Could Holy Communion trip up brothers and sisters in Christ?

A question came in for Elizabeth who did a brave blog interview about her alcohol addiction and recovery. The question was centered around Communion being served in churches and how this could effect one recovering from an alcohol addiction when the grape juice isn’t grape juice but instead is the real deal wine. Would this be hard for one who is in the middle of recovery? Her response was really interesting.

(This blog post is about serving wine for communion in light of the recovering alcoholic. It is not about denominations so please keep that in mind with any potential feedback. Elizabeth herself humbly admits to being a learner in her understanding of some of these things. Feel free to chime in gracefully.)

This is a great question!  I’ve only gone to “grape juice” churches so this is something I honestly haven’t thought about before.  After rolling it around in my head throughout the day I did some quick research on Catholic mass and the use of wine.  Man do they have a LOT of rules surrounding communion.  Didn’t Christ come to free us from the law?  From these rules and legalities that the pharisees held in such high regard.  Jesus shows us time and time again that people are what mattered, not the law.  From what I gathered there is a “legal” type of grape juice that has been fermented at the very minimum length of time allowed by the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Churchso.  The argument I read was that the alcohol content was so low that it was safe to drink even by someone with an alcohol addiction.

For me, just tasting wine would be a trigger.  So, I’m trying to be careful here because I really know very little about Catholicism, but it looks like their hands are tied as far as offering an alternative to wine. From what I can tell, the episcopal church changed their rules surrounding the Eucharist a few years ago and now allow a non-fermented grape juice option (due to a bishop who was under the influence and hit and killed a bicyclist, it brought to light the wine culture in the Episcopal Church and some changes were made.)  It seems as though Lutherans are also more lenient about using grape juice as an option.  Methodist and Baptists tend to only use grape juice.  Catholics believe that the wine and bread actually becomes Jesus’s blood and body, therefor their rules are stricter I suppose. They believe that the “consequence of changing the elements is that it has the potential to introduce doubt concerning whether the Sacrament is valid and capable of delivering the blessing God has promised.”  One the other hand, Baptists, for example, believe that it’s just symbolic of His blood and body.

The church I attend has grape juice and even a gluten-free option for the bread.  It’s all symbolic anyways, right?  If I regularly attended a church other than Catholic (who again, seem to have their hands tied on this matter), I would absolutely mention to the pastor that they needed a non-wine option for communion.  If they didn’t offer that option, I would just never partake of the Lord’s Supper and that would bother me.  So, that was probably more than you wanted to know, but I found it interesting to research all the different opinions of some major denominations on this!

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your heart on this matter! 

If you have other questions for Elizabeth feel free to shoot me a message or contact her directly. 

Alcohol addiction is no respecter of persons.

She stood up on the last day of the Christian women’s retreat I was attending and shared with us how she was celebrating two years of sobriety. Up until then she shared her struggle only with her husband and a few close friends who, thank God, gave her the support and encouragement she needed. She has a relationship with God who was her main help through her struggle with alcohol. In this interview you’ll meet Elizabeth Overman, Christ-follower, wife, and Mom to three boys. She has been gracious enough to answer some very direct and raw questions about her struggle with alcoholism. She shares for the purpose of bringing glory to God and helping others. May we read with a humility of spirit and a willingness to see ourselves in her story even though our struggle may look completely different. Even greater than this will be our ability to see the grace of God in her story. And may this lead us to look for his grace in our own lives. 

Do you remember your first drink, how old were you?

My junior year in highschool

If so, where and what was it?

A friend of mine’s family had a lake house, so we went up there for the weekend with the specific plan to drink.  For a couple of us it was the first time.  We had jello shots and beer.  I didn’t drink too much because I was just kind of scared of what it meant to be “drunk.”

Can you tell us what happened with your drinking after that? (next drink, age, where)

I drank a couple more times in highschool but I was always the “responsible one,”  even when drinking.  I was always more worried about watching out for my drunk friends than I was about getting drunk myself.  Once I got to college, I drank more frequently but I still always felt liable for my friends I was out drinking with.

Does anyone in your family drink?

I remember my dad drinking beer when I was little because sometimes he would have me throw his beer can away and as soon as I rounded the corner to the trash can I would take a sip of flat backwash beer.  I think I just wanted to see what this “adult drink” was like.  I don’t remember him ever drinking to excess.  I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 9 and when I walked down the aisle to talk the pastor, my dad was right behind me, also having asked Jesus into his heart.  I don’t remember him ever drinking after that.  I’m told that I have uncles and great grandfathers who struggled with alcohol, but no one that I knew personally growing up.

Although you take full responsibility for your own choices in your alcohol addiction do you look back on any early contributing factors?

I struggled a lot with social anxiety.  I’m very tall and always felt uncomfortable in social situations.  I recognized that a few drinks helped me relax and be more “fun” when I was around others.  I think it was an early indicator of using to alcohol to self-medicate for my anxiety.

Were you aware at the time your behavior might have indicated you had a problem?

