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Rare Air.

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Leading up to my recent foot operation Rob and I had one of those rare air moments...

We were on a date, enjoying one another. There were lots of tender words shared.

You see, our entire 31 years of marriage I have told Rob if I were to die before he does, He DID NOT have my permission to re-marry. Not that I would have any real say in the matter, but the very thought of him with another woman just doesn’t set right with me. Some would call me selfish... “What will I care since I’ll be in Heaven”... “Don’t you want him to be happy?”...

Of course I want him to be happy. Just not with another woman. :) 

But God had been dealing with me, so...

Sitting in the car, looking into each other’s eyes (and a few tears in mine), I told him I’d been thinking and praying... and I decided it would be okay with me if he marries again, if I didn’t make it through this surgery. I told him I’d want someone else to know how it feels to be the most loved woman on the planet.

Rare Air.

It’s true, my husband knows how to make me feel more loved than anyone else. That’s saying a lot since I’m pretty particular... can be a bit cranky at times... am what he calls ‘a high maintenance woman who thinks she’s low maintenance.’ (I’ll defend myself in another blog)

Love is hard work... Marriage isn’t easy... Relationships require a ton of acceptance, patience, forgiveness, celebration of who that person is rather than who we want them to be.

May I challenge you to think of and connect with one person, right now... Who’s worth going the extra mile for... One person who needs you to not give up on them... One person who needs to experience...

Rare Air.

-Laura

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I THANK GOD FOR YOU!

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I recently ran across a letter I wrote to our daughter Danielle a few days after she entered rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, 3 years ago. It’s not very pleasant; in fact it is pretty painful thinking back to that time.

The letter reads:

11-19-14 Wednesday – Day 2

Danielle,

I love you my girl. Dad read me the letter he wrote you, so I know he told you about my tears as we left you at The Arbor... and my convo with our dear friends, the Evans, last night. The entire family really does adore you and KNOWS God has a good plan in store for your life! They would love to have you anytime, if God leads you in that direction.

Today, I woke up, and in regular fashion, turned over in bed and began thanking God for the things I DO have. On that list was: “I thank you God that I do have a daughter who loves you, who loves her family, who loves others deeply, and who desires to get well.”

I DO thank God he blessed me with you as my daughter.

Then I had a whole group of women come over and decorate our home for Christmas. It was bitter – sweet... putting up yours and Caleb’s stockings was hard, since neither of you will be here this year. But once again I stopped and thanked God that I will get to celebrate an eternity of Christmases with Caleb; and am grateful for you and your willingness to do the hard work you are doing, to get the tools you will need to live your life with success for the rest of your life; and prayerfully there will be many more Christmases to celebrate together.

My emotions have been a bit all over the place because I haven’t had much time to process since Shine, and the whirlwind of activity getting you ready to go to the Arbor, dad coming home from Africa, decorating for Christmas... but I will get to chill a little in these next few days so I know I’ll be fine. We have walked through a lot in these last few years... I am learning to trust God more and more, no matter what, even when I don’t understand or like what is taking place.

What I DO know, is that God is a redeeming God and ALL we walk through has a purpose. And when we place the crap we’re walking through in his hands – he has a magnificent way of making something beautiful out of it.

I know our stories are not the same in any way but I do look forward to processing with you because there are things I think I can relate to.  And I know God allowed me to be your mother and you to be my daughter for a reason.  I am looking forward to discovering those reasons together.

I thank God for YOU!

With so much love, MOM

Life seems to unfold a bit imperfectly... However, the imperfect allows our hearts to express gratitude to God for his faithfulness to perfect that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) And to fully accept & love those God has placed in our lives. (Romans 15:7)

Danielle has now been sober 3 years and leads Celebrate Recovery for young people. I love that girl!

This Thanksgiving season, regardless of what state your relationships are in, no matter who is near or far, take a few moments and thank God for these precious ones who are Heaven sent gifts! And may I strongly urge you to thank them as well! It will melt pain and bring fresh life to hearts longing to be held.

Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.

-Laura

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Crowned Victorious

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In life it seems like we are always running on parallel tracks of good and difficult. We experience highs and at the same time, lows. Peaks and valleys seem to go hand in hand. Don’t you wish we weren’t always facing some kind of a battle? And when we get to the place where we get past one battle, it seems another is looming right around the next curve. If only life could be all rainbows and sunshine! Yet something beautiful unfolds in our lives and hearts each time we overcome a difficulty.

With every storm we endure we learn and grow more about the character of God and his faithfulness.

We serve a God who is bigger than every battle! A God who wants to lead us in one perpetual victory parade.

In the Bible, King David definitely knew what it was to face battles. He was anointed king at a young age, even as his father didn’t think him worthy enough to be considered when the prophet Samuel came to his house to anoint one of his eight sons (1 Samuel 16:11-13). After all seven older brothers were crossed off the list of potential candidates by Samuel, David was brought in. As he stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he brought with him and anointed David. And the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.

David was anointed. In the Jewish culture anointing is interchangeable with the word crowning. David was literally crowned victorious here. In the physical, Saul was still King. But spiritually, David was crowned victorious.

In 1 Samuel 17, just after being anointed, we read about David facing Goliath. Goliath wasn't just a giant, he was a champion. He had a record of victory. Yet David wasn’t afraid to fight him because he knew God was on his side. God had already worked in and through him to defeat a lion and a bear. He used this past experience to convince King Saul to allow him to fight this looming giant.  And he was victorious was just a slingshot and a few rocks. It only took one well aimed shot to send the giant to the ground. David won that battle.

