by Dawn Smiling

The excitement is in the air as we get ready for this busy season.  The menus have already been planned for Thanksgiving dinner.  Family and friends are gearing up for food and football while some of us can’t wait for the sales in our favorite stores.  We are programmed to fall in line and carry out the yearly rituals. 

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.  For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.  It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. 

But it was a woman, Sarah Joseph Hale, an influential magazine editor and author who waged a tireless campaign, for nearly 40 years, to make Thanksgiving a national holiday in the mid-19th century.  If you don’t recognize her, she is also the author of the famous nursery rhyme “Mary had a Little Lamb.”  Congress finally made Thanksgiving Day an official national holiday in 1941.

In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative Thanksgiving stamp.  This stamp was designed by Margaret Cusack in a style resembling traditional folk-art needlework.  It depicted a cornucopia overflowing with fruits and vegetables, under the phrase “We Give Thanks.”

As beautiful women, we have the power to simply “Give Thanks”.  No matter how crazy life may seem at times’ or the dysfunction at home, and let’s not forget the drama we face at work.  No matter what the doctor says about a diagnosis, or a child’s report card, we have the power to give thanks.  We have the influence to give thanks for our girlfriend’s happiness, and our husband’s common sense. We have the power to give thanks in spite of 800,000 residents in the Philippines being displaced due to a typhoon, or a storm that raced across 26 states.  We have the power to give thanks that these people will still see the power of God move in their circumstances.  We have the power to pray that there will be thanksgiving in their heart and strength in their souls to rebuild a better future. 

While you are working it out in the Kitchen this year, don’t forget to add these three ingredients during this Thanksgiving Day season:  An extra hug for a family member in pain:  Contentment, which displays a kind heart (compassion), and persistence.  Contentment is being thankful for what God has given you instead of worrying about what you don’t have.  A kind and loving heart allows us to do the work of our Lord, and persistence gives us strength to stop the devil and his cohorts from robbing you and your family of God’s blessings.  The Shunammite women’s persistence in bringing her child back to life (2 Kings 4:8-37) did not weaken over time, but grew stronger. 

Not only do you have influence in the kitchen ladies, you also have influence with God.  Use it, and simply “Give Thanks”!!!

Share what you are thankful for below! 

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.

by Dani Catherine

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14   

 

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Dani Catherine works at GFC as a Ministry Assistant to the Beautiful Ministry and has a passion for helping others! Dani loves to bake, eat ice cream, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones…especially her dog, Jeter! 

by Jenelle Garden

I’ve heard it said that the “eyes are a window to the soul,” but sometimes I wonder if it is my mouth that gives me away the most.

Over the past few months, a colleague of mine has been going through some personal and professional difficulties. She is someone who is a close friend, but lately her circumstances have caused her to become somewhat confrontational, defensive, and quick to butt heads with others in our department. Knowing that, deep down, she is a kind hearted woman, I asked the Lord yesterday morning, during my prayer and devotion time, “Lord, doesn’t she worry about how people are beginning to perceive her?”

As the Lord often does, He answered my question with a question: “How do people perceive you?” I quickly began rattling off a list of all the reasons that others should like and respect me, in reply to His question: “But Lord, I lead a prayer group at school, I teach students with special needs, I’m a devoted wife and mother, I volunteer in my church…” and so on, and so on.  

I wish I could tell you that the Lord gave me some long and meaningful affirmation in reply to my long list of “good works”…or reassurance that my deeds were so impressive to Him and others. Instead, in my spirit, I heard Him ask another question: “But what about the words of your mouth?” That question stopped me in my tracks.

You see, I believe I have a good moral compass and that the Holy Spirit compels me more often than not to walk the straight and narrow. But, sometimes it’s the small foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15).

My small fox is my mouth. I usually have something nice to say and a smile on my face for everyone I meet, but at the same time, I know that I’m guilty of being too quick to complain to my close friends and my husband when someone wrongs me.  I know that sometimes when gossip goes on around me and I have “two cents” to share, I do.  I know that I am sometimes too quick with my words. Because I know that actions speak louder than words, I often reason that the kindness I show others and my good works make up for the “harmless chatter” that might go on between me and those people I interact with in my day to day life.

But, then the Holy Spirit speaks up and, in reverence for Him, my own spirit must yield. I know in my soul that the greatest witness we can demonstrate to non-believers in what it means to love the Lord, is to love others as He has loved us- that means loving them BOTH in what we SAY and DO. It’s Jesus’s most important commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

So, though this “wake up call” was recently received by yours truly, and though I’m still a work in progress, I’m trying harder to be a cheerleader for those who don’t always seem to have my encouragement and applause.  That means not being easily offended. It means practicing what I preach, but also preaching what I practice.  It means not engaging in mindless chatter, which can sometimes be a pattern of this world. Instead, I must be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

And in changing my words and thoughts, this is my prayer, that “the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to the Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”(Psalm 19:14) 

I thank God for the fact that He is always in my corner and on my side, even when I don’t deserve His encouragement or applause. I take refuge and strength in His unconditional love and mercy. May I be an example of that kind of love to others- to my colleague who’s clearly in the midst of a storm, to strangers I meet along life’s path, and to anyone who needs to draw closer to the Lord during a time of isolation or loneliness.  

Thank you, Lord for your loving discipline. Help us, Oh Lord, to be examples of Your love to others in both our words and deeds. Amen. 