My drinking appeared to be “normal drinking” to me throughout my 20s.  I had 3 children in 4 years and in between the pregnancies, the drinking seemed to increase after each pregnancy ended.  My first son had colic and I remember the pediatrician telling me to pour myself a glass of wine to drink during my son’s last feeding of the evening to calm myself.  I just remember feeling like that gave me permission to use alcohol to handle my nerves.  By the time I was pregnant with my 3rd child, I kept telling myself that since I could go the whole pregnancy without drinking, I just wouldn’t start up again after I had him.  I think the mere fact that I was negotiating this with myself meant that on some level I was beginning to recognize that it was a problem.

What were your thoughts?

There was definitely a time in the last few years of my drinking that I just couldn’t fathom going a night without alcohol. And while I knew that wasn’t normal, I told myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone.

What age and situation was your drinking obviously increasing?

By the time I had my 3rd child my drinking really began to pick up. I would set rules for myself. For example I wouldn’t drink until after the boys were in bed. And then it became I wouldn’t drink until 5pm. Occasionally I would try to only drink on weekend nights, but that wouldn’t last past Tuesday. And plenty of times I didn’t even make it through Monday.

How did your drinking impact your family?

It made me emotionally cut off. Even though I could talk and “act” sober in the evenings with my husband, we would get into a lot of little arguments. When I went to bed I was basically passing out (Whereas now we lay in bed for a while and watch a show together or talk) When I started drinking in the evenings to “calm myself” I would ironically notice that it just made me more irritable with my kids. And even though I recognized that, it didn’t stop me. Thankfully I never hurt my kids, physically or emotionally, but having a mother who was trying to numb her life meant that I wasn’t the best mom that could be for them. You can’t numb the bad things in life without numbing the good.

Did anyone ever mention you might be drinking too much?

My husband would say things like “why don’t we just drink on the weekends.”  (he said “we” instead of “you” just to be kind.  He rarely drank)  Every now and then he would start a conversation about it and I would immediately get defensive and storm out.

Were there times you ever wished someone had approached you in a loving, grace-filled way about your drinking?

I honestly think that anyone who would have talked to me about it would have just pissed me off.  That’s just the place I was in.  I was full of so much shame myself that if anyone else had brought it up to me, my armor would have been immediately thrown on and defenses up.

Did you hide your drinking?

Absolutely.  I had a cooler in my closet, extra beer and wine hidden in the back of a kitchen cabinet.

Did you do drugs?

Honestly, not even once.

Was your family concerned?

My husband was, but I think he felt like his hands were tied as far as expressing his concern.

What was it like just before your quit?

I quit in September of 2014 and the summer leading up to that date I had begun to drink during the day.  (Up until then I had only drank at night)  I was no longer able to fool myself into thinking I didn’t really have a problem.

What made you quit?

I had wrestled with the idea of quitting for a long time, but one Sunday my pastor was preaching on “slaying your giant” and in the middle of that sermon I just broke.  I began crying and I knew without a doubt that I HAD to stop.  Everybody’s rock bottom is different and I am so thankful that mine was more shallow than so many others who struggle with alcohol addiction.  I didn’t lose a spouse or my kids or get a DUI, but emotionally, I was absolutely bottomed out.  My shame and self-loathing was a weight I could no longer bear.

How did you quit?

After that sermon, I went home and looked up a local AA meeting for that night.  From then I just had to take it one day at a time.  Some days it was one minute at a time.

Was it difficult and for how long?

It wasn’t easy, but it was simple.  My only focus for a while was to simply not drink.  Everything else came second.  I took a lot of walks and started taking yoga classes.  My husband and a few close friends who I had shared this with were instrumental in helping me stay sober.  They were all so supportive.

What did treatment look like for you? As a program how would you describe it to readers?

I attended AA religiously for the first 6 months, going to 3-4 meetings a week.  After about 6 months I was only going to 1 a week and it eventually got to where I only attended about once a month.  I never felt like I needed to jump all into AA like others may need to.  I had my husband and friends supporting me, I felt strong in my own God-given power to stay sober.  I think AA, and many other recovery programs, are extremely helpful, and AA kept me sober those first few months, I have no doubt.  I will be forever grateful for that, but I don’t feel the need to attend meetings any more.  I know it’s there if I ever need it again though.

What do you do today to not drink?

At 3 years sober now, it’s just not something I think about much anymore.  At times I’ll think “oh, it would be nice to have a glass of wine right now” but it’s so immediately followed by the thought that one glass of wine would turn into two would turn into 6 and I just know I can’t go there.  I don’t want to go there.  It’s taken a while, but I have learned how to lean into my feelings of anxiety and depression and other feelings that used to trigger me wanting to drink.  I had to learn how to feel those feelings and deal with them in a healthy way.  That’s something that I’m still learning how to do better every single day.

How do you handle going out with friends who drink socially? Do you?

Thankfully none of my friends are really people who drink a lot, but it wouldn’t have been uncommon for them to get a glass of wine at dinner.  First the first several month, my friends just wouldn’t drink when we were together, which I appreciated more than they’ll ever know.  I eventually assured them that I was totally ok with them drinking around me.  In the rare cases that I’m in a social situation where people are drinking a lot, it honestly just makes me thankful that I don’t drink anymore.  I just know I will wake up feeling a lot better than they will!

