Sunday, April 29, 2012

No thanks, I'll stick with the old me

By Christy Fitzwater

Ask me about a list of spiritual disciplines, and I’ll feel pretty decent about myself.

·        Read my Bible every day? Check.
·        Memorizes verses? Lots.
·        Pray hard? Yes.
·        Serve with my spiritual gifts? Every day. 

But please, please don’t ask me about this new discipline God is putting in front of me of sharing the gospel with people. He is telling me to be a sower but not just in the safe places at church. He wants me to go outside

   

When it comes to witnessing I. Am. A. Failure.  

I keep asking God this question: Is it possible for an old dog to learn new tricks? Because seriously, I'm 43 years old, and I've stunk at sharing my faith for three decades.

In the last several months, though, God has hammered me about being obedient to share the gospel with people who need him. I turn on the radio and the sermon is on witnessing. The songs at church are about witnessing. My daily Bible reading is about witnessing. An event at church is about witnessing. We get a sub for Sunday School, and he talks about witnessing.   

I groan and whine like a little kid who doesn’t want to eat beets. God, please don’t make me do this. I can’t.   

My teenagers do this thing where they tip their heads back, open their mouths, and let out a guttural groan when they really, really don’t want to do something. That’s where I am with God. 

So here I am, this yellow-bellied pastor’s wife in Montana, and God is literally shoving me into a new discipline of approaching people with the gospel.   

I’m terrified to be obedient, but at the same time I don’t want to stay where I am now, ya know? It’s going to cost me a lot to change. 

Is God pushing you to be obedient in a new area?

________________________________________________________________

Allow me to introduce myself...
My name is Christy, and my husband and I have lived in Kalispell, Montana (an hour from the Canadian border) for 17 years. He is a licensed professional counselor who is associate pastor at Easthaven Baptist Church. My ministry is all about words. I write and teach my own children's curriculum to about 70 Awana kids every week. I write Bible studies and small group discussion guides that correspond with our sermon series at church. I also write devotional guides for our youth, preparing them for mission trips. (Check out my devotional blog, Tiddlywinks.) Besides all the writing, I do medical transcription and love being housewife, pastor's champion, and mom to my two awesome teenagers. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Picking Heaven's Flowers for the Journey

Jared, JJ, Susie and Abby Alleman ::
Serving with International High School Ministry through Cru in Budapest, Hungary

The Beginnings of Spring have been especially significant for us this year. Shortly before Spring sprung we found out we were expecting our third child. Shortly after Spring officially came, we reached our monthly support goal and JUST TODAY we found out that our special gift need is met!! All paving the way for our New Beginnings in Budapest, Hungary and our long-term missions' assignment there.

And all of these signs of new life, of hopes realized, of dreams coming true are beautiful and inspiring and extremely humbling. Who am I to take such a part in the work of God in the world? To be called to a missionary life few will ever experience? To walk through doors into high school classrooms on the other side of the world that ONLY the hand of Heaven could open?

Beginnings are exciting, humbling and when they have been walked in step with the will of God, they are nothing short of a myriad of miracles. This has certainly been our experience as we have seen the LORD continually remove mountains of obstacles to make a way for our little family to take this step.

But Beginnings are also scary, even terrifying, and they are most definitely bittersweet. To say 'hello' to a new life means saying 'goodbye' to a life, ministry and friends we love. It means new relationships with other missionaries that now are maintained from places around the world. And it means a painful separation from our families as we move thousands of miles and an ocean away from them.

And Beginnings require our everything. They ask for our hearts to be unreserved in new relationships. Those a good God has been preparing as dear friends and surrogate family. They ask us to die to the old comforts of a way of life and what was our community so that this new life is unencumbered by expectations and the bitterness that comes when they are not met. And none of this is easy.

Whether we are moving to another country or another ministry assignment or church in a neighboring town, we all experience these soul growing pains to make room for new life. It is a part of the calling we have received and we as women and ministry wives feel it all acutely. We are the ones who think about the whole picture and wonder how the kids will transition, will they find good friends? Will we find good friends? What strains will our marriage face? The list of unknowns is unending and the swell of grief severe.

So this is when we need to pick Heaven's flowers.

As wives who partner in ministry with our husbands, it is necessary for us to embrace the inevitable heart and life transitions of our journey. And Heaven's flowers are those promises that come to live in us in new ways with each dying to the old in order for the new to come.

All who love Him are on the journey Home and we share forever in unending bliss and joy and basking in the Glory of this One Great Love. We serve a God who knows the end from the beginning and loves us in, above and through all things and is so gracious to call us to a life of surrender. And He promises that we receive manifold in return for every loved one we let go of living close to in the here and now so that we might follow Him.

And so in these days where less than two weeks separate me from this BIG MOVE, I am gathering many bouquets of Heaven's flowers. When the sadness of seemingly unending goodbyes threatens to swallow me whole, I pick up the joy of that beautiful last time together, the sweetness of that prayer and always the brilliance of the Beauty found fully in the hope of Heaven.

