This year we can transform our hopes and dreams into realities and unify our families at the same time!

10 Potential Family Goals for 2017

By: Paige Smith

Our families are one of God’s greatest gifts to us! Through life’s winding ups and downs we always remain permanently connected to them. They can be our greatest supports and biggest fans!

Our families can be our greatest supports in life!

Our families can be our greatest supports in life!

Our spouses and children become wonderful extensions of ourselves and vice versa as we grow in love and community with them!

Almost every decision we make affects our family members and in turn their decisions– as well as their thoughts and emotions– can significantly affect us.

This is why our unity as a family can impact our lives nearly more than anything else.

So what helps to unify a family?

There are many factors, but according to Marriage and Relational Life Experts Dr. David and Theresa Ferguson, setting goals as a family is one of the most effective ways to establish family unity.

“Perhaps today, more than ever,” they write, “we, as individuals and families, need a sense of direction and destiny…which we can stretch with all our strength and passions” (Intimacy Encounters 184).

Goal setting empowers a family to see themselves as one mighty force and be a powerful unified front!

Rather than every individual member simply going through life doing what seems best to them, setting goals as a family centers every person around a common sense of purpose and direction.

Family members become infinitely closer as they open up and share the inner desires of their hearts and pray together about God’s unique vision for their family as a whole!

Are you ready to begin the journey of unifying your family more than ever before?

It may seem like a daunting task so here is a list of ten goals in common life categories that you can tailor to fit your family.

10 Potential Family Goals:

1. Go on a Family Goal Setting Retreat with just you and your spouse.

Dr. David and Theresa Ferguson, counselors and authors who have created countless resources for marriages and families highly recommend spouses to get away for a weekend for the sole purpose of creating goals for their family.

If traveling out of town isn’t practical, simply arrange for babysitters for the kids and have a staycation version at the house.

It will take some planning and effort, but it will be well worth it in the end!

Their marriage resource, Intimacy Encounters, includes a full step by step outline for how to go about your own family goal setting retreat.

2. Spiritual: Have a daily couples devotional with your spouse before heading off to work.

This is a great way to start off your day with your spouse! It can be as simple as reading a scripture and praying for one another or going through a marriage devotional. Many can be found for free online and on Bible Apps.

3. Marriage: Go on a marriage retreat and an anniversary get away.

A sunny weekend get away with our spouses can be a great way to refresh ourselves and pour into eachother!

A sunny weekend get away with our spouses can be a great way to refresh ourselves and pour into eachother!

This is an amazing way to invest in our marriages! Many churches have ministries that host seasonal retreats for their couples to get away and invest in their relationship away from all distractions.

Get-aways with our spouses are always a great time to reconnect, refresh and remember again just how much we love each other.

4. Family: Plan and Have a Family Vacation.

There’s nothing like building memories as a family to bring everyone together!

From theme parks to family cruises and outdoor camping adventures there are so many options for different budgets and preferences.

5. Financial: Pay off your smallest debt as a family.

This is a great financial goal to gain momentum in paying off debt! As you all celebrate the victory of paying off one debt it will bring even more motivation to continue with any larger ones.

6. Career: Support one another to each go to an industry related conference in your feilds or read 5-10 top books in your industries this year.

Conferences are a great way to invest in our personal development! This photo was taken at the 2016 JLO Women's Leadership Academy.

Conferences are a great way to invest in our personal development! This photo was taken at the 2016 JLO Women’s Leadership Academy.

This can be a great way to get in each others world and invest in what our spouses are passionate in! 

7. Personal/Social: Each member begin a hobby you’ve always wanted to do this year such as learn a new language or instrument or commit to having a ladies day or guys night out once a month to build relationship.

There's nothing like having time with your girlfriends! From meeting for lunch to hosting a game night, there are so many wonderful ways we keep our friendships vibrant!

There’s nothing like having time with your girlfriends! From meeting for lunch to hosting a game night, there are so many wonderful ways we keep our friendships vibrant!

8. Health: Do a 5K together as a family to raise money and/or awareness for a cause that is important to a member of the family.

Adding healthy green shakes to the family diet can be a great way to get in better shape together and prepare for the race!

Adding healthy green shakes to the family diet can be a great way to get in better shape together and prepare for the race!

9. Household: Gradually declutter and organize every room of the house and bring any unused clothes and items to a donation center.

Everyone can pitch in by going through their belongings and seeing what they’re ready to give away. 

10. Ministry: Every member pray and find a local ministry or outreach they are passionate about to serve into this year.

International motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Many times the only thing between us and our dreams is a clear plan to get there.

This year we can transform our hopes and dreams into realities and unify our families at the same time!

This year we can transform our hopes and dreams into realities and unify our families at the same time!

What goals are you most excited about doing with your family this year? Do you have more goals that have worked for you in the past and you think may help other families?  Or things you did in your growing up years that others might want to adopt? 

