by Sheryl Lullen

I have been a single mom for 18 years. Despite the obstacles that come with single parenting, my children and I can reminisce on the fun times we’ve had and the times God has blessed our family over and over again. But during those years, I put up a wall that had insecurity written all over it. I have known and loved God for many years and He has given me such an abundant life, but there were so many parts of my life that had been scarred and I carried them deep within my soul. I moved through life eager to please others, looking for God to bless me for things that I did. The truth is I was living my life through others, always willing to give great, Godly advice, but would turn the other way when it came to me. I was hiding them from everyone, even God, or so I thought. Scared to let people in, unwilling to be in the company of good people, I felt uneasy many times because of my past hurts, frustrations and battles.

God revealed the problem to me in five words, “You have a callused heart. “ I heard it and first believed it to be the devil trying to throw more mud my way. But God has a way of showing up and revealing truths to you in a way the devil could never pull off. He reminded me that He has plans for my life. Plans to prosper me, not harm me. Plans to heal me, not hurt me. Plans to strip away the strife that had kept me from believing what He had placed inside of me. He was slowly but surely building me up.

About this time, I heard a message by Pat Layton at A Beautiful Weekend about hearing the voice of God. In her talk, she reminded us that we were like pebbles of sand on a beach in which God could reach down and distinctively choose me out of every other grain of sand. She said, “We are so uniquely made by the Father that we can’t hide under all the other sand. And when He wants to take hold of you, you can’t hide.” During this session I found myself sobbing uncontrollably and falling to my knees. It was as if I was the only one in the room. I was in the presence of the Almighty God and He was repairing my callused heart, stripping away the hard pieces, layer-by-layer until it became new again. I told God I was hurting. He said, “No, you’re healing.” I did a lot of crying that night, but I learned the real meaning of Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” A beautiful sunset greeted me the next morning. As I look back on that weekend, I have to stop and thank God for knocking down those walls of containment that kept me from seeing His truth years ago.

Since that weekend, I have taken on new things, including co-leading a small group of single moms. God knew I had a testimony that would encourage other single moms to seek Him first in all our endeavors.

God is not finished with me yet. A full restoration is in progress but I know who I am in Him and He loves me even in the rebuilding process, (when things aren’t always so pretty). He still sees me as the apple of his eye. So watch out world! My transformation is unfolding and for the first time in a long time I can look into the mirror and actually like what I see.

 

Sheryl Lullen loves to go to movies and write in her free time. She is mom to an adult son and daughter, and works as an operation zone manager for Walmart. She serves as co-leader of a single moms small group and in the Connect 2 booth at GFC.

by Dani Catherine

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

At this very second, you may be discouraged about your life and feel like you’re in a dark place. Life may seem like nothing is going right or like nothing is in your favor. Maybe you’re saying “I don’t even love myself…so why would anybody else love or care for me?” Or maybe you’re asking the questions, “God, what am I doing to deserve this? Will I ever get out of this storm?”

I know that feeling and those thoughts, because I have been there. I suffered from depression for a countless number of years and have fought tooth and nail to come out the other end. It was hard, embarrassing, and unbearable at times; some days I didn’t get out of bed, I didn’t want to eat and I couldn’t find a reason to smile. Depression soon became my identity. That coupled with society’s label of depression and mental health issues, I was convinced I had no chance of coming out the other end alive. But in the midst of my despair, doubt, sadness, and hopelessness, I knew that Jesus Christ had another view of life to offer me; a BEAUTIFUL life.

The only person that could give me more light and love than any dark place could absorb, was Jesus.

There was no way I was letting the enemy win. I started to speak scripture over my depression (as well as seek counseling from a professional and others around me) and stood upon the reality of God’s word. I kept reminding myself that all things were working together for my good! I started to accept my circumstances and realized that God had not forsaken me, and that the storm I was going through would glorify God in the end.  In Philippians 4:4 it says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say REJOICE! That was the scripture I carried with me (and still do to this day). I thought the answer was running from my circumstances and withdrawing from life, but God’s word says it…RISE ABOVE WITH PRAISE!

