As part of an ongoing series, on Fridays A Beautiful Blog will bring you great recipes, book reviews, tips and ideas for making your life a little more fun. Enjoy!

Now that the weather’s cooling off, it’s a great time to be outside with friends and family. When we get together, one of my favorite things to make is this delicious Black Bean Salsa. It is super fresh and loaded with healthy veggies and great flavor. Try it with tortilla chips, serve it with tacos, or spooned over grilled chicken or fish. Or be like me and eat it straight out of the bowl! – Leslee Stewart

Black Bean Salsa
Makes 8 servings

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup diced red onion
2 minced garlic cloves
½ medium jicama, peeled and diced (about ½ cup)
½ cup frozen corn kernels, rinsed under hot water to defrost
1 medium avocado, diced
½ cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 small can diced green chili peppers
5 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 ½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix to combine. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving (can serve immediately). Cover and store leftovers in refrigerator up to two days.

 

By Leslee Stewart

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was Plastic Man. He was this superhero who could stretch his body into any shape. His body was flexible, bendable, Plastic Manmoldable, pliable. And while my physical body hasn’t done the splits since sixth grade, my emotional “body” has had to perform a lot like Plastic Man over the past few months.

This year, I’ve taken on some additional responsibilities that have stretched me. It’s been exciting and wonderful, but of course, my responsibilities to my husband, my kids, my family and friends still continue.  In taking on this new role, I’ve had some obstacles to overcome but God’s grace has been there to see me through every situation, decision and circumstance.

When God created woman, he gave us this amazing multi-tasking gift. It’s no big deal for us to be cooking, talking on the phone and vacuuming at the same time. Even though he gave us this gift, he never expected us to accomplish life without his help.

But when my life gets busy and I’m being stretched like Plastic Man, the first thing to slip off my “to do” list is time with God.  My relationship with Him gets put on the back burner and I find myself giving him “shout outs” throughout the day, asking for help, but never drawing close to him.

My grandmother used to have this needlepoint hanging on her wall that said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” That perfectly describes my quiet time with God when I’m stretched thin.

In James 1:5 it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I’ve always loved this verse. To me it’s meant, as God’s child, if I need wisdom about something, I have the right to go to him and request that he give me the answers I’m seeking. And when I’m feeling stretched, I do a lot of asking in those shout outs.

This week God showed me that in this verse, there is a place God draws us to in order to receive that wisdom. The phrase, “of God,” essentially means alongside of God and depicts a very close, side-by-side position next to Him.  Picture it as sitting next to God. In this verse, it is saying; if we want God’s wisdom, we must come right up alongside of him in order to obtain it.

He wants a relationship with us. He doesn’t want to just freely hand out answers to our issues. He wants us to come to him. And the moment we get side-by-side with God, he opens his hand and reveals what we need to know about the situations we are facing and gives us peace in the midst of trials.  

But so often we are too busy with our lives – stretched too thin – to get intimate with God. We want God to meet us on demand, but we don’t want to take the time to meet God’s request that we first draw close to him. He created us to communicate, fellowship and spend time with him. He needs us to seek him, as much as we need him to find us.

So today, God, forgive me for rushing in and out of your Presence – making my demands and insisting on things I need but not taking enough time to sit with You. I’m making a commitment to include You in my schedule today. Not just a quick shout out, but a time of real connection. May spending time with You be the highest priority in my life.

By Vivian Germain

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

What does this mean in my own life? I was 3 months old when both of my parents decided to give me away to my Grandma. My mother did not want to raise a girl and my father, well my father didn’t care for children at all.

From the beginning of my life, it was like someone had put a “rejected” stamp on my forehead. I grew up believing that no one loved me or wanted me. My father’s sister took it upon herself to provide and care for me. She sent me to private school, bought me good clothes and tried to make me feel like I belonged to her.

Vivian GermainDespite all of her efforts, I grew up with low self-esteem, a poor self-image and a whole lot of insecurities. My behavior proved how broken I was and how desperate I was to find someone to love me and would never leave me.

I always believed in God and there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that He was the creator, the Alpha and the Omega, but in my situation He was just too far to be reached. He wasn’t guilty for my hurt nor would I let Him be the solution for my pain. The truth was I didn’t know Him.

