love

Journey with Jen: An Every Day Job

Journey with Jen: An Every Day Job

In honor of Father’s Day, take a Journey with Jen as she reminisces about a few of the lessons she learned from her dad. From laughter to love and from fairness to the value of family, a lot of dirt road and fishing-pole talks molded her into the woman she is today.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Guest Post: Fostering with Faith

Guest Post: Fostering with Faith

My friend Kodi shares a beautiful GUEST POST about her journey in saying "yes" to becoming a foster parent and what this looks like in her life, her family and her heart!  You will be incredibly blessed to take a moment and read.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Journey with Jen: Faith over Fear

Journey with Jen: Faith over Fear

As a parent, there are days that stick with you.  There are days that grip your heart so tight you, and the way you approach parenthood, are permanently changed.  This month, Journey with Jen, as she tackles failure and fear head on!

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Carla's Column: The Privilege

Carla's Column: The Privilege

Carla's Column confronts the realities of a crisis in her post this month.  Maybe we desire to know the plan, or we question if there is goodness for our lives.  Fear or doubt, worry or despair, inadequacy or insecurity, there is light at the end of the tunnel and there is One who walks us through it.  Be comforted and encouraged as you read these words she shares with our hearts.  

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

GUEST POST: The Morning of March 3rd

GUEST POST: The Morning of March 3rd

Our November guest post is from Stephanie Shingleton sharing her and her husband's stories of surviving burn injuries, the challenges in the days that followed, and the happily ever after in store!  Theirs is the most beautiful love story, a Thanksgiving post you will want to read!

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Carla's Column: What's In Your Hand?

Carla's Column: What's In Your Hand?

This month's Carla's Column asks us the question, "What is in your hand?" What do we have available to use for the benefit of others?  How can we serve the needs of those around us?  Putting aside training, education and credentials, we all have something in our hand to be a blessing.  Consider the gifts you've been given as you read this encouraging post!

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Opinions Are Like Belly Buttons

Opinions Are Like Belly Buttons

When is expressing our own thoughts and opinions a problem?  Please join me for this post evaluating our tendency and ability to do so.  I pray it challenges all of us to look at where our words may land in the life of another.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

GUEST POST: Mighty Marriages

GUEST POST: Mighty Marriages

Our October guest post is from Dianna and Lynn Wheeler.  They are getting real about marriage, challenging us to evaluate our motives and our expectations, and sharpening us to implement three steps in strengthening our relationships.  Take a few moments to draw inspiration, reassurance and insight from this beautiful couple sharing this valuable message.    

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Carla's Column: It Is Time

Carla's Column: It Is Time

Our dear friend, Carla Holtz speaks into our hearts regarding the everyday ways to show love and speak into the lives of those around us.  It can even be as simple as our commitment to a daily exercise routine.  Find encouragement and inspiration exploring new purpose in those everyday events through this month's

Carla's Column!

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

Everyone has a way they receive love.  Gary Chapman covers the topic thoroughly in his book The Five Love Languages.  From what I remember of the book, and from what I identify in myself, is that we receive from all of the five ways love is expressed, but each of us has a primary love language. Evidently, my primary love language is quality time.  My secondary is acts of service.

But one thing I love so very much are words.  I love written words and spoken words.  I love the bridge words create connecting one person to another.  And recently, I received the most beautiful words from a beautiful family.

This family gifted each nurse who took care of their baby with a rustic cuff and the letter below.  I've changed a bit of the letter to protect the family's privacy, but wanted to share because of the insight it provides.  Sometimes we get so focused in, we forget how much value each of the little things holds in the hearts of those we as nurses get to care for.

As I read through this letter, the following passage of scripture was stirring in my thoughts.

Matthew 25:34-40 NLT Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."  Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!"      

 

NICU Nursing Gifts: Letter From A Family

Hope- a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust. 

We were so excited when we finally had our son on that autumn day in 2016.  He was beautiful and sweet and just perfect.  Then two days later we were told he wasn't going home with us and that our perfect little boy wasn't medically perfect.

Our emotions leapt from total joy and excitement to fear and confusion.  The next few days are totally lost in our memories, and the following weeks were so emotional and draining.  There is nothing to prepare you for the sadness and complete helplessness you feel as a parent with a child that is sick to any degree, let alone in and ICU where we weren't sure what the problem was or what the solution would be.

The things we do remember are the people who were there to take care of our son.  Upon arrival at the NICU, a nurse had prepared our baby's bed with personal bedding and had placed the sweetest blue knit cap on his precious head.  Within the first few days, our little man had a handmade name tag on the door to his room.  A few days later, a nurse brought in an outfit and said, "Let's dress this sweet boy!"

