A few months ago, I read an article that featured some women of the Bible, lesser known women and what their stories mean for us today. I loved it. Not only because there were quite a few I didn’t remember (or know #honesty), but I was encouraged by the fact that God doesn’t waste space in the Bible. They were very short features, but none the less, it got me on this kick to study lesser known women in Scripture.
Enter in a new “series.” Y’all know me and my “series.” Sometimes they are on point and consistent, sometimes I forget I started them and sometimes I have nothing more to say on the topic – ha! But anyway, I think this will be good for me….the whole studying scripture thing is always good for my soul. 🙂 (If interested in more Women of the Bible posts, check them out here!)
I have never understood how people who have read the New Testament miss the way Jesus interacted with women. Even stories of women from the Old Testament are inspiring. What I see is women leading, serving, being loved deeply by Jesus.
Some the biggest inspirations over my life and faith come from the bible. Of course there are the big names, like Esther, Ruth and Mary, but I love how God also weaved in so many other stories of women. Lesser known women who may have one or two sentences in scripture, but still have an incredible story to tell.
One such woman? Anna of the New Testament. This was what we know of Anna from scripture from Luke 2:36-38:
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
She gets two verses in the entire Bible. Just two. At first glance that may not seem like much and that there might not be much to learn from Anna. Yet.
Isn’t that just like Jesus? What we might see as insignificant is far more than we can imagine. Plus, if you’re mentioned in the Bible that’s legit. Unless, it’s for shady reasons (where to even start with this list?), then totally not legit.
So Anna. She got married as many young women back then did. Only seven years later, her husband died. That in itself is terrible, but in a culture where women depended on men in many ways, I can only imagine the extra grief that was set before Anna.
She chose joy and serving the Lord. For 84 years! Fasting, worshipping, praying. Just think about that. I mean, real talk for a quick minute, I sometimes fall asleep after 3 minutes of prayer. But Anna was committed and because of this, Anna is the New Testament’s only named female prophetess. #Status
I would say Anna was content with her life. She had dedicated her life in service to the Lord and never gave up on that mission. I really believe she could have gone on to glory and that would have been more than enough for Anna. But the Lord wasn’t finished with her. Because then, Baby Jesus was born (Can I get a Hallelujah and Amen?).
What she thought was another day of praying, fasting and worshipping at the Temple, was much more. Instead, Anna was gifted with perfect timing of seeing Jesus and witnessing Simeon bless baby Jesus.
What an incredible gift! What was Anna’s response? Telling any and all about Jesus and the redemption of Jerusalem.
So yeah, I would say there’s a few things to learn from Anna and her two verses.
Life doesn’t always turn out how we expect But we can cling to the hope that God still reigns, He has a plan and His timing is perfect.
When we trust Him, He blesses us more than we can imagine And in ways we couldn’t dare to imagine. But do not dare not to dare friends.
When we draw close to the Lord, He draws near to us Lord, may I never lose sight of this!
I hope you were encouraged by Anna’s story as I was! Have you read much about Anna before? In what ways has life turned out a bit different than expected?
So true story, I’ve never had just one job. After college, I got a “big girl” job at my church (the 8-5 type) and then built up my photography business on the side. Early on, I also worked for a large photography company on the weekends.
I decided to close out on wedding photography a few years after my move to Texas and then I started book blogging while working full time. And that’s where I am today; two blogs, a Shoppe and podcast. Working a job to pay the bills (although I have to say I love my coworkers – That makes such a difference!), but also writing, blogging, entrepreneuring (having no idea what I’m doing most of the time) after hours and most weekends.
All that to say I don’t get “being bored.” I think the last time I was truly “bored” was maybe at the age of 12 during a long road trip. This was pre all-the-technology and I could never read (and still can’t) in a car because if I did for more than 3 minutes, the driver better be prepared to pull over and let me almost die.
And I’m not claiming this is a good or bad quality, but it’s mine. I don’t know how to not be working on some project or new idea. Blessing or curse, just depends on the day. I guess there’s so many things I want to try and places I want to go, so my brain doesn’t slow down. Also I am my father’s daughter. (He’s amazing. He’s retired and does so much with ministries, being Gramps and changing the world. I’m seriously so inspired everyday by him and my Mom)
And in case I haven’t mentioned I feel like I have no idea if I’m moving in the right direction and feel like I’m a hot mess most of the time. Do I love writing and blogging? 100%! I’m not going anywhere, but I’d being lying if I didn’t admit I question if I’m doing what I need to be.
