Category Archives: AWH

getting ready to let go

Becky BennettAbout the author: Becky Bennett is the wife of a bearded-hipster-worship-leader and is the mother of three small children, Ava (5), Avianna (3), and Jack (1). Becky was diagnosed with a life-altering nerve disorder called CRPS in October of 2014 and is determined to choose joy in suffering. Originally from Maine, Becky now lives in Webster, NY, where she and her family love being a part of Northridge Church. Becky is a writer, a dancer, a singer, an artist, and a dreamer. Her greatest passion is Jesus. You can follow her journey at ToChooseJoy.blogspot.com.

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Becky Bennett - AvaThis week, my dear little first-born is heading off to kindergarten. Like so many mommas who have gone before me, I’m transitioning into the place where I have to let go. As she sets her little light-up-sneakered foot onto the soil of her new school, she is stepping into the beginning of a lifetime of choices that will happen outside of my home, outside of my reach. The questions she will have to answer are about to get much more serious than, “Would you like grilled cheese or peanut butter?”

It is in these first few steps that I have to release from my arms the baby who taught me what it meant to labor and to ache but to keep my eyes on hope and on the prize of my pain. In the same way that I had to breathe deeply and walk away from her crib at night, wondering if she would keep on breathing when I did, I have to let go of the fear of what might happen to her when my eyes aren’t on her. I would suffer anything if it meant that she didn’t have to experience pain. But I can’t do that for her. I cannot choose the trials that she will have to face.

Becky BennettIt’s been three decades since my own mom set out on this journey with me — the journey of letting go. I wonder what was it like for my mom when she stood on the other end of the phone line while my husband told her, from the hospital, that our life was going to change forever because I had just been diagnosed with a disease with no cure. In that very moment, she was in another hospital hundreds of miles away, where my dad was having surgery for cancer. I wonder how many times her stomach turned I wonder what her grief must have felt like.  A mom — having to let go.

wheelchair-2For all of the years that she spent lovingly preparing me for possible decisions and potential scenarios, my mom couldn’t choose my next steps for me as I faced loss after debilitating loss. She couldn’t give me back my legs when they were pulled out from underneath me, and my dancer-mobility was replaced with a wheelchair and a hopeful pair of crutches. She couldn’t be close enough in proximity, because of my dad’s condition at the time, to help care for her three small grandchildren whose momma had just been bound to a bed. She couldn’t be there to try to coax my youngest into taking a bottle — my baby, who, at the time, was only nine months old and had just lost his only-known food supply because of the medications I now had to take. She couldn’t be there to make us dinner. She couldn’t be there to tie my shoes. She couldn’t wish away my tears. She couldn’t take away my pain.She was helpless to help me, her little girl, in any way other than to pray. And pray, she did. She cast me into the arms of the One who cares for me more deeply than even she. And care, He did.

Becky BennettAnd I was ready for it. I was up for the challenge, resolved not to give in or to let it get me down. I chose joy in the suffering. I chose hope underneath heavy despair. In large part, I was able to make those choices because my mom had spent her life modeling the strength and mercy and joy and hope of Jesus for me.

When I think about letting go, when I think about releasing my daughter into a world of choices and inevitable suffering, I have another choice of my own to make. Will I trust God with her life? Will I believe Him, not just for myself, but for my child, when He says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” (James 1:2-3)?

I pray for good friends, kind teachers, and strong mentors to fill the years that are to come for my daughter. I pray that they would draw her towards Christ, rather than away from Him. I am reminded, however, that so often it has been through the least friendly “friends,” through the most difficult teachers, and through the greatest weaknesses in my mentors that I have learned the most about what God’s faithfulness and never-ending love and true wisdom really look like. I pray for a smooth journey and for success for my daughter. I know, though, that it has been on the bumpiest terrain and in some of the most devastating failures that the darkest places in my own heart have been revealed and that I have been healed. Trying times have been the very instruments of my maturity and my ability to press on through further trials. And those trials have been the very influences that cause me to cling more tightly to my Savior.

So, I will cast my cares on Him. I will entrust my child to the tenderhearted God of the most intimate and gracious and life-giving love. To the One who is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and binds up their wounds. As my mind reels with urgency, wondering if I’ve missed something in these years that flew by so quickly, I’m comforted in knowing that my five-year-old does not have to be prepared, right now, for everything she will ever face. She only needs to be ready for today. I will pray her through each moment that I cannot be a part of, and I will be waiting with open arms when she comes running back home at the end of the day.

Beck BennettI will rest knowing that no matter what choices or challenges lie ahead for this little girl, she has already made the most important one that she will ever make: to give her life to Jesus. He will always be with her. He will carry her. He will never let her go. “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day,” (Psalm 46:5).

This beautiful little person didn’t come into the world just to fill my arms. She came to fulfill a destiny. She’s walking out the door. She’s ready. And I think that now I’m ready, too.

 

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Melissa Yeager, Co-Author of awriteheart.comWhen I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 years old, I had the keen idea of writing on my bedroom wall with a ballpoint pen. I didn’t write a lot…just a little dime-sized scribble right at the head of my bed. So the night after I did that, my mom came up to read a book to me before I went to sleep. The whole time I “casually” covered this pen scribble with my hand so she wouldn’t see it, and I was SURE she didn’t because of the oh-so-subtle way I hid it. She didn’t say anything about it that night – score! But what was I going to do the next night? And what if she came into my room during the day when I wasn’t there? I would have to strategically place the pillows, and continue hiding the mark with my hand. I knew I couldn’t hide it forever, and I felt awful for doing it at all…So I called my mom into my room and told her what I had done. And once she knew, it was over. No more worries, and no more hiding.

At the time that seemed so big – and for a five year old I guess it kind of was. But what was in my heart is the same as the guilt I feel, or at least should feel, over sins I commit now. Only now, I’m a big girl and I don’t have to tell anyone if I don’t want to. There are flaws and sins about me that literally no one will know if I don’t confess them. And why should I?

