Saturday Share with Me: Life and Truth With Motherly Love

SS colossians 2.2Welcome to Saturday Share!

The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  Our race isn’t finished as long as there’s still breath in our lungs.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

 

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Colossians 2:2-3 NIV

And this week it’s my turn to share a part of my story.

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Life and Truth With Motherly Love

By Lisa Brittain

With a mother’s love and affectionate attachment to you, we were very happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our lives – because you had become so dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 tpt

For two years before this previous year, I began or closed my teaching time with these words from 1 Thessalonians.  I paraphrased the verse so that my message to the women gathered was more personal.  It wasn’t a marketing ploy or a catchy mantra to hook people into listening.  These words were heartfelt because I truly did feel an affection for every woman gathered together for Bible study.

“I love you so much, ladies, I am delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but my life as well because you are so dear to me!”

One night I spoke this out and from somewhere toward the back, I heard, “And you are so dear to us!”  I was stunned and delighted all at the same time.  It was a light bulb moment.  For truly the first time I realized the affection was flowing two ways.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know all the women as intimately as I would have liked.  Their faces were all familiar to me.  Often we greeted one another with warm smiles and salutations and left one another with hugs.  But what I really wanted was to be able to meet with each woman one on one over coffee and get to know her story and her heart.  There simply were not enough weeks in the year to do what I wanted to do.1 thess 2.8

Names of women resounded with joy in my heart because of the number of times I called them aloud before our Father in prayer.  They were all the women Father had entrusted to me for two years with a mission of making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in my community through the in-depth and careful study of His Word.

It wasn’t a volunteer position.  I was called of God and I knew it.  There was no large expanse of time in my schedule with which I could, in my own strength, fulfill this role of leading women through 30 weeks of Bible study each year.  I had no margin lying open in my life so that this mission would easily make sense as my next order of Kingdom business.

In fact looking back now, I was (and still am) a pretty unlikely candidate.  Teaching is not one of my prominent gifts.  There’s no big Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer teaching voice booming forth from this girl.  The gift of administration is not a high point on my resume.   Plus, I was already working a full-time job, my mother-in-law was in hospice, my husband was forced into retirement and received a life-altering medical diagnosis all at the same time.  In short, my life felt pretty stretched to capacity.

I was an unlikely candidate.

Yet, God called my name to lead this Bible study group with a mission to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ in my community with love and care for all the women who would come.  I heard in my spirit that He was calling me to this role for a short time.  My heart desire was to do this for the Lord.  Still, I felt a need to tell Him about all of my time constraints and commitments and such.  As if He didn’t know my life…

We talked it out.  The Lord and me.  He knows my heart.  My Father knows that I walk around my life most of the time with my hand in the air and crying out, “Ooh, ooh pick me.  Pick me!”  So, He knew I wanted to say yes to this, but I still asked Him for three things:

  • Seeking affirmation of my call, I wanted someone from the current leadership team to call me and ask me to pray about being their new leader.
  • I wanted Father to stretch and protect my time each week and provide His teaching for me to present each week.
  • I asked Him to fill my heart with His love for every woman such that I could honestly say, “I love you so much I am delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but my life as well because you have become so dear to me.”

As happens when it really is the Lord on the move and fulfilling His plans, everything happened just as He had directed me.  Within a month or so I received a phone call from a woman in leadership asking if I would pray about being the new teaching director.  I told her I would pray, and I did.  I went back to my Father and thanked Him for answering my prayer for a phone call.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9 niv

After I accepted the position, God made provision for me to go to training in Colorado Springs.  My calling was confirmed way out there on the other side of the US gathered together with other called servants of God.  Though I couldn’t fathom how it would all come together I returned home confident that if my Father called me He would equip me.

I continued to ask my Father for His protection over my time.  Truly, I wanted Him to clear my calendar and resolve all the hard things in my life so I could give this new position my full attention.  However, His assurance to me was His assurance to Paul – “My grace is sufficient for you”.

