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Valuing the Gospel Over Everything Else

Posted in Faith, kinsey
on March 29, 2017
As many of you may know, here at TFP we do something we like to call Writing the Word where we walk through writing out a specific book of the Bible or theme in scripture each month. Last August, we wrote Philippians, a book with very familiar passages and often-quoted verses. However, as I wrote through Philippians, I came across a less familiar passage, and God used it in my life in a mighty way.
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:12-14

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Valuing the Giver Over the Gift

Posted in Faith, kinsey
on March 27, 2017
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” Exodus 20:3-4
Idols. This word often conjures up images of old testament golden calfs or other objects created and worshiped by humans centuries ago. However, idols are just as prevalent today as they were in old testament times — they just look a little different.
You see, an idol is anything or any person you put before God. And let’s be honest right now — we all struggle with idolatry. It’s part of our sinful nature. And it’s something we will always have to fight against. Perhaps the hardest thing about idolatry is that what we idolize is often something good, something positive. They are blessings from God — loved ones or children, money, jobs, dreams, comfort, etc. — that we have chosen to make our primary focus, ultimately (and inadvertently) valuing the gift over the Giver.

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A Warm Shoulder

Posted in Faith, julianne
on March 7, 2017
The new fashion trend of the “cold shoulder” top makes me giggle every time. Not because I don’t think it’s cute. Because its name is a “cold shoulder” top. What an unappealing name! I work with a lot of high school girls, and they love this trend. And it gets me. Every. Single. Time.
What I love about working with students is that their faith is often unbridled and their filter nonexistent. Working with them during a season of clinical depression has been so eye-opening. I love when I get to experience the “why” of a difficult season first hand. I feel like this is one of those seasons. While this season isn’t the most fun, God has opened doors, windows and even random air vents for me to have relationships with girls that are experiencing similar circumstances in order for His Truth to be revealed to both of us. They help me understand what I’m going through with their free words and emotions. They’ve helped me learn to cope by forcing me to be the voice of logic and access the Voice of Truth for their good.
The fact of the matter is that depression is becoming more widespread. Why? I have no idea. But it’s a factor of living in our broken, sinful world, and as women of faith, we need to learn to deal.

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Handle with Care

Posted in Faith, julianne
on March 3, 2017

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Please know that what I’m about to share isn’t intended to ruffle feathers or upset anyone. It isn’t meant to shame or dismiss the efforts of friends who have tried to encourage me. For those who have genuinely reached out to me, please understand that I am so grateful to you. I’m thankful for your hearts, even when some things may get a little lost in translation. I understand trying to comfort someone in the thick of depression can be such a difficult terrain to navigate. Finding the right words to say may not seem so simple, and it’s because depression isn’t simple. That’s why I’m sharing my heart in its rawest state — to shed some light on what I’ve experienced in this darkness. These words are only meant to bring an honest perspective to an often misunderstood struggle in hopes that those affected with depression, whether first-hand or as a loved one of someone with depression, can be encouraged.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
My choice to elope for my wedding day wasn’t a popular decision. I grew up the girliest of girls. I was a bride for Halloween when I was three and wanted to meet my new baby brother in the hospital with the veil that accompanied my costume. I didn’t wear pants to school until I was in the fifth grade. Even then, it was a jumpsuit with my monogram on the front.
I am also no stranger to event planning. Between the ages of 22 and 26, I planned 21 weddings and was in nine. Nuts, I know. So, when my husband and I told our parents we were going to fly to Colorado by ourselves and get married, jaws dropped. The truth is, I know myself. I know I love that stuff. I know I can get caught up in the hustle and bustle of bouquets, dresses and decor. Something inside of me (a.k.a. the Holy Spirit’s conviction), kept telling me I needed to keep the main thing the main thing. So, late September of 2014, only seven weeks after getting engaged, we boarded a plane, just the two of us. I married the cutest of cuties with only the freshly yellowed aspen trees as our guests.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Retrospect is a beautiful thing. Reflecting on the past is often the Lord’s gift, reminding us of His faithfulness and careful consideration of provision. I was diagnosed with clinical depression just nine months after saying, “I do”. That was more shocking than me eloping. (You can read more about my struggle here.) Our elopement was a glimpse at what was to come. The provision of my husband during a season of life that is by far the hardest is evidence of the loving hand of God. Sometimes, it has felt like it’s just Jordan and me. We daily have to figure out how to handle this illness and continue to make life joyful. Clinical depression is hardest for the people closest to you. I can honestly say, I would rather go through this than watch my husband go through it. Whether it’s a friend, a daughter, a spouse or yourself, it’s gut wrenching to experience. One of the greatest lessons Jordan and I have learned through this is how to handle people with care. It’s make us more sympathetic to people with stories we don’t understand or can’t comprehend. This experience has also helped me express feelings in a way I never thought I could.
So many people have approached me saying they are experiencing something similar to my journey. Others seek advice from me about how to approach someone they know who is struggling. I’m no medical or psychological doctor, but here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Try to fix me. I already want to fix me. And I can’t. I can’t even get out of bed in the morning some days. And you trying to fix me makes me feel worse. Prideful, I know, and part of my pruning process of understanding my need community. But let the goal for community be love, not to pull me out of the hole. It’s not their job, anyway. It’s the Lord’s job to catch me at the bottom and carry me out. I just need someone to be the voice yelling words of encouragement and love to me during the freefall, reassuring me that there are strong arms waiting to grab me at the bottom.