The Bible gives us some guidelines for prayer: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (a churchy word for asking for what we need or want)…But honestly I think the confession part goes right out the window a lot of the time, and it makes me wonder if we even think we’re really that bad. Why don’t we worry when we sin, like I worried when I wrote on the wall as a kid? Why don’t we tremble at the thought of God’s disappointment? Why don’t we run to Him for the reassurance just that He knows what we’ve done and forgives us? Why don’t we WANT Him to know every fiber of who we are? We hide, like Adam and Eve…or perhaps even worse, we don’t even acknowledge the trespass we have committed against Him and we go on with our lives ignoring our injured relationship with God. Depth and satisfaction in any relationship comes from transparency – and it’s no different with God. Confession to Him is a gift…It gives us the freedom to be known completely, to be restored in our relationship with Him, and to hide nothing.

God tells us not only to confess sin to Him, but also to each other…I think He knows that there are things we just can’t overcome on our own, and that He made us to depend on more than just ourselves. He tells us to share the darkest parts of our hearts with each other…but we usually share the best of us instead, for the sake of our image or reputation, or for our perceived protection. We tend to think that hiding what is in us somehow makes us less vulnerable, when in reality the opposite is true. Granted we can’t go telling everyone everything – that wouldn’t be wise. But our inner circle, the ones we call our very closest friends, should know who we really are so that they can come beside us when we are too weak to stand alone.

Confession and transparency lead to freedom because through them we know that we are truly known…that there is nothing to hide…that there is nothing that anyone could find out about us that we didn’t already admit out loud. And honestly, in my own life I’ve found that living a transparent life is just about the best way to show other people why I need Jesus so desperately, and why they need Him too. I need saving with every single breath, and the last thing I want to do is hide that. We live in a time and culture where people want proof of things…and one thing I can prove and reproduce an infinite number of times is the fact that I cannot possibly live up to the standard that my faith demands. My need for Christ is absolute and irrefutable.

So be known…Be known by the God you serve and by the friends you keep. Be real, and show others why salvation is so necessary. Be transparent and live in the freedom that comes with it.

[blockquote type=”center”]This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:5-9 [/blockquote]

what a real hero looks like

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comEarly in the morning on August 12th, after nine months and a long, hard day of labor a woman gave birth to a baby boy. He weighed 7 pounds 8 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long. She had asked God to give her a child, and he was the answer to her prayer. She was still mourning the death of her first precious child, Stella, when she conceived Luca Charles. And while many people slept, at exactly 12:39 a.m., she welcomed him.

The ultrasound showed a problem with Luca early on. She remembers the day clearly. But it took many more days to absorb the meaning of all the words. Anencephaly. Won’t live. Option to terminate. Words she and her husband didn’t want to hear. Choices that were not choices.

Terminating the pregnancy would mean terminating life. A baby’s life. Lucas’s life. Her Lucas’s life. The baby boy she had prayed for and already loved. For her there was never a choice to end his life.

bbc_imageKara Gagliano is a hero. Because in a world where so many would have chosen differently, she chose life. So many people chant that it’s the mothers body and she can choose what to do with “the fetus”. It was never a choice for Kara to end her son’s life. To solve a problem. To prevent her suffering. Our world seems to have lost sight of what a true hero is. A hero is brave, courageous and one who does all they can to save someone elses life.

Most heroes don’t want to be called a hero. I’ve heard them say things like “I just did what anyone else would do”.  Most heroes are modest and don’t even recognize that they are extraordinary. Kara is a hero.

She knew that the safest place in all the world for Luca Charles, her son, was in her womb where his heart beat with hers. Where he was loved. She believed that she didn’t have the right or desire to take his precious life. Only the obligation and the desire to protect him and allow her body to nurture his.

And all mothers who have ever carried a child to term cheer for her. All who have felt the baby-kicks and hiccups inside of their wombs cheer for her. All moms will tell you that it is life they are feeling inside of their wombs. Real life. They will tell you that it is a privilege and responsibility to sustain their baby’s life, inside and outside their womb. All women who pray to God to fill their barren wombs cheer for her. And those who have miscarried. All who value life. We cheer for Kara today.

Many people may believe she had a hard choice to make. But to her it was not hard and it was never a choice at all to choose life.

So for nine months inside of her and for 18 minutes in her arms…she carried him. She sang to him. She prayed over him. She loved him. For 18 minutes she kissed his precious face. And at exactly 12:57 a.m. her baby entered into heaven. Passed from this life to the next as she said goodbye for now.

IMG_7102Kara was one of my cheerleaders when I was a Varsity Cheer Coach. I still see her in my mind. Her high-school face smiling as she yelled and jumped…and cheered. Back when problems in her life were not yet so big. But today, Kara and I switch roles. I proudly cheer for her. And I cry with her as we say goodbye to her son. For now.

Baby Luca, whose name means “light”. Mom Kara, whose name means “beloved”. They lived out the meaning of their names, on Luca’s birthday.

His birth was precious. Kara and Dave and Luca were surrounded by family who wore green shirts with the Bible verse “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart”. Baby Luca came into this world as a little light in a dark world, surrounded by family who deeply love him.

They serve a God who is the giver of life.  They bless and honor Him with theirs…even when their prayers aren’t answered their way. They understand that His ways are not always our ways. And like their Luca, they are a light for Jesus.

Thank you Kara.  For showing this world what a hero truly is. For showing us that life is precious and sacred and a beautiful gift from God.

Happy Birthday Luca!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]This little light of mine, Colette[/custom_headline]

Kara graciously gave permission for us to post her story. Her response when asked about it was this, “Colette that is beautiful. Yes I would love it if you would share that on your blog.” Thank you, Kara, for the hero that you are.

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We love to see our readers’ support of Kara – and by signing up for our email newsletter you can do just that. When AWriteHeart receives 500 new subscriptions we’ll donate $500 to the anencephaly charity of Kara’s choice. To subscribe, scroll down to the “Subscribe to awriteheart.com” form and enter your information!

Our goal is to encourage as many people as we can toward a better relationship with Jesus, and you can help us by sharing our posts with others! A huge THANK YOU to all of our readers for your love and encouragement!

~Colette & Melissa
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blessing, abundance, trial, and drought

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comToday I walked through Wegmans, which I believe is the greatest supermarket in the United States. I saw a clear case with a black mushroom in it called a Burgundy Truffle. Its price is $599.99 per pound. I looked around at all the food. Everything you can imagine and then some. There were fruits and vegetables of every kind and even a hundred different types of bottled water. Water! We understand what it is to be full. To eat until we can’t fit anything else in our stomachs. We are a blessed people.