Being such an emotional time, I had never even thought to put clothes on my baby!

November arrived and our little turkey got to make his very own first craft!  A turkey!  Made using his little footprint.

Nurses who had taken care of him before would stop in on their shifts just to check-in on him.  We really felt as though the nurses here cared for his health and loved him as all children need to feel loved.

Although we as his parents were not the patients ourselves, we felt cared for.  The nurses here engaged in conversation with us both medically to keep us updated and socially to keep us feeling sane and a part of the world outside of that room.  Each night, a nurse brought in fresh bedding for us to sleep on and always asked if we needed anything else.  We received comfort in the form of positive words or encouragement, friendly smiles and even a few much needed hugs.

You are what gave us HOPE.  We desired for our baby's health to be taken care of and we had to trust that it would be.  In some cultures, blue is representative of hope.  The shade of blue we chose is the same shade of blue as the knit hat he received in his first night in the NICU.

When you wear this bracelet, please remember that what you do matters.  You give hope to a lot of families.  Your kindness, patience, and individual care matters.  We are forever indebted to this staff and this facility.

Love, a NICU Grad's Mom & Dad

 

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

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

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

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

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

…. “just loves you”.

Yes. I do know that He does love me.

But do I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Little Thought From Heather...Meadows🤗

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

On the Hunt to Find Value, Importance & Uniqueness

I don’t know much about paintings. To cut to the chase, I’m not much into “The Arts.” I love the performing arts, only when it includes some type of musical, and if it’s a Disney musical it’s even better. I’m not into classical music, although I faked it for several years during my childhood because Aunt Donna listened to it and I was giving my best to be just like her. I’m lacking on classical novels, because reading typically only holds my interest if I get some life application out of it. But back to paintings. I wouldn’t recognize a Van Gogh or Monet if my life depended on it. I do know, however, that the number of paintings produced is one factor that determines its value. Which brings me to a thought. And a question. Or maybe a few questions.

This world is populated with people. So how does one feel unique, valuable and important? Do we sometimes feel that we’re just another face in the crowd? How often do we consider that we’re one-of-a-kind?

Gavin got this post rolling a few months ago after a physical therapy screening he had.

Here’s the back-story:

Gavin has an in-toe walking pattern, what some refer to as pigeon-toed. We were first concerned with the issue when he was two. We asked his pediatrician about it at his well-child check-up that year. The determination was that it was due to internal hip rotation. Made sense. We were informed that it’d be more exaggerated when he was tired, but that it wouldn’t keep him from his ability to run or potentially one-day play sports.

I cannot even tell you how much we love our pediatrician. This doctor has not only cared for all four of our children, but even provided care to me in my teen years, and was a part of Brandon’s and my big day, attending our wedding! This isn’t just a physician to us. This is a very special individual. With that in mind, we didn’t take it lightly to get a second opinion. But let me say, if a doctor is offended for you to get a second opinion, maybe it’s not the right doctor for you. I knew ours would completely understand, so we saw a pediatric orthopedic specialist who took x-rays, did a physical assessment and returned the same determination. So we moved on with the thought that this was just the way God made Gavin.

Fast-forward four years. We signed Gavin up to play soccer when he was six. He hated it. We found out it was because of the running.

The following summer Jaron would put Gavin in as his goalie when Jaron practiced soccer at home. What a sweet big brother, potentially kicking soccer balls right at the baby brother. No slack around here. 😂

After a summer of being Jaron’s goalie, Gavin wanted to sign-up for soccer again. No surprise—as a goalie!

It was a better fit for him. However, I was concerned when he told me he wanted to sign-up for basketball. Despite giving him the information on the required running in basketball, he still wanted to play, so we signed him up.

A short time later, I was visiting with our physical therapist at work. Many don’t realize that premature babies need physical therapy and it starts early in their life. So here we were, both working on this baby, just visiting. I mentioned Gavin’s history and my doubts over our basketball-season-sign-up decision for him. She replied with, “He may just need inserts.” Inserts? She told me to call the pediatric physical therapy department and ask to make an appointment for a screening. So I did.

I took Gavin for his screening over Christmas break and it was quickly determined that inserts would be really beneficial for him. Through much more detailed explanation, I was also informed that it’s typically hard to make such a determination until after the age of three or four.

This gets us up to the topic here—feeling unique, important and valuable.

When our physical therapist told Gavin she was going to make him shoe inserts, he told her that wouldn’t be necessary because he could just get some at Wal-Mart.

