by Kathy Erickson

I was sitting in service and Pastor Craig mentioned the importance of being involved in a small group. I heard him mention this other times, but I always wondered how I would have the time with kids, school, work, grocery shopping, and the myriad of other things that women are responsible for. I always told myself I’ll join a group… later when the time is right and I have more free time.  This particular service as I heard Pastor Craig speak, I thought about how unconnected I felt with the people of Grace Family and how I wanted to grow in my relationship with Christ.

I finally decided that despite my other commitments it was my time for me to work a small group into my schedule. It’s amazing when you decide to take that step how God starts working in your life. When I decided to make the commitment, God worked out the schedule.  I realized I didn’t have to join a group that met every week and with all the different choices of nights or weekends, finding a group was really not all that difficult.

I remember emailing group leader Sara Sneen about her group and deciding to come to their next meeting to give it a “try out.” I don’t know about other women, but I was a little nervous…ok, a lot nervous. I mean, what if the ladies in the group didn’t like me or if they thought I was strange or what if I thought they were strange.  Does this sound familiar? I hope someone can relate. I put my fears aside and showed up at Sara’s house not really sure what I had gotten myself in to. But after that first meeting, I knew I found the right small group.

I can say with all confidence that the ladies I first met over two years ago have now become some of my closest friends. We laugh together, cry together, and pray together. We share our life struggles and our successes. A couple of them were with me when I ran my first half marathon. In fact, we crossed the finish line holding hands. Sometimes when I’m going through something that I don’t necessarily want to share with the whole group, there is always at least one of the ladies who I can confide in and get her advice. We do not judge, but encourage each other in love and friendship. I see Christ in each of these ladies, and they help bring out Christ in me.  I am forever grateful that I listened to God’s nudging and took the step of faith.

Now’s the time to take a step of faith and join a Beautiful small group! With all the groups to choose from, you’re certain to find one that’s right for you. Brouse our small group listing at www.gfconline.com/beautiful. Click on “find a group” on the right side of the page to see all the available women’s small groups.

by Lori Cardo

I became a Christian at 21 and within two years I was asked to lead a small group for some new Christians in my church. I didn’t have any training. I didn’t know the Bible that well. I still had a lot that God was working on in my life. Yet my pastor saw there was a need for some other young women to be discipled, and he believed I was the right person for the job. (1 Tim. 4:12 – “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”)

Later, I remember a Christian Bible scholar telling me that as a Christian, “If you are willing, do it, because most Christians are not willing!” Meaning, if you are open and willing to go on the mission trip, go! Or if you’re open to leading a small group, do it! So many Christians are just too comfortable and don’t make themselves available.

Over the past thirty years God has drawn me into over ten small groups. Some have lasted only months. Others have lasted as long as 3, 7 or 10 years, all because of the love that developed between the women. Looking back, I’m glad I allowed myself to be “open and willing;” to be available. What treasured memories I’ve had as God has taken me deeper spiritually!

Today, the small group I’m a part of enjoys weekly deep studies, divine salads (I’m convinced potlucks were designed by God!), quarterly ladies nights out, pajama parties, craft nights, serving one another meals in times of need, and lasting bonds developed through prayer and support.

Over the past few months God has been drawing me to a more radical relationship with Him. My natural self is fearful, yet I can’t stop being in awe of Him and feeling His gentle yet steady urge to die to my flesh. My prayer is that we all sense His moving at this critical time in America’s history. (“…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”– Esther 4:14b)

God is always with you as you step out in faith. If you’re willing, do it! Lead or join a small group and be part of a radical change in the church and your community.

Our fall Beautiful small group season has just begun. If you’re looking for a women’s small group, check out this semester’s classes by visiting www.gfconline.com/beautiful and click on “Find a Group.”

by Lisa Phillips

I had attended Grace Family Church for six months and enjoyed the weekly messages.  However, Pastor Craig always stressed the importance of connecting to a small group.  I really didn’t have any friends at church so I thought, “Why not give it a try?”

I decided to attend the Beautiful Kickoff Celebration on a Monday night in 2011.  As the day approached, I became somewhat apprehensive.  Being a sales rep, I am usually outgoing.  But after a hard day at work, it’s easy for me to withdraw.  Other negative thoughts came to mind.  What if I don’t like it?  What if I don’t have anything in common with others in my group?  If I decide to quit, will leaders contact me and make me feel guilty?  Looking back, it seems so silly to have had such insecurities, but I know that was the Enemy trying to influence me.

From the moment I walked into the lobby, I was greeted by warm, smiling faces.  Hundreds of women, from all ages and backgrounds, gathering together.  Wow!  What a dramatic change from the stressful workplace I just left!

We moved into the sanctuary to have worship, listen to a special message, and meet leaders for small table discussions.  I left that evening feeling so refreshed and having a sense of belonging.

