May 26, 2017

Today....

Hi. Me again.

Well, there are three things that I turn to when I am emotional. Exercise, food, and writing.

I just finished an hour walk so the exercise box is checked.

And, since I a currently doing a 30 day detox [i.e. living H.E.L.L.], the only food I can turn to is healthy whole foods. Umm, no thanks.

So, I made a 3rd cup of coffee instead.

On to my third emotional release...writing.

Today is my kids last day of school for this year.

Joseph finished 10th grade.

Presley finished 6th grade.

Really, all week I have been so "together". I think with all of my focus on this detox I haven't had the emotional energy to cry.

Until today,

I know, I know. I just wrote about finding joy and having intentional joy a few days ago.

Here's the thing: I do have joy. But, I can also have some emotions at times. [i.e. tears flooding my face like Niagara falls]

The end of anything makes me sad.

The end of a vacation. The end of a book. The end of a movie.

I don't like endings.

As I took my therapy walk this morning, I held back tears behind my big fat round sunglasses. My nose was dripping, but I had no tissues. I just let it drip.

On my walk, I did a lot of praying. A lot of talking to Jesus.

At first, I wasn't sure what to say. I was just sad. I just didn't have words. And I told Him so.

Five minutes into my walk, I heard this scripture in my head:

1 Thessalonians 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

It was like God had flipped a switch in my heart.

I was missing something huge in all of this.

I had not thanked Him at all.

I had not thanked Him for my children. And that they were growing and changing.

I had not thanked Him for another sweet year of cherished memories and adventures.

I had not thanked Him that my children were able to pass their classes and move on to the next grade.

I had not thanked Him for anything.

Only complained about my sad heart.

For the next 45 minutes or so on my walk, I spilled out my heart to Him in thankfulness. I even laughed at some of the things I thanked Him for. I was giddy with thankfulness!

In an instant, my heart was lighter. Suddenly I noticed the sky. I noticed the crisp little breeze in the May air. I noticed two birds frolicking right next to me. I noticed a nursing cat and her 4 newborn kittens next to a house I walked by.

Life suddenly seemed sweeter.

I had been so worried about ending and change. All along God has been telling me to "look around, soak up what I am giving you. Be thankful. It will change you."

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

This scripture has never rang more true in my ears.

I had been focused on all of the wrong things, and it was making me miserable.

Oh, friend. If endings or change is hard for you too, I can relate. Oh so well.

But, I promise you with my whole heart that changing your mind-set to thankfulness will change your attitude and perspective.

If you are living and breathing air, you have something to be thankful for. I think the truest enemy to our well-being and contentment is a lack of thankfulness.

Thankfulness sets our hearts free.

Thankfulness brings contentment.

Thankfulness brings joy.

I am committed to praying for all of you today. Your hearts, your children, your families...

May He flood you with such joy!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1


giving thanks,

jill

Presley's last day of 6th grade

Joseph's last day of 10th grade






May 24, 2017

He goes before you...

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

Another school year almost in the books. If you would have told me 5 years ago that I would not be a soggy mess this week, I would have laughed in your cute little face.

I have found it to be true that God prepares us for what is ahead. He prepares our hearts for what is to come.

He goes before us. He hems us in, before and behind.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

How comforting to this momma's heart.

The more time that passes, the more I lean into Him and trust Him. I trust Him with my future, and the futures of my children.

I trust Him, because I look back and see a road of faithfulness behind me. I see His Hand in so many details of my life and in the lives of my children.

This is not to say that the way has not been very, very hard at times. Rocky and hard.

But, He has always been there. Preparing the way. Carrying us at times when needed.

Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing.

Not hard times, not change, not grief, not death, not loss....

He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

If God loves us so much that He knitted us together in our mother's wombs, don't you know all of our details are knitted with the same precision?

All our days, all of our moments. He has ordained them.

He sets our times and destinations.

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
Acts 17:26


Rest your sweet head on that. He knows exactly where you are and where you will be. For the rest of your precious days.

Oh, how He loves you,

jill




I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy.....

[original post date 5/23/14]

This week is always emotional.

The end of a lot of things.

The end of another school year for my kids. The end of having great teachers that teach them.

For some of you, it may be the end of elementary school for your children. The end of middle school for others. The end of high school. The end of college.

Or, the beginning of an empty nest. {oh, I am praying for your hearts as I type this!}

Two years ago, you would find me on the floor, in a puddle, crying my pitiful eyes out.

