The Gift of an Open Door and an Outstretched Hand

The Gift of an Open Door and an Outstretched Hand

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Melissa is an Okie with a Texas heart. She is a wife and a mother of four. After having taught in the classroom for 8 years, she now happily finds herself as a stay-at-home mom. In any spare time, she enjoys leisure reading and also enjoys writing on her blog (chroniclesofakeeper.com). Out of all the little adventures of life - her greatest joy is found in her relationship with God. Walking in His grace, living in His peace and resting in His redemption is something she is very passionate about sharing with others.
Melissa W
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Social media has once again broadened my horizons. It only took one post mentioning the result of a person’s Enneagram number to pique my curiosity. I love taking all the various self-assessments whether it be – personality type, mood type, or color personality. Most of them, I don’t pay much attention to past the first 15 minutes of the initial results reveal. There is one, however, that ranks high on my list of self-assessments. This one, hones in on something a little more. It is the survey of spiritual gifts. I remember taking this survey and quickly tallying up its results. I also remember adding up the different sections knowing which gift I hoped not to be higher than the others.

A Place of Prestige

A moment of sifting took place when I decidedly sought out gifts that were to be seen as most prestigious. My eyes took in those sections labeled “service” or “hospitality” and I ashamedly placed those particular gifts at the bottom. These, I deemed, were the least exciting, the most common, and certainly the least effective forms of ministry. Little did I know that it is often in the unseen moments of serving and in the common acts of hospitality that Christ is most magnified.

Without Complaint

Be hospitable to one another without complaining. – 1 Peter 4:9 (CSB)

I will be the first to admit it, I struggle with the whole “without complaining” piece. A certain dismissive attitude occurs when given the opportunity to serve in the messy or droll places of life. I am prone to grumble when given the opportunity to open my home to those who are outside my level of comfort or if they are encroaching on my time. It is not a gift I am inclined to embrace.

Do you find yourself feeling the same way? Is it easier to send a Facebook message telling someone you are thinking of them rather than inviting them to the table, your table?

Friend, if you are like me, the first place we start – is confession. We come before the Lord and confess our pride and selfish ways. If we were to examine every “no”, there we would likely find a root of sin in it deeply buried. The Lord is faithful not to leave us in our sin. In the place of confession, repentance begins in our heart and it is there that forgiveness happens. Sanctifying. A gift that blesses is also being used to work out my salvation. The believer’s life anthem – to live for His glory and to proclaim Christ to the world. This means we need to start living and proclaiming in the places of the world where we are at now with joy and without a grumbling heart.

For His Glory

Where we can live out self-sacrifice for the glory of God is where He will meet us and refine us.

God’s glory happened when there was an open door to the woman who was infringing upon my Netflix time. He was glorified in the making of a meal for a family in need when I could barely find time to throw together dinner in my own home. The glory was all to God when my germ-conscious self desperately tried not to cringe at the snotty nose child running amuck in my home while his mother was being discipled. Christ was meeting me and being shone through me in all these moments. Something bigger and better than my own plans and expectations transpired when I surrendered and embraced this gift. He was working in and through me.

God was brought glory by people in my own life who extended gifts of service to me and my family. His provision was feIt when meals were delivered after coming home with a new baby from the hospital. He showed Himself near when the one who brought a plate of cookies took my hands in hers and together we offer up tear-stained words of praise and petition. None of these things were convenient and nothing with young children around is easy, but people poured into and continue to pour into my life – each time bringing God glory. These moments built and grew my faith.

Leaning into Undeserved Grace

Believers, leaning into hospitality means that we are leaning into the undeserved grace of Christ. An undeserved grace that has met us and continues to meet us. This place of grace becomes the well where our hospitality drinks from and it is the platter from where all we have to offer is served. It is really a reflection of our gift of grace when we serve others and strengthen their faith through something as beautiful as hospitality. In all the God-glorifying gifts we are given – may we be good stewards of such a wondrous gift as that one which seeks to serve.

The Miracle

The Miracle

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D
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Six Years Before The Miracle Happened

Six years ago, a few minutes after we ate lunch my husband started getting an upset stomach, hives, itchy eyes, and his throat started swelling shut.  He was having an allergic reaction to something he had eaten.  I drove him very quickly to the emergency room.  By the time we arrived, he was unrecognizable from the swelling.  They quickly went to work to stop the reaction.  We answered all of their questions about what he had eaten and that he had no known food or drug allergies.

