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Creating A Purposeful Season of Thanks: Study 2

Creating A Purposeful Season of Thanks: Study 2

“Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mineWhen thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon theeFor I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.”  ~Isaiah 43:1b-4a

Labels.  They are often a necessity, and when in the right context they are SO helpful!  I  for one am thankful my hairspray has a label on it!  If it didn’t, I would end up accidentally picking up a can of something else and instead of having a hairstyle that stays in place, I could have a radical new hair color!

What about labels in the kitchen?  Labels on spices are helpful aren’t they?  The dinners in our household would  quickly turn into something awfully peculiar if we suddenly had WB0933574nothing on the bottles to distinguish one seasoning from another!  We rely on labels to be correct, true, real!

When it comes to many household products, brands of clothing, labels on groceries, etc these can be so helpful and very needed.  Yet, how often do we carry false labels around that we or others have placed on us?

When we stand in front of our mirror, instead of seeing ourselves the way God sees us, we are often blinded by false branding.

“Failure”, “Incompetent”, “Ugly”, “Loner”, “Introvert”, “Perfectionist”, “Messy”, “Unworthy”, and on the list goes.

We consistently find ourselves so busy believing those descriptions, that we are unable to quiet our minds and hear what God calls us.  I’ve been there, have you?

The past several weeks or so I found myself in this battle.  I would look in the mirror or lie in bed at night and only see the headline, “Wendy, also synonymous with failure!”

 I felt as if I was falling so short as a wife, making far to many mistakes as a mom, inundated with the sense of failing in my role as Pastor’s wife, and then when it came to getting my book published, goodness what was I thinking?  How could God ever use this book in the life of someone else?  There I sat in my defeat, having an early Thanksgiving feast on the lies that my enemy willingly fed me by the spoonfuls!  Failure was etched loved_newacross my forehead, or so I thought.

Oh friend, how thankful we can be that God takes the time to remind us, He calls us different names then we call ourselves.  When we look in the mirror and see “failure”, God says, “No, you are victorious through Me!”  Romans 8:37, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

When we lay in bed engulfed by loneliness, He says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”, Hebrews 13:5b.  Then reminds us He is, “a friend that sticketh closer than a thumb-forgivenbrother.” Proverbs 18:24

We tend to be so hard on ourselves, berating ourselves again and again with sins we have already been forgiven for.  God says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” Colossians 2:13-14

God has a whole other set of names He calls us and all of them are the complete opposite of what the enemy shouts to us.  God speaks in a still small voice, the enemy does not.

Believe what God calls you and says about you!  Cling to the names He has given you!  Remember, when Satan begins to heap doubt on us, when he begins to bring up the labels that are not ours to begin with, remember, the enemy is a liar!  Let Christ speak truth to your heart!

Be encouraged!

Many Blessings,

Wendy

ps: If this has been an encouragement, please feel free to share it with others!

Images courtesy of this website.

My Newly Released book, Made Only For Heaven

My Newly Released book, Made Only For Heaven

Ten years ago my brand new husband and I had just celebrated our five month anniversary when we discovered we were expecting our very first baby!  The moment the stick turned pink and we were instantly delighted!  Hopes and dreams for our coming baby filled our hearts to the brim and our excitement could hardly be contained!  Our very own baby!

Fast forward a few weeks and I found myself at home recovering from Coveremergency surgery and along with being a new bride, I was now a grieving mother.  Hopes and dreams of our expectant baby had come crashing down around us and shattered into a thousand tiny pieces.

Miscarriage is not a common topic and I found myself dealing with a grief so deep I dared not mention it.  Little did we know we would not just lose our first baby, but the Lord would also give and take four more of our expectant little ones.  One of which I labored, delivered, and held our sweet Elioenai Matthew.

Delivering our stillborn son was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through.  He was beautiful.  He was perfectly formed and it made no sense as to why he had died.  The day after I delivered him I was discharged from the hospital and instead of walking out with a precious healthy baby cradled in my arms, I left with only a hard box filled with mementos the hospital so graciously gave us.  As my husband and I walked out, everything in my heart burned inside! I wanted to turn around and RUN back to my baby boy, scoop him up, and hold him once more!  This just was not fair!

