by Cornel Warren
Christy Wright was panicking. After years of preparation, she was about to take the stage at the first Business Boutique event, hosted in Nashville, as part of a new Dave Ramsey initiative to equip and encourage women entrepreneurs. There were 1200 registered attendees, and her mind was racing with doubt.
“I would have to be on stage for two days teaching all content I had written myself,” she remembers. “Those voices of fear in my head were saying, ‘who are you to do this? You’re not qualified! No one is going to show up.’” As is true of the enemy’s attacks, the accusations didn’t even make sense: “No one’s going to come, yet they are somehow all going to leave disappointed… I’m not even sure how that’s possible,” Christy now laughs. “I felt God saying: ‘Christy, you are freaking out because you think this is your event. But it’s not your event, it’s My event.’ The One who calls you is faithful. He will do it.”
Christy Wright started with the Dave Ramsey organization seven years ago. Almost immediately her talent and passion for public speaking was soon noticed, and she was selected to be a part of what would later become the Ramsey Personality Group, which consists of Rachel Cruze, Chris Hogan, Chris Brown and Anthony O’Neal. “Each of the speakers had a specific, targeted message they focused on. But I was sort of a catch-all. If we had a client call in requesting a speaker on work-life balance, I would write a talk on that, even though I had never spoken on the topic before.
“I spent several years preparing talks on a variety of different topics. I wrote a new talk for a new audience on a new topic every single time that I spoke,” she recalls. During those years, Christy was speaking over forty times per year! “It was this unbelievable training ground as a speaker, thought leader and trainer to learn how to communicate with different audiences, different age groups and different demographics,” she remembers.
As she wrote, her talks continued to involve different elements of work-life balance, and she found the talks to connect deeply with the concerns women faced: “I received a lot of affirmation in the form of women coming up to me and sharing how much my content had impacted them and how they would be able to take steps to improve their own lives and that of their families.”
As the team at the Ramsey Organization worked to put together the Personality Group, Dave Ramsey identified a need in the market: entrepreneurial women were not being served and equipped properly. “It was a total overlap with the work I had done on life balance because many women are involved in home-based business, lifestyle business or other types of flexible working structures to accommodate their other roles,” Christy shared with excitement.
“I felt like God was showing me: I have gifted you as a speaker. So it was really through God prompting me to do something and then receiving confirmation as I walked it out that I was able to find the path He had for me.” Although her work had prepared her well, the next step was to validate Dave Ramsey’s hypothesis. Christy and her team conducted two years of research and established that there was, indeed, a gap in leadership and business development for women.
“The research reaffirmed to me that things that were so obvious to me, as a business coach, about running a business were blowing women’s minds because they had never been taught those things,” she explains. Not only is her education and experience in business, but Christy was raised by entrepreneurs. “It was really my mom who started a cake shop when I was six months old to raise me and support me as a single mother, that inspired my love for business.
“Now I’m on a crusade to help women start businesses. There’s already a movement happening with the Etsy generation and Pinterest, and the 30 million ‘solopreneurs’. I just want to help women make money doing what they love, and that’s why I created Business Boutique. We started just over a year ago, and have since hosted four events and launched a podcast. We also have a book coming out in April.
“We have definitely hit a pain point in the market because there is a need for help in this area. Many women who are starting businesses are not knowledgeable in business, and they think that disqualifies them from having a business. But that simply isn’t true. I help women with the business side of things so they can spend more time doing what they love and less time on the things they don’t.”
The Business Boutique conference, now in its second year, has reached women where they are, offering guidance in five key areas, while allowing women to dive deeper into key topics of their own choosing through a series of breakout sessions. “I understand what it’s like to be a mom and run a business, wearing so many different hats so I try to be very encouraging, coming alongside them to inspire them but also give them the practical skills they need to run their businesses well.
“I am still relatable to them because I’m not this Sheryl Sandberg, cover of Forbes, high-power CEO. I’m a mom and I work and yet I have this depth of business knowledge,” Christy humbly explains. Her renown as a business thought leader is growing at a rapid, much deserved rate. In addition to speaking on life balance and time management, Christy and the other main stage speakers cover creating a proper business plan, marketing and selling, pricing and profit (and other financial topics) and high-level legal issues that surround entrepreneurship. Christy also coaches women on taking the entrepreneurial leap.
“I understand the vulnerability of putting yourself out there and starting a business. I’m a woman and a mom, and I have run several businesses of my own in the past. So I get it. I can relate to women’s unique struggles that they bring to the business world.” Although Christy has the coaching and mentoring of Dave Ramsey and other tremendously gifted leaders, she has found the strength for her journey in Christ: “There are several verses that I use over and over again. I always go back to 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ‘Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.’”
The other one is “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” A lot of times women take a view of their talent that it is just ornamental, something they can pursue if they get around to it saying ‘if I have time to paint, or sew that’s fine. But if not it’s just a luxury anyway.’ But God created you with those gifts and when you neglect them you are missing out on a part of who God created you to be. But not only are you missing out, but others around you are missing out on the blessing of that gift.
