Unveiling Eden Gives Thanks

 

Chelsea
Chelsea Verdin, Contributing Writer

Something I am thankful for this year that is different than last year….

SOLITUDE

Sometimes we can get so focused on the busyness of life that we forget how refreshing it is to just get away – away from the noise, away from the distractions and just sit in our secret quiet place, absorbing and rediscovering who Jesus is.

I spent a fair amount of my life constantly wanting to go, or be, or do. When I received more responsibility or territory, I realized how sacred isolation can be in some atmospheres.

Isolation doesn’t always mean loneliness. It can also mean elevation.

Sometimes, He has to take us away in order to lift us higher. Sometimes, He has to quiet our souls so that we may learn to listen. And sometimes, we have to be alone to understand who He is.

A letter to my daughter……

Heaven
Heaven Harris, Staff Writer

Dear Evelyn,

You are too young at the moment to read this or even understand, but my hope is that this letter finds you years from now and gives you a glimpse of my heart.

This thanksgiving is technically our second one together, but last year you were barely a week old. Therefore, this is our first real thanksgiving with family and friends that you won’t be sleeping or nursing the whole time:).

I want you to know sweet girl, that next to Jesus, YOU are what I am most thankful for this year and for every thanksgiving to come. Nothing and no one has brought more joy and love to my life. This adventure we are on, even with all it’s lows and highs, is worth celebrating and being grateful for.

Getting to be your mother and the bond that I was able to form and steward with you has brought me to life in places I was sure was dead. I am thankful to you, for that, even though it’s beyond your comprehension right now.

And know that it truly takes a village, and we have the best one around. We are so blessed with the most amazing friends and family that love and support us and surround us with laughs, hugs, and deep and strong prayers that usher in God’s presence to daily move mountains in our favor. We are beyond blessed and highly favored.

So this Thanksgiving, I will give honor and glory for us where it is due. My prayer is that I am able to show you even in seasons that don’t include the Thanksgiving holiday, how to be grateful because He works it ALL for our good.

I love you my princess, until kingdom come. 

Jasmine
Jasmine Beard, Editor-in-Chief

Something I am thankful for this year that is different from last year…

RESTORATION

“The act of restoring ; renewal, revival, or reestablishment.”

Restoration has always been something I have believed in. I know that I serve a God that can do all things, including the miraculous.

Although I know this, I did not think a relationship with a family member could ever be good. I settled in the fact that while forgiveness had been given, the state of the relationship could never be repaired.

Through my own healing of hurt this year, I was able to see the person who had repeatedly hurt me through a different lens. I no longer saw them as the person who had hurt me continuously, but as a hurt person themselves.

I had to take that person off of the pedestal of expectations I placed on them. I had to simply see them as a child of God. Once I did this, I no longer thought of all the pain they caused me. I instead saw all of their wounds and knew because of their own pain they hurt me.

” Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!

I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”’-

Ezekiel -37:3-6

Just like these dry bones, God breathed life into my relationship with my family member. Something that was once dead and barren has began to sprout new life. Thank you Jesus!

Stephanie
Stephanie Cain, Contributing Writer

A letter to my mother……

Dear Mom,

Words cannot express how thankful I am for you.

I have always loved and appreciated you-  I mean,  you are my best friend and my flower girl. But this year, you helped guide me into motherhood. You showed me that perfection is not the goal and that you must allow yourself grace. You loved me through the difficult times. When my world felt crushing, you were there to hold me. You reminded me I can do it and that God gave me this new purpose the He would help me fulfill. All this while still being a shining example of motherhood for me, an amazing wife, and learning how to be a mama to my baby boy.

I will always be grateful to you for everything you have done for me and my family. I love you more than words can convey.

Sincerely, Your Sally

Tori
Tori Savoy, Editor

Something I am thankful for this year that is different from last year…

CONTENTMENT

Contentment – it is described as “a state of happiness”. I believe the world is always searching for contentment in the tangible things of life such as money, success, life milestones and so forth. If only we could reach that certain goal we have in mind, we would find contentment.

However, this is not the same definition God would like us to use.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11, “…I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

As a Christian, my contentment is not determined by my state. My contentment, when anchored in who God is, remains when times are good or bad.

Worldly contentment gives us no reason to better ourselves, but Godly contentment pushes us closer to our source of happiness – God Himself.

