How to Host a Church Ladies’ Luncheon In Your Home

 
“… distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”
Romans 12:13 NKJV
 

A few years ago, when my oldest son was still a baby, I asked God what I could do to reach out to the women in my church.  An idea drifted in from Him regarding hospitality.  Thus began “Ladies Lunch at Sara’s.”

Three guidelines determined my plans:

     1.  Cover the entire event with prayer.
     2.  Invite three ladies at a time, making a group of four.
     3.  Keep it simple.

The Guests

I live 45 minutes from my church.  So most of our church ladies live near each other, down by the church.  It made me smile to think of ladies fellowshipping while driving to and from the event.  So, I whipped out my handy-dandy Church Directory (with photos) and started leafing through.  I made a few calls: some ladies had to work that day or had other plans.  But, eventually I came up with three hearty souls, willing to brave the drive.

Each luncheon I tried to choose at least one really talkative lady, so that there wouldn’t be a multitude of awkward silences.  I prayed over my guest list, asking God who He wanted to come, who needed to get better acquainted, and who needed encouragement.

My House

Our home is graced with a tiny dining room, and I was enthused to pull out my pretty dishes that I hardly ever use.  Remembering the many Swedish meals so lovingly served on the very same table, I joyfully decorated the worn-with-age table (covered with a pretty cloth) that had belonged to my grandparents.

I wanted to make the setting pretty and “girly” for this ladies day out.  But, I didn’t want it to be too fancy.  Sometimes I wonder if I made it too pretty (is that possible?) and so ladies didn’t feel like they could reciprocate because they didn’t feel like their luncheon would be similar to mine.  I hope that is not the case!  In the future I plan to keep it a bit more simple.

The Menu

Next came the menu – simple and delicious:

Chicken Salad or Chicken Caesar Salad
Crusty Cheesy Garlic Bread
Cherry Pie Fruit Salad or Fresh Fruit
Double Chocolate Pudding Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Tea/Coffee/Water

I prepared as much as I could ahead of time, and put it all together at the last minute.  Every luncheon I used the SAME menu.  This helped greatly in shopping for ingredients and preparing!  Tweaking the dishes caused them to get yummier each time I prepared them.

It seems like I also asked people ahead of time if they had any food allergies.  For sure I would do that now, since I am now gluten-intolerant and much more aware of such needs.  In case you are interested, I’ve posted my recipes below.

The Luncheon

Welcoming the guests was a joy.  My house isn’t tiny, nor it is huge.  One lady unknowingly made my day by calling my home “cozy like a cottage.”  My goal was to make my guests feel comfortable and to soothe their spirits with God’s tender loving care.  I wanted to honor them each as the precious souls they are, lovingly designed by God for a special purpose.

The unofficial schedule looked something like this:

Day Before

Set the table.  Cook the chicken.  Chill the cans of fruit for the fruit salad.  Place my crock-pot on the kitchen counter. Pray!

11:30     

Welcome the ladies & seat them in the family room while I finish small details.  Ask them if they would like something to drink.

11:40   

Invite the ladies to come to the table.  Sit down and pray together.  Eat!  I tried to balance the visit so no one woman monopolized the conversation.  My goal was to: curve away from gossip, try to point the conversation toward spiritual matters, get to know the ladies better, and have fun!

12:05     

Remove dirty dishes and serve dessert with hot tea and coffee.

12:20     

Retire to the family room for more conversation. 

After about another hour, eventually someone would say, “I think it’s time for us to go home.”  They always stayed just the right amount of time. 

Variations

The ladies luncheons worked perfectly during that stage of my life, because I timed the luncheon during my son’s nap.  Nowadays it would be a bit more challenging with sons ages seven and five, who are anxious to be part of anything involving food. 

Here are some ideas you could consider when tweaking this idea to fit your current stage of life:

1.  Join with another lady from your church and have the luncheon either at your house, her house, at a park, or at church.

2.  Buy similar sized baskets at a garage sale or thrift store.  Have a fancy “basket lunch” with simple items.  Line it with a cloth napkin.  Everything in the basket will taste delicious because it is in a fancy container and is shared with friends.  And there will be no last minute cooking, as well as simple clean-up.

3.  Include your children in the prayerful preparations.  They could be “chefs,” “waiters” or “waitresses” during the meal.  Tell them not to expect a tip, but plan a special time together for afterward: playing their favorite game, or take them out to ice cream and talk about how encouraged the ladies were by the time together.

4.  Plan for a larger group potluck.  You could announce a theme: salad potluck, dessert potluck, chocolate potluck, garden bounty potluck, pizza potluck (veggie pizza, fruit pizza, “real” pizza, and dessert pizza!), picnic baskets, etc. 