Guilt, pain, loneliness, grief, and a real struggle with God’s plan for my happily ever after captivated my life.  This was not the story I ever expected for my life.

But God.  I am so thankful for those “But God” moments!

God took my fragile shattered heart and piece by piece He ever so gently began to put it back together.

There were and still are, so many tears.  To this day, five and a half years later, I cannot look you in the eye and talk about our Eli boy without a lump lodging in my throat and tears streaming down my cheeks.  I have come to learn though that it is okay, and I am not alone!

Grief is real, it is a valley, but grace can go along with it.

God is big enough and strong enough to handle our real struggles!  He is able to grant us the faith we need when our faith is wavering.  He is touched by our pain (Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.“), and He never expects us to walk through this life alone!  His peace will surpass our understanding and His grace will prove to be sufficient.

Because of God’s grace, I have been able to write and complete my newly released book, Made Only For Heaven.  This book is designed to help others who have been through this journey, or are still on it, to share that there is HOPE for Healing!  It is okay to grieve!  It is okay to weep!  It is important to remember, this is not your fault!  I want to come along side you and let you know, you sweet friend, are not alone!  I get the pain you are going through, it runs deep, and it really is not anything you just “get over”, we simply learn to move forward.

If you or someone you love has been through a loss like these, please share with them this book.  I yearn to encourage them through sharing my own journey and the struggles and victories through it.

Sometimes when someone we know suffers a loss like this we just do not know what to say and we find ourselves putting our foot in our mouth in an attempt to be helpful!  This book will give those who have never endured such a loss, to get a glimpse into the pain their loved one is going through.  Sometimes they don’t need our words, they need our shoulder to cry on.

I am thankful God’s grace is sufficient and that He will provide the healing we need.

Head on over to Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or on the ibook app and get your copy today!

Many Blessings,

Wendy

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Becoming Hospitable: WEEK 3

Becoming Hospitable: WEEK 3

Dinner time…. it comes every day and sometimes it still catches me off guard!  Maybe it has been a really busy day or maybe it is just because I have a lack of planning when it comes to meals.  Either way, I find myself scrounging in the cupboards looking for something to make!  As much as I would love to be a consistent meal planner, so often I am not and instead I rely on what is in my pantry to give me an idea!

When it comes to hosting people in our homes, it is a wise idea to not let dinner take us off guard!

Now that we have come full circle, learning that our homes do not have to be perfect in order to be hospitable and that God wants us to be hospitable to more than just those within our close circle of friends and family, where do we go from here?

I simply want to share with you a game plan so the next time we sense the Holy Spirit prompting us to open our door and welcome in new people, we will not be tempted to say no!

First, make an attempt to keep the house somewhat picked up and clean on a regular basis Okay, don’t panic!  I have a two year old in my house, I know a tidy home is not always possible!  I have had unplanned company arrive at my doorstep and they have seen the toys on the floor, the counter tops covered in crumbs from lunch time, and dust on my bookshelf!  However, I have found that if I try to keep my home clean on a regular basis, it won’t be quite so overwhelming when company is coming!  I won’t feel like I have to clean the entire house top to bottom and run a white glove over my surfaces.  When company is coming, a light cleaning does the trick and if I don’t get to those dusty surfaces, it’s really going to be okay!  Dust is just a part of life.

Second, plan a meal you have already made previously and know is delicious and even family friendly.  The night company comes is not the night to try a new dinner or Exterior shot of an open Wooden Front Doordessert idea you found on Pinterest!  Cobblers and I do not go together well.  I remember one evening as a young bride I tried my hand at a peach cobbler to serve for dessert with my in-laws.  Something went very very wrong with that cobbler.  It looked so pretty, and I served it to my new husband and his parents and as I sat down and stuck my fork into my own helping, oh it was awful! It was worse than awful, it was downright horrible!  My charming husband gracefully took bite after bite in an effort to spare my feelings, and my in-laws were so very gracious.  Not one unkind comment was made, but I was mortified!  My beautiful cobbler tasted like glue!  I quickly learned my lesson!  When having company, stick with a tried and true recipe that you know how to fix.  It will spare much potential embarrassment!