2. Only reach out on social media. I am overwhelmed by the incredible community I have around me. And some people only have contact with me through social media. In those cases, okay. But in cases where people know me, claim to love me, and have access to me in person, it hurts to only read on social media that they’re thinking about me or praying for me. That feels more like a self-righteous promotion of faux love. Harsh? Maybe. But, I gotta be honest, that’s how it feels.

3. Talk to other people about my situation when I’m not there. I know this one seems pretty high school. But you’d be surprised as a 27-year-old woman how many times this has happened to me during this season. I won’t get on my soapbox too high on this one, but this is for all communication between believers. Confronting sin, approaching about accountability, and even expressing concern, all need to begin with a one-on-one conversation. Doing anything otherwise will create dissension and rivalry. Scripture tells us about this on multiple different occasions. (Matthew 18:15-16, Philippians 2:3-4, Hebrews 12:1) We have become a culture that has accepted “glorified gossip”, or speaking about each other in the name of prayer instead of speaking with the concerning party out of genuine care and love. As someone who has experienced this first hand during this season, I can tell you exactly how it feels — it feels like people don’t actually care about me, my heart, or my joyfulness. It feels like they care about making sure other people think they’re concerned, and that only makes me hurt worse.

1. Love me. Seems simple, huh? But when the rubber meets the road and someone unknowingly and suddenly becomes the Debbie Downer, it can get harder. I know. Because that’s me. I know I’m not the life of the party anymore, but I still want and need to be loved. Just go read the famous Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians 13. This ain’t about you and your fun. But, “never give up, never lose faith, (be) always hopeful, and endure every circumstance. (v. 7, NLT)

2. Remember who I once was. My love language is words of affirmation. So this one may be more for me than anyone, but I need the people around me to remember the old Julianne. Not to express that they wish I was more like that again, but to know and believe it’s still in me, even when I don’t believe it’s left in me. I need others to affirm when they see those glimmers of the pre-illness self.

3. Understand you won’t understand. This one is by far the hardest. I fought to explain myself and my sadness for so long at the beginning. I wanted someone to know I wasn’t crazy. I wanted someone to just get it. Jordan wanted to just get it. He wanted to understand why I just cried, for no reason. My response was always so empty: “I don’t know.” It’s okay for loved ones to not understand completely. The more people fish for an explanation, the more the person affected by the illness will feel crazy. Sometimes for me, there wasn’t an explanation. Those struggling with depression should be encouraged to seek professional help in order to get to the root of the problem, but friends, parents or spouses need to understand that they just might not understand. And that’s okay. All we ask is for someone to just love us through it.

Above all, bring love — no matter if you’re the one struggling with depression or the one walking alongside someone who is. Reiterate to yourself the properties of love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13. That’s what I need from my community. That’s what my heart needs to feel cared for. I don’t want to be fragile, but I do need to be handled with authentic, genuine care.

I don’t know who the person is that needs you most during this time, but my prayer is that you shower them with patience, kindness, and selflessness. Above all, shower them with the greatest of all, love.

The Hardest Pill

Posted in Faith, julianne
on February 21, 2017

My feet were dangling over the side of the doctor’s office pleather bed as I sat uncomfortably shifting from side to side. I could tell I was nervous because the noise from the piece of sanitary paper roll I was sitting on was constant. I don’t normally fidget, but my heart was racing. This was my one millionth visit to that doctor’s office in an unreasonably short amount of time. I had an inkling what was wrong, but it would be, quite literally, the hardest pill I’ve ever had to swallow.

