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At the Well- To Have & To Hold

I'm over At the Well today for "To Have and To Hold". Won't you join me!?!

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“Let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33b


A New Adventure

The Lord continues to amaze me and humble me before His throne of grace and mercy. I'm so excited to share with you a new adventure I'm on with my Jesus. A month or so ago I joined an incredible team of ladies who are using their gifts and talents to honor the Lord through an online Christian magazine. I was reluctant at first to fill the position that was presented to me- a marriage columnist. Who? Me? Write about marriage?

I prayed about it for a few days and knew without a doubt that this was exactly what God would have me do. Years ago, God did a miraculous work in my marriage. Mine was a marriage that was standing on the doormat of divorce knocking for someone to open the door. It was inevitable- the end was near. But, God had other plans; much better plans.

After my husband and I experienced God's healing hand on our lives and in our marriage, we both promised Him that we would tell our story any chance we were given and would spend the rest of our days helping those whose marriages were in trouble. So, there was no other answer I could give to Kristen (the editor of Exemplify) but "Yes!'. I excepted the offer and immediately began thinking about what I would write for my first article. Again, God clearly spoke to my heart and told me to share my marriage story. So, that is what I have done.

Today, I invite you to read the May 2009 issue of Exemplify. This is a wonderful magazine written my a number of different women who are passionate about Jesus. I know your heart will be blessed and challenged as you read through the pages of this magazine. Also, make sure to take some time to look at all Exemplify has to offer.


Ladies, coffee, & frou-frou desserts

Suppose I sent you this invitation:

What's the first thought that runs through your mind? Most of us would think, "Great. I'm there. Hanging out with just the ladies, drinking coffee, and enjoying a frou-frou dessert. Can't get any better than that."

Coffee, casual conversation, and frou-frou desserts would take up some of our time, but not all of it. I looked up the definition of "fellowship". It means companionship, a group of people with the same interests spending time together. As brothers and sisters in Christ, fellowship is more than just eating frou-frou desserts and drinking coffee. Fellowship is about us becoming involved in each other's lives.

How do we do that? How do we go beyond the coffee and desserts and "really" get to know one another? How do we experience the kiononia fellowship Scripture speaks to (Acts 2:42)? We do this by spending quality time together, sharing with one another our struggles and rejoicing together in victories. We pray for each other and hold one another accountable to the truths and commands of Scripture. We encourage one another and serve each other as unto the Lord.

"I want us to help each other with the faith we have.
Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you."
Romans 1:12, NCV

True fellowship is about being transparent with one another; accepting the other person for exactly who they are and not judging them for past sins. It's about taking off our masks and being real.

Do you fellowship with other Christians? Before you answer the question, review the definition of what fellowship means. Fellowship is companionship; it's a group of people who have the same interests and spend time together.

Are you spending time with those who have the same interests as you; those who desire to become more like Christ every day? Are you praying for and with your sisters in Christ? Are you encouraging them in their walk with the Lord? Are you being real? Do others feel comfortable enough around you, knowing you aren't going to judge or condemn them, to be real themselves?

Think of three people you can pray for, pray with, encourage, love, serve and fellowship with. Write their names down.

Now, commit for one month to faithfully pray for, pray with, encourage, love, serve, and fellowship with these individuals. Ask these people what it is that you can pray for them about. Think of ways you can encourage them, love them, and serve them. Schedule times to get together and have that coffee and enjoy one another's company.

"Share each others troubles and problems,
and in this way obey the law of Christ."
Galatians 6:2, NLT

I would love to be able to pray for each of you. Please let me know ways in which I can lift you to the throne of grace.


The Church- what is it?

What is the church? Is it a big, pretty building? Are there rows and rows of pews with soft cushions on them just waiting to be filled by all the many who will walk through the front doors? Are there lots of classrooms available to hold the many who are eager to learn how to dig deeper into God's Word? Maybe there is a nice choir room containing all the latest sound and recording equipment? What about a fellowship hall for social gatherings and Wednesday night meals? Is church all these things? NO. The church is not a building; instead the church is all those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, all those who have a personal relationship with Him.