I think this was brought on by this current very busy season I’m in (both work and personal), but I ask “Am I doing the right things? Is this what God truly wants me to be doing, or am I fighting for something I shouldn’t be?”
HOW WILL I KNOW IF I’M DOING THIS LIFE THING RIGHT?!
Have I mentioned being an adult does not come with the confidence I remember my parents and other “old” folks had when I was 10? Because IT DOESN’T.
I know all the Jesus answers and I believe in them with all my heart, but y’all it’s still hard. Am I chasing a dying dream? Yet, the other side of it would be to only work my “real job” and the thought of that is terrifying. I love writing, photography and everything I do around the internets. But will this be forever ever? Will I be working two jobs for all of my days? Will I one day be able to focus on what brings my heart so much joy?
“When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” Isaiah 60:22
Recently my church did a sermon on the Sabbath and I was reminded that everything is only a season. The good, the crazy, the bad, the awesome, the mix, the in-between. Let me tell ya, I grabbed on to that drop of wisdom like nothing else. Do I 100% know if I’m doing exactly what I should be? Let’s just say “not really,” but God is faithful and provides my heart with peace when I need it most and reminds me sometimes trusting in Him doesn’t mean we get to see where He’s leading, but we can trust the Guide.
And more than that, I’m thankful that each and every season of life the Lord uses to draw me closer to Him and maybe even use my life to draw people closer to Him as well.
How do you get through the busy and uncertain seasons?
Do y’all feel the darkness that seems to be growing in our world? From all that is happening on our own soil (Y’all, Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the GOP and if I start with all he “inspires” to fellow Americans, I won’t stop, so I’ll just say Lord Jesus HELP US) to persecution, slavery, trafficking and terrorism around the world. The news of Brussels this week broke my heart all over again. So much darkness.
There’s times when I can feel the heaviness and burden in my soul. Pain, hurt, loss. But recently, God has reminded me of His goodness and His hope.
And hallelujah there is a hope that will never be loss!
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7
We sang “Forever” by Kari Jobe recently at church and y’all it hit my heart at a time I desperately needed it.
The moon and stars they wept The morning sun was dead The Saviour of the world was fallen His body on the cross His blood poured out for us The weight of every curse upon him
One final breath he gave As heaven looked away The son of God was laid in darkness A battle in the grave The war on death was waged The power of hell forever broken
The ground began to shake The stone was rolled away His perfect love could not be overcome Now death where is your sting? Our resurrected King Has rendered you defeated
Forever He is glorified Forever He is lifted high Forever He is risen He is alive, He is alive!
My heart is reminded on this beautiful story we are all a part of.
Psalm 39:7 shares this blessed truth:
“And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.”
I know Who goes before me and Who stands behind, so come what may, I’ll never lose my hope.
No matter what happens, I can fully trust and believe that the Lord is fully and wholly in control. Even when He hands this nation what they want (even when it’s so far from what these people need). Even when I’m living in a culture turning further and further away from God, I still have hope (and I can still fight for goodness).
No matter how great or how dark the circumstances are around me, the truth of what we celebrate this Sunday never wavers and never will. We can still loudly sing Hallelujah.
What hope and what joy!
So Happy Easter friends and may you be blessed by the truth of the beautiful Gospel. That Jesus came, died and rose because of a love so deep, so amazing and so divine!
(There are so many incredible organizations out there doing incredible things to change the world. The Difference Makers Features highlight some of the ones I love and support and want to spread the word about! Find previous entries here).
Happy Friday friends! I’m soooo excited to bring you another Difference Makers Feature! It’s been oh just a year since my last one, so I’ve been on top of things (#mybad). But I promise this one makes up for it because I had the chance to chat with the Founder of Exile International, Bethany Haley Williams, PhD on the phone recently and not only is she amazing (just catch this video), but I absolutely love the work Exile International is doing. Y’all – it’s so awesome and so encouraging.
I hope you’re inspired as much as I was with this feature!