After several hours of treatment, we were told to keep a food diary, try food elimination, follow up with our primary care physician, and return to the emergency room if he had another reaction.  And so began our journey to a miracle.

He did not have another reaction for several months.  Suddenly, we were on our way to the emergency room again.  Food elimination did not show anything. There had been nothing new added to his diet either time.

We once again followed up with our physician and he decided to do a lab test to check for common food allergies (IgE).  He was tested for around 20 different foods.  A few days later we were called with the results that he was allergic to gluten, not just wheat.  Gluten occurs in many grains.  Ironically, the call came as I was putting spaghetti on the table for dinner.

Living the Gluten Free Life

He started on a gluten free diet but was so sensitive to gluten that the smallest amount of cross contamination would send him to the emergency room.  His sensitivity was so acute that after drinking iced tea from a pitcher that had previously been washed with a sponge, which had also been used to clean out a wheat-flour based batter, he ended up in the emergency room. This was the third and worst reaction yet.

He was so sensitive that he ended up in the emergency room after drinking iced tea that had been in a pitcher, which had been washed with a sponge, which had also been used to wash out a bowl that contained a wheat-flour based batter in it.

Through the years, we got more careful and there were fewer trips to the emergency room.  We removed all gluten based flours/powders from our home.  I mostly quit baking.  All “regular” desserts and baked goods were now store bought.  We still had pasta but it had to be prepared in pots and pans that I bought specifically for our children and me to use for “gluten foods”.

We even had a counter in the kitchen designated for gluten.  Even everyday condiments could not be “contaminated”.  There was no spreading peanut butter and jelly on regular bread and then putting the knife back in the jar to get more out.  There were even certain items that we had one for my husband and one for the rest of us.  We would put an “X” on the lid so that he knew he could not eat it.  Even eating out was difficult because so many people did not understand that it was not celiac but anaphylaxis.  We went to the emergency room after one such incident.

One Year Before the Miracle

About a year ago, I started investigating food allergy desensitization.  Unfortunately at the time, the closest facility that treated wheat was three hours away and the treatments are bi-weekly.  This was just not feasible.  I kept googling every few months and finally found a clinic a little over an hour away but they were building another office 30 minutes from us.  Just after they opened, I called and they agreed to see my husband.

At our first appointment, we were seen by a Physician’s Assistant (PA), who did not give us much hope.  We were told, he would probably not be a good candidate because of his history of a heart attack. The best that they could do was make it to where cross contamination would not send him to the hospital.  After receiving his medical records, she also ordered a long list of blood work and scheduled a meeting with an allergist.

When we returned for his follow-up, we were told that the only lab that was abnormal, other than his IgE level for gluten, was his Vitamin D level.  It was almost non-existent. This “could” lower a person’s immune response and make an allergic reaction more severe.  He was prescribed a Vitamin D supplement and scheduled for a monitored “food challenge” test.

My Prayers Changed

I don’t subscribe to prosperity theology. But, I do believe that God answers our prayers and gives us the desires of our heart.

Before his first appointment I had already been praying.  Of course, I had been praying for years, but my prayers changed at this point.  I earnestly began to pray for healing.  I KNEW God was going to heal him.  I was claiming healing and I refused to believe otherwise.  I would talk about each doctor’s visit and test and where we would eat WHEN he was healed, NOT IF!

My husband started to believe also, but he was nervous.

The Test

Almost exactly six years after this ordeal began, we went for his food challenge test.  We bought the softest, most wonderful loaf of multigrain bread for this test.

We were taken into a room marked “Emergency Room” along with several syringes of all the medications he would need for any allergic reaction. He was brought a carefully weighed out bite of bread to start.  My husband told her that if anything was going to happen, he would start having symptoms within ten minutes.  She chit-chatted with us for about fifteen minutes and left the room with the instruction to let her know if we needed anything.

This continued every 30 minutes in increasing doses followed by vital signs until he ate an entire slice…with no reaction.

The Miracle

The PA that administered the test was surprised and at a loss as to what happened.  I told her it was a miracle!  His IgE level still shows that he has an allergy to gluten.  The only slight explanation she has is the Vitamin D level.  But, we know that it was all God.


We are slowly returning to a normal life as per the PA’s instructions.  As of this writing, he has eaten donuts, pizza, and biscuits.  Every “new food” is an exciting experience.

We can now accept dinner invitations without hesitation or bringing food for him.  Vacations will be less stressful.