Share in the comments and we can build one another’s dreams together!

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How to Have a Successful First Year of Marriage!

The first year of marriage can be given a bad stigma, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare, it can be an amazing start! Here’s how!

Like so many other Americans, I have been inspired and challenged by War Room, the Kendrick Brother’s latest motion picture that has been blazing through the box offices as the number one hit.

War Room illustrates the story of The Jordan’s, a beautiful African-American family who seem to have no issues from the surface level. The husband, Tony Jordan, is a handsome charismatic man and is the top salesman at his company. His wife, Elizabeth Jordan is a poised and successful real estate agent, and their daughter is a beautiful sweet girl who excels in both school and athletics.

Despite this seemingly perfect appearance, their life behind closed doors is a completely different story. Tony is revealed to be an emotionally distant husband, Elizabeth as a tired and embittered wife, and their daughter as a little girl heartbroken by her parents’ constant fighting. Can you identify with this family portrait?
Unfortunately, most Americans can relate with this scenario. Like the Jordan family, they want to have a good marriage but have no idea where to begin.

Thankfully the Jordan’s discovered the power of prayer and in the end come together in love and unity. This film resonated with so many because it offered hope, hope for family and hope for marriage, an institution so many had begun to feel was archaic, or worse yet, impossible to actually enjoy.

Read on and find tips that will strengthen you whenever you choose to begin your journey into marriage to avoid making the common mistakes evidenced in The Jordan Family and in families all around the nation who see in themselves an inner exhausted, nagging wife or distanced husband.
The first year of marriage is essential because it is Foundational, the seeds that are planted in this year will inevitably grow in the years to come, either revealing a beautiful flourishing relationship or a withered, neglected marriage. Some affectionately call the first year of marriage the “honeymoon phase” but those who have been married past a year will normally recall the first year as the year of major transition, unexpected difficulties, and also marital bliss.
These seven tips will help you in Your First Year of Marriage:

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My husband is my best friend, lover and pastor. He prays with me everyday and washes me with Scripture. I’m so blessed to have a husband this loving, patient and gracious. And I wish you the same!

1. Be Patient With Yourself and Your Spouse
Be Patient with Yourself! You have never been married before and neither has your spouse, so you both will need grace. Mistakes are unavoidable and perfectly fine if you are learning from them and growing together.

Love takes a lifetime to learn, and is something we daily need to be perfected in. Submission, love, and respect are all character traits that too must be learned.

Enjoy the process of growing together and fight the urge to compare yourself to more seasoned couples who seem to have “made” it. They too were newlyweds once and grew together!

2. Continue Pursuing One Another
Dating doesn’t have to end with the first “I do.” Keep the affection and attraction you had for one another fresh by continuing to pursue each other. Go on weekly date nights and weekend getaways.

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When the fire begins to fade, make a photo book of memories, get a jar and fill it with date ideas together, take a weekend get-away. Fanning the flame is going to be necessary when “real life” starts getting in the way of love!

Do those small meaningful things that originally made both of you feel so special: the quirky love notes, sappy text messages, long conversations full of questions unfolding each other’s personal history, genuine compliments, loving stares, and affectionate exchanges.

I’m so glad older couples stressed the importance of a weekly date night early in our marriage. This small tradition has become the bedrock of keeping our marriage enjoyable and exciting. Have fun!

Pinterest has a plethora of fun and inexpensive date nights. You can even keep a mason jar full of date night ideas on popsicle sticks that you can pull out at any time.

They can be as simple as visiting a local book store together and reading a novel together or as extravagant as going on a night boat cruise through a city harbor.

3. Make Time for Rest and Fun
The importance of having rest and fun to having a healthy marriage cannot be overstated. As life responsibilities pile on from job searching, applying for schools or employment, it is so important to plan out moments daily and weekly to simply relax, unwind, and enjoy one another.

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Enjoy the little moments you have with one another, they will become memories to treasure years later!

Remove yourself from anything that would require you to produce or perform and prioritize your well-being as a family. Every conversation cannot be about finances and various life obligations, you have to have time to allow yourselves to just be with one another.

Go for a walk, read together, take a bike ride, or simply watch an old favorite film together, what ever will slow you down and bring you peace.

4. Get Into Each Other’s World
There is nothing more heart-warming than sharing a personal hobby with your spouse. It is such a great way to practically show your husband or wife your love for them.

Beyond mere words, it demonstrates that what matters to your spouse also matters to you.

Even if the activity doesn’t immediately seem enjoyable to you (watching the football game, attending a ballet, cooking), doing it with your spouse will help you understand them more and create a deeper bond between you both.

5. Esteem Each Other Higher than Anyone Else.
This tip may seem evident, but it can be very difficult to actually implement.

Nearly any married couple would state their family or marriage comes first, but it takes continual heart checks and deliberate actions to make sure you are truly putting your relationship with your husband or wife above anything else.

