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SMC Women's Ministry

Be inspired. Be honest. Be You.

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What Does Love Require Of Me?

For those who really know me, know that my least pleasant thing to do is shop. Yes, you read it right. While I prefer not to shop, my perspective is changing. What started as little nudges from God last year, is now a part of my faith journey. I never realized until now, until this year and this thing I’m doing, how much a gesture might mean to someone. A gesture that just comes out of the blue from someone who doesn’t know them. I’m beginning to learn that this resolution is one I will not break.

What if there was something you could do that could positively influence others and change your life in the process? Sometimes it’s not just a simple coincidence. What slowly starts as cultivating random acts of kindness, good things begin to happen. I stimulated my faith journey by acting on those nudges from God, to draw me into action by praying for strangers.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:10-12

This act of kindness isn’t for everyone. Because I love to make conversation with anyone, even someone I know nothing about, something happened along the way. While I am not compelled to ask a stranger if I can pray for them, I do open my heart to the human condition, caring in a new way and sometimes choosing not to. It’s not every day. It’s not for everyone. It’s not every conversation. As much as I love to talk that would consume an entire day at the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, church, and events! My husband laughs telling these strangers “I wish my wife would come out of her shell someday.”

I never imagined that this act of kindness would touch a few lives. There is one stranger I will never forget. On the last day of 2017, it started by graciously allowing her to get back in line at check out. She thanked me with a faint smile. I was then determined to make her feel like she was not forgotten. To make sure she knew she mattered. I don’t remember the specifics prompting of our conversation, but what I do remember is what happened next in the parking lot.

She approached me from her vehicle and asked me “Hey, what is your name?” With a brighter smile, she continued telling me “You don’t know me, you don’t know what I am going through. You have no way of knowing that I almost didn’t make it out today, but I will never forget your name.” For once, I was speechless. Tears strolled down our faces. I asked her name and if I could pray for her. This stranger was now known to me without knowing her story. She didn’t need to say a word. What started as a random act of kindness just changed my life forever. I am so grateful I didn’t miss out on this opportunity to brighten someone else’s day.

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Proverbs 3:3

God has something powerful to show you through your acts of kindness. Just maybe… joy waits for all those who cry, all those who hurt, all those who have searched, and all those who have tried, for only they can appreciate the kindness extended to them. Not everyone can ask to pray for a stranger. Every act of kindness is a huge gift. One size fits all. It can be given for any occasion and it’s easy for them to exchange. Love is the only thing that can be divided without being diminished.

God wants us to be there for one another. This is what love requires of us.

Love Always, Lynne

The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short

Brandi3 This is my good friend Brandi (I often refer to her as The Great Brandini for reasons that will be apparent as you continue reading). I’ve known Brandi for 15 years now, and I’ve known her husband since high school. Good people, Daniel and Brandi. And God-sent. Coming up on five years ago, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I haven’t looked back. They invited me to attend SMC January 8, 2012 after my life completely imploded, and it was a life-changing and life-giving decision that I will never regret and will be ever-grateful for. So, when I need a little encouragement and inspiration (because being a single mom is hard...actually, being a mom is hard, period), I look at Brandi and value all that she brings to the table. I recently interviewed her to get a glimpse inside the daily workings of managing a household with four kids while trying to raise them in a God-centered way. What follows is the conversation we’ve had and what I see The Great Brandini live out each day. ************ Brandi’s Story:

I was very active in church growing up and, as a young teen, I taught preschoolers in Sunday school and even competed in church competitions, like choir and puppet shows. I still remember at one of these competitions I asked Jesus to forgive me and live in my heart forever. I will always remember that joyful feeling. Another thing that has stuck with me from those formative years are the many adults that were at church consistently, and that same servant attitude has continued to resonate with me. The Bible says “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 Admittedly, serving the way I would prefer has become a challenge with having four kids and a husband who works a crazy schedule! But the lesson is still there.

Balancing everything is a challenge whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. Believe me, I have done both but I can say that I am less stressed not working. I do miss the social interaction that work outside the home brought, but I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a family. I encourage women, whatever their stage in life, to find a small group to meet up with a couple times of month just to get together for fellowship. On a daily basis, finding just a few minutes to read a daily devotional is a great way to focus on Jesus and the important things in life. Also, finding time to do something for yourself is very important. For me, it’s exercise, it helps me to maintain my sanity!