This Thanksgiving, I thank God for giving me a “state of happiness” despite circumstances that try to steal my joy.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For me brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7

Gives Thanks UE

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A Mother’s Redemption| By Amanda Maduell

image2 (2)As I lay and watch my two-year-old sleep, it is hard to believe that not long ago he started out as a tiny “blip” on the monitor. As I laid on the exam table at my OBGYN office, tears of guilt, shame, and fear rolled down my cheeks. This is not the reaction that any woman deserves to have as she experiences the expected arrival of her first child. A woman’s heart should be full of joy, love, and excitement during this time. My story is not the same.

For I know the plans I have for you ,”declares the LORD, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Everyone knows this Bible verse as it has become so incredibly popular, but it is so much more to me. This verse was my bread and butter. I had it saved on my phone screen saver for my entire pregnancy. Every time I was in despair, God reminded me of this message.

When I was encouraged by the father of my child to have an abortion, I turned to God and this verse.

I would think to myself, “God created this life inside of me, and He already knows the plans for it! How could someone want to throw this away?”

“For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14

I knew from the beginning that abortion was never an option for me, but I could not convince the father of my child to feel the same way. I thank God everyday for giving me His strength to see through and overcome that. I agreed that I would trust God, and I would wear the shame of my sin in front of me, whether the father of my child was willing to stand by me or not.

I have to admit that it was not easy.

At times, the enemy convinced me to believe that it was me. That I was not good enough or worthy enough for this person, and that this is what I deserved for committing these sins. But again that was just the enemy.

I felt lonely from the outright rejection that was displayed toward my unborn child, and I was immersed in pain. I wanted nothing more than to be loved, appreciated, and respected by the person whom I had created life with. I experienced just the opposite.

I remember coming home from working one of my two jobs and crying so hard in my bathroom that I would vomit. I lived alone, and I was too ashamed to reach out to many of my friends, I felt as though I had, “brought this upon myself.” I was scared of the unknown, I was scared of what people would think of me for having a baby without a father, I was scared of being another, “single mom statistic”, and worst of all, I was scared that I would never be able to trust or love again.

I was disappointed in myself for taking a chance on someone who had consecutively lied about his commitment. I had become so consumed in sins of the flesh. Although I considering myself a “Christian”, I still thought it was okay to have sex with my ex-boyfriend. I justified it by telling myself, “we were in love”, and because we, as adults, have “needs.”

However, I was reminded that God has a purpose for us. Although we may not always understand it, the Bible clearly states that His plan is solid. God knows before we sin against Him, and He still sends His love and grace down upon us in ways we don’t even realize in the moment. For some, like myself, it takes “struggles” like this for us to see God’s unfailing love and mercy for us.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2

Before my son was born, I picked the name Jonah after reading the short book of Jonah in the Bible. In Jonah’s story, he disobeyed God, and he was swallowed by a big fish. He prayed to God and asked for forgiveness from inside the fish. After three days, the Lord had the fish spit Jonah out, and he was forgiven.

Jonah knew that he was disobeying God by not following his instructions to go to the city of Nineveh and speak out against its wickedness. Just as I knew that I was disobeying God by continuing a sinful relationship with my son’s father. I felt as though going through an unplanned pregnancy without the father was my storm.

However, the birth of my son was my forgiveness, my redemption, and my second chance. We are children of a loving and forgiving God. I cried out to him at my lowest point, when I experienced the rejection, fear, and disappointment, He forgave me and restored me by allowing me to be the mother of one of His precious children.

After the birth of Jonah, The Lord continued to be the father that my child and I deserve, time and time again. Just when I reach my breaking point he catches me and says, “Trust me.”

Two years later, my son and I are doing great. I am blessed with phenomenal parents who were there for me during my pregnancy and birth of my son and also now. I am part of a women’s group, and I just signed a mortgage on our first home. All of this is possible because we are the children of a perfect and faithful God who has a perfect way for us, even when we can see no way for ourselves. 

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Caged, But Still Singing| By Chelsea Verdin

christopher-windus-92825-unsplashHave you ever wondered why a caged bird still sings? It is held bound in a metal cage with no freedom. It cannot do much and hasn’t received much, but still every morning, it manages to sing out a song. Sometimes the song is dressed in beauty with loud joy, and other times, it is a quiet mourning. But everyday, the caged bird still sings.