When I was in high school, my youth group would give “awards” to every person at the end of our trips. It was a funny way to involve everyone and tell too many inside jokes. My senior year, I had to specifically ask to NOT receive an award that had to do with smiling, laughing, or being a Disney Princess. That was me; that was my identity. My whole life I have been the positive, cool as a cucumber one. If the glass wasn’t half full, was there even a glass? Everything was awesome and every idea was possible. Stress was something I heard about, but wondered if I’d ever feel it. Oddly, sometimes I would try to worry about something or force some faux anxiety, but that was entirely too much work for me. I just wanted to know what it felt like. I knew people admired my ability to let nothing phase me, but I thought I was missing out on something. In retrospect, that was a really dumb thing to wish for.

I don’t say all this to brag. I say it because those that know me, know what I’m about to say is tough. And for those of you that don’t, I need you to understand my background in order to understand where I am now. 

I was a newlywed. I was buying my first home. I was working at a church I loved. Everything should’ve been hunky dory. But that day at the doctor’s office would change my life forever. That very identity I had rested in was about crumble. My doctor looked me in the eye and told me I was clinically depressed. The amount of questions that flooded into my head with that announcement was enormous. I couldn’t have imagined it. In fact, over a year later, I’m still processing it.

That wasn’t “me”. I was the happy one. With one prescription of antidepressants, he wrote off everything I knew as myself. My mind immediately skipped to how I could fix this, how I could hide this. I didn’t want people to know this new me. I liked the old one. Other people liked the old one. Who was this girl, and what had she done with me?!

As I got in the car to pick up my phone to call my husband, I burst into tears which was normal those days. My husband had married the happy girl. My husband dated the “nothing bothers me” girl for five years. Now, he was getting a frantic, drowning in tears, “panicked because of a pill” girl. I know he loves me no matter what, but I couldn’t help but feel sad for making his life harder, too. The last year had been all about me: my health, my happiness, my feelings. What was going on in my head had quickly made me the most selfish person in our little family, and he was at the brunt of it. He quickly calmed me down, and reminded me that what was happening was an illness. The doctor had told me that serotonin had somehow drained from my body. I was sick. Jordan (my husband) said, “When you got the flu, didn’t you take medicine?” Well, yeah, but this was different. Everyone got the flu. By society’s standards, you got sympathy with the flu. With depression, you get pity. I had spent my whole life proving I was strong enough to need no one’s pity.

I drove back to work, sat at my desk determined to will myself out of this mess. I wasn’t going to tell a soul. Sure, I’d share with them I had some weird, unknown illness that was draining hormones from my body. But I was avoiding the big “D” word no matter what. That wasn’t me.

After picking up the prescription that I got only because Jordan wanted me to, I stared at the box for a long time. I don’t remember what I was thinking. I just remember I felt lost. I was lost for answers, lost for happiness, lost for any inkling of an identity. I read the directions at least three times as if a loophole would jump off the page. I didn’t take a pill that night like instructed. I waited until the next day. I had to build up the courage to swallow my pride and that pill.

Depression was an abstract idea to me. Sure, I knew about it. But even if I’d been around it, I saw the good in it. That’s how hyper-positive I was before. There was so easily a lesson seen when it was in someone else’s head. But when it was my own, I felt trapped. No matter how much a scratched, clawed, or cried my way to logical thinking, the ceiling of my happiness seemed to crumble with just a simple poke.

They don’t tell you how all-consuming depression is. It’s not something you can compartmentalize or escape for periods at a time. It’s like a gnat that you can constantly see and hear buzzing while still seeing the world around you. You just now see it through aggravation and annoyance. Everything becomes difficult. My social butterfly had its wings clipped with this illness. I felt like if I could avoid people, I could avoid them seeing the darkness in my eyes. I’ve always loved sleep, but my bed became not a place of rest, but my safe haven. I could cocoon myself away from people seeing the new me. Maybe I wished I was going to wake up from a bad dream.

I remember one night, I laid on the bathroom floor almost convulsing in tears, gasping for every breath all because of insecurity. My attempts to mask my new being put me in a place to pit myself against every other girl that crossed my path. I’m surrounded by some incredible women, on purpose. But that very thing I thought I was using to insulate myself from harm with these women loving me and encouraging me, became the enemy’s easiest target to pull me down. All of the sudden, the rules of the comparison game I had taught high school girls to avoid for so many years were actually meant for me.