It is only then that I am well on the path to begin the new with a full, open and trusting heart.

What about you?  Has God been preparing you for Beginnings? How is your heart right now? Are you finding Heaven's Flowers?  I am praying for you all as we walk this road together.


I am Abigail Alleman and I share my heart and this journey overseas and mostly, what it is to love God with everything and fight for that love at my blog, Fan the Flame. I will be sharing more about this new life in Budapest in the coming weeks and months and beyond and I also share about our family's journey and life and times at my other blog Abby Avenue.  


Special thanks to Carla and Monique for this wonderful community! I count it a privilege to be a part of this and think you are both amazing, godly women and I am so blessed to know you!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A NEW THING

Sonia on her mission's trip in Haiti
by Sonia A. Adams
"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19
God is doing a new thing. That new thing will be birth out of a consecrated, consistent, extensive prayer where we enter into God’s presence to seek His face and hear His will. Gone are the days where ministries, visions, and ideas will be erected based upon man-made ideas, fleshly ingenuity, popularity, and idolatry of man. The new visions will be established and founded in God and God alone when we choose to stay in prayer, which will cause Him to manifest our dreams in His time and in His way. 
We will see new things spring forth in 2012.
The number 12 means establishment, government, and setting a secure foundation -- the number for order and perfection (maturity). Ephesians 2:20 states: having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.” 
God's children will tap into the Holy Spirit, and creative, innovative ideas will spring forth like a reservoir in a desert. Rivers that will bring water. It will bubble forth like cisterns in the middle of dryness. God will give us impossible, incredible ideas, and He will make the impossible possible. By faith, we must put these new ideas into action. 
God will do new things in us.
For these new visions and ideas to come to life, two common denominators must intersect -- God's appointed time and our daily obedience. When we pray consistently, seek His face, and obey, at the appointed time God will bring it to past; but prayer, obedience and contentment are vital. In addition, we must die to the flesh and be willing to come out of our comfort zone to fulfill the deeper visions and callings that God has given us.

God wants to do new things through us.

I just recently returned from Haiti and this was definitely a sacrificial and life changing trip, and it ignited a desire and passion in me for the people of Haiti. Also, it gave me a new and different cause or mission which ignited a fire in me. I was a bit fearful at first, but my fear turned into courage because I stepped out of the boat and walked on water and Jesus led me all the way as I focused on Him.

God did a new thing in me in 2012!

As women in ministry, first ladies, wives, and mothers, whatever vision, dream, challenge, or new thing that God has put before you, I encourage you to remember:

1. It will be birthed in prayer, so seek His face daily with quality and quantity.
2. The new thing will be birthed as revealed by the Holy Spirit.
3. Two common denominators are necessary: our daily obedience and His appointed time.
4. Step out of the boat onto water and keep your eyes on Jesus as you endeavor to walk and journey in this new thing.


 
* Sonia is a professor at Beulah Heights University in Atlanta, co-pastor of KT Christian Assembly, and founder of Blossoming Vines Ministries. She has authored two books, Searching to Fill the Void and Only A Little Distance To Ephrathah and is a 1997 honor graduate of Oral Roberts University. Sonia is married to Pastor Shawn Adams, and they have two sons. Visit her websites at www.ktassembly.com and www.blossomingvines.com.

Read more about Sonia's mission's trip to Haiti @ www.blossomingvines.blogspot.com.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Beginnings: Resurrecting Your Home Life

by Shannon Milholland

The Milhollands on Easter 2012
From l to r: Scott, Hannah (16), Hayleigh (13), Clara (6),
Carynne (5) and Shannon (Ageless...ha!)
I married the love of my life on 6/5/04 at 3 in the afternoon. We entered the church as 2 and left as 1. My geeky math major heart beat wildly at the prospect. If I was completely honest though, I'd tell you we entered the church as 4 and left as 1. I brought two young daughters into the marriage with me. We all stood at the altar. We all exchanged vows. That day wasn't just the beginning of a marriage; it was the genesis of a family.

Day one we carted kids to school, churned out homework and activities. We married into the crazy stage of multiple kids most couples take years to encounter. Crazy is our honeymoon phase. We wanted to honor our marriage first as our most important human relationship. We desired to have Christ at the center of our family with time for family worship in the home around the dinner table. Our home life needed a resurrection. Every day can be a new beginning with these strategies:

First Things First
In our home the master suite is on the first floor. With our children tucked upstairs, we have a living representation of our family priorities. We have to fight for couple time. We leave our little kids with their older sisters and go on a weekly date because we believe our need to connect as a couple supersedes their need to socialize with friends.

We scratch for time together. We go on walks after dinner, "nap" on Sunday afternoons, kiss in the kitchen and hold hands at church. We make our minutes count and we count our minutes. With the combination of intentional time together and intentional use of the time we get, we keep our marriage strong.

