Guest Post: Did You Know How Much God Just Loves You?

*a special post from special guest Heather Falana*

My husband loves me. It doesn’t matter what kind of a day I am having or if he disagrees with some of my decisions-he just loves me. He has been out of the country for 10 days and he returns tomorrow. To say I am excited is an understatement. While he has been away the Lord has been working some things out of me.

There is always stuff in us that can be worked on, worked in, or worked out. See, the thing is, people say “Jesus loves you” and ask “Did you know how much God just loves you?

…. “just loves you”.

Yes. I do know that He does love me.

But do I?

Grace means undeserved favor. It means that something is given to you that you do not deserve and it could never be earned, but I believe that over time I have come to slightly believe that I must earn some gifts from God. Today, I realized that the devil has been trying to keep things out of my grasp with this one lie; “Heather, you haven’t done enough.”

I find it very easy to love the Lord. To sing Him praises and talk about His goodness. It is also very easy for me to do that for people too; to brag on them and bring them gifts, but I have a hard time receiving it back. The Lord brought to my attention that I don’t always let Him love me. I’m always thinking about what I didn’t do or what I can do better. Not what He has done and wants to do in me and for me—there are things only my Heavenly Father can do.

I am a mother of three beautiful children. They are not perfect. They fight with each other on occasion. They sometimes lie. They don’t always follow the rules. They get mad at me. You want to know what? Sometimes they irritate me but I LOVE them so deeply that I correct and move forward knowing sure within myself that they love me too and they will improve. So, sitting in my living room today God gave me a dose of much needed unlimited, throw-all-caution-to-the-wind, cry-your-eyes-out LOVE.

Over the past month, while my prayer closet, I was sensing this wall. A wall. Not a wall to keep things in, a wall that was keeping something out. I couldn’t figure it out. I asked the Lord to show me what I was feeling on the inside. One thing I love about having a relationship with God is that He never fails to blow my mind.

I stand on scripture for healing in my body and protection over my family. I receive wisdom from God daily because His Word says in James that all I must do is ask for it and He gives it freely. Freely. God loves freely and He gives grace, mercy, and wisdom freely; however, it is never forced and must be received the same way. Today He spoke to my heart and said “Heather, you cannot earn the things I love to give you. I watch over your children because I love you. I desire to heal your body because I love you. And I gave you Jesus because I love you. Not because you remembered the scripture from last Sunday. Not because you prayed and read my Word four times or two times this week or you forgot. I just love you.

I cannot explain in a human tongue what this did to me. I know God loves me. I know that He sent Jesus because He loved us (John 3:16). It was different today. It went deeper than “Jesus loves you”. I felt like He took my face in His hands and looked me in the eyes and said “I just love you.

My husband and I moved last year to the west coast to start a church. People are people everywhere you go. I have come to realize that. Here in my new home I am finding it challenging to explain why we are here. Yes, we came to start a church to tell people about Jesus Christ and what He did but more importantly we came to share the love of Christ with people. I have been asking myself “How? How do I explain all of this extreme fondness I have for my savior?” and “How do I show them what it is like to know My savior?” and “How will they see that this is vital?

Outside of being an example of Christ and being a sweet fragrance to those around you (II Corinthians 2:14-15), I needed more. How do I put this thing in my heart into words? Wisdom is coming my friends. When you ask Jesus to come into your heart to be your Lord and Savior its more than a prayer. It’s a life changer. He said in II Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, all things have become new.

It’s one thing to know about a person, it’s another to hear about who that person is, and it is entirely different to live with that person. Christ desires to live with us because He just loves us. He desires to change our hearts because He knows about every little thing in your life that you need. He desires to lead us. He desires to heal us, protect us, and care for us.

We recently got a dog. He is almost a year. We found him at the Humane Society. We walked into this very loud, a bit stinky and crowded animal shelter. My family and I walked into the small dog room. There was this half Corgi half Chihuahua copper dog in the last kennel on the left. My oldest son just melted. The shelter had a name on his kennel and it was Nalu. When we brought him home the kids wanted to change that name so we threw out many ideas until we settled on Cooper.

Cooper has had to learn some new behaviors. He has had to learn that we are safe and how to trust us. When Cooper came out of his old life he received a new one. A better one. He came from a high-kill shelter in Hawaii and this was his last chance at living. He was surviving but he was not living. When God sent Jesus to us it was not to point His nose down at the human race and aim lightning bolts in our direction and yell “Look at all those people screwing everything up! They need a crutch! I’m sending them Jesus.”  No. He sent Jesus because the enemy has it out for all mankind (I Peter 5:8) and Jesus came to make a way of escape. Just like we were sent to Cooper to make him a way of escape. John 10:10 Jesus says “the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” In other words, Jesus came to bring something worth dying for and not so He could keep it to Himself. He came to give it away to you and me!