Nothing was removed from my schedule during those two years.  I learned reliance on my Father for time and study and words.  He taught me by His presence and from His word, and I was the greatest beneficiary.  From the overflow of my time with Him, I had something to offer to others each week.  His grace was sufficient, and I saw Him daily stretch my time.2 corinthians 12

AND… He filled my heart with love.  His love was full in my heart for every woman.  Not because I’m super-human in the love department.  And please don’t get the impression that every relationship was warm and fuzzy.  There’s no such thing as perfection in ministry.

Truth.  Outside of my immediate family, I’ve never been so challenged to speak the truth in love, keep short accounts, and forgive with extravagance.  Leading multi-faceted people in one unified direction is not for the faint of heart.  Honestly, I was humbled by my consistent need to ask forgiveness for myself.  My knees and my heart were raw in a good tenderized kind of way by the end of my term.

I learned a lot.  The experiences developed my sincere appreciation for my pastors, and my prayers for all the leaders in my life became much more compassionate and loving.  Additionally, I learned to rely even more on the Lord to teach me and mold me as the leader He wanted me to be.

My weaknesses were glaringly clear to me from the beginning, and probably to everyone else.  Though the ladies were extraordinarily gracious toward me.  The encouragement of those who had gone before and the prayers of many bolstered my desire to persevere.

However, between me and my Lord, my inability to live out this 1 Thessalonians truth was obvious.  I wanted to love everyone.  But how?

  • How could I genuinely love such a wide variety of women with a pure heart like Jesus?
  • How did Paul, the apostle do it?

Recently I have been reading the various letters Paul sent to the churches.  When he wrote about his love for all the saints I had to wonder if he really meant everyone.  I mean from what I gather Paul was a fairly crusty character.  I imagine him with a bit of a temper and impatient.

Paul certainly had no problem separating himself from his Christian brothers, Barnabas and Mark.  He too seemed an unlikely candidate to be chosen by God.  Yet Paul wrote many letters of great encouragement, love, and affection for ALL the brothers and sisters in Christ.

We know from reading his letters, Paul too was humbled and tenderized by the presence of the Lord, the kindness of Jesus to bring him to repentance and God’s calling on his life.  Paul suffered greatly at the hands of those who opposed the message of the Gospel.  His body was beaten and bloodied, and surely his heart was crushed by those God called him to serve.

Paul, along with those he discipled, chose to love for the sake of Christ.  He loved in obedience.  He forgave in obedience.  He served in obedience.  And then as he moved from place to place on his mission journeys for Christ, the love in his heart created a longing to hear about their faith and a hope for being reunited with them again.

For me, ‘how to love’ was found in my surrender to live out this scripture truth.  When I bent my knees before the Father and lifted the names of every woman before Him, He sowed seeds of love for them in my heart.  As I opened my heart and made myself vulnerable with the stories of my own life, Father added fertile soil around the sprouts of love growing in my heart.  And as I shared with the women the truth of the Gospel message, my Lord watered the garden full of love blooms with each woman’s name written on each one!

Lastly, I was determined to obey Jesus and follow Him where He led me in His Word.  If His Word would boldly declare that sharing the Gospel and my life would develop my care for others, then I would boldly declare my love for them from my lips to their ears as often as I had the opportunity.Life and Truth

Father was true to His word and He called me out of that leadership place just as He had called me in.  And even in the separation, the love for the women remains in my heart.  I remember our time together with great fondness, and as they individually come to mind I still lift a prayer on their behalf.  From time to time we run into each other and embrace with the JOY of sisterhood.

In a small way, I feel I have begun to understand the words of Paul in his letters to the churches as the gospel continued to be spread by the power of Holy Spirit.

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3  esv

Loving all people with a love that delights to share life and the Gospel of God is a miracle only God can do.  I take no credit, and I pray my Father will continue to call my name and teach me things I don’t know. 

