by Sharon Tubbs

My life changed… Really.

Gone were the days of getting dressed and traipsing off to my “office,” which consisted of a corner booth at Panera Bread where the rent equals a coffee refill and a bagel.

No more Sunday night treats of Häagen-Dazs Rocky Road while watching an old TV episode of Columbo. (Yes, sad and strange, I know…)

There would be no quick stops for fast food on my way home. In fact, there would be no fast food at all. No sugar or other sweeteners, no eggs, no beloved cheese.

For three weeks, I committed to the Daniel fast—a fast based on passages in the Book of Daniel that restricts your diet to vegetables, fruits, natural grains and drinking water. I’ve done daylong straight fasts (water or juice only) many times. But nothing that required me to read product labels.

Now, I must pause here to reassure my fellow blog-readers and tell you not to worry: This is not another write-up about fasting for the New Year!

It’s actually about lessons gleaned from the fast. They are lessons that God wants you to learn, too, by whatever means. You see, even more than the food restrictions, the fast presented another huge obstacle for me: giving up control and trading my routine for His will.

The truth is that I typically decide what portions of my day will be dedicated to God.

I choose to read Scriptures in the morning time.

Some days, I’ll look outside and see the sun shining and think, It’s a nice day for a prayer walk. So, I’ll drive over to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail and say prayers as I take in the fresh air, the trees, the sky and the clouds that God created.

Other days I’ll turn my home computer to Youtube, listen to Gospel favorites, and have a little solo praise and worship party.

But all of these things are done at my leisure, my convenience. They fit neatly around my meetings and greetings, my research and writing.

Then a month or so ago, God divinely tapped me on the shoulder and whispered His will for me to do something different. I went along with it, wondering all the while, How on earth am I going to get any work done without my corner booth and my coffee and my bagel?

In the beginning, I tried to make my old routine work with slight modifications. I went to the same places and ordered limited items on the menu. That didn’t last long—for one, the plain soup and plain salad cost a lot more than a cup of coffee.

It became clear that I’d have to give up more than food. I had to give up my ways. I started working from home, while snacking on apples and carrot sticks. I started exploring new places, trying new dishes.

In the end, I learned a few things about health and nutrition and the positive changes that come with paying more attention to what I eat. I realized how I had made sweets and other tasty foods a huge priority and concern in my life. Of course, this should not be:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? –Matthew 6:25.

Most of all, I learned what it felt like to give up control, to lay my desires aside and plan my day around what God was asking of me, as opposed to planning God around my day.

When I did that, Our Wonderful Savior revealed something that I had known in theory, but not really in practice: With His grace and strength, I truly can do whatever He sets my mind to do.

If I can go three weeks without coffee or sugar, if I can delight in a plate of green beans with no meat in sight, or settle in for Columbo with a fresh fruit salad in-hand, then truly nothing is impossible for God.

What are you believing God to do in your life that may seem impossible? Share your comments below.

 

Sharon Tubbs works with the Women’s Ministry at Grace Family Church. She is also an inspirational speaker, author and business owner. As she continually strives to reach her potential in Christ, Sharon’s joy comes from inspiring others to do the same by truly seeking and knowing Him.

Last night we kicked off the 2014 Spring Semester with our Beautiful Small Group Expo! Over 800 women gathered for food, fellowship and to get connected to a small group. 

There were many women who came for the first time to a Beautiful event! New friendships were formed and connections were made!

There are over 50 groups for women that meet throughout the week on and off campus. From care and support groups, to activity groups, to Freedom, to in home groups, to FPU and Purpose, to single moms, to Beautiful Moms, to weekly Bible studies…there is a group for YOU!

If you missed our small group expo, you can still connect and find a group! Visit gfconline.com/beautiful for more information and to search our small group directory.

If you have any questions, or just don’t know where to start, email us at beautiful@gfconline and we’ll help you get connected.

 

by Dani Catherine

As the New Year approached, I started to think about the goals that I wanted to reach within the next year. I decided to look back at the goals I wrote down for 2013 to help guide me, and noticed that none of those goals were 100% fully reached.  I was disappointed. Why was I disappointed? Why did I feel resentment?

Expectations. That was it. I expected to be further in my career. I expected to be engaged. I expected that I would be physically in tip shop shape despite 2 knee surgeries within 6 months. I expected too much from myself, my relationships, and my career. Instead of goals being goals, they became expectations. And they quickly started to become expectations from God.

I started to become aware of the expectations I had, and remembered something I read in the past- that had stuck with me, but never really “sunk in.” In One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, I read:

 “Expectations kill relationships—especially with God… Is it only when our lives are emptied that we’re surprised by how truly full our lives were? Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing—and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place! This day! Surprise! … Are there times that a sense of entitlement—expectations—is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy? And what do I really deserve? Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives.”