Jordan would hug me and love me through these dark moments. He would try to talk me down from hysteria and logic me out of crazy thinking. He would often ask, “Where did this come from?” My response was always so empty. “I don’t know.” Not only had I lost the identity of “me”, but I had lost control of “me”. I didn’t even know how to pull myself up. All I felt was a freefall. I read book after book of encouragement. I sought wise counsel. I did everything I knew how, but would find myself back in bed, craving to just be left alone. I became weary of fighting. My body starting to take on other physical manifestations of sadness. I started losing my memory. I started having panic attacks that would come out of nowhere. I started passing out. The more I fought, the harder I would fall. I would constantly remind myself I had no reason to be sad. My life was “perfect”. Then, I would tumble into a snowball effect thinking that I didn’t have a reason to be sad… Why am I such a sad sap? Why can’t I just buck up?!

I would have small victories along the way, but to other people they were normalities. I would get advice such as “just start doing things again like you used to.” All along, that’s exactly what I had been trying to do. But to everyone else, that was normal. Little did they know, I was using every ounce of energy I had just to sit in a room and have coffee with someone.

I wanted, and still want, to blame something. Jordan and I just started seeing a new doctor to make sure it couldn’t be anything else. The doctors had told me their theory on the cause. But I think I have to rest not in a cause, but in a reason. Everyday I wake up hoping to have an “ah-ha” moment of why the Lord put me through this. Everyday, I learn a lesson that is washed away with high tides of insecurity, darkness, and sadness. The Lord has been faithful by keeping me safe. He’s been faithful in still opening doors for me in ministry to love on girls He’s placed around me. He’s been faithful that this season of my life happened while I have Jordan. No matter how dark I feel, I know my hand is being held even when I can’t see it, by a Hand so firm that even my doubts can’t rip Its grip.

The enemy loves that I haven’t shared this with many people. He probably has a big, nasty smirk that I bought into a lie that the stigma attached to depression should stick with it. He doesn’t get that power over me or the Lord’s faithfulness anymore. The dutch door of my life has been only half open for too long. I’ve sat in the dark with the blinds closed hoping for a miracle for too long. I want to pull the strings to let the Light in and realize that the “me” I was before wasn’t my doing, but His.

Not only did I start to avoid people, but I started to avoid and doubt the Lord. I questioned His existence, I doubted His character, and I pushed His Word as far away as I could. I don’t know why, but it just felt easier that way. I guess I thought dead branches felt better than pruning. Before this season, I had no idea how many lies of this world I believed. But it’s far more that I ever care to admit.

But despite the lies I’ve learned, I saw more promises kept. I would like to say, “That was then…” at the end of this post, but I’m still in it. I used past tense up to this point for storytelling’s sake, but I’m still here. I’m still grasping at straws for lessons. I’m still trying to keep my head above water. I’m still trying to rebuild the spiritual disciplines mental illness destroyed. I’m still praying daily, hourly for my redemption story to come now. I’m still madly, deeply in love with a Savior that continues to save me. I’m still learning that this saving is not just once; it’s daily. I’m still learning that the character, personality and identity He gave me before wasn’t because of me. But I’m still here; so I know He’s not finished with me.

The Four Letter Word My Kids Taught Me

Posted in Faith, jenn
on February 13, 2017

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Almost one year ago, my life was flipped upside down, for the better. God gave me two tiny blonde-haired miracles. Straight from trauma, neglect and fear, they came barreling into my world, my home and my heart. The night they came I remember thinking, “Okay, I know how to love them.”
I only thought I knew. But as it turns out, my boys have taught me to love in ways I didn’t know existed, ways that have stretched me and shaped me. I want to break down this four-letter word to show you what all the Lord used these two little blue-eyed gifts to teach me, grow me and bless me.

Letting go of yourself.
I used to have these amazing plans for how my life would be, plans to get married, have kids and a career… everything I wanted. I thought that if I was good enough and “Christian enough” that God would allow all my dreams to come true. I never thought that I would find that true joy and peace I’d always desired when I laid down those plans and those dreams to love two little strangers. My world isn’t really mine at all now, and I’m so content in that. Now, when my sons are sick, I get to lay down my desire to spend time with friends and hold them until they fall asleep. When my youngest started trauma therapy last week, I left my job early to be with him.  For my oldest still struggling with the aftermath of abuse and neglect, I take extra time in packing his lunch to write reassuring notes reminding him he will be taken care of to soothe his worried heart.
Though these sacrifices may cost me my time and effort, God is using them to help these sweet boys heal and grow. It’s not about my comfort anymore — it’s about meeting their needs to help them know Jesus.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16: 24-25