As Paul says in Colossians, God reveals His mysteries of love and grace to us.  I love to learn God’s mysteries sitting right at His feet and serving side by side with Him in His Kingdom work.  Here’s a mystery I hope I never forget and continue to repeat for the rest of my life…

I love you so much I am delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but my life as well because you have become so dear to me!

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

Ponders:

What mission or project is God calling you to for which you need His grace to be sufficient?

Is there something He is asking you to say yes to, but you don’t feel equipped?  Do you seem an unlikely candidate?

Would it change your response to God if you embraced the truth that He won’t fail?  We all stumble and learn and grow through our shortcomings, but God does not fail!

I bless you to say yes to Father’s call on your life, fix your eyes on Him and shine with His glory in Jesus’ Name.

Saturday Share with Anna Smit

Welcome to Saturday Share!  

Saturday Share coffeeThe purpose of this weekly feature is to provide a space for regular people to share their real-life encounters with Jesus.  It’s about living in the middle – on the way to the finish line.  If we still have breath to tell our stories then our race isn’t finished.

I believe we sharpen one another and delight God’s heart when we testify of His great work in our lives.  Be encouraged to put one foot in front of the other, and spur someone on while you’re at it!

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT  

I am honored to introduce to you, my feature Saturday Share writer:

Anna Smit

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ALL THINGS NEW

by Anna Smit 

 

Behold,

I am making all things new
He speaks, deep unto deep
My eyes they turn
There below.

Reeds are swaying
Rustling wind
Waters green, there below
Basket woven, her hands

Release.

My heart it grips
I see my own
Precious gift
From my own hands,

Taken.

No, not in trust
But in tight clenched hands
Lies, they ripped
Precious life,

Stolen.

Behold,

I am making all things new
He speaks, deep unto deep
And my heart it rips
Opens wide.

And pours
Longing deep
Yearning cries:

His precious gift
Returning.

Reeds are swaying
Rustling wind
Waters green, there below
Basket woven, my hands

Receive.

Weeping heart now flows
I see my own
Precious gift
Into my hands,

Returned.

Behold,

I am making all things new
He speaks deep unto deep
My eyes turn to waters green
Resting now in all things:

Christ REDEEMED!

 

Three and a half years ago I came back Home to my Heavenly Father. My journey of more than twenty years as a Prodigal was a journey of tightly clenched hands, while my Mum’s journey was one of God leading her into deeper and deeper surrender of her children into the hands of her Savior.SS all things new oil pic Anna.png

Now, all these years later, I too am learning how to open my own palms and release one basket after another, trusting in their return, just like my Mum. Oh, how it hurts. Oh, how my heart is ripped open in the process. But oh, how precious the touch of Jesus is in those deep places of hurt within my heart. In the ripping open He is entering my heart to restore and redeem the many wounds inflicted upon me so many years ago.

Oh yes, the enemy knows how to steal, kill and destroy. But our mighty God knows how to restore, resurrect and redeem. And He is faithful till the end. Even when we have clenched those hands tight in distrust and not released what was never ours to hold tight to in control, His mercy runs deep. His heart of compassion and justice have gone ahead. Walking toward His Cross He wept, saying: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

Oh, there are still many days I struggle. As a little girl, God gave me the spiritual gift of mercy. It is this that has broken my heart so very much. As a Prodigal, I cursed this gift that only seemed to steal, kill and destroy me. And even now there are days I retreat with my pain and ask: “Why, oh why, my Lord?” But slowly God is teaching me how to receive this gift, by unclenching my hands.

One way He has been doing that in this past year has been through a Titus 2 woman on the other side of the world. A Grandma of faith who has learnt through deep wounding of her own, how to open her palms and release basket after basket. This woman has taught me that there is Strength to be found in confessing my pride, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. In repenting before my sisters and brothers in Christ. In boasting in my weakness. In WAITING in prayer and in the Word before taking action – before fighting or fleeing as the enemy attacks.

