw in “My mom honestly has done a heck of a job. I feel like shuffling the kids, cleaning the house, making dinner, just making sure everyone is where they need to be is a chore.  She’s done it all. She really is amazing.”  It’s clear through every child, that Jenny taking the time to be there for them—even if it gets a bit rattling – is a foundation for their family.  With Jason travelling regularly for work, it’s often left to her alone to be that piece that holds everyone and everything together.

Harry, being the youngest (and ending up with a brother his same age) has been through a lot of changes. “The impact and joy they can make on life is amazing,” said Harry.  “I can be there for them and they can be there for me. It’s just, like, another person to just be there for you forever.” He continues, “Getting along was tough. For a long time, I shared a room with Reid and it took a long time getting used to it–sharing everything. Not as much space. We got used to it though and our relationship is much better now.” 

Harry and Peter both had a lot to say about Jenny’s role in making the family function properly.  A determined mom with a vision for her family can set the pace.  Harry said, “My mom, she has a cARaaazy TON of patience.” Patience seems to be the key according to this astute, insightful teen.

I finished up with Reid, the unassuming smiling one, who had quite a lot to say.  Reid said, “At first, it was kind of like you could be best friends with someone, but you live with them every day and it becomes different. You have differences in the way you were raised. In the first year, we argued a lot. Now, we’ve adapted and changed, you know to satisfy the other. We’re still not fully there but we’re a lot closer.” Reid really appreciated gaining a new part of his family. Reid said “I like their side and their family. I have a pretty cool side but it’s kinda cool having another side. My family lives all over the country. Theirs lives all over Oklahoma.  We might have a reunion every year. They do Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m Jewish but I love Christmas. It’s such a festivity. 

“I enjoy the family. I like eating the meals and spending time with them.” 

Reid ended commenting on Jenny’s parenting points, “Jenny kind of keeps us in line. She’s taught me a lot about manners and stuff. She always helps us clean. The house would be a mess without her.  She has a really good work ethic. It’s kinda just cool to watch it. She’s very, very dedicated to making whatever we need available to us.” 

It was easy to see that the whole group was happy to have each other, but they didn’t want to mask the fact that they’ve had tough times mixed with the good times. In the end, their comments didn’t sound all THAT different than comments that my sisters and I might’ve shared in our teens.  I think sometimes it feels different, because their situation is new, but really—it’s not THAT different.  

In closing, it’s critical to understand that although you are very close with the children that you brought into the blended marriage, they are not your partner.  Your spouse is now the one who should be in sync with you when it comes to parenting.  We’re not even venturing into the effect of exes in each blended situation each of whom add a different dynamic.  Regardless of the situation, the husband and wife (and the kids) need to remember the new couple is now a team—THE team, in fact.  Sometimes it’s necessary to step back from tough situations to regroup and then get back in step together.  It’s ok to admit when you aren’t perfect.  Biological/married parents aren’t perfect either.  Listen and communicate with each other.  The kids, regardless of age and maturity, are still just kids counting on the adults in their lives to guide them. 

In the end, Jason said “‘Don’t give up’ is the best advice I have. I think that being open minded helps. It’s been a great process, because neither of us are naturally that open minded.  You realize that what’s a ‘10’ to one person might be a ‘3’ to the other. So you try to find a ‘7’ compromise.  Of course sometimes, it’s easier to decide to go with what Jenny says.” Jason admitted while chuckling.  “I also think I have to give the kids credit. I think every kid wants a family. I think sometimes even when we get off track the kids are like ‘You need to stop. Sit down and talk.’” It’s the total overall family.  I don’t think it’s something you can prepare for everything you will encounter.” 

I don’t think I could say it better myself.  In the end, it absolutely is the whole family venturing into something together that none of them can really be prepared for, but with a caRaaazy ton of patience, and a guiding light like Jenny, something beautiful can be born!

Here are a few tips from Jason and Jenny:

Counseling helps but doesn’t cover it all

Embrace the unexpected. You will be toppled by things you didn’t see coming.

Realize rhythms need reset. They take time. Don’t expect it to happen all at once.

Space is good if you can make it. If you can’t, just be a little understanding that it’s not always easy.

Parents need to be on the same page. Period. “Mine” and “yours” can’t be operational adjectives.

Different children in a family need different parenting styles. Period. Blended and unblended.

Children are smart. They get it. Don’t underestimate their prowess to play the situation.

Find a cARaaaZy TON of patience (per Harry!). These aren’t overnight transitions.

Family Life Blended and Blessed

The only one-day live event and livestream just for stepfamily couples, single parents, dating couples with kids, and those who care about blended families. The event discusses what you can do to have a healthy stepfamily marriage.  If you or someone you know is in a stepfamily, sign up or pass it on.  This is a can’t-miss opportunity.