This has been life-changing! It will take us some time to quit doing some of the “odd” things we had to do before to prevent cross-contamination.  We do not know why God has chosen him for this miracle at this time.  But, we do know that God has given us a true miracle!

Have you experienced a miracle?

Showers of Blessings

Showers of Blessings

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The year was 1982.  When I was twenty-seven years old, God began the breakthrough to His prodigal daughter.  I was pregnant with our first child. Realizing that my husband and I were not capable of raising a child without God’s help, I decided to find a place to worship. I knew we needed to get back to God. A co-worker suggested a particular church so I went there.  It’s difficult to walk into a place where you don’t know anyone, but I met a lot of “friendly strangers” that first visit. I was so happy to begin my walk with God again.

Each Sunday for the next few months, I encountered these “friendly strangers” once a week at worship, bible class, and other church activities.  In my ninth month of pregnancy, I waddled down the aisle to the front pew, asking for prayers and to be restored and to become a member of that congregation.  What a glorious day for me!

Just a few weeks after placing my membership, our first child was born.  A few weeks later, one of the church ladies contacted me about hosting a baby shower for our baby girl at her home.  I didn’t want to be impolite and ungrateful, so I agreed to it. But immediately, I started to think, who would I invite? My family lived out of state.  I had a few friends from work who might come. This could be an embarrassing experience–a baby shower given in your honor and no guests!   I begged my sister to travel from Tennessee to Houston for the baby shower.  At least I would have her to share in my embarrassing moment.

for-this-son-of-mine-was-dead-and-is-alive-again-he-was-lost-and-is-found-so-they-began-to-celebrate

On the evening of the shower, I was so nervous.  My sister and I arrived early, and the hostesses were so kind and welcoming.  I didn’t know all the hostesses, and they hardly knew me. It felt strange for these women to host my baby shower.  I began to experience a lump in my throat which lasted throughout the evening. This act of love was a humbling experience.  The table full of food triggered another anxious thought: Who is going to eat all this food they have prepared?   If a few “friendly strangers” from church attended I would be so excited. And then I had another anxious thought: Who attends a shower for someone who is a mere acquaintance?  I admit my head talk was crazy!

The next part of my story is God’s story!  He showed me a beautiful picture of his church that night. As a baby Christian, I had never experienced an outpouring of love like this before. When the doorbell rang and guests began arriving, my nervousness turned to excitement.  It continued to ring and soon women, both young and old, filled the home. These ladies came together to celebrate and encourage this new baby Christian and her newborn baby. Love, laughter, fellowship, friendship, and food filled not only the home, but my heart as well. God poured out his showers of blessings on me through these wonderful Christian women.

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With each gift I opened, I fought back tears of joy for a beautiful church family, tears of joy for God’s sweet provision.  This baby shower was God’s version of the feast He prepared for his prodigal daughter who had come home.  I don’t remember conversations that night, or who attended, but I do remember how the church made me feel: loved and encouraged.

God used a baby shower that night to demonstrate his love, encouragement, grace, compassion, kindness, and hope. It reminds me of the song “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave. 

This is my story, this is my song;

Praising my Savior all the day long!

 

showers-of-blessings-pinterest

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

Unasked Prayers Mission Field in Your Church Advice before Marriage Gracefully Accepting Advice

 

 

 

The Grace-Filled Marriage

The Grace-Filled Marriage

I am a girl who loves to sit with a cup of coffee and daydream. I am most passionate about Jesus, my family, and family ministry. My husband and I live in Oklahoma with our two precious daughters. I spend my days with my girls, discovering and growing alongside them! You can usually find us either in our sunroom, the park, or taking long walks through Target. :)
Kristin J
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In a Christian marriage there is a goal to put God first, but I’ll be honest–my husband and I didn’t really know what that meant when we got married. We knew we wanted to honor God in our life together and be part of a church family, but we really didn’t know the extent we’d be called to put God first.

At the beginning of our marriage we were consumed with personal needs. We’d read all kinds of marriage books talking about needs and love languages and respect, and while we tried hard to please each other, we got upset when we didn’t feel the same effort in response.  Now, the lessons in those books are great–but we didn’t have the right mindset. We needed a mindset of grace if we were ever going to really put God first in our lives. Thankfully, over the last couple of years we’ve learned more about how to live a grace-filled marriage and it’s made such a wonderful impact on our life together.

kristin's wedding

Here is the new foundational truth for our marriage:

Our relationship with God is more important than our relationship with each other. This is how we truly put God first in our lives and in our family.