Make your husband feel like a king, and allow him to treat you like his queen. (See my recent blog on Getting Priorities in Order).

6. Seek Mentors
It takes a village to do anything, especially the things that matter most. Find a couple that are enjoying a thriving, strong, Godly marriage and who have your family’s best interest at heart and regularly seek counsel from them.

Open up fully with them help them navigate your first year of marriage. Their experience and love for you both will help enable them to see your blind-spots and offer solutions.

They will also be able to help you both see the other’s perspective more clearly and leave with more compassion for your spouse.

7. Keep God First!
This is the final and most important step to ensuring a successful first year of marriage and life in general! Marriage is a reflection of Jesus and His selfless unconditional love for the church.

We love to preach, teach and pray together. We travel all over sharing Good News with others! God is at the center of it all

We love to preach, teach and pray together. We travel all over sharing Good News with others! God is at the center of it all

Without God there will be no love in the marriage and it will be doomed to fail. Early in your marriage, make seeking God together your first priority.

Pray together, do daily couple devotionals, and worship together. Above all else maintaining a strong connection with God will solidify and strengthen your relationship with one another.

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7 Ways to Pray for Your Husband

By: Paige Smith It didn’t take long into marriage for me to realize how vital prayer was to our union. To be honest early on I viewed prayer as something good, but not essential–similar to eating my greens or taking a multivitamin. Now three years into this beautiful and unexpected journey I now know  prayer […]

Happy Holidays from our Family to yours!  We pray the prayer of peace, joy and contentment in this season.  We pray for GOD to surround you with loved ones, family and friends that will provide you the gift of their presence!  Don't let anybody or anything take your joy hunny :-)

7 Ways to Find and Keep Your Joy this Holiday Season!

With Thanksgiving just ending and Christmas and Hanukkah just weeks away we are fully in the Holiday Season.

I remember being a little girl bursting with excitement this time of year. I loved everything about the holidays and especially everything about Christmas. I loved getting in the car with my grandmother and driving through neighborhoods full of ornate Christmas light displays. I loved adorning our Christmas tree with lights and colorful ornaments and waiting with expectation for the shining presents underneath to be opened.

The holidays can either be a time of excitement and joy as it was for me as a little girl or for others a time when joy is harder to find and keep. The National Institute of Health even found that “Christmas is a time of year people report high incidences of depression” (psychologytoday.com). For some this is undoubtedly the most exciting time of year and for others it couldn’t be a more painful reminder of the difficult relationships or lost loved ones in their lives.

For whichever scenario relates more to your holiday experience I want to encourage you it is possible to find and keep your joy in every season, even difficulty or in times when it seems we may be lacking or are waiting for the answers to our prayers.

Happy Holidays from our Family to yours!  We pray the prayer of peace, joy and contentment in this season.  We pray for GOD to surround you with loved ones, family and friends that will provide you the gift of their presence!  Don't let anybody or anything take your joy hunny :-)

Happy Holidays from our Family to yours! We pray the prayer of peace, joy and contentment in this season. We pray for GOD to surround you with loved ones, family and friends that will provide you the gift of their presence! Don’t let anybody or anything take your joy hunny :-)

Here are 7 tips for Finding and Keeping Your Joy this Holiday Season:

1. Make a Joy List
This can be one of the most fun and therapeutic activities when the “holiday blues” attempt to bring you down. I took the advice of JLO founder Mrs. Lee and in a moment of discouragement took out a pen and paper and wrote on one side everything that brought me joy and on the following side the situations that were troubling me. By the end of the exercise I was filled with newfound encouragement over every blessing I had previously overlooked in that moment. I’m sure you’ll discover as I did that your joy list will likely far outnumbered the list of things that are bothering you.

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2. Make time for Loved Ones
Its easy to get busy in the holiday season with finals, cooking, shopping, or simply the day to day grind of life. However, studies have shown that social isolation, even for individuals who naturally consider themselves introverts, quickly leads to depression during the holidays. Spend time with those loved ones that make you smile just thinking of them. Solomon wrote about the value of relationships saying that “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
3. Focus on what brings you Joy and Peace
There are times when it seems like everything going wrong is demanding our attention. In those moments a sea of emotions can seem to well up around us threatening to take us under with them. Those are the times that when focusing on something, even if it one thing in our life, that brings us joy and peace is so vital. For me sometimes just taking a few minutes to stop and thank God for just one small area in the midst of negative circumstances in my life will shift my emotions entirely.

Sharing the Gospel and Encouraging Others to Press into His Promises Brings me Joy!

Sharing the Gospel and Encouraging Others to Press into His Promises Brings me Joy!

