All posts by Suzie Lind

At His Feet: Meet Amber Barnard

Meet Amber Barnard! Amber and her family are missionaries in India with a passion for Bible translation. She is honest and real, a woman of prayer who loves her family and the people she encounters around the world with compassion and conviction.

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“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

This is a go to verse for me when I need to re-center my focus and gauge whether or not my priorities are in line. I, as with most of us, can honestly say that I put forth my best effort to do what is right and good.  I know I make mistakes, have patterns of sin that need correction, and have those awful days worse than the rest.  Many of us can say: I am not a drunkard, I do not gamble, I am not guilty of fornication or debauchery, yet still seek pleasure, satisfaction, and comfort in the things of this world.  The options are vast: upward mobility in a job, affection and attention of others, television, food, shopping, our own accomplishments, making  sure our kids are the smartest, fastest, most creative, etc., our body image, houses, cars, a booming ministry, nails, hair, social media, business endeavors, the list goes on.

It is so easy to love the world and seek our own desires and then ask God to “use us for his glory” in the midst of our busyness.   Then, we seek acceptance and approval from each other, rather than God and do things out of selfish ambition without realizing it.

I can easily get distracted and my love for the world becomes clear in times of distress.  I see friends get sick or physically ailed and can no longer do the things they love. Then they suddenly experience a loss of self-worth or disappointment in life.  When I was living in India, I sometimes found myself wanting that nice house and that nice car and all those fun activities for my kids to do and enjoy with their friends. When everything around me is different and dirty and I feel like I’m in a constant state of discomfort, my spirit crushes and a sense of hopelessness arises because things feel not as I think they should.  Then, I begin to realize that sometimes I do love the world and all its pleasurable activities and desire seemingly more than anything else to be comfortable, affluent, and satisfied. It’s all rubbish, though, when I compare it to what I could have in Christ.  All earthly things and pleasures are not innately evil; nevertheless, the excess in which we indulge can be at a great cost: I can begin to focus inwardly instead of upwardly and outwardly.  Thinking too much about myself, I neglect to focus on God and disregard the needs of the poor and oppressed. And I know I’m not the only one.

We must identify these feelings as they are: mere strivings, a pride of possessions, a love for the world rather than a love for God.  I rejoice when I see glimpses of God at work in my conversations and relationships and answers to prayer despite myself; yet I also mourn, for His overarching leadership in my life is hardly as it should be.  The habit of seeking what I think I need continuously pulls me in the wrong direction, repeatedly leading me in circles where I have to again remember that this world is literally passing away before my very eyes, while abiding in God will last forever.

Lord, let us encourage one another to live lives worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ, to build each other up in love and pray to discover the way to work together, as a body, that we might understand what it means to do the will of God. Amen.

Refelctions at His Feet: My I AM Story by Jessica Tucker

So, getting to retreat was a small miracle in itself.  Taylor had the flu for the entire week with relentless fevers, lots of moaning, crying, and whimpering- it was awful.  Then he had an ear infection that was making him miserable.  We took him to the pediatrician and that afternoon, on Wednesday, his eardrum ruptured.  It was hell.  I was so stressed and anxious and literally on the brink of a panic attack (which I’ve struggled with in the past).  Thursday my mom took my daughter so that I could tend to Taylor’s pus-seeping ear, and tend to calming my spirit.  One reason this was so particularly anxiety-producing for me is that I have a long history of ear infections myself starting around 18 months.  My own eardrum ruptured and I had 2 sets of tubes which let to a deadly fear of doctors and hospitals, not to mention a permanently perforated eardrum.  (This is a problem for anyone that likes to take normal baths, showers, or go swimming, snorkeling, water skiing, etc in any body of water.  My ear problems have defined the activities in my life in a serious way.)  So this particular event with Taylor sent me into worry tailspin that if he didn’t heal correctly he would be doomed to surgery (Which is what I could do to be “normal” again, but then there’s that problem about being deathly afraid of all things doctor or hospital related.) or a life of ear issues like me.

Throughout this previous week of hell worrying about and caring for Taylor, I had been praying for him. Once it was confirmed that he had a bad infection I started really praying that he would get better.  I couldn’t believe that God would hit my hottest hot button by allowing his eardrum to rupture.  If I faithfully prayed to Him, and prayed out loud with Taylor so that God would glorify Himself by healing Taylor and Taylor having the 1st hand opportunity to see and experience God’s healing power, and that STILL happened, how much hope can I have that He’s going to heal his ear correctly.  I realize this sounds so faithless and rude to God.  God please forgive my frustration. My fear.  My shut-down trust.  

