happy valentine’s day

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Valentine’s Day:  A holiday that some love and others love to hate.  A day where your Facebook and Instagram feeds will be filled with pictures of happy looking couples and posts about gifts and probably even an engagement or two.  Seeing all of this can ignite negative emotions for some.  If you’re in a relationship, it may make you feel upset because someone else’s partner did something more than yours.  If you’re single, it may make you feel alone, insecure, or unwanted.

I thought a lot about what to write for a Valentine’s day post.  So I’ll just start with a confession:  I’ve never had a Valentine.  There have been times when I’ve bemoaned that fact.  I’ve sat at home feeling lonely and upset more times than I’d care to admit because all my friends were out with their significant others.  But over the years, I’ve truly begun to learn and lean on the love of Jesus.  The only real, true, and flawless love we will ever know.

One of my absolute favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Hosea. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend it.  In the story, the Lord asked Hosea to go and love a promiscuous woman.  To bring her to himself and love her as God loves his people.  He had him do this as a parallel to His love to “promiscuous” Israel.  So Hosea married a woman named Gomer, who many scholars believe was a prostitute.  Gomer had a few children by Hosea and was unfaithful to him.  At first, God seems very harsh in how he punishes her.  He speaks of taking away everything He’s given to her because she doesn’t realize that it is the Lord who has given her everything she’s had until now (Hosea 2:8).  So there’s half a chapter dedicated to everything the Lord is taking away from her(and when he is speaking of “her” he is really referencing his own rebellious people in this parallel).  Then, halfway through chapter 2 in one of my favorite verses, he flips the script.

 “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14).

 He goes on from there to say that he will give her everything back and will take her to be His wife forever.

 “I will take you to be My wife forever.  I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion.  I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know Yahweh.”  (Hosea 2:19-20).

This is the kind of love that is hard to even fathom!
And certainly not a love that is able to truly live in the flesh of men.  This type of sacrificial, sometimes unrequited love is only able to come from the true lover of our souls.  Our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord.  Gomer in this story is every single one of us.  She is the one who has been unfaithful to her husband.  She is the one who has made idols of work and legalism.  She is the one who has put her love life or her marriage on a pedestal above her true King.  She is the one who has sat at home on Valentine’s day bemoaning her single life instead of reveling in the Love she already has.

Gomer is all of us.

My challenge to you this Valentine’s day, no matter where you are or who you’re with, is to remember this story.  Remember the love that our God has for us, that no matter what we do, how we behave, He is ready and waiting to lead each of us into the wilderness to speak tenderly to us. So while you’re getting ready for your Valentine’s dates or girls nights, put on some worship music and praise Him.  If you’re home alone, consider spending at least part of your evening in prayer and reading about the immense love God has for you. That is what earthly men can only ever strive for.

 You will never know a more sacrificial or righteously jealous love.
You will never know another lover who will want you back,
after you’ve turned so far away from Him.
You will never know a love so great as the love of God.
Let Him love you, dear sister.
On this Valentine’s day and every day.

Love,
Ashley

In the Midst

A letter to my sister who is waiting…

First of all, cling to the truth that you are never alone. This truth brings the ultimate comfort. God’s presence is like a comfy couch that just envelops you and makes you never want to leave. It’s so easy to just keep looking to the future, seeing all these plans ahead of you. Plans that you want. A new job, a baby, a house, a solid income, or even just an answer. But it seems as though you are stuck in this place. You find yourself wondering when these things will happen.

It’s in these seasons of life, these seasons of waiting, I find my prayer life totally reflects how I’m feeling. My prayers tend to be more selfishly focused because in my brain I’m like…I’m gonna pray for this again..and really hard this time…the more I pray the same thing over and over again, the quicker I get what I want.  Insert eye-rolling emoji here. We become so enveloped by our own thoughts and prayers that our perspective becomes misplaced.