I don't like change. Let me repeat, I don't like change.

However, last year, God helped me turn the corner with all of this.

This is the verse He gave me:

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."
Proverbs 31:25

Sounds so simple, right?

That is because it is simple!

God showed me last year that I could cry my eyes and out mope around all day.....

Or I can LAUGH and have JOY in weeks like this.

What was I teaching my children being so mopey and pitiful? Absolutely nothing.

Last year at this very time, we celebrated every single day of that last week of school.

This year, we did the same.

Small little gifts for them after school, later bedtimes, their favorite dinners....anything to lighten the mood in this house. (lighten MY mood, that is)

Our Wednesday Surprise...
silly masks!
God showed me that life is about change. Time will not stop until we are with Him in Heaven.

Each tick of the clock, draws us closer to Heaven.

Now that is something to celebrate!

Are you anxious about change? Are you fearful of the future?

Can I just encourage you today?

I want to tell you to laugh at the days to come! Find JOY in these moments!

Yes, they are fleeting, so even the more reason to celebrate them!

We have to be intentional about choosing Joy, sweet friends. It will not always come naturally.

We MUST choose to live in Joy.

We MUST choose to walk in it each day.

I want my children to remember the times we celebrated together. I want them to have warm memories of smiles, laughter, and joy! Not a momma moping around with her chin on the floor.

 
"The hope of the righteous brings joy"
Proverbs 10:28



Today, they will come home from school with one last fun surprise awaiting them.

Today, I will celebrate change instead of mourning it.

Our  challenge:

Celebrate life today! Surprise someone today! Go to the dollar store for your kids, buy your hubby his favorite magazine, pick some pretty flowers to leave on a friend's doorstep, leave a kind note on someone's windshield...

Celebrate!!


finding my joy,


jill

May 15, 2017

Where I'm at.....

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Really, I thought I would be in a different place in this season of my life. I had it all figured out.

I was going to be writing devotionals for Lifeway [ahem, ok, don't laugh], and I would be blogging daily.

Well, both of those things are not happening.

My kids are growing older, and, well, I am too.

5 years ago I longed for this day to be able to write as much as I wanted to! To be able to just sit at the Lord's feet day in and day out soaking up His Wisdom as I sip on my vanilla latte.

Oh, the naivety  of a middle aged woman with a big dreaming heart.

I never dreamed that in this season of my life I would actually have less time to write. Less time to just sit and sip at the feet of Jesus.

Don't get me wrong, I definitely sit with Jesus. Just not all day long like I had imagined.

I just knew I would be blogging daily. Pouring out wisdom from my fingertips. [please try not to spew your coffee laughing].

The more time that goes by, the quieter I become.

I am learning to listen instead of talk.

I am learning that being less means gaining more of Him.

Instead of racking my brain for stories to write, I find myself living out my stories instead of typing them out.

This is so contrary to the life I had imagined.

I do not have life figured out. Or parenting. Or marriage. Or anything really.

But, I do have one thing down...

I need Jesus daily.

In every decision.

In every moment.

In every second.

I am learning that the world has a lot to say and so do many well-meaning people.

But, what is God saying to me? That is what I want to know.

That is the true desire of my heart.

I used to look for parenting examples--hard and fast rules to produce good kids.

Now, I see that He will guide me if I listen. If I search for Him in my days. If I read His words and obey His commands. He will show me the path for our family.

 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Psalm 32:8

There are many people that want to tell us how to raise perfect kids, be the perfect family, be the perfect momma...

We need to hear what God has to say regarding our family.j

He knitted us together...He knows every detail of His purpose and His plans for us.

We can be encouraged by parenting examples, but we must not make them rigid laws and rules for our family. [and we must not judge others that are not doing the same thing we are]

If we listen, if we turn our hearts and our ears to the Lord....

We will hear His gentle whisper.

One of my favorite chapters in the bible comes from 1 Kings. God tells Elijah to prepare for His presence to pass by. [can you imagine??!!]


1 Kings 19:11-13

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Did you catch that? God wasn't in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire...

He was in a gentle whisper.

I think many times in my desperate need to be heard or seen...I have missed what the Lord is telling me.

I think if I am loud enough, or wise enough, or on display enough....then I will be doing God a favor. Because surely He wants me to let everyone know exactly what I think, or what I would do, or what I am doing. Right?

Perhaps our lives can speak loud without us saying a word.

Maybe.....

He just wants me to look up. To listen. To be still. To be quiet.

