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Beautiful: My Story

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Thank you to “Photos by Heather”

By Taler Ray

Photo Credit: “Photos by Heather”

We all long to feel beautiful and somehow those 9 letters are the epitome of worth to most women around the world. Have you ever thought about how important in essence the word beautiful is? This word either empowers or destroys. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, we probably all have and if we are honest we base our level beauty and worth by what culture says. Today we have social media, magazines, commercials etc. to thank for “idols” that clearly and visually, state clearly how little our hearts and passions matter.  Because to the world we are how we look the definition of who we are depends on it.  But friends….”beautiful” really isn’t an adjective that supports the noun. Being beautiful is a verb.

Beauty by social standard has destroyed and woman’s heart and I am a victim. 

Unknown-5Yes, I finally said it. I have been a victim of society and the media when it comes to feeling beautiful, but not until recently did I realize how deep these influences have affected my heart. For so many years I have tried to pretend I knew what it felt like to love myself, to feel completely confident and pretty-but I was so very wrong. My standards of beauty have been skewed by the world and the devil. He is always seeking to destroy. I have struggled with my weight and outer body image my whole life, but didn’t address it. Instead I allowed the devil to capitalize on my insecurities but worse was the denial that covered them.

I neglected the aching in my heart to feel beautiful and shoved my insecurity to the depths of my soul, hoping no one would ever find it

But, Jesus did. He found & revealed them. Jesus dug out my deepest insecurities and put them on display. Ultimately, he showed me that I failed to realize that my struggle with being beautiful was keeping me from being the truest version he created. I had been lying to myself for years, but lie I will no more.

Being pre-diabetic since high school, I have never really been healthy. Loosing weight was hard, no matter how healthy I ate. Returning from my first year of college heavier and more in denial than ever I was headed for type 2 diabetes which is hereditary. I knew that I had to make a change, but I just felt trapped in these chains of self-pity, guilt and frustration. I started baby steps and took the advice of my dear friend Claire and started approaching exercise totally different. As an act of worship. It was during one of my runs in early May that I finally surrendered my burden of self-image to Jesus. I surrendered the lies that Satan and culture. My chains were broken and set free through Jesus.

Being broken is not fun, and I am slowly beginning to be made “WHOLE” in the Lord. For so many years I had failed to understand that my body is a temple and when I neglect it, I neglect my relationship with Jesus. Following him means I must also honor my body; for it I do not I am dishonoring the Holy Spirit whom dwells within me. I’m learning that only when I surrender my flesh can I begin to be shaped into something new.  The new that is revealed through God’s glory and grace.

I love the message version of 1 Corinthians 6:19 & 20 which says

“Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”

As I close I can admit that for so long I let my insecurities and society define me as unworthy of being a beautiful creation. But through the convictions, trials and triumph I can hear the Creator whisper to me, saying:

Beloved, you are my masterpiece.”Unknown-3

Choose to live life as a beautiful verb because we are not called to let others define our worth. We are called to live as he has defined us: beloved. 

In Christ Jesus,

Taler Ray

To read more of Taler’s awesome posts you can go to a New Adventure Each Day.  God has his hand on this young lady and I look forward to having her back again to share her wisdom.

Thank you to “Photos by Heather”  or on Facebook

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“Women In Worship” part 2 (Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom)

Welcome back to “Women In Worship”

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 11.33.35 AMToday I want to share with you another amazing woman of God. This post is going to be different from my others and soon you will see what I mean. Meet Kari who along with Whitney from yesterday’s post is on worship team at my church. She got her bachelor’s degree from Chapman University in Orange, CA, majoring in Music Therapy, with a minor in psychology and she has been married to her husband for 7 years. She says that her husband is, and I quote, “One of God’s very obvious demonstrations of extravagant love for me in this life”

Since returning to her walk with Christ 7 years ago, Kari has had the chance to serve in the worship ministry at Living Faith in La Mirada, CA. and she found time to serve at an outreach ministry to battered, abused, and homeless women and children at the Women’s Transitional Living Center in Orange County.  Now Kari serves on the worship team at City Life Church in Spokane, WA along with her husband Mark.

For now, her most important ministry is her children and you can really tell that her heart for worship is pouring into the lives of her kids. Just recently when Kari was leading worship my mom got my attention to look across the church. There in his aunt’s arms was Kari’s oldest who is almost going to turn 3 singing all the words to “Forever Reign” and he was not just singing the words you could tell he understood what he was singing. Kari by putting her family first she is serving God in the most powerful way and I think there may be a future ministry leader in her little boy. Kari shared with me that some day when her children are older and in God’s perfect timing she hopes to start an outreach for abused/homeless/mentally ill women and children, much like the one she served in during her time in CA.

This past Christmas our church had its first children’s program thanks to Kari. It is just one more way God has her serving his kingdom.Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 12.03.29 PM

As I wrote at the beginning of this, I am writing about Kari differently than normal. That is because Kari gave me such powerful words about the importance of worship that I don’t want to change a thing. She has a wonderful teaching that everyone can learn from so without further ado I am turning this over to Kari, my first guest writer within in a post I am writing. May her words write a new song upon your heart and give you a new perspective on the importance of worship.

