Broken Pieces

The evening had finally arrived for me to walk across my high school gymnasium to receive my diploma. As the speakers began to reminisce over the 1985 graduating seniors, my mind was flooded by countless memories. Yet, as I sat with my classmates on that Friday evening, I could have never imagined the paths I would one day travel, nor the heartache, tragedy and loss that would occur.

Moving forward years later, instead of pondering fond memories, I would find myself at the end of a course, sobbing uncontrollably. I had blown it in the most horrific way. With my life in shambles, the mere thought of God ever wanting me again seemed unattainable. I would quickly learn, however, that God’s love for me was not dependent on me. My Shepherd came to rescue, redeem and restore. (Luke 15:3-7)

I soon came to experience firsthand that God never despises a broken person nor does He turn His back. He took the shattered pieces of my life and began to put them back together again, all for His glory. 

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.”  (Psalm 147:2-3)

Point to Ponder: A person never has to remain in the same shape brought on by sin he or she is in because Jesus came to redeem sinners!

At times, when an individual gets off course, the enemy will immediately whisper, “That’s it, you have out-sinned God’s ability to forgive.” Yet we must remember that God’s Word always trumps the enemy’s whispers. We must align our thinking according to God’s truth.

 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:1-5)

Whatever we may envision as the end, God sees a new beginning. While we may see only the pain, God sees the purpose. He will turn a trial into a blessing and a mess into a message. Although His rescue plan may include voyages we never envisioned, we can know with certainty He will never leave broken pieces unassembled. He loves us too much.

Prayer: Lord thank you for Your willingness to restore and rebuild shattered lives. Thank you for sending Jesus to save the lost, to heal the brokenhearted and to bind up wounds.

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.

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Letters to God from a New Mom

As a new mom I found a closeness with God during those wee hours of the morning when I was nursing and rocking my son back to sleep. In the quietness of the house, God’s voice seemed ever-present and comforted me through the [still ongoing] emotional journey into this new foreign role called ‘motherhood’. I was desperately seeking an understanding of my purpose and an assurance of my capabilities.

Often during these times, I would focus my mind on passages that declared God’s might and power, passages that spoke of His faithfulness and His provision, or passages that displayed His unending compassion and grace. Then with a deep sigh, I would continue to rock slowly and whisper my thanksgiving. I knew His promises.

These words that slipped past my lips often fell into a specific cadence that was deeply personal and sounded almost like a letter to a good friend. Because, after all – that’s what they were. So below is a passage that I wrote early one morning when I was exhausted and needed comfort. I was drawn to Psalms and Isaiah, reminding me that our ever-present God is full of love and ready to tuck me under His wing.

Lord, I feel so alone. So tired. And so insignificant in this endless cycle of the newborn cries. But I know you’re there. Thank you for your never-ending compassion towards me.

 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:6-8)

 Your scriptures tell us that you have measured the waters in the hollow of Your hand and marked the span of the heavens. That you have weighed the mountains and calculated the dust on the earth. (Isaiah 40:12)

 You are mighty beyond comprehension, and yet here you are beide me, fully present and loving. You know every tear shed through these trying days. But I rest knowing that my name is written on the palm of your hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

Thank you, I love you.

I miss the closeness that I found in those dark and quiet moments. The business that so easily consumes our days can drown out these opportunities. In looking back over the last 18 months, I realize that the rocker has become my most common meeting place with God. I still find myself there in that chair feeling stranded and at the mercy of my child, but once I settle in and he nods off, I find God waiting patiently for time alone with me. I am fully focused on Him, and He’s ready to talk.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

A Woman Who Fears the Lord

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Proverbs 31:30

Recently, I was part of a group of women “of a certain age” waiting to have our pictures taken for a brochure. The Texas sun was almost directly overhead as we gathered outside, searching for the most flattering angles and backgrounds. A couple of us opted to wear our sunglasses for the photos, a technique every woman knows can erase at least 5, if not 10 years. Much to our dismay, the sunglasses were nixed and we stood bare-eyed in all our middle-aged glory, squinting and smiling for posterity. The fact that the purpose for the photo shoot was a BIBLE study brochure didn’t lessen one bit our concern with how we would appear on those glossy 5 by 7 pages. After all, God reminds us that while He looks on the heart, men (and especially women getting their pictures taken) look on the outward appearance. (1 Samuel 16:7)