Could it be that I may miss out on His whisper for trying to shout to the world?

Or, for listening to the shouts of the world.

I have done both.

The more years that go by in my parenting [and in life], the more I realize I still have so much to learn. Oh so much.

Being present in these parenting moments can be challenging in a world that is loud. And alluring. So many choices. So many ways. So many!

Surely Elijah thought God was in that powerful wind, or earthquake, or fire...

Maybe God is in the minutia of our life-so entrenched in the daily details of our days- that we often miss Him.

Maybe we are busy  looking for God in big revelations and mighty displays....

When He is there in the smallest and most overlooked moments of our days.

Maybe one day I will write more often. Tell more stories.

But for this season, you will find me listening. Because I so desperately want to hear His voice above all the others.



leaning in,



jill




May 2, 2017

Fear Not...

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

For the past 15 years, I have been a Mother. Besides my marriage, it has been the absolute greatest season of my life. However, it has also been the hardest.

We all wish that we could have a "re-do" button on some of our not-so-great moments in motherhood. I have many.

However, as I gain the status of getting to be an "older mother", with preteen and teenage children, I have learned a few things along the way. My role of mothering is constantly changing with my children.

First, let me get it out there...I do not like change.

Ok, I said it. I hate change.

But, change is necessary if we are living and breathing. So, we have to deal with it.

As my children started to become more independent I grew fearful. How would they survive without me? How will they know what to do? Who will keep them safe if I am not with them?

Typical mothering thoughts, right?

This is where our faith has to become a reality in our lives.

I have to turn loose of my grip on my children, and turn them over to the Lord.

Of course, this is so much easier said than done.

For years, I didn't really believe or trust that God would take care of my kids like I could. I doubted His love and protection over them.

So, I clung tighter. And tighter.

Fear can make a mother crazy.

Just ask my husband. [poor hubby]

My mind would go over scenarios in my head of horrible things happening to them. I would re-enact tragedies in my mind and literally start to shake with panic.

I was a mad woman. Getting madder by the minute.

How could I ever survive my children reaching adulthood with these constant paralyzing, fear inducing thoughts?

It was torture.

The enemy was dead set against using motherhood and fear in perfect combination to smolder any chance of faith-filled mothering that I had.

Something had to give.

I remember driving home form dropping my kids off at school one day. I had tears streaming down my face. I was picturing something happening to them and not being able to reach them.

I cried out to God to help me. I asked Him to release me from the fear that was overwhelming my soul to the point of exhaustion and consumption.

Minutes later, this scripture came to my heart and mind...sent straight from the Lord...

"Fear not, for I am with you..." [Isaiah 41:10]

In that moment, I relinquished my heart and my children over to the Lord. I told him through wet tears that I trusted Him with my children. He created them. He knitted them together in my womb. Certainly I could trust Him.

I knew in that instant, that no matter what happened, they belonged to Him.

"Fear not" were the first words that God spoke to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. He has been whispering the same words to us mothers ever since.

Fear causes us to be controlling. [check]

Fear causes us to be rigid and immoveable. [check]

Fear will override our faith if we let it. [check]

God never told Mary that He would keep Jesus in a bubble and nothing bad would ever happen to Him...

But, He assured Mary that Jesus belonged to Him and He would direct Jesus' path.

As mothers, we have to believe this is true over our children as well.

Mary sat at the foot of the Cross of her Son being crucified. She saw suffering and horror. Yet, she had the assurance that God had a plan. His plan was for the greater good. His plan was not her plan, yet she trusted God.

I want this kind of faith.

And, it is possible.

"Anything is possible for one who believes." [Mark 9:23]

Believe Him in the hard times.

Believe Him in the lean times.

Believe Him in the fruitful times.

Believe Him the grieving times.

Believe Him in the dark times.

Believe Him in all times.

"Perfect love casts out fear.." [1 John 4:18]

We become the mother He has created us to be when we mother out of faith instead of fear. Our times with our children become more joyful and less stressful when we can commit our children to  His loving care. Our children will be influenced by our faith instead of suffocated by our fear.

Fear not, sweet Mothers.


trusting Him,


jill





Apr 27, 2017

In the weeds...

"The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads" Psalm 146:8

A few minutes ago, I stepped outside to sit on my front porch. I needed to breathe. I needed to see air and space and green grass. I needed to inhale the bigness of God's Creation outside of the sometimes bubble of my life.

I sat on the pollen covered front step. Black pants on, but not a care in the world for those pants that would soon be covered with yellow dust.  I just needed to sit and be still.