Why is worship important to me by Kari Villarreal.

“We all know there are many ways to worship God. We worship Him with our lives, our work, our finances, our devotion, our time, our relationships…we can commit anything we do unto Him as worship! The value and importance of worship through music has several facets. My pastor in California always reminded us as we would begin corporate worship that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV). What an amazing thing!

The definition of ‘inhabit’ is, “to occupy as a place of settled residence or habitat; to be present in or occupy in any manner or form”. So when we praise Him, His very Presence actually takes up residence in those praises! Worship through music is one way we welcome His Presence into our places of worship…and there is nothing greater in this life than being in the very Presence of Almighty God! I love to imagine, as I look out over a body of believers united in praising God as they sing worship unto Him, seeing His Presence dwelling there in the room as the words and music are lifted up to Him. Jesus actually “hangin’ out” in the words that leave His people’s mouths and float just above them…maybe it sounds kind of strange to some, but that’s just a way that I visualize this very cool truth.

The other important aspect of worship through music that I want to address here is related to the first. So, God inhabits the praises of His people…and where His light is, darkness is driven out. I was in a season for several years of battling depression and anxiety. Part of this is biological/hormonal, but it is certainly spiritual as well; ‘darkness’ is how I have described it (and I’m sure anyone else who has walked through it could say something similar). During this season, God has shown me in many times and in many ways how worship to Him is a weapon against the darkness that fights to consume me. Most days, in order to keep my heart focused on Him as I go about taking care of my husband, my 3 ½ year old, my 1-year-old, and my home, I keep worship music playing and am singing along with it. I have found it keeps my mouth and mind busy at the same time I offer praise and indeed, my God inhabits that praise, driving away the darkness that pales in comparison to His glorious light.

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Photo credit to Tricia Marker, City Life women’s retreat

It is difficult to give any kind of abbreviated writing about worship for me. Worship through music (one of the many ways, of course, to worship God) has been such a hugely important element in my walk with Christ and is so multi-faceted. In my short life I feel like I could already write a book on worship—not of all that I know, but of all that He has done through it and in me. One of my pastors used to say, “Worship is a response.” A response to Jesus who He is, what He has done, His love for us…(the list goes on and on). When our lives are personally touched by the Creator and Savior of mankind, there is a response that comes genuinely; that response, in whatever form it takes, is worship. The challenge for some Christians (myself absolutely included) is to always be in that state of awe over who Christ is, so that our lives become a response—worship. He has done for us, we respond in worship. We love because He first loved us!

The bible talks so much about praising the Lord with song and instruments, singing and shouting, crying and bowing, dancing and kneeling. I think this ties right in to worship being a response. As God has created us each so uniquely, He has opened the door for our worshipful responses to be unique, genuine, and true to how He has created us to worship Him.

There’s a trap we as believers can fall into, that says worship should look a certain way. That certain way varies from church to church and denomination to denomination. We’ve all been in different types of worship services. Maybe it was a little too conservative for your taste. Maybe to the contrary, you thought people were too “free” in their expressions. Maybe it was a simple acoustic service with only a guitar, a singer, and a djembe. Maybe it was a full on 15-piece rock band. I’ve been there too. You’re out of your comfort zone or preference for worship music. The amazing thing is that when His people are gathered in spirit and truth to lift up and exalt the same God that dwells in each of them, His very Presence is there! When He is present, not much else matters. Not that when we worship Him, it is at all about us, but in His fullness, as we pour out and offer sacrifices of praise and adoration, we can fully expect to receive because that is the heart of God. Our hearts have to remain humble, open, and in awe of our God in order to genuinely worship and to receive.

This is a lesson that I am continually learning—letting go of my comfortable worship and seeking to exalt Him above ALL, regardless of the song, the surroundings, the volume, or the instrumentation. From the little progress I have made, I encourage you to step out on a limb and offer your life as a response—the response that He is desiring from you!

I came across a quote the other day that said, “When we worship the Lord, we release the emotional or mental burden that weighs us down. It is swallowed up in the awesomeness of God.” Yes! I thought. This is exactly one of the many reasons that worship is important. When I go before the Lord God Almighty to exalt Him to His rightful place, my burdens become so small in the view of His glory and majesty! –Kari.

I hope you take these powerful words of Kari’s to heart and worship God without holding back. “Step out on a limb” as Kari said.

Until next time on “The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom”, may you be blessed by the Love of Christ.

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Women In Worship – “The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom” series

Welcome back to the real housewives of God’s Kingdom Today I want to introduce you to a couple of women who have a talent that I have do not possess, Whitney and Kari. Just ask anyone who has sat by me in worship, they will tell you I cannot sing but these two ladies can.

 “Women In Worship” is the theme of this 2-part episode.