I explained to Gavin that no one on the entire planet had a foot just like his, and that these inserts would be specially-made just for his foot.

It took some convincing but he started to understand his uniqueness—from the top of his head all the way to his little piggies.

Doesn’t seem so profound to us, does it? 

Or does it? I believe we have a lot of people on this earth that don’t quite understand how unique, how valuable and how important they are.

In a song by Natalie Grant she sings, “and you can’t love, if you don’t love yourself.” Well, I believe that pertains to more than love. If we don’t understand how unique, important and valuable we are, it’s difficult to be able to identify how unique, important and valuable others are, which may be the reason why people treat each other so crummy at times. And on the other hand, it may be the reason why people allow others to treat them so crummy.

For us to live a life of fulfillment, we must see our value.

A friend of mine, Tracy Robbins, illustrates this so powerfully in one of her messages. She explained that the MSRP is the value the manufacturer has placed on an item, suggesting how much should be paid for the item. Well, that’s great if you’re studying economics I suppose, but she brought it home in a way I won’t forget. After that bit of information, she says, “And this is how much God says you are worth,” as an image comes on the screen of Jesus Christ, beaten and bloody, with a crown of thorns on his head, hanging on a cross.

God says we are valuable, so valuable that He sent His one and only Son.

It gives much meaning to Ephesians 2:10 that says in the NKJV, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

I guess that’s why I don’t get too carried away with designer stuff, or even gaining knowledge over the Van Goghs and Monets. The Word tells me I am God’s workmanship. In the NLT, it says I’m His “masterpiece.” Masterpiece!!! As in “a work of outstanding artistry!” I am outstanding artistry! Whether others see me as such or not, whether someone would place value on what I have to offer or not, whether I perform to my own level of expectation or not; I am God’s masterpiece. It’s liberating and reassuring.

YOU are God’s masterpiece.

I’m saying your foot isn’t like anyone else. So let’s get out of our Wal-Mart-Shoe-Insert mentality and realize how unique He created us!

In the movie The Help, Abileen spoke words of truth into little Mae as she said, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”

Let’s look in the mirror, repeat those words, and remember we are custom-made by God and for God. One-of-a-kind. Unique. Valuable. Important.

****Three ways to help us grow—sharecommentsubscribe.**** Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact us!Choose this link to see a video of our story

About the video-- the day of Gavin’s casting for his shoe inserts, he was confused asking, “you mean they’re going to put a cast on me?” I said, “No. It’s just what they call it when they make a mold of your foot.” He questioned, “You mean mold is going to grow on my foot?!?!” Obviously I was at a loss for words to effectively explain the process, so like any parent in 2017, I said, “Let’s watch a YouTube video.” However, I could not find one video that was consistent with what we would be doing that day. So I thought, “I need to video this so other kids will know what to expect.” I did just that. But after taking time to assemble the video and publishing it, I found several others that would have been perfect. So I’m going to take this as something we were meant to do, hoping it is still useful for someone.  Here is Gavin's journey through the casting and fitting of his new shoe inserts!

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYRc4IQuKpo&feature=em-upload_owner[/embed]

 

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Beauty and The Beast Live Action ~ My Personal Review

My family and I bought tickets a month ago for the new release of the live action Beauty and The Beast. We were greatly anticipating this new movie. Actually, that’s an understatement. But we’ll go with it for consideration of word count here. Now, let me say, I have never, ever, ever written a film review. I did take a film class in college to meet my arts requirement, but I hardly think that qualifies. Therefore, look at this post as one friend sitting in a coffee shop chatting over some nice caramel macchiato (okay, now we are obviously at Starbucks), but back on track here, just imagine me as a friend sharing my thoughts about the movie. It’s really meant to be that simple of a post.

I had seen the animated Beauty and The Beast movie in theaters for its 1991 release and fell in love with the story, feeling pulled in to that little village with Belle. I could have watched it over and over and over again. And I did—when it came out on video. I’m not sure what was going on in my life at the time, whether I had some stomach bug or if I just had a post-anesthesia upset tummy from surgery, but whatever it was I remember laying on the couch and saltine crackers being involved. I sat and snacked, sipping ginger ale watching the movie back-to-back. It was such a bummer I had to wait each time for the tape to rewind.

I loved this story for many, many reasons. But I connected with it through the opening narrative, particularly the very last line, “for who could ever learn to love a beast?