It didn’t stop there. We gave the dog a new name and a new life. He also received gifts and a bath! Now everything that belongs to the Falana’s also belongs to Cooper. He is in the family now! He enjoys our couch, our food, our neighborhood streets, and our love. It is the same with the Lord. You can know about Him or you can live in Him.


Picture yourself standing outside of a house and wondering what it holds. Nothing in that house belongs to you, in fact you cannot even see what it has to offer. Now, picture yourself walking through that house. You see all the rooms, the stairs, the fireplace. It is very inviting. You walk right through it and you move on.

Now, imagine you live in that house. Everything in that house belongs to you. It not only brings you the things you need, like a stove, washing machine, and toilets. It shelters you. It keeps you warm. It protects you. It also gives you room. Room to share. That is Christ. He desires for you to be “in Him”. Not to know about Him. Not to visit with Him once and move on. He desires to free you from a negative sentence in life. To change you. Rename you. Feed you. Shelter you. Most importunately, “to just love you.” I John 4:9-10 “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

Don’t just survive this one life you have been given. Live it in Him and let Him just love you.

The Falana Kiddos with their sweet little Cooper

A Little Thought From Heather…Meadows🤗

I could write a blog post alone about Heather Falana.  She is the portrait of Proverbs 27:17 in my life– “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We met several years ago in an anatomy class and journeyed through OU College of Nursing together, being referred to by many as Heather Squared.

She and her family are brave for Jesus, bold for Jesus and desire His plans for their life, moving across country, not knowing a soul, to minister His life, His love, His hope and His healing to lives. 

Would you pray about and consider blessing their ministry with a love offering?  Your tax deductible gift can be sent to:  
Church Alive ℅ Sam Falana 1339 NW Covey Ct. Silverdale, WA 98383 

Also, if you enjoy a good laugh, Heather periodically posts some super funny videos! Click here to look her up on Facebook. Her humor will lift you up, truly making you laugh out loud.  She’s such a gift to me! ❤ Heather

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Crazy, right?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.

Guest Post: What Takes Friendship To The Next Level?

Friendship. It’s one of those special, almost magical things in life. When you have real, honest, genuine friends, it feels as though you can go through just about anything in life and still come out sane, and maybe even with a smile on your face. And without those people, you feel like a plant that hasn’t been watered in a really, really long time. Perhaps even one that has lived at my house, deprived of water, oxygen, and love, and then thrust outside thinking a little sunshine will revive it, only to char it to death.

Currently, I am a plant living somewhere other than my own house. I am thriving. I am flourishing. I feel loved, supported, encouraged on a regular basis. I am surrounded by a community of women that I cherish. I am part of a mom’s group that meets every Monday and leaves me feeling refreshed in my heart and soul and ready to face the week. I live 10 houses away, from a soul mate of a friend. I am part of an accountability group/goal setting group of women who love Jesus so deeply and fiercely that every time I’m with them I desire to grow in my relationship with Jesus. And other dear friends, who also live close by, who regularly make time for play dates with me and my kids, girl time, family dinners, and drop anything to help and support me.

And I am moving. Far, far way.

It’s been a slow and gradual thing, something we’ve been talking about for the last few months. The job sounds amazing. We are going to start a water well drilling company. (Let me clarify, we equals my husband and his current boss.) The company will be a for-profit company, but with the purpose of providing first-time access to clean water for communities by using the company profits to create a price point for not-for-profit organizations, churches and ministries that is affordable. We will be importing world-class water-well-drilling equipment, employing first-world drilling techniques and be undertaking hydro-geological investigations and site-specific surveys. We are really excited to be bringing a different business model to Nicaragua and impacting a different segment of society for Christ through our mission, approach to business, treatment of employees, and quality of goods and services that we provide.

We are both pumped. Like for real. And we’re moving back to a country we used to live in, Nicaragua. So the whole scary-moving abroad-thing isn’t as scary since we know and love this country very much.

Jessica with her husband Brandon and children Eliana, Hudson and Audra

However, despite that, I’m not handling this move very well. I’ve moved before, if fact, I’ve moved a lot. Specifically, eighteen times in the last fourteen years I’ve been married. But this time, I’m a hot mess. Like a, I had to cover my face while at the park with a friend, because I was crying such an ugly cry I didn’t want her to see my face mess. Jessica.get.it.together. But I can’t.
I recently heard a woman, Tonya Esler, speak on friendship, and some of the things she shared were so poignant, I have been mulling them over in my mind and heart all week. I have to share just three of her points with you:

~We all need trustworthy friends. (Can I hear a TRUTH to this?!) Look up Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

~A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9

~A friend is dependable. Romans 12:10

As we sat around our small group to talk through this, our leader asked a great question, “What, in your opinion, takes a friendship to the next level?” And immediately I knew my answer.

Letting your friends help you.