OUR MISSION Restoring rescued child soldiers and children orphaned by war to become leaders for peace through art therapy and holistic, rehabilitative care. Action Restoring hope and empowering survivors through comprehensive rehabilitation programs, equipping local leaders and counselors to provide quality care programs, and providing a sponsorship program for children orphaned and abandoned by war. Advocacy Amplifying the voices of war-affected children. We are committed to raising awareness of war-affected children, child soldiering, and those oppressed in Africa by sharing their drawings, letters, and stories with national and international government representatives. Awareness Raising awareness of the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda — wars that have oppressed millions. By introducing new audiences to the effects of these conflicts, we inspire action and promote involvement that will restore and empower war-affected children.
How did you get involved with this organization and what is your specific role?
I founded the organization, so I was involved from the very beginning. I went on a trip to Congo in 2008 and it radically changed me life.
I’ve been involved in short term missions work off and on since I was 18. I’ve always had a heart for missions and for Africa and in 2008 I went over and was involved in a trauma care workshop for women who were sexually violated from the war in Congo. I also worked with kids who had been really traumatized from the war there, rescued child soldiers and heard some of their stories. I saw some kids who were so traumatized that they couldn’t speak because of what they had seen.
It broke my heart.
I had to go through my own journey of depression and trauma, PTSD prior to that so I think I connected to survivors there on a very personal level, even though the trauma I went through paled in comparison to what they’ve gone through.
There was just a connection there. I came back and I was just broken. I found out that for the kids there, the rescued child soldiers and children who survived war, there weren’t that many programs out there for them. So they would end up back on the streets.
I was only back a couple of weeks and then founded Exile International. I dove head first into it and didn’t know what I was doing and figured it out along the way.
What does the organization look like now?
It’s grown so much. It started out with just me and a couple of friends. We started by connecting with local leaders on the ground. Our sponsorship program started because it was my birthday. There were kids that not only needed trauma care, but also education, food and clothing. We quickly realized they needed heart healing, but they were also living in huts by themselves. They were street children, they didn’t have education, food or clothing or medical care, so that started the sponsorship program.
It started with five kids, and on my birthday I put out on social media to get the five kids sponsored and by the end of the day the five kids were sponsored. Now we have around 220 kids sponsored. We work with around 1,000 kids in our program in Northern Uganda and Eastern Congo.
What do you want people to know about the work Exile International is doing?
There’s so much, but I would say there’s such a beautiful story of redemption that is happening. Most of these kids didn’t even think they’d survive. They were captured in the bush and a lot of the girls captured were sex slaves.
What we’re seeing is that they’re not only surviving, but they’re going back into some of their villages and teaching others, teaching villagers, about peace and reconciliation and forgiveness. We have 17 in our program that are in university. Some of them are becoming counselors and they come back and work at the center.
It’s such a beautiful redemptive thread woven through the work that we do.
The cool thing we’re finding is it’s not only effecting the kids, but when people get involved and hear what God is doing in there and how their pain is becoming purposeful, people in the West see that in their own lives. They’re able to say “if God can do that in their lives, what can He do with my pain? And how He can turn that into purpose and meaning.”
It’s really beautiful to see what God is doing through it all.
What’s one of your favorite stories from recent work?
It’s Baracka’s story. Baracka means means blessing in Swahili. Baracka was abducted twice by two rebel groups. Once when he was 10 and once when he was 15. He came to our program in Congo really broken and really teary, but also just loved the Lord. He had a really really deep love of Jesus. He had a hard time graduating because he had a hard time with school because of the trauma he’d gone through.
Last year, my husband and I actually had a second wedding in Congo. It was really fun, it was a surprise wedding. It was a full on African wedding that went on forever, which was great! Baracka had come down from his village he was living in and of course wanted to come to the wedding.
So we welcomed him and asked how he was doing, he said he was doing good, but that he needed a bible. So I asked him, “Baracka, well what happened to your bible?” (We always give them bibles, that’s one of the first things we give since most of them have never had a bible). He said “Well, I gave my bible to one of the rebels that I was studying with and he wanted to know about Jesus and forgiveness, so I gave him my bible.”
After I asked him what he meant, he said “Yes and I’m actually meeting with a group of rebels and I’m studying the bible with them and the empower program [which is the trauma care and forgiveness program that we use]. I’m using that to teach them about healing their wounds of trauma and the power of forgiveness.”
I was blown away! He went on to say he needed more bibles because the rebels wanted more bibles to learn about Jesus. So we gave him more bibles!
Now he’s meeting with a group of rescued child soldiers all on his own. He’s leading them through the very program that he had been a part of.
