Sticks and Stones

By Lisa Crumbley and Madelyn Littles


Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

We’ve all heard the nursery rhyme, but how many of us know that it’s actually not true?  Words do hurt, and often they hurt more than any pain sticks or stones could inflict on us.  Words have power.  This is true in a negative sense, but praise God it’s also true in a positive sense!  The words you speak can bring life and sharing your story could help another person know that they are not alone in their struggle.

We all have a story.  Each one of us as Christians knows the power of God and can attest to the things he’s done in our lives.  That’s your story.  Or maybe you call it your testimony.   Whatever vocabulary word you use, it’s something that when shared can bring hope and healing to someone else.

So how do you recognize your story?  There are many different ways and here are just a few.  It might be a whisper from the Holy Spirit, something that you intuit, or was put in your heart.  Maybe it’s through reflections in a prayer journal and seeing how God has answered your prayers.  You may even feel it’s a coincidence when really, it was God all along.

Once you’ve recognized your story, it’s time to share it.  God directs us to tell about what He has done.  When He moves in our lives, whether it’s an answered prayer in a big way or He shows up in the small things, He wants us to share with others what it is that He has done for us so we can glorify Him and share His good news with others.


“Come and listen, all you who have respect for God; let me tell you what he has done for me.”  Psalm 66:16 NIRV


Here are some things to remember:

  • Know your words have power.
  • Don’t let fear limit you.

Fear is natural when we open up and share with others.  We might fear how we are perceived, if people will look as us differently once they know about our story.  Sometimes when we feel the greatest fear about opening up or sharing, that’s when we have the greatest reward in our own lives from doing so.

  • Be relatable.

You want to meet people where they are and speak a language that they understand.  If you’re talking to someone who is a new Christian or is not yet a believer, you don’t want to use “churchy words” that they may not understand.  A few examples are “praise & worship”, “testimony” or “covered in the blood”.

So this brings us to the ultimate question… Why?  Why should I share my story?  Because you have the potential to impact a life with your story.   Take some time to write what God has done for you so that you are ready when the opportunity comes!


Lisa and Madelyn


Lisa Crumbley and Madelyn Littles are writing a book about God stories – stories that seem like coincidences to those who don’t know Christ, but as believers we know it’s the hand of God, present and active in ever day of our lives.  If you’re interested in learning more about their project, you can visit their website, connect with them, read their blog and submit your story for possible publication.


The Shaping of a Christian Family

By Kelli Wild


My husband, Dean, and I are both first generation Christians. Not seeing faith modeled in our families while growing up, we have worked together to learn how to share an authentic love of Jesus with our children.  It has been far from perfect, and our kids would tell you that, but we have learned a lot along the way.

I always knew I wanted to have a joyful, loving household where my kids would want to bring their friends.  I hoped to have healthy communication, and authentic relationships.  I hoped that my children would develop honest, personal walks with God; and that they would love one another.

There is often a great distance between having a vision in your mind and having the skills and tools that you need to see that vision come to life.  As much as Dean and I have had to learn what “to do;” we’ve also had to “un-do” just as much.

Here are some things we’ve learned along the way:


Begin with the end in mind.

“Where there is no vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

Too often, we run on the hamster wheel of life, not really knowing where we are going.  Taking time out to ask God, “What are my goals for my family?  What are the character traits I hope to see developed in my children?  What do I hope my marriage will be like 30 years from now?” is important.

Knowing what your future goals are will help you make wise decisions in the present of how to invest your time, energy and resources.  For example, we hope to teach our children to value family.  Though we want them to be involved in extracurricular activities, we limit their involvement to ensure we have time together as a family.


Renew your mind.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

Have you ever really paid attention to how families are portrayed in media?  Kids are portrayed as knowing more than their parents, siblings portrayed as rivals, and teenagers spending hours in their rooms alone.  Without realizing it, our understanding of what is “normal or acceptable” is deeply impacted by our culture.  The messages we receive can slowly become our truths.