This afternoon I was reading about the children of Israel. In Deuteronomy 8 they were entering a season of blessing and abundance. Their wilderness journey, the difficult trial of drought and hunger, had just ended. In this chapter God is telling them why they had to go through that hard time and what they were to learn from it:

It was to humble them.

They had pretty much nothing of value and had to rely on God for every basic need, such as food and water. They had the same clothes and shoes for who knows how long. Poverty humbles. And humbled hearts find it easy to turn to an all sufficient God.

It was to prove them.

It showed their character, determination, and strength. Or the lack of those things. And character or lack of character is meant to turn hearts to a righteous and perfect God.

It was to see whether they would keep God’s commandments.

He showed them the Father-child relationship and because of that they would understand how important it was to walk in his ways and to fear him.  And living this out will turn hearts to a loving and fair Abba Father-God.

It was to give them the experience of true hunger so that they would understand their need for God.

They were to remember that when they  were “filled up” with abundance, they must lift their hearts to God (Deut. 8:10,14). He warned them that if they turned from Him and forgot where their blessing came from, they would be destroyed. Understanding this turns hearts towards our Provider-God who does not share His glory.

God told the Israelites that they must never take credit for their blessings. He told them that it is God who blesses with wisdom and knowledge and the ability to work.  It all comes from his hand (Deut. 8:17-18) Lastly, He said that if they decided, in their abundance, to forget Gods commandments then they would perish. He said it so clearly. “You will perish” (Deut. 8:19). Understanding this shows the grace and goodness of a holy God that gives what is needed.

I’ve watched so many people over the years. People in famine or in abundance, people in trial or in peace…people who know what Gods Word says about how to live life. And many chose to do things their own way and stray from God’s commandments: they choose to marry unbelievers and be unequally yoked, to choose sin, to grow prideful or hateful or unforgiving or bitter. God absolutely promises that those choices will lead to destruction – destruction of something or someone and the absence of His presence and blessing.

I remember the days when Matt and I were poor. We were young, newly-married college students and although we both worked, our tax statement showed our yearly income to be under $9000.00. Poverty level. As difficult as it was to go through, I am so thankful for that time. God did some pretty amazing things for us during that “drought and hunger” season. Our needs were always met and our faith grew strong. It definitely made us appreciative of what God did for us then… and now. Our trials throughout life are for the exact same reasons as the Israelites…to humble us, to prove us, to show us the importance of keeping his commandments, and to always remember where our blessings and strength comes from. From God and God alone.

Today’s reminder caused me to lift my heart high to God with thanksgiving and praise for all that He has done…in times of poverty and in times of blessing.  In both of those seasons there is the potential to focus on self.  But clearly, the answer is to focus on an all sufficient, loving, righteous and Holy God who we get the priviledge to call Father.

Psalm 121:2 My help cometh from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]How can I say thanks, Colette[/custom_headline]

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Our goal is to encourage as many people as we can toward a better relationship with Jesus, and you can help us by sharing our posts with others! A huge THANK YOU to all of our readers for your love and encouragement!

~Colette & Melissa
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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Guilherme Jófili http://flickr.com/photos/gjofili/4337577836 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

“In The Presence of My Enemies”: thoughts about Gracia Burnham’s book

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comI’m always in the middle of reading a book, and every so often I come across a really great one. This past week I read Gracia Burnham’s book “In The Presence Of My Enemies”, the true story of her kidnapping by a terrorist group in the Philippines. She and her husband Martin, along with several others, were taken hostage in the middle of the night and kept in torturous conditions. Sadly, after 1 year and 11 days, Martin lost his life during a rescue attempt by the Philippine army. They had survived 16 gun-battle rescue attempts, and on the 17th the Burnham’s were shot, she in the leg and he in the chest. The book kept my interest with every single word and I had a hard time putting it down.

Gracia and Martin experienced a living nightmare. While most Americans were trying to make sense of 911 and the craziness and sadness of that, these two missionaries were in the middle of the jungle wondering if they would ever get home to their three children. Reading this book, I saw such real Christianity lived out. Not many people can say that they experienced anything near this kind of horror. But people do live out difficult trials and can learn from Gracia’s insight – I know I sure did.

Her words taught me that…

The toughest of times have the ability to strengthen relationships.

I noticed something pretty amazing about Martin and Gracia.  During the most difficult times they learned to rely on each other. Instead of turning on each other in frustration and fear, they helped and comforted each other. They shared a toothbrush, learned to sleep leaning against one another and continually watched out for the other. They didn’t let this awful trial come between them, but instead, they learned to work together and allowed it to strengthen their marriage.

My heart sunk to the bottom of my toes. Everything we owned in this life was back there in that backpack. The sheet we pulled over us at night, my long sleeved shirt, our toothbrush…A horrible wave of guilt swept over me. How stupid of me. I just lost it all. ‘ Oh Martin, I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry!’ I cried between sobs. My husband did not reproach me. He just quietly answered, ‘You know honey, we’ve got to save our energy for walking. I forgive  you. And you need to forgive yourself. Its going to be ok.'” ~Gracia Burnham

During difficult times it’s wise to know when to speak and when not to.

When either Martin or Gracia wrestled with discouragement and despair, the other gently listened. They just let the other feel whatever it was they were feeling and didn’t jump right in to fix each other with words; I’m sure they barely had the energy or even the ability, but nonetheless, they just loved each other through their feelings. When Gracia spent several days crying, Martin let her. He held her and he wiped her tears or let her sit by herself. He knew that she had to work through things on her own. He realized that he couldn’t heal her heart, but that he could support it.

[pullquote type=”right”]The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…Proverbs 37:23[/pullquote]” ‘Oh, I’m not giving up my faith’, I’d tell Martin.  ‘I still believe that God made the world, He sent his Son, Jesus, and Jesus died for me… I’m just choosing not to believe the part about God loving me. Because Gods not coming through.’ …I was really mad at God. After about three days of living with this torment, I was totally miserable. When I wasn’t at the river crying, I was in the house crying. Martin learned not to say anything, because he knew this was something I had to work through myself… I knew that I had a choice. I could give into my resentment and allow it to dig me into a deeper and deeper hole both psychologically and emotionally or I could choose to believe what Gods word says to be true whether I believed it or not.  This was a turning point for me…I simply gave in and handed all my pain and anger over to the Lord right then and there….From that day on, the Lord somehow let me know in my spirit that he was still faithful.” ~Gracia Burnham

 Trials are meant to strengthen our faith.