Okay, so retreat.  Wednesday, Taylor slept through the night for the first time in 3 nights and Thursday my mom had Selah and I just had time with Taylor.  He really seemed to be improving, so I was hopeful that I could leave on Friday.  In the late afternoon Taylor’s fever came back as he fell asleep for a nap.  Thursday night Taylor FINALLY wanted to eat.  He seriously had only eaten like ½ day’s worth in the last 4 days. Friday morning his cotton ball was soaked with pus and liquid, but he was doing okay, and was sitting up and walking himself to potty and smiling again.  Praise God.  So Friday afternoon we loaded into Dylan’s truck and headed to Murrieta Hot Springs! Yay!! BUT I was still so worried.  I had to surrender control. I was worried how Taylor would do without my watchful eye reading his every movement.  I was worried that his antibiotic ear drops wouldn’t be administered correctly, or that he wouldn’t be encouraged to drink enough water, or get his vitamins, or that he would be allowed to consume sugar…

Friday night at retreat we stayed up until 1 am playing games. It was so fun! I gave myself permission to sleep in Saturday for a couple reasons.  1: I like sleep. 2: I hadn’t been sleeping while Taylor was sick because he would either wake me up with crying and whimpering about one of his many ailments (my poor baby…), or I would wake myself and check on him, feeling his body for fever or check his draining ear.

I slept until 9:55 am Saturday and it was glorious.  I figured I would check on Taylor and how things were going and start my quiet time early.  I missed breakfast and Session 2, if that wasn’t obvious.  It sounded like Taylor was ok, but Merrell was at work, so Merrell’s mom was at our house, and my dad actually was with Taylor for a couple hours while Taylor went to Opening Day for baseball.  I was so worried that this was a far too ambitious event for a kid that couldn’t walk himself to the bathroom 2 days ago…

I sent all my texts checking in with everyone and began my quiet time on the grass, sitting in the sun with a short prayer, and jumped into the book, Believe, that I’ve been reading with a Bible study group.  I had a revelation during this reading.  I had never understood the significance of the curtain being torn when Jesus died on the cross but I finally GOT IT.  That curtain separated the people from God in a lot of ways.  People couldn’t have direct access with God, and a LOT of people weren’t even able to have relationship with God even through the priest.  Jesus changed all that for when that curtain tore it made it possible for ALL of us to have direct access to God.  What a huge privilege!!!  Although I had heard this before, I just didn’t get it before.  I was so full of thankfulness and awe, and with eyes closed, I turned my face to the heaven (the sky), knowing with full confidence that I could pray right to my God and that He loved me and would hear whatever I had to say.  I said in prayer to God, “Please God, please heal Taylor’s ear”. Then it happened. That rare moment when you hear God speak to you.  Or think you do at least.  I heard/saw Him- it was odd, but cool! The response:

“I am”

Whoa.  So I pause, with my eyes still closed and pointed to the sky “God is that YOU?! Did you just answer me?!??!”   

“I am”  

“Oh my Goodness, God. You’re answering me!! ‘I am’ That’s amazing because that’s like your name, kind of, in the Bible! You say that!!”

“I am”

So cool.  I realized God and I were communicating.  I don’t have these moments often.  Very rarely, actually.  Like a handful of times in my life.  I mean I’ve seen God move through answered prayer and things like that, but not in this format.  It was exhilarating.  Then there’s always that little doubt- like did I make that up?  But in my heart I knew.  I knew the Great “I am” had just answered me that he was healing my Taylor, and that he really was talking to me!! Amazing.  So during session 4, when they were singing that song:  “Hallelujah, holy, holy, God Almighty, the great I AM! Who is worthy?, none beside Thee, God Almighty, the great I AM”.  I was just so touched.  Blown away, and in awe that God would commune with me!  Praise the Lord!

Reflections At His Feet: Laura Wallace

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“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” ~ Luke 10:41-42

It is amazing to think how God can transform your heart in 48 hours.  

The weight of going to a women’s retreat is real. It’s intimidating and it’s scary for a person like me. You see, being a single and never-been-married working mom is atypical in the church. While my testimony of sharing how God walked me through my sin and brought me into motherhood with grace and mercy is impactful, it is still hard to share without a polarizing feeling, a sense of difference.

Needless to say, coming to a women’s retreat meant there was strong chance I had to explain “yes, I have a daughter and no I’ve never been married” at every mealtime when meeting new people. I worried about this because it created a vulnerability that makes me uncomfortable. And then there are the women that always come up to you with pity eyes and ask in a sweet way “How are you doing? Are you ok?” and my insecurity and pride get the best of me and I get angry and hardened.  A self inflicting wound that just wouldn’t go away.

So no, I didn’t want to go to the women’s retreat.

I felt like an outsider but not because of what someone had done or said to me but because my heart had created this armor of self-preservation based on my worry of acceptance and my insecurity of not fitting in.  Add the fact I wouldn’t be seeing familiar faces deepened this insecurity.