Obedience is worth it.
To be obedient is one of the most difficult tasks before us at times. In the small choices and the big decisions of life God is speaking and showing Himself to be faithful. When I said “yes” to being a mom in God’s way instead of mine, I found that His way is more than I could ever dream it to be. It is hard for me to imagine how my life would be without my boys, but somedays I still doubt. I sometimes still ask, “Is this really what you want for me Jesus?” Then, as if an answer to my prayerful question, Jesus will spark a memory of nine or ten months ago, when I first received these boys into my home. I can see how far God’s grace has brought us in our time together as a family, and now I barely recognize those two boys from those earliest memories. God’s love has changed all of us indelibly.
Visualize the big picture.
Those memories from the past are just proof of the bigger picture my boys have enabled me to see. In loving them, God has revealed to me how the tiny things in life, like daily scripture reading and prayer, are essential to a much bigger picture. For example, when my boys get out of their routine, it messes up their whole little world. The same is true in my life as a mother — if I don’t stay faithful in a routine of scripture, worship and prayer, my heart gets all messed up and jumbled with doubt, fear and grief. As I keep the daily routine in the little things, I am reminded of the end goal: to know Christ daily is to know Him more.

Eternity matters.
When I decided to become a mom through foster care, I didn’t really take into consideration the external impacts this could have. I just wanted to be a mom, and I know it sounds so horrible that I didn’t think about that. My oldest always loves to ask me about Heaven and about people that he has heard me say are in Heaven. One morning on the way to school, he asked me if he would go to Heaven. My precious, little five-year-old, who has been through more hurt and trauma in his lifetime than most adults I know just asked me about going to Heaven?! I was floored, and Jesus reminded me in that early morning moment that eternity matters for my children. The two tiny blessings that He has entrusted me with matter for all eternity and that hit me like a ton of bricks. This truth encourages me to keep showing them sacrificial love, doing all I can to love them like Jesus so that these blessings of mine get to meet Him face to face, too!

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

So in this season of LOVE, whether you’re a mom or not, we all have the same purpose: to LOVE others by Letting go of ourselves through being Obedient in Visualizing the big picture because Eternity matters.

3 Things My First Year of Marriage Taught Me

Posted in Faith, kelsey
on February 10, 2017
Disclaimer: The title of this post may be a bit misleading.
What I’m sharing with you today really doesn’t require marriage as a prerequisite. These are simply just truths the Lord has been teaching me to make me more like Him, while using my new reality as a newlywed as the vehicle to do it. I think most married Christians would agree with me that marriage often turns you inward to see the truth of who you are even when it isn’t always pretty. My prayer is that I wouldn’t just see this truth, but that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I would change them to become more like Jesus. So while this isn’t a complete list of everything the Lord used my first year of marriage to teach me, these three lessons are the ones that have shaped me the most and the ones I feel the Lord has prepared me to share with you today!

(I’ll be honest — number three is my favorite lesson I’m learning right now, and it is applicable to every woman’s life, so I hope you’ll read through to the end!)”

1.The beauty of God’s forgiveness.
In marriage, everything is on display. I now have someone who has a 24/7 front row seat to my best moments… and my worst. He experiences the good, but he endures the ugly. It feels like I have to seek forgiveness, and give forgiveness daily.  This has taught me and interesting lesson on how God forgives. I am learning to forgive in ways I never have before and that makes me more aware of how God continually and completely forgives me. And when I see how much I need forgiveness and how hard it is to keep forgiving in my own strength, it makes me love God even more.
2.  It’s not about me.
It was so much easier as a single person to think that my life was about me. No matter how much I thought I realized that this life is God’s and not mine, I was still able to pretty much do what I wanted and mostly do everything for myself. But once I was married, every moment of every day became a joint effort. I began to think about someone else constantly — how he would react or what he would want in each situation.
I had to learn to serve someone else every day and at first that was hard for me to adjust to since I had always just taken care of me.  When I was single, I could go about my day, doing my own thing, not worried about what someone else thought or needed. And accountability could only go so far when I was on my own. But once I took those vows, my selfishness and sin, even in the smallest things, could trigger the biggest arguments…I had to learn (and still am learning) how to put aside my sinful and selfish desires and serve my husband, loving him and submitting to him the way I’ve been called to do.