"You are members of God's very own family,
citizens of God's country,
and you belong in God's household with
every other Christian."
Ephesians 2:19b, LB

Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with having a nice building to gather in in order to experience corporate worship. In fact, that is exactly what we are supposed to be doing- coming together to worship the Lord, to encourage fellow believers, to teach those new in the faith, and to learn for ourselves how to grow in our relationship with God. But in order for the church to function in this manner, all it's members must be present. Each of us are given specific tasks and responsibilities within the body of Christ.

"A spiritual gift is given to each of us
as a means of helping the entire church."
1 Corinthians 12:7, NLT

Think of the body of believers, the church, as a car. The car isn't going anywhere if there are no tires on it. It's not going to start if you have no keys. You can't steer if there is no steering wheel. Every part of the car must be in the right place in order for the car to run properly. It's the same way within the church. Every member must be present, doing his or her part in order for the church to fulfill its purpose.

Are you doing your part in your local body of believers? Are you using your gifts and talents or is the church suffering because other things are more important to you?

Maybe you aren't sure what your spiritual gifts are? God has gifted you with very specific gifts for very specific purposes. If you are unsure what you gifts are, I'd like to encourage you to take a "spiritual gifts assessment". It's not an end all, be all- it's not going to lay out for you God's exact calling on your life, but it will give you an idea as to what areas God has gifted you in.

I encourage you to complete this "Spiritual Gifts Discovery Tool" when you get a chance. The profile sheet will give you an explanation for what each of the gifts are.


Psalm Friday

Psalm Friday
Walk in His Way
Psalm 26

* Pray. Ask God to give you an open heart and mind to learn new truths from His Word. Read Psalm 26 through three times. Record any thoughts or questions you have in your journal. If a verse stands out to you, write it on an index card and begin committing it to memory.

Psalm Friday is back! Woo-hoo! It's been a while but we are up and going again, digging into the Psalms every Friday. If you're new to By His Grace, you may not be familiar with what Psalm Friday is all about. I would encourage you to take a few minutes and click on the "Psalm Friday" tab in the navigation bar at the top of the page; there you will find an introduction and a list of all the Psalms we have studied through thus far. Well, with further ado, let's get to diggin'- shall we?

I have to admit to you that I've had an extremely hard time with Psalm 26. I have been reading it over and over and over for weeks, probably even months, then walking away with nothing; thinking, "Lord, I'm just not getting it." Ever have those times? As I sat down yesterday morning to try to pull something together because I knew that I would be re-launching Psalm Friday today, it happened. It was as though a light switch had been turned on and the Lord began speaking. THANK. YOU. JESUS!!!

Today I'm not going to give you a lot of "extra" stuff. I just want to pose some questions to you that the Lord brought to my mind as I read Psalm 26.

"Examine me, O LORD, and try me; test
my mind and my heart."
Psalm 26:2, NASB

What would God find if He were to examine your mind and heart? Would He find thoughts that are pure, true, honorable, right, lovely, of good repute (respectful of others), excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8)? Would He find a heart that is loyal to Him (Deuteronomy 6:5)?

"For Your lovingkindness is before my
eyes, and I have walked in Your truth."
Psalm 26:3, NASB

"Lovingkindness" comes from the Hebrew word chesed which means "beauty". The beauty of the Lord should be ever before our eyes and we should be walking in the paths of His Truth (Psalm 86:11; Psalm 119:105).

What kinds of things are you putting before your eyes?
~inappropriate TV shows, movies, soap operas, talk shows?
~inappropriate websites?
~inappropriate magazines and other literature?

Are you walking in the Truth of God's Word and believing you are who He says you are? Are you being obedient to the commands contained within His Word? Are you walking in the path God has set before you or are you charting your own course?