When you let your light shine, people see God. When you are walking in your strengths, people see God through that. Your work is a ministry. You don’t have to work in a church to work in a ministry. Your calling from God is your ministry and it points people to God. “It has been cool to see how God has woven together the pieces of my story that I never knew were connected for a moment such as this,” she shares. “I have seen firsthand the life change that happens, so I am really excited about how proven the events are now. I am so confident that the women who show up are going to have their lives changed. Not just their businesses, but their lives.”
by Patty Morwood
A few weeks ago I sat in the foyer at church, listening to children recite Scriptures. Some spit them out in seconds, others were uncertain and shy. All had lived with their assigned verses for weeks and their mamas stood by, so supporting and encouraging as their young voices spoke the greatest Truth that has ever captivated the human mind.
Jim Berg wrote in Changed into His Image that the Bible’s “imagery of planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, and harvesting was not chosen … because of the nature of the people [or their agrarian culture] but because of the nature of the truth …”
Even if we aren’t farmers in the real sense – though we may preside over a collection of container veggies – we grow and disciple others spiritually in ways similar to the nurturing of our summer tomatoes.
But first we must become a follower of His Word ourselves.
We must pour over His explanations of Himself, memorize His sentences, cultivate a desire to obey Him. The Bible’s perspicuity guarantees that we will slowly and remarkably understand the revealed mind of God as we walk His path through life, tucking the Word in our hearts and minds.
That’s why we have this rich Book in our hands, why thousands have died to have this Book in their language, why we teach our little ones to hide its truths in their hearts.
Even a child can understand its sentences … with a bit of mommy-help.
One of my sons memorized an incredible collection of Scriptures from a Bible Memory Association booklet when he was three years old. He stood there with darling little fat cheeks and deep brown eyes reciting sentences he could actually understand.
“A- all we like sheep have gone astray.” I just had to explain a tiny bit and define one word, but it wasn’t hard to find a practical application. Teasing and baiting his twin brothers mercilessly deserved consequences.
“B- but He was wounded for our transgressions.” Jesus died for this sin, son; why are you doing it?
“C- children, obey your parents in the Lord.”
“D- draw near to God and He will draw near to you,”
“E- even a child is known by his doings.”
There was a scripture for every letter of the alphabet in that little booklet. And each was chosen because three year olds could understand them; and mommies could teach and pray them.
When my brown eyed toddler grew up and had his own two year old, he asked if I still had his little memorization book … the ABCs of Truth for Children.
Yes, I’d been waiting.
For I knew that one day there would be another toddler, one that would live in his house.
And yes, she has deep brown eyes and fat little cheeks too.
by Nancy Admiraal
Jeff and I got married on one of the hottest days in Chicago history. We were in the midst of a five-day heat wave that killed 750 people in the city limits. The service was beautiful and my Dad’s message made everyone cry, but during the photos, my maid of honor kept running the bouquets to the refrigerator to keep them from wilting and the kitchen crew ran out of punch at the reception even before Jeff and I arrived. We finally escaped that night in a violent thunderstorm.
After the honeymoon, Jeff and I moved to a 710 square foot apartment on the edge of Washington, D.C., which was barely the right size for two people, but got really tight when we hosted overnight guests 43 nights that year. After about two days of marriage, Jeff told me I made the apartment look like a hotel, which was a compliment, and I’ll never forget it. Calculating the cost of every meal seemed romantic and noble, and we saved coupons for Pizza Uno so we could go out once every two months. How we looked forward to those dates! Those are the happy memories.
The bad memories go like this: I didn’t like the way he played games, especially Scrabble, because he didn’t let me look for words in the dictionary on my turn. I didn’t like the way I had to go to work early and he came home from the library late. I didn’t, and still don’t, like the way he eats bananas. I didn’t like the way he nagged me on Sunday morning to get ready faster so we could get to church on time.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was the fact that he wouldn’t let us get a TV. He insisted that since he never had a TV growing up, that the radio was perfectly enchanting entertainment, especially TALK radio. I was so lonely in the evenings because Jeff was at the library that I listened to the Bruce Williams radio show every night for nine months until one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got home from work and I drove our car to Best Buy and I bought myself a little TV. I never asked permission and I don’t recommend this approach because I probably broke every single Biblical marriage commandment, but it worked in the sense that he let me keep the TV.
There have been so many other disagreements, many of them much more serious, but we laugh about most of them now, and I think the way that Jeff learned to love me in spite of myself and the way I learned to love him in spite of the way he eats bananas, is a perfect picture of God’s love and forgiveness for us. I say, “learned to love” on purpose, because even though I loved Jeff when I made my wedding vows, I didn’t love him like I do now. If I think about it, it’s really no different than the way I’ve learned to love and serve the Lord. When I was a few weeks old, I was baptized, and when I was 12, I made my profession of faith, but I didn’t love God then the way that I do now. It took years of practice on my part and loads of forgiveness on God’s part.
How do we practice love? Ideally, we are always looking for ways to do good to our husbands. Does he love a cup of tea before bed? Offer to prepare it before he gets to the kitchen to do it himself. Honestly, my husband is much better at serving me than I am at serving him. He’s a “doer” and I’m more of a “talker,” so I try to encourage him in other ways. Of course it’s always impressive to him when I do things that are a priority for him, like remembering to enter the numbers in our budget spreadsheet.
Loving marriages are filled with laughter too. We were blessed to grow up in homes where we spent time at the dinner table at night sharing funny stories about our day and we still try to do that with the kids. When we are tired and overwhelmed and nothing in our life seems particularly humorous, though, we cue up a favorite comedy on the DVR or read out loud to each other from a funny book. One time when I was in the hospital for a couple of days, Jeff opened a favorite Dave Barry book and we read out loud to each other until we laughed so hard that we cried. My point is that you need to manufacture laughter sometimes!
