By Kari Dickerson

 

It was a brisk November day in Minnesota and I had just arrived to attend my dear Aunt Bev’s 90th birthday celebration, and I was so excited to visit with extended family that I rarely get to see. Not many live to see this big birthday! What a momentum occasion!

 

I hadn’t been at the party for even 20 minutes, when I received a call from my father who lives close-by. He was supposed to be arriving soon with my mother, but he informed me that they wouldn’t make it. He didn’t know what to do. Dad said, “I need to get her to the emergency room, but she refuses to go.” I said, “I will be right there, Dad.”

 

I raced to the home I grew up in, and was immediately so saddened by the sight. Yes, Mom’s been sick for a long while, but it’s still hard to see your loved one in such a state. She was so pale and weak, yet stubborn and unrelenting. She was dazed and confused, yet so sure of her resolve. Her clothes were a mishmash of items that should never, ever be put together; yet my love, adoration and desire to protect her could not have been greater.

 

Dad and I finally coaxed her into the car and drove the 40 minutes to the hospital emergency room where they knew her so well. We knew the drill…lab work, neuro assessment, the very difficult IV stick, and the familiar questions. We also knew she was severely anemic again from all of the blood loss. She just kept looking at us both in disgust. It was so hard to bear. “Why? Why did you bring me here again? Don’t make me do this,” she kept repeating. The glaring looks continued as Dad and I tell the doctor the truth about what’s going on.

 

It didn’t take long for the labs to come back and the units of blood to be hung up and begin infusing. Shortly thereafter, we see color coming back into my sweet mom’s cheeks and a smile forming on her face. “Wow, I feel so much better,” she says. “Thank you for making me come here! I don’t know what I would do without you both. I don’t deserve you.”

 

At that moment, God so clearly spoke to me and said, “Look at how quickly replenishing human blood brings back life, restores, and changes the attitude and perspective of a dying mind and body. How much more life-giving is the blood of Jesus to change our hopelessness into joy, and not just bring back life, but give the gift of eternal salvation.

 

Just as my mom felt she didn’t deserve my dad and I; none of us deserve the gift of His body and blood that our Lord Jesus gave for us on the cross. Just as some come reluctantly to be healed in an emergency room, some come reluctantly, near hopelessness to the church, not knowing how much they need to be healed. Who do you know that urgently needs the blood of Jesus Christ right now?

 

By Lisa Crumbley

 

Recently, this world lost one of the most inspiring spiritual leaders it has ever know. The Reverend Billy Graham, who was known as America’s pastor, has passed and entered into a place that he had longed to be. Heaven.

 

 

In the documentary that aired last Sunday on FOX, he said “I have been asked many times if I fear death … No … I  look forward to death with great anticipation”. In his preaching, he had one poignant question for his attendees. “ I know I am going to heaven when I die….do you?”

 

I can only imagine the multitude of people of all races and nationalities who were there at his homecoming because he led them to Jesus Christ. What a legacy for any Christian to leave behind. I am sure that the seed he scattered is still reaping a harvest even after his death. Family trees were changed because of his bold, unapologetic, way of preaching the Gospel.

 

It got me thinking, am I scattering seed? Am I talking to friends, family, or even strangers about The Great Commission as God calls us to do in Mark 16:15?

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

It’s really not that hard to plant seeds and Reverend Graham summed it up in a simple message:

Jesus Christ loves you and God is love. 

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done in your past  – He loves you and He sent his son to earth to be made flesh and die on the cross so our sins could be forgiven.

 

I remember hearing this message preached at Raymond James stadium in 1998. We went to hear a popular Christian group, DC Talk. I was hoping that my then 12-year-old son would see a different side of the church other than the traditional Catholic Mass on a Sunday.

 

I will always remember my son turning to me when Billy Graham asked the people who wanted to accept Christ to come to the field. He said “Mom can I go down there?”  I thought he was just caught up in the moment, but when I said to him “ You’ve already been baptized and know Christ in your life”, he said, “ I need to make sure mom.” Even though being “saved” was a foreign concept to me as a Catholic Christian at that time in my life, I reluctantly agreed. It turned out to be a wonderful memory that I will never forget.

 

Did God use Billy Graham to minister to you or your family? If so, share your story in the comment section.

By Aly Rivera

 

 

When I first meet someone, I often share my name, exchange a handshake, a smile or maybe even a hug. I would bet you do the same.  Some impressions are long lasting while others seem to be less memorable. Recently, I met someone who left an imprint in the lives of many.

 

I attended the funeral of a grandmother to one of my husbands’ childhood friends. I didn’t know the deceased and barely even knew the family. When I arrived at the funeral home, there were people standing around the lobby greeting those that came in.

 

What was different, was that people were smiling and reminiscing of the life of a woman that had meant so much to them. Everyone began exchanging stories of the past and sharing what her last days looked like. She had asked to die at home surrounded by family with love, prayers and singing.

 

Her children and spouse spoke of a woman that had spent her life loving God and serving Him by sharing His love to those that she encountered. From children to adults, people felt the love of God flowing out of her just by being around her. Even when she was firm, she still showed love and compassion.

 

I sat there listening to each person go up to the podium and share the imprint that she had left in their lives. I was in awe of the legacy that she had left and her unwavering faith even during her last moments of life fighting cancer at age 82. I heard she encouraged her family not to wear black at her funeral but instead to sing her favorite hymns in celebration of her return home.

 

It’s said, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” The impression left on my heart that day encouraged me and also challenged me. This lady helped me see the difference I can make today and the potential I have before me.

