Change Of Plans by Kenika

As a little girl I dreamed of learning to play an instrument.  I had a one-year stint in the orchestra playing the violin, but soon discovered it really wasn’t for me.  As 5th grade year came to a close, the guidance counselor asked us to start thinking about what we wanted to do once we got into middle school. Whether band, orchestra, sports, or other clubs and activities.  I had an interest in volleyball, softball and band.  They had us try out different instruments to see what best suited us, but I didn’t have to look for very long, the flute was a clear choice for me. Shiny, mellifluous, and the ultimate girl instrument, I didn’t have any doubts that this was the winner!

I practically skipped home from school that day as I hurried to tell my parents the news.  I had to wait all summer until the start of the next school year to begin learning my passion.  On the first day of band class, many of us didn’t have our instruments yet, but that didn’t stop the director from placing us in our assigned areas.  We were giddy with excitement as we met our new section mates and potential friends.  Ready to start this new adventure, my mother went out and purchased my instrument.  When I walked into the house, I saw a black box with a handle waiting for me on the dining room table. Although I briefly thought to myself that it was little bit too big to be a flute, that didn’t stop me from unhinging the handles and opening the box with a big, juicy smile on my face.

Pulling back the top lid, I yelled, “Mom!”  She came rushing into the dining room and responded with an innocent, almost childlike, “What?”  I began to explain to her that what she had purchased was in fact a clarinet and not the silver, beauty of an instrument known as the flute.  She paused for a moment, looked at my dumbfounded facial expression, and then inspected the box.  These next few words will never be forgotten to me, as they were so dramatic in the moment. She looks up from the instrument and says in a sarcastic tone, “So…you’ll play the clarinet”.  Really? My mother’s response to my well planned out, much anticipated dream was to, essentially, get a new one.

Little did I know that this would be the blueprint for the rest of my life.   Proverbs 19:21 (NIV), “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  So many times I’ve made plans or mapped out dreams, but ultimately it was God’s plan that prevailed and I had to be open to making that shift. I’ve had my heart completely set on something, but then God came along with a, “So…you’ll do this instead.”  That may sound too deep based on my little clarinet story but hopefully it provokes thought.  I have since decided to never get so set on one idea that I can’t entertain the notion of something else, especially if it has the potential to be greater.  I went on to play the clarinet for seven years throughout middle and high school. During that time I had a high chair placement, participated in many competitions, and met some incredible friends that are still in my life today.

My Advice On Dating by Bombi

Recently, while in Florida, at the Ladies on Life 5 years of ministry celebration, I sat on a panel with my fellow sisters and was asked this question, “What advice for Godly dating would you give to someone?” Those who were there were able to see the look on my face, you might say, awkward. Yes, that’s the feeling I felt as I read the question and then answered.

For one, I am pretty certain that there are many books on the subject. Questions on romance, love, and dating advice run as the top questions in magazines, talk shows, blogs, and the list goes on and on. I even remember listening to a story from someone that had just returned from a missions trip from a developing country where disaster had struck and poverty and disease were rampant. They mentioned that on the boat ride back to land, a local person was sharing their heart with the missionaries and telling how they were worried if someone they liked would feel the same way they felt about them. My goodness, this romance and dating subject seems to somehow be a universal thing for sure!

Many God fearing people believe different things about the “book of love” a.k.a. dating, courting, call it whatever you want, I call it falling in love. So here’s what I believe. I believe that God has a counterpart so special for you that you could not have dreamt them up. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Although this verse might not be the first scripture that comes to mind for finding your mate, I personally have found comfort, encouragement, and guidance in it. You see, I believe that if He has created me to do those good works, and if I don’t have the gift of celibacy (1 Corinthians 7) then surely my future counterpart has his good work plan, and there’s so much work to be done in the Kingdom of God and for the Kingdom of God. Therefore, I believe that God will guide me and show me just who that man is and just what the two of us will do for Him together.