Focusing on each other’s needs, having fun, and spending time together are not ends in themselves. When our marriages are healthy, we emanate Christ’s joy and peace to other people. A friend of mine once told me that one of the goals of good parenting is to parent in such a way that your children are always a blessing to other people and not a curse. She meant that when she sent her children to school and friends’ houses, she didn’t want to think any teacher or parent dreaded interaction with her child. Perhaps the same idea can be applied to married people. I’m sure you can think of couples that you love to spend time with because they are always encouraging, forgiving, and helpful even when life is going so badly for them you can’t imagine a day in their shoes. These are marriages that are used by God to restore this fallen world and bring it closer to eternity.
Honestly, I’m glad that Jeff and I are done with our first year of marriage. I had a hard time learning to serve and compromise and he’s said more than once that I’m not exactly the girl he had in mind when we sat next to each other in English class, but God gives grace. I’m increasingly sure with every passing year that he’s brought us together to bring life to our children and, Lord willing, to serve the community where we live.
- About Nancy -
Nancy Admiraal is one of my most beloved friends. She always stimulates my mind and encourages my heart. I hear her responses during Sunday School, her conversations in the church hallways, her ideas and insights over my lunch table. I think of her most during the days leading up to one of our Literary Club discussions [more on Literary Clubs in February 2017]. I want to know what she thinks because she always has an angle.
Sometimes she has a genuine dislike of a book or author or storyline, other times she is an enthusiastic as I am. All the time her insight teaches me another thing or two, which is saying something since I’m a former literature teacher in a classical school.
In fact, during my teaching years Nancy was in my life primarily because of literary discussions, our lives didn’t intersect much in those days. But she still enriched my perspective on lots of things having to do with conflict, theme, resolution, setting, writing style, and characterization.
Nancy is happily married (as you will see in the essay below) to Jeff and has been for twenty-one (21) years. Together they have four darlings: a Wheaton freshman who was born in Japan because she and Jeff lived and worked there for a time, a high school Junior who is her spitting image (I was noticing the identical profiles in church just two days ago), and two little dark-eyed dark-haired beauties brought home from China.
In the daytime she is a behavioral health specialist for children in foster care, but all the time a beautiful Christian woman whom I thank God is concerned about kids in need and distress.
I asked Nancy what she wanted her readers to know about her and she responded with this, “I was once in good enough shape to run a marathon”!
by Taylor Abigail
In June, four major Hollywood studios, Lucasfilm, Disney, Warner Brother, and 20th Century Fox, sued VidAngel for supposed illegal activity. VidAngel is a movie content filtering company. Their mission is to provide a service for people to choose how they watch movies at home.
"As content creators, we love movies and TV shows that are compelling and well-crafted. Not only do such movies entertain, they also change behaviors and minds of people — we believe movies help change lives. That’s why we provide movies and TV shows to our customers in a personalized and inexpensive format." - from VidAngel website
(see video of VidAngel's business model below)
The supposed illegal activity centers around the relationship between two laws: 1. The Family Movies Act (2005), 2. the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and VidAngels suspected infringemnet.
(see video about the battle below)
While the legal battle continues, VidAgel has been required to discontinue their services until further notice. A family in Flordia began a petition to save VidAngel and the movie filtering pracitce (see http://savefiltering.nationbuilder.com).
VidAngel is not the only movie filtering service available. Clearplay is a smaller company than VidAngel but also helps families filter inappropriate movie content. Historically, all movie filtering companies and products have been under attack from Hollywood despite Congressional acts legalizing the practice.
While the lawyers talk federal regulations and legalities, the threat to movie filtering raises an important conversation for Christian women. As media becomes increasingly more risque, especially for families, how can believers continue to think on all that is good, noble, lovely, and true (Philippians 4:8)?
This battle is much larger than it may appear: the beautiful and holy has always been at war with the ugly and profane. Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
As women who strive to live with a pure heart and a pure soul, it is important to always let the beautiful penetrate our world and act as a shield against darkness. May we continue to pray that good reigns over evil so that we may live up to our holy calling.
by Patty Morwood
There must be millions of foodies wandering this earth waiting for a special gift this season. Have you noticed the cookbooks shadowing you through gift stores, book stores, and kitchenware stores? The best cooks in countries spanning the globe publish something new this time of year; thrown in for good measure are even recipes featuring the weird and the rare.
Once I gave my daughter a darling little book, The Flummery of Food: Feasts for Epicures, by Andrea Simon, a noted gastronome. His opening lines are “Gastronomy is the hallmark and the most rewarding achievement of our Western civilization. Sheer self-gratification is all that gluttons and hedonists care for; not so the gastronomes.”
It’s full of intelligent observations about experiencing the table and good food (or not-such-good food), no matter where and under what circumstances; it’s entertaining for any of us who have even a remote interest in food and dining.
The already decent cook, those who aspire to be so, the few who like to laugh at dining escapades, and especially those interested in the culinary history of western civilization would enjoy Flummery. And don’t forget that person who just likes cleverly constructed anecdotes.