5.  Ask ladies to bring a “show-and-tell” item: something that is special to them to talk about to the group.

6.  No matter what, plan to include Christ in your party.  Write Bible verses on slips of paper and set them around the table.  Have a list of questions, some off-the-wall silly and others more spiritual in nature, to ask around the table during lunch.  Share a brief devotional.  Ask the group, “What has God been doing in your life?” and see where the conversation leads.  Inquire about prayer needs and pray together as a small group. 

7.  Prepare a small token of friendship to give them when they leave.  Keep it inexpensive and simple!  It could be a flower with a verse attached with a curly ribbon.  Or it could be a Bible verse magnet for their refrigerator.  How about a Dollar Store doily tied with pretty bowMaybe it could be a craft made by you and/or your children.

8.  Consider this part of your children’s education.  They can learn much about hospitality, socializing, manners, serving, and the delight of ministering to others through hosting a ladies’ luncheon.

9.  Mail each of the ladies a note, thanking them for coming and telling them what you appreciate about them.  Don’t forget to add an uplifting Bible verse.

Conclusion

When I became pregnant with our second child and was very sick most of the time, ladies luncheons could not continue.  I miss them and hope I can do it again someday.  As I look back on the five – six groups of ladies I had in my home, over the span of a few months, I thank God for the rich memories and treasured moments of encouragement He allowed us to enjoy. 

Sometimes ladies forgot to say thank you, while others brought a hostess gift or wrote a thank you note afterward.  I was touched to tears by one widow who sent a note describing the luncheon as “a highlight of her life.”  A few times I was sad because I did not receive an invitation back, but so much greater was the overwhelming joy that came from serving God and others!

Perhaps God is calling you to a ministry of hospitality in your home.  Keep it simple and God-centered, and you can’t go wrong!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Recipes

Chicken Salad (a yummy college home-economics class recipe – 6 servings)
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup pineapple chunks, halved
12 black olives, halved
4 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted (browned in saucepan for 4 minutes)
1/2 cup mayo
Lettuce – 1 head

Chill plates (or serve right away out of the refrigerator).  Toss chicken and salt.  Add pineapple, celery, olives and mayo.  Lightly toss – don’t overwork.  Serve over lettuce – garnished with sliced almonds. 

Chicken Caesar Salad (from my dear friend, Barbara – 6 servings)
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1/2 – 3/4 cups parmesan cheese
1 bottle Classic Caesar Kraft dressing
14 grape tomatoes, halved
Italian croutons

Toss first three ingredients together lightly.  Top with tomatoes and croutons.  Be sure all the ingredients are served well-chilled.

Crusty Cheesy Garlic Bread (source unknown)
3/4 stick of butter, melted
3 TBSP. dried chives
2 TBSP. minced garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. salt
1 loaf Italian bread

Combine the first five ingredients and brush on sliced Italian bread (3/4″ slices).  Broil for 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm in a basket, wrapped in a cloth towel or napkin.

Cherry Pie Fruit Salad (source unknown)
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can sliced peaches
1 can sliced pear
1 can apricots
1 can pineapple chunks
Optional: blueberries, strawberries, grapes

Drain canned fruit and place all fruit in a large bowl.  Stir together and chill.  Just before serving, pour it into a clean bowl so it will look fresh and pretty.  Serve in small dishes or ramekins.

Crockpot Double Chocolate Pudding Cake (from my college friend, Jen … a chocolate lover’s dream come true!)

Mix:                                   
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Stir in:
1/2 cup milk
3 TBSP. melted butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Place batter in 3 1/2 quart crock-pot. 
In another bowl, mix:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Sprinkle over batter in crockpot.  Gently pour 1 2/3 c. hot water over the top.  DO NOT STIR!  Cover and cook on high 1 3/4 – 2 hours.  Do not cook on low.  Serve with ice cream.

In Her Shoes – Single Women

Singleness.  We’ve all been there at some point. Some of you live the single life right now – for others of us, the memory of life alone begins to dim. Married at age thirty, I remember being on my own. But, recently I recognized that my memories are getting foggy. So, I asked some godly single women what they would like their married sisters, including me, to know about them.

It is my delight to introduce these lovely women of God!  They are their 30s or 40s; two are in full-time Christian service, and two are in secular professions.  Each wants to honor God in her life and in her relationships.  Their objective is not to promote comparison between married and single women.  They want to nuture unity with their sisters in Christ.

What would you like married women to know about you?

Single Sister #1 – Iowa

“What I want married women to know about me:

1) Church service: I do want to serve, but please don’t treat me like a workhorse, always expecting me to serve anytime there’s a need. Just because I’m single and have no kids, doesn’t mean that I have oodles of free time or that I don’t have other commitments.  Three years ago, I got a personal and painful reminder that I need to be better about saying the word “no.” I had just come off of a summer of constantly serving in various areas, and God showed me that I needed to slow down. 