At each message and each worship service every time I heard “Martha, Martha,”  God was chiseling away at the bitterness and insecurity by saying “few things are needed-or indeed only one” and by Saturday I let go of it all.

Face to the floor, all out vulnerable, ugly cry style. 

In a domino effect fashion, I let go of the self-inflicted shame…. let go of feeling insecure…. let go of my bitterness.

I felt that weight become lightened the moment I allowed God to break the armor around my heart and it was good.  Had I not faced my fears of going to the retreat, I’d be still sitting in those old feelings tonight, unable to forge the relationships I made this weekend.

The weight Martha must of felt when Jesus called her to let go of “doing” must of felt good.  Yet it reminds me that being in God’s presence means to stop hiding in the kitchen and to get on your knees….ugly crying is totally ok….. in fact becoming unraveled at the feet of Jesus is when you realize you’ve missed on the blessings and fellowship that God WANTS you to enjoy. You may be different, heavy burdened, insecure, bitter but allowing yourself to become unraveled at HIS feet is like no other.

*****

We would love to share stories and testimony from our time together last weekend at retreat. Please share your insights, reflections, praises and prayers with us in the comments below.

REPOSTING: Consuming with a Purpose

Concept of woman shopping
Becoming a responsible consumer takes thought and a little bit of time.
 
What do you think about when you buy new clothes? Probably you think about fit, the color, the style, and maybe washing instructions. Almost certainly you think about the cost — whether or not it’s a good value. But what about the human cost? Who makes the stuff that fills our closets and our homes? Where do they live? How are they treated? 
 
With this month’s focus on Justice, we thought we would give you a few ideas of how to be a responsible consumer and part of the solution.  Here are few things to keep in mind as you make those purchases:
  1. Shop local.   Supporting local merchants and craftsmen helps build your local economy by making an investment into your community.  Plus there is that great feeling of walking into the business and being treated as though you are family, knowing exactly where you stuff has come from.  From produce, to clothing and housewares, the opportunity to shop local is everywhere. It just requires a little more effort.
  2. Shop the source.   With the evolution of the internet, we have more access than ever before to handmade goods directly from those who made them.  Websites like Etsy and Big Cartel are great resources.
  3. Shop responsibly.   Check to see if the stores you shop or the products you buy have published policies about social responsibility either posted in store or on their websites.  Details such as the company/manufacturers position on child labor, forced labor, minimum wage, overtime and rights of workers.
  4. Shop fair trade and from merchants committed to the solution.  For the last Women’s Retreats, we’ve purchased gift bags from Freeset, a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. A portion of our purchase went to help these women.  There are so many companies out there who give portions of their profits to help. Here are just a few:
  • Punjammies With ever purchase of these lovely pajamas the dignity and freedom of a woman is reinforced and the future in India gets a little bit brighter
  • Fair Trade USA is a great starting place for figuring out how to shop fair trade.
  • 31 Bits uses fashion and design to empower people to rise above poverty in Uganda.
  • Ten Thousand Villages is a global network of social entrepreneurs working to empower artisans in developing countries.
  • Abort 73’s mission statement starts off with this: Motivated by our Christian calling to establish justice, to expose evil injustices, to minister to the needy and helpless, and to extend love to every human person, Abort73.com aims to expose the practice of abortion as an injustice of historic proportions.  One thing they do is make really cool Tshirts that creatively and comprehensively educate people about the injustice of abortion, and provide them with simple tools to help pass that education along to others.  Every Tshirt’s proceeds go towards the marketing, maintenance and development of Abort 73.com.
  1. Do you really need it?   Jesus said in Matthew 19:21 (MSG): “If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”  The implication here is that less is actually more. The less stuff we have, the more freedom we have to drop everything and follow his leading, wherever that may be.  Ask yourself: Do I really need this?  Can I make something I already have work in this space? Should I wait and save so I can buy something of better quality that may last longer?
If you’d like to read up more on this topic, check out these helpful links:
 
 

Fashion… Let’s Start the Conversation

Essentials fashion woman objects on wooden background
Yesterday while I was with my kids at the park, my friend’s daughter came running up to her mother in distress because she was “not beautiful any more.”  The little girl, distraught because her clothes had become dirty, associated her beauty with the condition of her clothing.
 
It starts young and only changes in its expression with maturity. We go from twirling around in little 4T dresses, to fretting over how short our shorts are allowed to be, to fighting the direction that our clothes are “not appropriate” because of our rapidly changing bodies, to keeping up with the latest fashions and deciding what looks best represent who we are (boho, preppy, conservative, glam, etc.) to wondering if our jeans are “mom jeans” or if the back pockets speak otherwise and we aim to “dress not for the job we have but the job we want.”
 