I am here to tell you WILL get through this storm and gain freedom! God will not leave you where you are. Rejoice in your suffering and sadness, know that you have a Savior that died for you so that you could live a beautiful life. Also, don’t be embarrassed to talk about it to others or a counselor; seek help and guidance. God doesn’t want you going through this storm alone – press into Him! He is there and has always been there. He wants you to cast your burdens on Him! I have faith that the Lord is using each of your storms for His good and there is light ahead of your darkness! Keep having faith and know that you are NOT alone!

 

Dani Catherine loves to bake, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones. Dani enjoys leading a table at Beautiful Monday nights and loves to volunteer as much as she can at Grace Family Church.

by Leah Martorana

Proverbs 4:25 “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.”

It’s no secret I’ve been wrestling with whether or not I should stay home full time since before my son, Max, was even born. I was familiar with the moms returning from maternity leave. I saw their internal struggle as they sat in my office and filled out paperwork on their first day back. We would have casual conversation as if this would call less attention to the fact this was the day they had been dreading for three months. Don’t get me wrong. Many of these moms were successful women who had dreamed of being attorneys from the time they were little girls. The problem was, they had also dreamed of being moms since they were little girls. How were they to balance it all? Finances aside, why did they feel they were expected to balance it all?

For the first six months after Max was born, I tried to answer these questions for myself while I tried my best to make “balance” happen by splitting my time between work and home. Things were “under control” for awhile. Groceries? Check. Bedtime routine? Check. Dinner schedule? Check. Budget? Check. House cleaning? Check. Babysitter? Check. Work responsibilities? Check. The core of the problem was that at the end of the day I had no energy to devote to the people I was checking things off for. Wasn’t the purpose of being home to soak up time with my little one? To learn about being the best mom and wife I could be?

My husband, Mark, and I talked about this a lot. I prayed. We prayed. He prayed. After all that I still didn’t feel like I had a clear answer. One night my sweet husband sat down with me and said, “Leah, walk me through your reasons for wanting to stay at work.” I listed them off one by one.

1) I’m afraid you won’t be as proud of me if I am at home.
2) I’m worried I won’t feel fulfilled.
3) I’ll miss my friends.
4) I don’t want people to say I couldn’t do it.
5) What if we can’t make the budget work?

With each reason I listed it became more clear. Mark looked and me and said what I knew deep down, “None of those reasons are of God.” He was right. The things that kept me hanging on were fear, pride and worry. Things God wanted me to be free of!

So last October I decided to break up with my job. I cut the cord, ripped off the band-aid and didn’t look back. Things are much different, but now I know that different is okay. Actually, different is great! I’m seeing God in brand new ways because our new reality demands more trust. The more I trust, the more freedom I receive. Sometimes getting by just seems impossible. And then, it happens….God comes through in the way only He can and I am free to focus.

Faith is what makes real the things we hope for. It is proof of what we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1

 

Leah Martorana has been married to her husband, Mark, for 4 years and is enjoying her new role as mommy to 1 year old, Maxwell.  She is the co-leader of Beautiful Moms at Grace Family Church. Leah enjoys anything creative, from cooking to crafting.

by Renee Scott

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NLT)

I am free from the thought that everything bad happening in my life is from God.  The mindset that God is only out to “get” you is simply not true.  If it were, why does Paul share in Romans 8:28 that ALL things work for the good of those who love Him?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (KJV)

God lovers, take joy!  This passage of scripture is one of hope and confidence.  It doesn’t mean that as a believer, we will be excluded from hardships, but it does however give the promise of a greater cause for our struggles.   Trials will come to our lives.  Situations may arise that are so painful; we don’t understand how a loving Savior could allow them to happen.  We may even wonder if it’s punishment for wrong deeds.

For the longest time I feared the challenges and obstacles in my life were the result of sin and God was out to penalize me.  I deserved discipline and He was there to make sure it was carried out.  Fortunately through my study of God’s word, I realized my mindset was far away from God’s desire. 

We are created to be in relationship with God.  Relationship comes through experience and knowledge of His ability.