4. Ignore the little things that steal your Joy
As I found in the activity where I wrote my joy list and a list of things bothering me, the things that were stealing my joy were much more trivial than they originally seemed. Still tend to things that need to be taken care of, but while doing it remember the bigger picture and the fact that even the things that bother us today are only temporary.
5. Take time to rest
While for some isolation can bring depression, for others the sheer business of life can bring stress and anxiety. Allow yourself time to rest and rejuvenate. Whether it’s taking a long hot bath, drinking a cup of tea with a favorite book, or simply closing your eyes and soaking in your most loved worship songs, taking time out to rest is needed to keep our joy and peace in the midst of busy lives and schedules.

6. Soak in the Sun
That’s right, soak up the sun! One of the major causes of increased depression in winter months is simply a lack of sunlight exposure. Exposure to the sun helps our bodies release a hormone called serotonin which helps boost our mood (“What Are the Benefits of Sunlight?” Nall). Try to take a quick walk in the morning or if weather permits, eat your lunch outside during 10 am-4 pm when the sun shines at its strongest (sunsafetyalliance.org). My son and I take daily visits to the local playground to get much needed outside time for both of us. 
7. Know that God rejoices over You!
There is nothing more encouraging than knowing our Heavenly Father takes delight and rejoices over us! Zephaniah 3:17 tells us God is literally in our midst, rejoicing and singing over us! When we wake up He is right there celebrating another day He is able to spend with us, singing joyful songs we might not hear but that He sings enthusiastically to express just how much He loves us. I pray this truth penetrates our hearts and fills you with unspeakable joy this holiday season!

GOD enjoys your life, your ministry to Him and to others.  He rejoices over you with singing, as we believe this we are more at peace and rest in Him.  We have more confidence and our joy becomes more stable.

GOD enjoys your life, your ministry to Him and to others. He rejoices over you with singing, as we believe this we are more at peace and rest in Him. We have more confidence and our joy becomes more stable.

What brings you the most joy in your life? What tips will you be trying out this holiday? Feel free to share in the comments below we love hearing from you!

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You Don’t Deserve My Time of the Day: How to Honor when there’s been Deep Hurt

Father’s Day has just passed and with it a myriad of varied emotions for many of us. For some the day brought joy and excitement as we reflected on tender moments from childhood with our dads from being twirled around in their arms to seeing them in the audience cheering us on in little league games or recitals.

For others the day was a painful reminder of the absence of shortcomings of our fathers in the past or present, we instead reflected on phone calls not sent and birthdays missed. Still for others it could have been a bittersweet mingling of the two extremes.

The call to “honor our mother and father” might have either been a welcome reminder, or a seemingly overwhelming demand.

This post is for those of us who may have struggled with honoring their father or mother not just on the recent holiday, but in general. It is our prayer that we would receive healing from the pain that can come from negative experiences with our parents, and be empowered through God’s love to honor them.

Many of us know the scripture that instructs us to “Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  It’s a beautiful concept.

It speaks of a unique promise our Heavenly Father makes to us to give us a long life in a land He’s given us when we honor our parents. Yet it can also seem daunting for those who may have a strained or complicated relationship with their parents.

Honor is defined as “respect given to someone who is admired” (merriam-webster.com) and “to hold in high respect” (dictionary.com).

But where do we begin when we don’t carry that esteem and respect in our hearts due to painful situations instead harboring disappointment, anger, and possibly even unforgiveness?

I submit to you John 15. Jesus tells his followers to “remain in Him” so that they can bear fruit in their lives:

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).

We cannot manufacture honor within ourselves, we need the grace and empowering of the Holy Spirit. God wants to pour out His love and honor on you today. He knows that we are frail, we are from dust, and cannot do anything unless we remain in Him.

Here are 7 key things to remember in beginning to honor our parents:

1. Begin with receiving God’s honor for YOU! God esteems and honors you so highly he has seated you in heavenly places and adorns you in “robes of righteousness” and “garments of salvation” (Isaiah 61:10)

2. Know that only God mourns with you for every disappointment or trial you’ve experienced including those your parents may have brought upon you knowingly or unknowingly. He validates your emotions and wants to heal every wound and give you “beauty for your ashes” and “joy for your mourning” (Isaiah 61).

3. God is the only perfect Father, our parents can be used to reflect God’s love for us, but even the most good intentioned parents miss the mark at times because they are only human and are bound to make mistakes sometimes.

4. Our parents need grace just as much as we do. God showers His love on us and even died for us while we were still in our trespasses. His love covers a multitude of sin. Lets extend the same grace to our parents and loved ones. Grace is favor that is undeserved and unmerited. Just as we’ve been given grace beyond our imperfections, let’s show that same favor to our parents through honor.

5. It’s not easy to be a parent. This doesn’t excuse any negative or abusive behavior from any parent, only to help us as children and possible future parents to have more compassion on our parents. Almost no parent purposes to hurt their children. The day their child is born they are ecstatic and filled with love for their child. As the difficulties of life come, demonstrating that love can become harder and harder, but the love is often always still there.