It was an important question for my ten-year-old self. I hadn’t quite formulated the question so elegantly as the film did, however, I had asked the question. Many times before. Laying in intensive care with a large red heat lamp rolled over my bed for excruciating bandage changes as even the most delicate nurse had to rip and pull the dried fabric from my raw skin. Raw skin turned to puffy red scars. At seven-years old I knew my body was no longer appealing. No one would look at me as they had numerous times before and say, “what a beautiful little girl.” More importantly, would anyone ever learn to love me?

Three years later, along came Beauty and The Beast, and I wanted to know, “COULD anyone ever learn to love a beast?”

Belle was such an odd duck. She stuck out in her little village. So I quickly connected with her character as well. Understanding the experiences of those who don’t quite blend in.

And the scene, where she discovers her father behind bars in this enchanted castle only to be confronted with an angry beast. Her courage and her love was something even a ten-year old realized. As I grew a little older, continuing to watch the movie, because again, the story was incredible and the music, well, it is timeless, but as I grew I connected that in-castle-prison scene to something else. Belle said, “Take me instead.” The Beast replied, “You would take his place?” You see, not only do I relate to looking like a beast with an 87% scarred body, but there have been more times than I can count that I’ve acted like a beast. But someone took my place. Jesus said, “Take me instead,” and He bore every imperfection of my wounded body and soul upon Him. The greatest illustration of sacrificial love ever known.

So now you know what big shoes this live-action film had to fill in my book.

Allow me to touch on a few different thoughts (in no particular order):

  • The Music
  • The Cast
  • A Comparison
  • The Controversy

I really loved the music. The songs written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were included in the movie, along with some new songs written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. (Howard Ashman passed before the theatrical release of the 1991 Beauty and the Beast and a tribute was made at the end of the film, “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991.”)

One of the new songs, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” recorded by Celine Dion has beautiful lyrics, some of which are included in the film sung by Belle’s father, Maurice.

I loved how the film offered some back-story. I always wanted to know why the prince was so cruel. I always wanted to know what happened to Belle’s mom, why was it just her and her dad? This film allows for those questions to be answered.

As far as the cast—let me say, they did a fabulous job with casting. We were Downton Abbey fans and I really could’ve used some good conversation to process what happened when Matthew Crawley left the show. However, Dan Stevens moved on to a grand role as The Beast. His eyes!!! Gracious. Who would’ve thought Disney would find a real-life set of eyes as beautiful as those of The Beast in the animated film?! But they did!

Then we have the sweet, precious, head-strong girl Hermione Granger who we bonded with through the Harry Potter movies. Emma Watson is all grown up and made a beautiful Belle. Her wearing that full-yellow gown in the ballroom scene was gorgeous!!! But on the downside, Belle’s voice was a little lack-luster. The notes were sung, they didn’t modify any songs to accommodate. I have to say, she did it. However, there wasn’t the power and passion I anticipated from what Paige O’Hara delivered in the animated film.

The film consistently follows the original movie. And I’m not totally sure what my opinion is on it. Maybe I should watch it again. During the movie I had the thought, “The live-action of Cinderella, Maleficent and Pete’s Dragon were all similar yet quite different. Wonder if I’d feel more into this if it wasn’t so much the same?” I wish I could answer that question for you. While I’m so happy Disney kept true to the original, for me, it wasn’t until the story started to take some different turns that I felt more engaged. Honestly, I think it was the vocals for me. I felt a little bleh, when Belle was on the hill singing, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can stand.” I just wasn’t convinced. Again, it wasn’t powerful and passionate.

Lastly, since I’ve already received some comments, questions and a link to a mom who is now boycotting Disney over this film, I’m going to jump right into the controversy of Disney announcing this film to include it’s first openly gay character.

Here’s my response posted to Facebook regarding the movie, “it's so indirect that kids who have only known a traditional family won't even pick up on it. Actually, I kinda thought the two little snippets were funny and so did our younger boys - they didn't have any idea what it was insinuating.”

I’ve read several articles and opinions regarding the representation of the gay community in Disney films. Some I agree with, but there’s a lot I don’t. This is such a delicate issue for so many. Honestly, I’m not looking at this as an us versus them; traditional versus modern. We are all people. And I like what Bob Goff says about it on page 98 of Love Does, “We can show them that God is full of love and is really the source of hope and every creative idea. People don’t want to be told that their experiences were wrong or that their wrapper or someone else’s wrapper is made out of the wrong stuff. Instead, we get to be the ones to show them real love from a real God.”

At the end of the film, and the day, and at the end of my life for that matter, I pray that people can say of me that no matter who they were, I loved liked The Beast, rather than acted like one.

I John 4:12 NLT  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.