How has she done this? NOT by telling me what to do. But by living this herself- by pouring out her heart before me. By entrusting me with her failings and confessing how God has worked in and through these. By PRAYING over, with and for me. By sending me Scriptures and worship songs that have washed over me with the deep love and compassion of my Savior.SS Anna fragrance of Titus 2.png

I have been deeply hurt by those who teach the Word, but do not live it. I myself have deeply hurt others by teaching the Word and not living it (especially in my home). But this Titus 2 woman has been bringing me to my knees by the power of the Holy Spirit and Word of GOD in her. By her humble and surrendered heart of faith, she has taught me how to open my own palms also.

So now my prayer and greatest heart’s desire is that I too would become a Titus 2 woman. A woman who loves the Lord with her whole heart, mind, body, and soul. A woman spreading the fragrance of our Lord and drawing others to Him. A woman who doesn’t just teach the Gospel, but lives it too. For then, I know I will truly be seeking first the Kingdom of God:

 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that?  He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”  Mark 2: 5 – 12 ESV

No, I had never seen anything like this either. Until the powerful and palpable Peace descended upon my Mum as she lay dying. It is this that brought me Home. And it is this surrender in my Titus 2 mentor of faith that is leading me further on the path of righteousness my God has set before me. Praise Him!

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:3-5 ESV

 

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SS Anna head shotAnna is a returned Prodigal of more than twenty years. In September, 2017, she opened Beloved Prodigal, answering God’s call to encourage and strengthen family and friends of Prodigals in the Word and the testimony of their fellow believers. Recently, upon facing a relapse of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, she released this ministry to her Team of writers to begin sharing of God’s love and grace from her place of weakness at her old blog Joy of the Spirit Within. Her vision is to see God’s Light lift the cloud of shame hanging over those suffering from mental illness. Anna would love to connect with you on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

 

Day 5 – Who will help me {trust} when my cup is empty?

I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.  In all my ways I will acknowledge You, Lord, and You will make my path straight.   Proverbs 3:5 & 6

As a young career woman, God placed many believers in my path – mostly in my workplace.  A manager bought me a Bible and invited me to a weekly Bible study before work.  A young woman, my peer, much more mature in her faith, prayed with me.  And a young man challenged me to memorize Scripture.{trust}.png

I look back on those days and see myself much like Ruth.  A foreigner in a strange land.  I eagerly followed others who looked like they were following God.  I {trust}ed their leading and as they spoke the word of God, prayed and left truth on the ground behind them… I gathered all that I could possibly hold.  {5 minutes}

The young man who challenged me to memorize Scripture handed me Proverbs 3:5 & 6 and told me I would need this truth.  I received it as if he had given me the key to a secret door.

I memorized the popular proverbs passage as a commitment prayer to God, making it a personal vow to Him.

In turn, I have offered this same scripture to many who have come alongside me on the journey of faith seeking to follow Jesus.  I believe these words or else I wouldn’t offer them as an anchor to another.

I do {trust} You God.  With all my heart.  I lean not on my own understanding.  I acknowledge You.  In all my ways (I’m looking for Your way).  And I know You will make my path straight.

But then sometimes when all around me is extremely disorienting and unfamiliar, the pathway tangled with briars, and the scenery all brown, white and grey with no clear landmarks…  I wonder if I really {trust} God.proverbs 3.5.png

And then suddenly in the driest place, a cup of cold water encouragement is lavished on me from someone I’ve had the pleasure to encourage in the past.

This is the amazingly beautiful picture of discipleship I am gleaning from Ruth 2:11-12 today.  We are given in this passage an onlooker’s view of God’s work in Ruth and Naomi.  Boaz speaking to Ruth…

“But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers.  May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

Ponders:

In Naomi’s driest place of her faith journey, Ruth was offering the cup of cold water to her mother in law.  Ruth was trusting in the Lord as she had been taught by Naomi.  Ruth was acknowledging God and holding Naomi’s hand while God was making their path straight.

Ruth would {trust} God until Naomi would be restored to {trust} the Lord’s goodness again on her own.