"I do not sit with deceitful men, nor
will I go with pretenders."
Psalm 26:4, NASB

Have you surrounded yourself with those who are daily striving to live lives that bring honor and glory to God? Are your friends honest and trustworthy? Do your friends give godly counsel? Do they encourage you in your walk with the Lord? Or, do those you find yourself most often with, want nothing to do with a live that pleases God or that is surrendered completely to Him?

"I hate the assembly of the evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked."
Psalm 26:5, NASB

Again, are those you are with the most, living lives contrary to the Word of God or according to His commands?

"I shall wash my hands in innocence,
and I will go about Your altar, O LORD, that I may proclaim with the voice of
thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders."
Psalm 26:6 & 7, NASB

Are you spending time before the Lord, daily, confessing and repenting, asking Him to cleanse your heart of the evilness contained within? We will not experience intimate fellowship with God if there is unconfessed sin in our lives.

Are you privately and publicly giving God praise for all that He is done in your life? Are you
sharing with those you meet how awesome your God is?

"O LORD, I love the habitation of Your
house and the place where Your glory dwells."
Psalm 26:8, NASB

David is specifically speaking of the temple- God's dwelling place- where he would go to worship. Later on in Scripture David says that he would rather dwell in the house of the Lord for only one day than anywhere else for a thousand years.

Let's take this verse to a different level- David was talking about the structural temple, the actual building where he could go to worship the Lord. He loved the temple of the Lord and it grieved his heart when it was being defiled.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?" Your body, my body is the temple of God. At the moment of salvation the Holy Spirit took us residence in you making your heart God's dwelling place (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Ok, so here's my question- do you love yourself? Do you love and accept who God has made you to be? Or do you look in the mirror every morning and hate the reflection looking back at you because you have some extra fluff around your waistline? Is your life's passion to be that "perfect size 2" so you binge and purge or exercise excessively?

Maybe it's not so much your appearance that bothers you- maybe it's the fact that Sister Sue has a long list of accomplishments following her name and well, the only thing that follows your first name is your last name. So, you put on a facade for everyone trying to be someone you are not instead of being exactly who God created you to be.

"Do not take my soul away along with
sinners, nor my life with men of bloodshed, in whose hands is a wicked scheme,
and whose right hand is full of bribes. But as for me, I shall walk in my
integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on a level place; in
the congregation I shall bless the LORD."
Psalm 26:9-11, NASB

David desired to be found different than the world around him. He wanted his life to be one of righteousness before the Lord. When all was said and done he wanted to be found faithful to his God. David knew that the only way for this to happen was for him to daily walk down God's path and to firmly set his feet upon the solid Rock.

The level place where our foot stands is the sure, covenant faithfulness of the Eternal, Almighty God who loves us. It is a place that is immovable and indestructible because it has been established by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

"Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone,
a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him
will not be disappointed;
the stone was Christ."
1 Peter 2:6, 1 Corinthians 10:4, NASB
Precious Lord, the Rock upon which we stand- guide us today down your path. Lead us in Your way. May we delight today to do Your will. Amen.

As you can see we are having some spacing issues this morning- so sorry! Hopefully I will be able to fix them later (I have tried fours times already). All of you who know my OCD self know that this is driving me CRAZY!!! :)


The Stage of Life

Noah used the abilities God gave him to build the ark. I just imagine he was a very skilled carpenter to have been able to build an ark that was 450 feet long (one and half football fields long), 75 feet wide (the width of one and a half football fields), and 45 feet high (the height of a four-story building). That, my friends, is a mighty big boat! God gave Noah the task of building the ark because He had already given him the talents and abilities to be able to complete the work. I'm sure God watched Noah every day as he cut each board and hammered every nail and I bet He enjoyed every minute of it.