Asking God to renew our minds and to teach us how to be a family is important.  Ask Him to reveal anything that you have believed about family that does not line up with His Word.  He wants to parent you so you can effectively parent your kiddos!


Look at your family of origin and decide what you will keep and what will go.

We all have “junk in our trunk.”  Without concerted effort, we may fall back into the pattern of parenting the way we were parented.  Good or bad, it’s what we know.  With God’s help, we can choose to lay a foundation for a healthy family, even if that was not our personal experience.

It starts by putting ourselves in the position to gain healing, insight, and practical strategies for living.


Find examples and seek to learn and grow.

When I was in my 20’s, and a young Christian, I was blessed to spend time with women who were wonderful role models to me in regards to being a wife and mother.

It wasn’t until years later that I would realize how truly significant their impact was on my life.  These ladies showed me how a godly wife and mother behaved, what thoughts went behind the choices she made, and how she could lean on God and other women for help.  I was soaking it all in.

I am still learning and growing.  I have only been parenting for 19 years; so have not yet experienced all stages of parenting.  I continue to look to those who have gone before me to help equip me for new seasons.


Remember WHOSE your children are.

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3

The thing I have learned about receiving a gift is that I don’t get to choose the wrapping.  I have had to learn to empty myself of my preconceived notions of who my child “should be” and seek to train each individual child in the way he or she should go. Parenting for Jesus requires a surrendering yourself and leaning on the Holy Spirit for direction.

My kids laugh as they hear me saying, “Lord, help me raise these children!”


Faith is caught more so than taught.

This is about your love walk with Jesus.  If you are seeking to be filled up with the presence of God, the byproduct of that will spill over to your children.  Simply bringing them to church will not capture their hearts for Christ.

What are they observing the other 6 1/2 days a week when you are not in church?  What are you characterized by? None of us are perfect.  As you are growing in your walk with God, share it with your kids.


Speak your family identity.

“Our family serves.”  “In our family, we look out for each other.”  “The Wild family does not behave that way towards someone who is unkind to us.”   Talk about who you are as a family.  This helps impart a sense of God’s calling on you as a unit, not just as individuals.


Seek relationship first.

Our culture would have us believe our children are at a disadvantage if they are not hurried from one activity to the next.  How many times are you feeding your child a meal in the car?  How many evenings do you sit down and have dinner together as a family?

Developing a strong family identity takes being together.  Teaching moments happen most often within quantities of time.


Serve and have fun together.

Don’t forget to have fun!  God is fun.  Dance in the kitchen to worship music.  Sometimes the best choice is to leave the dishes in the sink and play with your kids.

My prayer is that you enjoy your children and invest in the vision God has given you for your family!


Kelli Wild

Kelli is married to Dean and they are the parents of Luke, Caleb, Anna and Sarah, and currently one exchange student. They have served at Grace Family Church for 17 years and Dean is the Campus Pastor at Temple Terrace.

I Need A King

by Toni Batista

There once was a little girl who always wanted to be a princess. She would look into the mirror saying, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the finest princess of them all?”  The mirror would look back at her and laugh saying, “not you. Your parents didn’t even want you, why would anyone else?” She would yell at the mirror, “I hate you!” That poor little girl hated who she was… abandoned, used and abused, and not loved by anyone.  Many years went by and the little girl grew up but because of her past, she became addicted to drugs and felt worthless and did many shameful things.

One day she sat alone by the pool feeling sad and about to give up on herself and everyone else that loved her.  You see, she did fine a young handsome prince who loved her so much and had 3 beautiful children.  But, even though someone finally loved her, she soon found out that a man, money, things or even children could not save her. Even though she was sad that day at the pool, it was the best day ever because she met an Angel who invited her to Church.  Since she was feeling so desperate for a change in her heart, she decided to go!

Once she enter into a magical place called church, the people where so friendly and the music was loud and she felt it in her soul and for the first time in a long, long time she felt alive. When the Pastor spoke, she felt he must have known her story because it was like he was talking right to her.

