Come Away With Me

Lisa Santelli, GFC Lutz

Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.” Mark 6:31 TPT

Rest. What’s that? If you’re like me, making time for rest can be difficult.

Recently, I had the opportunity to get away for a retreat called Rest Quest. In full disclosure, this was my second one for the year. When I first heard of such a thing, I didn’t know what it was or what to expect, but I heard the word “rest” and was like, “Sign me up! I need that!”. My life has been jam packed over the past couple years with work and work-related travel. It’s typically hard for me to turn off the noise and find rest.

Living in such a fast-paced culture filled with busyness, deadlines, and other obligations – our mental, spiritual, and physical bodies can easily take a back-seat. Maybe you can relate. Family duties? Ministry? Demanding work schedules? Finding stillness and refreshment is tough, which is why I’ve become intentional now about scheduling these times of rest.

For this Rest Quest, the schedule was loose. The message was simple. And, the presence of God was infused through the whole experience. The idea was to unplug from all distractions, especially our phones (that means both email and social media), and to just focus on conversing with God. For some, this may be easy. For others, like me, who are so reliant on our little tech devices, it is hard to fully turn it off. I had many things going on that weekend that were trying to distract, but I put my trust in God and practiced letting go. Through this time away, God refreshed me, filled my cup, provided clarity and direction, and gave me a nourishing recharge. YES. I had to unplug to recharge. Let that sink in.

I’m not going to pretend that I have mastered rest, but I would like to share some things that I’ve been learning along the way.

Start identifying the reasons you are tired. At this quest, we were introduced to the book “Invitation to Retreat” by Ruth Haley Barton. The author mentions areas that may rob of rest. Do you relate to any of these?

  • Functioning out of “oughts” and “shoulds” versus what God is calling you to. One question to ask, “Is this my BEST YES?” Spreading ourselves thin means every “Yes” only gets a slice of our best. Bump every invitation up to God and ask Him whether or not we should commit to the request.
  • Finding it difficult to receive help. If you have friends wanting to give you support, don’t let pride get in the way and learn to just receive the blessing of an assist.
  • Trying to ‘perform’ versus focusing on what God is calling us to. This can be hard to decipher, especially when others have placed expectations on us, whether at home or work. Something to ponder: would I still say yes, even if no one knows that I offered to help? Or, am I saying yes to look good. I don’t think this is purposeful, that we set out to “look good”. Often we do want to please others which can lead to exhaustion if we aren’t serving for the right reasons.
  • Carrying the burdens of unhealed wounds. Sadness, toxicity, and tension can be tiring. Invite God into the healing process. This could be intensive, and you may need extra support, but it’s so freeing!

Being honest about where your exhaustion is coming from can help you identify the root of your tiredness. If I’m transparent, I can relate with each of these that lead to my unrest. Pride. Independence. People-pleasing. I’m learning to lean in and ask God for guidance in these areas so that I am only giving my best YES and serving others well.

Be intentional about scheduling time for rest. I understand not everyone can get away for a whole weekend, but making time is essential. Jot down a few things that rejuvenate and refresh you. Maybe you can start with a five-minute devotional, a few minutes of deep breathing, or a 15-minute walk. Years ago, I read a devotional called, Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. I highly recommend this if you want to walk through a deeper journey of rest. Whatever your restful moments look like, invite God in, start the conversation, ask Him for that refreshing.

In Mark 6:30, Jesus invites His disciples to come away with Him and get rest. Jesus saw His friends and knew they were tired. So, He got them on a boat, away from the people, so they could rest. But, what happens next? The people followed Jesus. They recognized Him and drew near. And, Jesus, being Jesus, didn’t try to outrun them. Instead, He came to shore to meet them. To teach them. And, when it got late, Jesus saw that they needed nourishment, too. So, He instructed the disciples to gather up any food in the crowd, which was minimal. Then, as the scriptures layout, Jesus performed a miracle, and He multiplied the food, feeding thousands that day.

When we take time to get away with Jesus, He will feed us, provide for us and take care of our needs. Rest is not an escape, but instead, rest is a place we find refuge in God’s presence. We escape watching Netflix; we rest at the feet of Jesus. In the 1828 Webster’s dictionary, rest is defined as a “state of reconciliation with God; a place of quiet”; and also, “that on which anything leans or lies on for support”. When we find our rest in God, leaning on Him for support, He gives us that spiritual nourishment, providing for our needs, refreshing our souls, so that we can continue to serve and bless others.

As the holidays approach, our calendars may start to fill up. Be encouraged to leave margin in life for rest. Schedule time on the calendar. Whether it’s a weekend of solitude, weekly Sabbaths or only minutes at a time, be intentional to invite God into quiet moments and get recharged and rejuvenated!


Peace That Does Not Change

Sheri Prescott, GFC South Tampa

“Mommy, can we go back to our old house?”

After 14 military moves, I should remember that as the boxes are unpacked, these words will come out at some point. Along with hot tears streaming down the most adorable little cheeks. It always causes my heart to ache. To scoop them up and cry with them. And then to remember again that no matter the change, God is there. Unlike our address, He never changes. Unlike our emotions, He never changes. Unlike our surroundings, He never changes.