God is always quick to remind me that He is Immanuel, God with us (Matt.1:23). God left us with the Holy Spirit so that we are never alone. I’ve been reading a new devotional on my phone, and I think the author words it perfectly.
“Here we are , living in the church age of history, the Holy Spirit alive in us and through us. Jesus has come! Still, we ache and we long, and we search for God and pursue heaven on Earth, and we come up empty-handed. Why is this so? I think it’s because we forget that He is Immanuel…He is with us on our job, at school, when we do the dishes, at the grocery store…He is with us when we lock ourselves in the bathroom from our kids, when our marriage hits a rough patch or when life breaks our heart in half.”

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So when we are waiting, and seem to feel like our heart’s desires will never be met, God is there. He hears your cries when you don’t know how you will make ends meet for the whole month or pay the bills that were due last month. When you lie in bed at night, while your husband sleeps soundly, and you think no one else will hear your tears and sniffles, Jesus is there, arms open wide, ready to hold you, His precious daughter. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God has used this verse so many times to comfort me. Lately it’s what comes to mind with every negative pregnancy test I take. Month after month a dumb little stick tells me no again and for a brief or long time, I let it control my feelings. My husband and I will be waiting for a yes from God in this area of our lives, and then later, He reveals another good reason He has kept us waiting. But at times, it just stinks.

On the other side of waiting, there is joy and expectancy. Waiting does not always bring sorrow. It is ok to long for something and expect something because of who God is. We serve a God who is mighty, powerful and sees beyond our vision. He does not waver or cower when we ask Him to move mountains in our lives. He remains firm and assures us through His faithfulness that He has this totally under control. Isn’t it so comforting that God sees the big picture? Sometimes I imagine Him texting me back and saying, “girl, chill. You don’t even know what I have for you in the next 5 minutes, so quit worrying about next Tuesday and whether or not you’re going to hear from that job.”

It’s thoughts like these that make me so thankful that He gave us His word. A book of truth full of His promises. The Bible is full of people who waited way longer than we ever will. People who waited to hear from God, waited for a child, waited for Jesus.

In Psalm 139, David poetically expresses how beautiful the Lord’s love for us is. He describes how he knows us in verses 1-16.

O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night–but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

So in your everyday life, remember that we don’t have to wait. You have Jesus. And God has your life in His hands. Ask for His will even when you want your own. Ask the Holy Spirit to align your heart with the Lord’s.

I’ll leave you with Judges 18:6 “Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the Lord is watching over your journey.”
❤ Ran

Here is one of my current favorite songs that really helps bring my perspective back to a kingdom one. With most worship songs, I prefer to listen to them once to become familiar, then another time to truly take in the words (normally googling the lyrics), and then I will sing along. When our ears hear our own voice speaking God’s truths, it produces more faith. So sing it out, girl.

To my sister who longs to be content…

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First off, you are not alone. The struggle to be content is real. We make it more real than it ever needs to be. Living in a world where you can buy anything at any time whether you have the money or not, has become normal. We let the fantasy of earthly romance briefly fill a longing in our hearts, while crossing boundaries that chip away at our innocence. We think moving to the next thing, attaining success or a new job will solve our problems (because our problems aren’t that big to begin with, right?). Wrong.

When we desire things or people more than God, it’s sin. When we struggle with honoring God as all we need, it goes beyond the surface, being rooted in our hearts. In order to take our focus from wanting stuff or people, we have to surrender our hearts to Christ. It is so very easy to lose sight of that when we begin to feel content because of things other than Jesus.

So back in May, I wrote a note in my phone. It started with, “Why do I always feel like I need something new? There are a handful of days out of the year when I feel content. Like truly, fully content.” I had found myself so easily pleased by spending money frivolously. It could be anything from buying new work clothes to lunch for my husband. This only happens when my focus shifts, and I am not spending enough time actively worshiping God. But I found myself feeling fulfilled or complacent. Feelings can get you in trouble, let me tell you. God created emotions. He gave them to us; perfectly crafted emotions for us to relate to each other in ways we wouldn’t be able to without them.