As for the kids, they all need different things but one thing that all have in common is that they crave my attention (and my husband’s, of course). We try really hard to spend one-on-one time with each of our four kids to quiet the noise and talk with them, play and just enjoy each other’s company. We normally say prayers at night with them which helps us all stay focused on what is important. We thank God for each other and our many blessings, we also pray for others who may be having health issues/problems, our sponsor child in Honduras and the list of names that we got several years ago at St Marks church. (Actually, several of those kids have since graduated but it’s been fun to see how God has worked in their lives). We want our kids to know that they can talk to Jesus anytime and about anything.

Because, in part, of the examples we both had growing up in the faith, we also want our kids to have a servant’s heart. There have been many times that I have taken meals to those who are sick or have had new babies, we have loaned our cars out, given money to the needy, volunteered time at church and so on. Of course we are nowhere close to being perfect role models but it is our prayer that we have successfully instilled such important values in our children. Of course getting them to do chores at home with a servant’s heart is a beast! We want our kids to get good grades but treating others kindly is more important to us. Love God, love people!

When I think about how hard it is to parent today, and especially for Christian parents, I totally get the challenge of raising kids to stay focused on Jesus. Believe me, I completely understand the days are long but the years are so short. What truly helps me is to focus on the outcome: teaching them and being for them the kind of person I want my children to become—the bigger picture stuff. Still, I do have daily devotionals for my older kids (my oldest child even has a Christian based book about puberty, includes scriptures and all!).

I am driven by lots of examples of great moms who’ve influenced me along the way, but most recently there is one mom specifically. She is so special to me and to anyone who meets her. If she is a part of your life, she is your number one cheerleader! That encouragement bubbles over in every moment. What is most inspiring though is that she’s had some personally really tough times. All too recently she lost her son to cancer. Despite watching him grow sicker and sicker, she refused to let Satan win. She even told me that she would write Bible verses on note cards at the hospital to stay focused on Jesus. Can you imagine?

That focus resonated deeply with me as I have watched her live this out. I hope nobody else has had the experience of losing a child but if you have, I pray that you keep your eyes on Jesus. This special lady is my hero and she doesn’t even know it. She is even going to college in her thirties, which is hard when everyone else in class looks 15! But she does it because she feels that teaching is what God has called her to do and she wants to make her son in heaven proud. When I think about my life’s little frustrations, I think about this lady and how she has fought hard to keep her eyes on Jesus. I am awestruck.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed that exhilarating finish in and with God he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

Finally, the world today can be more discouraging than ever. I mean, I can barely read the news, when on a daily basis there is violence against innocent people. I don’t want to become desensitized to it and numbed out, yet at the same time, I need to be able to sleep at night without worrying myself into a frenzy. My worst fear is that my children or husband would be hurt. I try really hard to give that fear away to God, but it is a challenge when reading the news. I am sure that I am not the only woman who is fearful for her family, so here is a go-to verse that helps me:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

************* Let us lift each other up, let us look to one another for encouragement, and let us lean in…to God, and to each other. Brandi has said it best: “…the days are long, but the years are so short.” May God richly bless you today, and always.

Good And Faithful Servant

wheat-625_625x350_61439015108 If you’ve not read the book of Ruth in the Bible, here’s your opportunity. Four short chapters and we are given a shining example of how our God wants us to live and love. We hear so much about the Proverbs 31 woman, and I believe Ruth is that woman. I know a Ruth, and she’s my favorite Ruth of all (of course, I call her Maw Maw), but more on that in a little bit. First, a little background: Ruth had married Naomi’s son. We read that Naomi and her family weren’t from “these parts,” as it were because Naomi's family had left famine in Israel. When the menfolk died, Naomi and Ruth (and Orpah, the other daughter-in-law) are left widows. In that day and time, this could have been a death sentence. But Naomi released the young women, so they could go back to their families and hopefully marry again. Ruth REFUSED. She refused.

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Ruth had committed to be a part of Naomi’s family and she intended to follow-through. She is faithful to that vow and devoted to her widowed mother-in-law, including accepting God, our Almighty Father, as her God, casting off the vestiges of her life, forsaking the culture and her raisin’ in Moab. This is all Jesus asks from us: forsake your old ways and your old gods, devote yourself to Him. So, the women traveled back to Bethlehem, Naomi’s homeland, and Ruth goes straight to work in the fields (not an easy job as you can imagine), to support them, further solidifying her commitment.