6. Ask for God’s heart for your parents. While we might only be able to see our parents through a lens of hurt, God sees our parents as His children. With the same love He has for us, He has for our parents. Ask Him to give Him His heart for your parents and to show you aspects you can honor in them. Honor begins in the heart, and only God can change our hearts. Ask him to begin a work in yours.

7. It will be a process. Every small step counts. It takes time to build and rebuild relationship but stay encouraged. The call just to say hello or ask for advice, the simple prayer for their life, the card on their birthday, the loving post on their Facebook wall…Every moment of honor is filling a cup of love in their hearts until it will be overflowing. And as you give honor it will be given back to you, “running over.”

We pray this article has inspired you to begin to honor your loved ones, even in difficult situations. Remember God wants to pour into you and doesn’t expect you to be able to honor without first remaining in Him.

He is pouring out His love, His forgiveness, and His grace on you today!

I encourage you to say this prayer with us:

“God thank You for Your unconditional love toward me.Your mercies are new every morning and Your grace is always abounding toward me. I receive Your love and honor and ask You to help me to honor my parents and loved ones today. You know how difficult this is for me, and I know you care about everything I feel and have gone through. I can only do this with Your strength, help me to remain in You. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Please feel free to share your stories of how you have been able to honor those who may have hurt you or how this post has encouraged you. We love hearing from you!

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Healing a Hardened Heart

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

It is very hard to honor our fathers, God, or anyone else when our hearts have been hardened.  But if you are reading this, allow me to encourage you- you must have a desire to forgive and be healed.

This topic reminds me of a Biblical character named Pharaoh.  The Bible says Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against God (the Father).  The missing element in Pharaoh’s life was honor.  

He failed to yield, to give respect, or to honor the God of the Israelites.  Pharaoh eventually gave honor tot he Lord, but it was at his own expense.

When our hearts become hardened due to life’s difficulty or pain, we must remember that honor is a choice.  We don’t have to remain forever calloused.

Multiple times in my own relationship with my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love.  He has asked my hardened heart to express love as I forgive, confess, and restore.

I’ve had to forgive my father, confess that I was wrong for holding anger and resentment against my dad, and then make a commitment to restoring him back to his rightful place in my life.  This process has not always been easy, but in return for my obedience, I’ve seen my father travel for hours just to kneel at my feet, weeping words of godly sorrow.

It was through my place of humility that God brought healing, restoration, and the healthy relationship I desired.  He wants to do the same for each of us as we listen to His leading.

Multiple times in my own relationships ith my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love: Forgiveness, Confession and Restoration. I know God can restore any one of our hearts to sweet gentleness and healing.

Multiple times in my own relationships ith my father, the Lord has convicted me about three acts of love: Forgiveness, Confession and Restoration. I know God can restore any one of our hearts to sweet gentleness and healing.

In fact, He promises to give us a softened, loving heart if we receive by faith, saying, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

So go and be bold; don’t be afraid to exemplify love, because you will be glad you took a step of faith.  Even if your father (or others) do not respond the way you desire, you will be able to say you have obeyed a very important part of God’s Word, and your heavenly Father will always be there to carry you.

Let’s Practice This Truth Together:

That it may go well with you in the land the LORD your GOD is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 5:16)

Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you with any needed areas of change in your life.  Ask Him:

  • Is my heart hardened?  Do I need more humility or a new heart from You?  Ezekiel 36:26
  • Is there any forgiveness that You want me to show to my father?
  • Is there anything that I need to confess to You or to my earthly father?  Search me, Lord, and know my heart…(Psalm 139:23)
  • Is there any restoration needed in my relationship with my father?

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the answers, and then make plans to live out anything He reveals.

Talk to others who don’t know Jesus about the transformational power of our heavenly Father.

I hope you had a Happy Father’s Day!

Here’s a pic of me and the hubby on daddy’s day this year.  This was a fun look I achieved through basics in my wardrobe and thrift store finds!

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Get the Look:

Sleeveless Tank- JCPenney ($9.99), Old Navy, Cato ($7.99, many colors), The Limited ($24.90, classic colors, satin- great for dressy outfits).  The key to a dressier look is to buy “seamless” not “ribbed”

Red Flats- Nine West ($69.00)| Forever 21 ($9.99)| JCrew ($135)|Born ($44.51) I found these Talbot shoes for $7.99 at a thrift store!

A Line Midi Skirt- Macys ($24.99)| Zulily ($11.99)| Honor ($240)|Chicwish ($39.02)|ASOS ($40.00)

Purse- Kate Spade ($29.00)|Nordstrom ($33.98)| Humble Chic ($38.00) Really this is a Kate Spade eyeglass case that I used as a purse my dears

Pearl Necklace- JCrew ($26.00)|Banana Republic ($198)

Let’s be beautiful both inside and out with hearts ready to love from the deep place we have been embraced!  Have a sweet blessed week…

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A Father Who Is Always There for You

Father…when you hear that word what do you think, what image comes to mind?  Perhaps you instantly see a heroic figure, a strong loving protective man, or a kind, gentle compassionate presence.  Others of us may see nothing but an empty, loss presence.  Nothing is there but space and neglect.