The Hebrew word “beauty” in Proverbs 31:30 literally means “a breath, or vapor”. Just as quickly as our makeup evaporated under the hot midday sun, so fades the “beauty” of what the world considers important. Those of us who have seen more than three decades know how literally we are outwardly “wasting away”. Yet, hopefully, we are inwardly being renewed day by day…IF we are fearing the Lord instead of fearing growing older. (2 Corinthians 4:16) For, truly, this is vanity: the preoccupation with our outward appearance, which is destined to be left behind once we step into the timelessness of eternity anyway.

The gods of this world: money, prestige, power, lots of social media followers, fame, physical beauty, and looking forever young are constantly vying for our worship and calling us to “fear” them, to be in awe of the created instead of in awe of the Creator. Psalm 1:1 tells us that we are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. It’s a good idea to check from where we are allowing our hearts to be most influenced. Elisabeth Elliot wrote in her devotional “Keep a Quiet Heart”: “Be cautious when the advice given makes you feel comfortable when you know you’re really wrong.” But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised”  . . .  and she “smiles at the future (v.25) . . . laugh lines and all!”

About the Writer:
Nan Haines is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

 

The Secret of Contentment

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13)

If you grew up going to church or have been a believer for any length of time, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this passage. I have always loved the comfort that stems from it. Reading back over it in preparation for writing this blog however was eye-opening. Look back at verse 12: “I have learned the SECRET.” I don’t think I have much paid attention to that crucial word that has such an impact on the way I now view my circumstances.

Are you a planner like me? I like to pretend that I am super spontaneous and go with the flow, and I am very laid back for the most part; but I prefer to know what’s coming next in life, don’t you? The Lord and I have had lots of chats (which consist mostly of me telling God how He should probably follow MY plan) about the plans I have for my life and, in turn, learning what His plans are (which are by far better than any I could ever dream up.)

The nugget in this passage of Philippians where it talks about the secret of contentment has the power to transform my controlling personality if I allow God to  nudge gently me when I slip into old habits. What are you holding onto in your life that God is asking you to let Him carry? For me it’s being frustrated at not knowing what the future holds so I can plan ahead! But when I ask Him to show me where I need to let go and trust, He is gracious to show me in tangible ways that He’s got this and won’t let me fall. There will be times that I pray for specific encouragement and that very afternoon I’ll get a card in the mail from my bestie, or I’ll have the joy of buying a coffee for someone else who may be having a crummy day. Contentment reminds me to live in the moment so that I can enjoy those daily blessings.

We’re all in this journey together, my friend. Contentment is a daily practice, sometimes hourly if you’re impatient and intent on getting your way like me. BLESS. The secret of contentment is Jesus, plain and simple. If we are walking closely with Him, we’ll want what He wants and be satisfied with what He provides, even if it looks very different than we thought it would.

About the Writer:
Anna is a full-time student finishing up her degree at Liberty University while also working full-time at First Baptist Dallas in the Young Married and Singles Ministries.In her spare time when she’s not writing papers for school, she enjoys laughing with friends, road trips to new places, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

How Much Do You Know?

Can you name any three of the ten commandments?  Or, two of the Gospels?

Can you list some of the apostles?

Is this the correct chronological order for Biblical leaders: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul, and Jesus?

Did you know we are not to associate with a gossip? (Prov. 20:19)

At the risk of revealing my age, I “confess” that I have two grandsons who recently graduated from high school. During that sweet time of reminiscing, I found a picture of me reading to them together when they were less than two from “Elmo”- one of those picture books with the music and sound buttons. In the window seat near where we sat in our big recliner also lay my Bible. As I looked at that picture, I was saddened. Not sadness because they were now grown and that time was past, but emotions of deep regret because I had not been reading to them from His Word during each and every opportunity I had been given.  