How do you combat the temptation to gossip or complain? How can your positive words and encouragement bring others closer to the Lord? Share your comments below! 

Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship.

by Renee Scott

I enjoyed our series on praying BIG prayers and taking the limits off of God. Recently Pastor Craig confirmed praying techniques that my mom instilled in us growing up. If you want your prayers answered, here are three tips:

Be specific.

Early in my twenties, I wanted to marry. My twin sister married her high school sweetheart immediately after we graduated college and it increased a desire for me to find my soul mate. Before her marriage, we were always together. We grew up together, went to the same schools (including college), but now she was leaving college with a new car, fiancée, and an exciting career. On the other hand, I was heading back to my parent’s home with no job and no relationship that even looked like marriage might be on the horizon. It was the hardest time for me.

My mom encouraged me to pray specifically for what I wanted. Not for God just to bring a man my way but to pray for his characteristics, stature, and most importantly his relationship with Christ. They were life changing words for me. I followed her advice and months later, Alton walked into my life. Within five months we were engaged and ten months later, married.

I’m not here to say that all of your requests will come that quickly. Only God knows the details of your life. Trust His timing and the process he takes you through to mature you in your faith.

Pray and Claim God’s promises.

It might seem cliché but it’s true. The Bible has all the answers you need. Recite God’s words in your prayers. Declare His provision, His will, and His promises. If you stand in need of physical healing, remember that by His stripes you are healed. If you need freedom, remember that whom the Son sets free is free indeed. If you need His blessings in your finances, remember that God longs to bless you.

Whatever your test might be, find scriptures that speak to your situation and recite them daily. Write them on post it notes and hang them throughout your home. Leave the word of God playing in your home (“Bible Experience” is a great Bible resource in cd format). Change your atmosphere and watch God move mightily in your life!

Be Persistent

Our relationship with God is not a “one and done” situation. God’s desire for our prayer life is clear in Ephesians 6:18 (TLB):

Pray all the time. Ask God for anything in line with the Holy Spirit’s wishes. Plead with him, reminding him of your needs, and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere.

Let us know how we can pray for you.

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog,  doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com , 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.

For the month of November, our writers will be sharing posts based on what they have felt called to write about! We hope you are just as excited as we are! Be blessed. Be encouraged! 

by Becca Christensen

The Lord started tugging on my heart last year to lead stronger.  After having the same core group of women at my table for a year I knew they were hungry for more, ready to go deeper, and to grow faster.  I on the other hand was feeling pretty comfortable. I finally told the Lord I’d throw him a bone and lead a group over the summer. I took my table from Beautiful Monday Nights through a study called ‘Chase’ this summer and I thought that was me responding to the Lord’s prompt.

As the summer wound down I knew the Lord was giving me new challenges.  He wanted more from me.  I, however, had a lot of good excuses.   I just started a new job. I’m busy.  My house is too far away.  I don’t have enough seating.  I’m on a budget.  You name it, I had it stored up and I was throwing it up every time I felt the Lord give me a prod. 

Finally I gave in.  Ok Lord, I will lead a home group, I thought.  I will open up my too-far-away house with too-few-chairs and welcome my group there to study you.  My first white flag went up but the Lord wasn’t done pushing me yet.  Next I knew that He was asking me to lead on the weekends (say what?), to provide dinner, and to stop trying to find a video I could show at group and just lead them through His word.  After the first ‘yes’, the rest just kind of came out.    

In September, after leading 3 semesters of on campus small groups, I started a small group in my South Tampa townhome.  I had doubts but I had turned them over to the Lord and said, ‘you asked me to do this now wow me Lord’.  He has. He has wow’d me with 100% attendance every single meeting.  With women who are hungry, prepared, and early every time.  With a new depth not just to our study but to our relationships.

My house isn’t perfect. I am not the world’s best chef.  More than one of my girls drives over 30 minutes. My parking situation is not ideal.  I was even intimidated to facilitate a discussion without a video, a book, or prewritten questions. 

All I promised the Lord was that I would make myself available and I would prepare. It has been enough.  Being together, eating together, studying together?  It has been amazing.  After the first week one girl came up to me and said, ‘I’ve been praying for this for a long time’.  I crossed my fingers that the first week wasn’t some kind of fluke.  But they keep coming back.  They keep eating my food (although, God is clearly a jokester because I ended up with one vegan, one vegetarian, and one gluten-free woman).  Each week they teach me, they grow me, and actually, they feed me (gluten free brownies and lots of veggies)!

Our group has become more like a family than a small group.  I could never have imagined that in two months our group would grow closer then we did the whole year before.  Three of the women were from my previous on campus group, one woman I just knew in my heart I was supposed to invite, and recently we welcomed two new ladies the Lord brought so perfectly to us as only He can.  We finished the book of Ruth and we’re halfway through Esther and to steal a page from Esther’s book I think the Lord had been preparing each of us ‘for such a time as this’.

As I thought about what I wanted to share with you all in November I couldn’t resist telling you what it’s been like to bring my group home.  I look forward each time to our group and on the in between weeks I miss our girls.  Apparently I’m not the only one since one of my girls decided to drive separate on a family vacation to make it back in time for group and another is set to Skype in from a mandatory business trip.  There is truly nothing better than living in Christian community with great women who are hungry for more of Him.

Are you currently leading or attending a small group that meets off campus? Share your experience below!

Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to  travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her blog, www.beccachristensen.wordpress.com