Now, you might not like the way that sounds but hear me out—

Supporting each other on your individual walks with God is the most important thing you can do for your marriage. 

 

When your spiritual life becomes top priority you think differently. Your mission in life is no longer about your happiness on earth but your eternity with God–and this affects your marriage in a good way! When you are focusing on your eternal destination more than your current one you will be a better spouse. How do I know this? Well, focusing on my eternal destination means that I’m striving to be like Christ, and who can love my husband better than Christ? My best love for my husband will be fruit from my relationship with Christ.

 

“Every marriage goes through moments of anger and temporary failures. But you must determine your goal. What matters most: winning arguments or resembling Christ?” – Francis Chan (You and Me Forever) 

Francis Chan

 

I don’t know about you, but I want my life to resemble Christ. That’s way more important to me than making sure my needs and love languages are met. I’m not saying love languages and meeting needs are bad–they can be a very good thing when you are putting your desire to please Christ above your desire to please yourself. Then you will use those methods as God intended–as a way to serve your spouse.

Now, as wonderful as all that sounds we still have a little problem.

Are you still with me? My husband and I have a very tricky enemy working against us and he can use those needs and love languages as a stumbling block. Sometimes our spouses don’t meet our needs and don’t speak our love language and then what?? How will we respond?

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is looking to devour me. The devil is looking to devour my husband.

 

When a spouse messes up (no matter how insignificantly), you can bet your bottom dollar that Satan is on the hunt for victory. He’s watching how we will respond. This is why we need to lavish our marriages with grace.

Why? For us it’s simple.

Because the devil will NOT gain victory in our household.

No, he will not get an ounce.

Christ gets all the power, all the glory, and all the victories in our house. 

 

So what do we do when the devil is prowling at our door? How do we let Christ get the glory in our home? Well first, we stay on our guard and know who our enemy is! It’s really easy for me to feel brokenhearted when things aren’t going my way. In return, I can act pretty ungodly, treating my poor husband like he is my enemy. I know that my husband has triggers too, times when the devil is crawling at his feet. There are going to be misunderstandings and times when we mess up and end up hurting each other.

However, Satan is our enemy in these times. It’s not my husband. It’s not me. Knowing that Satan is the enemy makes it easier to extend grace to each other because we know that we are each on the pursuit of holiness. We want to encourage each other on this process, not get in the way. We want Christ to come first in our marriage. This means that we want to be like Christ and we want to show Christ’s love to be fruitful in our marriage. We want God to take the victory, and he does! God takes the victory every time we set our personal needs aside and extend loving grace in His name!

Live a grace-filled marriage.

When you and your spouse find yourself at odds, offer grace. Once you extend grace, you can then demand the enemy leave your home. If you’ve seen the movie War Room, then you remember that powerful scene where Elizabeth Jordan literally yells at Satan to get out of her house–she even yells him out of her front lawn! There is something to be said for verbally voicing Satan to leave. It shows we really mean it and we want him to hear it! Also, then you should pray.

We can’t fight the enemy on our own. We need God’s help. So get down on your knees -together or alone. Beg God to fight the enemy out of your life and your household.

Let God do all the fighting in your marriage.

“God will fight for you; you need only to be still.”- Exodus 14:14

Let God claim the victory in your grace-filled marriage.

Exodus 14:14

I Can Only Imagine: What Will Heaven Be Like?

I Can Only Imagine: What Will Heaven Be Like?

Toni was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma.She graduated from East Central University with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Economics.After college, she returned to her hometown to marry her best friend, Charles.Toni is a stay at home mom to their three teens, two boys and a girl, whom God led them to homeschool.Her goal is to raise her children to love and serve the Lord.They live on a farm where they grow produce to sell at several farmers markets.She also plays the piano at church and teaches piano.
Toni D
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Some songs touch us more than others.  For me, one of those songs is “I Can Only Imagine.”  I cannot listen to it without tearing up.

Although I do not remember when I first heard it, I do remember when it first touched me.  The church I attended was doing a walk-through drama.  I guided people through each scene.  The last scene depicted “heaven” and “I Can Only Imagine” was playing in the background as “Jesus” spoke to each of us.  This was so powerful and tears streamed down my face.