Would it help if your Christian friends who normally drink socially withheld from drinking when they go out with you?

It definitely did help in the beginning!  Now I’m completely ok with it.  In the beginning, the fact that they wouldn’t drink around me just showed me that they respected and loved me.  It represented that I was more important to them than a glass of wine.  It may sound silly, but at the time it meant everything to me.

What advice would you give to a Christ follower who is still struggling with an alcohol addiction?

Find someone you trust, someone who has earned the right to hold your secret with you and confess to them that you are struggling.  Don’t make any promised to them that you are going to quit, just let them know it’s a struggle for you and ask them to pray for you.  To check up on you from time to time to see if you need to talk anymore.  Don’t be scared to ask a friend for something that you need from them.  If this person is a true friend, he or she will value being “your person” for this and want to help you in whatever capacity you need.  If you don’t feel like you have someone like this in your life, tell a pastor or email me!  You’d be amazed at how much just saying the words out loud can lighten your heart.

What advice would you give a Christ follower who does not struggle with an alcohol addiction but wants to help those who do?

Just be there for them.  Love and encourage them with words and actions.  Shaming someone for their addiction rarely works.  Help that person feel loved and worthy of recovery.  Lift them up, point out their beautiful qualities, help them know they are worth treating themselves better than they do.  And let them know they are not alone in struggling in this life.  Compassion is the biggest word I can think of for this question.  So many of us have addictions, it just might not be alcohol.  It may be watching the scale or numbing with food.  It may be excess exercising or over working.  It may be people pleasing or purposely pushing people away.   So many of us have feelings we want to avoid and numb and alcohol is just one way to do that.  Unfortunately it’s a coping mechanism that can come with more dire consequences that others, but at the root, the pain is the same.

Do you find it hard to attend social gatherings where alcohol is served?

I did for a while.  My husband would always be with me though and he wouldn’t drink, which helped me tremendously.  Now it doesn’t bother me at all.

How long has it been since you had a drink?

September 8th was my 3 year sobriety date.

What do you attribute most of this to?

God, my husband, my friends and yoga.  And believing that I’m strong enough to do it and worthy enough to do it.   Letting go of the shame of drinking for years and now turning my mess into my message.  A message of God’s grace and love, power and strength that he gives to us freely.  We are so dearly loved and cherished by our Father.

Elizabeth, thank you for sharing so candidly with us. I appreciate the courage and humility it took to do so. It’s a gift to us. 

You can hear more from Elizabeth’s heart on her blog Simply Grace. You’ll laugh and come away encouraged and inspired by her wisdom. She has a little something for everyone.

Also, if you are in the middle of an addiction struggle and want to reach out to someone you heard Elizabeth say you can email her. She means that. If you have trouble finding her email on her blog email me and I’ll give it to you. I’m also available if you just need someone to pray with. If you need help to the tune of a program I want you to look at a ministry in my town in NC. I know the Director personally. She’s “been there, done that, has the tshirt” and has now opened a facility to help women in the midst of their addiction. You can see more about this ministry at Genesis Ministry. It’s never too late to get help. 

 

Finding comfort when suicide has touched your family

My friend, Dr. Natalie Flake Ford, a faculty member in the School of Psychology and Biblical Counseling at Truett McConnell University, has experienced heartache in her life that has led to struggles with self-worth. In this written piece she shares her heart of what she went through when when her Christ-following (missionary at the time) husband committed suicide. 

“Can you imagine what it must have been like to live with her?”

“I can’t imagine how bad things must have been at home to drive him to take his own life.”

“Poor girl. I can’t imagine the guilt she must carry.”

These are just a few of the reoccurring thoughts I had in the wake of my husband’s suicide. I felt like others blamed me for his death. If I had been a better wife then…well, suffice it to say, I definitely played the “if only” and “what if” game.

For months, I dreaded going out in public. I was constantly trying to interpret various glances from others. Did they know about Michael’s death? Was that pity or was that blame I saw in their faces? I’d look away and pray that they wouldn’t come over and speak to me.

Today I know that I am not to blame for my husband’s suicide, but those early years wreaked of guilt, shame, and blame (both self-blame and perceived blame). Whenever someone would hear of Michael’s death, the first question was inevitably, “How did he die?” Man, why do people ask that? Saying he died by suicide was just too painful to say out loud for a long time. I would tell people he struggled with depression and it ultimately killed him…that was true, right?

Stigma can be a beast. It often hinders healing. I had friends who didn’t call after Michael’s death, and I convinced myself that the reason for their silence was because they blamed me for his death. Why would they want to call me? Wasn’t I the reason he was gone?

The lies I believed threatened to consume me. I had a choice to either wallow in self-blame and guilt (even though there was no evidence whatsoever that I was to blame for the suicide) or I could determine to overcome this devastating loss and not let it steal anything else from me. I resolved to chart out a new life, one where my joy would not only be restored, but multiplied.