Our emotions do not get to dictate our actions, unless we allow them to. Sometimes we experience the best things when we only follow our hearts, but all too often we replace truth with how we feel. Our emotions are so real and raw at times that it’s hard to see beyond them. The best part is that truth never changes; therefore, God is constant, unwavering in the face of our emotions, and working for our good in spite of the lies we believe.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom…” That’s the first half of 1 Corinthians 1:25, and it so simply shows how greatly we fall short of the Glory of God. We can be so easily blinded by our version of wisdom, when in fact we are beyond foolish. We convince ourselves that the unnecessary will fill our hearts with peace and joy, when everything we need is found in Jesus. Content at its very definition means to be satisfied with what you have; not wanting more.

So as we work to shift our focus from things to God, we will experience some growing pains. Hebrews chapter 12, verse 11 says,

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

We have to remember that God holds the title of our Father. As a loving father, he wants to shape us and mold us, and that requires discipline. It doesn’t always feel good. We won’t always feel content. But as I said earlier, truth never changes and God’s word is truth. The Word promises us that if we stay the course and surrender to Christ, we will receive “peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Contentment will come with practice.

When you find yourself struggling to feel content, take time to reflect on how you have been living. Take a look at where you spend your resources, including: money, time, and skills. Schedules and routines aren’t for everyone, but make dedicated time for God. Don’t replace that time with anything else because you might walk away feeling content, but your soul will still be hungry. Let His word sink into your heart and continue His transformation. God loves you where you’re at, but too much to let you stay there. The more you practice being content and focusing on God throughout your daily life, you will find that no matter where you are physically, emotionally or spiritually, God is there and that is enough. When you don’t have a Pinterest perfect life or even a glimpse of it, God is there and that is enough.

Breathe in Emmanuel. Exhale the world.
❤ Ran

You Will Never be Alone.

To my sister who feels lonely in her faith,

You know that feeling you get when you want to do something awesome like run a marathon, learn how to surf or take a painting class? You’re excited. You’re pumped and want to try something new and start as soon as possible. But then you stop and realize that you’re the only one who wants to do that and you get discouraged because you’re alone. Then you can’t muster up the motivation to do that awesome new thing by yourself. Let that be your life no longer!

The solution is discipleship. Maybe you don’t know what that is or you’ve never heard of it. Just know that it is not a new trendy idea. It’s not a get-friends-quick-scheme. It is God’s plan to refine us and challenge us; help us to be more like Jesus and provide us with the encouragement we need to run the race of Faith with joy. He is so sweet and gracious for giving us this. You basically get to say to your friend “Hey friend, do you want to do this awesome thing called Christianity with me?” And then BAM, you are not alone. You get to walk with Jesus alongside a sister, receiving and giving wisdom, truth and encouragement along the way.

For me, discipleship has been one consistent call upon my heart from the Lord since I became a follower of Christ. It’s the reason that I have deep and encouraging friendships that lead me to pursue the Kingdom of God.

It all began at my first Young Life Club when I was 15 years old. (Young Life is a ministry that shares the gospel with teenagers through relationships, fun and easy-to-understand gospel messages.)
I walked into the room alone and nervous, and someone met me at the door with a huge smile. She looked genuinely happy to see me, and I couldn’t fathom why. From the very moment I met her I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Not because of her physical nature, although she is very pretty, but because there was something so bright and kind about her. She captivated me. I wanted to be just like her. She was like a beacon of hope and joy. This woman(we will call her Ruth) became my very first mentor. And through her obedience, faith, and pursuit of my heart, God drew me to his Son.
Ruth was a busy mother of 8 kids, yes 8! She was very active with ministries, church, bible studies and other things that kept her busy
and yet, she found time for me. She taught me how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to go to God with my struggles and my sin. She got to know me and she accepted me, flaws and all. She walked with me through the brokenness and messy parts of my life, always pointing me to the truth of who Jesus is. She welcomed me into her life and she literally embodies the message of

1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “So we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”

I can’t thank God enough for sending Ruth into my life. She empowers me to love other women and teach them about the person of Jesus Christ. Her real-life example may enhance your picture of discipleship, but it is most important to look to God’s Word and the life of Jesus to establish your understanding.