I imagine you might be fighting a Goliath sized battle. Whatever it is you are facing likely popped into your mind before you even made it past the first paragraph. Maybe you feel like throwing in the towel.

Maybe you are wondering if God has forgotten you.

Perhaps you are confused and unsure of what your next steps should be.  If this is you, let me remind you today, beloved, that you are fighting from a place of victory, not for victory. You are crowned victorious. So hold your head up high and fight to the finish, knowing God is with you and for you and he is fighting on your behalf. And on the other side, he has a crown with your name on – a crown for overcoming – your crown of victory!

For further reflection:

1.     What battles are you facing right now?

2.     How has God and is God moving in the midst of your circumstances?

3.     As we look at David’s story, we see he drew courage from his past victories. If you are feeling discouraged in your current battles, list out a few past victories God has brought you to. How does remembering how he moved then give you the courage to keep going now?

Verses for reflection:

Psalm 18:35 - You have also given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and your gentleness makes me great.

1 Corinthians 15:57 - but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Psalm 20:7-8 - Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 - Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD'S and He will give you into our hands."

Proverbs 2:7 - He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

Romans 8:28 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

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Crowned for Mission

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Jesus talks a lot in the Bible about compassion. He shared how God would leave the ninety-nine to go after one. He spoke of a prodigal son returning home to his father’s open arms. He stood up for a woman caught in the act of adultery as he drew in the dirt and told the onlookers to cast the first stone if they were without sin. One by one they walked away.

In all of these stories, compassion involves action.

I’ve heard it said that compassion is just emotion until you cross the street. To Jesus, compassion means responding to the needs around us.

One story in particular highlighted this truth. In Luke 10:25-37, an expert in the law asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. Jesus asked him what the law said, and the man recited that it says we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Great answer! Jesus agreed with this answer, but then the man took it as step further as he asked, “And who is my neighbor (Luke 10:29)?”

Jesus was a story teller and he stayed true to form as he answered this man’s question. Instead of telling him, he painted a picture as he shared about the Good Samaritan. He said in Luke 10:30-36:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’"

Jesus then asked him who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers and the man responded, the one who had mercy on him. Jesus’ parting words to him were, “Go and do likewise.”

These words hold true for us today. We are crowned to love other people. This is our mission! The neighbors we are called to love aren’t just the people who live next door. They are everyone around us— the homeless, the destitute, the broken, the kids around our kids who act out because they come from broken homes, and the prickly people who struggle to be kind and loving to us.

Imagine what our world would look like if we all really walked this out every day - if we paused for the compassionate cause of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!

WE ARE THE ANSWER TO INJUSTICE.

Let’s take a closer look at how we are crowned for mission:

  1. Describe a time God interrupted the routine of your day by prompting you to respond to a need around you.
  2. What are the biggest hindrances to you living with this mindset daily?

For further reflection:

Let’s do a little test this week. Each morning, ask God to interrupt your world to show love to your neighbors. Keep a journal of each moment where God uses you. Describe how it makes you feel to be his hands and feet to the people around you. As the week wraps up, take some time to reflect back. Think through each situation. Say a prayer again for each person with a need you were able to help meet in a moment. How did it make you feel to be used this way by God?

Verses on compassion:

Mark 6:34 - And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

Mark 1:41 - Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

Matthew 18:27 - Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

Matthew 14:14 - And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Matthew 9:36 - But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

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Crowned to Nurture

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One of the most famous painters of all time, Rembrandt, crafted a well-known piece of art called, The Return of the Prodigal Son. In this painting, Rembrandt captures the full expression of God's character by drawing our Heavenly Father with two vastly different hands. One hand is drawn masculine; the skin and fingers rugged, protective, and strong. The other is clearly depicted as feminine; slender, soft, and tender looking. What a beautiful and eye-opening way to demonstrate both the masculine and feminine sides of God. The Bible says we are created in his image; male and female he created us (Genesis 1:27). We are crafted to depict these different characteristics of God to the world.

We are going to look closer at what’s depicted by the feminine hand. We could say those are nurturing hands.

The word nurture itself is a verb, and it means to care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

That tender hand reminds us of the ways God nurtures us. He is our caregiver. He is loving and kind. We can read how he tends to our needs all throughout the Bible. Here are just a few verses that show us the tender heart of God:

·      "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds."—Psalm 147:3

·      "The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears."—Isaiah 25:8

·      "He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young."—Isaiah 40:11

Don’t you just love that! He bandages our wounds. He wipes away our tears. He feeds us like a shepherd. He carries us, holding us close to his heart. There is so much comfort we can draw from these reminders. We need this nurturing support from God all throughout our lives.

In the same way we are surrounded by opportunities to represent God to others through nurturing. To extend the hand of God in this way to those around us. To pour into them and encourage them. To tend to their needs. To have the coffees and the one-on-ones that bring life.

We women are especially equipped for this task. We were created to nurture even as we lead, inspire, and as we run in all our lanes and wear the various hats we wear. This doesn’t take away from our strength. It lends to it.

Through nurturing we raise up others around us to be who God called them to be. We are an extension of God to them.

We bring the same comfort that God himself offers us. This world desperately needs this tender loving care, and as we awaken to the call to nurture, the world is awakened by the love of Jesus displayed through his royal daughters. We are crowned for this!