It may seem frivolous and silly, but if we are honest, as women many of us still tie our beauty and worth for the day with what we are wearing.  It seems as though God knows we are built like this because although these words were not specifically for women, they speak volumes to us:
 
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” {Colossians 3:12}
 
The language of putting something on in order to be different and express who we want to be is our language, friends. As with all things in this world, we are called to be in it but not of it. It’s okay for us to love clothes and fashion and it’s important that we put our best foot forward and care for our appearance… as long as our priorities don’t get mixed up and we put more focus on this than we do on knowing and loving God.
 
So this month, we want to have fun with fashion. We want to talk about it in ways that build up and bring us joy and acknowledge its gift and importance to us as women. But we also want to remind you that you are NOT what you wear. Rather you are WHO you wear.
 
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” {Galatians 3:27-28, emphasis mine}
 
We do hope you will join us in the conversation and share your thoughts with us. Let us know what you think about fashion and how you approach it as a woman of God. Which designers do you love and how do you decide how much effort you will place on this? Do you struggle with too much shopping and/or how has God set you free in this area? How do you approach the topic of modesty and is it just as important for grown women as it is for developing young women? We want to lay it all out on the table, so bring it girls… and let’s go to our BIG GOD for direction on how then we should live.

The Living Word of God

Bible

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all naked and exposed to the eyes of Him whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13

 Living:

adjective

  1. having life; being alive; not dead: living persons.
  2. in actual existence or use; extant: living languages.
  3. active or thriving; vigorous; strong: a living faith.
  4. burning or glowing, as a coal.
  5. flowing freely, as water.
  6. pertaining to, suitable for, or sufficient for existence or subsistence: living conditions; a living wage.
  7. of or relating to living persons: within living memory

 noun:

  1. the act or condition of a person or thing that lives: Living is very expensive these days.
  2. the means of maintaining life; livelihood: to earn one’s living.

When we pause and take a moment to look into the meaning of words and allow them to shape our minds and how we think about them, they have the potential to change the way we approach the very thing we speak those words about.

If we really believe the word of God is living then we can approach it knowing it exists currently as in a living, breathing person who exists among us and is for this time and place. If indeed it is “thriving, vigorous and strong,” then it can uphold even the greatest struggle and the weightiest burden. If it truly “flows freely, as water,” then there is no end to its nourishment for us. If it is “relating to living persons” then it not only relates to us, more importantly it tells us who our Creator God is and tells us about his nature, character and the way He deals with His people.

I’m reading a One Year Bible plan this year and at times, I confess, it’s a lot to read in one sitting. But when I approach it as though I am getting to know a person, then the words come off the page at me like I’ve never seen them before. Narratives so familiar become like a freshly brewed cup of the best coffee in the world, awakening all my senses to the reality of who God is and how He loves me.

Even today, as I opened up to Exodus 25, these words stood out to me when in the past I may have glossed over them:

“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” (Exodus 25:1)

From everyone whose heart prompts them to give. Even in the Old Testament when we think of sacrifices, laws that need to be followed or else… Here is our God, so desperately wanting the hearts of His people and giving them the opportunity to choose Him.

Each day, we have a choice to approach the God of the universe through His word, to take Him at His word and trust He has something good for us, like a daily loaf of freshly baked, warm and crusty bread. How good is that?

Let me encourage us to be women who not only love God with our hearts and souls but also with our minds. Let us allow the word of God to come alive to us by approaching it as a living and active being, a being that causes us to think well about God and life.

“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Our Jesus is found, very much alive, in the thin crinkly pages of that book you have or the screen you scroll up and down on. Whatever your method of interacting with Him is, go to Him and allow Him to breathe life into you.

 

 

Countdown to Retreat {2 Days Away}

Take a few moments and read the following Psalm. What does it say about God’s love and what does it say about how he deals with his people?

“You, Lord, showed favor to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
and covered all their sins.
You set aside all your wrath
and turned from your fierce anger.

Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?

Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.”

~ Psalm 85

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

~ John 13:34-35

 

A women’s retreat is the perfect opportunity to set aside time for the sake of your soul and to relish God’s unfailing love for you. There you will have time to be silent and be still before him, and make space to hear from Him.

 

It’s also a great setting to enjoy the Love of God through His people. The apostle John, known as the “one whom Jesus loved” has a lot to tell us about God’s love. One of the most important things he shares is in the above that we will be known by the love of Christ in us as the love of Christ flows through us.

 

Today, let’s pray for our time together… pray and ask God to:

 

  • Lead us out of our comfort zones and go boldly before Him

 

  • Increase our desire for Him and decrease our desires for the things of the world

 

  • Help those of us who feel lonely and anxious about attending to make quick connections with other women.

 

  • Cultivate an environment where everyone will feel a sense of belonging

 

  • Give us the courage to look for the lonely and reach out to those we haven’t met yet

 

  • Help every woman who is supposed to get there… to get there. Pray against sickness and distress

 

  • Give us thankful and expectant hearts for Him and all He has for us!