Third, simply enjoy your company. We shouldn’t be more consumed with having a perfect home and a five star meal than we are sharing God’s love with those around our table.  Let the cares of the day fall to the floor and ask God to use you to minister to those in your home.  Life can be tough sometimes, our days can be stressful, our schedules tight, but taking the time to enjoy the company of others is often so needed.  We need each each others encouragement and fellowship and if we overwhelm ourselves with things that don’t really matter much anyway, we will miss out on wonderful blessing of getting to know others!

As we wrap up this series, let’s make a commitment to become more hospitable to others.  The next time the opportunity presents itself to be hospitable, let’s accept it with open arms!  Let’s not stress out about the condition of our home, let’s step outside of our comfort zones, and enjoy the fellowship!

Proverbs 3:27-28 says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”

God has blessed us with so much, let’s seek to be a blessing to others!

Many Blessings,

Wendy

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Images courtesy of this website.

Becoming Hospitable: Week 2

Becoming Hospitable: Week 2

We were newly married and living in a shoe box of a home and we got this hair-brained idea to entertain!  One of the first people {aside from family} we entertained in our home was a missionary couple.  My husband and I had only been married a few short months but we were excited {and slightly terrified!}!  My husband had known this couple from before we had even met, but I had not yet met them.  I was a shy, nervous, bride but I really wanted to be hospitable!  I can count on one finger the amount of times we had people in our home growing up.  It just was not something my family did, however my husband had grown up in a home that was the complete opposite!  His parents had people in their home frequently.

I do not even remember what it was I had fixed for dinner, but I remember fixing a mousse for dessert because this couple were missionaries to France and mousse sounded so French.  My mind ran wild before they arrived with thoughts of, what was I going to say?  What if I burned the meal?  Praise the Lord things went off without a hitch and the mousse was absolutely luscious!

In the previous post we mentioned how we often put pressure on ourselves to have a perfect home before we welcome others in, but we learned that an inviting home has more to do with our attitude than it does our clean floors and counter tops.

So now that we have taken the pressure off of ourselves to have everything perfect before becoming hospitable, what do we do?  Well, I am so glad you asked!

The second step is, being hospitable does not just mean we open our homes to only those we know.  Though having family and friends over is wonderful and enjoyable and is something we often love doing, the essence of hospitality does not end with having only friends and family gather.  It also means to entertain those we may not know very well or even at all!

This can seem so intimidating right?  Having people in our home that we do not know can seem a bit frightening even!  Friends, can I be honest and share with you, I am as shy as shy can be!  One of the scariest things for me is walking up to complete strangers {such as new visitors to our church} and putting myself out there in an attempt to make them feel welcome.  I like my back row in the church and I would sit there quietly without disturbing a soul thank.you.very.much.  Isn’t it funny that my comfort zone is completely opposite of what God has called me as a Christian and also Pastors wife to do?  Walking up to the newcomers and making conversation, being warm and welcoming.  The more I do it though, the easier it has become.  I have found I care more about making people who enter our church doors to feel welcomed and loved than I do about my own comfort zone.

The same can be said about opening up our homes to those we may not know well.  The more we do it, the better we become at it and the more we will find ourselves wanting to be hospitable!

My mother in-law is amazing at this.  She and my father in-law have had countless people through their home and they love having them in!  My mother in-law makes everyone feel right at home and is quite possibly the most hospitable person I know!  A guest speaker comes to town? She has them in for dinner!  A traveling college ensemble?  They are bunking in her spare rooms or on the living room floor!  Everyone from family to complete strangers have sat at her dining table and she welcomes each one with open arms.  I want hospitalityto be just like that!

When we choose to stay within our comfort zones and only entertain people we are comfortable with, we can miss out on tremendous blessings!  Hebrews 13:2 states, Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 

God desires for His children to be hospitable.  He blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.  Let’s see what Romans 12:9-13, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”  

The best way to become hospitable is to simply take the first step!  Invite someone in!  Remember, our homes do not have to be perfect, we just need to be welcoming!