There is a book called The Master Plan of Evangelism. It lays out God’s #1 plan for spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I’ll give you a guess as to what the author believes His plan is… Yep, DISCIPLESHIP! The book is awesome and I highly recommend it because it’s a closer look into the life of Jesus and the way that he led and loved his 12 disciples:

“All the disciples had to teach them was a teacher who practiced with them what he expected them to learn. Evangelism was lived before them in spirit and in technique. Watching him, they learned what it was all about. He led them to recognize the need inherent in all classes of people, and the best methods of approaching them. They observed how he drew people to himself; how he won their confidence and inspired their faith; how he opened to them the way of salvation and called them to a decision. In all types of situations and among all kinds of people, rich and poor, healthy and sick, friend and foe alike, the disciples watched the master soulwinner at work. It wasn’t outlined on the blackboard of a stuffy classroom nor written up in a “do it yourself” manual. His method was so real and practical that it just came naturally.”

(The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman)

I truly believe that in Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus places a specific and powerful call on the life of every person who follows Jesus. It says this:

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

This is the biblical basis of discipleship and is often referred to as “The Great Commission.” Reading those verses gives me chills sometimes. Jesus is so mighty, so divine and yet so available. Can there be a greater call on your life? I am overwhelmed by unworthiness and gratitude when I think about how God showers me with grace as He chooses to involve me in His miracle of salvation! It’s the biggest privilege of my entire life. I don’t deserve such a purpose. And His grace doesn’t end there; Jesus declares he will be with us always, He will never leave us or forsake us!

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And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Not only will he never leave us alone, but he has modeled for us the most beautiful and inclusive lifestyle of discipleship. In his kindness he says “I do not want you to live your Christian life by yourself. Be with others. Make disciples.”

If you feel encouraged by this, maybe God is starting a fire in your heart for a discipleship relationship. Take a leap of faith and ask your younger sister, niece or friend if she would like to study a book of the Bible with you. Believer or non-believer. Maybe just ask a younger high school or college student if she would like a mentor to walk through life with. Jesus will give you the courage to reach out! And through the beautiful relationship of discipleship we reflect the heart of Jesus and His desire that we love one another as He has loved us.

Us women are notorious for sticking together and doing things in groups. Arriving to a party, going to the bathroom, starting a diet, taking fitness classes and more. We like the company, we like the confidence and security that a group of friends provides. God made us relational. I know he had Titus 2:3-5 in mind when he created us. He knew that we would learn best from the women that surround us. His Word instructs us:
“Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”

This is yet another biblical doctrine for discipleship. I love the picture that these words bring to my mind. Two women, of different ages, walking through life together, one learning from the other and one blessing the other with wisdom and genuine care. Perhaps God is placing a desire in your heart for a discipleship mentor.  If so, start praying for one now. Tell God you are ready to grow in your faith and learn from a teacher. And then pick up your head and start looking for someone who is faithful and available, not perfect, just willing to care for you. Something anointed and special could begin with this. I encourage you to open your heart up to a sister in Christ and step into the calling of discipleship! You won’t regret it. God has such beauty in store for you. I know this because I know Him.

If you are already involved in a discipleship relationship feel free to tell us about it in a comment, email or on the gram. We would be honored to hear your story!

Much love,

KayJ

New in Christ

To my sister who is a new Christian…

First off, I want to say welcome!  I know it can be overwhelming diving into this whole new life, but I promise it is a sweet, sweet ride.  One of the things I love about Christianity is the familial aspect of it.  We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, so when you come to know the Lord, you also join a worldwide family of believers.

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To give you a little background on my own faith walk, I grew up going to church and claiming the name of Christianity without really having an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus.  I remember praying as I was growing up but not really having any understanding of what that meant or if Jesus was even listening to me.  I went to church every Sunday, participated in events, and even sang in a church choir.  It wasn’t until I was in my last couple years of college that I really began to take my faith seriously.  One of my best friends invited me to her small group where I was challenged in my faith and really started to grow in it and know Jesus.

I remember praying as I was growing up but not really having any understanding of what that meant or if Jesus was even listening to me.