Meet Whitney. This newly married young women went to Southwestern Assemblies of God University where she got a Bachelor of Arts degree in Church Ministries, an Associate of Arts degree in Bible, and an emphasis in World Missions. She is a blog writer and has blessed my page with a guest post and I have to say for someone so young she is full of some great wisdom.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.44.47 AMWhitney has been blessed with the gift of singing and she makes a beautiful noise to the Lord unlike myself. I think I sound more like an animal in pain when I open my mouth but that has not stopped me from worshiping as Whitney and the rest of my church’s worship team leads us.   I asked Whitney to share with me something God has shown her during her time on the worship team and I love what she shared with me,

“Something God has shown me during a worship time and continues to show me, something that I am learning to make a habit to be joyful. God shows me that joy is dependent on what happens inside of our heart, not our lives. This is huge. Everyone faces tough times, sometimes-tough days, sometimes-tough weeks, and sometimes-tough years… God asks us to leave all of those burdens and hardships at the altar and, depend on Him, and trust Him fully to take care of those burdens. He asks us to not worship with our mouths, but with our hearts. Everyone can read lyrics up on a screen, anyone can stand in front of a congregation and sing words but it takes a true follower of Christ to worship the King of Kings with all of our heart, and to lead others to do the same. The joy of the Lord really is my (our) strength and he daily reminds me (us) of this, but only when I (we) TRUST Him and LET Him!”

This is so true. We are all going to face some hard times but when we can worship God with our whole heart not just following along with the words on the screen God comes rushing into fill us with His joy. In the middle of our pain a tear cried in worship, a raised hand to the Lord when that is all the strength we can muster up is the most beautiful gift of surrender to Him. He is not listening to the notes we are singing he can only hear the cry of our heart in our worship to him.

When Whitney is not leading us in worship or at home with her new husband of less than a year she can be found serving as a Nurse’s Aide for Horizon Hospice where she helps with the terminally ill. Whitney says that for some clients she is just a hand to hold in a very difficult time, both for the patient, and for their family. For others, she helps them with all of their activities for daily living. Something she said has really got my attention and I am going to back the bus up for a moment. She said for some I am “just” a hand to hold.  “JUST” a hand to hold?  Whitney’s hand is not just a hand to hold. It is in those moments that I believe God is using her to be a reflection of the love, peace, comfort and strength to someone who may not know the love of Christ. Have you heard the expression, “Christ with skin on”? That to me is exactly what she is. In her flesh, her skin, she is the extending the hand of Christ Himself.

Whitney also helps with the Youth in the church and when you look at all her ways of serving The Lord they line up perfectly with her favorite verse. Colossians 3:23 ” Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”

She says, – I’m not doing “this” for me, whatever “this” may be, whether it’s leading worship, or anything for Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 9.06.20 AMthat matter, this verse always brings me back, it always points me to God, and is a wonderful reminder that everything I do is unto Him, is to glorify His name, is to make Him known, it has nothing to do with me!”

It was that verse that also carried her though the most physically intense time of her life, riding 450 miles in 5 days on a bicycle to raise money and awareness for the organization Blood Water Mission and people in Africa who are in desperate need of clean drinking water wells. She apparently is not overly fond of bike riding but did this anyways to raise awareness and her story about this can be found on her blog post “Bike for Life”

This amazing “Real housewife of God’s Kingdom” plans on continuing her education and would like to be an Elementary teacher someday which will be yet one more way for her to shine the light of Christ. Until it is time for her to head back to school she will continue to bless many with her gift of worship. Those hands that she raises to Christ as she sings will also continue to be the same hands that she extends to those who are terminally ill.

Thank you Whitney for your amazing service in the kingdom and the worship you lead others in. You are truly one amazing “Real Housewife of God’s Kingdom”.

Just click here to read Whitney’s guest post about being “Picture Perfect” and I’ll see you back tomorrow where we will get to know Kari, another woman in worship.

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Act 2 “Preachin’it and Teachin’ it”, Episode 6

59020_4508193394536_906363613_nToday we finish episode 6 with Act 2 of Teachin’ and Preachin’.  If you did not get yesterdays post you can use this link to Act 1.

Pastor Karli’s story about listening to God is a beautiful testimony but, before we get to that let me first set the stage and get you acquainted with our next Real Housewife of God’s Kingdom. She is a mother of 3. She has 2 boys; one who is graduating from College and another who is a junior in College. The youngest is her daughter, a senior in High School. This June she will celebrate 25 years of marriage to her wonderful husband.

Karli spends many hours each week as the Kitchen Coordinator at her daughter’s high school and after that job is done, she puts her dual degree from Eastern Washington University in Microbiology and Medical Technology to use as biology and chemistry tutor

Both Karli and Dawn (see Act 1) have very powerful testimonies and I wish I had more time to tell them. Sadly, you get the summarized version of both these incredible ladies.

Karli was involved with a local deaf church where she taught, and preached to the deaf. She has participated in a mission trip to Dominican Republic to assist in the establishing of a deaf school and a new deaf church there. At her present church she was a Missionette leader, worship team member, and currently an adult Sunday school teacher.

I asked her when she knew that she was to become a pastor and Karli shared with me that is has been a journey to this place…

“A journey of many ups and downs, many experiences. Questioning and lots of time before God in prayer brought me to the place to answer this call. A pastor, whom I respect as a friend, mentor, as well as a spiritual father, saw something and encouraged me to continue throughout the years.  While my children were in high school, a stirring began in my heart that told me that it was time to pursue the answering of the call. I attended our church bible institute and completed it in 2 1/2 years. Recently, I have completed the credentialing process and am now a licensed minister through the Assemblies of God.”