God sees everything we do and He especially enjoys watching those times that bring Him honor and glory. He watches you while you sleep, eat, and work. He watches you while you do the laundry and cook dinner each night. God watches you as you teach your children and love your husband. God also sees when you are hurting and desires that you look to Him in your time of need. He is interested in every aspect of your life.

"The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights
in every detail of their lives."
Psalm 37:23, NLT

God delights in watching you use the talents and abilities He has given you; it makes Him smile. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if God were up in heaven, seated on His throne taking pictures of you as you perform on this stage called life. He applauds you as you move from Act 1 onto Act 2 and picks you up when you fall down. He gives rave reviews of your performance to Jesus and the Holy Spirit as you daily seek to please Him in all you do.

God wants you to use the abilities and talents He has given you to bring Him honor and glory and to further His kingdom. He doesn't want you to try to be someone else and take on their role in life's performance. God wants you to take on the role that He created specifically for you to play.

"He has shaped each person in turn;
now He watches everything we do."
Psalm 33:15, MSG

Are you using the talents and abilities God has given you to perform on your stage in life? Or are you trying to take over someone else role in the play?


To Build or Not to Build?

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told…As a result, Noah became intimate with God."
Hebrews 11:7, MSG

Trust is a firm belief or confidence in; a faith in something. Noah had such a strong faith in God that he was willing to do whatever God asked him to do; even if that meant building a huge boat in the middle of a very dry desert. Noah never questioned God, because he knew that God’s plan was far better than his own.

Would you build a huge boat in the middle of the desert if God asked you to? I think that each of us have a "huge boat" to build. Maybe not in the literal sense, but there is something in each of our lives God is calling us to do that is way beyond our humanness to be able to accomplish on our own. And, just like with Noah, God will provide the tools, people, patience, strength, and wisdom for us so that we can complete the task that He has calls us to.

The question for us to ask ourselves today is this:

Are we going to obey God and build the boat or are we going ignore God's calling and drown with all the rest who have rejected God and his plan for their lives?

"Without faith it is impossible to please God."

Hebrews 11:6, NIV


Simon Says

Remember playing "Simon Says" during recess when you were in elementary school. Your whole class would line up, four rows consisting of 5 students each. As the Simon of the day, you called the shots.

"Simon says, 'Jump on one foot,' " you'd bellow and then laugh as your classmates tried to jump on one foot without falling over.

"Simon says, 'Jump on one foot and pat your belly at the same time,' " came your next set of instructions. This time you laughed even harder as you observed how silly they all looked.

"Stop!" you'd scream followed up by a quick, "you're out, you're out, you're out! Simon didn't say stop!"

This elementary school game reminds me of our relationship with God. When God says something to us, no matter what it may be, we are supposed to do it. Whatever He says, absolutely no questions asked, just do it. What happens when we follow the instructions the world gives us? We disqualify ourselves from allowing God to use us. Through Noah's obedience to God, God was able to use him.

"So Noah did everything exactly as commanded him."
Genesis 6:22, NLT

God has given specific instructions for our lives. If we obey what He says, these instructions will gives us hope and a future that will be blessed by Him. Is God satisfied with the way you are obeying His instructions? God's instructions, His precepts, His laws are not meant to harm or cramp our style, rather they are meant to prosper us and to grow us to be the person He created us to be.

" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "
Jeremiah 29:11, NIV

Do you love God enough to obey His commandments with all your heart and not ask questions?


Love Me!

"Noah consistently followed God's will and enjoyed a close relationship with Him." Genesis 6:9b, NLT

Noah loved God more than anything else in the world and served Him when no one else did. When you and I love God far above anything else in our lives, He smiles.

God's greatest desire is for us to love Him above everything else that is vying for our attention and to build a deep, intimate relationship with Him.

Hosea 6:6 (The Living Bible) says, I don't want your sacrifices- I want your love; I don't want your offerings- I want you to know Me."

