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!

LOOK.

Pam Otto, GFC Lutz

A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of days at one of my favorite beaches, walking the long strip of sand that lends itself to slowing down and having deep conversations with God. Somehow, the waves splashing on my feet and the smooth sand seems to help me hear God a bit louder, or see Him a bit clearer.

While walking and praying one morning, I searched for the perfect seashell, sand dollar, or something interesting that often washes up on shore. As I was wading in the water, I looked ahead and saw a large shell that had washed up, waiting for me to add to my collection. Once I got closer, I noticed it wasn’t a shell, but rather someone’s glasses…actually someone’s nice prescription sunglasses. (Yes, I tried them on but couldn’t see out of the thick lenses. ;)) I felt bad for the person who lost their glasses in the wild waves of the day before, so I set them aside in case they came back to search for them. I thought how frustrating it would be to lose something of value and to have fuzzy vision or be unable to see clearly or notice the little things.

As I continued on my walk, God reminded me of my earlier prayer, which was to see Him, hear Him and take notice of what He had for me. I wanted Him to write words in the sky, give me a dream or vision, or do something big and noticeable so I could be sure it was from Him. When I saw the glasses, God gently nudged my heart and said that I didn’t need special prescription glasses to see Him, or big writing in the sky to confirm His presence. In order to see Him clearly, I just needed to look. Look around, take notice of His creation, look at the sunrise, nature, people and look for Him in His Word. Just keep looking, keep noticing.

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.”
God is omni-present; everywhere! We don’t need a special lens to correct our vision to see more of God… We just need to look for Him in the everyday moments, often noticing the little things. He is faithful and present and wants to meet each of us right where we are. Are we noticing Him? Just keep looking…He’s as close as the air we breathe!

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 Have you noticed God speaking to you through nature? Are you looking for Him?

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic … and PRAYER.

Sheri Prescott, GFC South Tampa

We are still in the beginning of a fresh, new school year and no matter where our children are learning (at home, public school, private school, or a mixture), we have a powerful tool to help them succeed.

Prayer.

As a mom with one in college, one in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary, and one in preschool, I’m continually learning to take their educational needs to the Lord in prayer. Although great curriculum, a caring teacher, and bright educational environment are helpful, as moms we can’t control the good moments (a best friend to sit with at lunchtime) or the obstacles (when pencils are thrown across the room in frustration over a math worksheet) our children will face this school year. The good news is that we know the ONE who created our cuties and He knows how they learn best. Will you join me in praying together for our kids this school year?

1. Pray that they would love Jesus more than they love anything else and follow Him all the days of their lives.

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Luke 10:27

2. Pray they would fall in love with learning, soaking up what God wants them to learn every day.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go: I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” ~ Psalm 32:8

3. Pray they would be self-controlled and hard working.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection, and to mutual affection, love.” ~ 2 Peter 1: 5-7

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads to only poverty. ~ Proverbs 14:23

4. Pray that God would spark a passion in their hearts to develop the talents He’s placed within them – looking at every day as His classroom.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Let’s keep our littles in the best way possible… in prayer.