In the last year, I have felt like a caged bird. When we lost my three-month-old nephew last October, my entire world was shaken. Everything I knew was now questionable and unreliable. From the outsiders view, I looked like a pretty little bird happy in her own little world. You would have never imagined that I was caged in by depression and so much grief because I still managed to smile and sing through the pain.

A cage is not a place that anyone wants to be in. Birds do not even want to be in them. We want paradise because it looks good in pictures and feels like freedom. However, I have learned that you can be in paradise and still not be okay, and that faith can take deeper root within the cage.

Faith is messy and hard and meant to pull out of you the deep questions that challenge everything you think you know, so that you may learn the ultimate truth.

There is a story in Mark 5 about a man who sought out Jesus to heal his ill daughter. In the story, his young daughter dies, and Jesus heals her with some very simple words.

“Little girl, I say to you, ‘Arise’.” Mark 5:41

Instantly, she stands and begins to walk around.

This whole past year I felt like this young girl – alive on the inside, dead on the outside, caged in by illness. I desperately needed truth to speak to my heart and awaken the girl inside of me. I needed the courage to arise, stand, and walk in freedom. But grief crippled me and told me that because I questioned God that I could not live. I could not go to him with my doubts and seek real answers.

The enemy knows that our voices are weapons. They hold so much power and can strike him down instantly. He tries to make us believe that we need to be silent. He tries to make us believe that we cannot enter into the presence of God messy, but I have learned that even the most inaudible whisper slices through the clouds of the enemy and lands on the ears of our King.

The truth was God had not strayed away or left my side during this hardship. In fact, He drew closer because He knew I would need Him. And when I ignored the other voices and let my own lips sing, I found that the cage is not always there to hold us in. Sometimes, it is meant to be a safe haven, a place of rest to sit still and let Him sing over us.

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

And when we answer the call to sit and to seek Him out, we learn that a caged bird does not sing because it is caged in. Rather, it sings because it knows that freedom is not found outside of the cage, but from within the song it sings. And it does not matter how loud or even how inaudible the song is. Sometimes we have to sing until we believe it – until we believe freedom has arrived.

Your whisper is a roar in heaven.

Winter is just a season. The cage is just some metal walls. And your victory has already been proclaimed. Like my friend says, “This is just another battle you get to win.”

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. For the winter is over, and the flowers are blooming. The time for singing has come.” Song of Solomon 2:10-12

The caged bird is still singing my friend and so are you.

 

Your Wasteland is Your Wonderland| By Heaven Harris

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February 7, 2007. A day seared in my mind forever. This was the day that I found out my dad had committed suicide. I woke up that day like any other day, and by the end of it, I felt like a freight truck had hit me at 100 miles an hour.  I was broken, lost, confused, angry, and sad. So many emotions, and life just seemed to stop for me in those moments. My grief overcame me and blinded me to even see that God was in my midst. My once good life was now laid barren and broken before me, and I had no clue what to do with those broken pieces.

What could God possibly do with an orphan daughter and how could He possibly use such a tragic situation for any good at all?

How many times have you asked such questions? Maybe your wasteland came from the loss of a child, or the job that fell through, or maybe the countless times you hoped to see the plus sign on the end of that pregnancy test. Maybe you are living the single life longer than you ever anticipated, or maybe it’s the divorce that you feel like follows you like a scarlet letter.

No matter your questions, no matter your wasteland, first thing is first…

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

The next thing I will tell you is Romans 8:28 tells us that He works ALL things together for good.

You may be wondering how that is even possible. Believe me. I have been there. You may be there now.  You may be wondering how such pain could be good for anything. Know that it is not wasted. You may just be in a place that requires a perspective change.

We all know the quote, “One person’s trash, is another person’s treasure.”

I have heard it my whole life and always knew it referred to perspective, but until I began to truly serve God, perspective was something I focused very little on.  As my maturity in the Lord grew, so did my understanding of how important it is to have God’s perspective on EVERYTHING. As seasons pass by, as the storms rage and trials blindside us, without proper perspective, sinking sand is our foundation. As a result, we end up wandering in our wasteland.

Unfortunately, as human flesh would have it, I have become narrow sighted too often and found it extremely difficult to walk in God’s perspective of every situation.  Some situations hurt too bad or seemed to impossible in human form. There were times when I couldn’t see the purpose in the pain and was demanding all the answers NOW.

As I was walking through the season following my father’s passing, I read an analogy that really opened my heart to God’s ability to turn it all around with just a little perspective change.  I realized in that moment that my wasteland was God’s wonderland.

