Generations

Sheri Prescott, GFC South Tampa

“It is interesting that of all the ways Paul (in Titus 2:3-5) could have told the women to combat the decadence of their culture, he told them to invest their energies in training the younger women to live Christianly in their society.” – Susan Hunt

Sitting next to my two oldest daughters at 2021 & 2022 “Beautiful Conferences”; hearing them laugh, watching them take notes, knowing the time of refreshing they were having in the Lord were powerful reminders of one of my favorite Bible verses –
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” ~ 3 John 1:4

My 19 & 16 year old girls aren’t children any more, but they will always be my babies (along with their brothers and little sister). I think every mother can relate to that feeling. Yet, they need me in different ways. Like to set an example of “walking in the truth” – living for Christ (by His strength and grace); first in our home and then into the world. Bringing them with me to an auditorium with over a thousand other women at “Beautiful Conference” – seeking to know, love, and serve Jesus more faithfully – that’s a faith-builder-core-memory. It’s a time of investing, training, and passing along the torch of faith (no matter our age) that changes individual lives, families, and generations for Christ!

Savannah (19, sophomore in college) –

“Beautiful Conference” absolutely encouraged me to follow Jesus more faithfully because of the inspiring messages from Lisa Harper and Christine Caine! Their knowledge, passion, and understanding of the Bible made me want to dive deeper – studying my Bible and memorizing more scripture than I ever had before!

As for this year I can’t wait to hear Irene Rollins speak! I got to hear a message she gave last year at a college conference and she blew me away!

Alisa (16, junior in high school) –

The past 2 years, I’ve had so much fun with friends, my sister, & mom during the “Beautiful Conference”! Some of my favorite things about the conference are older women and teenagers all together – all daughters of Christ, worshiping and learning about Jesus together, not separately. I always leave the conference with a heart full of memories and encouraged to live more faithfully for Jesus in my generation!

“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” ~ Psalm 145:4

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever; and his faithfulness to all generations.” ~ Psalm 100:5

When It’s Time for New

Lisa Tobias, GFC South Tampa

Christmas eve night.

Holly the Elf isn’t leaving her “farewell til next year” letter anymore.

My husband isn’t awkwardly climbing down the attic stairs with a bike or a dollhouse.

I’m not stressed about having to tiptoe around the house while carefully situating presents under the tree. 

And that plate of cookies for Santa hasn’t been used in a few years now.

As our daughters grow into their teen years some of our fun loving traditions that marked this joyous season have had to slowly fade away…just a natural part of kids growing up. Expected.

But, one change in a Christmas Eve tradition was completely unexpected.

A few years ago my husband shifted from being self employed and being able to control his own schedule, into a full time ministry position hired by GFC. He was catapulted into his new role that year at the beginning of the Christmas season, and I was plowing ahead with our typical Christmas Eve traditions.

For years we hosted family on Christmas Eve for our formal Christmas Eve dinner. The day was spent cooking, cleaning, and anticipating the arrival of family. With their arrival we would unpack their trunk of presents and gather around the dinner table to enjoy our feast on my fine china. After an early dinner we would all get dressed in our Christmas best and pack in the car to make it for the 6pm service at GFC, followed by family pictures under the huge tree in the lobby. Then, we would arrive home and get snuggled in our Christmas pj’s, crowd up on the couch to watch our favorite Christmas movie, and enjoy a smorgasbord of sweet treats. When the girls finally got to bed Bryan and I would retreat to our bedroom, Christmas music playing softly, and sip eggnog while we finished wrapping the remaining presents. Our goal was to be in bed by midnight.

 But, that year when Bryan started to work for our Lord, we didn’t see him much on Christmas Eve.

No family came to visit.

The girls and I ate alone. Leftovers. On paper plates. 

And he didn’t get home from work until after midnight.  

I admit that the first Christmas Eve was hard for us all, but my heart was especially saddened.