  • Do you have a relationship like the one portrayed between Ruth and Naomi?
  • Are you in the Ruth role currently or the Naomi role?
  • How have you seen the Lord bring a discipleship relationship around full circle?
  • If you haven’t been encouraged by this type of mentoring relationship and would like to pursue discipleship, will you ask the Lord to place someone in your life to live the journey with you?  God is faithful.  He doesn’t want us to walk alone.
  • As you ponder {trust} in God’s word, what is Holy Spirit teaching you?  Do you trust the Lord with all your heart?  Will you make Proverbs 3:5 & 6 your personal prayer?

 

Saturday Share: True Gold Magazine with Chloe

Thank you for joining me for Saturday Share.  Today I want to feature my friend, Chloe, creator of True Gold Magazine.

First, I want to tell you how I met Chloe and why I think she is a gem of a woman.  And then I want you to go to her website and read her story of birthing True Gold Magazine in her own words.

Chloe True Gold Mag

Though True Gold is taking a summer break from submissions, I feel sure they will be looking for more creative investments soon.   So for all of you creative people of God I hope you will become inspired to submit something to Chloe at True Gold Magazine – something creative you have birthed – for inclusion in her publication.

(By the way, if you are a vessel for Holy Spirit, you ARE creative.  Just ponder that for a moment…)

I met Chloe on a Friday night at Grace Midtown in Atlanta when we both providentially showed up for an evening of prayer and ministry to sexually exploited people of our city. I was familiar with this regular ministry event, and as prepared as one can possibly be for what and who we might encounter.  However, this was Chloe’s first opportunity to serve.

As I was the first time I walked into an establishment of sexual exploitation, Chloe had the deer in the headlight look of, “I had no idea!”  I wasn’t completely sure, as we had just met in prayer a couple of hours previous, but I felt fairly sure Chloe was not much older than my oldest son.  It seemed natural to me to feel a motherly protection for her.

I remember walking up alongside this precious young woman and putting my arm around her shoulder as we walked inside the darkness and smoke.  It’s unsettling to say the least, and nearly impossible to comprehend the lack of respect for human dignity in this environment.  Even though we, neither one, consider ourselves naive to the depravity of the flesh; eyes must avert and it is difficult to find a cheerful voice with which to minister God’s love to the women and men under these circumstances.

My most vivid memory of sharing ministry time with Chloe is that she carried a pocket-sized artist pad of paper and an artist’s pencil.  She sat quietly on a stool in the dressing room crowded with more flesh than clothing and sketched a picture of God’s love.  There was a specific woman she felt Holy Spirit was guiding her to bless with her picture.

With the amazing tenderness of Jesus in her eyes, Chloe asked me if it was appropriate to give her sketch to the woman.  I encouraged her to be bold and brave with her message of God’s bountiful grace and unfailing love.  She did.  Chloe reached out with the gift, and was met with tearful thanksgiving from the unsuspecting woman.

Life

We spent the rest of the night sitting way in the back seat sharing our life stories and traveling to various establishments chosen for ministry that evening.  I knew as we finished with prayer in the wee hours of the morning just before daylight I had met one of Father’s anointed daughters.  We’ve stayed in touch since then.  I’ve been watching and waiting.  I’m standing on tiptoes of anticipation as Chloe’s God-infused creativity takes deep root and produces a harvest of huge and beautiful fruit beyond her wildest imagination! (Mark 4:20 msg)

Please bless Chloe, as you peruse her work at True Gold Magazine, with a comment of encouragement to persevere in following the path Jesus is cutting for her – the path which will lead to the exact ministry He created her to accomplish.

(Click here to read Chloe’s story about the creation of True Gold Magazine – the inspiration, her passion and her intent for this publication.)

Chloe is on her way!  Bravo, young friend… do it scared!!

Saturday Share: Brad Milford – the miracle of a captive set free

So, who is Brad?  Brad is my nephew – third son of my brother, Jeff.  Brad is coming into his middle twenties and writing with the wisdom of a forty year old.