****Three ways to help us grow—sharecommentsubscribe.**** Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact us!Choose this link to see a video of our story

Gracious-- I am saddened to even add this, but please remember that this is our online home.  Unkind comments will not be welcomed in.

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Guest Post: Murder Couldn't Kill God's Love

*a special post from special guest Teresa Nichols* February is known as the month of love so I wanted to share our story about God’s love.

God tells us over and over the importance of love, that no matter what we do for others, or in the name of God, if we do it without love in our hearts then it is nothing, He even gives a complete description of what Love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

getattachment
getattachment

Then He tells us His greatest commandment is to love Him, then to love one another.

Yet sometimes things happen that we don’t understand in this life and we want to shake our finger at God and say, “How can You say You love us?

I can’t, in any way, say I understand the ways of God. Why some live and some do not. But I can tell you I believe what John 10:10 tells us, that the enemy is the one who steals, kills and destroys. God tries to teach us how important it is to love one another, but no matter how much we feel we love others, it is nothing close to the magnitude of God’s love for each and every one of us.

I know this first hand—by the way God has shown His love for me through our tragedy. God began showing me His love through miracles and blessings that He poured out on our family as we regained our strength to stand again.

100_2233
100_2233

On March 28th of 2011 we made a move to Tulsa, Oklahoma from our small hometown in Iowa with our youngest son Ethan who was twenty, and his friend Casey, twenty-one at the time. Our little town had been quickly loosing businesses and unemployment was very high. My husband Scott left his job of thirty-two years so we could all have a new start in life. Our twenty-six-year-old daughter Leanne was already in Tulsa finishing her second year at Rhema Bible College.  We had prayed and asked God about making this move and He answered in a way that left no room for any doubt that we were to move.  This would be just one of the ways God showed us His love. 

Life was good. Within a month we all had jobs and were having a wonderful time. Along with jobs we had found the best places to play Frisbee golf, some favorite eating places, and a church home. We had all pretty much settled into our routines.

A short time later Ethan met an eighteen-year-old young woman named Carissa. We were all sure she would one day be his wife.

dscn3110
dscn3110

Their days consisted of Ethan working and Carissa’s studies in Music Composition at ORU. Their evenings and weekends were filled with exploration throughout the town’s parks. 

On September 18th 2011, six short months after moving to Tulsa, Ethan and Carissa went for a jog at Hicks Park. As the sun was setting, they were surrounded by two men with a gun. They were robbed and forced to their knees.   Then, they were both shot in the head.

Nothing could have prepared us. Our world stopped and we felt as if our hearts would stop too. There was even a time I wished mine would because with every beat came unimaginable pain. Nothing could stop it. The loss of a child is unbearable in its own, but to lose them in such a violent-senseless way made it so much worse. Even though we knew they were with God the very moment they left this world, it still couldn’t stop our pain.

Ethan had always known God and was baptized as a young boy. But as this beautiful woman of God came into his life he had grown to be a Man of God. They had built their relationship around God first, praying together before they had even spent time together face-to-face. They both had such a trust and love in God. Even when I would try to warn him to be careful he would look me in the eyes and say, “I have God what do I have to be afraid of?

At first there was just the heartache and sadness but then came the “WHYS” and there were so very many.

As my mind darted from one thought to another in sort of a random-scrambled way trying to make some sense of things, it seemed every thought was attached to a WHY.  Those whys were quickly followed by condemnation, guilt, and “IF ONLYS.

IF ONLY, we would have not gone to a movie that night. IF ONLY they hadn’t gone to that park. IF ONLY we hadn’t moved to Tulsa.

And it was the same for Scott.

It was the question about moving to Tulsa that God opened my eyes to first. One day as this why came to me again God reminded me, “Teresa, you prayed- I gave you a clear answer. Do you doubt Me now? How can you condemn yourself when the answer was so clear that you were to go?” With that I began to realize that Satan was using all the whys to pull us down, to try and fill us with guilt. But with that one truth I also realized God had already made sure we could not have guilt for that, He had covered us.

I knew I had to take authority over Satan and hold tight to God's truth. For me the scripture Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”

When Satan would try to push the whys into my thoughts I would tell him to be gone in the name of Jesus Christ. I also knew I needed to stop asking why all together and just let it go. Once I stopped asking “why,” God slowly started giving me answers. They did not come all at once but steadily, as my heart needed them.