I felt Gracia’s struggle and if I were her I would wonder: “Why would God allow this? Where is He? Does He even care about me or even know where I am?” She had to wrap her brain around her faith and what it looked like before her abduction, versus what it looked like in captivity. Trials do this to everyone, especially if you are being held against your will, hungry, tired and thirsty. She chose to believe Gods promises such as,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Not because she felt the truth of those words right then, but because God can’t lie.  She learned that God walks through hard and difficulty with us and doesn’t rescue us immediately from trials. He supplied so many needs and Gracia began to be thankful for each one. She told one story about a care package miraculously finding it’s way to them. Gracia watched as their captors rummaged through the box before giving it to them, helping themselves to a package of candy bars. She was angry. She was happy to receive the soap and peanuts and all the wonderful supplies in the box, including a new pair of Martin’s prescription glasses…but she was so mad about the stolen candy bars. God worked in her heart and she changed her attitude to one of thanksgiving. So many of us do the same thing…focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do. Reading her raw struggle was awesome and such a valuable lesson.

[pullquote type=”right”]Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5[/pullquote]”We began making little piles of all the wonderful things.  But at the same time, we couldn’t stop thinking about those Snickers bars. The bounty we had wasn’t quite enough somehow. And then we looked at each other and said, ‘You know, this box has arrived from our mission out of nowhere–and we’re complaining about what the Abu Sayyaf took? We should be rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness.’  We decided we needed to share. Martin began going from group to group giving…We had asked the Lord earlier in the month to send us something nice for Thanksgiving and realized something incredible: It was Thursday, November 22– Thanksgiving Day!”  ~Gracia Burnham

 The picture is always bigger than what we can see.

Although Gracia would never have chosen to go through what she did – to enter into such suffering and the heartache of losing her husband – through her very words I was able to see part of a bigger plan. Deep in the jungle, amongst 50+ terrorists, men who may have never heard the name of Jesus, Gracia and Martin shared the gospel.  They lived it and spoke it in the midst of the most horrendous trial.  Gracia taught the other hostages the words to “How Great Thou Art” and they sang them while the terrorists listened. Martin had several conversations with others about God and in his kind and gentle way he was able to share Jesus. I know that when this couple gave their lives to be missionaries they never imagined that this was how they were going to be used.

“…I was able to harmonize while we sang the song (How Great Thou Art) every day and sometimes several times a day. The Abu Sayyaf never hissed at us for singing it….More than once Martin said to me ‘Maybe God has us here just to praise him in this very dark place.'”  ~Gracia Burnham

We are stronger than we think.

Gracia never thought in a million years that she could endure what she did…walking miles with no food and sleeping night after night in mud…being bitten by bugs, filthy for weeks at a time, separated from her children…the fear and terror of being shot at, running for her very life, living with out the basic essentials,  the humiliation of having to go to the bathroom in front of strangers and the heartache and shock of watching her husband as he was shot and as he took his last breath on this earth. But she did it. And she did it well!  What an amazing example of strength and resilience.

I looked back at where Martin still lay. The red spot on his shirt was larger now. His complexion was pasty white. And then I knew–the man I loved more than  anyone in the world was gone. I wanted the world to stop in that moment, to reflect on my dreadful loss, to mourn the senseless death of my wonderful husband. Unfortunately, the circumstances demanded otherwise.  I had to think about getting myself off this mountain alive.” ~Gracia Burnham

Click for purchase information!

After reading her book, I want to hug Gracia Burnham and give her a life supply of candy bars!  I can’t wait to read her next book, called “To Fly Again”  I have no doubt that she did!  Through the pages of her book I feel as if I know her, that she is a kindred spirit.  Her story glorifies her God, and my prayer is that yours and mine will as well.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]This is my story, this is my song, Colette[/custom_headline]

 

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]ONE MORE DAY! Enter our July Giveaway NOW!!![/custom_headline]
With each post we have published in July, Colette has added ONE MORE of her FAVORITE THINGS to this month’s giveaway! 

As of this post, the giveaway includes:

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
a lilac scented Yankee Candle,
a beautiful salad tong set from anthropologie,and
“In the Presence of My Enemies” by Gracia Burnham!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!

1. Subscribe to our email newsletter – click HERE!
2. Follow us on Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!! The giveaway ends this week!!!
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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by Horia Varlan http://flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4268896468 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

camping, complaining, and the condition of our hearts

My husband, our three kiddos, and I went camping in the Adirondacks a couple of weeks ago. It was a really good trip – the kids are at such great ages for it. We saw bugs and toads and deer and even a black bear! Our son had a whole day of man-time with his daddy in a canoe, and I shopped with my girls in the little town nearby and took them swimming in a lake with the mountains in view. But despite all of the good stuff, my middle daughter found something – no, everything – to complain about.

camping, complaining, and the condition of our heartsLet’s see…She complained that the car was too hot. The trip was too long. Having the windows down was too windy. There was a bug in the car. She was hungry. And thirsty. We were going too fast. The roads were too hilly. It was too hot when we arrived at our camp. And there were bugs in the woods. She was hungry and thirsty. She didn’t get the top bunk. She didn’t like the chairs we had. The fire was too smokey. There weren’t enough water bottles. Her water bottle was dirty. She didn’t want to eat chicken. Or hot dogs. Or sandwiches. She couldn’t use the iPad. She couldn’t go to the bathroom alone. The shower was weird. She wanted to stay up later. The slides at the water park we went to were too steep. The water was too cold. She was hungry and thirsty. She wanted a different towel. Our hike was too long, and it was hot outside. We brought the wrong snacks. She wanted to wear different shoes, but without socks. The ride to and from the hike was too long and hilly. The ride back home was too long, and we went too fast. And she was hungry and thirsty.

I almost. Went. Insane. But God really showed me a LOT from enduring all of that complaining.

Complaining can be expressed in a lot of different ways.