As I looked over our yard, a faint giggle came to my lips. We have weeds the size of a small toddler growing everywhere. I have recently teased my friends that they were secretly planning to start a "go-fund me page" for our yard.

Don't get me wrong, we have a great yard. However, with cutting a few trees down, we have dirt piles and we are majorly in need of pine straw for our flower beds.

We are patiently waiting for our yard maintenance company to squeeze us into his overloaded schedule for a major yard overhaul. My husband has declared he is not pulling one weed or wasting and ounce of energy on this yard until the extreme make-over of our lawn is complete.

I tend to disagree. We live right smack in the middle of town where everyone and their grandma drives by to take kids to school. [hello, humility]

A little weed pulling would not hurt, I assured him. He sticks to his theory. He says [with ALL seriousness], the worse the yard gets as we wait for the yard man, the better it will appear once it is finished. [I am still scratching my head over that]

But, as I sat there a few minutes ago looking at dandelions, weeds, and tall yellow flowers growing wildly about me, I began to feel a freedom slowly washing over me.

Who cares.

Really, who cares.

There is freedom in growing wild and carefree. There is freedom in not conforming to the norm or keeping up with the status quo set in our always- comparing -ourselves -to -others mind.

As I eyed the weeds, I began to see beauty. So much beauty.

Those weeds were finally able to bloom. To be set free from a life only able to live just above the soil until someone bends down and snatches them up by the root.

Gosh, don't we feel like weeds sometimes? Like, we just cannot bloom because something or someone is constantly telling us we don't belong. We are not quite enough.

The burden of trying to live up to a certain set of standards warps our soul and our uniqueness.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Everything.[Ecclesiastes 3:11]

Perfectly manicured lives can often be lifeless. Dead. And lost of all of God's beautiful design and purpose.

Because...

With perfectly manicured lives comes a burden. The burden of maintaining that perfection. It will not allow us to get messy with loving others. We won't desire anything in our lives that will mess with the life we have on display. The load will get heavy. The maintenance will grow our hearts cold and devoid of allowing others to frolic in our space.

Weeds attract footprints and an open invitation to step right on in and pick as many wildflowers as your heart pleases. There is no limit on the giving or the taking in a field of wildflowers. Take what you please. More will grow right back up in its place.

Oh, I long to live like wildflowers. Wild and free.

Perfectly content with who God created me to be. Where He created me to live. And all He brings into my space. With open arms waving for all to come in and sit down among the weeds and wild flowers.

Instead of apologizing for all of the weeds, allowing them to partake of a life of freedom right along side of me. Soaking up the beauty of messy love, messy yards, and messy lives.

There is beauty in the mess.

So much beauty.

We find our purpose there because our eyes begin to focus upward and outward instead of inward.

If you happen to drive by my house, feel free to come and play in the wildflowers. Pick them, blow the dandelions all over the place, and then come knock on my door. I will greet you with a hot cup of coffee or a cold can of La Croix. Depending on the time of day you come.

You are welcome here. Mess and all.


learning to love weeds,


jill















Apr 14, 2017

What will you do?

I have had a story in my head all week to write for today. However, in the car, on the way to take my daughter to school, something happened. I need to share it with you.

My kids and I watch this video every Good Friday together before school. It wrecks us. [I will share it at the end of this post].

After watching the video this morning, my daughter began to cry. Her little tears just streaming down her cheeks.

"Momma, what about the people that we know and love so much that do not know Jesus? I am overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of not seeing them in heaven. What can we do?"

I pulled the car over to talk to her.

Praying that God would give me the words, I told her we should pray.

We prayed for family members that do not know Jesus. We prayed for people across the country, across the world, that do not know Jesus.

She stopped me in the middle of the prayer, and said, "How will they know, Momma?"

My heart stopped for a minute...

"We have to tell them, sweetie. And most of all, we have to pray."

I remembered a scripture that I had just recently read in the book of Psalms...

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. Psalm 19:1-2

I told her that God continually makes Himself known to all. However, we have a choice to believe or to not believe.

"Presley, I believe that we are all given an opportunity. Every one of us. We have a choice. Let's pray that when presented with that choice, these family members and friends will choose to believe."

I reminded her of the man on the cross hanging next to Jesus. In the final hour of his life, this man chose to believe. [Luke 23:32-43]

Never give up hope. Never stop praying.

Just when the disciples had thought they had been duped...they had followed a man and not the Son of Man....they had given up three years of their lives for it to end like this....