Karli is not the head pastor at her church but she is in a supportive role to her pastor. She told me that she would step in and assist him in whatever needed to be done as The Lord leads and she currently teaching the adults Sunday class and occasionally Wednesday Night as needed. On Monday nights this real housewife of God’s Kingdom blesses our bible study with her love for the Lord.

Besides being a Pastor, Mom, Wife, Tutor, and running the kitchen at the school, Karli finds time to read, decorate cakes, do some one on one mentoring and she loves sports. Sounds like a lot of moms’ right? Things are not always what they appear to be however, Karli also has a 75% hearing loss in left ear and 80% loss in right ear. It was caused by rubella in her mother’s first trimester of her pregnancy. This was discovered after her family moved back to the states from Chile. Karli would then attended an oral deaf school where she received daily intense speech therapy. “Lip reading came naturally to me during this time” she said.  In 1973, Karli was mainstreamed into the public school system where her speech improved so much that people couldn’t tell that she is hearing impaired.  I can attest to that. I was blown away when I realized this. I still have to remember to look at Karli when we talk because she can so easily appear to have no hearing issues and I am gently reminded when she give me the signal to look at her.

Today I am going to wrap this up differently than I have done my other episodes. Today I want Karli’s powerful words to be the last thing you read. I hope to see you back next month on the Real housewives of God’s Kingdom and I leave you with this…..

I asked Karli to give me her favorite verse and she could not nail it down to just one. She says, “There are many favorite verses that I have and each one applied to each season or time in my life”.  For this however she choose Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn, to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

“You see, I have been deaf since birth.  God has blessed me with residual hearing that with hearing aids, I 4561_1068094313910_7828890_nam able to hear most of everything.  My eyes do most of the listening for me through lip-reading”.

A young man once asked me, “If you’re deaf, how can you hear God’s voice?”

“I told him that there are no barriers when it comes to hearing His voice.  God speaks to us through the ears of our heart.  His voice is gentle, compassionate, loving.  He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.  He will speak to us when we come to Him anytime, anywhere. Just come as a child.  He will not force His way to get you to hear Him. He patiently and eagerly waits for us to come to Him.  It is when we listen closely to His voice and obey Him; we grow in our relationship with Him.  I may have a physical hearing loss; I can hear Him by His Spirit within me.  As we listen more and more, his voice becomes unmistakably clear and able to resist the enemy. Let nothing stop you from spending time in His presence and listening to Him.  He wants this so desperately. He is waiting.  Won’t you go and ask Him to speak to you and help you to hear for Him at all times. A treasure is waiting to be opened.”  Pursue Him! Hear Him! He loves you!

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Episode 6, Act 1 “Preachin’ it and Teachin’ it”

Welcome back to the Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom.  In our last episode we met two women who literally gave of themselves for the goodness of another.  They both gave a kidney to a total stranger and gave them the gift of life.

In keeping with the idea of giving oneself to another I want to introduce you to Pastor Dawn  and Pastor Karli. Dawn is not a stranger to my Heartfelt Ramblings page.  She was my first guest writer when I kicked my page off in the fall of 2013.

Now let me start by saying I know these women personally and God has used them in very big ways in my life. So may I have your undivided attention, insert drum roll… Welcome to Episode 6 “Preachin’ it and Teachin’ it”

Did you catch what I said at the beginning?  They are PASTORS. These two women have been called to give of themselves to serve others. Now we are all called to give of ourselves yes however, some people are called to be pastors. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Cor 12:4-6

579189_438861032830506_512536406_nDim the lights and ready on set….Enter Pastor Dawn.

Those of you that know Dawn, will agree with me, dynamite comes in small packages.  I have been blessed to listen to Dawn speak and she may not be much taller than the pulpit but when she speaks you know that God is using her in a mighty way.

Dawn told me that she knew she wanted to be a pastor from the age of 8 but that in His timing He would grow her with marriage and motherhood first.  Along the way God would also walk with Dawn as she faced some tragedies.  It was not until she was in her mid-30’s that she would get to start her studies.  I met Dawn, as she was finishing up her schooling in 2002.  Dawn was one of the women that God used over weekend retreat where I would give my life to Him.

As I type this I can’t help but smile when I read Dawn’s favorite verse. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  I am smiling because thankfully God had some big plans for me the weekend I meet Dawn.  His plans for me have truly given me hope for my future and Dawn says that the verse 
reminds her, “He is always with me and it is my go to verse”.

Dawn is a commissioned pastor and she did her studying through the Christian Church/DOC through their Licensing/Commissioning Committee in the Northwest Region. That process took her 3 years before she was granted a license. On top of that there were readings and reports to do. Dawn currently lives in the Midwest and in the Midwest Area/Mid America Region she has monthly mentor meetings. Currently Dawn is enrolled in classes through Grand Canyon University and through Mid America School of Religion.

If I were to pick a song to describe Dawn it would be

“Hands and Feet” by Audio Adrenaline

I want to be your hands

I want to be your feet

I’ll go where you send me

After being commissioned she was an Associate Pastor at Kennewick First Christian for 2 years, then moved to Ephrata, Washington to Memorial Christian Church for 7 years as solo pastor/youth pastor/secretary and then moved to Missouri to pastor 2 yoked congregations. Dawn is now the solo pastor with a staff of a secretary and janitors

I asked her what she has learned as a pastor and challenged her to sum it up in 1 paragraph and we can all learn from what she said.