Let’s take a closer look at how we are crowned to nurture:

1.     When you think of the word, nurture, what comes to mind?

2.     Who has been a nurturer to you in your life?

3.     Who in your world can you nurture, care for and protect?

For further reflection:

It’s so common to hear women say that we are so used to being the givers and the nurturers that it’s hard for us to receive care and support from the people around us. If your nurture tank is running on empty, think of someone in your world you receive encouragement and life from spending time with them. Reach out to them via a phone call or set up a time to get together. Take time to nurture you this week so you can keep pouring out to others.

Verses on nurturing:

1 Thessalonians 2:7-12New Living Translation (NLT) - 7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children[a] among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. 9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 5:11New Living Translation (NLT) - 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Romans 15 1-2The Message (MSG) - Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

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Significant

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We are hardwired with a longing to rule and reign and take dominion, to lead, to build, and with a desire to make a lasting impact with our lives. These are good, God given things, but our lives get slightly wacky when we seek to fill those innate desires in unhealthy ways.

Women throughout time have fought this battle for significance. Women like Eve, who had everything she could possibly desire and yet, when tempted, still chose to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. Women like Sarai, who were on the receiving end of a promise from God, yet took matters into her own hands with her maidservant Hagar to get ahead of God’s plan. In so doing, a child entered into the world who wasn’t heir to the promise and a whole host of struggles followed suit. Women like Esther who was whisked away to royalty and could have placed her identity in her title, her beauty and the beauty of her surroundings, and yet was called to possibly lay it all down by risking her own life to bravely save her people. Women like Leah, who was less loved than her sister, Rachel, and given to her husband in marriage by trickery from her Father. And Rachel, the more loved of the two was desired by Jacob, the husband she shared with her sister, but she struggled with an inability to bear children while her sister popped them out like Pez candies.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate. No matter how much we achieve and attain or how far we go in life it seems that search for more is always there. If we are not seeking to fulfill that longing to feel like we matter and make a difference by finding our identities in Christ alone, then we are sure to seek it out in something else. And this world is full of things vying to deliver what only staying connected to God can. John 15:5 reminds us there is only one sure way to live lives that impact this world greatly. Jesus himself spoke these words:

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing.”

That longing we have in our hearts for significance is a wiring only working from a place of staying connected to Christ can fulfill. When we live joined with him, anchored as His Beloved, we experience abundant lives. Separated, we can’t produce anything of lasting value. Let’s put our anchors down deep in his love for us and trust him to work in and through us to live impactful lives!

Let’s dig deeper into this battle for significance:

  1. Where are you tempted to find your identity?
  2. What around you is most tempting when it comes to taking matters into your own hands in order to feel significant?
  3. What makes you feel threatened on your journey to living a significant life?
  4. As a child, did you feel significant in your family? What words were spoken over you then and how does that shape your understanding of your significance now and the way you seek to fulfill that need in your life today.

For further reflection:

Read the stories of Eve (Genesis 2 & 3), Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah) (Genesis 15, 16, & 17), Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29 & 30). For each reading, write out in your journal your thoughts on their personal struggles to find significance. How do you see yourself in their stories? How might you have done things differently? How does seeing God’s redemptive love woven through out give you hope that even if you have made mistakes, he can redeem it? Lastly, ask God to show you from these readings any areas you might need to make adjustments in, in order to stay living from a place of being anchored in him.

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Satisfied

Have you ever watched a child’s transition from the dependence of infancy to the relative independence of an older child? Each new accomplishment in picking out their own clothes, eating their meals without assistance, bathing and brushing their teeth on their own, builds in them the confidence that says, "I can do it myself!" Becoming more independent is a normal and healthy part of growing up. However, we cross over into unhealthy self-reliance when we seek to meet our own needs and make things happen apart from God.

Romans 12:2 message says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

This verse reminds us that real, well-formed maturity in our spiritual lives is not the same as what we consider maturity in our natural lives as we progress and become more independent. Spiritual maturity, is a maturity that relies on God for every area of our lives. It’s taking our sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around areas of our lives and placing them before God as an offering. When we do this we give God room to move in and have his way.

Let’s take a look today at self-reliance vs. God reliance -

1.      What circumstances tempt you to rely on yourself?

2.      What do you feel is the root feeling or need behind these situations? How does identifying the root help you to pin point the lie and lead you to find the truth in God’s word? For example, if you seek to self- promote in the workplace, would you say fear of being over looked or left behind could be the motivating factor? Could it be a fear that God won’t come through for you? In this example, a verse to counteract this fear is: If God is for me, who could be against me. Or My God shall supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus

For further reflection:

Carve out a time to sit and have coffee with Jesus. Grab a notebook or journal and a pen. Ask the holy spirit to remind you of a time you self-navigated or relied on yourself to meet your needs. Write down what he brings to mind. Then ask him to help you pin point the underlying feelings or needs that contributed to you taking matters into your own hands. Write down each word that comes to mind. Then reflect on those words. Could those feelings, fears or needs contribute to this pattern in other areas of your life? Allow some time to ponder and sit with him and talk it through in prayer. Then look for some verses that have to do with those feelings and needs. Write them out in your journal and read them aloud this week daily as a reminder that God will take care of you and supply everything you need.

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It Happened Again

It happened again... that instant heart to heart connection with our Polish friends of over 10 years, as we arrived in my motherland. I was trying to figure out why I experienced an immediate feeling of, “Ahhh, I’m with family”. In that moment I couldn’t explain it; it was just there.