What makes this book interesting to me in the very first moments of thumbing through it is the obvious humor oozing from author to reader. One homesick American commented while traveling in foreign countries, “Nothing helps scenery like ham and eggs.” Home food is home, even the revered haggis, apparently creepy to almost everyone, would be a Scot’s culinary comfort if he were stranded in the Gobi.
Though Simon uses poems and quotable quotes, I especially like the unique stories excerpted from longer essays. Sir Edmund Hillary wrote that when he and his native guide finally reached the summit of Mt. Everest, they buried in snow a bar of chocolate and a packet of biscuits to appease the gods. Alongside, Hillary also left a crucifix.
Knud Rasmussen, an explorer of artic lands in early 20th century and ‘Father of Eskimology,’ described one of his dinners in the arctic tundra. After it was consumed, a special treat was given to each guest: a head of caribou to eat lingeringly in their own tents … “on condition that none of the leavings should under any circumstances be touched by women or dogs.”
I also like Simon’s use of gifted writers’ works to express their views on a range of gastronomic interests. Mark Twain is quoted from The Innocents Abroad about eating in Marseilles: “We have learned to go through the lingering routine of the table d’hote … we take soup; then wait a few minutes for the fish; a few minutes more and the plates are changed, and the roast beef comes; another change and we take peas; change again and take lentils; change and take roast chicken and salad; then strawberry pie and ice cream; then green figs, pears, oranges, green almonds, etc.; finally coffee. Wine with every course, of course, being in France.”
Well, we’ve all heard of the unending courses served in Europe’s aristocratic courts and this one is probably typical. But hey, its Mark Twain’s repast; and I can imagine his white mustache opening and shutting, bite after bite, for hours … and the gravies dripped on the lapels of his famous white suit. And his fatigue when it was all over.
Seriously, this is something we should be aware of: great writers and their readers tend to like good food experiences and lingering table companionship.
Simon quotes not only Twain, but such people as James Boswell, Herman Melville, Jonathan Swift, and de Maupassant. What they have to say is often funny and enlightening, considering their experiences are so different from mine (and probably yours too).
Food is not only to be labored over, painstakingly served, and slowly enjoyed … but chuckled about too.
Andre Simon was a Frenchman who spent most of his adult life in Great Britain. He was one of the founders of the International Wine and Food Society, established in 1934 in London, also he wrote 104 books on a variety of subjects from wine and champagne to a Russian grammar. Interestingly, when he died in 1970, he left enough Chateau Latour for 400 friends and family to gather and drink to his memory, which they did at the Savoy in 1977.
Hmmm, I think I’d like to gift this little book again, but to whom this year?
Another Christmas, several seasons ago, I gave my daughter another book along this same line, but this one is a compilation of essays by current Christian writers, The Spirit of Food: Thirty-four Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God.
She saw it and wanted it, and I saw it and wanted to give it to her, and then she asked for it. It’s copacetic when mother and daughter actually think along the same lines every once in a while, don’t you agree?
There are some voices here you know – such as Ann Voskamp and Wendell Berry – and others of lesser popular fame you probably don’t know. They write on such things as table blessings, the joy of fasting, subsistence feasting (wow!), the pleasures of eating and the perfect loaf of bread.
Each of the thirty-four authors has written a short essay and provided a recipe to complement it.
So, Brian Volck writes on late October tomatoes and provides his “Spicy Tomato Soup” recipe. Jacqueline Rhodes’ “Soul of Soul Food” features cornbread. LaVonne Neff did a “six-week experiment in living on a food-stamp budget.” And yes, her recipe is a good one for those of us who love rich comfort food on the cheap: “Mac and Cheese for Grown-Ups.”
Let me give you a closer look at one of the articles that intrigued me. Denise Frame Harlan titles her chapter, “And She Took Flour: Cooking Lessons from Supper of the Lamb.”
Harlan grew up watching her grandma, THE pie maker of the region, cut in the butter and roll the crust just-so, to fill it with heaping slices of seasonal fruit. But she didn’t learn to cook from her grandma nor from her own mother nor from a cooking class. She learned by living with people who are hungry. She begins and ends her essay with Hank, a close friend loved by the entire family.
Hank is a man who revels in families gathered around the table just as much as the food itself. And Hank is coming for a long-overdue visit from several states away. Anticipation is high; the kids are excited and her husband is beside himself.
To prepare that first welcoming meal, she doesn’t do as you and I probably would, she doesn’t go to the market to buy fresh ingredients for a cookbook recipe. She pulls out Thanksgiving leftovers.
She slices fruit for a pie (she is now just as good a pie maker as her grandma was!), fills a second crust with veggies and turkey and freshened gravy, then kneads a big lump of dough, always on hand in the refrigerator, for a steaming hot loaf of hearth bread.
Each dish simmers and bakes, releasing aromas impossible to withstand. At last, she piles the sliced fruit, no doubt apples and raisins (given the season), into the pie shell and slides it into the oven. This luscious piping-hot bubbling dish will be her table centerpiece!
As they all stand holding hands for prayer, they take a few moments to look around the table into each other’s eyes. Savoring the love and joy of being together and sharing a bounty given and enjoyed in love.
Harlan closes with two recipes for that beloved American classic they served to Hank: “City Slicker’s First Pot Pie,” for the novice, and a second for the more advanced pie-maker, “Real Pot Pie.”