3. My identity is in Christ, not in my husband.
This one is the hardest to learn, and quite frankly, I’ve still got a long ways to go. I am just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding what it means to really put my identity in Christ. The last few years God has really been working on this in my heart, but getting married was a catalyst for it. I always put my value and worth in how I performed or in other people’s opinions of me. When my husband and I have an argument or he has hurt me with something he said or did, I shut down. And I mean completely shut down. And until we make up, I am a mess. However, throughout this last year, the Holy Spirit began to show me that I’m putting too much value in what my husband says or does when my value should be in Christ alone.  
If I’m in the middle of a disagreement with my husband, but I truly believe in my heart that God loves me and my value comes from Him, then I can prevent what’s said or done from wearing me down. Even as recent as these last few weeks, if my husband and I started to disagree and I could feel myself slipping into my “shut down mode,” I began to read truths about who I am in Christ out loud to myself to combat the lies I was believing. After a few minutes of this, I began to feel peace and a calm that comes only from the Holy Spirit, and I was able to hold onto that calm until my husband and I made up.
I really think, as women, so many of our struggles–not just in marriage but in our lives in general–can be solved if we really believe the truth about who we are in Christ. So I want to end with a reminder of some of the truths straight from God’s Word about each one of us who knows Christ as our Savior. Maybe the next time you are feeling discouraged, unsettled or worn down, you can read these aloud and remind yourself of who you are and experience the peace of the Holy Spirit.

I Am Accepted:
I am a God’s Child. John 1:12
I am Christ’s friend. John 15:15
I have been justified. Rom. 5:1
I am united with the Lord (one spirit). 1 Cor. 6:17
I am bought with a price; I belong to God. 1 Cor. 6:19, 20
I am a member of Christ’s Body. 1 Cor. 12:27
I am a saint. Eph. 1:1
I have been adopted as God’s child. Eph. 1:5
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit. Eph. 2:18
I have been redeemed and forgiven. Col. 1:14
I am complete in Christ. Col. 2:10

I Am Secure:
I am free forever from condemnation. Rom. 8:1-2
I am assured all works together for good. Rom. 8:28
I am free from any charge against me. Rom. 8:31-34
I cannot be separated from the love of God. Rom. 8:35-39
I am established, anointed, sealed by God. 2 Cor. 1:21-22
I am hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:3
I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected. Phil. 1:6
I am a citizen of heaven. Phil. 3:20
I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Heb. 4:16
I can find grace and mercy in time of need. Heb. 4:16
I am born of God; the evil one cannot touch me. 1 John 5:18
I Am Significant:
I am the salt and light of the earth. Matt. 5:13-14
I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life. John 15:1, 5
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. John 15:16
I am a personal witness of Christ’s. Acts 1:8
I am God’s temple. 1 Cor. 3:16
I am a minister of reconciliation for God. 2 Cor. 5:17-21
I am God’s co-worker. 1 Cor. 3:9, 2 Cor. 6:1
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm. Eph. 2:6
I am God’s workmanship. Eph. 2:10
I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Eph. 3:12
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
Married or not, these truths hold firm for every single one of us, now and always. I pray you can accept the love of our Good Father and learn to love like He does in response!

Valentine’s Day Prayer

Posted in Faith
on February 6, 2017
Whether you enjoy celebrating this month known for love or you dread it all together, let’s start out February on the right foot by acknowledging the originator of love and asking Him to set our minds and hearts on Him so that we may love like He does. 
We would be honored for you to pray this prayer along with us as you go throughout this week. 
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for how you love me. You love me with a fierce, all-encompassing, protective, unconditional love that cannot be matched by anyone else in existence. Please forgive me for forgetting the extent of your love for me and often taking it for granted. Jesus, be everything to me. Be the driving desire behind my actions. Be the deep well of joy and peace that I draw from. Be the love that I take to every other person in my life. Help me to remember what you did on the cross when you died for my sins and conquered death for my own wretched soul. Thank you for your forgiveness, your restoration and your complete salvation. You love me entirely. You have engraved me on the palm of Your hand. I am Yours forever! And as I go throughout this month known for valentines, relationships and love, please help me to put you first and central. Don’t let me take my eyes off of you, especially when I begin to compare myself to others or try to put something or someone else in the place that only You can fill. Lord,  please help me to never get over what you have done for me. Thank you that I know love because you first loved me. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

A Practical Guide to Daily Discipline: The Carryover

Posted in Faith, kinsey
on January 30, 2017

There are many steps we can take to develop the habits we desire but often struggle to maintain. The great thing about working on discipline in one area of your life is that it will inevitably overflow into various areas of your life because, once you hold yourself to a certain standard in one area of your life, it is natural to begin holding yourself to higher standards in other areas of your life. So we wrap up our series, we are going to focus on three disciplines that will help carryover discipline into every area of our lives.
Getting Sleep