There are so many reasons why I don’t let others help me. Sometimes it’s simply because I don’t need help. Or rather, I’d love help, but I don’t know in what particular thing to ask for help. Perhaps it’s also because I don’t like asking. And, of course, it’s messy. It’s complicated. It has the potential to be slightly awkward. That is how I feel. And, put all those excuses together and tie them up with a pretty little bow of guilt. A sparkly one. Right on top. Tell me, how can I ask my friend to help me do anything, when I know her schedule is full? Or she also has a gaggle of kids so how can I ask her to watch another for me? Won’t that make life hard on her if she helps me?

Maybe.

Or, think back on the last time you helped someone out. How did you feel after? Pretty amazing, am I right? The last time I helped a friend we were at the park and her son hit the back of his head so hard he was gushing blood. As she applied pressure to her son’s head, I offered to take her newborn home with me so she could go to the ER. But after she pulled away, and only then, did I realize I wasn’t sure I could actually fit another car seat in my car. Gulp. So I calmly placed my three in their seats. Then I just sat there looking at the car seats jammed in there and as I looked closely, I realized I could probably fit three across in the middle. All I had to do was yank each car seat away from the empty middle seat and his infant carrier slid right it! I buckled him up and away we went. I was smiling to myself, knowing my friend could focus on her other child and I could handle FOUR kids. (Okay, true confession, it was only like 1 hour.)

When we allow others into the messy part of our lives, the part where things are hard or hectic or so wild that we need someone to help us, it has the potential to change us. I know this to be true because it changed me.

I honestly didn’t even know I had a problem with this. Clueless. It took a good friend to say to me, ever so lovingly, “Hey there, let me help you. Like for real. I wanna help, and I wouldn’t offer my help if I didn’t mean it.” Ooooo, she hit on something there. Often times I wonder what if the person offering to help didn’t really meant it, and they are annoyed that I actually took them up on it. Well, this same wise friend also told me, “You are not responsible for how other people feel.”

Boom! Game changer right there.

So for the past year I’ve been working on letting others in. More specifically, letting them help me. Because I’ve always been fairly good at pouring my heart out, being genuine and real and honest about life, my struggles, my marriage, my kids, etc. But what good does it do to share with a good friend how undone I am after my husband has been gone for a week, when if she offers to help and I respond, “thanks, that’s so sweet, but I’m ok.” Right?! It’s ridiculous. It’s like not putting a band-aid on my four-year old’s knee when she’s scraped it up. There is a problem, and I have the solution to help her wound heal (hello love me some Neosporin) and make her stop crying (cue Dory band-aid), and forget she even fell (lots of kisses and tickling).

And a funny thing has happened. I have done things I never dreamed of, or thought I could accomplish! Primarily because more hands really do lighten the load, and also my friends have different gifts and talents than I do! I’d love to share a few every-day examples that have made life more full, along with bigger examples of what I’ve seen come to fruition because I’ve allowed dear friends to help me.

~I launched my own Esthetician business in my house. This required the gifting of several different friends to help me decorate, chose which products to carry, create a menu and business cards, and one even hosted an opening night party for me!

~I called a neighbor friend crying so hard all I could squeak out was “You home?” to which she arrived one minute later. My son had busted his head open and dripped blood all around the house trying to find me. She watched my other two (because my husband was out of town) so I could take him to the ER, and even programmed it in my phone so I could find my way through teary eyes!

~Through the encouragement and prayers of many dear friends and family members I finally starting writing the book I’ve been dreaming of writing for over 7 years. (And because of them, I even went to an incredible conference called She Speaks (where I met the beautiful and delightful Heather!!), which put my butt in gear and got me writing!

~I “let” friends bring me dinner when my husband is out of town. (I’m telling you this was a hard one for me, to actually say, “yes, dinner would be amazing, because otherwise we’re having nuggets or eggs again).

~I let dear friends watch my kids. Sometimes so I can sleep, other times so I only have to take one sick child to the doctor (a huge, huge help!!) And once, a friend watched my kids so I could go get a pedicure!! (I was on day 9 of my husband being out of town, and she offered to watch my two kids so my 10-month-pregnant self could be pampered!)

I guess what I’m getting at is this: we’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village.” But I’ve realized I don’t need a whole dang village. I just need a few. A few rare and beautiful gems. And for me, some live close, while sadly, others are far away. But they are women who lift me up and point me to Jesus. They are women who love me unconditionally. They are women who ask me hard questions, and hold me accountable in many areas of my life. They are women who I laugh the hardest with and cry the ugliest with. They are women who have taught me how to let them in deeper still. Women who aren’t afraid of the sleep deprivation, the tantrums, the ugly, and the messy. Women I cannot do this fun, wild, hectic thing called life without.

So when was the last time you let someone help you? Are there people in your life that you have truly let in? Do you have a support system surrounding you? If so, perhaps consider sending them a note telling them just how special they are to you. And if not, I understand. I’ve been there. I’m about to be there again. So join me in praying. Come boldly before the Father, as I am. Let’s ask Him to provide amazing friends we can do life with, or maybe we just need to ask Him to show us how to go deeper with the friends He’s already put in our path.