Why? How could this happen with people who live half way across the earth from one another, who don’t speak the same language, and don’t communicate or see each other very often? I don’t know, but it did. It never takes long for me and Asia, to pick up where we left off, talk (unfortunately through an interpreter whom you pray is interpreting correctly) about everything from kids, to hormones, to church life and crazy husband stories.

We laugh. We cry. We understand.

Right then, I recognized that I am a part of a much bigger space in time... a part of the divine... I am part of a very holy encounter. Tears fill my eyes, “God, please help me encourage your beloved daughters to press onward in your strength. Join our hearts in such a way that your plan is accomplished.

Use me Jesus.

Speak through Rob as he trains these pastors. Give us sweet moments together each day. Let your kingdom come in this land so desperate for your revolutionary grace. Help our friends know they are a part of history in the making... of your heavenly descent upon Poland.”

My heart was yearning to know what this thing that happened again is.

While we were there, Shoreline Poland fiercely served their nation with two conferences in two days that would make your head spin, with the amount of time, energy and excellence they sacrificially gave to see them come to pass.

The pastors’ conference was incomparable. I have never seen my husband so on point... speaking words, like apples of gold in settings of silver... like an arrow hitting a bulls eye. His authenticity and wisdom was a deep nourishing meal to the leadership soul of these brave pioneers in their land. I could see light bulbs going off in their minds, hope filling their hearts, ideas stirring within. These pastors were cheering each other on like never before. I knew Poland would never be the same.

SHINE – well it was simply drenched with beauty from beginning to end... fantastic worship, teaching and preaching... elements of humor, surprise, and gifts... yummy food, photo ops, shopping, parties and of course confetti. Girls are so much fun!!

And God...

who can grasp his ways? He once again opened the eyes of his daughters to understand how valuable and powerful they are. We reached out to him with unfiltered devotion. Girls were hugging, giggling, weeping, celebrating and enjoying each other. The day was pure wonder.

Then came Sunday and there it was again – that same glorious connection with these wonderful people. We may as well have been in Austin, in our church building. There was a commonality, a comfortability. We lifted our voices in adoration to God together. I applauded them for all they are doing to plow forward in the midst of a nation that is blind to true relationship with Jesus. I expressed the joy we feel just getting to be with them. And again Rob shared with passion and clarity a message of grace, hope and change. Lives were touched, healed & saved. Afterwards, we talked strategy and enjoyed a sweet time of food and fellowship. Then it was time to pack up & say our goodbyes...

I didn’t want to go.

Back at the hotel the tears fell once again... for a good while.

What is it – this thing that keeps happening again and again?

What is this feeling of family... of deep connection... of the divine?

It could only be one thing.

It was love.

Love happened again.

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I'll Save Your Seat

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In our world today it’s amazing how much we can run from a seated position. With our phones in hand we can run teams, manage bank accounts, turn on the air conditioning at home, and track our kids to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. With remotes we can record shows, turn fans off and on, and change light and music settings. We can order dinner, groceries and shop for every good or service our hearts desire with the touch of a key on the keyboard. It feels like we can pretty much run the world from our comfy couches, our office chairs or from the kitchen table. I personally love it that we can do so much from a seated position, everything we need literally right at our fingertips!

When it comes to operating in Christ, we have the same ability to rule and reign and take dominion from a seated position with him.

Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…”

Imagine that with me for a moment.

You and I are seated with Christ in heavenly realms. We have comfy, royal looking chairs at his table with our names on them, a table that resides in the very throne room of God where Jesus himself is positioned at God’s right hand.

Our enemy would love nothing more than to knock us off kilter and get us in a frenzy such that we forget where we are positioned. He seeks to install fear in our hearts such that we topple our chairs and run fast and furious in an effort to take care of every fiery storm and trial he sends our way, in our own strength. He’d love if we would try to meet our needs in our own ways apart from Christ. That’s because he knows if he can get us up and running our worlds on our own from an upright self-navigating position, he can cause us great harm and heartache. He doesn’t want us to stay anchored in the Beloved.

Yet in this place of being positioned in Christ, seated with him at the table, we have everything we need to stand firm against the enemy’s tactics. This means the things around us can no longer define how we stand, because we’re actually standing firm from a position of being seated with Christ. From these seats, we can counter the enemy’s schemes and fight the good fight of faith. The best thing we can do when we are tempted to topple chairs and run or stand in our own strength is take a deep breath, plant ourselves there in God’s presence, and allow him to take over. And there we can rest in him as he works in us to glorify his name across the earth!

Let’s take a look at what it means to operate from a place of being seated with Christ:

1. Have you ever been to an event or a dinner where you had a place card waiting at the table or seat with your name on it? How did it make you feel to know someone had taken the time to designate your seat and mark it in a special way? In the same way God has a special seat marked for you that only you can fill. Your name is on it. Your place card clearly set. Describe what it means to you to have a seat at the table that only you can fill. 

2. If God would give his son to ensure you have a seat at his table, there’s nothing else he wouldn’t offer. Every spiritual blessing available in Christ is yours through him who loves you so much. Describe how your world would look different if you operated in every area of your life from the place of being seated with Christ, positioned in him? How would that affect your family, your workplace peers, and your world?

One more thought... 

When we live our lives with the awareness that we are seated with Christ, we are operating from a place of victory. A place of remembering we are the head and not the tail, we are above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13). A place of knowing the battles we face have already been won and every tough thing we’ve ever encountered will be redeemed and turned around for our good.

Where in your life are you struggling to believe you will see victory today? How does remembering your position help you to hope again?