As it turns out, God blesses Ruth by putting her in the right place at the right time, when we learn that she had gone into Boaz’s field to work. Boaz happens to be a relative of Naomi. He says to Ruth:

“I’ve heard how you’ve helped your mother-in-law ever since your husband died. You even left your own father and mother to come and live in a foreign land among people you don’t know. I pray that the Lord God of Israel will reward you for what you have done. And now that you have come to him for protection, I pray that he will bless you” (Ruth 2:11-12).

God uses the relationship between Boaz and Ruth to redeem her, and Naomi. We see from this that He notices people of good character. God was certainly aware of her devotion and faithfulness. Ruth put others’ needs before her own, even at a time when it would have been far easier to simply go back home.

Is God Almighty himself watching the 2016 election year unfold? Sure. Does He know what all Bill Gates has going for him? I have no doubt He does. God sees those in power, and those whom society deems “important,” and I’m sure He’s blessed those in powerful and important positions. But the real message here is that he also sees the humble in heart, the hard and quiet workers, those with decency and empathy, those full of love.

“Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

We can take away from Ruth’s story that if we commit ourselves to do what is right in the eyes of God, and if we are patient (how many times have I scolded myself with “in His time…”?), all that is good and right will come to us from our Heavenly Father. This "instant gratification" kick we find ourselves on as a culture does not reap the rewards our God offers. Ruth could have gone back home and landed another husband; she could have gone after work to make money simply for herself and left Naomi to find her way back home; she could have turned her back on the tough journey ahead and, as a consequence, the God of her husband's people - a God who loves her dearly and blesses her. She could have focused on self or easy or quick solutions. But she didn't. She was faithful and she was true to her word, and she wasn't afraid of putting forth some effort, even if it wasn't her ideal scenario to be dropped into -homeless, husband-less, resource-less. Paul reminded the early church of this as well when he wrote to the Galatians, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (6:9).

So, what reward did Ruth receive for her patience, diligence, hard work and commitment? *SPOILERS* Boaz did marry her, bringing her out of widow-hood and the eminent poverty lurking in short course. This meant Naomi, too, would be taken care of. Boaz and Ruth were then blessed with a son…and that son would be the granddaddy of the famed King David, and then on down the line straight to Jesus. Ruth’s legacy is the bloodline of Jesus, but it’s also the message to you and me today about what’s really important in this life we’ve been given. Love God, love people.

I told you earlier that my Maw Maw’s name is Ruth, and she has lived up to her name. Like Ruth of the Bible, Maw Maw only knows how to work hard. From a young age, she worked near constantly. Born the third oldest of sixteen (yes, one-six) to a coal miner and his wife in the hollers of eastern Kentucky, my Maw Maw helped raise siblings, farmed, mended clothes, cooked, and all kinds of other things out of the basic need to survive. Like Ruth of the Bible, Maw Maw lived in poverty conditions. At 16 or so, she found herself nannying for the only doctor in the nearby town (a good long walk from the holler), whose wife was the only nurse in the town. When she’d squirreled away enough money, she bought a one-way bus ticket to Liberty, North Carolina where an aunt happened to live, and sent a telegram just before departure asking the aunt to pick her up at the bus station, not knowing for sure if she’d received it and would be there. She went into the unknown, relocating to a strange land and living among strangers, embracing this new life nonetheless.

Like Ruth of the Bible, she would not be defeated, and would dig deep to make her way (blue collar jobs, but good jobs nonetheless with steady work) and take care of her own. She eventually met my Paw Paw and they made a life together. Both working hard every single day, raising my mama and a garden and sometimes some chickens. Like Ruth of the Bible, my Maw Maw remained devoted to family, making a way, with the help and support of my Paw Paw, for some of those 16 siblings to come to North Carolina where there was opportunity and good living. Like Ruth of the Bible, she is humble and committed. Who knows what that legacy will lead to down the line…those 5 great-grandsons she has hang the moon as far as she’s concerned. Maybe they will be world leaders or successful business tycoons or royalty, even (HA!) - or maybe, just maybe, and it is my sincerest prayer - they will simply be good and faithful servants of the Lord Almighty and they will work hard like her, be kind, and stay committed to loving Jesus.

Who’s the Ruth in your life? How can we be more like the Ruth of the Bible? May Ruth’s example of faithfulness encourage you today and always.

Jessica headshot2016