Of course when we think of complaining we think of finding faults or problems with things that aren’t really that big of a deal. But that’s not the only way that we tell others that we’re dissatisfied. My husband and I have movie nights sometimes, and when he picks a movie I don’t like I complain by doing something else while I “watch” the movie. I was at a friend’s house recently and when one of the kids didn’t get the swing they wanted, they complained by refusing to play. If someone feels that a co-worker isn’t pulling their weight, they might complain by gossiping about that person. Complaining takes a lot of different forms, and depending on the circumstance we choose which method will be most effective in communicating it and rallying others to our cause.

Complaining communicates a lot of things about who we are.

Complaining is thanklessness. Complaining is an attitude of entitlement and greed. Complaining is lazy. Complaining is arrogant. And complaining communicates a lack of contentment for what God has provided. It tells other people that we think we are the center of the universe – or at least that we think we should be.

There are things about our lives that are inconvenient, uncomfortable, and irritating – and till we get to heaven there’s nothing we can do about that. But WE are responsible for our responses. God has given us power and freedom to view our circumstances the way He wants us to, and at times even to change our circumstances – and it’s up to us to follow through.

Complaining affects the people who hear it.

There are some activities that many Christians hesitate over because they fear leading others into sin – and that’s a good thing. Drinking and entertainment are a couple of hot topics that come to mind when I think of things that might tempt another Christian to sin. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 contain instruction regarding our freedom in Christ, and not allowing our freedoms to cause others to stumble into sin – that is the context that we most often think of causing others to stumble. Sadly, I never – NEVER – considered that complaining might make others more likely to sin. But it does. Mark 9:42 shows us how seriously God takes the matter: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Wow.

Over my week of camping with my glass-half-empty daughter, I responded to her complaining in a variety of ways – some good and some bad. The good mom and Jesus follower in me answered patiently, and disciplined in love. But at other times, I lost my temper, I was sarcastic, I complained about something myself, I gossiped, or I distanced myself in an unloving way. I take ownership for every one of those responses. But what I realized was that when I complain, others are tempted to respond poorly – just like I was. When we complain, we may be causing others to stumble into their own sin in more ways than one. And as for those who are not saved, complaining will keep them from seeing Christ in us. 

Complaining is a condition of the heart.

Complaining is more than just a statement about something we don’t like – it’s a condition of the heart. God is our provider, and the Bible tells us that He will always give us what we need (Luke 12:22-34). So we don’t need more than what He provides for us! Philippians 2:14-15 tells us that we should do all things without complaining so that we can be a light in a dark world…so that we can be set apart…and set apart is what it means to be HOLY! In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says that he had learned to be content in any and every circumstance, and that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him – I can only imagine how difficult it was sometimes to be content in jail as he was, and persecuted as he was.  But the same power that rested on Paul rests on us…The same God that empowered Paul empowers us…The same Jesus that saved Paul saved us. And Jesus is enough. Always. If our hearts truly believe that He is enough, we will find nothing to complain about.

My family survived our camping trip, and I’m really glad we went. The same daughter who complained about so much is also the one who is fearless to try new things, who is crazy fun to be around, and who loves to sing songs about Jesus. I feel like God allowed me to catch just a glimpse of what He sees in our hearts when we complain. My prayer is that He will teach me, and all of us, to live a life overflowing with thankfulness toward Him for all that He has graciously given to us.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]With a grateful heart, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Time is running out! Enter our July Giveaway NOW!!![/custom_headline]
With each post we have published in July, Colette has added ONE MORE of her FAVORITE THINGS to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes: 

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
a lilac scented Yankee Candle,
and a beautiful salad tong set from anthropologie!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!

1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!! The giveaway ends this week!!!
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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by stillwellmike http://flickr.com/photos/stillwellmike/9539948576 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

broken arms and broken people

Colette @ awriteheart.comI sat near a group of boys who were watching an internet video of a compilation of people whose bones were being broken. Cell phones had captured footage of athletes, skateboarders, goof-offs, and casual arm wrestlers, each one in excruciating pain. The boys watching were mesmerized by the awful sights. They replayed each incident over and over because the brokenness was shocking. I looked at the video and watched a couple of the nauseating accidents. The injured would see their broken limb, scream and turn away in terror. It actually brought tears to my eyes to watch. I noticed that just about two and a half million people had viewed that particular video. People have a hard time taking their eyes off of brokenness.

This is kind of how I felt reading the news this morning. Broken people giving solutions to broken politics, broken men and women changing their identity, broken people wounding and killing parishioners as they sit in church, broken souls enclosed in broken flesh literally arguing that wrong is right and right is wrong. The last one I read before I slammed the lid of my laptop was about people selling the body parts of aborted babies. Brokenness is defined as “something or someone that is fractured and damaged, no longer in one piece or in working order.” Yep, that about sums up our world.

As Jesus stood and looked over the city of Jerusalem, the Bible says that he wept (Luke 19:41). This word, wept, in its greek translation means more than just sadness. It means that he grieved with his entire being as He looked on the brokenness of those that he came to heal. I wonder what would happen if we grabbed the heart of Jesus for the brokenness of our world. Not anger or hatred…but true grief over brokenness.

In the middle of brokenness we must…

Remember why we are here.

Isaiah 61:6 reminds us that we are called the Priests of the Lord and Ministers of the most High God. We, who were broken and made whole, are given the privilege of tending to the needs of the lost and hurting. We are commanded to bind up broken hearts, to wrap tightly and bandage their wounds.  When we show kindness and love to those who are broken, when we genuinely point them to Jesus, when we cry with them and hold them while they weep…we are binding and wrapping tightly. So often we can only see the ugliness of peoples brokenness and are repelled by it. Instead we must remember that behind the brokenness is a heart and a soul that needs healing and freedom. Needs Jesus.

Remember to proclaim freedom to those who are bound.

We do that by demonstrating it in our lives…in our walk and sincere talk. Many people don’t even know that they need healing. And if they do know it they don’t understand the way to freedom.  But offering hope, not condemnation, will cause them to grab the key to freedom, which is Jesus. Recently a man came into my office and asked “what is it about you Christians? My chiropractor is a Christian, my doctor is a Christian and then you. You are all so happy. What is that all about??” Living out a demonstration of our joy in the Lord is proclaiming freedom in Christ. Isaiah 61:10 says it so amazingly “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he that clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  Everyone notices when people walk around in their wedding garments and Isaiah reminds us that our JOY in the Lord should stand out like this.