A Little Thought From Heather:

When I think of the phrase “chance encounters,” I think of Jessica.  It’s why I’m not a big believer in “chance encounters” but rather in “divine appointments.”  

She and I thought we were just staying at a hotel close to the writers/speakers conference we were attending.  And we both thought we were just grabbing a bite to eat at the end of the pre-conference meetings.  I actually planned to take my food to the room and work on blog stuff while I ate.  But the Lord orchestrated our meeting along with three other women.  Hours later we had transitioned from the hotel cafe to the hotel lobby where we had our own prayer meeting for one another’s needs, callings and visions.  

My heart was prepared to meet Jessica.  Our family had recently returned from our very first foreign missions trip and here I met her, learning of her and her husband’s history as missionaries and their amazing miraculous journey through infertility.  It was one of those things where you just don’t want to ask, but then again you do.  I’m not sure how it eventually came up, but she proceeded to share with us the births of her two children and that in fact, she was expecting again (accompanying miracle number three as shown in the above photo).

Jessica is working on composing this beautiful story into a book, all while raising her three little people AND transitioning back to living in a foreign country.  In the meantime, you can gain nuggets of joy and inspiration as she shares her life through her blog. Please take some time to visit her at jessicastone.org   ❤ Heather

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A Valuable Run: Making Family Devotionals a Reality

There are tons of good ideas that are never put into practice.  Many different factors can be the cause.  Ones that I’ve experienced personally are: lack of direction, self-doubt, and good intentions.

The last one listed may throw you for a loop, because there is a lot of good that can come from good intentions.  But as I’m discussing in the book I’m writing, good intentions by itself can cause much harm and damage.  There needs to be more than a good intention if we’re going to actually accomplish something of value, as we’ll see in this post.

There’s a lot to learn from runners.  Some of which was illustrated for me this past Friday during Jaron’s first cross-country meet.  Before the official run, the team got familiar with the track.  They both walked and ran the course, giving them a mental approach in how to tackle it for the run.

I, myself, have never been in an official “run,” unless my treadmill programs and occasional outside run with Brandon count for anything.  But my experience with physical exertion led me to pick up on a few things that relate to our family morning devotionals.

For years I had the desire to have a consistent time for family devotionals. (Key word here is consistent.  We’d find the time here and there, but it was more there than here if you know what I mean).

Countless families have spoke of their family devotional time over the years, but it hit me when we were in….are you ready for it?….dun dun dunnn…..you guessed it—small group!  I told ya we’d make it back for another treasured nugget from attending small group, or life group or Sunday school or whatever we may call it– or as my high school geometry teacher would put it, “whatever floats your boat.”  (I just loved that lady!)

Years and years ago, in our small group class, our friend Dayna shared how her family had their own little service in their living room one night a week growing up.  They got into the Word of God, they had worship, they shared needs and they prayed.  How incredible is that?!  Sign me up!  We’re going to do that with our family!

Only we didn’t.

Through the years I kept thinking it’d pan out.  I envisioned the season Brandon was out of engineering school– then we’d be home together in the evenings and could have what Dayna’s family had.  Well, before we knew it, we had another baby, then I was in nursing school– rarely home for quality family time.  We juggled.  We juggled goals, educations and careers.  We juggled dance recitals, horse riding lessons, soccer practice, basketball practice, baseball practice, birthday parties and school activities and yes, church activities too.

The opportunity for consistent family devotionals was not happening.  Nope.  An open door of time never presented.  So a couple of years ago we created one.

We had to let go of what we thought family devotional time should look like.  We evaluated what would work for our family and we did it.

This is how it looks in our house. At 7:45am we grab our Bibles, sit at either the table or in the living room, read a small bit and pray.

Why is this so important? While we may have a solid daily quiet time with the Lord, we can’t assume our kids will. Think of how long it took for you to get to the place of such commitment. When it comes to establishing a daily devotional time, we need to realize that our kids may need some spiritual spoon-feeding. In their concrete thinking ways, they don’t even know to tell you they’re spiritually hungry. Just assume they are and feed them…daily.

What do we pray? The Word of God is alive and active so we pray what we read over our children each morning.  We pray for the challenges they may face, for the opportunities they may have to show love and kindness, we pray for their teachers, friends and fellow classmates.  This is also the time we pray as a family for the needs of others– from lost dogs to friends with cancer, we bring it in the morning.

Let me tell you.  Once the commitment is made, everything, I mean everything will come in opposition to that time.  There are mornings we haven’t moved as efficiently, or maybe are trying to multi-task too much.  Our allotted fifteen minutes dwindles.  So here’s a couple different things we’ve done.