Oftentimes the image we see of our earthly father is the same image we imagine when we see our heavenly Father.

And this can be problematic for obvious reasons.

I have a mixture of the two images.  I can remember as a little girl waiting to hear the sound of my father’s keys opening the front door of our miniature, three bedroom two bathroom starter home.  We lived in the ‘hood but I did not have a clue that’s where we lived because I always had a sense of shelter, of sweet protection.

It was home.

Walking outside, playing with my dog, with toys, with nature, running through the wooded lots surrounding us…there was not a care in the world.

And I was in private school with middle to upper class children, mostly very different from me, so there was a sense of safety, even at school.

My father would come home, at least in my mind, every day around the same time.  And when he would open the door I remember running up to him waiting for his embrace.  There was a sense of needing approval and attention.  Then he would swing me up in the air.

It was the moment of delight I longed for daily.

And I’m sure it filled his heart with joy just as much as mine.

This is a beautiful image of father.  Protector.  Friend.  Presence.  Supporter.  Guide.

But we probably all have at least one or two difficult memories of “father.”

Maybe there are days when he does not come home as expected, his countenance is disturbed, he is not the gentle friendly guy you need him to be and you are disappointed.

This is all so real in the heart of a small child.  In fact, it can be magnified.

Both experiences are valid and both are valuable schoolmasters when relating to our Heavenly Father.

What Can We Learn About “Father”?

That dad I described, fun, friendly, kind, playful is a mirror image of our Heavenly Daddy.

He is there, present when we need him, ready to give us sweet gifts.  He wants to give us the gift of His Presence, of joy, peace, patience, happiness, and forgiveness.

Believing in the fact that He will be consistent.  He will never come home in a disappointed manner, He is a safe, secure place to land our hearts.

We can Trust Him because of this unchanging stability.

And we can sit on His lap.  We can talk to Him about anything, our greatest joys, victories, anticipations…our strongest failures, needs and frustrations.

When we see that our Heavenly Father is not a mixture of good and bad, like we humans are…He is All Good, we are finally able to settle our hearts with His good leadership.

He is much like the Prodigal Son’s Father who is there for us no matter what, ready to pour out blessings on our lives.

When we expect him to be the most disappointed, He is not.  Instead, he gives us what we least expect, a huge celebration of the fact that we are Home!

He honors our presence.

We can encounter Jesus around this truth.

GOD Honors my presence.

We have to wonder how others will respond when we show up, but we do not ever have to wonder if our mistakes push GOD away from us, if they cause Him to reject, look down on, or judge us.  He is simply excited that you and I showed up for the party.

A New Way to Encounter Jesus

Have you every went into your prayer time only to feel a heap of guilt like a ton of bricks crashing down on your shoulders?  Then you want to just hide?  And it seems to come out of nowhere.

Am I right with God?  Is He angry with me?  Am I praying right?  I missed my prayer time yesterday.  I am not on my schedule.  I wonder if I’m under His judgment because I haven’t forgiven so and so.  I need to find the right Scripture to focus on.  I need to focus.  I need to spend more time in the Word and put on my Spiritual weapons.  Why am I not consistent?

Ugg…by this point prayer is exhausting.  Because pleasing Him is beyond me.  It is impossible.

I used to think this way all the time and my guess is, so have you.  It is human to base God’s satisfaction with us on who we are, our faulty mentalities about who He is and all the ways we think our prayer life should be.

Yet the reality is that we are way off in thinking God wants all that!  Sometimes he wants a few minutes of us simply accepting that it is okay to vent, to talk to him, to get it off our chest just as we would a friend.  And then to be ourselves, to not feel guilty for the way we prayer.

To stop comparing our prayer lives to others and to know that every little bit counts, is enough and is heard.

When we put down the show and just choose to be, we are starting to go in the right direction.

Let’s encounter Jesus around the Prodigal Son story.

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story.  Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father. 

Notice the father’s response.  While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming.  Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.

You have a Father like that.  He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.

Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running out to meet you.  He is filled with love and compassion.  He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.

What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you?  Tell the Father about your gratitude:

Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me, I feel…

When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…

My father would come home and I was in so much anticipation to see him walk through the door, squealing with Joy!  But I hadn’t imagined that he was feeling the same about you.

Could the same be true of our Heavenly Father?  Filled with delight over the thought of seeing your face as He opens the door to meet you!

How has your perspective about your father changed over time?  Maybe you have a God Encounter you want to share to encourage others.  We would love to hear your story in the comments below!

 

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Honoring the Real GOD to Honor your father

JESUS, RESET MY FAMILY LEGACY

Jesus, remind me often of the love You have for me as my heavenly Father.  Let my gratitude for how You love me empower me to strengthen and restore my relationship with my earthly father.