 

2) Please don’t assume that my job is the only thing going on in my life. I may not be married or have kids, but I do lead a full and active life. I don’t mind when people ask me how work is going, but sometimes I feel like that’s ALL they ask me about. There are times when work has been trying for me that day or week, and I really don’t feel like talking about it. But sometimes I have trouble diverting the conversation in another direction because I feel like ‘well, at least they’re talking to me. I’ll take that over nothing.’ I have hopes, dreams, goals, hobbies, musical interests, etc. Please don’t be afraid to ask about my life.

3) Likewise, I want to hear about your life too. I love hearing about others’ kids and families, but I also want to get to know more about you. I think there is much we can learn from each other.

4) I do appreciate it when people ask me how they can pray for me or what I’ve been learning from God and His Word.

5) I am endeavoring to take to heart Proverbs 31:10-31, particularly verse 12 right now.

6) I aspire to keep growing closer to and loving my Lord more and more every day.”

Single Sister #2 – Pennsylvania

“Some have already mentioned my thoughts, but I’ll reiterate them. Our church has a once-a-month ladies’ Bible study and fellowship. There are some ladies that I work with who attend that I could sit with there, but I’d like to get know some other people. I’ve given up and have quit going because none of the married women will include me in their conversations. Sometimes they don’t so much as look at me. I would like married women to know that I don’t have the plague and I do have a life even though I’m not married. I want them to know that I do want to be their friend and hear about their families though other topics of conversation and interest in my life would be appreciated as well.

My parents married late, so they can very much relate to the problem we face in Christianity. “Oh, she’s single. She can do it.” Within three months of being saved my dad was made Sunday school superintendent because he was single. Mom was so stressed out with all of her responsibilities at church that the married women wouldn’t do that she actually postponed their wedding. Single people have to work full time, do all of the grocery shopping, house and lawn chores, pay all of the bills and make all of the decisions by themselves. There really isn’t that much free time.

 

                                                                           
One thing that has bugged me for many years is to hear married women complain about their husbands. I understand that some women have legitimate reasons to complain about their husbands, but that doesn’t give them a right to do so. Complaining is not honoring. Often the complaints are so petty such as how much laundry and ironing he creates. I would be so happy to have a husband to iron for, and I hate ironing! I vowed years ago that if God ever gave me a husband, I would thank God for him every time I did his laundry, and I practice that when doing my dad’s laundry.”


Single Sister #3 – Wisconsin
“To include everyone, not just married people. I have a lot of friends who include my daughter and I in everything, but then you meet people who act like they’re superior because they’re married. And then I hear women who are so upset because their husband doesn’t do every little thing for them. I hear women who have said they’re mad at God because they can’t have any more children and they already have 3 or 4 kids. Sigh…………I try to be compassionate toward them and understand and just love them but the reality of it is that in my heart, I’m thinking that they need to be thankful for the husband and kids that they already have. Some of us would love to trade places with them in an instant.

I agree that many are busy serving their families, but I have a friend who is a mother of 5 girls, she serves her family and husband very well, yet has always had time for my daughter and I in NUMEROUS ways. Having dinner at their house, parties at their house, game night, etc. I think that no matter where you are in life, it comes back to looking past yourself and loving people. As a single mom who runs 2 businesses, the norm for me has been to be up at 7am, to work by 8:30, back home around 8pm, and to bed around 1am. I had time to run both businesses, spend time with my daughter, keep up the house, have play dates with her friends, cook meals for people who just had babies or surgeries, watch people’s kids if they had a Dr’s appt, etc. and coordinate an entire music program (everything from practice, coordinating the calendar, teaching people how to sing, putting together cantatas, you name it.)

I’m enjoying the break I’m having right now from that busy life (just moved), but still looking for ways to serve people in this community. I’ve been buying school uniforms for kids at school who can’t afford them, and I’m planning to organize buying coats for them too. I always try to remind myself that everyone is at a different place spiritually, and even when God tells someone to do something, they might not actually do it. I have to leave it up to God to bring people to the point of looking at other people’s needs and doing something about it.

The only other thing I would add is just being sensitive, especially when you’re talking to an older person who’s single. I’ve had people ask me ‘Why aren’t you married?’  and while I really think they mean it as a compliment, it makes you feel like in some way you’ve failed because you’re not married. As if it’s a social class or something. Other times, people have told me that I ‘just need to get married,’ as if that will solve all of life’s issues and as if there’s some big line of guys that I have to choose from. Getting married just to get married never made anyone happy or solved any problems.

Understanding that God’s plan for some people is to be married, and God’s plan for other people is to be single and supporting each other in living out that plan is important.”