The analogy was about two clay vases. One is in immaculate condition with not a single scratch or hole in it; a beautiful piece of pottery. The other one is not so beautiful on the surface.  Its edges are rough, there are big gaping holes all over it. It looks like something you would throw away without hesitation.

If I turned the lights out and placed a lit candle in each vase, something interesting happens.  In the first vase, perfect in form, the light from the candle shines beautifully out the top of the vase.  Now the second vase, once the candle is placed inside, through every hole and scratch, that light is illuminating its surroundings.

It’s all about perspective.

You, my friend, are the vase.  You aren’t perfect. None of us are. You have gaping holes in your life as it has side swiped you and broke you down. But the light of Jesus can shine so much brighter through those rough places and empty spaces.

“Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop?” Matthew 5:14 (TPT)

God’s desire is to set you apart and use even the hurts and pains of life to glorify Himself. If you will just allow Him to shift your perspective, you will realize that we don’t serve a moderately big God, but a God that is GRAND!!!

Your wasteland is God’s opportunity to write your story.

For me, that wasteland became a platform for me to share my heart with others who have not only found themselves struggling with family or friends who deal with suicide, but I have also had the opportunity to share the love of God with those who directly deal with depression and suicidal thoughts.  God has opened so many doors in my pain for His love to not only heal those I was reaching, but also my own heart.

When I felt like trash, God was right there to remind me that I am His treasure, and so are you.  You are God’s treasure and His love for you is immense.

I encourage you today to hand Him over your trash and let Him turn it into His treasure.

Not Meant To Walk Alone| By Jasmine Beard

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War is not an easy task, and believe it or not, we are in a war every day as Christians. The war is not against man, but against the Devil who is scheming and desiring to destroy us at any chance he gets.

I do not say this to scare you, but to give you a true depiction of the enemy’s schemes that are not always visible.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV

You may see his schemes through illnesses, financial hardships, relational problems, the way you view yourself, and the way you view God.

One of the biggest tactics the enemy schemes against me in is in my relationships with others. Ever since I can remember, I have been a chatterbox and always loved meeting new people and making lasting friendships.

I remember right after high school I started attending a new church. Everyone there was super nice and welcoming, but I still felt very alone even though I had made new friendships.

The enemy would whisper lies to me like:

“They don’t really like you.”

“They’re just being nice because they have to.”

And after sometime I started to believe the lies of Satan.

I began leaving church early and just crying about not being loved and wanted. This was all part of Satan’s plan. He loves Christians to be divided and out of fellowship. Our relationship with other believers is pivotal to our walk with God. Without it, we will likely perish spiritually.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the others can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

While Satan had plans of destroying me through isolation, God had other plans. A girl named Megan befriended me from my church, and I began going to her small group. Through that time, I recognized that I wasn’t alone. I was actually loved and that Satan was just lying to me.

If you are feeling attacked or like you cannot go on another day, I want to encourage you to remember that we were not meant to run this race alone.

God has made every single one of us with an innate desire to know others and to be known. As people, we must stop fighting each other and start warring together against the schemes of the enemy.

Today, remember that people are not your enemy. Do not be afraid to reach out to others when you need prayer, a helping hand, or just someone to lean on. God has created us for community to ensure that we do not walk or fight this race alone.

 

Bring Your Brokenness| By Rachel Lukinovich

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Do you remember back in your childhood days, when you were just learning how to color?

Wasn’t it fun to scribble all over that white paper and make whatever your little heart so desired?

But then, all of sudden, you accidentally pushed down on that crayon a little too hard and maybe a little too fast. Then pop, your crayon breaks, and man are you bummed. You’re a smart kid so you ask for some tape and voila, the crayon is back to its former “whole” self. Or, maybe you don’t have any tape, so you just throw those crayon pieces right where they belong – in the trash.

Does this bring back any memories?

A few weeks ago, my 2-year-old daughter Ava, and I were making creative little pictures. Just as she goes to finish the round edge of her circle, snap — you guessed it, her crayon broke in two. She, like most small children, feels very similar about her crayons, and within minutes, this was our dialogue-

Ava: “I can’t use these crayons, mommy, they are broken.”

Me: (not wanting to waste and throw away anymore crayons) “You can still use them, even though they are broken.”

