Hard to Love

Kesha Webb, GFC 

I’ve been so blessed to have the most precious people in my life.  Some of those people were instant connections, others … not so much. However, I believe God used the “not so much” connections to diversify my portfolio and teach me that there were treasures in my connections regardless of my personal experience. 

Then that one person walks into my life that tests the boundaries of my walk with Christ. The She-bully and the tormenter of any poor soul she smells that is weak. She criticizes everything, talks about everyone, debates all topics and actively looks for information on the internet to wrestle with her next victim. 

Surely God would want me to intervene, put her in her place, and save the world  from her evil and arrogance.  On the contrary, God put a mirror in front of my past and showed me that the reason why I wanted to put my She-bully in her place was because My She-bully was me! Yes, she was packaged differently and took evil to levels I could never think of but her behavior had once lived in my heart before Jesus saved me from myself. Instead of building up an arsenal of words to destroy her, God’s tender loving mercy and kindness wanted me to love her. He wanted me to pray for the hurt that hardened her heart and with compassion and patience, look for cracks in the wall she had built as a fortress.

Instead, my response to God’s request to love my enemy was tolerance. I tried to ignore the gossip and the mean-girl remarks she said to me. When she walked towards me at work, I would walk the other way. When others complained I would agree as they validated the frustration I had wrapped in silence.

Then something unexpected and profound happened. I was told that I would be indirectly reporting to my She-bully! All my current projects and employees would eventually roll-up to her. 

Now, God had my undivided attention and I had no other choice but to quit or turn to Him for my next steps. He led me to Luke 6:32-33 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”

It was at that moment I knew that the Lord was using my humiliation to humble me. So, I began to ask Him for ways to pray for her and to serve her. I asked Him to remove the contamination and hurt I carried for her in my heart.  Since He is a merciful God He began to show me that my misery was my ministry. He showed me that “hurt people, hurt people” but “healed people heal people” so every time my She-bully was unstable God graced me to stabilize her. In turn, I was no longer triggered by her behaviors because God replaced my complaints with compassion. He gave me peace in patience and, most importantly, He gave me creative ways to solve critical issues on her behalf. I found treasures in her personality and highlighted those areas so she would see alternative ways to address her frustrations. In time, she began to trust me as I began to trust God each day for her. That’s when the sweetest miracle happened. She became my greatest advocate and today she is a good friend. God showed me that the most difficult people are the ones with the greatest wounds and although it’s not God’s Will for me to be mistreated, it was His Will for me to be used. Only a merciful God can turn a She-bully into a She-beautiful and I am grateful for the authenticity of our connection. My hope for all of us is that when it’s hard to love someone, we’ll choose to love harder. 

BC 2023 Recap: Faithful and True

Lisa Santelli, GFC Lutz

Psalms 33:4 – For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.

Faithful and True. That was the theme of the 2023 Beautiful conference, and it was woven throughout the entire event. From all the fun details … the swings, the slide, axe throwing, and of course the dance party – Extra efforts poured into making this a special event!

The first day started with a fun 70’s vibe. The opening act of “Dancing Queen” introduced our Beautiful hosts, Ashley and Patricia, strutting their fabulous, fancy finds from Goodwill. These two know how to bring the fun. From there, we were led into incredible worship, which flowed through the entire weekend. And, we don’t want to forget about the evening opener, which mixed hip-hop dance moves, a graceful ballerina, a princess belting out tunes and a choir rejoicing. Through this remix, our creative team knew how to showcase that we are an eclectic group of women, but we have one song and dance that flows through our hearts: the love of Jesus.

This year, we had an epic line-up of speakers! Kristi McLelland introduced us to the first mention of women in the bible found in Genesis 2. “Ezer Kenegdo” meaning “helper suitable” in Hebrew, which is what we are, all the time, to everybody. Ezer Kenegdo is a warrior helper, filled with strength as she stands face to face and side by side with those around her. Kristi brought this Middle Eastern lens to help us view the bible with a new view.

Irene Rollins shared her story of restoration and deliverance from addiction. As a pastor’s wife, she sloped into a downward spiral. Her testimony connected with many women struggling from a variety of strongholds and needing breakthrough. Often, we can look like we have it all together on the outside, but are holding onto deep pains internally. It’s so important to find a trusted community and reach out for help, because God wants to see us all delivered from our pain, shame and disappointments.

Then, there was Lacy. If you haven’t heard of this young, bright light, you all need to start following Lacy Abercrombie. She will have you full-out bellyaching laughing in a heartbeat. Through her humorous way of storytelling, she shares the love of Jesus with grace and giggles.

Friday night closed with the powerhouse, Christine Caine. Christine preached on Lot’s wife. In Luke 17:32, the only woman Jesus ever told us to remember is Lot’s wife. Lot and his family were saved from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, with one instruction, “don’t look back”. But, as they were fleeing, Lot’s wife looked back. Christine commented that, “Lot’s wife had prioritized her past over her future.” This sentiment hit home for me. Where am I trying to move forward? And are there areas that I’m still looking back? Hurts that I’m carrying. Plans that didn’t go as anticipated. Longing for what could have been done differently. In these moments, we are to remember Lot’s wife. We are to remember to keep looking towards Jesus and stepping forward. As Christine put it, “we are called to be the salt of the earth, not calcified and stuck like Lot’s wife.”