Jesus arose from the dead three days after His crucifixion.

Never stop believing.

Never stop praying.

Never give up hope.

Today, as we ponder the Cross, let's pray for that lost family member. Or neighbor. Or co-worker.

Let's never stop lifting their name up to the Father.

This prayer is one I pray daily over my children and my husband....and now I will pray it over the ones I love dearly that do not yet know Jesus.

Will you pray this with me? Insert the name or names of those that need to know Jesus.

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:16-23


sunday is coming,

jill


**the video is here.  [grab a Kleenex]





Apr 11, 2017

Why, Lord?.....

One thing that I think about the most during this Holy week are the words of Jesus on the Cross.

 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)-Matthew 27:46

Those words used to confuse me greatly. I mean, this was Jesus. Why was HE asking God this question? Jesus is perfect. This question seems to show doubt. I don't get it.

Oh, but now I think I understand.

I think I finally get it.

Jesus was able to say those words because the crushing acts of our sins were bearing down on Him. Our sins were covering His aching tortured body. Piercing every organ. Every vessel. Every nerve ending.  

Sin separates us from God.

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

When we doubt His Love, His Mercy, His Grace.....

His Plan....

We can become separated.

Oh, God is never far from us though..

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10

We can never escape God.

However, our sins can separate us from His Voice.

Sin is like putting cottonballs into my ears and expecting to hear.

I won't be able to hear a thing until I take them out.

So, when Jesus said those words....they were not really His Words...they were our words...our sins.

Recently, I found myself in a place. Saying similar words to God.

Why, God. Why? Do you not love me?

Frustrated, tired, and sick to death of praying the same  prayer...

I heard my doubt clear as a ringing bell.

It's not necessarily sinful to have doubts at times.

We will have questions for God. Sometimes a lot.

But, it can separate us from God when it replaces our faith.

When we choose to live in the doubt, it becomes unbelief.

Unbelief will take my eyes off of Him and put them on my circumstances.

Unbelief will tune out the Voice of God because we will only hear the voice of our own doubts and the enemy whispering lies.

When I find myself doubting,  I have to immediately stop what I am doing and go straight to my Bible. I have to remind myself that He Is Good. He Is Faithful. He will never forsake me.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6

I have to remember that God has my best interest at heart...and the best interest of those around me.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

I have to ask God to give me spiritual eyes to see things from His perspective.

Jesus replied, "You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will." John 13:7

Or, at least to give me unwavering peace if He chooses not to answer.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

He will always bring the peace. He may not always bring the answer at the desired moment I ask, but peace He will bring.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Friend, whatever doubts you are having...

You are not alone.

Jesus Himself, hanging on the cross, felt our doubts. Our fears. Our constant wavering.

Look to the Cross to steady your vision. Do not turn from the Cross until you feel His peace wash over you. Like a cool autumn wind, He will assure you of His ways. They are better. They are higher.

 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.." Isaiah 55:9


Instead of looking for an answer...

We discover that He IS the Answer.


eyes on the Cross,

jill




Apr 10, 2017

Her Story....

"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Luke 19:40

This week is Holy Week. It is the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

As I ponder the meaning, the sacredness, and the absolute amazement of this week, I am struck with such joy.

I am also struck with a somber awareness of the many who do not know Jesus, or what He did for them. My heart saddens and cries out to God for Him to shake up my faith. Shake up my heart!

Some days I can go through an entire day without one thought of the lost faces that surround me at any given moment. I get sucked into my tiny world and forget that the person behind me at the grocery story may need to know at that very second the HOPE of Jesus Christ.

I was also recently awakened [again] by the need for us as a Church to show love, grace, compassion and mercy to our fellow believers. This awakening came after a dear friend, with crocodile tears pouring off her face, shared her story with me.

A story starting out with such happiness and acceptance within her new small group at her new church. But, the story ends with pain and exclusion, and so much heartbreak.

She shared with me how she thought that she and her family were "safe" within the walls of her church and her small group. But, because of a few people that chose to turn their backs on her family, she was left confused and saddened, and with no desire to walk into another church.

I will let her share her own words. The story is not over, however. God always brings beauty from ashes, and He will continue to weave His Redemption and Mercy into her story.

My friend has chosen to remain anonymous. She wants no harm for those that turned on her, and only desires any of you who may have experienced similar trauma to know that there is HOPE and REDEMPTION on the other side of the pain.