As a mother with an innate desire to maintain the idea of traditions I have sought hard to find new ones for Christmas Eve. 

Until God interrupted me. 

He gently told me to stop striving to find the perfect new tradition and find contentment instead by seeking Him more.

So as a family we’ve traded:

Fine china for fun paper plates

My laborious home cooked meal for Nana’s frozen lasagna

Our Christmas dresses for our volunteer shirts

And instead of anticipating the fun that occurs with the arrival of family, we anticipate the miracle that occurred with the arrival of Jesus!

Did your holidays look different this year? Or, maybe you’ve seen them start to slowly look a little different over the past few years? Embracing the NEW is a great gift. A brand new year is upon us, friends, and certainly a great time to lean expectantly into all that awaits and all that’s new!

Happy New Year!

 

A Meal for Memories

Katy Bonham, GFC Lutz

One of our very favorite traditions on Christmas morning is our Christmas brunch! 

While some celebrations and meals call for paper plates and left over “lego birthday party napkins”, but our Christmas brunch is a time for all the pretty, sparkling glasses and cloth napkins!

I can only imagine (and I do … all the time!) what sitting at the table Jesus is preparing for us will be like. But, for now, why not prepare our tables with love and care and maybe even use all the “hand wash only” dishes we have?! 

During this special meal, we read scripture, we talk about the year, and we laugh a lot. But, truly one of the sweetest parts of this time for my family is slowing down and preparing it all together. We have done this and included the kids with every step since they could stand on a step stool and reach the mixer!

It’s such a joy to invite my husband and my kids into what is normally my creative space. Our kitchen is so very sweet because they all have their own ideas of how the table should look and what yummy food we should make. We take such love and delight in the whole process! 

This year, we will be reflecting on this sweet passage from scripture as we gather around our table. It’s a passage Jesus shared with his disciples and when I read it I am filled with so much hope!

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John‬ ‭14‬:‭1‬-‭3‬ 

I hope you take in your own traditions or create new ones these next few days. Merry Christmas!

Presents

Lisa Santelli, GFC Lutz 

Acts 20:35 – In the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Christmas Gifts. As I reflect on the season of giving, the main theme that keeps ringing is “Jesus IS the gift”.

The very first Christmas gift was Jesus. He was given to us by our heavenly Father to be the light and hope of the world. So, at Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth by giving to others. How can we share this most beautiful gift? By letting the hope of Jesus that lives in us, shine THROUGH us. The three wise men set some examples. They are most recognized for frankincense, myrrh, and gold. But, honestly, they gave so much more. The wisemen also offered the following:

Gift of Talent: The wise men were scholars, who studied the stars and feared God. After the angel of the Lord appeared, they were obedient and knew how to exercise their talents to follow that extra bright star as it led to the Savior.

How can we give of our talents this season?
We may not all study stars, but we each have skills and talents to offer. Whether making a homemade item, baking cookies or serving someone in need, let us extravagantly shine through our hearts.
Gift of Time: The wise men, also called Magi, are believed to be either priests or kings. I’m guessing they were busy and had lots of responsibilities. But, they dropped what they were doing, sacrificed their time, and traveled afar to see this newborn baby who would be the Savior of the World.

How can we give our time
this season? Let’s try to slow our pace, put down the distractions, and let our presence be a present this Christmas.
Gifts of Treasures: These Magi showcased how much they valued and worshipped Jesus by bringing Him extravagant gifts. Frankincense, known for its healing properties was often used as a symbol of prayer or in offerings. This represented Jesus as the High Priest. Gold was extremely rare and in its purest form exceptionally valuable. This represented how pure and perfect God’s precepts, principles, and promises are to us. And Myrrh is a spice that was used to anoint prophets. This represented that Jesus came as a Prophet and as a fulfillment to prophesy. Each of these gifts were intentional and had purpose.