One day I was having an exceptionally emotional day, I longed to hold my baby boy and nothing seemed to help me get past that longing. I finally decided to go have lunch with Scott. Although we tried, comforting each other was really impossible. It just does not work when both you and your spouse are hurting so bad. Yes we knew we needed to be together, but you cannot pull someone out of the ditch that you are stuck in too. You can only hold them tight when they need it. But God will slowly ease you out, giving you time to heal before pulling you up a little farther. This kind of deep loss does not disappear. It has to go through stages.

On this day I really needed my husband to hold me, even if it was just for a few minutes. But as I left from lunch to drive back home I could feel the longing coming back strong.

I decided I did not want to go home to sit in the house alone so I stopped at a clothing store and decided to just look around a bit. I found a shirt I wanted to try on so I went into the dressing room to see if it would fit. When I came out of the room to look in the big mirror a woman came out of the adjacent dressing room with the same exact shirt on. We laughed a bit, then wound up in conversation, and I eventually shared about Ethan.

I could see the sadness in her eyes but there was something else too. As we walked out the door to the parking lot she asked if she could share something with me. She told me she was a prayer warrior and that she was getting ready to go next door to get a coffee, but God asked her to go try on some clothes. She tried at first to say she really didn't need anything but she could feel Him telling her to go. She told me that she had been praying for me and our family since she saw the story on the news.

100_2498
100_2498

That obedient prayer warrior gave me confirmation that God was there with me. He knew I needed that particular encounter with this stranger to help give me strength to get through that rough day. What an amazing and wonderful God we have! 

100_2500
100_2500

This was not the only time God made sure I knew He was with me. There were many different ways and so many blessings as we went through the weeks. But it took me awhile to realize the biggest blessing He gave me.  It was not something that I noticed right away but it became clearer to me as we went through counseling. Through our counselor I learned that no two people ever go through the healing process at the same pace. I had to let Scott heal for himself and not try to push him to where I was or vice-versa. 

This is where I first realized I had no anger. Scott, Carissa's parents, and many other people around me were very angry. I understood why they were angry but I couldn't understand why I was NOT angry.

You see I, like many of you mothers out there, I am like a mother bear. You might come around and see me playing gently with my cubs, but the moment anyone threatens my kids in any way I become a furious fighting animal with claws out and teeth bared to protect them. It doesn't matter how big or mean you may be, I would take you on in a second just to keep them safe. But I felt NO anger. Believe me I searched for it, but it was not there. Even at the preliminary hearing where I looked at the two murderers in the face for the first time there was not any anger.

100_2938-2
100_2938-2

You see I do not do anger well. It takes a bit of pushing to get me angry but when I do it is not good in any way. Then it is almost always followed but a tremendous let down, followed by tears and sadness. I know God knew I couldn't handle anger so He took it from me.What a loving God! Because of this, forgiveness came easy for me and forgiveness must come in order to heal completely

This is just a small peek into of some of the ways God covered me throughout our time of loss. Even though my heart will always miss my baby boy my spirit leaps when I think of how God loves me. I wanted to share this with you so that you can see the love God has for each of us. He is always there reaching out to us. However, He is a polite and patient God. He will not push Himself upon us. We must invite Him in.

I ask you as we go through this month of love remember what God asks—love one another. There is no greater love than the love of our God.

A Little Thought From Heather: The enemy has netted so many people out of their tragedies-- they blame God and turn away instead of seeking Him for hope and healing. Teresa and Scott’s journey is an example of how hope and healing can unfold for those who choose to turn to God. A story that illustrates how much more powerful His love is than even the most unimaginable heartache. I am honored for Teresa’s willingness to share with us. I pray her words continue to strengthen our confidence and security in His mighty love.   Happy Valentine’s Day ❤ Heather

Did you enjoy this post? Want to join in the journey with Heather? ****Three ways to help us grow—sharecommentsubscribe.**** Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact Heather! Choose this link to see a video of Heather’s story

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Not So Amazing

Do you ever wake up feeling amazing? Most mornings I wake up feeling tired. And when I start thinking about everything that needs to happen in that one day, I try to find encouragement counting down the hours until I get to go back to bed. Not so amazing, huh? Nevertheless, at times, in the realities of daily living, we might have the blessing of hearing someone say, “You’re amazing!” It may not be a big to-do, but it’s stated. However, do we ever really feel they’re right? Most likely not. Regardless, we probably keep shooting for “amazing,” despite never really feeling like we are.

I live in Not-So-Amazing land.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** did you enjoy this post?  if so, please share with your friends and family through email or social media**

Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe

Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact us!

Want to read what others have to say about previous events? Read them here.