God wants so desperately for you and I to love Him with all our hearts. He longs for us to spend time with Him. Loving God should be the number one priority in our lives; not that big house with the white picket fence, not the size 2 body, not that promotion at work, not our kids being the best in everything, not the accolades of other women, not that new car, but God and only God should hold the number one seat in our hearts and lives.

"Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment."
Matthew 22:37-38, NIV

Is loving God your first priority? Is there anything in your life that you need to put aside in order for you to love God more and get to know Him better?


The Love of a Friend


God is My Reward!

I knew about Danielle before I ever met her in person. Her in-laws came to our house for dinner one night and through conversation, shared with us how excited they were to be welcoming their first grandbabies into their lives in the very future. Knowing that first-time parent's of twins would need lots of extra stuff, we passed along some of the baby things we no longer needed. It would be another year and a half before I would met Danielle and her family face-to-face.

When Danielle and I met, I felt a kindred spirit in her. She and I shared a love for the Lord and I just new we would be good friends. It has been a joy to get to know her "in real life" over the past few years. She is an inspiration and an encouragement to my soul. Her love for the Lord is evident in how she loves her husband, cares for her children, and serves the body of Christ. Please welcome Danielle today as she shares her story.

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.”
(Psalm 30:11-12)
God has done an amazing work in me and in my life. His Word has given me comfort through many trials, struggles, joys, tears, happiness and tribulations. I haven’t always had His Word, or even wanted it, but it is so precious to me now!

You see, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. We floated in and out of church on the important holidays. Pleasing God wasn’t a priority in my life, having fun and doing the wrong things was my priority. He had been working on me for some time and after high school, during a broken time in my life, God took hold of me. But soon after, I began to be drawn back to what I used to love, and further away from the God who loved me.

God, in His great sovereignty, was still working in my life. He moved a young man from California all the way cross country to Kentucky. Within a few months of his move we met and began a friendship. We got involved in church and God continued to shape me into the woman that He was calling me to be. I began having quiet times with the Lord and finally understood what it meant to be child of the God. During this time our friendship slowly began to blossom and we were married year later.
God taught us many things that first year of marriage. Most importantly He taught us that we needed to trust in Him for the things that we had no control over. God was preparing us for the things we would go through in the near future.
After about a year of married bliss…..we began trying to get pregnant. In 2003, as God would have it, we moved to California and began seeing an infertility specialist because we had been unable to get pregnant on our own. We had months of tests with this doctor and a number of failed attempts at IUI (intrauterine insemination).
In November 2003, I went to my doctor because I was experiencing sharp pains in my stomach. I had been at work that morning and blacked out while making the coffee. The doctor was concerned that I had a tubal pregnancy. After tests and ultrasounds we found out that wasn’t the case. According to the ultrasound I had a cyst on my ovary the size of a golf ball. I was told I could go on birth control pills for a few months or I could have surgery. After a number of “second-opinions” we decided that with my medical history, surgery was the best option.
I wanted to be a mommy so bad and it was very hard for me to see that God meant good to come out of all that was happening. It was only through spending amazing quiet times with Him and through reading His word that I found comfort. I learned that even though we struggle in this life often times not knowing where God is or what He is doing or why He is doing it, He knows all and sees all, and that is enough! His Word became so alive to me. It seemed with each struggle and trial we went though, God opened up a scripture or chapter or even a book for me and I would be consumed with it instead of the circumstance.
The morning after my black out I went into surgery. When the surgery was over the doctor told my husband he had to work 2 extra hours and bring in another doctor, because I had Stage 4 endometriosis, and that golf ball sized cyst, was actually the size of a grapefruit. After recovering for 6 weeks, we began taking medicine again and having more procedures in hopes that we would get pregnant. The doctor finally told us the only way we would get pregnant would be through IVF (in-vitro fertilization.)
Once again we saw God’s hand on our situation. This doctor was best friends with the leading IVF doctor who was located only 2 hours from us in L.A. We were able to bypass his 2 year waiting list and got in the next week. We spent a lot of time in prayer. This was an expensive and emotional procedure that we would be going through and we wanted to make sure it was the right thing.
After one failed IVF procedure, we moved to North Carolina. We knew there would be plenty of medical facilities that could possibly help us once we settled in. We tried the procedure again and we got pregnant with twins. I remember calling my husband, who was moving his parents out to NC and just yelling over the phone, “IT WORKED!” It was such an amazing time, to see how, even though it wasn’t the way that I had planned it, God’s plan for us was so much better than what we'd imagined.