God heard my cries and answered my prayers. Healing did not occur overnight, but slowly my emotional wounds began to heal and I felt compelled to share my story with others. We don’t have to live as slaves to guilt and shame. Christ offers a life of freedom from these chains. The book of Psalms became a life line for me during this dark season of life. I could relate to the anguish of David, and yet a part of me longed for intimacy with the Father in the midst of my pain.

Psalm 42 became a balm to my dry soul. “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” Three things I learned in my despair.

1.    God is a good God.

2.    God is still on the throne.

3.    I can trust Him.

Clinging to these truths gave me hope for tomorrow and helped me to release the stigma of being a widow from suicide and to exchange it for the title “Daughter of the King.” No matter what happens, no one can steal this from me!

Get Natalie’s book Tears to Joy.

Also visit her website Tears to Joy for more encouragement and resources on mental health issues.

 

A Birthday Memoire

I was a 70’s baby which meant my carpet growing up was green shag. I even inherited my sister’s bamboo long, hangy-down things in the doorway to the closet. There was no sneaking into the closet without it sounding like a rain forest. This made my room super cool. My record player was the next best thing with speakers that blared out Disco Disco Duck and Elvira. There was a bad word in one of the songs which offended me greatly so I tried to scratch it out. But this didn’t work like I planned and the record got stuck on the bad word and repeated it over and over. This brought me to a moral crisis that culminated in the breaking of my record over my knee cap. It doesn’t work out like you think it does. The movies show it snapping in half but it totally doesn’t work that way. I was ever so disappointed.

My childhood involved water skiing, camping, church every Sunday, soccer, visiting Grandparents, talking on the front porch, rope swinging, white Huffy bike riding, playing shoot-to-the-moon with my Dad, roller skating in the Waffle House parking lot and more awesome stuff.

Incredible Hulk, Dukes of Hazards and Scooby-Doo were my favorite shows. I wanted a Members Only jacket and a pair of Sebago’s so bad but never got them. I didn’t understand then but I did later when we started teaching our kids they couldn’t have everything they wanted either… even if we could afford it.

The greatest part of my childhood and life to date was when my third grade teacher led me to the Lord. Meaning my eyes were opened to the fact that I was born with very real sin in my heart. This sin separated me from God forever. But I learned that Jesus died for me and made a way possible for my sin to be forgiven. When I prayed and accepted Jesus into my life it started something new inside of me. While I was only nine years old even my teachers noticed a big change in me within in months. I noticed a change in me. God was making me different although I was still a hyper, cartwheel-turning, joke playing, mischievious kid.

As I grew in Christ my heart became warm towards Him. I wanted to do what He wanted me to do. I was wide open to serving God wholly. For a long time I thought this meant I needed to be a Missionary. I went on several Summer-long mission trips and surrendered to full time ministry whatever that meant. In my heart of hearts it meant I was telling God I’d do whatever he wanted  me to do. And I meant it.

God led me to a wonderful godly young man who swept me off my feet. One of the sweetest things he did early on was give me support money on one of my mission trips. He mowed lawns as a means to save money and he had saved enough to give me money towards my mission trip. It melted my heart. We dated all through high school and college and soon I realized that full time ministry for me meant being married to a pastor. Even though I faked my way through singing and couldn’t play the piano and had never heard of Habakuk God saw fit for me to be Randy’s wife which meant I was also a Pastor’s wife. And I couldn’t be more blessed to serve my God in this way.

Life got super hard when we went through infertility and several failed IVF attempts. But God continued to show his great love toward us as we walked through dark days of loss. With his comfort he showed us he would do something good out of it and he did. He brought us two divinely knit together children we could’ve never put together ourselves. We wouldn’t trade those dark days for anything yet we wouldn’t wish them on our worst enemy.

Today I feel incredibly blessed. Having received the greatest gift I could ever receive at a young age humbles me. I want salvation for everyone. It’s free to everyone! Oh friends please ask me if you aren’t sure you have this life changing gift. I know I might be sounding cheesy right now and maybe cathartic but this stuff is real you guys. It’s so very real. And it’s the difference between life and death like for.ever one day. Not only that it changes our lives here on earth. And the older I get….the closer to going home I get…..the greater the burn inside my soul for others to know Jesus.

It’s all about Him. Even on our Birthdays it’s still all about Him. Oh don’t get me wrong people. I’m gonna have a good day enjoying a special lunch or dinner with my man. I’ll surely eat something chocolatey and maybe open a cutey patootey something or other. But at the end of my day I’m going to realize I have already opened the greatest gift I could ever have. And it compares to nothing else in this world. It simply can’t get any better than this.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

 

 

Bible Study Reviews and Ideas

In this post I want to hit some highlights about recent Bible Studies I’ve done with my small group as well as some ideas that might be helpful in your own group. First I’ll share about the ones we’ve done the last few months.

Messy Beautiful Friendship by Christine Hoover 

This was a book our small group read for the Summer and discussed 5-7 chapters at a time. It was a deeper read than we were expecting so don’t think “light Summer read” but it was so very good. It opened our eyes to what true Biblical friendship means and requires. Such a gift of a book for our group. It helped us grow and is still helping shape our group. Study questions are in the back of the book and can serve as a great Bible Study or Book Club option. I’d suggest taking smaller amounts of chapters to discuss.