 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,  and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19a

What the Bible Says

In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul shared his desire for the new Christains of the church to know and understand what great wealth they had in Christ. The verse above is a part of a prison prayer for his new converts, and it is not in any way referring to materialism. On the contrary, Paul was praying for us, as well as the Ephesian believers:

  • to be enlightened- to be able to see and understand spiritual content,
  • to have hope-with Christ we have a living hope, the Comforter within us day by day, encouraging us to live for Him in all we do,
  • to know the riches of His inheritance, in His saints, that’s us!  Even though I have never felt like a saint, that is how He sees us, and
  • to understand the exceeding greatness of His power we have in the Holy Spirit, the dynamic energy to which we have access.  We need His power, not only because we are so weak, but also because we have enemies in the spiritual realm that would love to rob us of our peace, and we cannot fight them alone. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Food for Thought

Even though we become “rich” when we accept Christ, unless we read the “bankbook” we will never understand the spiritual wealth, precious gems, and priceless truths God has for us. It is not enough just to know about God; we become more satisfied and at peace when we really “know” Him as our Guide, Friend, and most importantly “Abba” or Father.

  1. Spend time in His Word,
  2. Train your children to do the same, and
  3. Attend church, one which not only reads scripture, but teaches scripture as well.
  4. Determine to grow spiritually through sound Biblical leaders and teachers such as: Dr. Robert Jeffress on Pathway to Victory, Dr. David Jeremiah onTurning Point, and/or Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries, just to name few.

About the Writer:
Beverly has been an educator, administrator, educational sales representative, Sunday school teacher, and mentor; but most importantly is a wife, mother, and grandmother with a passion for sharing Christ.

Women: God’s Instrument for Justice

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me. Psalm 138:7

Anyone who tells you that the Bible degenerates women hasn’t closely examined it’s message of unconditional love, especially for the vulnerable.  The Bible is rich in accounts of God using the weak to defeat the strong (what an amazing way to show His power!). In the fallen world of patriarchal culture, circumstances often left women broken and victims of the destructive desires of men.  But the suffering will not last, and Jesus will one day come back and defeat evil once and for all. (Revelation 19:11-21)  Men’s power cannot stand next to God’s power.

In the book of Exodus we get a glimpse of God’s power to defeat evil men when He used women as his instrument of justice.  Pharaoh was fearful of the growing Israelite nation and sought to destroy them through the genocide of all newborn boys.

Two blessed midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, defied Pharoah’s order to kill all the Egyptian baby boys as their mothers gave birth to them. (Exodus1:15-20)  These heroines remind me today of the many women who work in crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, and foster care; protecting and advocating for the most vulnerable among us. They stand powerfully against seemingly unstoppable injustice.

In addition, Pharoah’s own daughter was instrumental in his own destruction. She found baby Moses hidden in the reeds. She brought him into Pharoah’s house and raised him s her own. Pharaoh’s adversary grew up in his house because God used his daughter to thwart Pharaoh’s evil plan of genocide for the Egyptian people. (Exodus 2:5-10)  In perhaps what seemed to be quiet ways, these women through God’s diving will toppled the terrifying and oppressive power structure that reigned with ear over their lives.

Dear Sister, you are precious in the sight of God.  He can use you powerfully for His glory. While the world may objectify, sexualize, and stereotype women as less interested or capable of leading; God knows your great worth.  Men will fail you and leaders may oppress you, but God has not forgotten you.  He has heard you.

There is deliverance.  The powers of this world:  nations, unjust leaders, abusive boyfriends and husbands will fall. . . so hold on.  God is trustworthy and good. The oppression of this world cannot stand though it’s weight may be crushing.  God is working in the midst of the broken and vulnerable.  We can rest in his promised victory, and we can look for how He might use us to bring justice. . . just as He used Shiphrah, Puah, and Pharoah’s daughter.

About the writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus. She also has a career in commercial real estate investing. God has given her a heart for encouraging other women. She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class at First Baptist Dallas.