After having our twins, we decided to try another time with the embryos that had been frozen. After being on medicine and going through some procedures to make sure that my body was ready, the doctor found polyps on my uterus and I had to have another surgery. I recovered from the surgery and the embryos were implanted. In the end, we lost them all. It was very hard to loose 3 of my children. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I had no idea what God was doing.
I went to God’s Word and again He filled me up. He gave me Genesis 15:1 which says, “…Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” GOD IS MY REWARD! Through all I have gone through, the one thing God continues to show me is that HE is my reward, not anything else on this Earth, no matter how good or amazing those things may be. I still don’t know what God is up to, but I know that He is a great God, and He knows what He is doing, and that is enough for me.


Immeasurable Rewards!

Some months back I reconnected with a friend from high school. I think it's fair to say that neither of us were living our lives for the Lord back then. Praise the Lord that much water has passed underneath our bridges and God has chosen to bless both our lives more than we deserved. I have been so excited to talk with Susan and hear how the Lord has blessed her and her husband Chris. It has been a true joy to see her excitement for our Savior and her willingness to serve Him with all her heart.

Today I have asked her to share her story. I pray that you will leave encouraged knowing that God never walks away from His children and always welcomes them home with open arms. Please welcome my dear friend Susan Sykes.

I grew up going to church every Sunday. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I accepted Christ and was baptized. I’m not sure I really understood what was happening, but I did know that Jesus had died for the bad things I had done and would do. As I grew older, church became somewhere I went because that’s what I was supposed to do. I still believed in God and what Jesus had done for me, but I thought I could live how I wanted, and then come back to Jesus in my own time.

While I was in college, I never went regularly to church except for when I came home on the weekends. I do remember feeling guilty every Sunday morning because I had not found a church to go to. There’s no other way to describe it except to say that I had an empty space. I also knew exactly what I needed to fill it, but I chose not to. I wasn’t done with MY life yet. After college, I moved to the Outer Banks, and married my husband, Chris. We never attended a church regularly there either. I was good at talking about it though! I said every week that I was going to find a church to go to, but I never went.

After a while, Sundays just became the second day of my weekend. Deep down though, I wanted to find a church home. The empty space was still there; it was a very recognizable need in my heart, but I chose to ignore it. It was too hard to go to a church where nobody knew me and I didn’t know them. I thought that if I went and I didn’t like it, everyone would shake their heads me when I didn’t show up the next week. What would my friends say? “She went and got all religious”, I would imagine them remarking to each other. I told myself, “I’ll just find a sermon on TV to watch”, “I’ll worship God in my own house”, “I’ll just go to church the next time I go home.” I came up with all kinds of excuses, and did none of them. I was feeling guilty. The Holy Spirit was convicting me. Still, I ignored Him.

Soon, I became comfortable with not going to church on Sundays. Sometimes, well, most of the time, if I came home on the weekend, I would “forget” to bring something to wear to church. I’d also say I needed to go ahead and get back home early. It’s not that I didn’t believe in God anymore—it’s just that, that’s all I did! I believed there was a God. He made us, He loves us. For a while, I thought that was good enough. But something inside me was just not right. I felt guilty. This lingering guilt would not go away. I’d go out with my friends, have fun, feel guilty, and then go out and do the same thing the next weekend. God was working on me. He was weighing on my heart, convicting me of my sins. I just kept pushing Him further and further away. My pride and independence was more important to me than God.

