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Friendship makes a trip to the hospital to put socks on your feet, which you cannot reach, so you can walk, like the doctor ordered, after your baby was born. Friendship answers the phone call to pray for a child – no details needed, no questions asked – friendship just prays. Friendship helps you give your child that first breathing treatment at home or helps with hand-prints on t-shirts at birthday parties. Friendship brings you a chocolate martini at your son’s wedding – just because.  My particular friends enjoy my humor! Friendship knows you at your ugliest and loves you better for it!

One friend had me on her bathroom mirror – my name, that is, on a post-it note. She prayed for me daily.  When my husband was in Chicago on business for the entire Fall semester (except for weekends), she brought my family homemade Mac ‘N Cheese. She was over 75 years old. She’s in heaven now and I really miss her. I am glad I had the courage to seek friendship in unexpected places. That’s where you find the best of friends.

I ♥ my friends. They are each gifts from God.

But I had to learn to look for these gifts from God in unexpected places.

If you walk into a crowded room of people you do not know, who do you migrate toward? Do you have a mental list of measurement traits? No! No! Don’t tell me. Just think about it. I think we all do. It is human nature.

I remember doing the same thing….sitting down by someone who looked like they would make a nice friend. Yet, they were not the relationship, the friend God had in store for me. By not looking beyond my expectations, I had missed the Lord’s companion.

I do not mean that I came to expect more. I mean my expectations were re-defined, like Mary’s relationship expectations were re-defined.

Mary had help seeing the companion God provided. An angel told her, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:36,37 NIV).

I do not doubt that Elizabeth would have been the last person Mary would have sought out for companionship and relationship. After all, she was an old woman. Mary’s story speaks to us as clearly as the angel did. The Lord provided an ally, a companion, a friend who understood and believed what the Lord had told her. The catch? Mary had to look beyond her expectations.

Mary heeded the angel. How hungry she must have been to share her burden with someone who could understand. “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea” (Luke 1:39 NIV). Elizabeth welcomed and honored her.

God’s guide will welcome your companionship, not scrunch you into a busy schedule or emit a charity-case mentality.

Yet, keep in mind that first, Mary hurried to meet her, and then she greeted her first. You cannot wait for this person to come into your home, sit down, and comfort you. You must prepare your heart through prayer (Mary got ready), move out of your comfort zone of friends (Mary left her town and hurried to a town in the hill country), and then introduce yourself (Mary greeted Elizabeth). Mary could not have known Elizabeth would have received her so warmly, but she took the chance. You need to take that chance, too.

The benefits of fellowship with God’s companion are spiritual blessings. When the two women got together, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. They were bold about the Lord’s place in their lives. Then, so wonderfully, so simply, Elizabeth encouraged Mary saying, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”(Luke 1: 45 NIV). Mary probably needed someone to tell her she was not crazy, that what happened was real. Who could better understand the condition of Mary’s heart and mind than a woman who had been barren all her life and probably condemned for it! Mary was pregnant and was condemned for it. Yet, here was somebody who understood the power and might of the great I AM.

Mary’s Song is evidence of her belief that God provided peace in a very difficult situation: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant…” (Luke 1:46-48 NIV). These two women’s shared common experience enabled them to comfort each other.

Find friends who lift you up when you are down. Comfort comes with encouraging words, not discouraging words. Surround yourself with people who talk about overcoming the challenging, not the stench that created the challenge. Make sure they support! Re-define the expectations of your support group.

The next time you walk into a room full of women, where will your eyes go?

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Please join me over at Alisa and Christina’s on-line publication Sanctified Together. They just released their July issue entitled “Measure of a Woman.” What standards are you measuring yourself by? Are you over-whelmed? Maybe your measuring stick lacks healthy, appropriate standards? Do you struggle with “measuring up?” Please click over to Sanctified Together: Measure of a Woman and be encouraged by all the contributors, including my article, “The Wonder Woman.”

The Wonder Woman

“Be this! Be that!” Commands evoking the same kind of scattered feeling that leaves you running around trying to “Be Everything” until you feel like you can “Be Nothing.” 

 

Be Wonder Woman, Be Beth Moore, Be the Barefoot Contessa, BeMartha Stewart.

Or maybe Be more like the woman who leads the children’s ministry and Be more like the Vacation Bible School Kitchen Leader who can out-organize you and Be more like the eloquent Sunday School class teacher, and Be the heart-wringing compassionate mama who can soothe a splinter out of a finger while feeling the patient’s  pain and mean it.

Be the Stay at Home Mom! No, wait! Be Working Mom capable of everything. Be it all! At least, that is what it feels likes from all sides — pressure to Be it all. Not just excelling at one Spiritual Gift – but excelling at all the Spiritual gifts. God did not create us to be everything to everybody. We only need to be what He created us to be.

Facets of society like to promote one-dimensional roles, taking sides, creating dissension, dividing into Stay-at-Home Moms and Working-Moms. Sometimes, these two factions of womanhood clash, fall into judgmental and defensive posturing, egged on by a culture itching for a fight. However, these are just caricatures of the roles God created for women.  While the woman does indeed fill the home with heart, God created women for different roles, just like He filled each of us with different gifts.