I briefly mentioned this in part one of this series but sleep is vitally important. Without sleep, we can easily lose focus and have trouble thinking clearly. Without sleep, we lack the patience to handle a situation properly and respond poorly to those we love. Without sleep, motivation goes out the window and we are far less likely to stick to our routines and disciplines, falling back into our old habits. Without sleep, we are much more susceptible to the enemy’s tactics as well. We fall for his lies and manipulation because we just do not have the energy to fight it.
Getting more sleep often comes down to just being more disciplined. It is usually a choice. A choice to not watch one more show on Netflix. A choice not to check Twitter or Instagram one more time. A choice not to start working on something that will keep you up a few more hours. You will be amazed at how much more productive you will be in less time when you are actually rested. 
Controlling Your Thoughts

According to 2 Corinthians 10:5, as believers in Jesus, we have the ability to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” We can only take our thoughts captive to obey Christ if we have a real knowledge of God and what His Word says. Controlling your thoughts starts with reading the Bible and growing in your relationship with Jesus. (Find more info about that here in part two of our discipline series.) The more you study and understand the character of Jesus, the more easily you’ll be able to recognize the lies the enemy is feeding you and stop them in their tracks. You can train your mind to stop the negative thoughts about yourself or a situation by beginning believe what the Bible says instead. Though this takes some time and doesn’t always come easy, it is incredibly freeing to know you can take control of your mind. Once your know the words and heart of the Father, you can keep your thoughts in check and ask yourself if they are from the Lord. If the answer is no, then do not let them linger. Stop them immediately when they surface and ask the Holy Spirit for help in doing so. You will be both blessed and amazed at how they begin to dissipate!

Believing Truth

Growing up in church, phrases like, “you are loved,” “you are chosen,” and “you are enough” weren’t unfamiliar to me. However, as I’ve grown older, I have realized that just because I know those things in my head does not mean I believe them in my heart. It’s so easy to believe the lies the enemy tells us about ourselves without ever combating them with truth. I have a tendency to believe the lie that I am somehow forgotten by God, but I have learned to combat this in two ways. First, I have to own up to how I’m feeling. I need to come to God in prayer and tell Him I feel forgotten, and then I have to ask Him what He says about me. I have to search scripture to find the truth. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Some other favorites are Psalm 139:13-14, Zephaniah 3:17, and Ephesians 2:4-5.) 
So I’ve honestly come to God with my feelings, but this second step is critical. Now, I must choose to believe what He says over what I feel. This isn’t an easy task, but it has proven effective for me in combatting the lies of the enemy. If there is something you are struggling to believe about who God says you are, identify it, give it to God, and ask Him to show you the truth. Search the scripture for verses to help you identify His truth, and know that the Holy Spirit will help you combat the lies of Satan as you claim those scriptures as truth. 
Truth often empowers us, gives us hope, and takes us deeper with Christ. Truth gives us courage to take new steps in obedience to Christ and overcome things we’ve struggled with in ways we never could have while believing the lies of the enemy. Believing truth will help you learn to control your thoughts. The more you believe truth, the easier it is to identify lies before your thoughts can run wild with them. 
Ultimately, it is choice to believe the words in scripture. We have to choose to believe them when we do not feel like they are true. Trust me, when we choose to believe what God says over how we feel, our lives are transformed; we gain new strength in Him and find our roots anchoring themselves deeper and deeper in Christ. 
We can’t forget that discipline is a calling of the Christ follower (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-9, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27).  It is important to remember that our own disciplined lifestyle can help reflect our Savior to the world. We want others to desire what we have inside of us, but if we are not diligent to develop discipline, we will be hard pressed to live as those who are set apart for God’s glory. 
“But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Only through Jesus can we develop the healthy disciplines needed to enjoy the abundant life He has for us. Scripture says, that what you sow, you will reap (Galatians 6:7-9). That means we can work diligently to become more disciplined (like starting with these steps from this series) and God will produce a harvest because of our work in His timing.  So as you work to become more disciplined and self-controlled, remember to seek out the Lord and His plan for you in it all. I pray as you do others would be drawn to the wonderful light you are reflecting. 

Don’t forget to read the rest of the discipline series by clicking here! And make sure to leave us a comment down below or on Facebook to let us know what you think! 