She sends us on to the next essay with a desire to lavish our loved ones with regular good food and good love, things God has bountifully provided for us to share on this earth, as we practice for the Lord’s celebratory wedding feast, the feast of the Lamb, when we all meet after time has fled away and sin is gone forevermore.
I truly enjoy Spirit of Food as well as Flummery; they are both very different from each other and fun to read for different reasons. Flummery for the literary-historical-cultural perspective and Spirit simply for the heart of it all.
Their message is somewhat similar: Whether one scales a mountain, visits an aristocratic court, or gathers at home … and whether you are on a crimped budget, or serving an army or maybe only two …
Each of us should plan with thought, cook with our hearts, serve with our hearts and always enjoy with all our hearts!
Have a merry steaming-hot communal table-feasting Christmas!
by Patty Morwood
I describe it as a slow glowing simmer surrounded by dark darkness but given to sparkling moments of blinding glory.
This is the Christian life in the Kingdom of God; the “already but not yet” of living as a believer whose place of citizenship is not only here but there, in a Kingdom that’s beyond our imagining.
We know His kingdom will one day be in its glorious fullness when the end of time has passed, sin and disease and suffering are banished, His people gathered in, and all tears gone for all time. And Jesus face-to-face! But meanwhile, we are sojourners while in this place, on a path that is really hard.
My friend Elizabeth lives in the hard and the glorious. Her husband Michael is a man slowly dying of stage 4 Sezary Syndrome, his cancers leeching his very life before her eyes. I watch her and listen; and I see a woman living a life of glory as she cries out for protection against fears that lurk and taint everything with darkness.
How did this woman learn to walk so strong and upright on this hard path?
She answers first with her background: “I was taught His Word by family, church, books and godly mentors. I bless His name for all the praying generations before me. I have a rich inheritance by His grace!”
And living today, every day? “I dare not go into a day without seeking His face, His words, His blessing, His will and His intervening in the lives of those I know and love. I am desperate for His Presence first thing in my day. This is my place.”
What do you mean by ‘place’? Circumstances? An actual ground on which to kneel and stand? Several answers follow.
She first says, “In this cancer journey, I see how He prepared a place for us in the fields and forests of Clinton County, Ohio. Daily we bless Him for giving us such a splendid acreage as our ‘Heaven’s Hill.’
“It soothes and restores our souls when we step out onto the front porch to watch the sun rise or sit on the back deck soaking in the beauty while the sun sets the woods aflame.
“We’re surrounded by trees, gardens and wildlife, both of us energized and healed by simply walking in the woods.”
In addition, the Lord prepared another place: the staff at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University. Just an hour away it is their source of medical direction and care. It’s not surprising the Lord has directly addressed their need for help: at the James is one of the world’s foremost specialists in Sezary Syndrome, a rare cutaneous lymphoma, and a collection of remarkable, attentive and kind medical specialists and non-medical personnel.
Years ago God gave them a place at home for learning the skills of caring for the dying. Mike’s Uncle Bud lived his last years with Elizabeth and Michael and died in their home under hospice care. Her father sacrificially cared for her mother for ten years while a rare brain disease slowly took her life away.
“I certainly had no idea that the Lord was preparing me to spend years loving Michael in a similar fashion.”
And there is this very human place of touch: “I notice in Scripture how often God speaks of holding us by His right hand or our being upheld by His everlasting arms or sheltered under His wings.
“We have both learned the healing power of touch. Just a few minutes of gentle skin on skin massage to his neck, arms or back brings relief to both of us. Sometimes I think the person giving the touch gets more results than the one receiving.”
I asked her how Christ has met her in this hard place since Michael’s diagnosis. I had reasoned that peace must be elusive always and fears multiplying daily. That she is exhausted by the creeping power cancer has over their lives.
She says sometimes she struggles with sleeping at night, and can wake with a sick fear.
“So I start my day by looking for Him. I get up, go to my place which is a comfortable old corduroy-covered chair. Nearby is my basket of books… my Bibles and an assortment of devotionals. Due to this retired season of life, I now have the luxury of time to sit quietly and be still before my Lord.
“I ask Him to steady my mind and show me what He has for me that day in His Word. After reading and praying, I ask Him to show me His will for that very day and to help me do His will. I surrender myself and my day to Him.
“And I walk out of the room a new woman full of His assurance and His peace and His strength.
“I really do have a new solid center. Though outwardly I may be wasting away, I am strong and renewed in my inner man by His Spirit.
“This is very much a one-day-at-a-time process. When I’m scared I call myself back to the reality of His Presence right now in this place.
“This journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Michael has freed me to be more child-like in my absolute dependence on His daily love and provision. I need Him. And He is here.
“It’s impossible to capture my satisfaction in His goodness. I’ve tried. So I’ll close with these words from John Flavel’s tiny book, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear: ‘When will we learn to trust Him in everything? Whoever lives by faith never dies by fear. The more you trust God, the less you will torment yourself.’”
Won’t you choose the hard but glorious way described here? You can be strong.
Begin by asking God to help you remember how He has prepared you for the challenging things you are living through and has equipped you to pour yourself out for the well-being of another, as you grow in dependence on Him.
Elizabeth looked back and realized all the places God had met, trained and shaped her: her background and heritage, a rural home and acreage to share with Michael, the James Center, living with Uncle Bud and witnessing her father with her mother those last years, God’s “touch” experienced through each other and even through their doctors, the prayers of His people.