  • The Cricket on the Hearth: Hannah is the quintessential stay-at-home mom.  She wants nothing more than to be a mother — and everything that evolved around motherhood. She must have been a craft-mom because she made Samuel her son a coat every year.  Her story centers around her children, her husband and her God, Nothing lends itself to involvement outside her doorstep or position within the community.
  • Spiritual Mother: Naomi reaches out to other women, like she did her daughter-in-law Ruth. She provided sound advice, a loving heart and mothering.  She might not have her own family, but maybe she volunteers at your church, is a foster mother, or is just an encourager.  She is a woman who looks beyond her doorstep to build relationships, exhort and support other women.
  • Entrepreneur Mother: Proverbs 31 Woman is a home-entrepreneur, juggling family and a self-made business. She is interested in life beyond her doorstep, her family’s position within the community, but all her efforts return home to make it a better place.  Her priorities are family-focused, with her outside efforts creating enriching results.
  • Heroine: A heroine never seeks glory. Like Esther, a heroine is an intercessor with initiative and courage. She not only intercedes in the prayer closet, but she intercedes with those in authority. She does not necessarily choose her mission field; her mission field chooses her. She spends much time in preparation – maybe through education, prayer, working her way up in the ranks. She is a woman who runs Crisis Pregnancy Centers, missionaries in 3rd world countries, a doctor who fights against abortion, a lawyer who fights for the right to pray in schools, or maybe a God-inspired senator, maybe one day the president of our country.  She goes to battle for others who are unable to help themselves – and that battlefield is outside the home.

God knew our heart’s desires. He placed those desires within us — and provided diverse roles within society for those skills, dreams and desires. You are only called to Be what God created you to be.  And that promise emancipates us and frees us to just . . . BE.

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Sanctified Together Publication releases its second edition today, “Life is a Vapor” (click here to take you there). Editor’s Alisa and Christina are twins whose gifts compliment their working relationship.

When I asked Alisa about how their gifts work in tandem together, she explained that they have worked together in several different ministries together through their church, but they never thought they would be blessed to work together in their own ministry.  They each have specific and different giftings that allow them to grow a writing ministry while staying fully committed to their primary ministry of being full-time wives and moms.  Alisa craves the solitude of writing, and Christina thrives and communicating and connecting with people.  Alisa and Christina make the perfect ministry marriage.

 I have learned not to be envious of women with daughters or women with sisters. Rather, I learned that God surrounds us with people of immeasurable giftings.  It is through those relationships we chose to activate that we experience what is not within us, allowing us to grow, becoming more holistic, more multi-dimensional, more balanced.  It also allows me to know that I do not have to be everything.  I just need to be me.  Others are the other parts of everything.  Alisa and Christina and the women who write for Sanctified Together are definitely the other parts of everything.

 Alisa shared with me her thoughts on “Life is a Vapor,” being the mother of sons, and the unexpected within motherhood. 

 Maryleigh: “Sanctified Together’s April edition, “Life is a Vapor,” has been released.  If women come away with one theme, idea or kernel of an idea, what would it be?”

 Alisa: The theme of this month’s edition of Sanctified Together Publication focuses on the brevity of life, and our desire to appreciate God’s gift of life and make the most of it.”

 Maryleigh: What types of articles are women likely to find when they page through?

Alisa: “The articles include tragedy, embracing loved ones, valuing everyday, aging and making the most of our life.”

 Maryleigh:  Did your views about boys change after you and your sister became moms of boys?

 Alisa: “Yes. Boys are a wild species, and moms of boys need lots of prayer for patience, energy and a sense of humor.”

 Maryleigh:  “What is one thing you’ve learned since becoming a mom that took you by surprise?

 Alisa: “Laughing is invaluable at curing heartache.”

 Maryleigh: Christina approached me, asking to use “Blue Cotton Blanket” in Sanctified Together’s  “Life is a Vapor” edition.  She graciously explained that it had been the inspiration.  Believe me, as a mom of sons, especially teenage sons, it is a double blessing when somebody expressions any appreciation over ideas or communications.  You have definitely given me a “Word of Affirmation” Love Language Hug!  How does “Blue Cotton Blanket” fit into “Life as a Vapor?”

Alisa: ‘Blue Cotton Blanket’ is a beautiful picture of a mother using a blue blanket to weave together small, meaningful moments of her sons growing up.  This article inspires women to capture each precious moment while raising their children and cherish them in the pockets of their hearts.”

Please visit Sanctified Together Publication.  Grab a Blue Cotton Blanket, settle in and spend a moment finding encouragement.  I might not have a biological sister to share my dream with or the workings of that dream, but God did not leave me sisterless.  Through these lovely sisters in Christ, God provides encouragement at just the right time to handle our challenges and step towards those dreams one footstep at a time, sometimes pulling us along.

 

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