Choose this link to see a video of our story and some previous event

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

Birthday Surprise Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVEWzCxPn7k

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Enduring Love

When we imagine a picture of endurance we may envision a mountain climber or a triathlete. Those events when one must press-in with extreme efforts. Events in which there’s not an option to stop and take a break. A picture of endurance is illustrated when facing something that causes pain, or suffering, something that is a hardship. The picture of endurance in my mind is the face of my friend who completed her last radiation yesterday. She endured a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation. She has endured a disease while raising her children and continuing her work caring for others as a nurse. She endured with the truest mark of courage-- her gorgeous smile.

I picture our sweet, most often very tiny, NICU babies who endure arterial sticks, chest tubes, intubations, and lumbar punctures. And their parents, who endure the process with feelings of helplessness, wanting desperately to take their place.

I picture family members enduring grief from the death of a loved-one, individuals enduring the loss of their own physical capability, parents enduring the heartache of a rebellious child.

My own memories take me back to being seven. I learned early how to grit my teeth, enduring bandage changes that often required ripping, enduring physical therapy resulting in scars tearing, and enduring the unknown striving to walk again after those scary days when I couldn’t even wiggle my toes.

Picturing the unpleasant and the difficult are natural images when considering endurance. However, do you ever think about love?

We’ve been in the “love” season. There are dinner dates and roses, chocolates and jewelry. Images of happiness, joy, and romancing stir. But endurance? That sounds more like a workout, more like physical training, or a hardship, not love.

Let’s take a look at this very popular verse in the ESV and NLT:

I Corinthians 13:7

ESV- Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

NLT- Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love is the muscle to our workout. Love is the courage to our battle. Love is the strength to our suffering. Love doesn’t just get us through the bumps in the road; love gets us through the hardships, the storms, the challenges. Love gets us through all things, in every circumstance.

Those relationships that have endured reflect a beautiful picture of love.

And that’s what brings me to the picture I’m closing with. Our long-time precious friend and family photographer, Mallory captured this moment last fall.

It may appear as a simple pose, but those arms wrapped around me are our testimony to love’s endurance.

Love endured early before we were even married when someone made the suggestion to Brandon that he would eventually feel unfilled as a husband because of my scarred body. Love continued with endurance through the changes to our relationship with each little miracle we welcomed into the world. Love endured through our goals of bachelor degrees in engineering and nursing. Love has endured through imperfections of our flesh; baggage, insecurities, hang-ups, shortcomings, and disagreements.

There have been bumps in the road. There have, quite honestly, been complete washouts. There have been disappointments. But our love didn’t merely sound like a sweet story or a convenient option, no it was created. The Lord in all His goodness, in all His holiness, in His perfection took two people without anything to offer and He gave us a gift that He made for us in eternity—a love that’s been fierce, secure, soft, delicate, unique and constant.

His love endured all for all of us to live this life with the power of enduring love.

"I will be yours, you will be mine, together in eternity. Our hearts of love will be entwined together in eternity. Forever in eternity."

View More: http://malloryhallphotography.pass.us/meadowsfamily2015fallmini

** did you enjoy this post?  if so, please share with your friends and family through email or social media**

Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe

Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact us!

Want to read what others have to say about previous events? Read them here.

Choose this link to see a video of our story and some previous events

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!

Control Freak

Getting in the car with my mom I must be prepared for one thing, the possibility she may honk her horn. And I don't mean a little "toot-toot." I mean, lay-on-the-horn, blaring-loud-for-all-to-hear kind of honk. It doesn't end there. Whatever ability she has to demonstrate her displeasure on the outside of the car is only a glimmer compared to her expressions on the inside of the car. And my Mom is a nice person! However, she gets all riled up on the road. Inconsiderate people who pull out in front of her causing her to slam on her brakes. Distracted drivers, talking, or yes, even texting away on their phones. Rushed workers ignorning the lane closure signs to squeeze in at the last possible moment. It infuriates her. When she rides with me she'll identify every moment I should utilize my horn. My neglection of such an opportunity produces much discussion as she'll inform me that I need to let them know what they did so they won't do it again. There's where her hope is. It's not an angry, difficult, short little lady. It's a woman who intends to help people out, highlight the error of their driving, so they can do it better the next time.

My take is different. Number one, I wonder if the person who pulled out in front of me, or cut me off, may be a mother who has a screaming baby in the car, a tired toddler and an argumentative child. Believe me, that causes some distractions and enough stress without being honked at. Or possibly, it's a nurse who lives forty-five minutes from the hospital and got called-in before she had a shower or a trace of make-up on her face. It happens. Secondly, and most importantly for me is, I don't care. I don't care about honking at someone and getting all worked up over them, because I have no relational connection, nor any ounce of influence on them to change anything. If a driver is flat-out rude, they're going to be flat-out rude whether I blast my horn or not. It's just not worth the aggravation to me.