By way of various detours along his short journey through life, Brad is father to precious son, Elias!

Brad's Bible

Brad and Elias do not currently live in the same household much to the sadness and frustration of his father.  However, it may be that God has most precisely used these circumstances for Brad’s ultimate good and God’s glory.

 

For this nephew, as well as his three brothers and my own two sons, I have prayed. Specifically for these young men a prayer found in Psalm 103:1-5 has been a prayer on my lips and settled in my heart.

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—  who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:1-5

I am delighted to read these precious words written by Brad – a testament to God’s grace and great LOVE and Brad’s surrender.  My faith soars with these direct answers to my  prayers for Brad. (I know many other people have been praying too)

I want you to be encouraged to trust God in a new way, and emboldened in your prayers. This is why I have chosen Brad’s blog post in Dear Elias – Getting out of God’s way as this week’s Saturday Share.  I pray you will be set free as well as you read Brad’s unpolished words – just straight from his gut through fingers on a keyboard – raw honesty!

Welcome Brad… I love you and continue to cheer you on in Christ.  Keep picking up your cross and following right on Jesus’ heels…wait on the Lord and trust Him more.

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Brad and EliasDear Elias,

Your dads a control freak in recovery. I say this because the first step to recovery is recognizing that you have a problem right? All jokes aside, God has really opened my eyes to this problem.

For such a long time I thought the opposite, I thought that everyone else had this problem. That everyone else were the ones trying to control everything. I pointed fingers, I tried “helping” others by telling them to let God handle it, and to trust him. But I was telling them what they needed to do without removing the big ol plank out of my own eye.

Many recognized a cycle I was in. It goes like this, I want something from God, I pray for it, I tell God I trust him, I believe he’s going to give me what I’m asking for, then I get upset when it doesn’t happen. I shake my fist at him as if he doesn’t care because I haven’t seen instant change, and I try to make things happen on my own. I take ahold of the wheel after a period of time as if…  click here to continue with Dear Elias – Getting out of God’s way

Saturday Share: Find Your Food with Jess Dudley

In this week’s Saturday Share I want to introduce my good friend and favorite doula (a person who assists in birthing), Jess Dudley.  You will find her at findyourfood.org where Jess transparently shares her journey out of obesity and now willingly and graciously extends her hand of assistance to all who are ready to say YES to life, abundant life by taking back control from controlling foods.  If this sounds like a journey you’d like to take I encourage you to go visit Jess Dudley today.

I’ve known Jess for nearly 20 years.  We were both moms of 2nd graders when she first caught my eye.  Her daughter and my oldest son were in different 2nd grade classrooms on the same hall.  I saw her as we each walked our children down that hall and into their classroom (back when we were allowed to do such a thing), but I did not know her.dare again

In those days of my early Christian walk my anxiety over leaving my children out in the world created in me a desire to learn how to pray.  I admit it – I was extremely fearful.  I no longer had my children continually under my wing.  I had the feeling of losing control (as if I had ever had complete control), and so prayers like “Now I lay me down to sleep…” were no longer cutting it for me.

 

I was crying out in my soul, “Lord, I need someone to teach me how to pray”!  One day I walked to my mailbox and inside was a Focus on the Family magazine highlighting on the cover (no, I’m not making this up) Moms in Touch – the power of praying moms for their children and their schools.  I held it in my hand in awe of God’s very clear and intentional answer to my cry for help.

The next day I carried the magazine with me to the school and down that same hallway with my son.  I saw Jess up ahead and Holy Spirit pointed her out as the woman who would teach me how to pray.  Please understand…I did not know her.  Nor had we ever spoken to one another.  We had no interaction which would assure me she was a follower of Jesus, but in complete terror and total faith I stepped forward.  Magazine out front I spoke up and told her I believed she was supposed to teach me how to pray.