As tears ran down her face letting all the poison out of her, she closed her eyes and reached her arms up to Heaven.  She said, “God if your Word is for real, take this addiction from me and all the pain I feel.”  She gave her soul to her Jesus.  Even though she had a prince in her life, she realized that what she really needed was a King. From that day forward she started to heal from her past wounds.  Eventually she looked in the mirror again but this time she told the mirror, “I am a Princess of the most Highest King and no one can tell me different!”

No matter who you are or where you’ve been, it’s never too late to develop your inner-beauty and to bring beauty to the world around you.  Being the best you can be outwardly starts with feeling beautiful on the inside.

I know you might be thinking it’s easier said than done.   The good news is while it may not be easy, it’s not impossible!  I pray you look and the mirror and see that you are a Princess of the most Highest King.  He loves you no matter what.  He has the answers you are looking for.  He wants to give you hope and work in your life.  You can begin to live at peace when you know the way He sees you.


“For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3




Antonia Batista is married to Pastor Jerry Batista for 22 years. They have 3 adult children Jerry Jr.,  Corina and Emilio along with 2 grandchildren Chloe and Lucas.  I am a leader at Beautiful and love living for the Lord.

Laughter: Don’t Do Life Without It

By Sharon DiStefano

A cheerful heart is a good medicine.”—Proverbs 17:22

As you read the Bible, you may find yourself chuckling at times. I can’t help but laugh when I read some of the humorous ways God got his point across.

2 Chronicles 21:20 – “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery.”    Evidently Jehoram was not well liked!

Look at Jonah.  He was a man who loved God, but refused to go to Nineveh.  After running away from God in a boat Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish.  He lived in the acidic smelly belly of this creature for three days.  At the appropriate time, this large fish spit him up onto the shore.  So, bleached white and void of hair from the acid, he walked into Nineveh and probably scared them to death.  Now that’s a creative God who sees humor as a way of stopping our pride.

A cheerful heart is a good medicine.”—Proverbs 17:22

Laughter has the ability to break down walls.  When we can honestly laugh together, we can honestly talk together.

Laugh at yourself: 

How many of you dated in the late 70’s? Do you remember the big round a-line skirt and clogs?  I was wearing this sweet outfit when I was on a date and needed to use the restroom at a gas station.  On the way back to the car, I noticed people were smiling at me.  When my date opened my door for me and I sat down, I felt the cold vinyl seat on my backside.  My skirt was tucked completely into my underwear and my whole self was out there for the world to see.  That’s something I can look back on and laugh even though I was thoroughly embarrassed at the time!


Laugh with you spouse: 

I learned a valuable lesson as a young wife and mother.  At the time, I was dealing with a fear of failure.  I never wanted to show a weakness for fear that I would disappoint the ones I loved.  I was about to face a situation where I had to make a choice.

The doorbell rang one afternoon and a young man stood there trying to sell me frozen meats from his truck. He fed me a story about his truck freezer breaking down and needing to sell it quickly.  He was giving me a great deal! I bought it! Hook line and sinker.

When my husband came home, I began telling him what happened. As I was explaining, it became obvious to me that I was a sucker. My old feelings of fear of disappointing him came back and I had a choice to make. Should I try and make excuses and push the blame onto someone else, or just take it.  I took it.  I began to laugh at myself and exclaimed what an idiot I was!  My husband joined in with the laughter.  It totally changed the way I looked at my failures, and how I interacted with my spouse.

Henry Ward Beecher, “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.”


Laugh with your children: 

Adults laugh, on average, three times a day.  A 4 year-old laughs 300 times in a day. Somewhere along the line, we forgot to see the humor in things.

When my middle daughter was 3 years old, she took a marker and wrote all the way down out hallway. After being punished, I heard her little voice talking to herself.  I walked into the hallway and saw her with another marker in her hand holding it about an inch away from the wall and proclaiming, “I can’t write on you”. She then moved farther down the hallway and said again, “I can’t write on you.” She did this all the way down the hall. I burst out laughing, and so did she.