Live Full, Walk Free by Cindy Bultema 

We did this six week study on I Corinthians and it was really insightful and fun. Cindy is a friend of mine and her heart is so genuine. A woman who struggled with addiction and almost lost her life to it but God……did an amazing work in her and redeemed her in miraculous ways. Her passion to speak Truth and memorize God’s word was a special part of this study as we memorized and quoted verses together every week.

Missing Pieces by Jennifer Rothschild

Oh wow, this 7 week study by Jennifer was great. Probably my favorite teaching on when God doesn’t bring healing and why he allows suffering. This is a fantastic study. For those who don’t know about Jennifer – she is blind and she is an amazing piano player, singer and Bible teacher. I played one session of this for my family and I don’t usually do that. Our son is hearing impaired and I wanted him to hear her talk on this topic. Such rich biblical truths she brings.

All things New by Kelly Minter – I wanted to just skip talking about this in this space because I love Kelly’s heart for God and I’ve done other studies by her that I really enjoyed but for some reason this particular study on II Corinthians just didn’t strike a chord. I made the mistake of doing a study I had not fully previewed and well we ended up stopping the study after two weeks. I felt really bad for putting our group through this and it fell on me as the leader because I didn’t do my part in previewing the study. They were super gracious and agreed to move on to something else.

New things we’re incorporating in our group:

An outreach or in reach project at the end of each study. In efforts to stay outward faced and  loving others well together as a group we decided to pray about doing something special at the end of each study. And this has been a neat highlight for our group these past few studies. One time we put together a care package for a teenage girl who had heart surgery. We all pitched in and bought items and prayed over the items and then put the basket together and sent it off through one of our small group members. Another time we wrote notes and prayed over a teacher at our school. This last time we rallied around two of our own members who just sent off sons to boot camp. We pitched in and surprised them with an ALEX and ANI bracelet for the branch their sons are serving in. We have prayed for these boys from day one of choosing to go into the military and God has really grown our group through this up and down road of sending off their boys. We start praying a few weeks before the end of our study about what our next project can be. It’s been a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Mix up the meeting place. For one whole study we met at homes and different places in town for dinner and discussion. We typically meet at our church for our regular small group time but mixing it up was a nice change of venue and can help with any ruts that seem to form.

Group Prayer. This has been a hard but good part of our study. Hard because not everyone is comfortable with praying aloud. Good because there is nothing that brings people closer together than prayer. There’s a bonding that takes place when we pray for each other. We’ve used text threads as a prayer tool in times of urgent requests. We respect each other’s time and try not to do this a lot but we know we can ask for prayer and receive it outside of our scheduled time together on short notice.

Deep Study. Lighter Study. I think it’s important to offer a mixture of studies in efforts to reach everyone in your group. A steady diet of deep in-depth study is going to leave some feeling left in the dust and overwhelmed. I try to make a practice of doing a lighter type study and then a deeper study if possible. It also gives a breather for those barely hanging on.

** The thing I’m really struggling with is the idea of a closed group as well as multiplying at some point. I know these are important factors I’m just not sure how to incorporate them fully. We have a core group that has stayed the same for almost two years and then we have a few people float in at the start of a new study. This does change the dynamic some because just when you start to trust your group then you start over when new people come. But you want new people to have a chance to join in if they want to. We aren’t a really large church so it’s not like we have tons of groups to choose from. We have several different groups meeting throughout the week but only one women’s group on Wednesday night. I’m praying about this more and our group is starting this conversation and seeking what God would have for us.

Our current study is The Quest by Beth Moore.

This six week study is so different from her others and we are excited about diving in this week to start this study. We are downloading the teaching sessions from Lifeway – yeah, did you know you can do that? It’s awesome. For $5.99 a session you can rent the study for 6 months. This study combines a lot of prayer and journaling which I absolutely love. I’ve only done one week’s worth of homework and haven’t viewed any of the sessions (broken cardinal rule #1 – always preview your studies) because of the download situation being on a different computer and not wanting to pay twice for it. I’m hoping for the best and not a repeat offense in the previous situation mentioned. So I’ll come back and let you know what we thought about The Quest.

So what about you? What do you love about your small group? Would love to hear.

Random church people questions

When one person asks a question usually others are thinking it but just haven’t said it. Here’s a few questions we got over the last few weeks. All from church peoples. I love it when people ask what others are wondering.

Why don’t you ever sit on the front row at church? 

Because I like to sit with other people since Randy is up on stage 90% of the time. I move around and sit in different places. Dude, ever heard of a back row Baptist?  (No, I didn’t say that last sentence. Ha! And I don’t sit on the back row. I tried that once and it didn’t go so well. I was so distracted it wasn’t even funny.)

What if a gay couple wanted to come to our church?

We would welcome them like anyone else. If they wanted to become members and serve in leadership that’s a different situation. The prayer and goal would be for them to hear Biblical truth on Christ-centered relationships through preaching, teaching and grace filled conversations.