He is peace, in the midst of the change.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!” ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16

My mom has reminded me that as a child, I hated change. I loved a familiar, comfortable routine. Then God laughs as I marry a heroic soldier and face change continually (military moves, deployments, friends being sent to other locations far too soon). And in order to thrive in this role, I begged God to teach me to find His goodness in the midst of the changes.

In her book “Girl Meets Change”, Kristen Strong writes, “Life and anything that represents life involves movement, and standing rigid against it will only break us. So being the loving parent He is, God gently but firmly urges us toward the uncomfortable places change brings.”

What changes are you going through today? Maybe you’re a new bride, learning how to do life with your handsome prince, but don’t understand why he won’t pick his socks off the bathroom floor? Is it becoming a mother and learning to change your pace to meet a tiny newborn’s constant needs? Is it a job change, a change in a relationship with a close friend, or a complete life change that has hit like a ton of bricks? Or maybe like me, your address has changed again and you find yourself walking into the closet when you meant to head towards the kitchen?

When changes swirl around me, I’ve learned two ways to rest in His peace:

First, I fix my eyes on Jesus. Spending time in His Word when I’m most exhausted (amidst the change), turning on worship music when I’m the most emotional, writing down what I’m thankful for when I’m most uncomfortable, and talking to Him in prayer when I’m feeling the most unsure.

Second, I ask Him to change me. If we want to become more like Jesus, we will ask like the Psalmist, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (~ Psalm 51:10) I don’t want to be the same on the other side of the change. I pray, “Lord please use this change in my life to show me my need for You. Teach me to trust you more, love you more, obey you, seek you, and see this life more clearly with eternal eyes.”

We are on this life-changing journey together, beautiful friend. May we stand hand-in-hand, confident in the One who never changes, as He guides us through every change we face today.

Growth and Grace

Alexa Zerrate, GFC South Tampa

Several years ago, I was a younger single woman and became pregnant. At the time, I didn’t have a relationship with God. Sadly, many people around me suggested I abort the baby. Instead, I chose life for her. While I didn’t have a relationship with God, I knew about Him. I knew of His power. Because of that, I asked God to take care of my child and I dedicated her life to Him.

As she has been growing up, I have experienced many things with her that have stressed me out, or put me in a bad mood. Motherhood is not for the faint and occasionally my emotions reveal my frustration in this role. Sometimes it is so difficult to raise our children and hard to understand why they make wrong choices or are not obedient.

But, what I’ve realized along my journey in motherhood is that my actions and reactions often make a greater impact on her life than my instructions. She does not learn from what I tell her, but from what she sees me doing.

I am learning that the number one teacher and coach leads by example. I’m learning that I need to show her how to be respectful by being respectful to her, to control her attitude by controlling mine, to be responsible by being responsible, to be humble by humbling myself, to apologize by telling her how sorry I am for the mistakes I make.

I’m sharing this today because I’m learning, and maybe you are too, what’s really important and what our role as Moms is… To love with all our hearts, to point our children to Jesus, and to admit and apologize for our mistakes. And, I’m learning to give grace to myself because just as they are learning and growing into adults, we are also learning and growing as Moms.


Leaky Buckets

Chrissy Mayer, GFC Temple Terrace 

It was another perfect Florida day, and my family and I were soaking up the rays by the sparkling seashore. The beach has always been such a place of peace for me. 
I love for the kiddos to be able to play, free from technology, with all the dirt, and I welcome the noise that is quickly drowned out by the crashing waves and wind.

As I was sitting in my chair, working on correcting my to-be-rivaled farmers tan, I watched as my seven year old was growing more and more frustrated as he tirelessly carried his bucket up and down the sand dunes. He was busy building a moat and would travel back and forth to the water and back to the moat, in an attempt to fill it with water. But as I continued to watch, I noticed that his bucket was leaking from the bottom. With each trip he grew visibly more tired, more confused, more frustrated.

I motioned him over and exclaimed, “Son, your bucket has holes in the bottom. Did you know that?” He went on to say “Yes, but they are small, and if I. just. keep. moving. I’m hoping that I will have something left to pour out.” “But I see how tired and frustrated you are becoming. You are basically pouring from an empty bucket babe.”

I immediately heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “Ah, do you see?” He quickly ran off, with the utmost determination, towards the wet sand with his shovel in hand. He proceeded to cover the bottom of his bucket until the sand was about an inch thick. Then he added water. The water quickly seeped into the sand and again out of the holes; as he ran as fast as he could back to the moat. This time he threw his bucket down in anger.

As I watched this scenario play out in front of me I couldn’t help but think about my own bucket. There have been seasons where I have grown oh-so-weary, completely frustrated, and felt suffocated by anxiety. Trying to outpace a leaky bucket is hard work! There have been days I have just wanted to throw my own bucket (self) on the ground and pitch a fit, because I have nothing left to pour out.

