When Everything Is Shaking

by Rossaue Hosein

 

Deny, Cry, Numb, Run. Which stage are you currently in? You probably have passed the denial phase since everything that can be shaken in our world has been shaken. Your work life, your kid’s education, your financial situation, and even how you gather for your church small group, has been shaken and looks very different than it did 6 weeks ago.

I definitely have experienced the gamut of emotions. Belonging to a large community of women has given me a lot of insight and real stories into how COVID-19 and social distancing is impacting people. Some days I’ve been fine; after all, this is only temporary right? Other days after talking with several people about job loss, homeschooling, loneliness, and sick loved ones, and it makes my heart feel as though an elephant is tied to my neck.

This entire experience is like nothing I’ve known.  I found myself needing information to help me sort through it all. So, when I saw that Lifeway was offering a Facebook Live segment on mental health during social isolation, I made sure to watch. The segment was hosted by Lifeways Groups Ministry Director, Chris Surratt, and Evan Owens of Reboot Recovery. Evan’s ministry helps people deal with a crisis and make healthy adjustments. What helped me the most, was Evan sharing that the place to start to move through a crisis in a healthy way is to first identify where your mental state currently is.

The Four Stages

State 1 Deny: This stage is obvious. We play down or deny what is really going on. We deny what’s really going on because the new reality is too difficult to accept.

Stage 2 Cry: This is the stage where we grieve our new reality. Crying looks different for everyone. For some it looks like anger, others a short temper or frustration. This is the time to call for reinforcement and reach out to a friend or family for support.

Stage 3 Numb: This stage is how we chose to deal with the crisis. We use things to numb what we are feeling. It can be Netflix binging, Oreo’s, sleeping in, or exercise. On the negative side, it could be numbing with overeating, drinking, or substance abuse.

Stage 4 Run: No explanation needed!

Eventually, we get past denial, cry a river, and decide there’s not enough dark chocolate to numb our current reality, and we run for the hills. As we learned, running is a natural response to a crisis, but where you chose to run can lead you further into a pit of despair or it can lead to refreshment and rest. Let’s look to Matthew 11:28-29 for direction.

Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.

Your feelings are valid. Ask yourself, where am I today. What am I running to?

Jesus is the Rest Giver.

A Few of My Favorite Quarantine Things

By Carrie Roden

As we enter our second month of “safer at home,” we are all in different situations, and some of them are much more difficult than others. Many people are dealing with loss of life, health, or jobs, and all of us are dealing with loss of normalcy, convenience, and community. Even if you are one of the most fortunate in this time, it is easy to feel irritable, stressed, and overwhelmed. I tried to think about the things that have helped us the most during this time to see if any of our favorite quarantine things might help you too.

#1 – Dr. Teal’s Bath Salts – Yes, I know it sounds strange that one of my favorite quarantine things is bath salts, but these are strange times, y’all. I’m normally a shower-in-the-morning girl, but quarantine has found me needing a nightly retreat. I don’t know what it is, but somehow, I’m less stressed. You can pick them up for $5 a bag at Target Drive Up, which leads me to #2

#2 – Target Drive Up – My love for Target is not new. I use cartwheel like it’s my job, have a red debit card for extra savings, and save up gift card bonuses for Christmas shopping. What I love about Target Drive Up is that there is no fee, no increased prices, you can still use your cartwheel discounts, and most things are ready in less than 4 hours. Now they never have toilet paper or paper towels, but who does?

#3 – Getting Outside – I already knew that we all feel better mentally and physically when we get some kind of exercise outside. After dinner walks and scooter/bike rides have become even more important to how we are functioning as a family. The couple of times we have skipped the routine, we wished we hadn’t.

Last week we were able to go blueberry picking, and that was honestly as close to normal as we’ve felt in weeks. There is just something about getting outside the walls of your house! And there hasn’t been one time that I’ve walked (including the time that I was trying to increase my pace and fell flat on my face) 🤣 that I didn’t feel better when I was finished.