What treasures can we give
? Choose a gift with purpose and intention. Maybe it’s a bracelet with a word of hope or encouragement, or it’s an experience that would produce joy…like a ticket to the GFC Beautiful conference (yes, that’s our shameless plug). Let’s look for ideas that encourage or showcase the value we see in those we are gifting.

Gift of Testimony: The wise men not only traveled to see Jesus, but they acknowledged Jesus as the Lord and King, then reported to everyone who they had seen.

How can we shine the testimony of Jesus this season? Christmas can be a tough time for many … maybe you or me. For some, there may be a heavy tension between wanting to experience joy but feeling so hopeless and disappointed if we’re walking through a difficult season. We can choose to shine the hope of Jesus to those around us. But, first, there may need to be a pause, take a deep breath and reflect how we are approaching this season ourselves. Let’s release our anxieties and worries to God to make room for His peace. And, once that peace and hope fills us up, it will overflow to those around us. Choosing gratitude  for what we do have and let the joy of the Lord be our strength when we begin to feel weary. My prayer is that we let the hope and joy of Jesus be the greatest gift in all we do this season.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Arrival

Alexis Patterson, GFC Lutz


I vividly remember anticipating the birth of my first child. She was our girl and our first and what a joy she was! It wasn’t just the anticipation of her birth but also the anticipation of parenthood, motherhood for me. There were times during pregnancy when I would imagine what she would look like and how holding her would feel.

Approaching my due date, I would dream of staring into her eyes and the bond we would create. While pregnant, I prepared for her arrival. With a baby shower and all the nesting a mama could handle, I set up a special place for her in our home. I went through the first time mama checklist of all the things I needed for our hospital stay. I did everything I knew to do, to welcome that sweet precious girl into our world. You have probably anticipated something too. I am sure you have long awaited that special something to come to be in your life. We all have something(s) that we anticipate with hope and with expectancy. 

Advent is upon us. Advent literally means coming or arrival. It is a time of celebrating the earthly birth of Jesus and the participation and the anticipation of His second coming. Throughout the Old Testament, God was setting the scene for the need of a Savior, Jesus Christ. With the books of the law God showed our need for His guidance and presence and through prophecy He pointed to the promise of Jesus. This built a growing hope for a King that would overcome all sin and evil in this world (John 16:33). Jesus was the King in which God chose to deliver His people. Jesus would be the Savior, the perfect sacrifice, the perfect teacher, and our perfect example. There was about four hundred years between the Old and New Testament. There was a period where God seemed silent and the people were only left with the hope of the King and the Messiah God had promised to His people. 

During this time, as we approach Christmas Day I love to observe that growing anticipation. As I reflect on the times leading up to the birth of Jesus I also have a growing hope for His second arrival. One of my favorite tools to use is the First 5 app by Proverbs 31 “Pointing to the Promise”. It takes you through Advent with scriptures, teachings, and prayers. I get so much from this study and the best part is this year I am doing this observation/study with my sister all the way in Maryland! Because it’s through an app, we’ve created our own personal chat group within the app where we can share our reflections and prayers with one another. We are also able to hold one another accountable. I am so grateful for such amazing tools to grow in connection with our Lord and other believers. And, this year, our Beautiful community is bringing us together through our inaugural Advent study! You might just be ushering in the arrival of Jesus with our Beautiful community of women.

We are all anticipating something today. For those of us who are waiting for Jesus to come back, we have grown hungry with expectancy of that great triumphant return. We prepare for Him by growing in relationship with Him. We go to church to be in fellowship with other believers. We serve our communities to provide hope and share love with one another. We live by faith and share the light of the gospel with all people around us. It’s much like what most of us do when we’re preparing for anything we hoped for, we make room in our hearts and our lives for that special thing we longed for. Just like when I made room for my sweet baby girl in my world, I make room for Jesus in my world also. As we wait on Jesus 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, He is actually patient with you and me, not wanting any one of us to perish but for everyone to come to repentance. What a great and mighty King we have in Jesus.