As each week approached, I eagerly anticipated my Beautiful Monday Night.  This was an appointment I wanted to keep.  I could leave my troubles in the parking lot, and in a short amount of time become renewed and refocused.  The weekly messages were so powerful and relevant to my life.  Women were open and honest in sharing their life stories, in order to help and encourage others.  Anything and everything could be discussed at the small group table.  No judgment was passed;  only love and support.

We all go through so many challenges in life.  Conflict in relationships, health issues, financial pressures and other matters can all bring you down.  Through small group, I am reminded that God is with us every step of the way.  He wants to have a relationship with us and can ease our burdens.  When we focus on God’s word in our daily life, our struggles become more manageable.  Attitudes change when you trust God and look to him for solutions. 

Uplifting, encouraging and inspiring are the words I use to describe small groups.  The opportunity to strengthen my relationship with Jesus, while connecting to my sisters in Christ.  A place where I truly feel the presence of God and his amazing love.  I hope you join one today!

On Monday, Aug. 27, we will kick off the fall semester of Beautiful small groups. Join us in the GFC lobby at 7 p.m. for food and fellowship. You’ll also have an opportunity to find a small group that’s just right for you. Questions? Contact us at beautiful@gfconline.com.

by Evelyn Ayala

My daughter, Monique, invited me many times to attend service at Grace Family Church but because I was practicing Buddhism I would decline.  However, three months before New Year’s Eve, I felt a strong calling to get to know God.

I told Monique that I wanted to start going to church. She wanted to know what was wrong, and I told her I felt like I was going through the motions but not really connecting with the Buddhist practice anymore. I later found out that my other daughter, Veronica, had started the Daniel 21 day fast, and on day 3 she was specifically praying for my salvation. On that same day my husband called to tell her that I was going to start attending church services.

I started attending Grace Family in January 2012 and in February, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  In April, I realized that what I really needed was a Bible study group, so I started attending Beautiful Monday Nights.   

Attending the Monday night Bible study group allowed me to meet other ladies. I found myself looking forward to the worship songs and the funny and inspirational speakers each week. I also began reading the Bible for the first time. After a while, I noticed that there was a void filled in my heart that I did not know I had. Now, I look forward to attending Beautiful Monday nights again this fall.

Based on my experience, I encourage others not to give up on those that are lost and who seem resistant to coming to the cross.

 

On Monday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m., we will kick off a new season of Beautiful small groups. Join us that night in the GFC lobby for food and fellowship. You’ll have an opportunity to hear about all the women’s small groups available this fall and find the one that’s just right for you.

by Aerin Battey

My Beautiful Moms testimony actually began three years ago when I came to my first meeting. That season God lead me to a table full of young, first-time moms. I left feeling like this Beautiful Moms thing would be just a fun mom’s morning out. It wasn’t until December of that season that I realized it would mean much more to me than that. That year my mother passed away suddenly, and through that very difficult time the presence of my Beautiful Moms friends surrounded me. My family had weeks worth of meals delivered, prayers, cards, flowers, and so much more from a group of moms I had just met, and some that I didn’t even know.  I felt so blessed and grateful that God knew how much I would need the support that year.

The next year Beautiful Moms came around and, if I am being honest, I will say that I had to force myself to that first meeting. I knew that I wanted to see my friends and get out but I was in the grips of a depression. I was a year into my mom’s passing and almost two years into a battle with infertility. At the time we had an almost 3-year-old son and wanted so badly to have another baby. It seems like that season God was really testing me because I felt like EVERYONE was pregnant. Every month another mom at the table would announce her pregnancy and I was torn between being happy for them and my own desires. I was glad for those monthly meetings that would force me out of the house and offer encouragement.

In 2011, I joined Beautiful Moms again, and decided to also attend A Beautiful Weekend. The devil made many attempts to stop my efforts to go. But I checked in on Thursday night feeling pretty emotionless but ready for some time away. The next night after a day of break-out sessions and some serious girl time, we decided to pray and lay hands to claim a life into my body. We found a quiet room and sat there waiting for a few girls to come in. The next thing I knew, walking through the doors is an army of Beautiful Moms members ready to join us. After that night, I felt like a dark cloud had been lifted and I could finally see clearly. I drove home from the retreat knowing in my heart that God had a plan and whatever it was going to be I would be okay with it. 

Two weeks later my husband and I were waiting to start our first round of In Vitro Fertilization when I decided to take a pregnancy test. To my amazement, it was positive. After years of creams, medicines, and shots, the Lord heard and answered the powerful prayers of a room full of moms standing together in faith. In June, we welcomed our beautiful baby girl, Hannah, to our family. I’m so grateful for everything God did for our family, and for my amazing Beautiful Moms friends.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

 

Beautiful Moms is for mothers with pre-school or elementary age children. This large-group gathering meets twice a month and offers connection with other moms, dynamic teachings, helpful advice and small group discussion. The 2012 season of Beautiful Moms kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 6 at 9:30 a.m. in the GFC Gym. Registration is $55 for the full year. Childcare is available for ages 0-5. To register, click here.