If you are struggling today to believe you can overcome what you are going through, may I encourage you with these verses? Read them by inserting your name in them every day this week as a daily declaration. Allow them to soak in to your heart.

  • Ephesians 1:11, “In him I (insert name) was also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,”

  • Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus I (insert name) who was once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

  • Colossians 3:1, “Since, then, I (insert name) have been raised with Christ, I set my heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

  • Ephesians 2:6, “And God raised me (insert name) up with Christ and seated me with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

  • 1 Peter 1:4-5, “… and into an inheritance that can never be perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for me, (insert name), who through faith am shielded by God’s power...”

 

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Beloved.

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Every girl I know needs a revelation of how valuable she is. When we understand how valued we are it changes everything: the way we think, the way we act, even our very destiny.

Recently the word “Beloved” has been all up in my heart.

Beloved means adored, cherished, darling, dearest, endeared, favorite, highly valued, precious, prized, treasured, loved.  

Beloved is such a sweet word! When God put that word in my heart, I had no idea all the rich meaning behind it. But I’m a pretty simple girl, so I felt like he said, “Simply cut it into 2 words”: Be. Loved. We don't need to complicate the matter, all we really need to do is allow ourselves to BE loved by God. May I boldly remind you that you are a human BEING, not a human doing. Allow yourself to BE - to spend time in God’s presence. Being LOVED by Him.

The morning I was going to share the vision this value message with some of our team, I had a precious moment with God, in my literal closet, focusing on the word BELOVED... I hadn’t slept well, yet had a full day ahead of me, the team was coming to my home in a few hours. I still needed to tackle all of my morning routine, but I know by now that my time with God sets the tone for my day, it’s the priority, so I was deeply drinking in every ounce of this moment. I desperately needed Heaven’s touch. I was basking in God's love, thinking about how my entire life he has been in constant pursuit of me. I remembered back to when I was 13 years old and had asked Jesus into my heart. At that young and tender age I was beginning to understand my real value and worth… That I was the daughter of a King! There were many days I rushed home from school, so I could read my Bible and spend intimate time with him. I often pictured Jesus and me dancing in a ballroom, as he gazed into my eyes with love so pure and kind, it just made my heart melt. From that time forward I knew my heart was forever and fiercely his. In that sacred closet moment, I once again envisioned the dance. O how I wished time could have stood still... in that moment, all fear and anxiety was gone, all was well with my soul, and I felt nothing could ever shake me from God’s relentless love. Boy, was I enjoying that time with him. Actually I might have been getting a little bit of a big head thinking how I was his special beloved girl... when I suddenly heard his sweet but very clear whisper to may heart say, “You do know why you are my beloved don’t you?” I responded, “Why?” He continued, “Because my son was the BELOVED first - everything always starts in him.” He reminded of when John baptized Jesus, and God spoke and said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” There I was thinking it was all about me, but it’s never about us – it’s always about HIM!

We are the beloved because HE is the beloved! God is well pleased with us because he was well pleased with Jesus. We are accepted in him. We are found in him. In him we live and move and have our being. Everything good in our lives starts and ends in HIM! If we could just keep that order straight, God then us, we would live such steady, satisfied, BELOVED lives!

Isaiah 49:16 - NLT – “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”

Isaiah 44:5 – “Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord.’ Others will write on their hands, ‘I am the Lord’s’”

He has engraved us upon his hands and his name is engraved upon ours!

I love what Ann Voscamp says: “Maybe we all find it easier, safer, to feel like broken misfits then to face the fact that we are the BELOVED. That we belong. Self lies are the destroyer of the soul because they drown out the sacred voice that can never stop whispering your name: BELOVED! Living as one truly loved and cherished by God is the crossbeam that supports an abundant life in Christ. BELOVEDNESS is the center of being, the only real identity, God’s only name for you, the only identity he gives you.”

If you do not see yourself as the beloved – as God’s loved beyond measure daughter, you need to ask him to give you this revelation! Because our individual value revelation will become a global value revolution! As women, we will begin to rise up, take our place and bring help strength & solution to shower the earth with God’s love!

YOU are God’s beloved daughter - he believes in you – he loves you – you are one of a kind – your story matters – your life is important – you are an answer to the problems that your family, your church, your job, your community, and this world has... you are a princess – YOU ARE VALUABLE!

-Laura

 

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Relax

My friend Jenn went to the Holy Lands not too long ago. I asked her what affected her the most. She told me about a conversation she had with her guide. She asked him what he thought Jesus’ main purpose was other than to die for the sins of the world. His answer came swiftly, “To get the human race to relax and trust God with EVERYTHING!”

Matthew 6:30-33 MSG - “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

I’m sure like me, you wish you weren’t so easily sucked into the busy-ness and difficulties’ of life, but it seems to be human nature. I’m amazed at how immediate my response is when things go hay wire...I become stressed out. Why can’t we just relax, trust God, and have a party regardless of what’s going on? Why can’t we get this straight?

Is it possible we’re all a little freakish in thinking we can control, fix, and change everything and everyone around us? I think so. But if you’ve lived more than half a minute on planet earth, you quickly realize it’s simply not true. God is God and we are not. And if we’re really bright, we recognize worrying doesn’t do any good either.

The relaxation solution?

God says:

Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Cast your cares on me for I care for you. (1Pt. 5:7)

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell me what you need, and thank me for all I’ve done. Then you will experience my peace, which exceeds anything you can understand. My peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6–7)

And you know that all things work together for good to them that love me, to them who are called according to my purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Stand back and see the salvation of the Lord. (Ex. 14:13)

Do not be afraid or dismayed… For the battle is not yours, it is mine. (2 Chron. 20:15)

I heard a song on the radio recently that included a verse that went something like this, “Why do I keep trying to fight a battle that is not mine to fight, and has already been won?”