#4 – Encouraging Someone – So much is out of our control in all of this, not the least of which is when it will end, but maybe the only thing we can control is how we choose to respond. For us, it always helps to focus on someone else. I’ve been so encouraged by the heroism and selflessness of so many people during this crisis, and we’ve enjoyed several opportunities to thank or encourage people who are sacrificing more than we are.

My little girls have made cards and signs for Instacart drivers and grocery employees. We’ve joined in with friends fundraising efforts for causes we could never singlehandedly meet the needs of. Pat and Mary Grace Davis are raising money for Publix gift cards to help single moms and God has multiplied their efforts beyond what they imagined.
My friend Stephanie Simpson who works at Restore in NYC is raising money to support sex trafficking survivors who are finding themselves once again vulnerable due to job loss during Covid 19.

And of course, we are always so proud of how Grace Family Church loves the Tampa Bay community through the many outreach opportunities. The drive-through drop offs of groceries and masks on each campus are helping keep the people in our community fed and cared for. Whatever way you choose, find a way to encourage someone else because focusing on what you can do with whatever you’ve been blessed with is so helpful in a time when you feel powerless.

#5 – My last quarantine favorite is the Scripture app Dwell because this is the easiest way for me to get Scripture into my heart and mind right now. I love the choices of reading plans, I love that I can listen outside while I’m walking. And I love that it keeps up with where I stop and even reminds me to listen. When we have a kid struggling with anxiety, that kid goes to sleep listening to a playlist of Scripture focused on worry. If I’m struggling with anger there is a playlist for that. We are hearing so much information and it can be hard to know what part is true. Having daily access to a hope-filled Truth that we can be sure of, written by the only One who knows how all this will turn out is my absolute favorite quarantine thing.

Our quarantine days have not been all sunshine and rainbows. I’ve had days when I haven’t utilized any of the things I’ve found helpful, but rather have let my frustration determine the mood in our home. Those aren’t the days I’m proud of and they certainly aren’t the ones I want to repeat. The days I’ve relied on my new favorites and embraced where God has us have resulted in days that are worth repeating and that I hope will be the ones we remember when we look back and remember this crazy time.

Stronger

By Vicky Orefice

The 2019 GFC Beautiful Conference is officially in the books and it did not disappoint! This year’s theme was “Stronger” and when I think about what that means to me, I think Stronger in HIM and Stronger TOGETHER.

I’m sure I’m not in alone when I say “Life is hard”. I feel like my faith, patience, strength is tested on a daily basis at work, at home, in my car, and on social media. Can I get an amen?? When I feel like giving up, God is there to lift me up and make me stronger. I have some major introverted tendencies that sometimes get in my way of being with others. But my story, my talent, my being was given to me by God to share with others and help make them stronger.  I love this video because it breaks down the small ways we can help each other become stronger.

“Be Where Your Feet Are”

Hannah Brencher, TED Talk speaker and author of “Come Matter Here”, shared with us her journey to building a life that matters. A couple points that I took away from this session were 1) be where your feet are and 2) break away from technology and be present.

Okay, so I am a Type A – always with a plan, thinking five steps ahead and checking off my checklist. While that personality is great for my line of work, it causes me to never really be content where I am and always looking for the next big goal, project, plan. But I need to take a step back, appreciate where I am in my life and know that God has me there for a reason. Part of that is “Break away from the phone and pay attention to the person in front of you and make them feel like they are the center of the universe”. I thought to myself, what easier way to make someone stronger than making them feel like they are the center of the universe?

If you have not read her book, go ahead and open up Amazon now and add it to your cart because it is a must read!