Livestream to your church or your home, April 27, 2019: http://familylifeblended.com/

Asbury Church Blended Families

Wednesdays, January 9 – February 27, 2019

6 – 8 pm, Room 1335

Cost: $10/couple

Facilitators: Brian and Beverly Bryan

Registration: myasburytulsa.org

Whether you are remarried or planning to remarry, discover the key steps to building a healthy stepfamily with expert Ron Deal, using his Smart Stepfamily book and participant guide. Through eight engaging DVD sessions, you’ll learn practical solutions for everyday living and gain valuable insight for raising your stepfamily the smart way.


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.


For those of us who don’t go beyond our 3-5 city mile blocks, a little trek to Owasso might be just the fun you need.  (Only 25-30 minutes from south Tulsa/Jenks and of course actually IN Owasso for our readers there). Their brand new 26,000 sq. ft. family entertainment center features a massive 150’ x 75’ hardwood maple skating floor, with state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and special effects.  With a giant climbing area called the PlayZone, kids can enter for $5 plus tax in that area 11-1 on Fridays. Prices vary depending on the activity/day. During the toddler times, my 3 year old can climb for the entire time by herself without getting bored. She comes out fairly exhausted, while gaining climbing/coordination skills for life. On Tiny Tots Thursdays, there is a bouncy house, skating, fun little cars, bouncy balls, games, dance contests and more. Plus, the real scoop for moms–I can even sit here writing a review while she plays.  It’s just incredible.

Wheels and Thrills is also the place for exciting multi-level, themed laser tag, with amazing special effects. They have free WiFi, pizza and other fun food, and free refills on the tea. For those wanting to skate, play a few games or enter the LAZER ZONE—there’s really something for all ages.  

However, I must say my favorite thing about the whole facility is the staff.  They have hired some of the most kid-focused, caring staff that I’ve met. They are constantly dancing and interacting with the kids. One employee, Harlie, dances and interacts with the kids every time I look up.  She pulls out fun dance moves, tells a joke or just makes a silly face to make them laugh.  If we had enough space, I’d walk through the whole staff, as we’ve had such positive interactions with them all. The owner, Tammy Johnson, is constantly right in the middle of the fun. She has a heart for kids.  She even offers “Sensory Sundays” one weekend a month for kids with sensory sensitivities.  With homeschool skates, Christian music skate nights, and Tiny Tots programs—it really is game on for some fun family time.  

Tammy just loves to make a welcoming environment for all of the kids.  We don’t have enough room to list it all—but check out www.wheelsandthrills.com for a list of events/costs.  We hope you give it a try and tell them Community Spirit Magazine sent you!

 


Written By: R.A. Goodnight

Can you imagine what an actual war in the celestial realms would be like? The Bible tells us that such an event occurred.

“Then war broke out in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7, 8)

What that must have been like – angelic soldiers wielding supernatural weapons. An epic war, as the army of light engaged in actual battle against the forces of darkness. As we meditate upon these words, they arouse a sense of awe inside of us. Hopefully, reading John’s account reminds us of a more sobering truth.  A real war – not a metaphorical one – is being fought. You, and more importantly, your family are a part of it.  It is our place as men in God’s arrangement to take the lead in the defense of our families.

If this war was fought in heaven, why would I say that it affects us?  This statement is true in more than one way, but let’s focus in on a singular aspect for the moment.  Notice what John goes on to recount.  Verse 9, “The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”  He takes it a step further in verse 12, “But woe to the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”  My fellow men, he and his angry army of demons were thrown to The Earth.  They are now among us.  And, as if more emphasis was needed, he wraps up the chapter with these words, “The dragon was enraged…and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” (Rev. 12:18) Yes, he is here.  He is angry, full of fury and intent on warring against YOU.  This is a real war and it has real casualties.  You and your family are right in the middle of it.  If Satan was willing to do battle with Michael (the commander of the most powerful army that ever has or will exist), what is he willing to do to our families here on Earth?  Soldiers, the important question becomes – will you fight? Will you protect your family against the attacks of the enemy?

Our enemy is powerful. However, it is possible to stand our ground. Revelation should give us confidence in this fact, as we see he has already lost one decisive battle.  Let’s make him lose more.  Because of the record in Revelation, it gives us the advantage of battlefield intelligence.  This is not a surprise attack.  We know he is here and we know his plan; He comes to kill, steal and destroy.  We need to put this intelligence to use and prepare our defenses.

Along with intelligence, we have the capabilities to be well equipped for the battle.  An effective soldier will have weapons and armor to use during a fight.  As soldiers of God, we have been given a full suit of armor as well as a weapon.  We have a belt, a breastplate, boots for our feet, a shield, a helmet and a sword (Eph. 6:11-17). Are we not grateful for the provisions our commander has given us to so that we can be victorious in this war?  The ASV version helps us understand that all these components are necessary to be fully protected.  In Ephesians 6:13 (ASV) it tells us to take up the “whole armor of God,” not just certain pieces.  This is an important point, soldiers.  Our ability to skillfully use each piece of our armor determine how effective we are in a fight.  In this series of articles, we break down this suit of armor and discuss its components:  What does each piece mean? What is each piece of armor’s purpose? How do we use these pieces effectively?