Remember to  keep our eyes on Jesus.

If we dwell on brokenness..our past brokenness, others brokenness or this world and its brokenness…we will be overtaken with grief and hopelessness. Through Christ there is healing, hope, life, newness, freedom, joy and complete salvation. Looking at brokenness reminds us of what we are saved from and we must look at it with great joy that the Messiah has come to deliver mankind from the mess of sin. When you look at the sun setting each night and rising each morning, remember that he died and rose again so that we might be set free. And just as the sun brings light to this earth, may we remember to mimic our Savior.  Does the lost world look at how we live and do they see us treat people as Christ did when he walked the earth?  He fed them, talked with them, ate with them, healed them and ministered to them.  Lets keep our eyes on the Son…and be reminded to love others like He did.

Remember that He is the healer and the one to be glorified.

Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124:8.  I love the way this verse reminds us that brokenness is the Creators problem and He is the answer, the help needed and who has a plan to fix it all.  I noticed that each hurting person in the video cried out for help.  “Call 911” or “Call my mom! ”  They called for whoever they knew could help.  Our help really is in God.  Brokenness is ugly and brings with it such terror. With wholeness there is beauty and peace. And yet, God allowed brokenness in order for us to understand wholeness. Which then proclaims His glory. Isaiah 66:5 says “let the Lord be glorified“.  in other words, let him be seen. Show him. Show his goodness and his righteousness. Its all about showing HIM. It amazes me… that a perfect God would take imperfect people in an imperfect world to show Himself. That is incomprehensible, pure grace. Isaiah 66:18 reminds us that one day “…it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory” Yes, its true that every knee will bow and confess him as Lord. Until then, as we face brokenness, lets commit to glorifying the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Remember the Word of God.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  II Chronicles 7:14 We are never told to yell and argue with people over sin.  Gods people are to turn from THEIR OWN wicked ways….. to humble themselves, pray, seek Gods face, turn from their wicked ways, and THEN God will heal the brokeness in our land.

Yes, people have a hard time taking their eyes off brokenness.  But there is good news.   In Isaiah 61:1 it says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…men shall call you the Ministers of God.  It shocks us because what we are seeing, the brokenness in our world, is pretty unbelievable.  Christian, we can’t allow the despair to consume us.  We must respond to it, not in fear and anger, but in love and kindness, proclaiming the good news of Jesus.  We are commanded to do this!  There will be a day when all will be made right but until then, may God be glorified in our ministering to the brokenness of this world.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Let your light so shine, Colette[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got EVEN BETTER!!![/custom_headline]
With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes: 

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
and a lilac scented Yankee Candle!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!
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what it takes to be a great leader

Colette @ awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”John Quincy Adams” type=”center”]If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.[/blockquote]I heard bickering and yelling from a group of little children to the left of me.  One of them shouted, “You’re not the boss of me!”  It made me smile thinking how this dance begins early in life. This leader/submission dance. We find ourselves both in leadership and in submission all throughout life. The greater responsibility in getting others to freely submit lies with the leaders behavior. Most leaders go about it all wrong, like the children I observed. They push and pull to get what they want. Leadership is meant to bring order but so often it yields the opposite. 90% of counseling is due to chaos of some sort: children not obeying, marriages failing to live out loving submission to each other and to God, employees and employers in conflict, families in confusion, and on and on.

It doesn’t matter how many people you lead – one or a thousand – these principles from God’s word will make you a great and successful leader, guaranteed.

Great leaders are humble.

[pullquote type=”right”]Pride cometh before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18[/pullquote]Just yesterday a college professor informed me that the majority of leaders struggle with unhealthy self-centeredness and pride.  I think of Saul and how he started out his leadership. He was humble and submitted to God. Then later in his  leadership journey he turned purely narcissistic, concerned for himself alone. In so doing he lost respect and power. And like all arrogant leaders his end came fast and hard.

Shortly after I received my counseling degree, I was offered a job. As I sat across from my new employer he said sincerely, “What can I do to make you successful? Whatever that is, I want to do that for you”. I have never forgotten that impactful, humble statement…and it was 20 years ago. I learned that a great leader is a humble leader.

Great leaders give.

[pullquote cite=”Jim Rohn” type=”right”]Leadership is action, not position.[/pullquote]For God so loved the world that He gave…The greatest leader of all gave. He poured his love, His kindness, His power, His purpose, His grace, His blessings, His mercy…on US. He gave His Son who gave His life for mankind. It’s easy to submit to God when we truly understand how much He gave. And when leaders do the same, give instead of take, they become GREAT leaders.

I received a card in the mail and inside was a rare $2 bill. It read, “Thank you for being an important part of our staff.  Your unique personality, skill, and dedication add so much to our team.” It was hand written and signed by my employer. It sits in the back of my dresser drawer and although it was 30 years ago,  I still remember. Giving can be in the form of a lot of things….appreciation being one of them. We don’t forget great leaders who give!

Great leaders are servants.

[pullquote cite=”Jim George, author” type=”right”]Serving others prepares you to lead others.[/pullquote]John 13:14 says ” If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  The principle of foot washing to the disciples of Jesus was this: Serve others and Jesus will serve you. The most high God, in the form of man, washing dirty feet?  It makes me shake my head in awe. Serving is true leadership. Leaders must not forget that without people there wouldn’t be leadership….and serving them brings natural and willing  submission. God’s way makes me smile…the way up is down, the first shall be last…give and you’ll receive. It may not always make sense but it’s true, great leaders are servants.

[pullquote cite=”Alan Woods, author” type=”right”]We all have been called to be foot washers.[/pullquote]My dad, in training for the Pastorate, was given a job to do.  He was asked by his pastor to clean the bathrooms of a school. For free. My dad did that for five straight years. He went week after week and I never heard him complain. After working a full time job, teaching karate, raising a family and going to school full time…He cleaned dirty, smelly toilets. His pastor, Les Hobbins, understood an amazing truth that he knew my dad would need to understand…Great leaders are truly servants.

Great leaders submit to God given authority.