A Practical Guide to Daily Discipline: Going Deeper

Posted in Faith, kinsey
on January 25, 2017

“If you want to have a closer relationship with God, you need to read your Bible more.”
Sound familiar? Though this is certainly true, and perhaps the most pivotal step in developing a deeper relationship with Jesus, we must learn to implement other things into our spiritual walk with Christ as we desire to grow and mature in Him. Going deeper always means giving more — giving more of yourself, more of your time and more of your heart. Just as He wants to be our everything (because He knows that He is what’s best for us), Jesus wants our everything in return, not just a small portion of our day we set aside to read His Word. Therefore, we must be diligent to weave Him into our hearts and minds throughout the day and in multiple ways, continually and intentionally making Him the focus of our lives.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We want to go deeper with Jesus, but something often hinders us. Either we aren’t quite sure where to start, or we burn out when what we’re doing doesn’t seem to be working. So to encourage you in this journey to know Jesus better, I’ve detailed three practical concepts in hopes that they can help you as well as they have helped me in strengthening my own relationship with the Lord.
Have a Study Plan  

It’s easy to look at the Bible and feel a bit overwhelmed at where to start. It’s not exactly a quick read. The best way to approach God’s Word is by first praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you, then mapping out a plan on what you want to learn. If you start reading the Bible without a plan, you will often get lost in it and quit. However, when you have something you’re trying to work towards, it will motivate you on the tough days. Having a plan will also allow you to see your progress and encourage you to continue. A Bible study is a great tool for getting into the habit of studying the Word by breaking down scripture in a structured and guided way. (If you’re looking for a place to start, I would recommend any study by Beth Moore or Kelly Minter.) Although if you strictly just want to read the Bible, I would suggest going through Writing the Word with us here at The Front Porch. It’s a simple format that guides you slowly through a book or specific topic each month, allowing you to write out and pray through a group of verses each day. You can also share what you’re learning and the encouragement you receive in your writing with other women on our website who are taking the same journey through scripture that you are. With Writing the Word, you’ll always have someone
Whichever way you choose to dive into scripture, make sure it’s something you can keep up with. When you bite off more than you can chew, you can’t properly digest everything God’s Word can teach you. It’s okay to start slow — have a plan and stick with it!
Set Reminders

The biggest thing I have to remind myself to do is pray. It’s easy to remember to pray for myself and even those I love, but it’s not so easy to remember to be in prayer for our nation or God’s mission and will for our world. I desired to develop the habit of praying for these things, and since I have to remind myself to do everything else, I decided to try to remind myself to pray. I have two reminders to pray a day. One I created on the reminder app on my phone. It goes off two times a day to remind me to pray for God to raise up laborers to go into the harvest in specific cities that God has placed on my heart. I was asked to pray this twice daily in a weekly prayer letter I receive about these cities, and it’s so cool to know that others are praying this alongside me and we get to see together how God is answering that prayer through these weekly updates.
The other reminder I have is to pray for unreached people groups across the world. I use the app “JP Unreached.” Each day, the app gives me a new people group to pray for that has yet to hear the Gospel of Jesus in that country. You can set up a notification on the app to remind you to pray each day. I chose for mine to notify me right as I’m starting my quiet time each morning; that way I can pray during my regular prayer time.
Is there something you have really wanted to pray for or do regularly and just cannot remember? Create a recurring reminder on your phone, and watch as it grows into a daily discipline without you having to do the work of remembering!
Redeem the Time

What exactly does that mean? Basically, redeeming the time is identifying moments during the day where you can make the most of the quiet/alone time you have and do something to help yourself grow spiritually. If we really look at it, we have more “free” time on our hands than we think. For example, the Lord showed me that between getting ready in the mornings and driving to work, I have a lot more alone time than I thought. So I decided to take advantage of that and redeem that time by listening to podcasts of sermons. Now, I listen to four sermons a week by wonderful pastors that I would normally never “have time” to listen to. It allows me to grow spiritually and set my mind on the things above (Colossians 3:2) as I prepare for my day.
Now, everyone’s time looks different depending on the season that they are in in their lives. So, it is important for you to find that time to redeem consistently and know that even if it is just a few minutes a day, it will add up overtime. Just by praying in the car on the way to work (instead of listening to the radio) and reading your Bible five to ten minutes each night before bed (instead of aimlessly scrolling through your news feed), you are choosing to honor the Lord with your time, and He will bless you in that significantly.
These are just three small things that I have found to help me grow spiritually, and my prayer is that they take you deeper with Jesus as well. John 15: 4-5 says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” As branches, we can only grow and produce the fruit we desire by remaining in Jesus, our Vine. He is the source of life and gives us the ability to live as He has called us to.  As we learn to discipline ourselves to grow deeper with Jesus, we learn to remain in Him and it begins to show in all areas of our lives.

If you have not done so, I would also encourage you to read part one of our series on discipline. If you couple these three concepts with the practices discussed in part one, you will be blown away, not only with how much more disciplined you become in all areas of your life, but by what Jesus can do when you give Him your full attention and whole-heartedly seek Him.

Want to read Kinsey’s first installment in this Discipline series? Click here!