We each have personal images intricately tied to the tender yet powerful word father.  For some, the visualization of father is an always-smiling, ready-to-embrace-you, tender man who instantly promotes feelings of joy and acceptance.  Others remember the massive, outstretched hand that seemed to pull a never-ending supply of candy from his trouser pockets. 

There are also those who hear the word father and conjure up images of a scowling, rumpled brow and disappointed from that seemed to cut the heart of a child desperately longing for expressions of his approval.

And finally, there are others who may simply draw a blank when they try to visualize a father.  As empty as a fresh pack of computer paper, no matter how many pages they turn, the landscape is full of empty memories.  No calls, no visits, no talks with dad.

No matter what impression the word father has left upon our heart, we are reminded of its significant presence in the pages of Scripture.  We are lovingly exhorted to honor our Father in heaven and fathers on this earth (Deuteronomy 5:16).  But how do we honor our father?  This question is inevitable when one out of every three American children live in a home where their biological father is not present.

HOW DO WE HONOR OUR FATHER?

Some Ways Include:

~Take him out to dinner

~Thank him verbally for who is he, acknowledging his value

~Giving him a thoughtful Father’s Day gift

~Listening thoughtfully to his advice

~Speaking highly of him publicly

~Conversing in a respectful tone of voice

~Visit him often, give the gift of time

~Say “I love you” frequently

How to honor our father is a loaded question.  Therefore, we must venture back to ask, “Why should we honor our father?” before we can answer the first.  As Christians, we desire to live our life based on the truth of GOD’S Word.  The Bible is our standard and foundation.  When we wonder why we should honor our earthly fathers, we must first return to the Word of GOD and how it describes the perfect, admirable love of our heavenly Father.

Honoring the real God is the first step toward honoring our earthly fathers.  And honoring God is easy when we are freed from any vision of a harsh, “finger-pointing” God and begin to see a gentle, loving, Father. 

Our hearts are enamored by His unconditional love the more our knowledge of who He is increases.  The more we come to know the true character of our heavenly Father, the more freedom we have as we look at our earthly fathers.

LEARN to Encounter Jesus

“And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NLT)

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the story of the prodigal son, but ask Him to refresh your experience of the Father in this well-known story.  Read Luke 15:11-32, where the son demands his inheritance, lives a life of foolish choices, and then out of complete desperation and regret returns home to his father.  Notice the father’s response.  While the son was a long way off, the father saw him coming.  Imagine the scene of a father who sits on the front porch, scanning the horizon, looking for any sign of his son returning home.  You have a Father like that.  He can’t wait to be with you, can’t wait to run off the front porch and embrace you.  Pause for a moment and imagine the scene of the story, but this time, imagine Jesus running our to meet you.  He is filled with love and compassion.  He runs to you and embraces you because His heart is thrilled to call you His child.

What does it do to your heart to imagine a God who can’t wait to be with you?  Tell the Father about your gratitude:

Heavenly Father, when I imagine that You are scanning the horizon because You can’t wait to be with me I feel…

When I imagine that You are running to meet me and embrace me with a heart of love and compassion, my heart is moved with gratitude because…

Today’s Key Takeaway: No Matter What Your Background, you can receive a Fresh Perspective of GOD as a Loving Father.  This will help you embrace His desire for you to honor your father by honoring the Real GOD.

What other ways have you been able to honor your father?  Do you have a testimony or story to share that may bless someone else in the healing process? We can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

From the book, Honor Your Father Reset My Family Legacy.  Order Your Copy as a Father’s Gift today!

bodyimage

Healthy Body Image in African American Women

Did you know that every one in two African American women are obese? But we have the highest self-esteem of women in our nation? Education is one of the most powerful mediums to overcoming this foe in our community of high self-esteem but sometimes unbalanced views. Our goal is obtaining a healthy body image for ourselves, daughters, friends and families. As we gain more understanding regarding the significant empowerment that comes from healthy living, we can learn how to creatively change our diets and lifestyles, all while continuing to be the glue of our communities.

Sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/curvy-hurts-black-womans-severe-struggle-body-image/story?id=24777077

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4696065

http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/2009/AfricanAmericanBodyImage.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/black-women-and-body-image/2012/02/24/gIQAuvkIeR_gallery.html

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Coping with the Unexpected Foe…Infertility

Jade Lee

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unexpected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth.”

I have been fighting this unexpected foe of infertility knowingly and unknowingly, for over 11 years now.  And it is not an easy battle.  But primarily because of the shock.

You never expect to hear that you are infertile or to not have children.  No, I was not one of those women who sit and think and think and think about having children, how my wedding will be planned, the perfect home…but I did subconsciously assume my life would be #1 Go to College #2 Get Married #3 Run Professionally #4 Live in a Mega Home #5 Have Children #6 Live Happily After.

At first it was not even a shocker that I was not getting pregnant, I was so consumed in my profession- ministry- that I did not think much about it, and I was happy to enjoy the free time of being childless.