[pullquote cite=”King David” type=”right”]Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me… [/pullquote]Every day of my life I pray King Davids words, Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. We are influenced by many things and can be tempted to loose sight of truth.  So often we don’t even see the intentions and impure motives of our own hearts. It doesn’t surprise me that David, a great leader who had fallen and rose up again, wrote these words. He understood that if he didn’t stay accountable to God, he would surely fall again. He understood that only God can keep our hearts clean and our spirits right.  If man chooses himself as his final authority he will certainly fail. I see clearly through Davids words, that he figured out the importance of submission to Gods authority.

In preparation for teaching, I wanted to understand what it is to be blind. Blind folded, with my husband as guide, we walked the entire mall and the parking lot. I trusted my husband completely because I knew that he could see what I could not.  I learned a lot that day and was able to make spiritual application to all of it. One being this: God sees what we cannot. I have no problem giving myself under the authority of a God who sees and knows all things. It’s the safest place to live out life. Great leaders certainly understand the importance of submitting to God, EL Roy, the Strong One who sees.

Great leaders are trustworthy and loyal.

[pullquote cite=”John Maxwell” type=”right”]Leaders must read the people, then lead the people. They must understand the timing, the people, the situation, and the priorities, then act accordingly. Their action depends upon how they read these factors.[/pullquote]Miriam was a leader in the Bible who had many good qualities. But the reason she was removed from leadership was because she spoke against her brother and was complaining to others. She stirred up trouble by not controlling her words. God, in a great example of wise leadership, took care of the problem by stopping the destructive dissension and removing its source, Miriam herself.

I have found it easy to submit to leaders in my life who are trustworthy, loyal and who speak kindly. And I have watched leaders handle discord and dissension both the right way and the wrong way…which leads me to ask for wisdom continually. The Bible tells us that if we ask God for wisdom he promises to give it to us in abundance. Great leaders need wisdom as much as they need air to breath. And they most certainly need it to be trustworthy & loyal problem solvers.

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power, but love, not force, but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion.  Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve”.  ~John Stott, Christian theologian and ranked by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Let’s all strive to live out GREAT leadership…being humble, giving, trustworthy & loyal servants as we willingly submit ourselves to a Holy God.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Make me a servant, Colette[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got Better – AGAIN!!![/custom_headline]
With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes: 

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, and
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner!

Julyday4

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend under any post on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!
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the heart of friendship

Melissa @ awriteheart.com[blockquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”center”]Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
“What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”[/blockquote]

We NEED friends.

The Bible talks a LOT about relationships, and about the needs that we have that only a true friend can provide. God made us for relationship, and right from creation we read about people needing people. Adam and Eve, Moses and Aaron, David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, Christ and His disciples, Christ and God the Father…The Bible is full to the top with people who needed other people. Even God desired fellowship with man – a thought I can’t even wrap my mind around – but it just goes to show that we weren’t made to go it alone. I’m naturally introverted, so I gravitate to solitude. Instinctually I want to be alone, and I want to prove my worth by taking on challenges by myself. But God made me to need others, and despite my tendency to make an island of myself it’s important for me not to think that I should do life all on my own. We need each other for so many reasons…For accountability, for companionship, for joy, for sharing heartbreak, for corporate worship, for encouragement, to learn humility, to learn about what insights others have into the heart of God. God gave us friendship for our benefit!

Friendships change because other people change.

[pullquote cite=”C.S. Lewis” type=”right”]“What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.” [/pullquote]Friendships begin under all kinds of circumstances and conditions, and it’s unlikely (if not impossible) for those conditions to always remain the same. A friend who had a particular need at one time will more than likely grow out of that need; a friend who was strong at one time may stumble into a period of weakness; a friend who was always available may become busy and preoccupied with other things – and so on. We know in our HEADS that people change and that their circumstances change, but it’s difficult to swallow when a friendship we value changes. A dear friend of mine always says that there are “seasons” of friendship – even endings of friendships – because all of our lives are in a constant state of flux. Change may not be what WE always want, but so often it’s what a friend needs.

Friendships change because WE change.

Are you different than you were when you were seventeen years old? Of course you are. We all have seasons of life which will dictate our needs, and we tend to seek out friends that can fulfill those needs. It sounds pretty selfish, but we all seek community with those who understand us best. My daughter was in sixth grade this past year, and as far as friends are concerned she did a lot of growing up. She had a group of friends at school, and she ended up deciding that they weren’t people that she wanted or needed to be around – so she kindly started sitting with another group of people and integrated herself into a new group. That’s no small feat for someone her age! It showed me something important – that it CAN be done. Our needs can and will change, and we can kindly engage in new friendships that better fit us – all without animosity and drama.

Some friendships exist not because WE need them, but because someone else does…So we need to consider what God has for us in those relationships. There are friendships that are REALLY messy and inconvenient, but God can show us so much about ourselves and about Him through those friendships. Let’s be careful not to count out the people that are hard work to be friends with…Those might be the people who need us most.

BFFs are few and far between.

To find a friend who understands not only what you’re going through but who you really are is rare and precious. I’ve only had a handful of people over the course of my life who I’d say were “best” friends. They are the ones who I let see me at my worst, the ones who lovingly tell me when I’m wrong, the ones who encourage me to be the woman God wants me to be, and the ones who stand by me during my own seasons of weakness – times when I give nothing back. They are friends who can see how I feel without my having to say anything, and who know what I need before I realize it myself. If you have a true BFF, cherish them and be a great BFF in return!

It takes one to know one.

Good friendships come from two peoples’ involvement, not just one. Granted, there are times when one person or the other will bear more of a load, but overall a friendship needs to be a two way street. It’s easy for us to analyze the quality of friendship based on someone else’s performance, but we can’t forget to evaluate whether we are being good friends ourselves.

Friends will let us down because they’re people.

No matter how good our friends are, they WILL let us down – because they’re human. I’m not saying that we should overlook it when friends consistently treat us poorly, but we should expect some imperfection – and at times let it roll off. The trade off is that we, too, will let our friends down, as well-intentioned as we might be, and those friends will hopefully do the same for us.

Jesus is our ultimate example.

[pullquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”right”]”Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.”[/pullquote]One thing that I cherish most about Christ is that He is predictable – always good, always loving, always just, always righteous. No matter how I change, He is the same. He’s reliable, eternal, invested, perfect…PERFECT. His expectations of His friends always remain the same, too – simply obey (John 15:14). That’s a tall order, but I can rest assured that His expectations will never vary.

During His ministry He called Himself a friend to those closest to Him, and He laid down His life for them. Even before He was crucified for the sins of man He laid His life down for those around Him – He was patient, kind, forgiving, generous, self-sacrificing, sympathetic, honest, gentle, loving, and endlessly seeking the souls of others.  He calls us to do the same – to lay our lives down for our friends. THIS is true friendship. John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

[blockquote cite=”C.S.Lewis” type=”center”]“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”[/blockquote]

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Leaning on Jesus, Melissa[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got Better – AGAIN!!![/custom_headline]With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes Godiva Chocolates, a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie, and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!
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Feature image attribution: flickr photo by Dani_vr http://flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/8261614253 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

the amazing things that happen when we are thankful in ALL things

Colette @ awriteheart.com

[blockquote type=”center”]In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18[/blockquote]

I went for a long walk on a beautiful day. Thinking on thankfulness, I wasn’t too sure about the verse above and being thankful in everything. I rephrased it into a question. It’s the will of God to give thanks in all of the circumstances that have to do with me? I had lived a long time believing that God didn’t want me to be thankful for certain things. Things I considered bad, wrong or unfair in my life. I took a deep breath, began walking faster and first thanked God, out loud, for all that was good. Easy!

[pullquote type=”right”]”How could you possibly want me to be thankful in something that brought pain…something so ugly!?”[/pullquote]Then I thanked God for what I considered bad in my life. For every heartache I’d felt, for what I didn’t think was fair, for what brought me pain and tears, for any thing…past and present…that had gone wrong. Some situations popped into my head that I didn’t even realize that I was gripping onto with anger and bitterness. Let me tell you how hard that was. It was agonizing. It brought actual physical pain to surrender everything, in thanks, as something that was passed through God’s sovereign hand. I would think of a difficult time and before the words of thanks came out I stopped. I wrestled internally with God and asked Him if I was really suppose to thank Him in that? I continued, “How could you possibly want me to be thankful in something that brought pain…something so ugly!?” I couldn’t stand to even think of it let alone be thankful in it.

I wondered if this is what the Bible meant in Hebrews 13:15 and Psalm 116:17 by a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise – the kind that costs something. Then in my struggling I was reminded of Job. The awful trials that good man endured were terrible. Satan was behind all of them and God allowed it: the destruction, the deaths, the sickness, the heartache, the hurt. He allowed it for so many reasons: to test Jobs faith, to show Himself strong, to show Job that God is all he needed, to give us all a living example throughout history about God, His sovereignty and His love for this man who, again in the end, was blessed abundantly.

The same holds true for Joseph. In the end he was thankful in all that had transpired in his life. The abandonment, the mistreatment, the separation from his father…all of it God used for good. The very thing that hurt Joseph became the avenue that God used to bless him. God was the faithful One in his life and He elevated Joseph to places of leadership. Then one day Joseph had a decision to make: would he curse his brothers and repay evil for evil? He didn’t. Instead he wept and embraced his brothers with sincere forgiveness. GOD was the hero of Job’s story. And GOD was the hero of Joseph’s story.

That day as I walked I told God that I want him to be the hero of my story as well. I thanked Him IN it all and because of that I was then able to be sincerely thankful FOR it all. I released all thanksgiving to Him. I thanked a sovereign God for allowing even the most difficult things in my life. I realized that he allows them for my good and for his deserved glory.   Had I never experienced difficulty, how would I understand in the sufferings of others?  Of Christ?  How would I be able to teach and understand forgiveness had I not been faced with situations that needed both my forgiveness and my need for forgiveness?

[pullquote type=”left”]Nothing compares to the cross. [/pullquote]Towards the end of my walk, I thought of the cross. For many years I have said and sang songs of thanks for the cross. The place where the most atrocious thing happened. Where God, who came in the form of Jesus, was hung and beaten and paid the price for all sin. Giving thanks in that? Had it not been for the cross and Christ’s crucifixion, that awful and precious act, we would be lost forever. God has a plan and a purpose for all things. All things. Nothing compares to the cross. Not any hurt or sorrow that I have or ever will have compares to the heartache of the cross. How thankful I am for the horrible, beautiful cross!

Amazing things happen when we are thankful in ALL things!

  • Our perspective changes and we can safely trust a sovereign God whose greatest characteristic is love. We no longer need to harbor bitterness, blame or anger because we know that God has a bigger and better plan…..for pure good and His glory.
  • There is a miraculous shift in the deepest part of our heart.
  • We are set free from burdens that we are not suppose to bear.
  • The cross becomes more and more our center.

I encourage everyone to spend time in thanksgiving to God for ALL things, the good and the bad…because nothing is wasted in His hands. I have watched many brokenhearted people do this. It’s one of the most difficult, emotionally draining commands given. But also one of the greatest and deepest healing things a person can do.

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name. For the Lord is good…” Psalm 100:4 That we can enter in at all is unfathomable – THIS is the amazing grace of God. For this grace and for all things I am truly thankful!

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Give thanks with a grateful heart, Colette[/custom_headline]

[content_band style=”color: #fff;” bg_image=”http://www.awriteheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/48352229_caf6c84ceb_z.jpg” parallax=”true” border=”all” inner_container=”true”] [custom_headline style=”margin-top: 0; color: #fff;” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h3″]Our July Giveaway Just Got Better![/custom_headline]With each post we publish in July, Colette will add ONE MORE ITEM to this month’s giveaway! As of this post, the giveaway includes Godiva Chocolates, and a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie – Colette’s favorite store!

There are THREE WAYS TO ENTER!!!
1. Subscribe to our email newsletter during the month of July – click HERE!
2. Follow us Instagram – click HERE!
3. Tag a friend on our Facebook wall and encourage them to follow, like, or subscribe – click HERE!

You CAN be entered more than once! SUBSCRIBE, FOLLOW, and TAG NOW!!!

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Feature photo attribution: flickr photo by eschipul http://flickr.com/photos/eschipul/6792993194 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license