Good question...

When you can take a deep breath in and let it out! Trusting that God, who created you, knows every detail about you, knows exactly what you need, when you need it... is willing, excited, and responsible to get it to you!

RELAX!

-Laura

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Addicted to Haiti

I have an addictive personality. In different seasons of my life this has been a disadvantage. Recently I found a new fix… one that has wiped me off my feet.

Hi my name is Danielle and I am addicted to Haiti.

For the last seven years our church has partnered with an organization in Ouanaminthe, Haiti called Danita’s Children. Their mission is to raise up orphaned children in the ways of the Lord and empower them to change their nation. Through the generosity of our church family, the Caleb Foundation has supplied them with buildings, where many young people are currently living. They have sincerely kept Caleb’s story and legacy alive.

Although there are some undeniable facts about the conditions of Haiti, it is absolutely a diamond in the rough. Every time I go there, I see less poverty and more diamond. Every nation has its own set of issues, but every nation also has things that make it beautiful. So let’s switch things up.

Today we are going to chat about what is right with Haiti.

One thing that Haiti does really well is community. I have learned how to love people better through watching how they love. As a youth leader I interact with students who often deal with depression and negative thoughts. Suicide is an epidemic in our nation. I was asking one of my Haitian friends if this is an issue they deal with and he said no. That sparked my interest. He began to explain that although high rates of sickness and disease lead to death in Haiti, suicide hardly exists because everyone feels like they belong. Community is a part of their culture. It is just simply how they do life…..

Community saves lives.  

My favorite thing to do there is to people watch. I sit back, relax and just observe. Haitians are a beautiful people. They are hard workers. They look after one another. It doesn’t matter if you are a stranger, you are family. You are accepted simply because you are breathing. Wouldn’t that be nice? To be known and loved just for being alive…. Like I said I have learned a lot. I am challenged to see things differently.

To fix my eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.

I want to challenge you to look deeper. There is beauty in everything. Take your blinders off and take a look around. Don’t miss out on what is right in front of you.

The unseen always has a way of transforming what you actually see.

-Danielle Koke

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Use What You Have

Everybody loves LOVE!

In fact, when it comes to what is most important to God, I think love is at the top of his list. There are over 550 scriptures about love in the Bible. One of the most famous is 1 Corinthians 13:13, “These three will last forever – faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is LOVE.” John 3:16 says, “God so LOVED the world that he gave his only son…” God is all about LOVE, and God IS LOVE.

Since God is all about love, it makes sense that we should be all about love too!

Over the last 30 years Rob and I, and our ministry team have done our best to create an environment at Shoreline Church, where love is infused into every part of what we do. The result has been mind blowing as we’ve watched people from every background and walk of life experience the unbridled LOVE of God!

However, as wonderful as love is... we’re not always good at it. Let’s take a look at a story from the Old Testament that will give us a few pointers on getting better at love.

In 2 Kings 4 we read about a woman who lost her husband and had no money to take care of her 2 sons – bill collectors were going to sell her and her sons into slave labor if she couldn’t pay her bills. She reached out to Elisha, a miracle - working prophet for help. Elisha replied, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha then instructed her to go around to all of her neighbors and ask for their empty jars, then go inside her house and pour oil into all of the jars.

GOD WANTS TO USE YOU!

Often times we want God to do a quick work and make all our relational problems better – we want instant love miracles, but God wants US to be involved in the process of the miracle. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, ACCORDING to his power that is at work in US.” God’s plan involves you and me. With the widow it involved her gathering some jars. He wants us to be his hands and feet and resources to LOVE the people we know! In fact, we’re all he’s got to be his expression of LOVE in the world. What an honor and privilege to be a part! God wants to use you!

WHAT DO YOU HAVE?

Elisha asked her a question… “What do you have?” In other words, what can you give God to work with? Her answer was, “I have nothing at all.” God wants to use our lives to bless and help and LOVE others but often the first thought we have is: “I don’t have anything, I can’t be used by God.” We think, “Surely God, if you want all those crazy people in my life to be loved, you will use the pastor, or that established organization or all of the other, more qualified people…” But then the woman says, “Well, I do have a little bit of oil.” What she meant was, “Well I do have this tiny bit of something, but it is so small, I didn’t think it was even worth mentioning.” HELLO!! Never underestimate what God can do with the tiniest little bit. Jesus took a few loaves of bread and fish, and multiplied them to feed 20,000 people. So, if we will take a little closer look at what we do have – even if we think it’s worth nothing – we’ll see that there is always something we can give God to work with. Let me ask you, what do you have? What has God already graciously done in your life? It might be so small you are overlooking it. But I guarantee, you have something God can use! There’s a miracle he’s done in your marriage, with your kids, in your health or finances, or relationships. What is in your hand?

USE WHAT YOU HAVE.

Jesus tells a story called, the parable of the talents, about 2 men who multiplied the resources they were entrusted with, while the third man buried the one talent he was given – the master came back and said to the two who had used/multiplied what they’d been given, “Well done, good and faithful servants, you have been faithful over a little, I will make you ruler over much.” However, to the one who did nothing with his talent, he said, “Depart from me you wicked and evil servant.” The master continued by saying, in Matthew 25:29, “For whoever has, more will be given, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”  

The worst thing we can do is sit around and do nothing with what we have.