I had drifted away from God, and I was now feeling the effects. God never left me, but I left Him- halfway promising to come back after I’d done what I wanted to do. All the while, I knew the consequences of choosing my own will. I was being selfish, choosing the world over Him. It was easier for me and more fun.

In January of ’06, Chris and I found out we were pregnant. We were so happy and excited. This pregnancy brought me back to those guilty feelings, but it was a little different this time. Now I was worried that I wouldn’t be a good parent that sets a good example for her child. I started to realize that God had trusted us with this little person inside me. It was going to be our responsibility to teach him or her about their Heavenly Father. Not long after finding out I was pregnant, Chris got a job offer back in our hometown.

So, we moved back home. The first couple of weekends, I excused myself from going to church on Sunday morning because we were working on fixing up our rental house. I was also hesitant because if I went one Sunday, I would certainly have to go the next and the next. It was a commitment I wasn’t ready to make. And there would certainly no anonymity at my home church! After the excuses ran out, we finally went to church. As we attended each Sunday, I noticed that at each worship service, I was being moved to almost tears, feeling as if I had a huge knot in my throat that reached all the way down to my stomach. God was convicting me and I knew I was not in the right place with Him. Church was making me uncomfortable, and I was fighting it. Week after week, I pushed back the tears and heartbreak and said no to Jesus one more time. “Maybe next week”, I’d say.

One Wednesday night, I went to the church family supper before the prayer meeting. Of course, I wasn’t going to go to the prayer meeting, just the dinner. My plan was to just enough to not feel guilty. On my way out, Ashley, now one of my closest friends in Christ invited me to attend one of her mission circle’s meetings. Needless to say, I tried to think of every reason not to go, but I knew deep down, I had to. God was tearing down the wall I had built. Attending that meeting and being accepted into a circle of Christian friends began my path back to Christ.
In September of ’06, Chris and I had a beautiful baby girl we named Molly. It was becoming increasingly apparent God was blessing us. God kept guiding Chris and me to church every Sunday. We were both feeling convicted, both wanting to learn more, and both of us experiencing God’s calling to our hearts like we never had before. I was still holding back the tears and convictions until finally, I was broken. God was preparing Chris and me both at the same time. On May 27, 2007 we were both baptized, Chris for the first time, me for the second. This time I understood, we both understood.

It was an awesome feeling. My heart was running over. I made the commitment, and this time I wasn’t afraid. I was excited! I finally knew what it meant to be free. It’s not always easy. In fact, Jesus promised a life lived for Him would be difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable! My life is not always a fairy tale, but I take great comfort in knowing how my story will end.

Susan Sykes, 31, lives in Edenton, NC. She is married to Chris, her wonderful husband of almost 6 years. They live an always exciting life with their 2 ½ year old daughter, Molly, two cats- Josie and Hazel, and Max, the wonder-dog . Chris and Susan serve at Rocky Hock Baptist Church. Susan is a stay at home mom and a silversmith. Chris is a computer network administrator. Susan's beautiful handy work can be found at Susan Designs.


Let the Son Shine

God has a way of putting people in our lives exactly when we need them. Several months ago the Lord sent a wonderful, godly friend my way. Although we have yet to meet face-to-face, the bond we have is deep and strong, because it is built on our shared love for Jesus Christ. Victoria encourages me, challenges me, and inspires me.

Today I have asked her to share her story with us all. I pray that your heart will be blessed and you will be challenged to continue to let the Son shine through you. Please welcome my sweet friend Victoria Jenkins.

For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing wrath for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will
have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
~Isaiah 54:7-8, NRSV

My entire world had come to a screeching halt. My marriage and my most intimate friendships as well as my sense of self-worth, lie shattered in more pieces than I care to admit. It wasn’t obedience that brought me to that point; my anger drove me to the Lord.

So, there I was with my Bible in my lap for the first time in years. I cried out, “Where were you, God?!” To my surprise, He spoke to me in the last way I had expected—through His Word. From there God picked up the wreckage of my life and made it His.