Be Still

Let me paint a picture for you. Moses is leading the Israelites, God’s chosen people, out of Egypt where they were being brutality mistreated as slaves under Pharaoh. As they are fleeing, Pharaoh sends a large army filled with his best chariots after them to capture and kill them once again. At one point the Israelites find themselves in an impossible situation with Pharaoh’s army closing in on them
from behind and the Red Sea in front. At this point the fear filled Israelites begin ridiculing Moses for taking them from their familiar life and putting them in such a dangerous situation. All of a sudden panic sets in and being tortured in Egypt looks better to them than the fear of the unknown. Moses then gives the Israelites a pep talk of sorts reminding them the Lord will in fact deliver them. These specific wrds from Moses replay often in my own head as I face impossible situations as well.

 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

We struggle with infertility and our situation often feels impossible. I can easily feel surrounded by fear if I focus on our years of past struggles or the unknowns that lie in front of us, just like the Israelites. I find that when fear is ruling, I desire to have full control over my own situation. Living in fear and control is not being still. In fact, they keep us from fulling trusting God and often work against His plan. God wants us to be still so He can rule over our lives, directing us as He fights our battles along the way.

So how did the Lord fight for the Israelites? With the raising of Moses’ staff over the Red Sea it split in two, leaving a clear and dry path for the Israelites to escape. As they escape through the parted waters, the Egyptian army follows. At the direction of the Lord, the walls of water come crashing down and the Red Sea swallows up their enemy. The Israelites trusted and the Lord fought their impossible battle for them.

Don’t let fear rule and discount your faith in God. God is powerful over our impossible situations, we just have to trust Him. I absolutely love this specific verse from the popular worship song, No Longer Slaves by Bethel Music

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it.
You drowned my fears in perfect love,
You rescued me.
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

How amazing that the God of the universe is working to fight my battles for me. Knowing that relieves such a burden! We must be still. Let Him drown our fears, allow Him to fight for us, and He will part a way through the impossible.

About the Writer:
Joni is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home wife and mom to her son. She enjoys serving at First Baptist Dallas along side her husband as small group leaders in their Young Marrieds Sunday school class. She loves spending her free time crafting, attempting Pinterest projects, and above all spending time with her family.

The Breaking Point

The last straw. That silly, insignificant thing that sends you straight over the edge. It’s been a rough morning, after a rough week (or month). You are stretched thin, barely holding it all together and then one more thing happens and you break. And that’s where I found myself- at my breaking point.

I got my boys into class, found my way back to my car, and the flood gates opened. I was finally letting it all out. Every tear that streamed down my face represented a fight that I had lost in the last month, a moment where I had been defeated by life, another failure. I turned my car on and the music began to play. The songs flowed out of my radio… to my ears… to my heart. Each song seemed perfectly fitting for my situation- heartfelt songs, crying out to a savior for grace and mercy, a desperate call on the only One who knows every tear.

breaking-waveI thought I was doing fine on my own, things were not great, but they were not that bad either. Life was manageable, survivable… so I thought. “I’m strong. I can get through this.” I kept telling myself. Until I hit my breaking point. So, there I sat, in the school parking lot, broken, crying out to God, singing praises to the Lord through my tears, and questioning why. And then it hit me- to bring me back to God. I was trying to control my own life, my steps, my will. This breaking point was a not so gentle reminder that I needed to surrender my control to God. I have no control, I only thought I did.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Now I laugh, remembering what my son told me the other day, “Mom, my brain makes me think that I’m in charge of you, but I know you are in charge of me. My brain just tells me that I’m in charge sometimes.” He understands that I am in control of his life- to protect him, guide him, care for him. But he also recognizes the fight within his own head to take control of his life. Such wisdom from a 5-year-old.

I do the same thing with God. I tell him “I got this. I’m in charge. I’ll let you know when I need you.” When things are good in life, our minds deceive us into believing we can do this on our own- that we do not need God. Sometimes we must be broken in order to bring us back to the One who protects us, guides us, and cares for us. God is stronger and infinitely wiser. I have to seek Him daily and allow Him to be my God.

The Lord will fight for you; while you keep silent. Exodus 14:14 

Consider each breaking point pure joy and cry out to the Lord, praising Him with songs.

