by Stephanie Haile

 

Oh no! My 7 year-old received another “N” on his paper. My older son gasped when he saw it. We have never seen such grades in the Haile house before. My mind starts racing… should we get him a tutor, test him for special needs, change his school, change his teacher, change his discipline, punish him? The list continues until my imagination takes over and I see him sitting in a juvenile court blaming his mother for not getting that tutor he needed.

 

Unfortunately, the crazy doesn’t end there folks. The next couple of weeks I observed that my son was not eating his lunch and would come home and gobble down treats all afternoon. He was grumpy and peeing a lot. My mind was made up. “My little fella had diabetes”, I thought. (My dad has juvenile diabetes, so I guess it’s not too far of a stretch).

 

Well, before I know it, I have him at the doctor and he is sitting on the sanitary paper with a needle in his arm and a pee test and finger prick under his belt. Poor fella. I get a call a couple days later, and it’s all negative. What! I was sure he had a real problem. This kid is grumpy, moody and steals candy from the drawer like a mad man. Nope, it was just a phase.

 

It's Just a PhaseIsn’t that life? One problem goes and another comes like clockwork. We conquer a mountain, then we trip over an ant hill. We worry until God fixes it, then we worry about the next thing. It never ends.

 

The other day I was reading Ecclesiastes 3 and saw how King Solomon spoke about the phases of life. Seasons came and went back then, just as they do now. People have always had a choice to trust God or not. Of course, back in Bible times they did not have as many resources. When a problem came, they could not send little Obadiah to the local tutoring school to get his writing grade up, but they could trust God back then, just as we can today.

 

I really did not know what to do to help my 2nd grader succeed, so instead of relying on all the resources out there, I first prayed and asked for God to give me wisdom and help my little “Obadiah”. I had to choose not to worry and remind myself that seasons come and go, but God is constant. He wants to help me with the big mountains and the little ant hills in life. All I have to do is choose to ask for help and trust he will do it.

 

By the way, yesterday I opened my sons backpack to find a paper with a big “S” on it (for those of you who don’t know, that’s a good thing). Also, he has been eating like a horse. I guess I freaked out for nothing.

 

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

By Robin Walls

 

 

Something that always amazes me is how God knows me so personally.   He knows what I need and when I need it and He delivers it in just the way that I need to hear it.  He knows me.

 

I’ll give you an example… A few months ago, at church, it was the beginning of new series.  I was feeling emotional since I had been supporting a close family member who had been dealing with a difficult health issue and I had been letting fear rule me in regards to his condition. I was exhausted and felt weak and broken down by this fear.

 

I was sitting in the sanctuary between two friends waiting for the sermon to begin.  The worship band started and to my surprise, the very first song had the words “no fear” in the lyrics.   I chuckled and said to myself “I hear you, Lord.” I love when He sends me a little bit of love like that.

 

The band played a few more songs and then we were told that we could sit down.  As I sat down, I grabbed the bulletin and the enclosed papers off my seat.  As I glanced at the bulletin, I saw the title of the new series…. “Why Are You Afraid?”  Are you kidding me? God was speaking to me, to my heart.  As I’ve felt so many other times at Grace, I felt like this message was clearly just for me.

 

He Knows MeAs the sermon started, I glanced at the cards that were with my bulletin and noticed a beautiful purple card with the following words: YOU DROWNED MY FEARS IN PERFECT LOVE.  What?!  Everyone must have gotten this with their bulletins, right? I asked my friend on my left if she’d gotten one of these cards on her seat. She said no and started looking around to see if she had in fact gotten one.  I turned to my friend on my right and asked her if she had one in her seat.  She said no.  I was stunned.  I turned my attention to the stage but for a few minutes, all I could think about was how that card had gotten on my seat.

 

Then it hit me.  I realized it didn’t matter how it had gotten to me, only that it had.  God had used someone and something to get His message to me, the exact message I needed to hear.  And our God, the Almighty King of Kings, knows ME so well and knows how stubborn and hard headed I am that he delivered that message not once, not twice but THREE times in just a few minutes.

 

He says it clearly in Isaiah 41:10:

 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

I found out later that my friend to the right had printed up a bunch of cards with encouraging sayings to leave in the bedrooms of her teenagers and she had placed one on my seat. Here’s the thing though…she had printed up several, not just about fear but all kinds of different sayings and that is the one that ended up on my seat.  God used her to bless me that day and I’m grateful.