I desired to learn what the Lord wanted from me, but my laziness and my three kids kept me equipped with every excuse in the book to never open The Book. Having a passion for writing and a love for blogging, writing devotionals seemed like the perfect way to keep me accountable to staying in His Word. Often times we’ll excuse our way out of commitment to ourselves, but letting someone else down isn’t as easy on our conscience. I continue to share what I’m learning through writing devotionals, but God isn’t done growing this ministry just yet!

Having lost my closest friends to my husband’s sexual addiction, I struggled to form new connections. Each new friendship fizzled out and I began to fall into a self-loathing lifestyle that consisted of pajamas, soap operas, reclusion, and the occasional crying jag. After the last lingering remnant of friendship finally went caput, God dropped inspiration on me like nothing I’ve known.

He whispered to me the fact that, in order to have strong friendships, I was going to have to base them in Him. In a whirlwind of prayer, Scripture, snippets, notes, and illegible handwriting, the call to write a book on Biblical friendship became clear.

The call was clear, but my ever-human mind kept me wondering if the idea truly came from God, or merely from my own desperation. I enlisted the prayer of a sister in Christ and soon God began to drop Living Bread crumbs all over my life. As I followed the trail, His voice became clearer.

A mere student of His Word, I doubted my ability to write from it. So, God set a class on Bible Interpretation in my path.

Immediately after finishing the first chapter I hit a major writer’s block. Even my emails seemed to be from a semi-illiterate primate—no offense to any gorillas in the audience. Eventually devotional writing came back, but the book was a no go.

During my time away from writing, my sister sent me a copy of Beth Moore’s study on Esther and so I’m in the midst of ancient Persia now. Not long after starting the study, God revealed to me that I would need to study the book of Daniel before writing the chapter I had in the works. I decided to breathe easy and focus on my time in Susa. Just this week a lesson on friendship came out of the royal woodwork and I’m writing again. God is so faithful to provide!

God has taught me many things over these three years, and brought me through more than I ever thought I could endure. The greatest gift has been learning firsthand that our Sovereign Lord is our Faithful Father and Closest Confidant. When we follow where He leads, He will lead us Home.

Are you being called to something bigger than yourself? Well, God is bigger, my sister! We, as daughters of the King, must stand firm in our God-given destinies no matter how overwhelming they may seem. Every time I feel too small for the role God has called me to play, I cling to the God-breathed Words that Mordecai spoke to Esther,

“Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

A little bit about Victoria …..“I am a Child of God, entrusted with the hearts and minds of three wonderful children and blessed with the heart and hand of the man I love. We are a homeschooling family that God is growing each day.When I’m not teaching, learning, fiddling with photography, or writing, I’m probably somewhere being weird.It’s a gift.” You find Victoria at her personal site, Let the Son Shine.


Worship Is...

God created you for His pleasure. Pleasure means enjoyment, delight, and satisfaction. Say this out loud with me, "God created me for His enjoyment, for His delight, and for His satisfaction." Wow! That's awesome! One of our chief goals in life should be to bring pleasure to our Heavenly Father.

One way we can go about accomplishing this goal is through our worship of the Almighty God. What do you think of when you hear the word "worship"? Most people think of singing and of praise music. Dear friends, worship goes beyond singing and a melody.

Worship is a lifestyle of praise and service to the Lord. You can worship God on your way to work and you can worship God while sitting in carpool line. You can worship God while cleaning toilets and while folding laundry. You can worship God in the midst of puck and diarrhea. You can worship God alone or in a group. God desires that you worship Him with every part of your life.

"Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to
offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1, NIV

How have you worshipped God today? What are some ways you can worship God tomorrow and the next day and the next? Remember, worship is a lifestyle, not just something you're a part of at 11:00 on Sunday mornings.

"The LORD is pleased only with those
who worship Him and trust His love."
Psalm 147:11, CEV