We weren’t birthed to have Him punish us for every little thing we do wrong.  He is a God of grace (unmerited divine assistance) and mercy (forbearance shown to an offender).   Those “bad” things happening in our lives are meant to grow our faith.  James even starts his first chapter by telling us to take joy in our tests.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  James 1:2-4 (MSG)

Start your weekend by knowing that God is so in love with you.  He sacrificed His son for you.  He knows your pain and sees your frustration.  He’s not mad with you; just ready to take you to another level of knowing Him.  Get ready to understand Him in a greater and deeper way.  The best is yet to come!

 

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, Double Portion Inspiration, where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.

 

by Kim Wiezycki

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free. (Psalm 118:5)

When I was a fairly new believer in Christ and the Bible, I was going through a very difficult time with the health of my youngest son, Luke, who was then about 2 years old. I am grateful to say that his health is fine now, although if I had a nickel for every time someone showed their shock at his size for his age, I’d be filthy rich! 

My church friends came to the rescue and pointed me in the right direction using patience, love and wisdom. I was at the Ladies’ Retreat that summer of 2004 and obsessing with how many calories my son was eating (or not eating) while I was away. Was Larry (my husband) remembering to keep the journal? Did he remember to add the extra calorie mix? Did Luke keep his meals down? How many bites did he take? Was he constipated again today? What if we had to put a feeding tube in him? What if his brain didn’t develop right? 

I was on the phone almost every hour of the retreat checking on his eating patterns and driving my husband and everyone around me crazy. 

During “sister room” time, when asked to share a little about myself, I immediately told the girls about my son’s reflux, short-stature, and failure-to-thrive status that had me worried beyond description. They could see right away that I was held in bondage by this issue and had been for a long time. They knew I needed to lean on the One who could help me most, our Lord. One of them graciously suggested that I attend the break-out session on deliverance that was being held the next day. Being a fairly new Christian, and not even knowing what ‘deliverance’ meant, upon their INSISTENCE, I changed my plan for the day, and attended that breakout session led by Kristin Bonham. 

During this breakout session, I was on the edge of my seat as Kristin explained the Biblical topics of demonic strongholds and deliverance. In non-Christianese, that simply means FREEDOM. After sharing scripture with us on what God says about truth, bondage, evil spirits, and freedom, she had us pray silently over a list of possible ways we may be in bondage. We were supposed to clear our heads and listen to God speak to our hearts. If you know me, you know I’m a talker. Listening to God is still a challenge for me! As I scanned the list, I chose the word ‘worry’ and began praying for God to take away my worry over my son’s illness. I began a one sided conversation with God about my issues with worry because I was sure that was my problem. Then, after trying to stay silent for a few moments and give God a chance to speak, I heard in my heart, “CONTROL.” What? I don’t have a control problem! I have a worry problem. “No,” God assured me, “You have a control problem. I created Luke. Surrender him to Me.” I began to giggle, because as a fairly new believer, hearing God’s voice in my heart was a new experience. When I’m nervous, I tend to laugh inappropriately, and that I did! 

The woman sitting next to me thought I was crying. She leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Don’t WORRY– God is in CONTROL.” I almost burst out laughing! I was getting confirmation that God wanted me to realize that HE was in control of my son and I couldn’t do any more than I already was to fix him, except to trust in God and surrender to His healing ways for both Luke’s body and my mental state. 

The last part of the session was prayer and the most miraculous thing happened. I literally felt vibrations lift up and out of me and a very real weight came off my shoulders. I would have been the first person, having grown up agnostic, to tell you that experiences like that are all made up or a psychological response to something you wish to happen. But I KNOW what I KNOW and I KNOW that God lifted that stronghold off of me that day to help me build my faith and trust in Him. And it did. 

I can sing praises now for Luke’s health being fine, and even if he is small, he is how God made him. I realize now that even if his medical problems had been more severe, I learned that day to be free of the obsession of trying to control circumstances that are beyond my control. Now when I tend to worry or fret about something, I wonder if it’s really just me trying to control something that God wants me to let be and surrender to Him. I now practice listening and following His leading or avoiding situations that I know could lead me astray. Every day is a journey and the freedom to walk with God is the greatest adventure. 

 

Kim has been married to Larry Wiezycki for 17 years and they have two boys, ages 12 and 10. When Kim isn’t in church, she can be found teaching curly girls how to take care of their hair, spending way too much time on Facebook or reading real books, and running a half marathon here and there.