So maybe you can’t relate to me, but one thing we have in common if you are a believer is that well… you are a believer. That you look to God to start and stop everything in your life. So here’s my encouragement- whatever approach, inspiration, scripture, workbook, book, small group curriculum, etc. that you use to guide you through this ultra-important part of your life, PLEASE make sure that God is at the center of it all. That He is leading the way. Trust Him, you might be at the place that you can’t trust yourself and that’s okay, just trust Him. He will pick a mate for you!  You will know without a shadow of a doubt that God did it. In my opinion, that’s the best way ever.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Strength In Vulnerability by Trish

To be vulnerable in my words: unveiling the fullness of who you are, willingly yielding yourself to the reaction of another. I have found one of the most difficult places to dwell is the land of vulnerability. Yet, the most precious of intimate moments are birthed when someone feels safe enough to reveal the good, bad and ugly of what their lives may reveal. Truth be told, most of us long for meaningful friendships and relationships but the fear of judgment, rejection or abandonment many times outweighs the risk of letting go and make true connection with others. Many people spend their entire lives building shallow friendships/relationships that never provide a place of true connection because we’ve not allowed ourselves to be vulnerable.

In a recent conversation with a dear friend, I realized that our conversations no longer consisted of the normal “catch up sessions” or even deep theological discussions we had previously shared. Our friendship became a place of safety where being unguarded was not only okay but respected and handled with care. I am a very visual person…I tend to think in “word pictures”. As I was thinking on the concept of vulnerability, I thought about a gymnast. If you are anything like me, you were glued to the television during the Olympics this past year! I watched in complete awe as our U.S. girl’s team stretched their abilities to the max! They had conditioned and prepared their bodies in such a way that would allow them to perform unbelievable feats of physical strength, control and agility. The acts performed if slightly off from what they had learned in training could result in serious injury. Yet they abandoned their fears and relied on the strength they had achieved in training. The acts performed put them in the most vulnerable of positions yet their strength sustained them! If we as women are going to accomplish greatness, we must learn to gain strength from those on our “team”. This strength can only be found when we have the right ones on our team and we lay aside the fear of falling and being hurt or rejected.

Abandon yourself to fear and go for the gold! What a blessing when you have found those you can trust your heart with! What an even greater blessing when you are the one that can be trusted! Ladies should always show kindness to all, be friendly to all. But as ladies who are also wise women, we discern whom we are to have close to us and whom we share our hearts with. While the Bible teaches us to guard our hearts, there is also an art in knowing how to let our guards down and with whom. Take a look at those closest to you, are they receiving the best of who you are and are you in turn handling with care the best of what they offer you?

The Uncertainty by Sonya

Uncertainty is something our family is going through right now. My husband’s job is having a 40% cut in his district and nearly half of the people will be losing their jobs.   These cuts are happening right before Christmas and we don’t have any certain facts that he will keep his job. As we look at our situation, we are a single income family and my husband feels the pressure to be the breadwinner. There are a lot of uncertainties as to what the future may hold.  On the other hand, you look at the internal factors of our faith, family, and support we have. God is certain and HE will take care of us and provide our needs. Why should we doubt Him when we are in a time of uncertainty? It is so easy to focus on the external factors that point us away from Christ and worry about something that won’t do any good or change our circumstances.  “Give all your worries…. to God, for He cares about you,” 1 Peter 5:7. We as a family have chosen to look at the internal factor, which is our faith and God giving us the comfort and peace that everything is going to be all right. Making that choice to focus on our faith in God and understanding who HE is, gives us comfort and peace.  No matter the outcome, we know for certain that our God is going to take care of us and when one door closes, He will open another one.

Our uncertainty has come to an end as we just found out, after writing the first part of this article, that God did answer our prayers and my husband did keep his job.  We praise God that He is in control and holds the big plan and picture in our lives. Standing firm on what is true and certain allows us to cast our cares on Him knowing He will work it out for the good. Our family is committed to following Christ.  Each day we trust Him to go before us and work things out for our good.  Today He did that for our family and He can do it for you!  Life is full of uncertainties and can cause us to worry or try to do things on our own to control the situation. God is a God of certainty and you can’t let life steer you away from HIM when it gets uncertain. Praise Him in the uncertainty and draw closer as He shows you the path of your life. He won’t lead you astray and will lead you to the path of certainty. Read Psalms when you wake up in the morning to help you through the uncertainty: “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in You I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul…Teach me to do your will, for You are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on level path.”  Psalm 143:8,10