Single Sister #4 – Ohio

“That’s a very sensitive question to ask. Because of health problems, I’ve shared with people at church about how much stress has compromised my health. Two older married ladies have commented that I shouldn’t have any stress because I’m not married with children. I wanted to scream! But they had no personal reference point to understand the deprivations of walking through life alone, working full-time, and, in my case, having no family nearby or any Christian relatives at all.


I also wish married women would be sensitive to singles when they’re in a group setting. Many married women talk a lot about their families, and that’s like a knife in my heart, since I am past the age where I could have my own kids.

I appreciate your asking the question. There are a lot of radio programs, Bible studies or whatever that deal with the issues a person faces when married. Because of that, singles have a fairly good grasp of their struggles, but it’s not common to have information about singles, or if there is, it’s usually about dating, not about just plain living.

In my church, most married women work outside the home. In many cases, it’s because their husband makes them do it, because they feel they need to. But even if not, most of these are people who live pretty comfortable lives in large homes. This week I’ve been praying about getting involved with youth at church again. Two years ago I had to step away from all such ministries because of health issues, and I’m so hungry to offer up that nurturing side of me as a woman. But I think I’m going to have to turn down this opportunity, because my job is just too draining (I literally do the work of 3 people). I have longed and prayed that God would somehow remove the burden of having to support myself so I could be more involved in more ministries and volunteering to be a testimony for Christ in my community.


When I see married women either forced to work or choosing to work, it’s such a sadness to me. My church has suffered because so few women are available anymore for ministries. I would challenge women who have the freedom to not work to pour their energies into this very eternal investment. You are very much needed and valued in these roles.

As a final note: I want married women to know that I feel for them with the issues they face too, because raising kids can be very trying. Whether single or married, it’s good to respect each other’s differences and know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. I think a forum like this, though, can help us better understand and support each other as members of the whole family of God. I always bear in mind that in heaven there will be no marriage, so if we can focus on people as people here, we’ll be set for heaven!”

. . . . .

Thank you ladiesWhat about you?  Do you have something you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear from you!  Please feel free to leave a comment below.  We are exceedingly blessed to be on God’s mission together!

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them . . . Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another.”


– Excerpts from Romans 12

 

Ten "Going Crazy" Tips

“Call the Funny Farm!”  Not if, but when is the last time you were in a position of confusion, exhaustion, discouragement and/or grief, and you felt someone must quickly provide emergency intervention?  If you’re like me, it was as recent as yesterday or this morning. Stressful moments, from mildly irritating to incredibly difficult, come to all of us!  They can sneak up as a complete surprise.  They can also be predictable.  Can you relate to some of these?

  • Full schedule
  • Homeschooling (especially on wet or cold days after we’ve been inside for too long!)
  • Times of transition
  • Weddings
  • Holidays
  • Illness or injury
  • Hormones
  • New member in the family
  • A time of loss
  • Financial strain
  • Job tension
  • When disappointed by people or circumstances
  • When we sin against or disappoint people 
  • When we receive bad news
  • Reorganization at work or church
  • During a move/remodel
  • Etc!

How do you deal with your craziness? It really is a good thing that our lives aren’t completely trouble free.  If they were, where would our need be for God?  You’ve probably heard these before, but I’m praying that God will use something here to encourage you, dear Sister!  Here are a few of my favorite “Crazy” tips:

1.  Rest

As soon as possible do whatever it takes to get much needed rest.  My two boys, six and four, are pretty much beyond naps.  Yet, we still have a 1 1/2 hour reading/quiet time in the middle of the day.  It is helpful for everyone.  My six-year-old actually looks forward to it!  If you are anything like me, everything seems much worse when I am overly tired.  And my exhaustion can be a sign that my priorities are out of kilter.  My doing too much can be attibuted to my own pride. 

Whenever necessary (not more than once per day :)), get your kids occupied with a good video and go to your room, close the door, put on your MP3 player or a good set of earplugs, lay flat on the floor and stretch your arms above your head while breathing in and out slowly.  Here is one of my helpers:

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2


2.  Eat

It really can be as simple as taking time to nourish ourselves.  My tendency is to crave chocolate and potato chips, but these usually make me feel worse.  At the risk of sounding like your mother, eat well and drink lots of water.  Grill some chicken, make a salad, grab an apple.  Go through a drive-thru and buy a salad if you can afford it.  Indulge in the food you are craving, if you must.  But, don’t go overboard, and don’t resort to splurging as a daily escape from reality.  Popcorn is a calming snack, as is a banana.  I love it that when Elijah was tired, afraid, and discouraged God did not berate him and condemn him.  God isn’t condemning us: let us not condemn ourselves.  Enjoy some of God’s good gifts – eat!