About the Writer:
Meghan is a former art teacher who feels blessed to now be a stay-a-home mom to her two boys. She loves volunteering at her sons’ school and with the First Baptist Dallas Women’s Ministry and First Impressions Team. She is passionate about art, cooking, working out, and playing volleyball.

My Refuge, My Fortress

To dwell is to inhabit as a permanent resident, to keep the attention directed on one place. This word perfectly describes my heart’s daily desire. Though my heart wants to abide in His Word, His presence and His will each day, the struggle to do so is real. With three kids who demand much attention, my heart’s desire is often times squelched by screaming voices, chiming phones, and a to do list much longer than the day can accommodate.Dwell

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:

Dwelling in a shelter is offered to me each day and abiding in the shadow of the Almighty provides relief that can only come from one place of refuge, one fortress, our heavenly Father. Do I wake up each day thinking, “I get to abide in Him today,” or “Man, I’m giving all of my attention to the Lord today!” No, let’s be real, I’m usually awakened by a sippy cup hitting my head or a small person crawling onto me with a wet diaper. Those days when I do sleep until the alarm goes off first, my feet don’t just bound from bed. I often feel worn out before I even start. And when I awake worn out, why am I not seeking My Refuge instantly? Why am I not standing in the shadow of the Almighty right out of the gate?

As women we must be conscious of where we dwell, moment by moment. We must take note of where we find refuge.  Are we finding validation and strength from the perfect picture of the kids posted to Facebook? Are we seeking refuge at the coffee shop with other women as we compare our lives to others? Or, are we seeking Him, daily, moment by moment and dwelling in His Word and everlasting love?

When times get tough late in the day, or you wake up exhausted simply because the season of your life right now, remember and remind one another to dwell in the Lord. Encourage each other to have some quiet time with the Lord today. Point one another to Christ, who is the source of our strength. Stand in the gap with one another as we dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6

About the Author:
Tamie is a stay at home wife and mom of three kids with autism. She is a member of First Baptist Dallas and enjoys spending time hanging out at home with her family or at a quiet dinner with girlfriends. Tamie is passionate about encouraging other woman in their daily walk with the Lord.

Prayers of My Daughter

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 ESV)

My two-year-old daughter is ever changing, learning, growing, … and sometimes disobeying.  It’s a tiring, but fun age because we are beginning to see the fruits of pouring God’s Word and love into her.  Praying childShe loves to pray.  She very seriously presses her hands together right in front of her nose, furrows her brow and says, “Dear God” and ends with a loud “Amen!”  It is sometimes followed by clapping.

In most of her prayers she says, “Thank you God for mommy, daddy, my carrots, and my fork”.  I think it’s important to start by teaching our children to pray with a heart of gratefulness and rejoicing (Phillipians 4:4).  But God clearly showed me when it was time to teach her more about prayer.  A family that is dear to us recently found out that their two year old has a potentially life changing eye condition called macular degeneration.  A perfectly healthy and precious little girl may experience deterioration in her sight leading to blindness.  My heart ached for her parents.  I began to internalize the questions and fears I would have if I was in their shoes.  I wanted to be faithful in praying for miraculous healing, and then it hit me that my daughter could pray too.

I explained to her in very simple terms what was happening and told my daughter this little girl’s eyes hurt, and that we were going to pray for God to make them better.  She nodded and paid attention in a way that is rare for her.  God Himself had clearly put empathy in her heart.  My daughter regularly, and without prompting, remembers to pray for her friend.  She prays, “Thank you God for making my friend’s eyes feel better”.  Oh, to pray like that – trusting fully.

I could easily dismiss her prayer as rote memorization, but I believe it is a reflection of the childlike faith Jesus asks us to have.  Our prayers are not heard because they are well formed, but because we believe and the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26).  We are not miracle workers – Jesus is.  He has worked in my young daughter’s heart to make her a prayer warrior, and I believe He will perform a miracle for her young friend to protect her vision.

About the Writer:
Caroline is a wife and mom who loves Jesus.  She also has a career in commercial real estate investing.  God has given her a heart for encouraging other women.  She and her husband, Eric, are the directors of the Fellowship Class, a young married Sunday School class, at First Baptist Dallas.