When we exercise, our muscles grow... In the same way, when we use what God has given us, it grows. God has poured so much love into our lives, let’s be willing to pour out his love to everyone we come in contact with and watch LOVE grow!

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LOVE BIG!

The prophet told the woman “Ask for all the empty jars you can find… don’t just gather a few.” God is a big God – he loves to do big things! Jesus did big miracle after big miracle; He opened blind eyes, raised the dead, multiplied wine and food so there was an abundance left over! He LOVED in the biggest way as well… Those who were the worst of sinners: prostitutes, despised tax collectors, and even those who persecuted, mocked and crucified him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”

HE LOVED BIG. Ask Jesus to help you LOVE BIG!

GOD WILL MULTIPLY YOUR LOVE TO RESCUE OTHERS.

In the rest of the story it says the widow began filling the jars her sons had brought her, and as each one was full she filled another jar, and another, until there was not a jar left. That’s when the oil ran out. This is a pure miracle! I think it’s worth noting that as many jars as she gathered, is how much oil she had. I bet if she had more jars, more jars would have been filled, or less jars filled, if she had less jars. The oil was multiplied according to how many jars she had. This is significant when we think about LOVE.

Maybe as many people as we are willing to LOVE – God will use us - to love!

Then the best news of all is that when the oil multiplied, she had enough money to pay all her bills, and enough resources to live on until the draught was over. The miracle RESCUED her and her entire family! The miracle multiplied! 

God wants to multiply whatever is in your hands – whatever he has done for you – to help you love and rescue others!

He will use your once broken marriage that he rescued, to help a couple that needs hope. He will take your now healed body story to encourage someone who just got a bad doctors report. He will multiply your resources, so you can give financially in ways that will bring real change. He will use your story of depression, addiction, or whatever he has done for you... And multiply your love for those who need to be rescued in those areas too!

Father, help us to be aware of all you have richly provided and all you have done for us. Please multiply and empower us to use it to reach out in LOVE to rescue others who need to know that you are a God who LOVES them so much!

-Laura

 

Quick & Easy Style Tips For Your Spring Transition Wardrobe

March is a transition month... it's no longer winter but it isn't really summer either so what the heck should you be wearing? Check out these simple tips that are sure to keep you feeling fresh & fun as spring arrives!

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3 Secrets to Discovering Your Worth

Hey Beautiful girls!

Do you ever feel replaceable? Like you aren’t good, bright enough, beautiful enough... compared to all the other girls out there?

I certainly do at times. Even though I’ve been walking with Jesus over 40 years, from time to time, I still find myself asking the same questions… Do I matter? Am I still wanted? Am I valuable?

We HAVE to stop this madness!

These lies are constantly coming at us from every direction.  We probably all have ‘voices from the past’ that communicate less than worthy messages. Our culture does a ridiculous job of trying to get us to compete and compare ourselves with the ‘perfect’ images they portray. We have our own negative, invalidating mind chatter to constantly combat with.  AND... We have a real enemy, satan, who is consistently telling us that we are not enough. However, this isn’t a new thing. From the beginning, the devil questioned our value as God’s daughters when he lured us into temptation. Can you imagine how Eve felt after being deceived and the curse had fallen... and she and Adam were “kicked out” of the garden? Every time life was hard, I bet she heard a nagging, condemning voice reminding her, “It’s all your fault, you aren’t good enough, you can’t do anything right…” But the truth is, after God created man and saw that it was not good for him to be alone, he uniquely crafted a woman and gave her to Adam as a gift! Eve(Woman) has been God’s solution, his answer, his gift to mankind and our world ever since.

Women. Are. Valuable!!

God believes in His daughters! Our true value can only be found in one place and that is in how valuable we are to Him. Jesus LOVED us so much that he laid down his life for us. He wanted US. He valued US. His actions shouted, “YOU are worth it!”  Once you know how loved and valuable you are to God, it changes your perspective on everything! You begin to hold your head high. You start walking with confidence... Loving yourself... Taking care of others. You set out to intentionally lend your strength and give your life away in the same way Jesus did! You start SHINING the love of Jesus for others to see! What a brilliant ripple effect!

The value you now embrace projects value on everyone else around you!

I love what believing how valuable we are can do... However, it seems like in order to get over the continual earthly amnesia we all seem to encounter, we must PURPOSEFULLY place a few powerful practices in our everyday lives to remind us. Here are a few thoughts:

Connect with your girlfriends!

If it weren’t for my girlfriends I would have a mountain of debt owed to counselors and probably be completely out of my mind. Getting together with a godly girl gang is paramount to your self worth! Your girlfriends will be a positive voice, standing with you in the tough times, AND cheering you on, reminding you how: lovely, wonderful, gorgeous, creative and fantastic you are! What might have happened that day in the garden if Eve had her girlfriends around her? Maybe they would have stood between her and the tree, and said things like, “Stay away from snakes, they’re no good! Don’t listen to his lies!” “Eve, that looks like a bad apple. Don’t eat it!” Who knows? Regardless, I can tell you from experience, because of the wise, love filled voices of my friends through the years, I have escaped many land mines meant for my destruction. Thank God for godly girlfriends who will stand with you in the fire and cheer with you in the fun! Then...