How do ya’ll make time for each other and your family with all that Randy has on his plate with the church and school?

We schedule date nights. We don’t always make it happen as much as we should or want to. We also work hard at sitting down for dinner together every night (except Wednesdays) even if there is a meeting one of us has to attend after dinner. We also don’t attend every single meeting and gathering at our church and school. People may not always be pleased with that but we’re not about pleasing people. Randy read a book by Andy Stanley years ago that he tells many people in ministry about. It’s called Choosing to Cheat. This book shaped him early in ministry and has saved our family from falling into the pit of all consuming ministry to the neglect of the family. I thank God for his commitment to God, our family and the ministry God has called us to. Sometimes that means family plans are rearranged. It happens. You’re driving on the way somewhere and you get a phone call that turns you around in the other direction. Your plans are changed instantly. Occasionally on Holidays or vacations. And that’s part of ministry. But we can’t always do that and be at everything. It takes great discernment and a lack of fear of what people think to walk the delicate line of walking in step with the Spirit. We are blessed to be in a church that supports, encourages and provides for us to care for our family. We don’t take it lightly.

 

 

A life of influence

Well friends I have to tell you about a fabulous little city that has changed so much in the last ten years. Randy and I lived in Greenville, SC for about 7 years. Four for college and then three as a young married couple. It was always a great town but they have revitalized Greenville and it’s simply amazing now. If you’re close to Greenville it would be a trip worth taking.

My sister and Mom were at a wedding recently in Greenville and they too caught on to how awesome it is and so that became our celebration spot for my Mom’s 80th birthday.

Our time started out at Falls Cottage for lunch – a quaint little place that gave a beautiful view of Reedy River.

And then we went to a favorite shop called Twigs that has home accessories and floral arrangements as well as fresh flowers.

Mom had no idea what to expect of this birthday weekend getaway. My sister and I planned it out but wanted to surprise our Mom with many of the details. It was so much fun!!

So our next stop was our hotel which was the Westin Poinsett Hotel downtown. Little did Mom know that fresh flowers were awaiting her from one of her dear friends from our childhood neighborhood. She also got to FaceTime with her.

I know she’s my Mom but seriously – doesn’t she look great? And especially for 80!

Our next surprise for Mom was giving her a little book that many of her family and friends help put together. It was titled “A Life of Influence” and it’s pages were filled with personal stories and memories from about 50 friends and family.

Memories were shared of Mom (and often my Dad before he passed) sharing the Gospel, opening their home to guests, riding a motorcycle at age 73, taking Grandkids to Krispy Kreme downtown Atlanta in the middle of the night, Waffle House runs, Swan House trips, dressing up and fooling their entire Sunday School class at a dinner party, loaning her white Cadilac for a teen neighbor to take a girl out on a date and so much more.

She read some of the entries out loud and we laughed and reminisced and had a great time together. It’s a wonderful little treasure for her to have and we were so appreciative of everyone that took part in it. The common thread was that Mom had a big influence on a lot of people. I don’t think she realized just how much of an impact she has had on people. It was a true gift to see her enjoy such a sweet compilation of thoughts.

Then we went to Hall’s Chop House and had a wonderful dinner together. Mom loves a good restaurant and this was a wonderful one with a great view.

And then we went back to our fabulous little hotel that was built in 1925 but renovated by Westin just last year. It was beautiful and Mom loved it. We sat in the piano lounge and listened to live piano. My sister gave her a special photo book she made of all our family vacations to Destin, Fla over the last 18 years. So we listened to music and Mom loved seeing all the pictures put together in one place of our times at the beach. It was also a wonderful treasure of great memories.

Well at about 10pm my sister and I were exhausted and Mom had just gotten her second wind. I stood up to go upstairs to our room and Mom just kept sitting there. It was clear she wasn’t going anywhere. She was enjoying the atmosphere and didn’t want to leave. Eventually we strongly encourage her to go to bed! LOL. She probably would’ve gone out at midnight for a cup of coffee somewhere if we would’ve let her. She’s still got that “let’s go!” spirit inside of her.

We woke up the next morning and had a special time of prayer for Mom. And then asked her what advice she would give to anyone after having lived for 80 years. Here’s what she said:

Then we hit a few shops and ate lunch at a Trio, another fabulous little lunch spot downtown. And then we parted our ways. I headed back to NC and they went home to GA.

Such a special trip together.

And a big thanks to my man who graciously kept the kids and even fed them while I was gone.

 

Table Mentoring – a must read book!

Sue Donaldson, author of Table Mentoring, is the kind of woman that I’d venture to say many younger women call a “second Mom”. She’s the kind of woman you see Jesus in and the kind of woman you can call on at the last second….like when you think your chicken dish isn’t going to turn out in time for company.  (Don’t ask me how I know that). She’ll pull you out of a culinary bind from thousands of miles away and put your heart at ease. Sue’s passion is mentoring but she makes a strong case that mentoring should be a part of every believer’s life. And I can’t help but agree with her when I read scripture. This little treasure of a book opens my eyes even more to this fact.