“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.  And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’” I Kings 17:2-4


3.  Remember you are in a spiritual battle.

Too easily I forget that I am a soldier in a spiritual war.  I’m sure that my forgetfulness, and the ensuing consequences, makes Satan very happy.  We should expect daily battles!  You think your temptations regarding food isn’t part of your spiritual battle?  What was Eve’s first spiritual battle about?  Yet, what we are really fighting against is far more gigantic than people, circumstances or food:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” Ephesians 6:12


Would we go to the hottest site in Afghanistan unarmed?  No way.  Give me the largest tank and a wide selection of the most accute bombs available.  So then, how can we expect to face spiritual battles unarmed?  There is no option here.  We must eat, we must breath, we must be in God’s Word!  Especially during days of pressure, weakness, doubt, and possible depression, begin the day by putting on the armor of God, by reading and praying through Ephesians 6:10-20 (you can read it by clicking on the link below):


And, remember, we are on the winning side.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4

We must take time to read God’s love letter to us and . . .

4.  Pray

We cannot begin to estimate the power of talking to God.  Pour out your heart to Him!  If writing is your thing, grab a pen and paper or a computer and write your prayers to God.  It will help you to get it out of your system and leave it with the One Who has the power to work 24/7 for your good and His glory.  If you write it down it will also help you gain perspective on your problems.  How precious that our almighty God took on flesh and came to this wicked world.  He cried our tears, sharing our sorrows:

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15,16


5.  Talk to a godly friend. Ask for help! 

One of the highlights of Sunday is talking briefly with a friend at church about how we can pray for one another throughout the coming week.  And I can’t remember the number of times I have sent emergency emails or Facebook messages to ask sisters to pray for me.  It is an immediate relief to be reminded that we are not alone.  Don’t worry that you will be bothering someone (unless this is the 5th time you’ve called them today!). 

I do want to stress GODLY friend.  Not perfect (there aint any!), but growing.  Who is a godly friend?  One who is going to love you, show you grace, not judge you . . . but, also someone who is going to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.  Call the friend who listens, cares, and points you to Jesus.

We recently heard Todd Wilson, of FamilyMan Ministries, speak to our local homeschool parents group.  He spoke of a woman who called his wife and asked if she could come over to talk to her.  They started with small talk, but soon the conversation got deeper.  The visiting woman, one of whom Todd said we would all look at as the ultimate godly woman, quoting Scripture and giving glory to God, shared a personal hurt with Todd’s wife.  She told of a time two years before when she had been studying her Bible and her little girl kept interrupting and trying to get Mama’s attention.  The woman grabbed her little girls wrist too hard and broke it.  Since then the mother had been in agony.  As she shared her burden with this godly friend, she was able to breath and move on.  Todd’s wife didn’t condemn her, but instead told her things like, “Oh, I am so sorry!  Any one of us could’ve done the same thing!  I know you didn’t mean to do it.” (Todd even humorously admitted wanting to share some personal experience/not-so-good advice, “I understand . . . I’ve often felt like I wanted to break every bone in my child’s body!”)  Finally, this Christian sister was able to move on with her life.  Sometimes we just need to confess our mistakes or sins to a godly friend.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

6.  Forget the past and move on. 

If your stress has to do with your past (twenty years ago or yesterday), God wants you to forget it and move one.  If you need to apologize, write the letter, make the visit, or pick up the phone.  Even if people are hesitant to forgive.  God is always ready to forgive us!

If you have been sinned against and are constantly plagued by bad memories, practice giving these burdens to God – the more you do it the easier it will get to give them over to Him and not grab them back.  If you are obsessing, ask God to change your mind and literally get up and move into a different room and do a different activity.  A Christian counselor recommended this when I was obsessing about death after a close call, and it really helped me.  It is so refreshing when we can look forward to the future, entrusting our past and our future to God’s excellent care!

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14


7.  Plan something to look forward to. 

We women have the privilege of serving the people in our lives: cooking, cleaning, driving people to appointments, cards, listening, etc.  But we get worn out and need to be recharged.  Get out your calendar and look for the first free space – plan a date with your husband or a friend.  If other people are too busy, plan a date for yourself – go out and get a coffee or ice cream, read a favorite book, sit by a beautiful lake and soak in God’s beauty.  And do it without feeling guilty!  God gives good gifts to His children!  He gave Jesus so that we can live more abundantly.

“And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.” Mark 6:31-32


8.  Claim your blessings. 

Reminiscent of Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book One Thousand Gifts, simply sit down and start writing down all the things you have to be thankful for.  Your list of “bad things” is much smaller than the “good things” . . . and you’ve probably realized why I set apart “good” and “bad” to remind us that our point of view is terribly limited.  What may seem bad to us may be what God is going to use to do amazingly good things in our lives.