Saturate your mind with what God says about you!                                              

One of the most vital and life transforming practices I have engaged in my entire Christian journey, has been renewing my mind to God’s word, concerning who he says I am. The Bible is filled with verses about how valuable we are to him! One of my favorites is Psalm 139:14,  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” God wants you to know, heart and soul – FULL WELL – just how valuable you are to him! When you find scriptures that are meaningful to you - Memorize them! Speak them out loud! Tape them to your walls! Do whatever you need to do to get the truth of God’s word into your heart until you believe it! When you saturate your mind with what he says about you, it is one of the quickest ways to dispel the lies of the enemy.

One other quick thought I want to remind you of is to...

Believe how loved you are by God!

In all my years of walking with Jesus, the number one, fail proof way to embrace my true value has come from understanding how loved I am by God! For all you younger girls who are just starting this journey with Jesus... I want you to know it never stops. The battle for you to believe how worthy you are never ends. But even greater than the battle waging against you is the force of God’s love flooding your heart every single day! God is relentlessly pursuing you with his love. There is honestly no shortcut. You have to constantly stay under the waterfall of His love. When you receive God’s love it changes you. Don’t leave your quiet time until you’re convinced that YOU are his absolute favorite! You MUST remind yourself how loved you are by God EVERYDAY. When you forget, and inevitably start listening to the negative voices, cultural nonsense, & enemy’s lies... just stop and get back underneath the drenching cascade of God’s never ending, unconditional love for you!

This VALUE issue is a beast girls - it’s a lifelong journey – AND the stunning truth is – YOU are altogether lovely, your worth is far above jewels, God adores you, you’re gorgeous inside and out, you’re loved beyond measure, there is nothing in all of creation that compares to you – because God created YOU in his image, without equal, without rival... to uniquely express a very special part of who he is to this world who desperately needs JESUS.

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From My Heart to Yours

I’m not sure when it happened – but the day came, somewhere in my late 30s, when I realized this life is not about me. #gasp

I was innocent enough, I think. Raising three small children, working full time at the church, doing my best to take care of myself, and enjoying a wonderful marriage. But I could barely keep my head above water, much less come to grips with the daunting fact that I was leaving an imprint on this world – one way or another, like it or not!

I’ll never forget when it dawned on me, "I want to do this life and ministry thing well so others can continue to carry God’s LOVE, GRACE, and LEGACY forward for generations to come."

That passion has remained to this day!

I certainly don’t feel like I’ve done it all right, and like most of you, I question myself on many occasions.

At the same time, through 30 marvelous, yet also bumpy years of married life, raising kids, helping to lead a wonderful church, living a healthy lifestyle, grief and loss, developing strong friendships, kicking around fashion fads as a hobby, and walking with my sweet, sweet JESUS – I do feel like there are a few things I’ve learned the hard way, that might make your life a little less stressful, and a whole lot easier to navigate and enjoy.

That's what Sisterhood is for right?!

I pray something shared in this new and fresh space will resonate and bring solution & life to a particular situation you’re facing. #we'reallinthistogether

My heart's desire is that you live in a fully surrendered, dependent, love relationship with the ONE who LOVES you so much.

That you enjoy every relationship you’ve been gifted and you embrace the gracious gift you are to this world. But mostly, that you live to give your life away, so the many watching you will be touched with eternity.

Let’s have some fun! Talk back in the comments below. 

All my love, prayers, and devotion,

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Be Her Freedom

There was a Samaritan woman in the Bible who was living a pretty messed up life. One day she encountered Jesus at a well, and her whole world changed. Jesus accepted her in the middle of her bondage. He valued her in spite of her sin. He forgave her, loved her, and set her free to the core of her being; so much so, she recognized he was the Messiah.

He was the one she had heard about who could save her.

In her day, it was unheard of for Jews to associate with Samaritan’s. And for her personally, she picked a time of day to draw water where she was unlikely to encounter anyone. She didn’t want attention at the well. She just wanted to do her business there and be on her way. To her surprise, Jesus was there at the well resting. And not only was he resting, he wanted to carry on a very personal conversation with her. That was a divine appointment for her that day, a chance encounter with a strange man who turned out to be the Messiah. She was so excited about how JESUS set her FREE – she dropped her buckets and ran and told the entire village what Jesus had done for her.

The people were intrigued. They wanted to know for themselves if he was truly the Messiah as she said, so they went and found Jesus. In John 4:42 we see their response. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Can you believe it! ONE woman who got set free – set a whole village free!

In the same way, when we get FREE – we have the potential to set everyone around us FREE!

That’s because, free people – free people!

We might live thousands of years later, but we girls haven’t changed much. When something good happens in our lives, we can’t hold back from talking about it – proclaiming it – sharing it! In fact, it’s one of our best character traits – the gift of gab. Whether it’s a pair of shoes we found on sale, or our kids who won a swim competition, or how Jesus set us free in some area – we feel compelled to tell our friends!

There is absolutely nothing on earth more exciting or rewarding than getting free and then using our freedom story to help others get FREE! All around us are women, just like us, longing for freedom.

Perhaps they don’t even know they are in chains, they just don’t feel content or joyful. Perhaps they do acknowledge their pain, but they don’t know how to find healing. We are set free for HER – to BE HER FREEDOM!

God has a divine appointment for you here in this season.

He has something he wants to reveal to you, something personal, something that will cause you to experience the depths of his love and grace. God has a plan to set you free FROM all that is holding you back, and free TO live with joy and purpose.

SHE LIVES FREE! Just as the Samaritan woman did, let’s use our freedom story to bring others along so they too can find freedom. Please join me – let’s get free together and BE HER FREEDOM!

- Laura