Who's on Second?
We have four daughters who range in age from preschool to high school. One is receiving letters from colleges while another learns her letters. Our teens are highly involved in our church. A minimum of three nights a week they attend youth activities. They each participate in one activity at school. They have friends, school assignments and interests.

We could easily be a family who dines nightly at three different fast food joints and scarfs our food on the run in three separate cars. We choose something else. We schedule nights for family dinner. Even if our "banquet" is as simple as waffles and eggs or chicken pot pie, we gather together around our kitchen table. We can't connect if we're not together.

I say no to nights out with the girls. Scott says no to purely social evening outings with the guys. We limit our kids to one activity apiece. We say no so we can say to each other.

Wherever You Are, Be All There
This is my favorite quote my martyr missionary Jim Elliot. It reminds me to fully engage with my family whether we're cooking dinner over homework or riding bikes around the block. It encourages me to finish my housework early so I have time for house play. It beckons my heart to God each morning so I have enough of Him to be enough for my family.

Balance is a fight. Priorities are a struggle. It is a war worth waging. Just as Christ fought and won the victory for us on Easter, let's be willing to fight and win a daily victory in our homes. Let's live the resurrection so that Easter isn't an event, it's a lifestyle.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Opening Our Hearts to Change

By Carla Adair Hendricks *



Springtime is here! Azaleas and daffodils are blooming, splashing watercolors across our flower beds. The sun is spreading rays of golden warmth. And Easter is on its way. A time of renewal. A time of reflection.

A time of new beginnings.

So for the month of April here in A Pastor's Wife's Garden , we'll share about new beginnings. So join us here every Monday this month. What better place to be during the first days of spring, but in A Garden?

The words "new beginnings" bring beautiful thoughts to mind. Thoughts of second chances. Thoughts of being born-again through a relationship with Christ. Thoughts of new ideas, new projects, new purpose in life.

It also reminds me of change. With every new beginning, we must undergo and adapt to change. And if you're like me -- and most other women on the planet -- change can bring a sense of uncertainty and even dread. Change can knock the security right from under you.

Over the years I've learned much about change. Here's a few:

Change Is Inevitable:

From the moment a newborn inhales her very first breath, she's slapped with the reality of change. No longer will she enjoy the constant warmth and comfort of her mama's womb. She will experience hunger and cold and discomfort. Her life has undergone great, life-altering change.

And ours has too.

We have aged, we have moved around the country (or world), we've married, we've had children (through birth and adoption) -- and oh my, we've entered full-time ministry with our husbands.

The only way to halt this roller-coaster of change is to stop living. On this side of heaven, change will follow us for the rest of our lives.

Change is Difficult:

Let me just be real for a minute. I don't like change.

I like consistency. I like routine. I like security.

Change pretty much rocks my world. I would much rather do without it. And yet, one thing that's been consistent in my life has been -- well, change.

One of the most challenging changes of my life has been relocating -- back-to-back relocations. And just recently, the Lord showed me I'm still reeling from the last one. When my husband, four kiddos and I packed up to relocate to Northern Virginia to plant a multi-ethnic church much like our Tennessee church, Strong Tower Bible Church , I was sad, but excited and expectant. I knew the relo' drill. I knew it would take a while to make good friends. I knew it would take months for our house to feel like home.

But exactly twelve months later, we relocated again to Arkansas. I found myself reeling from the blow of those two consecutive moves. I was a mess, weepy, ready to jump ship.

Almost two years later, I'm no longer a mess, no longer weepy, and no longer ready to jump ship. But I'm still grieving. Grieving relationships from three different cities. Grieving all I'd ever known. Grieving my favorite grocery store chains, for goodness' sake! (Oh Publix and Wegman's, Mama still loves ya!)

Yet God is still good. He is still trustworthy. He still loves me to pieces.

And Hallelujah, Hebrews 13:8 reassures me that He never changes:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." 
Change is Necessary:

If we could interview a newborn baby, she would probably express distress over the dramatic change of birth. She might even choose to stay in her mother's womb if humanly possible. But having lived on the other side of the womb, we big girls would cheer her on, encourage her to go for it, to enter this crazy world with all its nuances and risks.

Why? Because we know the syrupy sweetness of a strawberry. We've experienced the cushiony coolness of beach sand under our feet. And we've felt the cozy comfort of a loved one's embrace.

And we know she'll never experience the joys of this life if she never takes the leap (or push) into the real world. And as difficult as change can be, it's always worth it in the end, because we're better for it. We're more like our Savior at the end of the road of change.

And yet, I'm praising God that He never changes. When my world swirls around me, and I can barely grab a railing to balance myself, I need to know that Jesus remains constant, consistent, unmovable.

And He'll be the same in your life -- no matter how much, how often, or how drastically your seasons of life might change.



* To read more about Carla or check out her personal blog, visit The Master's Gardeners and Deep Waters.
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