 

Christ asks us to continually act out of love. To be selfless and show in our actions what His love looks like. To give grace just as He gives it to us. To show forgiveness just as He shows forgiveness to us. What could our lives look like if we simply loved and forgave when it was difficult to do?

 

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” NAS

By Leah Martorana

 

Grace. It’s a word casually tossed around in Christian circles. But have you ever stopped to think about what it really means.  How have you experienced God’s grace in your life? What did it feel like? Do you consider it a gift?  Sometimes we are so busy trying to be enough that we completely miss the point that God’s grace is enough.

 

This year I faced physical illness that left me quite literally knocked down.  I had bouts of dizziness, extreme fatigue, rapid unexplained weight loss, allergic reactions to food, and a whole slew of additional symptoms.  For months I could barely get out of bed. I struggled to complete basic tasks like cooking, grocery shopping, and laundry.  I was in so much pain I didn’t want to do anything fun like playing with my kids, meeting a friend for lunch, or going out on a date with my husband.  And I without a doubt had no ability to be the go-getter, goal-driven, overachiever that I typically am.  I had to let all of it go. ALL of it.

 

Besides the physical toll on my body, I was spent mentally and emotionally. I went from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment without any answers.  I even had several doctors tell me there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. I wondered if I was losing it.

 

I’m happy to report nearly a year later I do finally have some answers and I am on the road to healing. But here is the part I want you to get. When I hit that deep dark place I had nothing left to give. My body was literally wasting away. I couldn’t be the Disneyworld mom. I couldn’t be the social butterfly. I couldn’t be the superstar entrepreneur. I couldn’t be the ideal wife.  All I could do was sit back and receive God’s grace.  I had to believe that it was enough. And you know what? It was.

 

 

Webster’s dictionary defines grace as: “Unmerited love, help, and favor of God to human beings”.  When you’re in a dark and helpless place, when you can’t do anything in your own power, when you feel weak, the grace of God shines through in such an amazing way and it covers every single place you don’t feel enough.

 

God’s grace was enough for my kids. He taught me to show them love in simpler ways. Maybe we couldn’t go to a theme park but we could curl up on the couch and begin a series of chapter books.  Or we could make PB&J and have a picnic right outside our house.  And if it was a particularly bad day? Then maybe they just needed to crawl in bed with me and watch too much TV while I ran my fingers through their hair.

 

God’s grace was enough for my business. He sustained it, provided through it, and made me a better leader. Delegating has never been a strength of mine.  Giving up control? Not a fan of that. Well, this year I had to do both.  I was certain these changes would be detrimental.  But you know what? They weren’t. God said, “Just relax. I’ve got this too.”

 

God’s grace was enough for my marriage. He strengthened it like you wouldn’t believe. There is a reason why “in sickness and in health” is part of wedding vows.  Having gone through this year I can honestly say, I’ve never felt more loved by my husband.  Being cared for when you are at your worst is more special than any candlelit dinner could ever be.

 

What if instead of trying to “fix” every weakness we began to embrace them? What if we let ourselves begin to rest in His strength and truly let go? What if we realized the gift of experiencing God’s power in the midst of our pain? What if we stopped trying so hard to be enough because He is enough?

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

By Sarah Doering

 

Does anyone ever feel overwhelmed by what you see when you walk into your home?  Do you wish you had more time in your day?  Do you feel unorganized or can’t find things you need?  Do you ever go to bed thinking and hoping tomorrow will be a better day?

 

My goal in my recent session at the Beautiful Conference was  to empower you with organizing tips backed by biblical truth to clean out your home, which will develop a clear heart and clear mind. If we can learn to switch our perspective on our belongings, what we need rather than what we want, we can reduce the clutter in our lives.

 

I began my session sharing that God is the ultimate organizer!  In the story of creation in Genesis 1:3-5, it tells how God had a plan and true sense of order when creating our world.  In this story God exemplifies two key organizing principles; Categorization (grouping) and Specific Labeling (naming).  Since God is a God of order, it makes sense that we will function better when we have some order in our homes and living spaces.

 

God’s view and the world’s view about our possessions is so different.  The World’s View tells us that “stuff brings Happiness”.  It’s driving force is Consumerism.  This focus encourages the acquisition of things (more and more stuff) in ever-increasing amounts and has created a culture of luxury, consumption and often greed. This greed in our hearts can often turn into too much in our homes, which brings a lack of order, which then breeds chaos.  The worlds view can leave us feeling empty.

 

God’s View says that true Happiness & Value come from Him.

Look at what Matthew 6:25-31 says, “If you decide you are living a life for God, it follows that you do not fuss about what’s on the table at mealtime or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than clothes you hang on your body.”

 

If we focus on God and trust him to provide, anything outside  of our immediate needs are an added bonus and reward.  Changing our views of possessions as a bonus takes away feelings of entitlement which allows us to live peacefully and satisfied with less.

 

So much organizing literature tells us to ‘do this’ and ‘do that’ and then you will find order. Accomplishing a purging to-do list is helpful for a season, but this often does not bring long term change. If we can learn to change our perspective of what we need and focus on the fact that God will provide for us, we will begin to build a much healthier relationship with our stuff.

 

If you feel inspired to give to those in need, here are a few charities that will come to you to pick up donations!

Salvation Army  – provides services for substance abuse treatment

1-800-728-7825

Vintage Thrift Store – benefits ybor dream center

813-220-3497

Urban E – recycles your electronics

813-512-6998

 

sarah@sorganizing.com.