 

I’m grateful that in this big world full of so many people who love and worship Him, our big God finds ways to let me know how personal our relationship is and that He loves me.

By Vicky Orefice

Fearless Conference Tampa 2017

 

On Thursday and Friday, I attended our GFC Fearless Women’s Conference and guys, it was AWESOME! I didn’t realize how much I needed the conference until it was all said and done. I almost didn’t go at last minute because of work and I am so happy that I did not change my plans. I would have most certainly regretted it. God moved in such a way through the worship, the messages, and the fellowship among ladies that I did not want to leave!

 

Day 1

I am an extreme introvert. Randomly going up to people in a crowd, introducing myself gives me anxiety. Takes me back to first of day of school and having to meet new people and figure out who to sit with during lunch time. Worst day ever for an introvert.

 

I was reliving that same anxiety as the conference started off with dinner, trying to find somewhere to sit in a group of a 1000 ladies. I have been attending this church for a year now but I haven’t been the best at building relationships (again, introvert problems) and the few people that I knew attending the conference were actually volunteering and working in the background. After some awkward hiding behind a pillar, I made my way to the food, grabbed my box of BBQ goodness and scurried off to another dark corner under a tent. Really? I have issues.

 

After dinner, we gathered in the sanctuary and one of the ladies I know, had saved me a seat next to her. Thank you Jesus! I didn’t have to face my fear again of trying to find a seat. Granted, the seat she had was right in the first row, but that’s okay, I can handle that.

 

Spoken Word Fearless Conference 2017 Spoken Word 2 Fearless Conference 2017

 

The opening dance and spoken word were unexpected and set the tone for a special event! Worship was amazing and the sermon even better! After weeks of going non-stop at work and draining my energy, the first night was so invigorating. Lisa Bevere was the Key Note speaker and oh my word. This lady is fierce and I love it! Confession. While I have heard about her before and knew that she speaks at conference and has authored several books, I have never heard her speak before. I couldn’t help but think to myself… “Have I been living under a rock this whole time? How have I never heard her before? In person. Online. Anywhere?! What?!” This little half Sicilian pistol was on fire. The way she commanded that stage and spoke God’s word with such tenacity was… Wow.

 

Lisa Bevere Fearless Conference 2017

 

 

 

“We have this sword of the Spirit, not to beat people up, but to set captives free!” – Lisa Bevere

 

 

 

 

 

 

The After Party was truly a fun way to end the night.  What could be better? Music, dancing, fellowship and smores!

 

Fearless Conference 2017  After Party Fearless Conference 2017

Smores Bar Fearless Conference 2017  After Party Fearless Conference 2017

After Party Fearless Conference 2017 Fearless Conference 2017

 

Day 2

At the morning service we had worship and the guest speaker was Sharon Tubbs and her message was on Rejection and pressing through it. She was powerful! I needed to hear this. Rejection is something that I have struggled with my whole life and based on the “Amens” that I heard during that message, I am not alone.

“You cannot be fearless standing behind a mask of rejection.” – Sharon Tubbs

 

Sharon Tubbs Fearless Conference 2017

 

Mid-day activities included: lunch from Chick-Fil-A (woot woot), two breakout sessions of our choice, a panel discussion, and a full segment of The Pew (our version of The View).

 

DSCF6096 The Pew Fearless Conference 2017

 

Dinner was Carrabba’s and then it was time for the evening sermon. Again, Lisa Bevere did not hold back. Seriously y’all, I’m fan-girling over her. I even waited in line to have her sign my book and take a picture.

 

Vicky Orefice Fearless Conference 2017As a female and a Christian, I left this conference feeling so empowered, so inspired, so ready to take on my world. With all that has been going on with the Presidential Campaign, Women’s Marches, and so forth… It has left me frustrated, exhausted, and at times, ashamed to see how other Christians are reacting to all these situations.

 

It was so refreshing to see women gathering together – not spewing hateful words towards this nation and each other, but instead PRAYING for peace and understanding over our country, wisdom for our leaders and blessings over each others lives. THAT is what we, as Christians, need to be doing.

 

I hope and pray that this flame that has ignited in me doesn’t stop. I know it won’t be easy, especially when I get back to the work routine, but I will press forward!