Let people see you laugh: 

I turned 51 this year.  We have a tradition of celebrating birthdays at home with a meal, presents, cake and ice cream.  I told my husband I wanted to do something different this year.  I wanted to go bowling. Our family all stumbled into the bowling alley, including my mother in law, in her scooter.  We got our shoes, eventually found the right bowling balls, and ordered a really bad pizza.

After playing one game, we were all exhausted but laughed and laughed and laughed. It was the best birthday in years.  I got out of my comfort zone and my grown children saw me having fun.

I regret that when my girls were young, I didn’t play with them enough.  My advice is to take a break from the chores, get away from Pinterest and Facebook and play with your children.  Learn what makes your children laugh and let them see you laugh.





Sharon DiStefano has been married to Pastor Allen for 30 years.  They have three daughters, Lauren, Brittany, and Jenna, two sons-in-law and a grandson due in December!  She is the set designer at Grace Family Church.  

Authentically Beautiful and Powerful

by Sharon Tubbs

Authentically beautiful and powerful

When you look in the mirror, do you see beauty?

Not that Barbie doll beauty or the stuff of magazines. That’s all touched-up and glossed over. I mean authentic beauty—the beauty that comes straight from the mind of God. This beauty reveals itself in your smile, your gentleness, or the compassion in your eyes.

Do you see it?

I asked myself that question one day before preparing to speak at A Beautiful Weekend. The theme I’d chosen for the retreat: the Authentic Woman. I wanted to talk about our ideal “beauty,” but as I looked at a photo of myself on Facebook, I realized that I didn’t see that true, authentic beauty in myself. Instead of embracing the image before me, I zeroed in on my flaws—the bags under my eyes and the crow’s feet, the pimple the wide nose. I sensed the Holy Spirit interrupting my thoughts: Uh, Miss Authentic Woman? The lady in the photo who you keep criticizing, that’s you… Don’t you appreciate my handiwork?

I knew I needed to get real, not just with the ladies at retreat, with myself!

But how? With all my shortcomings—thin hair, cellulite, impatience, procrastination—how could I embrace the present-day me?

How can you?

First, believe what God says about you, about beauty.

God has made us all one-of-a-kind, but we don’t appreciate His craftsmanship because we judge ourselves by the wrong standards. Society has convinced us that it’s bad to be our unique selves, to think, look, or behave differently from the celebrities on TV or “friends” on Facebook. That’s not what God says. He says we are His marvelous works (Psalm 139:14). He says we are His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). And He warns us not to focus more on hiding our pimples and crow’s feet than we do on becoming better women on the inside.

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

See yourself through the eyes of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, none of us is perfect. We may need to calm our tempers, practice patience, or lose a few pounds. Still, God already knows that and thinks of us as His works of art. We have to see ourselves the way He does. The Holy Spirit inside of us allows us to do that. Like contact lenses, the Spirit sharpens our spiritual vision by helping us see clearly our God-given gifts and authentic beauty. Look up 1 Corinthians 2:12-14. It says that, through the Spirit, we comprehend and appreciate the gifts God has given us. Without the Spirit all this talk about authentic beauty sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook.

“But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him…” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (AMP)

*When you get a quiet moment alone, pray and ask God to help you see and understand yourself through the eyes of the Spirit.

Know that God has empowered you.

Stop feeling powerless, like life is happening to you rather than through you. By definition, power means to have authority, bring about change, or influence others. True power belongs to God. (One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God…” –Psalm 62:11) He gives believers a measure of that power to influence those around us and impact the world for His glory.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NLT)

We use God’s authentic power when we encourage others, live as examples, exercise our authority in ways that help people see their own beauty in Christ. We use power when we draw from the strength we’ve gained in overcoming life’s trials to inspire someone else. That’s authentic power from an authentically beautiful woman.

When you look in the mirror, is that what you see?


Sharon Tubbs works with the Women’s Ministry at Grace Family Church. She is also an inspirational speaker, author and business owner. As she continually strives to reach her potential in Christ, Sharon’s joy comes from inspiring others to do the same by truly seeking and knowing Him.