“He never gives up on us no matter where we are in our lives. Don’t fear to share your story and be transparent. Through tragedy, death, fear and triumph, joy and hope, He is my all in all, my Abba.”

Dawn’s sence of humor can been seen when she talks about her family. She calls them the “mix n match crew” She has a 
38-year-old stepdaughter in Nampa, ID
 and 27-year-old son who is a Staff Sgt in the Army National Guard and has seen 3 tours. He just recently transferred as a guard to the Airway Heights Prison in Spokane. 
Next in line from oldest to youngest is her 26-year-old son who works in Calgary as a project manner for an oil company
 and her 23-year-old foster daughter who lives in Everett, Washington. 
We are only getting started here folks.  Her mix and match crew also consists of a 22-year-old foster son in MO (He is not living in their home now) a 12-year-old adopted son and a 
9-year-old, soon to be adopted girl.  Dawn’s heart for children is over flowing with love and because of that her and her husband have also opened there home to a 13-year-old foster daughter and a 
4-year-old foster son.  In the last 4 years they have had 15 kids come and go through their home.

At the young age of 48 Dawn is also a grandma of seven foster, step and biological grandchildren ages: 19, 17, 16, 13, 11, 4 and 2. This midlife domestic goddess is exhausted just typing that.  Now just imagine if you had to balance your job, and a huge family like the mix and match crew but you had to do it with a body that had it’s own challenges.  This amazing housewife of God’s Kingdom is faced daily with that issue. Dawn wakes up each day with a body that has lots of healing to do after experiencing two strokes to the brain stem.

She says she feels blessed to have survived and to be whom and what she is today. The strokes have made her a different person. Just getting dressed can be a challenge and there are struggles to walk and use her left side and arm. “God does have a sense of humor as he has left me with the gift of speech. I think my husband might have enjoyed a few more months of quiet” says Dawn.

We all have many identities we go by. Many titles we answer too. The titles I carry are wife, mother, 972755_10151769818418992_2021631322_ndaughter, sister, pastor, child of God and the latest title stroke survivor. Some I enjoy, some I am called to be, and others carry a weight. Taken from Dawn’s Guest post, “My Identity, His Glory”

As I said earlier, Dynamite comes in small packages and Dawn if one powerful explosion of God’s strength within someone. As we bring Act 1, “Pastor Dawn” to an end I want to leave you with this quote from her.

“I am just me. I was chosen by God to speak His word. It is scary and terrifying at times. I am disliked by some, judged, ridiculed to be a woman in ministry. I have received hate mail. I don’t argue with those who disagree with that viewpoint, as they don’t want their viewpoint changed. I just love God, love people and try to show the Christ in me.”

Dawn is just one more amazing “Real housewife of God’s Kingdom” to learn more about her and her inspiring story as a two-time stroke survivor, check out her guest post “My identity, His glory”

I hope to see you back tomorrow for Act 2 with Pastor Karli 🙂

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Looking picture perfect doesn’t mean everything’s picture perfect

Guest post by Whitney Kuhn

1425737_10202673563387267_604091435_nI have happily carried the title of wife for just about 6 months now, half a year. It’s a great feeling to be called wife. I am definitely still in the honeymoon season of my marriage, that year of newlywed where when we go out in public, you can still see that just married glow upon our faces. It’s a really fun time. Marriage is absolutely awesome! It truly is the time of my life. Let’s be honest, I’ve only been dreaming about these days since I was about, oh, six years old. And I’ve only been day dreaming about these days with my husband, Jacob, since I first developed a major crush on him in the 9th grade. Yes, we are “that” couple. That couple that met in the wee years of middle school, fell in love in high school, were high school sweethearts, were Prom King and Queen, that couldn’t seem to let go when college days came around. And now, here today, we have the privilege of saying that we made it through all those formative years of our lives, those years where we faced many challenges, many obstacles, a lot of immaturity, together, and now have the honor of being husband and wife for the rest of our lives!

It’s funny. People hear our story and how long we’ve been together, and they automatically think that we’ve got it made! They automatically say something along the lines of “I hope that I can find someone someday, and have exactly what you guys have.” We look picture perfect on the surface. And believe me; I am beyond touched by this reaction by others. But I have to admit something. It’s not all fun and games in marriage. I know, I am saying that even after only six months of marriage. But it is true. 425324_10201450881060973_2072547055_nMarriage is a blast, but marriage is also pretty hard. Our marriage is far from perfect. I think this is a hard thing for couples to admit to others, especially couples who are in the church. It is hard to admit, because we want to set the ultimate example for those around us. We don’t want to disappoint or let people down. Truth is nobody has marriage down perfectly. Nor will anybody ever have marriage down perfectly. This is because everyone has weaknesses. We are all imperfect, and we carry that into our relationships, and our marriages. Weaknesses are normal. That being said, we must have grace, forgiveness, and genuine understanding for one another. Colossians 4:6 (NIV) says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Maybe hearing that marriage is hard is discouraging, it shouldn’t be! The challenges1461095_10202673578227638_1377933885_n make us stronger, and together. They help us grow and be better. As we are being made better with the help and example of our Heavenly Father, we are growing closer to Him, and as we are growing closer to God, we are growing closer to each other. It is a beautiful thing. In the NASB version of the Bible, Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” And Philippians 2:5 says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Believe me, we have our differences. My husband and I argue. In fact, we’re pretty good at arguing. Yeah, we’ve only been married half a year, but everyone argues, whether you’ve been married for a year, or 50 years. Arguing is normal and healthy even. It means you’re communicating with each other, and being open and honest. It’s good and healthy to share your emotions with your spouse. It’s how we do these things that will make a marriage healthy, or unhealthy. It’s a matter of learning how to argue right.