Now don't misunderstand me. I do get worked up. I do get riled to the point of feeling steam come out my ears. Okay, not quite steam, but you get the picture. Flaming mad. Like Anger on Disney's Inside Out or Donald Duck when he's "had it up to here!" (Yes, that's what he sometimes says, although it almost requires a translator to comprehend his lines.)

I tend to get all upset with things I think I have control over. Emphasis given to the word, "think." It's like a quantitative study. I have variables in an experiment. The independent variable is manipulated to produce the dependent variable. Since my lab puppy, sweet little Ruby Sue, is turning one this weekend, let's consider dog food. The type of dog food is an independent variable because it's something I can change (or manipulate), and the results I get are the dependent variables like her weight, her likability to the food, and maybe her coat being more shiny.

If I have no influence on the outcome, I don't get too engaged. It's that whole, "it is what it is" kind of situation; “que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.”

But let me share with you where I do get hung up. It's again, in those areas I think I have control.

My parents were told, on more than one occassion, during my years of rehabiliation from my burn injury that I may develop an addiction to narcotics. I'll share more about the topic when the book project pieces together, but for now, let me focus on this subject of control. Although I desire to be as out-of-it as possible when I'm recovering from surgeries, I'm quite eager to stop taking the medication when I no longer need it, because I don't feel in control when I'm in a fog. Too much of my childhood was out of my control. As an adult, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for the care I received. Absolutley overwhelmed. I'm living a life today because of the care I received. Nevertheless, I remember as a child wanting control over the situations I had absolutley none.

Memories of being restrained, with my arms braced out to my side, unable to move. Memories of a tube down my throat breathing for me, but occluding my ability to communicate. Screaming for help when those precious nurses were tearing bandages off my raw body. Fighting against amazing physical therapists as they ripped scar tissue to stretch my contractured body.

Yes, I have control issues.

I also have a good, good Father who loves me as I am, but desires me to grow in Him. Just as He provides opportunities to make the impatient patient and the prideful humble; He's given me many opportunities to release control and grow in trust.

A reoccurring theme for 2015 was trust. As I felt challenged in 2014 to rest, 2015 was about trust. Here's a bit of what I journaled toward the end of the year...

As I’ve sought the Lord, as He’s challenged me to trust Him, using situations to strengthen my trust muscle, I can see the control shatter. I needed to be here and He was preparing the time for me. I needed to grow in the quality, in this characteristic.

‘Do you trust God?’ Yes, I’ve always trusted God. However, do I trust God when I have no control, no influence over the outcome, when I have nothing to contribute, or even manipulate?  Not in a bad manipulate-evil-devising way, but in a manipulate as, take it in my own hands and change what it needs, or what I think it needs to be, to form it and mold it on my own. Do I trust God even then?

Oh, how I thought He was teaching me through the writing to trust Him. Oh, how I thought He was teaching me through the speaking to trust Him. Oh, how I thought my obedience to step away from full-time nursing was trusting Him, or being given our website was trusting Him- but, those situations were PREPARING me for the biggest trust exercise the Lord could have set before me….

I know where my desire to control comes from. It's fear. I wanted control when I was little because I was scared. Not much has changed. I still to this day fight fear. The fear is a bit different, but I fight nevertheless. But again, God is so loving and kind towards me. His Word says, "perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18). Which means I don't have to be in control. I just need to trust in Him.

Therefore, as you're stepping into your dreams, visions and goals for 2016, be aware of the vision killers we've discussed the last few weeks: feeling overwhelmed, making assumptions, and fear.

Fear has no place. You serve a great God! And the same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives in you (Romans 8:11).  Remember that fact, and exercise that muscle to trust in the face of any fear this year!

Isaiah 30:15 ESV For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and REST you shall be saved; in quietness and in TRUST shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,

This was one of the verses I've stood on, encompassing the Lord's challenge for me to rest in 2014 and to trust in 2015. But unlike the people of Israel, may we be willing.

** did you enjoy this post?  if so, please share with your friends and family through email or social media**

Connect with Us! Click Here to Subscribe

Could our story be of benefit for your group or upcoming event?  Click here to contact us!

Want to read what others have to say about previous events? Read them here.

Choose this link to see a video of our story and some previous events

click on the link to hear this song-- No Longer Slaves  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkNj5hcy5E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxkNj5hcy5E

Thank you to our incredible sponsors!