Maybe you are like me, you are shy or more introverted, and the thought of having strangers in your home terrifies you as it did me the first several times we had people in our home!  I want to let you in on a little secret I have that will help.  Before we have anyone in our home, I pray!  I ask the Lord to help the conversation to flow smoothly and help us to think of things to converse about!  It may seem silly, but sometimes I just have no idea what to say to people!  Praying has helped tremendously!

We have learned that our home does not have to be perfect to be inviting and we have also seen that God wants us to be hospitable to more than just our family and friends.  To come out of our comfort zones in order to be a blessing to others.

Join me in the coming days as we learn to practically apply the two steps we have learned.

Be encouraged!

Wendy

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Image courtesy of this website.

Our Two Year Anniversary at Zion Hill

Our Two Year Anniversary at Zion Hill

Next month will mark two years since my husband accepted the position of Senior Pastor at our church.  Two years that have completely flown by for sure!  On the eve of our two year anniversary since being transplanted to the south, I thought I would share a few observations/lessons I have learned.

  1. We love the people here!  Just before moving here we experienced a very hurtful experience in our former church.  We loved the people there but were extremely hurt and I, in no uncertain terms, wanted to remain in the ministry.  We had been very hurt by those we loved and served and our hearts were wounded.  So when my husband told me after receiving some counsel from close Pastor friends and mentors, that he felt God was calling him to the Sr. Pastorate you can be sure I said, “Ummmmm, I don’t think so!”  However, God did some work on my heart and over time the Lord showed me this was truly His path.  Though the path getting here was quite bumpy and road awfully curvy, I can honestly say I absolutely love where God has planted us.  This California girl has zero southern belle in her, but I love these people!  I love their sweet spirits, (their sweet tea!!) I love the grace they extend, I love that when people walk through our church doors they feel like they have come home, I love seeing them grow, and I love the influence they have on my kids.  I love how everyone here seems to be a good cook, they love to laugh, and we love having them in our home!

      2. God has taught me much the last few years about just being real and not afraid to share that I sometimes struggle too.  This has not always been okay to admit and I have been told in the past, “Our people do not need to know about your struggle.  We don’t want them to think we hired someone who can’t keep it together.”   I find this very sad because listen, I may be the Pastor’s wife, but my spiritual life is still a work in progress and I make mistakes!  I experience victories and defeats. I have to apologize to my husband and kids, I stress about different things just like other people and am learning to not stress but continually give it over to the Lord.  And all of this is okay to admit.  Letting people know that our family is real makes us more approachable and help them know we are normal people just like them!

3.  The more you pray for people, the more you love and care about them and desire to see God’s best for them!  Never have I been so burdened before to pray pray pray for others!  Each morning my husband and I pray together for the people in our church by name.  We want to see God do a work in this church where the only explanation is “Only God could have done this!”  We long to see people desire to be rooted and grounded in God’s Word.  We long to see people with a prayer life that is deeper and more real than ever before.  The more we pray for them the more we care for them.  We want the people in our church to know we love them enough to pray for them by name every day.

4. This was a big one…. I’m almost afraid to admit it.  It has been tough for me to learn that when others are not faithful to church, it is not personal towards my husband.  I used to feel it was.  I thought people didn’t come back on Sunday night or they became hit and miss to church altogether because they didn’t like him, or us, or our family.  I know that may sound totally crazy, but I did for awhile struggle with it!  One day when I admitted this to my husband he said, “It isn’t personal towards us, it is personal towards God. It’s an issue between them and God, not them and us.”  My husband is a very wise man.  But, if I’m being honest here, I have to admit this is something God has taught me.  Sometimes all we can do for people is love them and pray for them and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work only He was meant to do.

5. It has been exciting to watch God grow our church!  He has been doing a great work and answering our prayers!  We have prayed every day that God would grow our church spiritually and numerically and He is doing both!  Just this coming Sunday we are going to have THREE people get baptized and we could not be more ecstatic!  It is thrilling to see God at work!  He is growing our Awana program, He has added more young families to our church, He has opened up opportunities for discipleship, there is just no doubt that He is at work and we are THRILLED to get to be a part of it!