On the final day, Lisa Harper brought it home. She started with a prayer over women who have been in a season of waiting. Then, she took us through multiple places in the Bible where we are reminded of the sovereignty of God and how His character is faithful and true. She encouraged us to continue to show gratitude along every step where God redeems us and answers our prayers.

Not only were we given so much encouragement through these teachings, but the Beautiful Conference is also about creating an experience to meet new friends. Part of my behind-the-scenes glimpses provided access to view friendship at the speaker level. Most of us know by now that Christine Caine and Lisa Harper are besties. They shared stories how they have the type of friendship that no matter if they are halfway across the world from each other or what they are doing, they reply to each other’s texts and answer their calls. But they don’t stop there. There were new speakers this year, a few of them had never met before. I saw the seasoned speakers scoop up the rookies with love and kindness, becoming fast friends. This is the essence of the Beautiful ministry. That every woman in our church finds their group to help shape, challenge, and grow closer to Jesus. So, even if you couldn’t make it to the conference and feel like you missed out, you can still get connected. In fact, right now, is the perfect time with groups starting back up. Just show up…there is always a seat at the table for you.

To learn more about the Beautiful ministry or get connected in a group, click here: https://gfcflorida.com/Ministries/women

To learn more about the speakers from our conference, please visit their individual sites:

Christine Caine: https://christinecaine.com/

Lisa Harper: https://lisaharper.org/

Kristi McLelland: https://www.newlensbiblicalstudies.com/

Irene Rollins: https://irenerollins.com/

Lacy Abercrombie: https://www.instagram.com/abercrombielacy/

Repost: Top Seven Tips for a Successful Group

Amy Hafner, GFC South Tampa

I can’t believe our spring Groups semester is upon us.  If I haven’t met you yet, my name is Amy Hafner, and it is my humble pleasure to serve as Women’s Ministry Director here at GFC Beautiful.  Only by the grace of God did I get here and get to do what I do. Our team has been working hard this past fall and in the new year meeting with campuses, having conversations, and creating content that we pray will love you well, challenge you, and help you to connect relationally and grow spiritually.

We have seven campuses, and all seven will be hosting Beautiful Monday Nights, our large group environment aimed at welcoming and making space for everyone.  I want to personally invite you to Beautiful Monday Nights or any of our different small groups – Beautiful Moms, Beautiful Single Moms, Beautiful Mornings, Beautiful Neighborhood, and Beautiful Online, just to name a few.  We want to encourage you to join groups that meet on campus, in homes, or online!

I am incredibly passionate about groups because in a community centered around Jesus, I have been encouraged, transformed, and accepted, and that is my prayer for you this year.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Groups (living in community) are one of our core values here at Grace Family Church. But, joining a group can sometimes be a little scary, intimidating, and sometimes weird.  So, I created a top seven list of tips I have learned along the way (and am still figuring out) to help you get the most out of this semester.

  1. Show Up

I know this sounds silly, but I find my biggest challenge in having a successful small group is, actually, time.  It seems like every Monday, fifteen minutes before I leave home, something happens. Something breaks, someone is crying, and it would be so easy for me to cancel. If you are a leader, pray over your group weekly. If you are new to a group, be committed but also give yourself grace if you miss, it’s ok.

  1. Be Real

One of the coolest things about groups are that we love when you share the tough stuff.  You don’t have to be picture-ready, Pinterest-perfect, or pretend everything is fine when it’s not.  You being real helps others to be real. Always share and allow others to share too. This will help your group trust each other.

  1. Do The Work

Someone once told me, “You get out of a group what you put into it.” We have an opportunity for you to continue the work God is doing in you throughout the week. Beautiful provides a reading plan and S.O.A.R. journal.  It will guide you through the Bible and teach you how to study the scripture. Again, you do not have to do this perfectly, but give it a try.

  1. Challenge Yourself

You may find yourself seeking, questioning, or confessing something as you go through your Bible study. It may be challenging, humbling, and uncomfortable, but I encourage you to lean into it. Talk to someone, connect with your small group leader, coach, coordinator or pastor.

  1. Build Relationships

Community doesn’t just have to happen on your designated small group night. If you find yourself drawn to someone particular in your group, invite them for coffee or lunch. Meet up at church on Sunday, celebrate birthdays, send hand written-cards, or do a service project together.

  1. Forgive

Just a quick reminder that your group is filled with imperfect people just like yourself. A comment may be made, a feeling hurt, or an expectation not met. Forgive, forgive, and forgive again.  Don’t be scared of uncomfortable conversations, but do them with truth and grace.

  1. Be Transformed

Growth happens in groups. There is sanctification through sisterhood. At the beginning of every fall semester, I purposely journal about my current situation and struggles. I pray and ask God for wisdom, discernment, strength, and humility. God ALWAYS shows up, not always in the way I’m expecting, but I am grateful for his correction, patience, and never-ending love.

God Bless,