Ask God to help you be thankful for where you are right now, including all the yucky stuff.  He can and will give strength to help us be genuinely thankful for trials. All we need to do is ask and wait on Him.  God highly treasures our sacrifice of praise.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

9.  Cry and Breathe

Just a couple days ago I let it all out in my room, boo-hooing and doing some much needed grieving.  I felt so much better afterward. Crying purges!  It rids our bodies of toxins. Crying is part of what God has given to help us release some of the pent-up emotional pressure.  These verses are probably familiar to you, so I want to share them in a translation other than the NKJV to give another perspective.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (NLT)


If you are not a cryer, take a brisk walk, work out, release that stress somehow (and I don’t mean hurling a pan over your husband’s head!).  And as our sweet more mature friends gently remind us, “This too shall pass.” 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

10.  Pick One

Think of five people you know who are going through a trial right now (not including yourself).  Plan how you, or you along with your family, can do something simple and special for him or her. 

If you have a neighbor who just broke her arm, offer to rake her leaves.  If you have a friend who just went through surgery, take a meal or a happy balloon over with a favorite coffee.  Fresh flowers can be an extravagant gift making people feel loved, but most women I know prefer plants that aren’t going to die (unless they have thumbs not even close to the color of green and are thankful that after a short while their flowers die naturally 🙂 ).

I have a friend who has been suffering with depression. Just a phone call meant the world to him and helped him to be brave enough to seek the help he needed.  I praise God that He used little ol’ me to help a brother in need, and at the same time get my mind off my own troubles.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

I hope something in this list will help you during this crazy time of life!  The best thing to remember as women on God’s mission, we are not alone, and God is lovingly continuing the good work He started in us.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” Isaiah 41:10
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  Philippians 1:6

Get out of the way!

Twelve years ago I was privileged to be a preschool teacher in Poulsbo, Washington.  I loved my students!  I remember one day when a new fellow joined our class.  The poor little man had major first day jitters and insecurities.  Not even music and story time could cheer him up.  He continued in distress until . . . I got up and moved.  Behind me on the wall was a picture of Jesus (similar to the image above).   After Kevin saw the picture of Jesus, his entire demeanor changed!  As I watched him smile, I could picture a party going on inside his brain – “This is a Jesus place!  I’m going to be okay!”  From then on, he seemed to feel at home.

While studying John 3:27-33 (*context below) today, I was challenged to remember that I am privileged to point people to Jesus.  Like John the Baptist, I have the opportunity to tell others, “It’s all about Him!”

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30  

This passage of Scripture reminds me:

I must diminish!
The good things you see in my life are only because of Jesus.  I am only special because God made me in His image, God in the flesh died to pay my sin debt, and I am chosen by Him to know and serve Him.  Why should my screen time only point people to Him?  Because . . .

1.  I have nothing except for what has been given to me by God (27). No room to brag!
2.  I am not God (28).  It seems obvious, but I find myself idiotically trying to play God in my life.
3.  I have been sent by God (28).  On His mission, not mine.  He uses the weak things of this world! (I Corinthians 1:27)
4.  I am His bride (29).  Do I act like a bride in love, preparing for our day?  Do I glow and tell everyone about the One I love (Who first loved me – I John 4:19)?
5.  The sound of his voice gives great joy – in Him my joy is fulfilled (29).  So, why do I go elsewhere for my joy?  Rejoice in the joy Giver!  And find my fulfillment in Him alone.  Not in my accomplishments!  Not in my list of souls won!  Not in my one-upping a sister with whom I feel a pull of competition in church leadership.  No!!!

He must become greater!

Jesus IS the greatest – this verse is saying that He must take center stage and be given complete dominion in our lives.  Why?  Because (again, taken from John 3) . . .

1.  He is the Giver (27).  All gifts are from God!  Isn’t His signature verse John 3:16?  And, don’t forget Romans 8:32!  With His strength, I can appreciate His gifts and become a selfless giver.
2.  He is the Sender (28).  Matthew 28:18-20.  I am on a mission!  I should be grateful – I get to serve the King of Kings!
3.  He is the Christ (28).  Anointed One, appointed by God.  Jesus is God in the flesh, no matter what other people say.
4.  Jesus and I have extremely different roles.  He is transforming me into His image while I am but a speck in the shadow of the Almighty.  That means I must continue to reverence and obey Him.  Humble myself.
5.  He is the bridegroom (29).  He loves me.  He chose me.  I am His precious bride.  He is worthy of my adoration!
6.  He is above all (27-28, 29-31). So, doesn’t He deserve my complete allegiance?!  I cannot even imagine the ridiculous spectacle of a termite bragging about his strength next to a tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur.  God and me?  The difference is even greater!

HE is above all!
He IS above all!
He is ABOVE all!
He is above ALL!