But as time went on and on and on, it would be soon that I realized my great desire to mother, after having helped many young women with their birth journey.  I was even helping deliver babies. 

It got harder and harder to not have a “family” of my own.

And then the truth sank in, doctor visits began, reports came back, multiple surgeries came, and I was at a loss for words.  My heart was in shock and shattered to pieces, not because I didn’t have faith but because infertility is a grieving process.

I particularly had a major lack of education on reproductive health and the chances being 1.5 times higher for people of my skin complexion to have children.  Yes, yet another startling statistic regarding the African American community.  Sometimes the question echos through my head, “When will it ever end?” regarding the black plight.

My image of a infertile woman, was a rich, white, maybe celebrity woman walking into a clinic to get an IVF treatment or have a surrogate child.

This is all I had ever seen.  It never even crossed my mind that black women struggled with this issue which is apparently a very strong myth not isolate to my own perspective.

Why do black women face this at a higher rate? 

According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, “Many of the factors leading to this higher incidence is our hesitance to visit the doctor, as well as higher rates of conditions such as fibroids.  One way to squash this myth is to start talking.  By opening an honest and guilt-free dialogue,w e can step towards removing the stigmas that holds so many of us hostage.”

This is why sharing our stories is so important as we find the grace to do so, and why I so openly am sharing my own faith journey through this sometimes grueling process.

This battle is occurring not only on a first time basis, but secondary infertility grips the wombs of many women unexpectedly.

This simply means a woman has already experienced a full term birth, yet cannot seem to get pregnant sometimes for years after having a child.

This can be as hard or even harder for women because of how shocking it is to go through this difficulty, according to Marlo Schalesky, author of Empty Womb, Aching Heart.

Here are a few facts about infertility that will help you cope with this very painful reality for every 1 in 8 women:

  • Do not allow guilt to become your guide or friend.  When facing this sickness, it is easy, especially in a Christian context to believe you have received the judgment of Michal.  Maybe GOD is punishing me!  Then the thoughts begin to go on to all the wrongs, the sexual immorality of your past, a man of GOD you may have offended.  Resist this urge knowing that GOD loves you unconditionally and although there are consequences for our actions, the finish work of the cross redeems our sins.  He forgives, loves and the majority of infertile women are not being condemned due to sin.
  • Self blame or the blame of your spouse is not healthy nor valid.  When we face a situation that is beyond our control it is really hard not to search for the object of blame.  Starting with GOD, we want to know WHY?  And, WHY ME?  Why do I have to go through this?  Why are all these other women getting pregnant and I can’t seem to get pregnant?  Why isn’t my body cooperating?  What is wrong with ME?  Why does GOD not love me?  Why is my spouse’s body broke? As this storm of questions rage in a woman’s mind, it is important to remind yourself of the love HE has for you even in a plan that is nowhere near what you expected.  At the end of the story, in the midst of the conflict, we will find peace and a plan beyond what we could see.  Instead of blaming our spouse, let’s work together to find the healing we need.
  • Finding the joy of the LORD is an active and sometimes daily pursuit needed in this walk.  We have to press into His joy when we want to give up, wallow in the very real situation of hours of medical situations, hospital bills and challenges.  I came to a point where I had to let it all go, forget about it and get Determined to Enjoy the moments of life I had; I would not allow infertility to steal my life away.  Focus on the blessings in front of you to find a joy beyond your situation.
  • Find a support group.  This may start with your husband, a doctor, even just one friend or an infertility group in your area.  This is going to be needed in a journey that seems to be inconsistent day by day.  We all have our good days and then the really dire ones where we need an understanding, listening ear.
  • Don’t feel guilty to say No.  If you can’t seem to get through baby showers, Mother’s Day, or women’s church groups full of expecting young mothers, it’s okay to say no.  It’s okay to take a leave of absence and do something that will get your mind off of what you do not have because of something beyond your control.
  • Know when to let go of the battle if it gets too much.  One of the most freeing moments in the fight has been letting go but not after a lot of wrestling.  One day I simply decided that I had to give this over to the LORD.  I had to trust Him because ultimately He is the Only One who can cause my womb to be filled.  And I refocused on what He had for me to give to others right now. 
  • If needed, get counseling.  From what I have read and heard, most couples facing infertility will fight depression.  Sometimes this gets overwhelming to a point of needed professional help in knowing how to continue living your life in a world full of new parents, baby aisles (Target, the grocery store) and daily reminders of how your life should be…if not for this frustrating issue.  Many couples benefit from a season of having a listening ear that knows what to say in such a sensitive area (most people do not know what to say at all and say all the wrong things).

There are many more tips I could give you in fighting through this battle but all in all, I am praying for you, standing with you and willing to listen to you.  You are not alone.

If you know someone struggling with infertility or may be going through this yourself, please share this message with them; maybe it will be just the hope they need to press on through One More Day of Faith.

Blessings!

Jade Lee