And most vividly now, the blessing of meeting Him first thing in the day. This will train your inner eyes and inner ears to hear and see how God answers when you call out for His Presence.
You too can start your days with the “first thing” every morning … time in quiet, with an open Bible on your lap or on your smart phone.
And another ask, that He would form in you what delights Him: a surrendering heart.
What a beautiful sight, this slow glowing simmer, in this not-yet full Kingdom living!
Author’s note: Michael and Elizabeth have three adult children and seven active grandchildren. They themselves are active members of First Baptist Church, where Michael is treasurer and Elizabeth is deacon of missions.
He crafts beautiful furniture out of oak, walnut and cherry trees in his studio just a few feet from their home on top of their beloved ‘Heaven’s Hill.’ And his laughing place is sometimes still the golf course, where recently he made not one but two holes in one.
Beautiful Elizabeth makes meals to Michael’s tastes and sits by his side to just share life together. She participates in a long-standing Literary Club for Christian Women of Letters and Bible studies, and drives a ’97 Dodge Dakota truck answering to the name “Black Beauty,” so she can haul manure for her gardens and rescue discarded furniture for re-finishing and a fresh new life.
foreword by Patty Morwood
I don’t remember exactly when I met Jean Berkmeyer, but it was shortly after she and her family returned from living in Switzerland. The whole church was ecstatic to have them in their midst once again; the excitement was palpable.
We did eventually come to know each other though we were never really involved in the same things. But I kept seeing her and hearing her voice floating down the halls, inevitably accompanied by laughter; and I couldn’t help but laugh myself though I hadn’t been in on the conversation. Jean affects people like that because she is genuinely a funny gal. In fact, she told me she believes laughter is the best medicine and that’s why she’s rarely serious for long. I’ve also found her to be spontaneous, caring, energetic, and always real.
Jean is a middle child, the daughter of a Southern mother and FBI agent father. Poor girl, she was almost kicked out of children’s choir because she was supposedly ‘tone deaf’ and yet she became a music major in college! God blessed her marriage with the man of her dreams who houses a stubbornness just as strong as her own; together they are raising three “beautiful and wildly different” children to the glory of God.
As editor of the church newsletter’s women’s pages, I was fortunate to learn that she can write so I asked her to contribute an article. Of course her answer was spontaneously in the positive! Over time she wrote several articles, all of which may eventually find their way into this blog at some point.
Her essay below is a personal take on Margaret Wise Brown’s The Runaway Bunny. I wonder if, when you read this story to your children, you see yourself there: your willfulness, how you confidently push against the bonds of love, and your secret delight in hearing always, no matter your blind self-orientation, a divine love-affirming response.
Jean has captured the essence of the story beautifully: God loves and God pursues; we are self-focused, ever-pursuing our own thing. For most of us though there is finally an acceptance of the ineffable … God’s saving redeeming love in every aspect of our lives.
by Jean Berkmeyer
“Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away. So he said to his mother, ‘I am running away.’ ‘If you run away’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.’”
For a great deal of my life I have wanted to be “anywhere but here”, much like the little bunny in The Runaway Bunny. In case you are not familiar with this great children’s story, I’ll summarize it for you. The young bunny announces to his mother that he is going to run away. Wisely, his mother tells him he can but counters with her intent to be there for him wherever he ran. Similarly, at high school graduation I wanted to be a band director or a rock star, and to live a life as far from God as possible. This life of rebellion lasted three years. One night after miraculously arriving home, I spotted my Bible buried under some other books. Upon seeing it, I realized I wasn’t happy and I knew that God was the answer. It was instant. I prayed that night, confessed my sins to the Lord, and never looked back.
“’If you run after me,’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.’ ‘If you become a fish in a trout stream,’ said his mother, ‘I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.’”
By the time I was 21, I wanted to be neither a band director nor a rock star. I wanted to be a home missionary. More than being a missionary, I wanted to be married. I expended a great deal of effort in this pursuit and was completely unsuccessful. By 26, I had given up hope of ever being married. Then my doorbell rang. As I napped on the couch, in walked the most amazing and challenging man I have ever known and 11 months later we married. Suddenly, I was an army wife living in Manhattan, Kansas. I was certain God had made a mistake moving me to Kansas, and while I appreciated His answering my prayer for a husband I did not appreciate the move being the cost. So instead of growing and changing, I made a new plan. I would find a way to move us to the south.
“’If you become a fisherman’ said the little bunny, ‘I will become a rock on the mountain high above you.’ ‘If you become a rock on the mountain high above me I will be a mountain climber and I will climb to where you are,’ said the mother bunny.”
Two years later I found myself a corporate wife in Mason, Ohio. Classically discontent, much like the little bunny, I planned my next move –and this one would be south. Not surprisingly, God had other plans. My move south was actually to Zug, Switzerland. While in Switzerland, everyday life was more than I could bear most days. I wept. I inwardly screamed. I was completely broken. The Lord carried me through despite my efforts to thwart Him. While He undergirded me in ways I did not see at the time, He used my hopelessness to show me that He had a plan and that He is in charge.
“’I will join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze,’ said the little bunny. ‘If you go flying on a flying trapeze,’ said his other, ‘I will be a tight ropewalker and I will walk across the air to you.’”