7.  Jesus is evidence that God, and what He says in the Bible, is true (33).  Divine and sent by God, Jesus gives a living, breathing view of God.
8.  He has something to say that is worth hearing (32).  Am I listening?

We have the privilege of pointing people to Jesus.  Let’s get out of the way so people can see the source of hope and true joy!

Practically Speaking: How To Point Others to Jesus

Family:

  • Above all, your family needs for you to be godly.  When you are right with God, God is able to shine through you!
  • Talk about God to your children, every day of the week. 
  • Begin the day with a verse and prayer. 
  • In a moment of frustration, let them hear you pray to God for help and strength. 
  • Put a little love note on their pillow that includes a Bible verse telling about Jesus’ love for them. 
  • If unsaved family mock or accuse you, be like Jesus to them, keeping silent and taking it graciously. 
  • Let them hear you pray for them out loud.
  • Be excited about God!
  • Teach them about good manners – the purpose of which is not to make people think they great, but it is an opportunity to show people the love of Jesus.
  • Talk about how great God is and show your children how you can together enjoy praising God in song and service. 
  • Praise them for their accomplishments, then add, “God is so good to have given you such a special talent to use for His glory!”

Neighbors:

  • Take baked goodies to them, just because.  Put a little note on the treat, including a simple Bible verse, that says you are thankful God allowed you to be neighbors. 
  • Be the first one to take a meal to a new mom, a newcomer to the neighborhood, or a grieving family.  Include a winsome tract telling about God’s love and hope. 
  • Don’t flaunt your beliefs – have an attitude of kindness and humility. 
  • Don’t be afraid to show them you can have fun. 
  • Take care of your yard.  This one is hard to keep up with (we know)!  But it is important to respect our neighborhood by taking responsibility – this will help people to view Christ in a positive light. Think of your house as God’s embassy in your neighborhood!
  • If you borrow something, return it as soon as possible. 
  • Don’t keep a perfect home – let people see that you are real – someone they can relate to.  People feel more comfortable in a home that isn’t spotless.
  • How you dress matters.  Incorporating Biblical principles of modesty, be approachable in the way you dress – neither slovenly, goody-two-shoes, nor Hollywoodish.  They are more apt to listen if your appearance doesn’t distract from your message.

Friends:

  • Don’t gossip. 
  • Don’t control the conversation, but try to guide it toward godly ideas.
  • Offer to pray for and with your friend.
  • Share what God is teaching you and ask her what God is teaching her.
  • Ask how you can help her in her Christian walk.
  • Ask for accountability – when she is holding you accountable, she will more likely seek to be right with God herself.
  • Give gifts that will remind her of God: perpetual calendar with verses in it, a Bible verse magnet or picture, a favorite music or speaker on CD.
  • After she sings or plays the piano, don’t say, “You’re awesome!”  Instead say something like, “Your song blessed my heart today.  I am so thankful you are using your talents for God’s glory!”
  • Send an e-mail saying you are praying for her today.
  • Share what God is doing in your life on Facebook.  Don’t be afraid to admit your struggles, but try not to complain.  Verbalizing what is true, even online, can help you and your friends focus on the One Who holds all the answers.

Strangers:

  • Smile and say hello. 
  • When waiting in line or while your kids are playing together at the park, try to find common ground by asking about their interests. 
  • Pray for an opportunity to share Christ, but be sensitive to His leading.  Being too bold can give people a negative stereotypical view of your Christianity. 
  • Invite them over for a play date or for supper. 
  • Always carry a quality tract with you to give them some reading material later on. Have your e-mail address or phone number on the back in case they have questions.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

*27 -John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.   
28 – You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’  
29 – He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  
30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.  
31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.  
32 – And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.  
33 – He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.” 
– John 3:27-33

I Can’t Believe It’s Over!

We have one day left with our daughter Ama.  She leaves us on Tuesday . . . I can’t believe the year is over!

Ama isn’t a blood relative, but she has has lived with us for over ten months.  She’s seen us at our best and our worst!  Awhile back, when Josh asked if she was ever a baby in my tummy, I replied, “No, she is the daughter of my heart.”  Both she and Amira, who lived with us last school year, are so dear to me.  I am blessed to be their American mom! 

[Ama, my fellow woman on God’s mission just came into the kitchen looking for her camera. “The writing juices are flowing,” she observed, as she breezed past me.  After she explained her mission and we both said a prayer, she left to continue searching in her room.  I’m really going to miss praying with her.]

There were moments this past year when Ama and I felt like giving up.  But, God didn’t let us.  He faithfully gave us the strength we needed to grow through the challenges, produce fruit for His glory, and to end the year well.  He has given us the victory!