Some lessons I’ve learned so far in marriage:

Lesson 1: Good communication is how I communicate.

It is the nonverbal that takes place in conversation and communication383537_10201450894821317_1698823439_n that is perhaps more important than the verbal part. This is something that I have to work on and remind myself of everyday. My facial expressions are so important. This is something I don’t naturally and automatically pay much attention to. It is my weakness, but it is so crucially important. The way I carry myself in communication is very important.

Lesson 2: It’s okay that my husband likes to be alone sometimes.

This does not mean, I repeat, this does not mean he doesn’t love me1456647_10202673598468144_1799676549_n (or you) anymore. I must respect my husband. As his wife, I have to choose to support my husband, in everything. I have to choose to respect his space, to support his decision to make plans to do something that may not include me. This is okay, and this is healthy. Marriage is a new adjustment in life, an adjustment where a couple goes from seeing each other just sometimes when they make time in their single lives and personal schedules, to married life, where the couple sees each other all of the time. We have the privilege of waking up in the mornings together, of going to sleep next to each other every night. That being said, we experience each other’s company a lot in marriage. It is all going to be okay if he decides he wants to be alone every once in a while, it does not mean he loves me less, but it is something that I, as a wife, should embrace, respect, and support. I heard this quote once, that “blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape.” My husband may make plans without me sometimes, it is not the end of the world if he does this, and how I react, or don’t react rather, speaks volumes to my respect for him. I should always be embracing the differences between my husband and me.

Lesson 3: Be reasonable.

74911_10202673600268189_1903000353_nI’ve learned how selfish I am after entering into marriage. I’ve realized it has honestly been all about me, and now it’s supposed to be about him? It’s so important to learn to be more selfless within marriage. Old ways won’t open new doors. I cannot automatically jump into defense mode when a disagreement arises between my husband and me. I can’t point a finger; it is not attractive by any means, and it means I am thinking about myself before him. I have to own my crud, and with no excuses. He will own his too, but I should be more concerned about him and his feelings, not myself. Change is definitely a process, and it comes little by little. Selfishness can be no more; there isn’t room for that in my marriage.

Lesson 4: Be the girl, let him be the man.

I have found myself trying to hide my emotions in a sense, in hopes of not 527336_10200462602394624_1599895718_ncoming off as too emotional, causing my husband to perhaps be overwhelmed with being married to such a girly girl. But he needs me to be the girl, so he can be the man, not having to worry about having to make up for my lack in the relationship. Sometimes it is hard for me to say how I feel, in fear of being rejected. He wants to know how I feel, and not later, but right now. He wants to know that even though I may be annoyed about him leaving the toilet seat up, that he is still my knight in shining armor, that he is the person that I look up to more than anybody else in the world. He wants to know how respected and appreciated he is.

Lesson 5: Look ahead.

575513_10201450901341480_1369569634_nLike I said before, it is normal to carry weaknesses, to have struggles, and to remember baggage you have carried in the past. Don’t look back though; you’re not going that way. Don’t dwell on past hurts or baggage. What good is that going to do? Look ahead, the future is bright! The future is exciting. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Like I said before, looking picture perfect doesn’t necessarily mean everything’s picture perfect. We’ve already faced some challenges, and it’s only the beginning. But, I’ve got to say, the challenges and new revelations that marriage brings only make it that much more sweet and more worth every single moment that we share, with God as our center. I can only imagine how much sweeter it gets over time. Thank you Lord for marriage!

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The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom, Episode 2

Welcome back to The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom.  As I said in Episode 1 I have done this series to show that what we see in the reality shows like, The Real Housewives of this city or that city, is not a reality to most women.  I am writing this series to show that there is a whole different reality in the everyday lives of women in this country and it is not at all like what the TV shows portray.  We are the Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom. Fame is not our goal.  We want to glorify God in what we do.  We don’t care that our lives are not what the world and the networks see as worthy of TV time.

 “Two are better than one”

One of the greatest gifts God gives us is the gift of friendship.  If you are blessed to have one friend you are truly blessed!!!

Two are better than one, because when they have good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Both myself and my writing buddy Cassie of Cassie’s Corner are blessed to have good friends in our lives who can pick us up when we fall down. The laugh both with us and at us! They are there to be the arms of Christ when we need a hug and the voice of God when we need wisdom.