By Michele Laccabue

 

Recently, God gave me a word that would soon settle in my soul and become the anthem of my year 2017.  Surprisingly, it was presented to me through a song recently performed on a television show, The Voice.  Billy Gilman sang a rendition of Martina McBride’s “Anyway” (2007).  Since I am not a country music fan, I had never heard the song before, but, WOW, this one stopped me in my tracks. Here are the first few lines:

 

You can spend your whole life buildin’
Somethin’ from nothin’
One storm can come and blow it all away
BUILD it ANYWAY

You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
DREAM it ANYWAY

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
When I pray, it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
BUT,  I DO IT ANYWAY

 

The song goes on to say:
LOVE them anyway 
SING it anyway

 

 

Only in the power of Jesus can we rise to a new energized level to do something ANYWAY.  Even when we are weary, dejected, or on the verge of hopelessness, His strength will power us through. Only in the power of Jesus can we continue building on the purposes He created for us. Only in the power of Jesus can we love the unlovable and love the ones that have walked away. Only in the power of Jesus can we continue to dream the desires He places in our hearts. And, then it is time to sing!  Yes, sing out loud!  Praise God for all He has done!

 

AnywayWe all know that life has its peaks and valleys.  Sometimes life hands out some not-so-good circumstances.  There are times we feel our prayers aren’t being answered or even heard.  But, if we choose to turn our focus on the goodness of God, remember what He has done, be obedient to His Word, and trust His plan, we will be renewed and refreshed; ready to do, whatever He has for us next, anyway.

 

 

Is there an area in your life where you need to do something anyway?   Is it time to build, dream, love, and sing again?   Don’t do it alone.  Join me at the Fearless Conference on January 26th and 27th. You can register at  gfcbeautiful.com.  Never been to a women’s conference?  Think it isn’t for you?  Do it ANYWAY.  I promise you won’t regret it!

 

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:17

By Mary Giraldo

Every new year it seems the inevitable happens, reflections of the year passed and thoughts of the new year to come.  As 2017 approached, I found myself not only reflecting on one year passed but several.  I’ve always known that the best thing to come out of my dad’s arrest 12 years ago was mine and his relationship with Christ.  Had that not happened when it did, I’m not sure how I would have navigated the hardships of parenting, struggles of marriage and MS and cancer diagnoses.  In my moments of weakness and despair I was always reminded that His strength is made perfect in me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

I can recall a time when I engaged in a back and forth discussion with God about how I appreciate His confidence in my strength and fight, but I was tired of it all and I truly was not as strong as He thought.  As you can imagine I didn’t win that argument.  My struggles did not go away, but every day God gave me just what I needed when I needed it.

 

Through the years I’ve learned that our loving God would not allow my hurt to be in vain. I’ve come to learn that every trial and struggle has been used as part of His bigger plan for my life; He was strengthening and refining me for His work, to set forth and do exceedingly and abundantly more than I could hope for or imagine.

 

Every so often I’d hear God leading me to prison ministry and I’d tell Him politely, “no thank you, that’s not what I was thinking”.  I felt very comfortable in our relationship to tell Him no, knowing He’d still love me; after all He’d come to expect it.

 

I am constantly praying for His will in my life to be done, that I would listen to His still, small voice calling me out to move further than just being a wife and mother.  James 1:22, says But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, I was listening for His voice and His leading, but that’s where it would end. I’d twist and turn in any way possible to avoid the uncomfortable paths that He was clearly setting before me; fear kept me from moving forward and simply saying yes.

 

My Yes

 

And then the day came, I took His hand and finally said yes.  Our very own GFC Hope Rising is the prison ministry that God led me to.  Almost two years ago when my dad was released and we picked him up from Hardee Correctional, I never thought I’d step foot back on prison grounds, but in October I found myself face to face with the tall barbed wire fences once again.  The opportunity arose to teach classes at Hernando Correctional, an all women’s prison.  This was my moment and like Peter, Jesus wouldn’t be able to show me I too could walk on water with Him. God had been preparing me for such a time as this.

 

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned through the hardships in my life is perspective.  When you’re diagnosed with what is perceived to be incurable or when physical freedom is stripped from you, looking at things from God’s perspective gives you the hope for brighter days ahead even when sorrow and despair fill your days.  The laughter and joy my family were still able to maintain during our prison visits and the smiles that greet me when I show up to teach a class at Hernando Correctional remind me of what I‘ve already learned; joy is possible in the darkness, God’s hope is very real and most importantly God truly can work ALL things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  Prison ministry was certainly never a part of my plans, but I’m so glad I said yes to God’s plans and let Him do what He does best and take the lead.

 

What conversations with God have you been avoiding?  What will your “yes” be this year?