We set the timer. If we only have seven minutes, we set the timer so we are sure to leave on time and we take the seven minutes. Other times we don’t even have that, so we grab our Bibles and read a little in the car and pray on the way.  Occasionally, we’ve had to condense it even more, grabbing just one scripture to discuss and having prayer.

Friends, the Lord knows our hearts.  So many times we can’t give Him what we think we should so we end up giving nothing.  Just give something.  Start somewhere.  Who knows, maybe it’ll end up looking like what Dayna’s family had, but you’ll never know until you start.

So how in the world does this relate to a runner?

Well–

#1 Have a Game Plan.  Remember how Jaron got to familiarize himself with his course before he ran it?  That gave him a game plan of how to approach it and how to pace himself.  We need a game plan for our family devotional time.  Explore what would be the best approach for you.  Carve out what time you can.  This is going to look different for so many of us.  Develop a plan.  God will honor it.

#2 Let Others Motivate You.  When Jaron ran Friday, the other runners helped him improve his time!  He said he passed seven people during the run.  With each person he passed he wondered if he could pass another.  It was his motivation to keep going and it resulted in improvement.  That’s what Dayna did for our family.  While we’ve not developed a time reflective of the one she had growing up, we did develop one.  If it weren’t for her sharing so specifically and so personally what it meant to her growing up, I don’t know that we’d have hung on to the intention for so long.  We finally made something happen.  And remember, something is better than nothing. Maybe my children will further build upon what we’re doing now and do even more for their family devotional time with their kids!

#3 Just Do It (I’m not sure it’s even legal for me to say that– so for the sake of covering my fanny- let’s just tip our hat to Nike right about now). This is where we get back to the good intentions. We need more than mere good intention.  We need commitment. When we’re committed, we’ve resolved to do something.  If it’s a commitment then it’s strong, determined and unwavering. Sometimes we look at the course and think it’s too difficult; possibly too many hills and too far to the finish line. But once you are going you realize how doable it is and how great it feels each time you finish. There’s only a feeling of accomplishment after a good run. It never feels wasted. It feels good. The same goes with those family devotions. Just start the run!

Psalm 92:2 NLT
It is good to proclaim Your unfailing love in the morning,
Your faithfulness in the evening,

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Choose this link to see a video of our storyJaron 08.26.2016 Cross Country Bacone

 

 

Why Attend Small Group

It’s funny how despite reminders on my phone and a color coded calendar I occasionally overlook the date for school pictures or even the deadline for school fundraisers, but amazingly can recall what someone said over a decade ago.

I suppose once something gets in my heart it sticks.

Since we got married, Brandon and I have been in some type of small group at our church. Traditionally, it’s been referred to as “Sunday School,” but the same gathering has been given a more modernized term, now known as “small group.” Whatever we may choose to call it, it’s been an instrumental part of our family’s development.

Through our time in small group, people have spoke volumes into our hearts. And while the small group leaders are obviously a huge component of what has been delivered in that time, it wasn’t the small group leaders alone who always seemed to give exactly what we needed in the particular season of life, our marriage, or our family.

For instance, I remember our friends, Penny and Daniel being transparent, giving our class some humble insight into what may potentially unfold on any given Sunday morning in their home when their girls were little. Daniel shared that although there were occasional mornings in which they had to run out of the house with dishes left in the sink, it seemed to irritate Penny increasingly more on Sunday mornings– until he brought it to her attention. After which she realized it wasn’t so much the dishes that bothered her as much as it was a tool being used to steal her heart and focus away from what the Lord had in store for her in service those particular days.

This awareness seriously revolutionized our Sunday mornings. When our children were little, if they happened to be screaming and crying through the process of trying to get ready, if Brandon and I were irritated with one another, if the coffee mug lid leaked on the outfit I finally decided to wear, if we were running fifteen minutes late (or possibly even more), and yes, if there was a disaster left in the kitchen, I’d think, “This is what Daniel and Penny were talking about. This isn’t going to distract me from what I’m about to give and get today.”

And in the instance I forgot, someone else remembered. Let’s face it, sometimes we just feel like saying, and may actually go right ahead and say, “Forget it!” That’s been me. Especially in the instances of running super late. But that is when Brandon would say and does say, “No, we’re going.” I’d argue, “What’s the point? We’re only going to be there for like twenty minutes before class is over.” Brandon wouldn’t and doesn’t let up, so we load up. We may be grumbly and gripey, but we go. And we are always so glad we do. It diffuses and distracts from whatever mishap may have occurred. We grow, realizing what we would have missed out on, even if it is sheer determination that gets us there. The realization reinforces our commitment.

I’m going to share another instance in the next post of how someone contributing in small group has revolutionized the dynamic of our home. I hope you come back and receive from it. It’s all in effort to pass on to you what others have passed on to us– those thoughts which have been influential and effective for our family.