Then like a blink that journey ended. We landed less than one half mile from our former Mason home. I thanked God for finally agreeing with me and for bringing me to a place of comfort and peace. It was neither. The Lord continued to change me and very little of it was pain-free. The marriage I had longed for was joyless and silent. I could not stand the life we were living and I felt alone. I wasn’t. God was there like the mother bunny fishing for her son or walking the tight rope as her son flew on the trapeze. He was unfailingly present. Being a patient sculptor, He whittled away many of the edges of me that did not belong to Him. While He worked, change came again in the form of a decision that I thought was mine.
For years I had talked about home education. Feeling certain that Jeff would never agree, I felt safe preaching on about its wonders. Apparently I talked long enough and loud enough to convince Jeff to attend a home school convention with me. After two sessions we met up for lunch. He looked at me with that serious gaze of his and said, “We are doing this.” I began to truly panic but, not one to readily admit fear, I plowed ahead. Four years later [now eight+ years] we stand in awe of the path God has laid before us.
“’If you become a tightrope walker and walk across the air,’ said the bunny, ‘I will become a little boy and run into the house.’ ‘If you become a little boy and run into a house,’ said the mother bunny, ‘I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.’ ‘Shucks,’ said the bunny, ‘I might as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.’” And so he did.
At 42, I feel like I am living in my sweet spot. I am a band director. I guide my kinds’ piano practice every week. I take them to the symphony and talk about the great composers with them. I’ve taught three classes of homeschoolers basic music theory through teaching them to play the tin whistle. I am a rock star.
I see it in their eyes when we have a great day of school or I explain a mysterious concept. I am a home missionary. Every day I pour my life into theirs with the knowledge that God will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in them.
I am married to the best man I know, and our marriage is filled with laughter and the knowledge that neither of us is the person we were in the beginning – and that is a good thing.
So as I look back over this year and all those that have come before and reflect, I am content and full of thanks. I am amazed by a journey that seemed so disjointed but was really the trip of a lifetime … making me all I ever wanted to be.
And like the little bunny, I plan to stay right here in God’s hands and be His.
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Jill Savage faced a dilemma. Formerly a full-time music teacher, she was plunged, overnight, into the unknowns of a brand new occupation, one for which she had no training: motherhood. After four years, she felt confident and comfortable in her role as an educator of the arts, but where was the mommy university? Where were the conferences on motherhood? In 1994, Jill found no equipping.
“I couldn’t find anything,” she recalls. “So I took my idea to the growing moms group I was leading in Bloomington, Illinois, and asked them what they thought about organizing a one-time conference for moms. They liked the idea, and there was a real sense of excitement about our undertaking.”
With an ambitious goal to rally 400 women to attend the first event, the women were astonished when 1100 registered. “We thought: wow, the need is much bigger than we thought. And we realized that God had a bigger vision for this thing than just a one-time event for local moms.”
The women stepped out in faith and rented a large part of the Illinois State University campus for the second year. Their faith was rewarded and 2800 moms came together. Then 3400, then 4500, then 5400 and the sixth year there were 6300 women in attendance. This was the birth of the Hearts at Home conference series. Now in its 22nd year, the conference is coming to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the first time in November.
“Hearts at Home is all about training, equipping, encouraging moms because mothering doesn’t come with a manual. We provide that manual,” explains founder Jill Savage. “We want to meet moms where they’re at. We want to join the conversations where they are. We know that conferences continue to be a part of that, but we know that moms learn in lots of ways and they have needs more than once a year at a conference setting. We are building up our website with content so women can go and find the answers to their questions and continuing to use tools that today’s moms are using.”
Hearts at Home has achieved tremendous success because it works with women in an honest way. In her recent book No More Perfect Moms, Jill Savage voices a call for authenticity. “Moms are more connected than they have been in the past. In one sense that is good and we can learn from each other, but it can also result in pressure to compare ourselves to others. I see moms feeling guilty or inept because they are comparing their private lives to the outsides of others and that leaves them questioning their own skills,” Jill explains.
In an effort to encourage transparency and authenticity, she shared her reality with those who follow her on Facebook. She had been on several consecutive trips, never fully unpacking form any of them. When it finally became too much, she snapped a photo of her bedroom inviting other women to share their ‘real lives’ as well.
“And that was just a wonderful, honest, authentic sharing experience! Women took pictures of their kitchen counters, bathrooms, kids’ rooms and it was just so honest,” she laughs.
This type of real-life encouragement is what Hearts at Home is all about. “We have received emails, letters and comments from women who came to conference ready to throw in the towel. They were at the end of themselves in at least one area of life. But they attended workshops and learned new ways of seeing things, of relating. That gave them the courage to grow in the ways they realized they needed to. They remembered why their work was important.”
In addition to equipping women, Hearts at Home opens with Mom's Night Out, an evening of laughter, music and fun specifically designed to lighten hearts and lift spirits.
Jill shared a bit of her own journey as well. As a mother, she prioritized family and parenting, not writing her first book (of 11) until her children were all in school. She didn’t start working full time until her youngest entered college, and the Hearts at Home offices officially close at 2:30pm so mommas can be there when their children get off the bus.