If the Holy Spirit didn’t slap me in the face, I don’t know what did! Instantly, it was brought to my attention that too often we treat ourselves and sometimes others like this crayon. Our minds have somehow come to believe that once broken, we need to quickly slap a piece of tape on our brokenness, and if that is not doable, we are no longer usable for God’s kingdom.

For years, mainly after giving my life to Christ, I believed the lie that I had to seem perfect or altogether, but over time, the Lord freed me of this and spoke truth into my heart. It is okay to be and appear broken, as long as our brokenness is being handled in the hands of our Father. Others might see our broken crayons like pieces of uselessness, but Jesus sees a perfectly capable art tool that He’s thrilled to create a beautiful story with.

Have you ever thought that maybe our broken crayons are what will make our story so beautiful? When we are broken, it is guaranteed that God gets the glory because our own strength simply could not hold us together.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Too often, we believe we need to quickly fix ourselves and tightly wrap some type of reinforcement to hide the brokenness – Why? Because a whole taped crayon looks so much better than a obviously broken one. Yet, reinforcing the crayon will only hold its strength for so long, and despite what its appearance may show, it’s still completely broken on the inside. The outer splint will only last for so long.

Our past hurts and mistakes do not define us, but that doesn’t mean we should slap a bandaid over a festering wound and call it a day. Wounds, mistakes, failures, shortcoming, hurts, – they all cause us to break one way or another. Brokenness takes time to be mended, a healing that can truly only be completely made whole and well by the grace, forgiveness, and love of our Father, Jesus Christ.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

We may want our whole story to be written with a perfectly whole crayon, but at the end of the day, if we keep our eyes on Jesus and let Him write our story, it will be so beautifully written, regardless if the crayon was whole or broken.

Instead of seeking quick fixes to tape us back together, let us keep our eyes fixed on our Savior and King, and let Him do the mending back into shape, even if it means we have to go through the fire to be melted down and reshaped. After all, we are His work in progress and we are His masterpiece.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

The Power of Encouragement| By Rachel Lukinovich

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Have you ever gone through something and felt like no one could possibly understand?

And if you were to tell anyone, they would judge you and think less of you?

Well, that makes you human.

Right after my second child was born, the first few months seemed pretty relaxing and easy. Several people warned me about how hard the transition from one to two children would be, but it honestly didn’t seem that hard to me. It wasn’t until my sweet Emmy turned 4 months that things became a little more challenging. Until then, all she did was eat, sleep, and poop, just like the perfect baby you hear about it.

Naturally, she became more awake and alert, making it hard to even go to Walmart without it ending with a poo or throw up explosion, or loud crying. I did not want to even leave home, which was hard for me, so very hard. I am not a home body, and even though God was doing a work in my heart, as He always is, I didn’t really feel so great about it. It was in this moment that I truly needed someone to understand me and encourage me through it. I needed someone to recognize that this truly was hard for me, and not just put a blanket over it with a statement like “trust Jesus and it will get better.”

Yes, those are words of truthful, but I needed something deeper. I needed someone that acknowledged that this is real and hard and although it WILL get better because of Jesus’ faithful promises, the present circumstances still were worthy of how I felt. I needed someone to acknowledge that I was not alone and it was okay to have hard times, but also to speak truth into my heart and help me along the way.

Thankfully, I had those people in my life who were already there to encourage me. Before letting the lies of the enemy steal too much of my joy and time, I chose to reach out to people in my life, and I will never forget some of the moments or words that happened during that hard time.

You see, the devil wants us trapped in those moments of difficulty. He wants us to believe the lie that no one cares, understands, or may judge how you feel. He wants us to become isolated and alone, where he can continue to speak those lies into our ears.

Only we have control of how we handle our own lives and situations. Unfortunately, we can not make others reach out for help when they are hurting or feeling dry. Sometimes, it is truly hard for someone to do this.

However, we do have the power to reach out to them and always encourage them, regardless of feelings or situations. We are all doing life together, through the good, the bad, and ugly.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

The fact that my people acknowledged the difficulty of my situation, but yet encouraged me in the faith, greatly increased my perseverance and even helped me look at things a little differently.

This tells me that our encouraging words have the power to cancel a thousand lies constantly being spoken in our sister’s ear.

Life can be so busy, hard, lonely, you name it, but we have the power to encourage others through it!

Sometimes it is as simple as:

“You did a really great job!”

“Your hair looks great, did you get a cut?”

“you have such a wonderful personality”

…and genuinely meaning it.