Today, let me leave with some encouragement (and maybe a little nudge) to get involved in a small group if you’re not already. Here are a few things to keep close to your heart:

1. Shop around. Okay, that may not be the best term to use, but cut me a little slack. I’ve heard some people say that some churches are clickish. Well, yes. They are. ***WHAT?!?!?!**** Did I really just say that?! I did. (❤️ and ☺️ ). Let’s change our view of it a little. “Clickish” has such a negative tone to it, but honestly, we can’t take 600 people for instance and expect everyone to have the same interests and personalities. I mean, good grief, there are only 6 people in my house and I only have about three meals that please every single one of them. Every other dinner is consumed from a grateful heart and a hungry belly, not necessarily from an enthusiasm for what’s on the table. We can’t please everyone, every time. With that in mind, when you’re at church pray and ask the Lord to direct you as to where He wants you to serve and receive in the body of believers. There is a place for you. I promise. But it can take a bit of effort in finding it.

2. Be transparent. Okay, again. I say that with caution. I’m not implying you walk into a class and air your dirty laundry (and yes, we all have dirty laundry– from the pulpit to the pew we all need a good wash cycle). What I’m trying to encourage is for you to find a group of people who are willing to walk life with you, sharing the struggles as seamlessly as the celebrations. Brandon and I have so many times, I mean SOOO many times thought and expressed, “We’re not the only ones.” Daniel and Penny’s dirty dish story may have not been a three point spiritual lesson, but it was profound for a young couple with a young family. I mean people– I’m going back to a memory over thirteen years ago. You can’t convince me that’s not profound right there! I’m so grateful for their transparency and I hope to sharpen others by my willingness to be the same.

3. Seasons change. And so will your group. This doesn’t mean we drop the relationships, it just means we get to make more. We haven’t been in the same group with Daniel and Penny for I don’t know how long, but they’ll always be in our treasure chest of special people. A motto I share frequently is, “life is about people.” We need people. We need personal connection. Allow the Lord to move you in the different seasons to make those connections He desires to work through. Now that’s not saying change all the time. Let’s be people who commit, but when we’ve grown from young married to a family with young children to raising teenagers (Lord, help us all), we need to receive from, give to and be sharpened by those who have been-there-done-that or who are doing and surviving (😉 know you’re not alone).

Alrighty. Ready. Set. Go.

Find that group waiting for you! You have something to contribute and something to receive.

I’ll meet ya back here next time to share another nugget deposited into us by our small group. It’s a good one.

Hebrews 3:6 NLT
But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

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Not So Amazing

Do you ever wake up feeling amazing? Most mornings I wake up feeling tired. And when I start thinking about everything that needs to happen in that one day, I try to find encouragement counting down the hours until I get to go back to bed. Not so amazing, huh?

Nevertheless, at times, in the realities of daily living, we might have the blessing of hearing someone say, “You’re amazing!” It may not be a big to-do, but it’s stated. However, do we ever really feel they’re right? Most likely not. Regardless, we probably keep shooting for “amazing,” despite never really feeling like we are.

I live in Not-So-Amazing land.

Giving your kid gum before they get out of the car because the teeth-brushing event never happened that morning is not so amazing.

Starting the day off having a very loud motivational speech with your teenager regarding self-centeredness and responsibility is not so amazing.

Or perhaps one of my most shining mother moments; discovering one son doesn’t have any clean underwear before a game, but grabbing some out of the washer’s spin cycle and having him hang them out the window on the drive seems efficient for drying. Again….not so amazing.

Should I even bring up overdue library books? And all I’ve touched on is mothering! There’s countless more scenarios on that topic alone, and then factor in those of wife, and nurse. Oh like a time I obtained a heel stick lab on a baby’s heel that would hardly bleed, squeezing and squeezing until the bullets were full, only to drop them on the floor on my way to the tube station. I just can’t even.

Allow me to move on before I call to make an appointment for therapy Monday.

We all have our specifics of why we don’t feel amazing. And we probably live closer to those realities than to the ones when we actually do demonstrate amazing. Yes, we all have our amazing moments. We just let them drift out of our memories easier, if we ever let them take up a memory spot to begin with.

We have a God who is awe-and-wonder amazing! He created us in His image and He thinks amazing things about us! (He thinks amazing things about us even though He knows our ugly truths).

And even better… right in the middle of our everyday life, He wraps up “amazing” and gives it to us.

Do you remember last week’s post, Not So Grateful? If so, you’ll remember I was having some ho-hum feelings about myself just before my birthday. I was evaluating myself with questioning the value of my life.

No one, not even myself, could have anticipated that I’d be having those type of thoughts at that particular time. But God did. And let me share with you about how perfect His timing is in our life.

Months before, I mean months before my March 23rd birthday, in October, my mom received a Facebook message from our sweet new friends in Massachusetts. You may remember them from We’re Moving or Everything is Awesome or The Meadows in Massachusetts. Joel and Lori are the couple who gave us this online home- heathermeadows.com.