“There is no woman who is trying to find balance in her life who doesn’t have weeks where she feeds her family too many frozen pizzas. I didn’t always get it all done!”t
To find out more about Hearts at Home, please visit www.heartsathome.org. Use the coupon code HEARTS10 to save $10 on registration on any conference between now and Nov 12!
A leader in creativity and professional management, Geralin Thomas, has created a business out of something we all need a little more of: organization! When we really can’t do it all, Geralin’s business, Metropolitan Organizing, is able to save the day.
Geralin consults those suffering from hoarding and overwhelmed mothers alike on how best to manage their belongings. From vacation pictures to college dorm rooms, to bathrooms and wardrobes, Geralin has a secret she’s ready to share.
Metropolitan Organizing has been in business since 2002 and has lent a helping hand to hundreds unique individuals. Featured are some of her best resources!
Services to shop
What to do if you have a knack for organizing...
Quick tips for your space
We love the work Geralin does and believe she's one to follow.
Here is just a bit of the magic she has to share: (from metropolitanorganizing.com)
Maybe you really have tried everything. The Biblical counseling, the books, the long phone calls with friends or mom for advice, but your marriage is still falling apart. And, maybe, somewhere inside you hear a voice telling you to quit and another voice beckoning you to pray; to remember that nothing is impossible for God. A voice that reminds you that marriage is holy and dear to the Lord. Jennifer O. White, founder of Prayerfully Speaking ministries and author of Prayers for New Brides, is living proof of the power of prayer. After one failed marriage and her second one beginning to fail, Jennifer discovered the faithfulness of God to answer a simple “Help Me Jesus” prayer. She’s given her days to sharing how God is able to do more in our hearts and marriages than we can ask or imagine. She says, “There is no way that I, a woman who once chose to divorce a minister, am now writing books encouraging wives to pray and rely on the marriage Savior …except by the grace of God.”
Hearing Jennifer's unmatched belief that God can mend any ruin is a gift and a treasure.
Jennifer lives in West Monroe, Louisiana and describes herself as one who loves to share what inspires her. Born and raised in a small farming community in her home state, she’s a natural helper and connector of people to the resources they need. While in college pursuing a degree in Social Work, Jennifer surprised herself one day when she confided in someone her desire to be a writer. The Lord had bigger plans for her abilities to share and connect than she could have dreamed.
Throughout her life, Jennifer had always been drawn to God through church. In her teen years, she cried out to God for wisdom. She feels that God’s answer to that prayer is seen today in her love for His Word and praying its truths. The Lord would make beauty from ashes through this very skill.
Jennifer found herself working for a Christian publishing company, blogging and discovering her gift of writing Scripture-based prayers. Jennifer’s step-son and niece were both engaged and she wanted to bless and nurture their unions. She decided to give them prayers she would write for their marriages. It was then the Lord whispered to her, “You could write a book of prayers for marriages.”
Her book, Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor after the Wedding Dress, made it to market February, 2015. Jennifer’s ministry and book remain a testimony of God’s renewal in Jennifer’s life and continually rejuvenate even the most difficult marriages.
Jennifer’s hope is that married couples everywhere would harness of the power of prayer. She says, “As wives, we often fall into a trap thinking that our husbands are the enemy. Ephesians 6:12 opened Jennifer’s eyes to the reality that we as wives are not wrestling with our husbands but actually with the spiritual forces of darkness. A large chapter of Jennifer’s story centers around recognizing the spiritual battle and the importance of being an active participant under God’s authority. Prayers for New Brides is a perfect help in taking up the armor of God to fortify our marriages against the lies and destructive strategies of Satan.
A Biblical counselor, one of the biggest influences in Jennifer’s life, opened Jennifer’s eyes to her identity in Christ for the first time. Her wisdom, prayers from the Power of a Praying Wife and Prayers that Avail Much, and several praying wives in Jennifer’s life helped her engage in this spiritual warfare. She says, “No situation is too big for God. I am living proof that life and marriage get a lot better when we resist the enemy and draw near to God. Prayer is an opening of a door for Him to pour out on us what we need. God already has it ready! We have to remind ourselves that God is for us and nothing is impossible for God.”
Jennifer also emphasizes the importance of having others praying for you and your marriage. Women of all ages have used Prayers for New Brides in small groups as a way to keep one another praying and witnessing God’s redemptive power. She's also created Marriage Armor for the #PrayingBride, a daily email of prayers for your marriage. You can subscribe for free at jenniferowhite.com/marriage-armor. Jennifer encourages even singles to sign up and begin preparation for their future marriage.
Even with protective prayer, warfare isn’t easy; inside and outside of marriage. Jennifer says Satan discourages her by defining her ministry as "white noise" amidst a broadcast of thousands of ministries. But, Jennifer continues in the path that the Lord has lain before her by repeating Ephesians 3:20 and singing praise and worship songs moment by moment. She has also begun collecting encouraging emails and conversations she’s received over the years from individual’s whose lives have been touched and transformed by Prayerfully Speaking as a reminder that the Lord is at work through her testimony.
Jennifer invites you to her website, jenniferowhite.com, where she shares blogs filled with truth for your encouragement and renewal! Prayers for New Brides is available at Amazon, Lifeway, Books a Million, Christianbook.com, and Barnes & Noble.
Jennifer’s story of ruins to redeemed reflects all of our journeys. Nothing, not even a broken marriage, is too lost for the Lord to make beautiful once more. Just ask Jennifer.
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