“Do you need a table to Table Mentor? No. But a table imbues intimacy – an elbow-touching-grab-a-hand-in-prayer type of closeness. Table, bench, back steps, dorm hallway, coffee house – choose whichever promotes the progress of a hearty sharing. The place or porch doesn’t matter. Taking the time to listen does. Tell a story, gently nudge, cry some. laugh a lot, and give all to the Mighty Counselor before an after and maybe in the middle. Coming together until the misery is out of the commiserate, as you both sit at Jesus’ feet.” 

Sue goes on to say that in order to mentor we don’t have to have a Bible degree under our belt or a table or tons of time.

So what does one need in mentoring?

“You need an ongoing relationship with the Ultimate Mentor, and a bold desire to get close to someone who needs to hear what you’ve learned” 

I love how Sue points out that really anyone at any age can mentor because we all know someone older than us and someone younger than us. Finding the person to mentor is not the issue because God will lead us to that person. Sue also talks about this more in her book – how to approach finding and being a mentor. What to do once you start mentoring someone. There are wonderful resources in her book and on her website that help you get started. And her recipes are to die for. Sophie and I have already tried a few out and if I can do them then we all know you can do them!

Sue also has a book and a Bible Study out all centered on hospitality and mentoring. I only wish CA was a little closer to NC or she’d be speaking to our ladies at church in a  New York minute!

I hope you’ll check out Table Mentoring on amazon! It’s a quick easy read. For a deeper approach to the topic you’ll want to check out her book Come to My Table: God’s Hospitality & Yours.

So what about you?

Do you have a mentor in your life right now?

If so – what do you find most helpful in this relationship? What works for you and your mentor in terms of meeting and getting together?

Are you mentoring someone in your life right now? 

If so – what are you seeing God do in this relationship? What’s working well?

 

 

Bawling or Shouting for joy – this one thing will make a difference this school year.

It’s the first week of school here – probably where you are too. Or maybe it was last week. If you sent a preschooler off to school or a K5’er then maybe you shed quite a few tears. Who knows you could have a high schooler and still be struggling on the first day. I received a SOS text from a Mom friend  sending her youngest off to Kindergarten this week.

She gave me permission to share this with you since we’re all in the same Motherhood boat and we need each other. Really we do.

“Pleeeaaasse pray! I’m already feeling my emotions getting the best of me heading to kindergarten orientation this morning.  I need God’s help to get control of my tears. My Grandaddy called just when I needed him & prayed with me. I need my heart overflowed with joy. The devotion on Proverbs 31 hit me this morning. Then my next devotion I opened was about being a mother. Whhheeewww.
I’ve been with the boys as a stay at home Mom 1,634 days/4 year, 5 months, 23 days/233 weeks & 3 days/39,216 hours. Have I spent that time wisely & for God’s glory?

I’m trying to keep this big heart full of laughter & joy instead of tears. I had the thought of the very 1st time I ever saw you, Melody!! Randy asked if the kids were excited about coming back to school at Cody’s orientation. There was a hush among the crowd. Then he asked if the parents were excited about the kids coming back to school & YOU STOOD UP IN THE CHURCH PEW HOLLERING YEAAA! I still get a chuckle out of that knowing you like I do now. I thought is she crazy, who is that woman, I can’t stop the tears & she’s standing up in the church pew!?!? Randy put his head down & whispered “that’s my wife.”

Okay first of all I did not remember doing that but I did do that. I must have buried it deep deep deep within hoping nobody else would remember it either. So what was I thinking? Well, I’m not exactly sure. But I can tell you how I responded to my friend struggling to keep her tears in.

“Gotcha covered in prayer seeet friend. What you don’t know is that when I was rocking Mitchell to sleep when he was 5 months old I called Randy in tears and said, “the time is going by so fast. he’s going to be in K5 before we know it.” Randy on the phone said “you’re about to cry aren’t you?” And he’s made fun of me ever since. Lol. It’s ok to be sad that you’re passing the morning baton of teaching to another godly woman/educator. Don’t feel like you have to hold back tears. But I will pray with you for joy to accompany your sadness and maybe together they will produce less tears. Praying for you right now.”

Tears are okay. Joy is okay. Sometimes they come in different doses and at different times. Whether you are a Mom who is standing on the pew yelling “YEAH” or bawling your eyes out I can you that one thing will make the difference in your child’s school year. And it’s prayer.

Pray for your child. Ask God to show you a verse of scripture that you can pray over your child and maybe a theme or word to cover them over the school year. Last year it was “Endurance” for Mitchell and his verse was  Col. 1:10-12.  

I knew he’s be running Cross Country and it would take endurance for him to stick with it and keep grades up. Our God is so good friends and he hears our prayer for our kids. Mitchell stuck with XC and is going back for a second year of it.

I choose a verse for Sophie in regards to her independence and ability to function quite well within her own abilities. My desire is that she lean on God and know her help comes from him.

So Proverbs 3:5-6 is what I prayed for her all last year.

This week I’ll pray and ask God to reveal to me scripture I can pray for my kids this school year. He will show me. And he’ll show you if you desire it.