Let’s start with learning to wield our sword.  Why start with it?  One main reason–as we learn to use our sword, it strengthens other pieces of our armor, like our shields and our helmets.  We will discuss that claim further in a moment.  So a fair question to now ask ourselves – is our skill as a swordsman equal with the battle that is before us?  Before we can identify how effective we are with our sword, we must first identify what our sword is. Diving into Ephesians, verse 17 tells us, “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  

Yes, the word of God is our spiritual sword. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul describes the word of God as being sharper than a double edged sword, an effective weapon in capable hands. (Heb. 4:12). Interestingly, the sword is the only part of our spiritual armor that serves as both an offensive weapon as well as a defensive tool. Knowing HOW to use it, as well as WHEN to use it for either purpose will take training and practice.

Now that we understand what our sword is, the next logical question is how do we use it?  To help us answer this let’s look at the master swordsman, Jesus Christ.  Christ would not use his own words as the basis for his teaching or his defense.  Doing a quick check through the Gospels, Christ quoted from at least 24 different old testament writers.  He would say “For it is written” or “Have you not heard?”or “Did you not read?” and other forms of these scripture-referencing questions (Matt. 4:4; Mark 7:10; Luke 18:20). What was Christ doing when we would respond in this manner?  He was using his sword!  He let God’s word be his defensive (and his offensive) tool.  His method was the same regardless of whether he was responding to doubters, to Pharisees or to his family.  Notably, in his confrontation with Satan, every rebuttal Jesus gives Satan is a direct quote from an inspired writer (Matt. 4:1-11). As fellow swordsman, we should be copying his example.

When confronted by the enemy, a successful offense or defense depends on our ability to recall God’s word–and the truths and principles it contains.  The same is true of a literal sword; the ability to wield it properly only comes from practice.  How did Christ become so familiar with his sword of truth?  There is an account regarding Jesus, while he was still a boy, that lends us a clue.  Luke tells us that during a family trip Jesus went missing.  Luke 2:26 tells us that they eventually found him “in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”  From an early age until his death, Christ had a fondness for studying God’s word.  How could he quote scripture if he did not know what it contained?  Studying the word and engaging with his teachers– Christ set the example for us to follow.  It is the only way we will become adept at using God’s word with authority.

Now, back to our question from above – how is your swordsmanship, soldier?  Are you practicing with it regularly?  Each one of us should have a routine for personal Bible study–a successful defense of your family depends on it. Become familiar with principles and verses, both Old and New Testaments. Understand God’s way of thinking. Remember, “All Scripture is…useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Dedicate time for yourself to read God’s word daily.  Attending church is only the beginning of our training. Personally, I find it helpful to block time off each day on my work lunch calendar.  Not only does this set aside specific times but my phone also reminds me to stop, to read, and to practice my swordsmanship.  In addition, joining a men’s group or some family Bible study for discipleship also helps round out the training.

Now that we have identified what our sword is and how to become skillful fighters – when can we use it?  Perhaps your child is facing challenges at school due to their stand in the faith.  Get up soldier.  Draw your sword!  Go on the offense and share verses with your child to strengthen their confidence.  Perhaps show them Proverbs 27:11 and help them understand that their personal stand for the faith brings joy to God’s own heart!  Has your wife become overcome with sadness due to the death of a loved one?  Your sword is full of encouragement for those who mourn, such as Thessalonians 4:13-14.  Maybe it’s you, fellow warrior, who has come under attack and fallen on some hard times.  Dive into God’s word – defend yourself.  Remind yourself of verses such as Deuteronomy 31:6 where the Lord tells you He will not leave you or forsake you.

What about times when we have drawn our swords, but we are not sure how to strike?  This is one of my personal favorites. God himself gives us this encouragement, “You will hear a voice from behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). Even as well-equipped as we are, we are not alone in this fight.  God is at our six (military code for “God’s got your back.”).  There will be moments when we may not know what our next move should be. Directed by God’s spirit, He will provide our tactics for us.  It might come through our personal study, a fellow soldier or from a lesson at church.  Believe, listen and the attack plan will become evident.

Learning to use our swords first helps strengthen other pieces of our armor.  Understanding what our swords are, as we study God’s word, we will we learn swordsmanship, but it will also start to build faith (our shield). We will learn more about salvation (our helmet), as we pursue righteousness (our breastplates) and so much more.  Starting with our swords will lead us to eventually equipping the entire suit.  Now you are ready for battle!

Do not forget who we are.  We are soldiers of God.  Do not underestimate the weapons and armor we have been given.  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Yes, we are powerful.  We were made in God’s image. We were made to be men! Draw your swords, soldiers, and get in the fight!