How ashamed I felt, knowing that I expected such “things” when He promises us something so beautiful. Could I let go of my expectations? Could I let go of what I think I deserved? Challenge accepted.  For 2014, my goals are not “things” I want, or to reach a milestone. My goal is to release expectations and be grateful for every moment, knowing that each moment is a gift from God. I don’t want to look back at 2014 as I did at 2013 feeling disappointed and resenting others; I want to look back and say “Wow, God surprised me everyday with moments that I never expected…”

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:3-6

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:23 

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 

Do you ever feel disappointed because your expectations are not met? How can you release those expectations? Share your comments below! 

Dani Catherine works at GFC as the Ministry Assistant to the Beautiful Ministry. Dani loves to bake, drink tea, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones…especially her dog, Jeter! 

by Lisa Easterling

“We fight from a place of victory.” Craig Altman

I gasped, perhaps a little too audibly, the day our pastor uttered those words during a message. It isn’t like it’s a new concept; I’ve known for a long time that the battle is already won, that Christ won the victory on Calvary, the Gospel story. This was not news to me.

So why it hit me so directly that morning I’m not sure. My mind immediately jumped that thought from the expanse of the brightly-lit auditorium across the vista of my life, my day, my goals, my fears, my sphere of influence, my areas of ministry.

When I landed on my ministry to minister to women who are working through pain to healing and hope, I stopped for a while to ponder the application. What if this is the key to what we are all doing here, lifting one another up as daughters of God? What if we approached the pain of our past, the tasks of our present, and the outlook of our future, from a standpoint of victory? What would change?

Pastor Craig shared a story about how he had once recorded the football game of his favorite college team, and when he went to watch it he accidentally viewed the end of the recording showing the final score with his team the victor. Even though he was angry to have the ending spoiled, he went on to watch the game anyway. He said the entire viewing experience was transformed. Why? Because he already knew his team had won. Fumbles didn’truffle him. Interceptions didn’t rile him. Being down by a few points at any point didn’t unnerve him, because he kept recalling the outcome.

It isn’t unusual for me to come away from our pastor’s messages enlightened and inspired, but that day was extra special for me. My heart for reaching out to others in love and grace was highlighted. And I am blessed to pass along this reminder to you, dear friend, that you may have a renewed joy and hope in what we are doing here, all of us together.

When we work through our pain, we know we will reach healing.When we cry out to God in the pages of our journals, we can look ahead and see our Savior on the Throne and know it’s all going to be all right in the end.

I don’t normally like to have the ending of a book or movie spoiled—unless I know it’s going to be a bad ending. As long as I know it ends well, I am content. How much more should that apply to the way I live my life, word my stories, share my heart, if I know that it isn’t just a medal that awaits me in the end, but the Crown of Life? How much more should it mean to all of us?

by Renee Scott

I’ve been blogging for nearly three years and I don’t know that I’ve ever written about marriage. This month as bloggers for Beautiful we have the freedom to post about whatever topic we want, so why not talk about marriage. I’ve been married for nearly 17 years, so surely I know a thing or two about being married.  In a world where the divorce rate is skyrocketing, the definition of marriage is changing, and fewer couples are choosing marriage, it’s definitely a relevant topic.

Let me start by saying, I love my husband. I may not like every moment with him, but that’s true even of my children (but that’s a whole other topic). Alton and I married young-23 and 25 years old.  We didn’t know what we were getting into, we just knew we loved each other passionately and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.  After only 5 months of dating, we were engaged. Ten months later, we were married.  We knew instinctively that we were made for each other.  (Ok, well maybe I knew first and he figured it out a little later than me.)  You don’t have to date for years to know that you were destined to spend your life with someone.  I’m not advocating rushing into marriage, but when you listen to God’s whispers, you trust Him and flow in His will.

The other day, I asked Alton what was the key to our marriage?  We have our ups and downs just like any other couple, but we’ve managed to stay IN love with each other.  I wondered if he would say that our marriage was great due to putting Christ first, not having a TV in the bedroom, or maybe it’s our great ability to communicate. What exactly was it for him?

I was actually a little surprised by his answer.  It wasn’t any of those things.  They are absolutely needed, but it wasn’t the key ingredient in his eye. Our success simply boiled down to a choice.  That’s right, a choice. He chooses to love me and stay committed to our relationship.

Great marriages are a choice.  A decision.  A mighty declaration between couples. There is POWER in choosing to work it out vs. divorce at the first sign of trouble.  POWER in the choice to love vs. hate.  POWER to see your spouse through the eyes of Christ vs. condemning every wrong decision they make. If you are struggling in your marriage,  choose to love within the borders of your marital vows.  If loving was easy, there wouldn’t be a need for I Corinthians 13 where the true definition of love is given.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Remember it’s challenging for all of us at some point, and that you aren’t the only couple going through a rough patch.  Trust your marriage to Christ.  Allow Him to lead and guide every decision and action.  He is able and WILLING to heal your hurts and strengthen your marriage.  Let Him!

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog,  www.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.