These last two years have been wonderful.  We have rejoiced with those that rejoiced, we have wept and held others while they grieved.  We have seen souls saved and baptized and we have seen God add to His church.  These two years have held mountains and valleys, I have seen God draw me closer to Him and when I am closer to Him, no matter what is going on around us, my heart is at peace.  Ministry life is not always easy, I oftentimes feel we are on the front-lines of the battlefield, however, it is always rewarding.  It is amazing to be able to teach our Cubbies class and see these little ones following along with the story and seeing their attention so captivated as they learn about Jesus!  What an amazing opportunity God has given us to share the love of Jesus with the sweet people of our church and community!  I love 1 Timothy 1:12, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 

God is so good, He is so gracious, and we are thankful for another year He has allowed us to serve alongside these wonderful people!

Not in it for the People

Not in it for the People

Have you ever invested time and energy into something and then it just didn’t work the way it was *supposed* to?  I mean, just last night, I was working away at making some egg rolls for our dinner and I followed my recipe just as I have done in the past and something went very wrong!  I’m not sure what happened but they did not turn out like my egg rolls in the past at all!  Disappointing!

What about people, have you ever invested your time, energy, prayers, and resources into others and then had them disappoint you?  You shared the truth with them and they just turned and walked away or even worse, they didn’t care?  Very disappointing.

I know there have been several times when I poured my life into others and it seemed to have no affect on them.  They went on their merry little way and just did what they wanted to instead of following the straight and narrow path for their life.  Sometimes I took their decision to walk away from God personally. I took it as a personal rejection.  Maybe that is ridiculous to feel that way, but I’m just being real here.

At the conference my husband and I recently attended a speaker said something during one of the sessions that I really needed to hear. It was a gentle reminder that the Lord used to encourage my heart.  He said something along the lines of, if we are in ministry for the people, we will quit.  Boy, how true is that?  How many times have I gone home, nearly in tears, completely drained and said, “I’m done!  They don’t care so why should I?”  Again, maybe I shouldn’t be confessing this publicly, but that is the honest truth.  The speaker went on to share that when we serve because we love the Lord and while we are serving others we are ultimately serving Him, it puts a whole new meaning on everything.

Sometimes we feel the need to be appreciated and want recognition for all that we have done.  It is easy to forget that the rewards for what we do here on earth are remembered in Heaven.  There is One who sees all we do for His names sake and He doesn’t forget.  Loving my neighbor as myself is not necessarily easy if that neighbor is a difficult one, but I have found that when I take the time to spend time with the Lord first and let Him fill my cup, I have more patience and love for those that tend to be more difficult.

It is also good for me to remember that I was once a not so lovable person.  As a teen I was teetering between my flesh and the Holy Spirit.  I had a stinkin’ attitude and I clearly remember a few people in my life who loved me the same no matter what.  Can you believe my own Youth Pastor prayed this prayer in front of me, “Break her heart so she will love and live for You”?  Yes, he cared that much.  I remember the day when I was 15 that the Lord did break my heart.  The release of anger and bitterness was a tremendous weight off of my shoulders.  The tears I held back for 2 long years gave way and I repented.  What a wonderful day that was.  I don’t even want to think about where I would be had it not been for those faithful few who prayed for me and let the Lord use them to love me back to Him.

In the trenches, when it seems that no one is being affected by the ministry God has placed us in, it is so very important to remember that God is the One we are ultimately serving.  We are not responsible for the choices that others make, we are only responsible to live and do what God says we are to do.  When sharing God’s Word with others we can bank on the fact that His Word will not return void.

Don’t give up!  Keep pressing on!  Though you and I may not see the impact we are making on the lives of others because of God working through us, keep plugging away.  God is using you and I in ways that we can’t even see.  Serve because you love the One Who saved your soul!  Serve and keep loving because He has just the people in our lives right now that need the love of Christ to be shown through us.