I was 23 years old, broken and pregnant, when I ran to God and decided to accept His love, forgiveness and guidance. He became the father and mother I never had. Psalm 27:10 says, “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.” This has been the reality of my life since I received Christ. He has surely shown me the blessings in my situation.

Today, I can certainly say that I’m grateful God spared me from being raised by two drunkards. He gave me a sense of family through my aunt and I am blessed beyond compare. I have an incredible husband that is compassionate and loving, and three beautiful children that fill my heart with joy. I know that God wasn’t just sitting there looking at the injustice that was being done in my life. He knew and He cared. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

When bad things happen to you, whether they are caused by your poor choices or life has dealt you a bad hand, God can turn it around, restore your life and give you more than you can ever imagine. You just have to come to Him. He is waiting with open arms for you!

by Maria Ausburn

OH MY DEAR!! I just want to get out my pom poms, jump up and down, and scream, “YEA!!”

Let me explain why.

It’s September 12th at 9:28 p.m. and I recently arrived home from our first Beautiful Monday night bible study. It was amazing!

I led a table and every woman at my table was there by a divine appointment. Although women weren’t sure they had chosen this table at the Beautiful launch, we quickly realized it didn’t matter.

As I sat there listening to these women speak into one another’s lives and into my life, I saw how they connected to each other in a way that only God could have orchestrated. They allowed themselves to be vulnerable in the group on the first night! Did I mention that we all just met tonight? Amazing!

At the end of the night, when we gave each other hugs goodbye, everyone felt as I did – connected to another women who once may have been a stranger, but now is a familiar face that may lead to a lifelong friend.

The Beautiful Ministry is for every woman in any stage of life. Beautiful Monday nights are a wonderful way to connect, whether you have been at Grace Family Church in Tampa since its beginning, or you just started attending.

I’m so excited about this new opportunity and can’t wait to get back there next week!

Beautiful Monday nights meet each week in the GFC sanctuary at 7 p.m. This large-group, women’s Bible study offers worship, dynamic speakers and small group discussion at each table. For more information, email beautiful@gfconline.com.

By Paige Eavenson

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

If beauty is God’s handwriting, then he was leaving His signature all over Grace Family Church and the women who attended the launch of our new women’s ministry, Beautiful, on August 29th.beautiful launch night

The Beautiful women’s ministry was birthed out of a desire for every woman within our church, young and old, to feel loved, chosen and empowered to do all that God has called each woman to do. After months of praying and planning we were finally able to unveil our new identity.

The night was bubbling with anticipation. As each woman walked through the door you could sense something exciting was about to happen. Many women were sporting their new, “Beautiful” t–shirts, and each lady that entered the building had and an exceptionally beautiful glow about them.beautiful ladies at launch

When the doors opened to the sanctuary, the music was loud, the stage was all set and the women poured in from all directions, all 600 of them! The night kicked off with Kristin Bonham, our women’s ministry director, casting the vision of Beautiful and introducing her team. After an awesome worship time, Grace Family Church members, Rachel Ward, Terri Blanchard and Paula Friesen shared their testimonies on how small groups have impacted their lives. Our pastor’s wife, Debbie Altman, then took the stage to remind us that small groups are the heartbeat of our church and without them the ministry that happens each week at Grace Family would not be the same. The service included time for each woman to visit different small group stations, where they heard from our small group leaders in hopes of finding a group to join.

As someone who has been a part of Grace Family for many years, it was incredible to see God work out all the details and stir the hearts of so many women to come out and get connected. The Lord allowed fun and amazing things to happen at our launch party and I can only imagine what He has in store for the future.beautiful launch connecting

I once heard that if you’re looking to find your place in a community, or this world for that matter, just look around at what God is already doing and join in, offering your own gifts and talents. Ladies, something beautiful is happening at Grace Family Church and I challenge you to invite a friend, get connected and let God work something beautiful in your own life.

Click here for more information on small groups, or you can email women@gfconline.com.

P.S. Here is a link to a few pictures of our launch party in case you missed it. You are Beautiful!