I hope after reading this, we are all awakened to the need to look around us. Make eye contact with those next to us, and share the Love that God has so graciously poured into us to be poured out.

We never know what someone has experienced. But, we can choose to notice those around us. Making a heart connection whenever we possibly can. Listening. Not judging or condemning. Being ever aware of the lavish Grace that God continues to pour over us.

May we share that same lavish Grace with others. No one is exempt from God's Grace.

We are God's Church. We must represent Him everywhere we go.

My Story:

I will start this off by saying that I don't want pity for my story. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for what has happened to my family and I. It is life. My family always said bad things can and will happen to good people.

This is just a very small portion of our story. First, I want to say that my husband and I have been so blessed in our life. We have been married for 20 years and have 3 amazing kids. We have not a want for anything.
 
We both were raised in church and felt very safe and comfortable there. We even sent our kids to the church preschool.
 
We moved a few years ago  and found ourselves each Sunday visiting church after church. Then one day my sweet neighbor offered to take my kids to her church. I agreed.
 
For several weeks she took them and they would go to church. My husband and I finally joined them. We attended this church for a while.  We were involved in everything! We did it all--VBS , small group Sunday school, and we served in various areas as well.
 
Then one day we were asked to join a couples study, so we did. My husband didn't really want to but he knew I felt it was important, so he went .
 
We would comment all the time that we seemed to have fought more over these few weeks than any before. I would say, "Yeah! Because the devil is mad! The devil is mad because we are diving into the Bible and how it relates to our marriage and he doesn't like that."
 
We trucked on and hung in the entire study.
 
 We started to feel safe in the environment and the group we were with. We hosted a dinner at our house at the end of the study. I remember cleaning the house so much because I was nervous about them coming to my inadequate home. "Would I fit in?" , I thought. My house is small. 

They came that evening and we ended up talking and  sharing things about our families. We ended up sharing the personal information that we had gotten pregnant before marriage. Honestly, I didn't think anything about it. Yes I had sinned, but I also brought life into this world. This was a part of our family story and we thought it was a safe place to share.
 
However, the couples in the small group did not look at it like that.  They were not accepting of our story. 
 
 After everyone left our home,  we were never really spoken to again by these people.
 
 These people would not talk to us at church or anywhere in public. Nothing.
 
I went up to several of them and asked them if I had done anything wrong. I would get polite "no" and that was it. 
 
After a while my husband said that he was not going back to that church any longer. I continued  to go for a bit, but soon I stopped going too.
 
We stopped going to church for a long time.
 
I was that mom that still prayed everyday for my husband, kids, and my family. We did memory verses together.  You name it, we did it. As a family.
 
We would go about once a month to church with my mother or in laws. Otherwise, I fed our family in any which way I could. I know that sounds silly, but that is what I ended up doing for years. 
 
This past year my daughter was away at college and she told me her roomates invited her to church. She declined. She was then invited to a small group. 
 
In six months I saw this child of mine start going to small group. She also started talking about the study they were learning about. She would tell me to download  sermons on you tube and listen. She would text me to remind me to listen and she would call and we would talk about it .
 
Then, she  began to tell me she made sure she was always off on Wednesday so she could go to her study.
 
I was so thankful! I prayed that God would show her that Jesus was good and she didn't have to fear hurt from people.  
 
 I began to see her heart grow and things began to happen for her. 
 
Then in January,  I saw a post online about a small group bible study and asked if I could join.
 
I was so scared that I would be told no. The opposite happened. I was told please come.
 
 I did go, and I have been attending!  At first, I  sat in this room of women thinking, "they are not going to allow me in their group.They are going to be nice, but because I do not go to their church, I will not fit in."
 
Well, I feel like the complete opposite.  I have felt that everyone has been very accepting of me. I have met some nice women. I am so glad that I am in a small group learning about the Bible again. I did not know how much I truly missed it. 
 
Update by Jill: This is my friend's precious story. God is still working on the details to unveil a beautiful masterpiece of grace and redemption for her family. I am also thrilled to let all of you know that she and her family are planning on visiting a church this Easter Sunday! So, if you see someone new at your church...or if you see a face and feel the ping of the Holy Spirit to reach out to them, please do.
 
We must love those around us. We must show the Love of Christ, or we are not representing Christ. I am stirred by my friend's story. Stirred to love bigger. Reach out more. Invite more. And tell everyone I know the HOPE of Jesus Christ. I hope her story stirs your heart the same way.
 
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
 
 
love one another,
 
jill