I think that those times were a real shift in my life and it was such a sweet season of getting to know my Father in Heaven.  I also know it was a little overwhelming learning about the “Christian life” and trying to make sure I was doing everything “right” (which is totally impossible and why I’m so thankful for God’s grace and mercy).
Here are a few things that I learned along the way that may help you out too:

Prayer

You know those people who pray and every word that comes out of their mouth sounds like a sonnet written by angels? Yeah, that’s not me.  That never has been and likely never will be me.  When I first began talking to Jesus, I was very insecure about prayer, ESPECIALLY praying out loud.  (You can talk to my sisters Randall and KJ about that because they were along for that ride with me).  I thought I was no good at praying because I didn’t sound like they did.  I didn’t speak quite so eloquently.  I thought for sure God only listened to the “pretty prayers”, as I like to call them.  But you know what God loves?  He loves prayer.  He loves hearing our voices.  Just as a human father loves hearing from his children no matter how beautifully they speak, our Abba Father loves to hear from us.  So don’t be intimidated to pray!  Think of it just like talking with a friend.  You don’t have to muster up the courage or think of beautiful words to say to have a casual conversation with a friend and it’s the same with Jesus!  Pray for people; pray with people; and most importantly, develop a private prayer life just between you and the Lord.  

The Bible

The Bible can be intimidating, figuring out where to start and what to read and even what it all means!  The bottom line of scripture is simply that the Lord created us, He loves us, and He’s coming back for us.  The entirety of it is just like a love letter to us from our King.  Spending time reading and studying it is so important because it is God’s direct words to His children.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  

Scripture strengthens us.  It inspires us and gives us examples of how to live and love.  If you’ve never really picked up a Bible before, but feel the move of the Holy Spirit in your life, I would suggest starting with the book of John, which really captures the essence of who Jesus is.  If you’ve already read John, give Ephesians a try!  Ephesians shifts to talking about who we are in Christ.  Beyond that, there are so many commentaries and online devotionals to get you started and keep fueling your fire for the Lord! Check out some online, free devotional resources. Whatever you decide, just start somewhere.  He’s promised to give us wisdom and understanding if we ask for it, so just start and pray for the Lord’s guidance!  He will give it to you.

Community

Community is a huge deal for Christians, old and new alike! Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Christian community is essential to life as a believer.  My first suggestion to you is that if you have not already found a church, do so!  Explore those in your area. Ask the Lord to direct your steps and pray for a community where you feel like you belong.  And remember, everyone is a little nervous going to a new church.  Just know that wherever you go, you are already family.  My next suggestion is to find a small group to join.  Most churches offer those with specific categories, whether it’s age range, special interest, gender, or specific life season (single, married, moms, etc).

I’m currently writing a blog with my two very first small group leaders so you never know where these things may take you!

Small groups have been so important in my faith walk, and I truly believe that joining one will change, challenge, and grow you.  Plus, you may make some lifelong friends along the way!  I’m currently writing a blog with my two very first small group leaders so you never know where these things may take you!  My final thought in regards to community is to pray and seek a mentor, or at least a mentor-like person.  I wouldn’t say I necessarily have one specific mentor, but I have a few women who are older and more experienced than me that I can be honest with and call on in times of confusion or trouble in my walk with Jesus.  Surround yourself with other women who will hold you accountable and help you grow.

Sweet sister, I want you to trust and believe that you are on the most wonderful journey you could ever imagine.  Life is not always easy, and that is not any different for Christians.  The only difference that we have is our hope in Jesus and our knowledge that our lives are more than this world.  But, now is a time to celebrate walking into the arms of your Savior.  All of Heaven rejoiced the moment you said yes to Him.  You are loved more than you could ever imagine.

Love always,

Ashley

Hey y’all!
We are so excited to have this opportunity to share our lives here. We have been dreaming, planning and praying for months, and it is almost time to fully launch!
Our official launch date is December 1st!
We hope you find your way back here time after time. When you do, you will find encouraging words, wisdom, humor and so much more! We hope you feel right at home and a part of this special sisterhood when you are here.

Hope y’all have a happy thanksgiving, yummy food, and feel surrounded by love.
Love,
The Sisters