Our gal Jeanna White interviewed Hannah where she opened up about her journey through anxiety and depression and the start of her organization More Love Letters. Later in the day, we all had the opportunity to write a letter to one of three people as part of the letter bundles and this was probably my favorite part of the conference. I love writing letters and receiving them! My collection of stationery, washi tape and pens is a force to be reckoned with! I am making the decision to send more letters to my friends and family and also be part of sending cards for Hannah’s letter bundles. While writing to the young lady in the session, I was brought to tears because it was as though I was writing to my 14-year-old self. Just another reminder of how I can help make others stronger.

The breakout sessions list this year was so good and so hard to choose only two! If I could have multiplied myself, I would have attended like 6 of them for sure. The topics ranged from Mommyhood and Marriage to Worship and our Walk in the Lord. There was something for everyone. One of the sessions that I attended was Sanjie Jackson’s #LIVINGYOURBESTLIFE where she gave us 5 practical steps. Her message was in line with Hannah’s message about stepping away from technology and being present, breaking it down in easy ways to live it in our day-to-day.

Okay, can I take a moment to brag on our worship team? I mean, they are the real deal. Not only do they have the talent but they have the heart. What an important responsibility it is to bring the church to the presence of God through worship and it’s one that they do not take lightly. God showed up during worship in a might way. Tears were shed. Knees were bent. Hearts were touched. The video to live performance of “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle was a perfect set-up to Lisa Bevere’s message that night.

“Courage does not happen in isolation. Courage happens in community.”

Lisa Bevere, NYT bestselling author, and internationally known speaker graced our stage for the second time at a Beautiful Conference. What I love about Lisa is that she has this fierceness in her message and doesn’t hold back. She made a lot of references to lionesses and how they live in their prides. They don’t just think about themselves and do their own thing but instead play a role in the pride. Imagine what we could do when we move from thinking about ourselves to focusing on others. We really are stronger together!

Ain’t no party like a Beautiful party!

Ladies and gals of Grace Family Church KNOW how to par-tay! We brought the party essentials but the ladies brought the movesssss. We group danced to the ‘cupid shuffle’ and ‘cha cha slide’ and sang our hearts out to classics from Whitney Houston and Cyndi Lauper. When we needed a break from all that cardio, there was an array of refreshments and treats to choose from. Holy popcorn options! Birthday Cake flavor was screaming my name…. Along with the mini donuts. Hey oooh! We also had games and not one, but TWO photo booths! Seriously, you can never go wrong with a photo booth!

Shout out!

Shout out to Carrabba’s and 4 Rivers BBQ for feeding our bellies. There are people who eat to live and there are people who live to eat. I would be the latter of the two~

Shout out to the ladies who put their physical strength to the test in the Stronger Challenge. After several rounds of arm wrestling, the two winners went to the final round of Sumo Wrestling Dance Off. Yep. It was as funny as it sounds.

Shout out to the GFC Men who served during the conference. From helping with set up, passing out snacks, opening doors, moving chairs, cheering everyone on to the after party, to helping put everything back in place at the end. They did all of that with a smile on their face.  

Shout out to the creative team that designed the branding of the conference. I loved the simple look of the black and white with the green element from the eucalyptus. which carried over through everything from the booklets and pens to the jewelry and clothing. I am confident to say that I wasn’t the only who loved it all based on the line and how quickly some of the shirts sold out! P.S. If you missed the good news, more shirts are arriving soon!

I am so grateful to be part of a church with such amazing leaders and volunteers who help make conferences like this one possible. I hope that you were able to attend the conference and were just as blessed as I was. If you weren’t able to join, you can still get poured into and find community by joining Beautiful Monday Night or any of our Beautiful Groups!

Worth the Wait

By Becky Olszewski

 

Have you been in a position where you were waiting and you thought you were being so patient? You thought, I can do this! I can wait for the answer and trust God. I’ve been there and been able to wait. But recently, it was a different story… I was sick of waiting.  I wanted an answer from God and I wanted it now. I found myself growing impatient and battling with my thoughts.  