Ama will adjust quickly to her culture, but she will always be part of our family.  And I know that if I ever have the opportunity to visit Ghana (and I’m fully planning to go, if God and Tim will allow me!), I will find that I have a home and family there as well.

As we finish this two year journey of hosting exchange students, I am filled to overflowing with …

  • memories, LOTS of memories
  • humble thankfulness for the lessons I’ve learned
  • gratitude to God for His faithfulness 
  • joy when I remember the consistent encouragement, love, and prayers of friends and family
  • the fruit and growth God has cultivated in my life through amazing experiences
  • the gift of love I’ve received from two beautiful young women who are now permanently part of my heart and life

After the dust settles, I will tell you more about hosting exchange students; I feel like I could write a book!  For now, please reflect with me with thanksgiving to God for all that He has done!  Ama and I pray that God will continue to work in and through us as we part ways.  Ama, my precious sister in Christ, has already enthusiastically agreed to be the Representative and Coordinator for the African Branch of Women On God’s Mission! 🙂 

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

Calendar Comfort


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


We think we’re going to remember, but usually we don’t.  It’s easy for me to remember December 3rd every year, the day my sister’s oldest son was born and lived just one hour.  On that day I email or call my sweet sister to let her know I’m thinking about Ben, remembering his precious life and her loss. Every year on September 4th I get an email from a friend remembering the due date of our baby that died before his birth.  It means a lot to me to know that our Little Jewel is not forgotten.

This Saturday is the 10th anniversary of a dear friend’s widowhood.  Ten years ago her husband died of cancer.  Months ago, while we were talking about Alberto, I asked Maria, “When did he die?”  I wrote down the date and added it to my calendar as soon as she left.  Unfortunately I don’t always do this with everyone I know, but in this case I now have the privilege of loving my friend by remembering her husband.  She may need some extra encouragement, so I’m going to call her today and see if she would like a visit. 
  
One time when I was unsure whether I should say something to a friend about her loss, another friend recommended, “Always say something.”  In most situations we are encouraging people by keeping the memory of their loved one alive.  Sharing God’s comfort is always a good thing.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say and our fear keeps us from reaching out in compassion. A book I found very helpful is When You Don’t Know What to Say by Sandy Lynam Clough.  Here is what she suggests:

1.  Spend time.  The ministry of presence: sometimes the pain is too great for words, and someone may simply need us to be there with them.

2.  Say, “I’m so sorry.”  Avoid statements like: “She lived a long life.” (A life is never long enough for those who are grieving their loss.)  “God must have needed him in heaven.”  “There was probably something wrong with your baby, so God just took him.” “You can have another baby.”  “At least you have your other children.” A safe caring thing to say is a heartfelt, “I’m so sorry.”

3.  Don’t feel like you must try to solve their problem.  “Because we serve the One who is the Solution and the Answer, those of us who are Christians tend to feel that we are obligated to bring a solution or an answer to every problem and difficult situation.”  We often feel helpless, but the person grieving understands this.  Just go to her and talk, send an email or spend time with her.  She just needs you.

4.  Listen. If it seems appropriate, you can ask a question such as:

Do you want to tell me what happened?
Are you afraid?
What are your days like?
What concerns you most about the situation?
Are you able to sleep?
How do you want me to pray for you?
Can I give you a hug?
.
5.  Offer help.  Ask if you can watch her children to give her a break.  Offer to bring a meal.  See if making some phone calls for her might meet a need.  Offer to pick up something at the store while you’re out.

6.  Surrender.   When friends are in crisis it can bring fear into our own hearts.  Ask God to help you to surrender the future to His loving care, trusting He will take you through anything.  Only His love can make life peaceful.

7.  You’re My Hero!   Tell her how her way of handling the situation is an inspiration to you.  When we went through our son’s broken leg and false accusations leading to a DHS investigation, it comforted me when a friend said, “You are doing a good job, Sara.  Keep it up, this won’t last forever.” 

8.  Pray!  Most importantly, pray for your friend and offer to pray with them.  Some people feel uncomfortable with this, but most people like it when a friend offers to pray for and/or with them.  This can be done in person or over the phone.  You can even write a prayer on a card.  It is meaningful when a person who cannot even identify with your kind of loss takes time to cry and pray with you.  I know.

I hope some of these wonderful ideas help you comfort others.  Check out Sandy’s book for more practical hints.  Not long ago I ran across an obituary of a girl I grew up with who died in a car accident several years ago. I am writing it down – the end of the summer I’m going to send her mom a note of remembrance. Although she knows she will see Sarah again someday, the grief of her loss never ends.

If you have a friend who has recently experienced loss or is approaching a painful anniversary, take a few moments to let them know you care.  Think back to when a friend comforted you and when God comforted you through a trial.  Now you have the opportunity to minister.