Have you been there?
Maybe you are there today.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty bucket!” But what if we were to stop, take a step back and evaluate the integrity of our bucket altogether?

Because you can be poured into all day – every day… And you can strive and hustle and cope in your own strength – for a while… But ultimately, God did not create you to simply live your life in survival mode – hovering just above “E”. No, you were created to thrive!

So what’s a girl to do about a leaky bucket?

Here are some hard questions we need to get real about:

– Do I have any lies or unhealed wounds I am potentially operating out of?

Phil 4:8 encourages us to fix our thoughts on “what is true, and honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable.” 

Our bucket will begin to leak when we begin making decisions based on lies rather than truth. 

– Do I have intentional and identifiable boundaries?

Proverbs 4:223-27 encourages us toKeep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.”

Our bucket will begin to leak when we do not have or maintain clear boundaries for ourselves or with others.

– Do I have an intentional rhythm for nurturing my mind body and spirit?

In Matthew 22:37 we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our “heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Scripture is full of verses that tell us that God created as an integrated creation of mind, body and soul. If we lean on or run too hard in one direction things will get out of balance. If one area suffers, sooner or later, all areas will suffer.

Our bucket will begin to leak when we neglect one of these areas for too long.

So now what?

Get alone with God. Get real. And Get in community!

Ask God to show you where the holes are. 

Admit where you have been believing a lie or where you are weak and need His strength.

Allow God to heal and fill your holes through the transforming power of authentic community where there is accountability. 

After “taking 5” to tap out and be in his feelings, my son got to thinking. I walked over and asked him what he was going to do. “I’m going to need a new bucket!”, he said. He realized the old bucket just wasn’t going to help him build what he had purposed to accomplish. And he had work to do!

We Get MORE!

Lisa Santelli, GFC Lutz

 Mark 11:24-25 TPT  “This is the reason I urge you to boldly believe for whatever you ask for in prayer – be convinced that you have received it and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, if you find that you carry something in your heart against another person, release him and forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also release you and forgive you of your faults.”

Earlier this year, a friend gave me a sign with the word “prosperity” written on it. She told me that God put it on her heart to make this sign for me, and to get ready for something amazing to happen. When she first told me about this, I wasn’t convinced. For me, the word “prosperity”, really wasn’t in my wheelhouse. I was used to words like, “hustle”, “work hard”, “getting by” and “doing okay”. But prosperity meant “abundance”, “more than” and “fullness”, and I didn’t always feel that.

Even though I was battling this message, I decided the sign needed to be in a prominent space. So, I placed it on a bookcase I walked by several times a day, especially since I’ve been working from home. Day after day, seeing this word, I started to notice a shift. I started to view prosperity differently. I would have conversations with friends who helped me recognize that prosperity is for the taking, but we must first learn to receive it. Do you know what started to happen? I began to believe that God’s blessings are for each of us, including me. It’s not wrapped in how hard I work or struggle, but it’s in God’s faithfulness to me. I stopped limiting my perspective on God, thinking He only had so many resources to hand out. Instead, I realized there is no way we can ever imagine the limitless treasures He has to pour out.  With that, doors started opening. Doors that had been shut were now wide open. But, even with open doors, I had to be willing to take a big leap of faith and move out of my comfort zone.

In June, my husband and I decided to put our house on the market. It was our first home that we had been in for 17 years. We had made the place our own, were comfortable in it, yet started to feel it was time to sell. But, neither of us wanted to buy right away again. We preferred to wait, take our time, and see where the Lord leads us. If you know me, I’m not a risk taker, and this felt like a giant one. If I’m honest, it still feels risky, yet, I’ve had an overwhelming peace, and I know God is leading the way.

Over the last few months, God has showcased His goodness in the process of selling our home by providing a great realtor, lining us up with the perfect temporary pad, blessing us with bonus items and continually making a way with connections in this adventure. Looking back, I’ve realized that I first had to be convinced, as the Passion translation states in Mark 11:24, that I would receive the blessings in this journey. I had to believe that I was worthy of God’s goodness, so that He would begin to pour out His abundance in our lives.

Second, in reference to verse 25 above, God had already started working on my heart to forgive a few people that I was harboring some anger and hurt against. I didn’t realize it at the time but God was setting me up so I could release unforgiveness and make way for His blessings. If we are holding on to hurt, anger, unforgiveness or pride, it leaves less room for what God wants to pour into our lives.

So many times I believe we let doubt, lies, and unforgiveness keep us from the outpouring of God. We believe His blessings fit everyone else, but that He ran out of them for us. That’s farthest from the truth. God is not on a budget. His bank account is not regulated and there are no restrictions on the number of withdrawals He can do in a day. He is limitless and He is just waiting for us to come with outstretched hands in pure heart, ready to receive all that He has for us.

My prayer for you is that if there is anything you are lacking, any unforgiveness you are harboring,  release it to God and come boldly to His throne of grace. Open your heart to listen to what God has to say to you. Be obedient in what He may be asking you to do. Then, ask confidently, sit back and watch in amazement at all He will do!