There is always something we can find positive about a person, regardless of who they are.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Your friend, your mom, your sister, your pastor…they all could use a good word of encouragement. I challenge you to use every opportunity to not only address real life, but to love and encourage them through it. Because our words have more power than you think.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Mama Knows Best

This week we wanted to take a break from our regular posting schedule and pay homage to our amazing mothers by sharing some of the advice they shared with us throughout the years.

And from Unveiling Eden to you, Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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Growing up I was a total daddy’s girl. As the years have gone on, I have clung to my mother. Not only because she’s a woman and her perspective has been key in my growing up, but I recognize the wisdom she has that I didn’t always appreciate as a teenager.

One of the most amazing lessons my mom taught me as a child was that other people’s prejudices towards me should not affect the way I treat that person or the way I feel about myself.

Growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a young black girl in the South definitely had its drawbacks. Although I did not experience the same racism like generations before me, I definitely did experience it.

My mom’s words after I experienced racist behavior towards me has spoken volumes to me throughout my life, and I often reference this conversation as an adult.

She told me, “when you go to school, you treat her exactly the same you would anyone else.”

After all, it is the golden rule.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you…” Matthew 7:12

Another piece of advice that my mother gave me after my first breakup was, “Never date the same guy twice.” I know this advice isn’t true for everyone, but it definitely gave me perspective moving forward.

She did not say much after that comment, but she gave me an assurance that once out of the relationship you were able to see things that you couldn’t quite see in the relationship and to remember why that relationship didn’t work out the first time after all.

IMG_5587Growing up, I didn’t truly appreciate or cherish my mother the way I do today. Of course I always loved her and we had a good relationship, but it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that opened my eyes to what mothering really takes.

I remember right when my first baby was born, I became overwhelmed with love and appreciation for my mom. Just the fact that while sleep deprived, she nursed me, bathed me, and held me close to her when I cried moves me to tears. We do not really remember those years, but they are huge.

Being a mom myself has also shown me that although she is a mother, she is still a person, one with weakness, but also great strength. I am beyond thankful for her and everything her life teaches me. She is woman that is quick to listen and slow to speak, choosing her words wisely. Regardless if she is tired or not, she works extremely hard and always keeps a good attitude. She is prudent in finances and always displays humility. She is truly a treasure, and I am proud to call her MOM.

I challenge you to find the treasure in your own mother, and let her know, because she deserves it, and she loves you more than you know.

 

IMG_5601.PNGThe older I get, the more I truly appreciate and admire my mother. The strength she has demonstrated in her life and the efforts she has made to improve her character each day is a true testament of the love of God in her heart.

Over the years, my parents have had their disagreements just as all couples have throughout their marriage. However, no matter how hard times got, my mom held to the standard of never saying a negative word about her husband to those around her.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Sometimes in life, we face hard times and want to vent to others about those who have wronged us. But sometimes this can be so harmful to a person’s character.

My mother always said, “You see your husband’s worst and his best, and love him for it. Your friends and family do not have that privilege and will only be able to judge him based on the words you say.”

Because you love your husband, you will be quicker to forgive and forget his wrongs. However, a family member or friend who cares for you will judge your spouse based on what you share. If the only time you mention your husband is to bad mouth him, those people will always have a bitter opinion toward your spouse, my mother told me.

When I became married myself, I realized how much strength it took out of my mom to never complain about my father. Even as those around her complained about their own husband, she did not participate.

I am beyond grateful to have had this example from my mother to carry over into my own marriage.

Love Series: Love Like That of a Believer| By Rachel Lukinovich

 

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No one tests my patience more than my sweet little two-year-old daughter, Ava. Like most two-year-olds, “no” is her favorite response, and only she can make me lose my cool in public.

You know that saying, “there is no love like that of a mother”? This love sees past all their child’s faults and wants to see them excel and mature in the best way possible.

It is a real thing mothers are given. It’s a huge responsibility to choose to love and care for them, despite sleep deprivation, hunger, and a screaming or whining child.

But what if we changed that saying “there is no love like that of a mother,” to “there’s no love like that of a believer”?

You see, I love my little Ava, and although I get to teach her to be a loving little human being, God really has used her to teach me how to love others unconditionally.

Although she is my daughter, Ava is not made exactly like me, nor does she process things the same as I do. Even though she is only two, her little personality and sense of style is already there. While most of the time, she’s calm, cool, and collected, and listens just perfectly, sometimes she screams and has whiny fits, shouting “NO” with flailing arms and kicking legs. She is usually patient and sweet, but whens she’s hungry and tired, she is quite the opposite.