Well, she looked at me and said, “No, I don’t think so.”  Had I gotten it wrong.  Was there someone else Holy Spirit was pointing out.  The next day I saw her again and similarly Holy Spirit pointed her out.  I approached her again, and she said, “No”.  This time I followed her all the way to the media center in the school where she was volunteering.  I continued telling her my story and how I thought she was supposed to teach me to pray.  Finally, recognizing I would continue to stalk her, Jess looked up at me and something similar to this, “Fine, I knew I was supposed to do it the first time you asked me”.

findyourfood.become

 

And that’s how we began our friendship – a journey together in prayer for our very culturally diverse and transient public school families, teachers and administration.  Jess was my doula in prayer.  She held my hand and helped me to find my voice before the Throne of Grace.  Together we asked God to do what only He could do to encourage teachers and bring parents together in community to support the education of their children.  As a partnership we recruited other mothers to come and pray with us.  We became an official Moms in Touch prayer group.

Our children are grown and we’ve each moved to a different community, but we stay in touch.  Throughout these almost twenty years, the Lord has zig-zagged our paths to cross at times.  I’m delighted to see where the Lord has brought my friend – to take back her life and gain control over food.  I cheer her on personally, but also as an encourager – a doula for many who also want to get their lives back.

Jess, my friend, it is a pleasure to highlight you and the ministry you have with Find Your Food

What do you holdFind Your Food

What are you holding?

When…When we pick food over our faith, shame settles in and it’s not long before we disqualify ourselves and slip away.

So often in obesity we tend to disqualify ourselves and any calling on our lives.  We’re feel we don’t qualify…Failure=Disqualification, right?

Picking Food over our Faith to cope, to comfort, to even entertain. Well, we are sure that’s not right, right?

Well God showed up and started talking to me about this…

Please take time to click here for the rest of this inspirational post by Jessica Dudley.

Jess Dudley

You can also catch Jess Dudley on Facebook Live  9 a.m.

 

 

 

Community: We want it, but how does it happen?

I’m sitting today, quietly reflecting on the magnitude of the last four days.  There’s joy in my heart, and a deep, satisfied soreness in my muscles and a tired feeling in my bones.  It’s the kind of tired soreness you feel with a great deal of satisfaction after you’ve experienced a victory in an arena about which you are deeply passionate.

Nattie's flowers

I think it’s the feeling a farmer has after he’s made straight rows in the rich earth and scattered seed, diligently watered, fertilized and waited; then suddenly the green shoot pops through the earth!  Aha, those seeds really do go down in the earth and then resurrect in new green life unto a harvest.  Hallelujah!

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

So, what was this momentous occasion?

Our young friends came to visit from Ohio with their toddler daughter and Champ (the wonder dog), and a new baby girl being wonderfully and steadfastly knit in her mother’s womb.  It was a reunion of sorts – a reunion of community.  Ultimately, as I sit today and ponder their departure a year ago, their return has sparked a re-dedication to persevere in my desire to build community.

Four years ago, a house behind and to the right of ours sold.  We wondered and waited.  I had prayed for just those God-chosen people to live here.  One eventful day, cars bearing Ohio license plates arrived along with moving trucks and people – lots of people!  There were young people and older people, and then there was Champ, a friendly and beautiful black lab, and his side-kick, the three-legged cat named Dusty.

Dusty the three legged cat

There was a stir of curiosity, and neighbors began to wander out of their homes.  As my husband and I walked our dogs along the outskirts of activity, my husband spied the Ohio tags.  I watched wide-eyed as my mostly introverted husband (born and raised in Dayton, OH) began to walk up the driveway, hand extended to introduce himself and offer assistance.

Once the dust settled a bit, the young couple quickly became known as Champ’s parents.  Though they struggled in the thick Georgia humidity of their first southern summer, each day Champ would take his long sauntering strides through the whole neighborhood – people in tow.

Champ was not the only one eager to make friends.  His human mom was determined to know the name matched with faces of every neighbor.  Soon Champ’s mom and I found ourselves fairly consistent walking partners.  We walked and talked about anything and everything – sometimes long after the dogs were done.