I also love the prayer coverage my kids receive from Mom’s In Prayer. This is a prayer group I’ve been a part of since our son started preschool. What I love about this one hour time of prayer is that it’s focused and we pray a different scripture over our kids every week. Also we pray specific requests for our kids. I love having other Moms pray for my kids because they pray things I haven’t thought about praying for. It’s the perfect example of the body of christ coming together and working in unison. Prayer does this in a powerful way. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Pray for your child’s teacher/s. In our Mom’s in Prayer time we pray for the teachers as well and we pray scripture over them also. If they give us specific requests we are faithful to pray for them that day. It makes a difference friends. Of course you don’t have to be in MIP to pray for your kids or teachers. This is just a platform. You’ll find great resources on how to pray for your child and your child’s teacher on the MIP website.

And if you happen to be local know that we have two groups meeting in our area right now. Both meet on Friday mornings. Any Aunt, Mom, Grandmother is welcome to come. Email me for more details.

Happy first week of school friends!!

 

 

 

 

New Zealand Treasures, Take Aways and 2 Cooking Tips Worth Saving

This is Beverly Shoaf – Missionary in New Zealand. And her daughter, Sarah Shoaf.

Sarah will soon be getting married this Summer to a handsome little brown dude she met in Bible college. From the time Sarah was little she said she would be marrying a brown boy. And sure enough she met a fellow from Mexico.

Beverly and Sarah are culinary ninja’s. In the pictures above they are making homemade chocolate cake with homemade whip cream and homemade frosting……for 105 people. When we realized there was no mixer that would work for the whipped cream they didn’t panic. They just went to hand whipping with a whisk.

Homemade lasagna for over 100 people. We got on site of the Teen Camp around 4:00pm and dinner was at 6:00pm. They whipped this meal out in two hours. I made the salad in the amount of time they made the lasagna’s! I’m not even kidding. I so wish I was.

I learned the coolest trick ever with cooking ground beef.

You can boil ground beef. I never knew this. We were running short on time for a lunch meal (homemade nacho’s) and Beverly casually says, “Oh you know what, instead of browning up that meat in large skillets let’s just boil it.” So you just boil your water and put the beef in and it cooks really super fast and it’s very fine. You work with it a little bit to break some of the chunks apart. We found it to taste the same and it does a better job of getting rid of the grease as well. We’ve done this twice since returning from New Zealand.

The other cooking tip I learned had to do with boiling eggs. Beverly was making a chicken pie for dinner and I noticed she had eggs in the stock pan along with the chicken cooking. I asked her about it and she said, “Oh yeah, I learned this from another missionary years ago. You can add your eggs on top and cook them while you’re cooking your chicken. Saves using another pan and you’re cooking two things at once.” She made deviled eggs to add to the meal. And no – the chicken had no egg flavor at all. Another great cooking tip from the culinary ninja.

Not only is Beverly a great cook but she’s an investor in souls. The souls of her own children and the souls of her children’s’ friends”’. (I don’t know where all he comma’s go people – just pretend they’re in their right places. I find that adding more ‘ is more fun).

This young woman is a friend of Sarah’s. For several years she’s been attending church, spending the night at the Shoaf’s house occasionally, listening to God stuff but resisting the commitment to make Him her own personal Savior. After two years of being a part of things in body but not in spirit this sweet girl accepted Christ with Sarah and another friend leading her to Him. I just loved that this happened while we were there although we weren’t a part of her coming to Him. I suppose you could say we were through prayer for their church and ministry but we just got to witness the culmination of lots of time and investment and the Holy Spirit working inside her. What a treasure.

And speaking of new sister’s in Christ – this young lady above accepted Christ as her Savior at Teen Camp. She has such a sweet spirit. She will need prayer as she went back to an unbelieving home and a school with many unbelievers.

This sweet couple grabbed our hearts along with another young couple in the Shoaf’s church. I only have one picture to share here but this couple is the kind of couple every church needs. They love Jesus and His people. Kind hearted. They are hard working and generous. And they love their church with their time and effort. Such a blessing to see them bless their church.

When I concluded speaking at the women’s conference on Saturday the ladies presented me with these beautiful earrings made of bone and representative of New Zealand along with a book they all signed. Such a beautiful gift to me. When I wear the earrings I think of these ladies and how warm and welcoming they were to us.

One of the greatest treasures while in New Zealand was getting to spend time on our Anniversary in the town of Napier. The church celebrated our Anniversary with cake after church and gave us a two night stay in a hotel. We were so stinking excited we could hardly stand it. It was such a generous gift and blessing to us. A friend of mine who had been praying for our trip ahead of time asked me if we’d be doing any sightseeing. I told her I had no idea and didn’t expect to have much time to do that. She was praying we’d have some cool opportunities to see great things and sure enough God blessed us in that way and even beyond what we could imagine with time alone for those two days. Thankful for a praying friend when I hardly gave it a thought and tossed it aside. This was a refreshing gift to us that was treasured more then they’ll ever know.

Many more take aways from New Zealand but these are just a few random snippets.