Krista is one of the best friends I have ever had.  She is a mother of 2, a wive of 19 years and one 72478_1613587227044_78921_nof the busiest sports moms I know. I met her when our girls were in Kindergarten and the first thing I saw in her was her servant’s heart.  She is also one of those people who always finds the positive in a bad situation. God has used her not only in the school where she has given countless hours of service but  she has also served in Children’s Ministry, The Food Bank, College Group, Youth Group, women’s bible study, and other outreaches. I asked her what her favorite scripture was she told me it was Philippians 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. It is that scripture that has carried Krista through some painful things one of those things is her health. Krista has both Factor V Leiden and Sjogren’s Syndrome.  Her body hurts and she never complains. She has been a rock in my life and thank God for her.

 255204_4465771452775_1756098272_n2 Tim 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart is favorite scripture of your next real housewife of God’s kingdom.  Nina (on the right) is a young mom of a sweet little boy who also has a heart for the Lord.  She has been married for 6 years and she has been the inspiration behind one of my other blog posts. Nina currently runs the children program at her church (one of the most important ministries there is). She is also a student and a stay at home mom. In her 20’s she served as a high school youth leader and God has also taken her on mission trips to Mexico.  Nina has a very sweet spirit and a great sense of humor which makes her a very fun woman to be around.

She can often be found with her friend Cassie of “Cassie’s Corner” who I am honored to have as a writer on my page.   They are two of the feistiest women of the Lord I know and I love this picture of them.  The saying a picture is worth a thousand words is so true. The two of them share a very special friendship and they are very powerful set of prayer warriors. Cassie blesses those who read my blog with a post each month. If you want to see some of Cassie’s wisdom go to  “Cassie’s Corner”.

I hope you give thanks for your friends, laugh with them until you cry, pray for them, listen to them, and never be afraid to tell them you need prayer yourself.

A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow. – William Shakespeare

Proverbs 27:17, As iron sharpens iron, so one man (woman) sharpens another.
A knife can not sharpen it’s self.  It takes iron to sharpen iron and a good friend can help you to be stronger and happier. Wisdom shared from one friend to another is much like the iron sharpening iron

 

Take a moment today and thank God for the women He has put in your life.  The women who have seen you at your worst and love you like they have only seen you at your best.  God has given us friendship so that we can hold each other up, so that we have someone to share our joys with and arms to hold us during our pain.

Be sure to tune in next week for another episode of the Real housewives of God’s Kingdom: “I will go where you send me” about 3 friends who were willing to move to new cities to plant 3 different churches.

To learn more about Cassie and I just click here: about us    Blessings:)

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We all need a hero

I don’t know a lady that didn’t play dress up at least once as a little girl. As little girls we all dream of our wedding day, we plan that day out in our mind right down to the last detail. We see ourselves marrying the perfect man. A Hero, a Knight in shining armor. As women, we all have our favorite movies and most likely in our top movies choices there is a woman who needs to be saved, romanced and made to feel beautiful.

Robin Hood and The Last of the Mohicans are at the top of my list in that department. The fact is that they are movies and not real life. I am happily married but my husband has never swung through a window on a rope to rescue me, there has never been a need for him to carry a bow and arrow or a sword. We have never ridden off into the sunset on a white horse with my beautiful long hair blowing in the wind, and my perfect body tucked tightly in his arms. (I know this because I don’t have long hair and I am not a super model)

The song by Bonnie Tyler goes:

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night

He’s gotta be strong

And he’s gotta be fast

And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

Come on, ladies, admit it–you all know what I am talking about, we are romantic at heart. Why do you think we have chick flicks and romance novels?  One of the best romance novels I have ever read was Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. My daughter and her friends have passed the book around also.  Face it, ladies; it is how we are built. Our feminine side cries out to be protected, loved and treated as if we are the only girl in the world.

Unfortunately, we live in a broken world and many of us never had fathers who protected us, many of us have had unhealthy marriages, and we feel we don’t deserve any better. It is sad, but many of us feel that. Women and girls have been fed a mixed up version of what womanhood is. We have been told to be strong, we don’t need a man, and we can take care of ourselves. We have had the world’s view of a beautiful woman ingrained into us and have been taught by the media, that sex is where it is. We often strive so hard to be perfect in the world’s eyes, independent and strong, that we have forgotten how to be feminine and how to let the men in our lives be masculine and be our heroes.

We dive into the romance novels and movies to fill that sense of loss. As I was reading the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge for my book group at church (it is about finding the beauty that Jesus sees in all of us as women and letting our men be our heroes) it became very clear to me that I was trying so hard to be strong that I was in a sense taking away my husband’s manhood. I wasn’t letting him romance me, protect me and lead me. I was doing everything that went against what I wanted as a little girl and was acting in the way the world saw acceptable for a woman. I had a meeting with God and I asked Him to change my heart, to show me how to be the woman that he had planned for me to be, not what I thought was best. My husband was out of town and I sent him a text. (He wasn’t able to take calls at that time.)  I told him, he was my strength, that I believed in him and that I needed to tell him that more. I ended with I Love you and I got a response back so fast. It blessed me to send that text and to have him respond so fast.  It was a reality check that if I didn’t change my heart and let my husband be my hero I was going to miss out on a even deeper love for him, and in return a love that would also be poured back on me.