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Hebrews 13:16

 

We found we had many things in common despite our generational and geographical diversity.  Most notably we learned we share a Good Father – our heavenly Father – making us spiritual sisters.  Cultivating a friendship we realized we had another shared passion – building community.

It had long been my desire to connect with neighbors and in turn connect them to one another for the mutual edification of our community.  And while Champ’s mom seemed to feel I had taken her under my wing, I knew that God had purposely brought her into my life at a time such as this.  Over the previous ten years, I had sewn many seeds, watered, carefully tended to some budding hopes of community, but the harvest had been far less than bountiful.

Besserat and children

It was during this drought season, at the exact time I felt the most discouraged, Champ and family moved into our neighborhood.  Champ’s Mom came for me, and yes, I was here for her.  We had a few extra years of experience in marriage, career and parenting, which could possibly prove beneficial.  What amazed us then – and still does –  was their desire for community and their commitment to pursue it; not just with their peers, but with the full diversity of our whole neighborhood.

the girls of CC

As we walked and talked on our long treks up and down the hills and around cul de sacs, Champ’s mom asked walking companions for the names of people who lived in particular houses.  Many times she practiced pointing to the houses and reciting the names of the people who lived there.  Come to find out, Champ’s mom was so serious about knowing her neighbors she kept a hand drawn map on her refrigerator to which she added the names as they were gradually revealed.

For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:14

Over time other houses sold and other younger couples moved into our neighborhood, and we could see (with the hopeful expectation of a farmer) the green shoots beginning to pop up from the dead seeds that had been sewn.  In three years time, Champ and his parents made quite a startling impact on our community.  Groups of neighbors walked together nightly, each knowing the other by name.  We had cook-outs and ice cream sundae parties.  And eventually, new babies were added to our community.  Life events were commemorated, celebrated and assistance offered.

All too soon, with tearful goodbyes and promises of just saying, “See you later”, a year ago Champ and his family moved back to Ohio.  I think they took far more home with them than a Georgia peach of a daughter.  They packed memories of a neighborhood with its people – shared favorites and frustrations like Atlanta traffic!  And that hand-drawn map with all the names carefully documented.  They were sent here on purpose for a purpose.  Champ and his family left a mark on all our hearts.  And that’s why we welcomed them back one year later for a reunion – a celebration of community.

When Champ comes to visit 2017

We’ve all confessed, “It hasn’t been the same since y’all left”.  Honestly, the neighborhood hasn’t been the same.  Several more neighbors have moved away in the past year, and it’s been difficult to dig those new straight rows in the earth to scatter new seed.  I’ve found myself discouraged once again in this dry season of attempting to re-cultivate community.  And so, it was good to have our friends return – to hear their stories of cultivating community in their northern home, and to encourage one another through the challenges and frustrations.  Persevere, here and there, was our conclusion!

I needed to be reminded.  I needed to be spurred on in love.  I needed to have my passion stirred into action once again.  And these words, from Champ’s Mom packing to go home, were the needed refreshing cool water on my parched heart:

Everyone wants community, they just don’t know how to make it happen.

She’s right.  I know she’s right.  That’s why I’m so grateful – whengreen shoots friends come to visit they pick right up where they left off.  So for now, Champ and family, “We’ll see you later!”  I’ve got some straight rows to hoe, some seed to scatter and some committed watering to do.  May God bless it, bring the green shoots, the harvest of community and the many workers to fulfill His good plan for us and keep it thriving.  All for God’s glory and for the love of neighbors – in community!

 

{Ponders}

  • What keeps you (has kept you) from reaching out to meet a neighbor?
  • Is it true that you (regardless of your age) desire someone from the next generation to reach back and help you navigate life’s journey?
  • Do you believe it is true that everyone longs for genuine relationship?
  • Was there something in this post that inspired you to take a chance on cultivating just one relationship in your neighborhood?
  • Would you share an idea of your own?