Needless to say, we have a very unique and special connection, a connection we know without a doubt was woven by the hand of God. Brandon and I had prayed for their hearts before we ever even knew them, asking the Lord to speak to them regarding His will for the website. And these people, not only touched our hearts and lives when we met them in Massachusetts last year, but they touched my heart and life when they showed up on my front porch to give me a surprise happy birthday wish!  And did they ever surprise me.  The video is at the end of the post if you’d like to see.

Only amazing moments like those come from an amazing Father who loves us so.

Every now and then God grabs our attention in amazing ways and reminds us of His amazing love.

T.D. Jakes said we jump to knowing what God did without pausing to think why He did it. Don’t read over John 3:16 to quickly, “ For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We have to understand why God gave His son. It was because He loved. And He didn’t just love. He so loved.*

And His love, well it makes me feel just amazing!

God took some crummy feelings, that I pretty much think He knew I was going to be feeling, and He presented something amazing to me on my birthday and reminded me that I am loved in amazing ways!

Those are the things we need to box up for keeping. And when those days roll around that you realize you forgot your wallet after ringing up all your groceries, or have walked through the mall with toilet paper stuck to your shoe or possibly may even be drying some underwear driving down the road; pull out your box and take out a little dose of amazing.

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*TD Jakes from The Potter’s Touch on 2/28/2016

Birthday Surprise Video

Your Best Version

It’s an exciting season in our home. When I say “season,” I’m talking season ten of The Voice. There is rarely an evening during the week our family is home together; therefore, we have marathon viewings of the show over the weekend.

We’re somewhat new fans of the show. We’ve watched it from time-to-time, but last season we were blown away with the blind auditions. Barrett Baber sang one of my favorites, “Angel Eyes” by The Jeff Healey Band. But you know what had us captivated from the get-go, Jordan Smith’s rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier.” His story and message touched us as deeply as his vocals. We were tuned in to the very last episode when he was announced the winner.

Here we are now, back to snatching some time to snuggle on the sofa and watch our singing show. We’ve enjoyed seeing the unique artistic expression delivered in singing original hit songs. The contestants are quite talented in making a song their own, while keeping with the aspects audiences love most about the song. They can’t change it too much or we wouldn’t connect with it. And if they didn’t change it enough, we’d find it unoriginal. It’s a balancing act; one that appears to make them thrive.

Their performances demonstrate just how many different versions can be made from just one song. And that makes me realize how very much we are like a song.

A pleasant sound fell on my ears last fall when my friend and I were driving in the car. With a belt of laughter she exclaimed, “Heathe, you are like one big exclamation mark!” I loved that description. Some have said, “loud.” Some are subtler saying my “voice carries.” And yes, I’ve been informed that some have determined I talk too much.

At times I’ve allowed this feedback to soak in, trying to grow from it. It’s all in the balance, like those artists balancing originality with nostalgia. The desire is to grow into the best version of myself. Because you know what? Just like a song, we have different versions of ourselves.

It’s a conversation I had with one of the kids recently. We discussed a few different points when considering what makes us the best version of ourselves.

First, we are uniquely made. We love Psalm 139 imagining how we were knit together in our mother’s womb. We find comfort knowing the Lord is familiar with all our ways; we have security knowing He goes before us and follows us and that His hand of blessing is on our head. When we’re sharpening ourselves to be better, let us start with the One who made us.

One of our children has made the statement, “I’m just trying to find myself.” Honestly, it irritated me. I know it’s normal. I know those are thoughts we’ve all expressed in our quest for personal identity. But there’s a misconception in it. The world implies you’ll find yourself if you venture into a variety of places, trying an assortment of things. Yes, I’m being vague. I’ll allow you to fill in the “places” and “things.” The possibilities are innumerable. The point is, we’re not going to find our true self wrapped up in a package under some tree in the Wild Blue Yonder. Finding ourselves is found in seeking the One who made us. As we seek the Lord, He reveals who He designed us to be— the best version at that.

Secondly, we have to be mindful of the company we keep. We’ve witnessed what is mentioned in I Corinthians 15:33, bad company corrupting good character. Many times we take this scripture and pair it with II Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

A great Word to direct us in the relationships we form. But remember, there is more to building close relationships than labeling someone as a believer. There’s been a lot of characteristics I’ve seen in the church that I know doesn’t make our Father proud. Yes, some of them even coming from yours truly.

I remember a close friend who was a great person, and loved the Lord. However, she was really negative. She had frequent complaints about her husband and her in-laws. After some time, I found similar critical thoughts crossing my mind. God was super gracious to reveal that my friendship with her wasn’t bringing out the best version of myself.

Finally, on the thought of friendship, we need a pride.

Last year my heart was greatly encouraged by reading Lisa Bevere’s Lioness Arising. It’s a book speaking to the strength of women and the importance of women in the lives of one another. God is so good to give us family, friends and a church to groom us through the journey of life.