It is time I close my mouth more, and when I do speak I need to find kinder and gentler words. Titus 3:2 Teaches us “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” I am guessing all of you ladies that are in a relationship must have also done this to your other half at some time. I am not saying I am a bad wife, I just think I could be better and if I am willing to change, I think my husband will become an even better husband than he is already by doing this. I tell others how lucky I am to have him but I don’t always tell him that.

Ladies, God made us different from men; he had a perfect plan for a man and woman–why do we make it so hard, and try to change his plan?  I have to be honest, I want my doors opened, I want a strong man, and I want my heart to be protected. I don’t need to be rushed away on a horse and live some fun and exciting life. I just need to know my husband loves me with all his heart. I have to stop being afraid to say I need you and I have to learn that my way is not always the right way!  I have had a reality check–I don’t want the idea of a hero from the movies, I want a hero that comes from a deeper way of loving and respecting the man that God has chosen for me. My husband has protected me in many situations where I could have been hurt; he has stood up for me and made me feel safe. I know he would love to be the protector of my heart as well if I would let him.   While proof reading this, my husband told me that if you allow a man to be the man that God intended him to be, he would swim through shark infested water to bring his wife a glass of lemonade. (I don’t mean to be picky but I wonder if he would bring me a bottle of wine also). He told me that, that is how men are wired.

One day while at our book group for Captivating, a beautiful young mom and wife came to our meeting after a night that had to have been one of the most painful nights. Her mom became sick, was rushed to the hospital and before the night was over she was faced with the responsibility of taking her mom off life support. She sat there, tired and grieving. We laid hands on her and prayed for her. She shared with us that her husband had very tenderly told her that she was not going to have to go through this alone. He loves her so much and he told her that they were one. He was willing to protect her and help her carry her burdens. He was being her hero. I used to think the line “you complete me” from Jerry McGuire was one of the most romantic things ever but “we are one” is hands down the most romantic things I have ever heard. The icing on the cake was that it was real life, not some line in a movie, and the man who said it wasn’t wielding a sword or returning from the battle all rough and full of testosterone. He was a man who was pushing into his faith and ready to take whatever was thrown his way to protect the heart of the woman he loved.

A couple of us told him that he was a hero the next day at church and you could see the love he felt for his wife well up in his eyes as we told him what we thought of his words. Ladies! this man is a hero because his wife lets him be one. She is tender and allows him to rescue her. Add that with his love for the Lord and she has got the whole package. She told us that as a girl that she began praying for her husband. Okay this just keeps getting better than any romantic movie could ever be! I hope it moves your heart to want more in your marriage.

Ladies, if we would start sharing our vulnerability with our husbands I think they would be more than willing to pour out their love and passion on us. We don’t need to have the body of movie star or the hair of Julia Roberts for our husbands to love us with passion and to be our heroes. Our husbands don’t need to be some muscle bound, tough guys to be our heroes either. We just have step back and let them be men. God had a perfect plan when he made us women so different than he made men. We need to stop trying to change his plan.

My husband is that hero that I need; I am going to work on changing my heart to not be so bossy and, to stop thinking my way is the only way. Most important I am going to faithfully pray for my husband. I am so fast to pray for everyone else, I even pray for my friend’s husbands when they ask but I don’t pray for my own husband on a regular basis. That is going to change today and I pray that you will do the same for your husband. If you are in a rocky marriage and feel there is not hope left, I pray that you will push into God and start to pray for your husband and for a new and stronger love. If you are a single woman or a young lady and you are reading this, I pray that you will start praying now for the man that God has chosen for you. I have a few women in my life who don’t have a significant other but it has blessed my heart to hear one of them say that for now it is Jesus who is her boyfriend and her hero. He is all she needs and I have to say I find that downright beautiful.

Ladies heroes are not just in books and movies. Heroes are in our lives. They are our husbands our, sons, our brothers, and our friends.  They are waiting to be heroes if we would just get out of the way and allow them to be the men God intended them to be. What a blessing it would be to each of us if the men in our lives could be as God had planned and we women would be a happy to let them.

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Formed in his image

I am more than a Full-time mother and Housewife; I am the Daughter of the One True King, predestined for great things for His Kingdom. Jeremiah 1:5 is such a fantastic illustration of this, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…(NIV).” Sometimes as a mother with young children it is easy to forget that life is happening outside the four walls of your home and in different parts of the city other than your route while taking the kids to school.

Last night while with a wonderful group of ladies at our Women’s Bible Study, I was reminded of something I learned a long time ago; I am a one of Christ’s Precious Creations.  This morning, I am thankful to God that His mercies are new each day.CassiesCornerButton

I was reminded that God created each of us as a special individual with a specific purpose. Just because one person may talk more than another, may look a certain way, or act in a manner that differs from the “norm” does not mean one is more valuable than the other. Psalm 139:13-14 clearly states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my motherʼs womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (NIV).”

Praise God that we were all created specifically for Him and no one else. Simply knowing that the beauty within enthralls Him makes my heart overwhelmed with peace. Each day, we get to walk out a life predestined and designed just for each of us. I (We) was created to be a Woman of God.

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