I can truly relate to my sweet two-year-old.

Like the rest of us, she is a person born into sin nature trying to learn and figure out this gift of life we have been given. Just like us all, she needs a lot of guidance and grace, but most importantly, she needs unconditional love.

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

According to this verse, deep love is most important of all, yet I have found that I unknowingly tend to put conditions on the love I have for certain people. It’s easy to love people who I get along with or who do nice things for me. But what about that person you try to “love,” but inwardly they get under your skin? Sure you can act kind and try to choose love, and that may work for a while, but sometimes when the conditions are not “just right,” things blow up in your face and all that love goes out the window.

Is it possible to truly love people unconditionally at all times as God does?

My experience with this is a loud YES, but it required me to take the spotlight off the other person and place it on myself.

In my 27 years of life, I have had some dealings with people who were hard for me to love, some very close to me. Yet, the Lord showed me that He wasn’t trying to use me to change or even humanly love them, but instead He was giving me opportunities to grow more into His image – one of perfect love.

This brought me to place of relying on God’s well of love that never runs dry nor does it place conditions on love. Some of the hardest times for me to love a person were the times I grew the most in unconditional love. Or you could say more into the image of God Himself, because He is Love.

“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. “ 1 John 4:12

As I persistently prayed to unconditionally love others, there was an evident heart change inside that allowed me to view people differently and truly love them unconditionally.

This was His plan all along. God is doing whatever it takes to show us and to make us into His image of LOVE in order to display His glory. However, too often we rely on our own strength and fail, when really He’s waiting to pour love out on us and through us as we draw closer to Him.

I can rest assured that if my heart is willing to change and is in pursuit of God’s deep love and affection for others, then choosing to love my neighbor will come more naturally.

I don’t know about you, but this drives me to pursue God even more and draw every drip of love I can from His well.

The love of God is what draws us to Him. We can trust His love – perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

“And may the Lord make your love for one another grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Now.| By Jasmine Beard

It’s been nine years now since I gave my life to Christ. These years have been great, they have not only come with triumphs, but trials as well.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve never had a depressed thought again, that I’ve never questioned God’s love for me, and that I’ve trusted God in every area of my life, but that would be false.

Matthew 5:45 NKJV says,

“… For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

You see life is hard for the believer and the unbeliever. The only difference with a believer is that they don’t walk through this roller coaster we call life alone.

In high school my relationship with God was filled with mostly triumphs. I had trials, but all failed into comparison to the new found peace I found in Christ.

When college started, I found myself miles away from my best friend and without a church home. Life was so uncertain. Life as I once knew it was changing again. Real life was beginning, and real life is where our faith can be truly tested.

I was no longer with all the people I grew up with. I had new found independence from my parents and was surrounded by all types of people from different backgrounds.  When I finally found a new church home, I felt welcomed, but so alone. I didn’t have the familiarity of my other church friends, leaders, or pastors. While I smiled at the new church, I was silently falling back into depression and isolating myself from others.

I would leave church service early and go to a local park and cry. From my childhood, I had always dealt a bit with rejection. That spirit of rejection began to magnify when I isolated myself and began to listen to the lies Satan whispered in my ear.

“They don’t like you.”

“You’re weird.”

“You’ll never fit in.”

“You’re all alone.”

I began to cry out to God. I began to say those very lies to God.

I would say,

“Jesus I feel so alone.”

“Why isn’t my family here with me?”

“I don’t fit in here.”

“Nobody loves me.”

To those lies, He would respond in truth.

“You are not alone.”

“You are loved.”

“I am here with you.”

When the Holy Spirit would whisper that truth to me, I found comfort and peace in His words. As I began to stand on the truth of the Holy Spirit, the word of God got louder, and the lies from Satan began to silence.

That is one example of a trial I endured and walked through. Some trials in my life have been smaller than this one, but most much larger. However,the size of the trial fails in comparison to the size of my God.

I have since graduated college and continue to attend that same church. The same church that I once felt so alone in, I can now call the people there my family. My mother has given her life to Christ, and I have since seen God do great things in and around my life.

I am not defined by the trials I have walked through. By walking with Christ, my trials do not overtake me. I overtake my trials by walking through them with Christ guiding my every step.

Psalm 119:105 NKJV

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

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