We all try to imagine what heaven will be like.  The Bible is filled with references of it…streets of gold, walls adorned with precious stones, gates of pearls.  Even with the description, I do not think we can fully comprehend what it will be like.  I believe it is beyond our mere mortal comprehension.  All we can do is imagine what it will be like.

Recently, I took my children to see the movie I Can Only Imagine.  While I knew the basics of the story behind the song–the writer and lead singer of Mercy Me, Bart Milliard, wrote it due to an event in his life–I wanted to know more.  So that I do not spoil the movie for anyone, I will not go into detail about the event.  When we went to see the movie, I really did not know what was in store for me.  It is labeled as a movie about redemption, but it was not what I expected–it is about so much more.

This powerful movie is based on Bart Milliard’s life starting at a very early age all the way up to when the song was released.  He went through so much throughout his childhood and so much of the movie is just heartbreaking.  The movie is very touching, and luckily, I took tissues with me (a friend warned me, and like I said, just the song itself makes me cry).  As a side note: The movie was very well-made, felt like a high-budget film, and had incredible acting.  It is a must-see for everyone.

We each have our own story.  That story, good or bad, is what makes us who we are.  It is what forms us, how we react to traumas and celebrations.  We can push people away and hide within ourselves.  Or, we can turn to God to get us through these things.

We all try to imagine what heaven is like.  We will never realize its true magnificence until we get there.

Can you imagine what heaven is like?

A Game Changer: How Monopoly and Bible Studies are Alike

A Game Changer: How Monopoly and Bible Studies are Alike

I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.

I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
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Do You Know the Rules?

Today for the first time ever since having kids, I pulled out one of my favorite games from my younger years: Monopoly.

As my best friends could attest, I was a Monopoly fanatic. Every year at least once, typically on New Year’s Eve, we would stay up all night (or until they finally gave up) for a marathon Monopoly session. I loved buying and owning and winning money. It was the only board game that seemed to never end.

When I pulled out my husband’s Star Wars version of Monopoly for our family to play, I decided to take the time to read the instructions, since it had slightly different rules and it had been so long since I played.

As I sat there reading the instructions, I was absolutely floored!

Nowhere in the instructions did I find…

  1. If you buy property, pay a tax or a fine, put your money in the middle of the game board.
  2. If you land on Free Parking, collect all the money from the middle of the board.
  3. Purchase a house any time you want for any property you have.

Instead, the rules said:

  1. The Bank collects all the money. (My previous understanding of putting it all in the middle and then winning it from Free Space never existed.)
  2. You can only purchase a house for a property, if you own all the colors of that property group! (What!?! Well, that makes it more difficult!)
  3. The game can be played in 60-90 minutes! (You mean, it’s not supposed to take 5-8 hours to play this game?)

I literally sat there stunned. Why did I not know these rules? Why were the rules I knew about so different?

Talk about a game changer!

Processing this, I realized that I had never actually taken the time to read the rules for myself. I just wanted to play, so I readily accepted what other people told me the rules were.

I couldn’t help but realize that I had readily accepted what others had told me in other areas of my life as well. 

A handful (ok, maybe two handfuls) of years ago, one of our elders led a class that came to be known in my mind as “Is it Biblical or is it Tradition?

A Game Changer Bible (1)

 

I loved that class for one main reason. It got me into God’s word on a new level. Instead of taking what others said and molding the Bible to fit, we tried to figure out if our traditions were actually biblical. Were they really as important as we elevated them to be, or did we turn it into something more than it should have been?

There were many heated debates in this class over the years. When the dust settled and our eyes focused on God’s word, we couldn’t help but realize some of what we had readily accepted as an absolute truth was maybe more of a protective gate to keep us from doing something truly sinful.

A Spiritual Game Changer

I will be forever thankful to that elder for taking the time to hold our hands and walk us through the Bible text. He helped us walk the traditions that we held up higher than the actual truth out of our lives.

It is considered noble to test everything someone says against the Scriptures.  In Acts 17:11, Luke writes about the Bereans:

“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

Just thinking about this makes me giggle!  I take Paul at his word, but here the Bereans test everyone against Scripture and make sure that they echo God’s truth.

So yes, let’s accept God’s word with eagerness. But let’s also remember to examine every source to make sure it tells God’s truth.  Even this blog (and any other). This will keep us from faltering and putting our faith in a person rather than God. It will also help us not risk our heavenly future based on the wrong instructions of others.

Have you taken the time to examine your beliefs and traditions against Scripture? Or are you just accepting what others have told you to be true?  

 

 

 

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