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


Vintage Thrift Store – benefits ybor dream center


Urban E – recycles your electronics


By Sharon Altman


Recently my husband Wayne and I were on a trip to Chicago – what a fantastic city! Millennium Park, the Riverwalk and the Magnificent Mile. More Shopping and restaurants than you can imagine, and sadly, many homeless and destitute people living on the street as well.


One afternoon, when Wayne was in meetings, I set off to explore the city. I was told I just HAD to have the Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano’s for lunch. Far be it from me to go against that good advice, I made my way down Michigan Avenue.


There were throngs of people on the Magnificent Mile, the shopping mecca of Chicago. While walking I passed many of the forgotten, faceless, nameless people on the street. I heard him before I saw him… a jangling of change in a cup, the sign that said “Could you please help me?”  I made a mental note of where he was on the street.


Later, as I sat eating my pizza, God put it on my heart to save some of my lunch for that man on the street. Not my leftovers but half of the lunch that I could have eaten. Right now, writing this, I don’t know why that was so important but I listened. I had my server package the salad and pizza separately adding plastic ware and a napkin.


The afternoon was beautiful! I decided to walk away from the crowds on Michigan Avenue. I strolled down side streets feeling like one of the locals headed back to work or to an appointment. Here the neighborhood was getting quieter.


A lone figure leaned up against a wall with a sign that said “just hungry”.  My heart clinched… God, what do you want me to do NOW? I can tell you I was VERY annoyed. I thought, I can’t help them all! Do I divide up this food? Do I give to the first or second one? I was trying to do the math, I was trying to figure it all out on my own when I heard that still, small voice that said… just ask me. I had an immediate sense of calm.


I quietly asked God, what is your will? Then I listened. I was immediately reminded of the scripture that says that everything the Pharisees do are for people to see. (Matthew 23:5 NIV) So there with no one watching, on that quiet street, I met Rodger.


I asked him if I could sit with him a while and if he might like some pizza that I had saved. Yes ma’am to both.  I asked Roger how he came to live in Chicago and he told me of a road trip long ago with his kids. I told him that my Mom was from Chicago and I had always wanted to visit. We chatted a while longer then I asked If I could pray with him. Yes ma’am. When I stood to leave I told Roger that I hoped the rest of his day was good! He said, “I think it will be.”


I share this not to pat myself on the back, but for what I learned that day… I learned that God won’t always give a black and white answer. I might not hear a clear yes or no. But if I listen, God will ALWAYS put the answer on my heart…he is faithful. While I know God used me to bless Rodger that day, he also used Rodger to bless me.

By Becky Olszewski


The constant nagging in my head tells me I can’t do it; tells me I’m not good enough.  If I’m not careful, I’ll believe it.  Not long ago, I did believe it.  The lies had twisted and coiled themselves inside my head so much that I didn’t even recognize their existence.  An idea or opportunity would present itself in my life and without even realizing it, I was telling myself “Nope, you can’t do that”; “You aren’t good enough, important enough, or special enough”.  A close friend pointed out the limits I had placed on myself.  She helped me process my thoughts and made me aware of lies I had come to believe.


The Enemy is so sneaky in the ways he gets ahold of our thoughts. The more lies he gets us to believe, the more we stay confined to the boundaries those lies create so that we never reach our full potential in Christ.


How was I supposed to serve God and follow the path He made for me if I believed I couldn’t do it and wasn’t good enough?  I had to fix it; I had to change my way of thinking.


Changing our thoughts takes a lot of consistent work.  First, we have to recognize the enemy’s lies that are manifesting themselves in our thoughts.  This takes constant focus and awareness of what you are thinking about.  Once we recognize a thought from the enemy, we have to cast out that thought from our mind.  The name of Jesus can help us do this!


Luke 10:17-19 says, “When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!  Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you.”


It wasn’t just the disciples Jesus gave authority to, we have it too!  Say His name out loud!  “In the name of Jesus, I cast out this lie and throw it away.  I will believe it no more!  In the name of Jesus, I take away any power you think you have over me and I cast it away.  In the name of Jesus, I cover myself and others around me in the Holy Spirit who gives us strength, peace and power.”  AMEN!


Then we can replace the enemy’s negative thoughts with a positive truth about who we are in Christ.  Memorizing scripture about how much God loves us is a great way to do that.  Psalm 139 is one of my favorite scriptures about Gods love.


So, what lies from the enemy are you believing?  What truth are you going to focus on to replace the lies?  Pray for God to reveal them to you, then bind and cast the lies away and find a verse to memorize that supports God’s truth.