 

One side said, “Just give up, who cares? You’ll never get an answer and you’ll never be happy.”  And the other said, “God’s plan will prevail. He is faithful and will provide a path for you.” I knew God was telling me to wait, He made that so clear to me.  But I was starting to get down in the dumps about it. “Poor me.” I thought. “Everyone else has it all figured out. Why do I have to wait when they already have all the answers?”  Pity parties were becoming part of my daily routine.

 

I was working on my Bible study one day and God said to me, “It’s not about you”. That’s when it hit me. In my time of waiting, I was totally focused on myself.  I was feeling sorry for myself, getting depressed, shuffling through the days wishing they would speed by so the waiting would be over. In that moment, I realized God has called me to more. I was so busy throwing my tantrum that I lost sight of the fact that He wants me to love and help others.

 

God is so good.  He knows exactly what we need when we need it.  I was asked to attend a Bible study last summer called “Just Open the Door” by Jen Schmidt.  The study focuses on loving, serving and welcoming others into your life. In the study, the author challenges the participants each week to think of others by doing things like inviting them to something, writing a little note, or helping them with chores.  

 

Following my pity party, God challenged me to focus on others. So I’ve tried to do that. Each day, I’ve been praying God would put people in my path that need to be shown God’s love through acts of kindness and words of encouragement. In my free time, I’ve been brainstorming ways to reach out to neighbors or help friends.  Suddenly, I’m not so focused on the answer I’m waiting on… I’m finding my joy again. I’m still waiting but I’m not doing it with a bad attitude anymore. I’m able to see God in other ways in my life as I serve others and I know I can trust in His timing. 

 

If you’re in a time of waiting, or if you’re finding that you’re spending a little too much time thinking about yourself and your needs, I challenge you to reach out to others.  What are some tangible things you can do for the people in your life to encourage them or help them?

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope.  Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.  Romans 12:10-13 NLT

Reckless Love

By Pam Otto

 

 

I cozied up in my morning chair, grabbed my cup of Joe, and started to read one of my favorite devotionals. Some mornings I find a little nugget that I want to remember, so I jot it down in my journal. Other mornings I find myself going through the motions without sensing any specific direction, thumbing through the Bible, hoping for something to jump off the pages. But… I always stand amazed at the moments when I am deeply moved by the Words of God, when the verses that I’ve read countless times seem to jump off the page and into my heart! What a great reminder that the Word of God is living, powerful and active! (Heb. 4:12)

 

Today I “happened” upon two very familiar verses that convicted my spirit and allowed me to see into some stuck places in my own life. Don’t you love the way that God knows each of us so deeply, so intimately that He is able to gently lead us to a new place?

 

I ran across 1 Corinthians 13:5 which says, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”  Then I read Romans 8:1 which states, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”This is when I had my ‘Aha’ moment, my personal nudge from God.

 

I know these verses. They are familiar and I’m in full agreement. But, my heart was telling me that knowing these verses looks different than living them out. If I want to truly love the way that God loves, I need to stop keeping a record of wrong, and that includes to stop silently condemning others in my heart. I mean, I typically don’t condemn people out-loud…that would simply be mean, right?

 

God was revealing to me that I need to put to death the idea that I am somehow the judge of another. He wants me to start loving those challenging relationships without keeping score, without remembering past hurts, without rehashing old wounds and without any condemnation. The love that I am to freely extend to others in those sticky places comes to me through the Holy Spirit. It’s not my imperfect, selfish love that needs to grow but the perfect, life-giving love of God that needs to increase and be on display in me and through me.

 

My desire is to put away my childish ways of loving others, and to invite the Love of God into each and every relationship and watch how God continues to reshape and reveal His perfect love through my imperfect heart. Since God does not condemn those who belong to Him, shouldn’t I do the same?

 

What about you? Are you loving those difficult, prickly people in your life well? Have you ever kept records of wrongs done in the past that you pull up from time to time and let simmer in the corners of your heart? Let’s invite God into those places and begin loving others more generously with transformed hearts.