Lisa informs us that lionesses groom each other’s hard to reach areas, the head and neck. She says, “Because we belong to Jesus, we are clean. But even so, in the course of a day, our feet can get dirty, and sometimes, depending on where we’ve been or what we’ve done or worn, our feet can even get stinky.” She connects this to Jesus washing the disciples feet in John 13 saying, “the foot washing symbolizes how we can refresh and restore each other, especially when the paths we tread get us dirty.”

The point is—we need one another. Allow me to share a final thought of Lisa’s with you, “friendships and churches without connection and interaction will not groom you for God’s purpose.”

God intends to use us to strengthen, encourage and uplift one another. Let me tell you, I’ve been in some miry clay this past year. I’ve had some mountaintop moments accompanied by as many valley low heartaches. How would I have pressed through without the connections and interactions the Lord provided to groom me from my special relationships?

Three things to keep in mind: you are uniquely made, seek the Lord to lead you as He designed you; be mindful of the company you keep exerting caution around negative emotion; have your people, we all need restored and refreshed from time-to-time.

It makes for a beautiful picture and a beautiful sound….

the best version of you!

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[Lioness Arising, Chapter 7 – Lisa Bevere]

OUCH

We’re all familiar with the numeric pain assessment scale. How many times have you been asked the question, “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” My Aunt Donna has been asked the question several times over the last week in recovering from her second knee replacement for the year.  My favorite illustration of this process is when Baymax assesses Hiro in this clip from Disney’s Big Hero 6.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEeBXUUOBiI

The answer is not as easy to obtain when dealing with children. In those instances, the FLACC scale may be used to determine the level of pain. There is also the FACES pain scale used to help children identify their pain.  I remember as a child it was a challenge being asked many times over not only to rate my pain but also to describe my pain. It’s a difficult thing for children to be able to articulate the source of their pain and the intensity of it.

We can understand that though, can’t we?  Is it much different with all people? Not really. We’re proficient in expressing our physical pain, but those emotional wounds are another story. Wouldn’t it be nice to point to a face to indicate our emotional anguish or just slap a Band-Aid on those hurts until they heal?

Makes me think of Caden around four and five years old. Even the slightest of injuries warranted a Band Aid. And when I say “slightest of injuries,” I’m leaning heavily on the slightest end, referring to the most minor abrasion. Yes, that’s the delicate way of saying he wanted a Band Aid even for scratches. You know nurses, we assess the need, which only qualifies if there is an inclusion of blood, and many times over I assessed that Caden didn’t need a Band Aid. However, it didn’t take long to realize that he wasn’t like his big sister and big brother; he couldn’t be reasoned with about his injury. Forget the need, if Caden wanted a Band Aid, we weren’t moving on until Caden had a Band Aid. Soon I reveled in the simplicity of it. “Just slap a Band Aid on there and it’ll all be fine.” Oh if that were only the case in life.

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Gavin made this at church a few months ago.

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Seemed an appropriate message for the blog topic.

In the NICU we utilize NPASS to assess pain in neonates. Babies can’t tell us how they are feeling, so we gather information in regards to their crying and irritability, their behavior, their facial expression, the tone of their extremities and their vital signs to assess their level of pain. These indicators help us meet their need. Sound familiar?

How often do we see people hurting who won’t verbalize they are hurting? Let’s go even closer to home. How many times are you hurting and you never tell anyone your level of pain? Or here’s one more that might need a Band Aid after I put it out there. How many times has someone let you know of their pain and you only made the hurt deeper?

The last two weekends I have had the opportunity to take part in some very special retreats to speak into the lives of some very special women. I pray much hope, healing and love was received from our time together.

Of those retreats, one was based on the book Captivating by Stasi Eldredge. I was one of six speakers who poured our lives out to those in attendance. The point of it all is that we are all wounded. Recognizing those wounds make us cognizant to the enemy’s methods of attack. The defeated foe wants to use our pain to render us ineffective for the Lord.

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This retreat was a time women were speaking to women to heal wounds. Unfortunately, far too often women speaking to women can intensify the wound.

How?

Well, with the same things that bring healing can also bring hurt.

Wisdom and Words.

In James 3:13-18 we learn there are TWO kinds of wisdom.

  1. earthly, unspiritual demonic
  2. from above

Proverbs 18:20 we learn there are TWO kinds of words.

  1. Death
  2. Life

When someone trusts us enough to invite us into their wound, when they trust us enough to indicate their level of pain, let us be careful to use wisdom from above that, “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere;” and let us be careful with our words that they may speak life.

James 3:13-18 ESV  —  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Proverbs 18:21 ESV  — Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Toby Mac says it well in Speak Life, “We can turn a heart with the words we say. Mountains crumble with every syllable. Hope can live or die”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeBv9r92VQ0

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