It’s great because the other kids in the program can look to him as an example of what their lives could be like and how they can actually change the nation and be young leaders in their country.
What are some of the best ways people can partner with your organization?
We have a couple of different ways. Prayer is always number one. We take that very seriously. Our kids live in a war zone in the Congo and Uganda and are recovering from war. Our kids and our staff live off of prayer. So please be praying.
We also have an Ambassador Program. The Ambassador Program is for people, wherever they are, who want to get involved and tell the stories of the kids. They can invite their community, their loved ones together to hear more about our work and see how they can get involved. Some of our Ambassadors have fundraisers – they have a “Party with a Purpose.” They provide food, show some videos and amplify these kids voices.
We also have our child sponsorship program. This is making sure the kids in our program are able to have everything that they need. We look at it like these could be our children. 80-90% have been orphaned and we take that very seriously. So that child becomes the child of the church.
Finally, there’s Restore partners. Restore partners give as much as they can each month. Sometimes that’s $5.00 and sometimes that $700.00. That helps us do what we do on a regular basis.
Thank you soooo much for sharing! Wasn’t that the best readers? I love stories of redemption!
Also!! The lovely Bethany released a book (and it’s in my TBR!), The Color of Grace and I think y’all should go and buy it right now. I know you’ll be incredibly encouraged by God’s story through Bethany and the children of Africa. Plus the book has letters the kids wrote and every single one of them talked about forgiveness. The best.
I’ve seen quite a few miracles recently. Big ones too.
Adoptions finally happening.
Family relationships and rifts slowly beginning to heal for the first time in years.
And it’s been incredible. These are things I (and so many others) have been praying for over friends for years.
I tear up thinking about both not only because they are beautiful, awesome and the answers to prayers cried out for so long, but because in clear visible ways in the lives of women I love, the Lord has completely shown me that He is good. Do I believe He is good when He doesn’t answer prayers in the way I envisioned? Oh course He is, but I also don’t want to be afraid to rejoice when He chooses to answer prayers in the way our hearts longed for.
Because if I’m being honest, how often I need to be reminded that He is good. Oh, I know that truth deep down in my heart, but too often in my waiting I lose sight of that. I get restless waiting. Frustrated. Dejected even. It can get like that when you know the Lord has placed certain things on your heart, but you start doubting because the timeline is longer than expected. Or maybe you tried something and it didn’t turn out as planned. And you’re back to square one.
But as I was reading these text conversations recently, it hit me all over again. That these were big things the Lord was revealing right before me. Miracles. None of these were the timeline any of us thought, but they turned out to be perfect and have brought more glory to His name in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if it worked out early, no miracle necessary.
What an incredible God we serve! I’ll end with a few verses that have encouraged and reminded me of God and miracles.
“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” Psalm 77:14
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
“He is the one you praise; He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deuteronomy 10:21
I pray that if you find yourself like me, these verses and promises will revive your heart and soul.
I never want to lose the wonder and awe that is Christmas. I love everything about this season: the family times, the memories with friends, the laughs, Christmas morning…
And yet, there is even more to celebrate no? To simply say “It’s all about love,” seems too easy and too simple. But isn’t that the beauty of Christmas? It isn’t about us and we don’t have to figure it all out. It’s about love and that’s the greatest news ever.
I love these lyrics from Jars of Clay’s “Love Came Down at Christmas”
Love came down at Christmas Love, a lovely love divine Love was born at Christmas Stars and angels gave the sign
This is so encouraging for some many reasons! It’s not up to me. What a relief. I was recently listening to a sermon by Louie Giglio about the friends who dropped their paralyzed friend through the roof to literally land at the feet of Jesus. That was their job, just like ours. Our job is to point people to Jesus. Let Jesus do the rest. We don’t change hearts. We don’t save anyone. We point them to Jesus, talk about how He’s changed our lives, about His never ending love.
Love. So simple, yet so divine. We don’t need to worry about changing people’s minds, arguing them to faith (does that ever really work?), giving them a list of don’ts. Heart changing – that’s Jesus’ job.
That’s what I’ve been reminded of this Advent season. That Christmas is about Jesus and celebrating the power of His amazing love and how much we can change the world when we follow in His footsteps and love one another.
I’ll close with this piece of my favorite Christmas song (O Holy Night)
Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace; Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, And in his name all oppression shall cease, Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we; Let all within us praise his Holy name!
One of my favorite worship songs right now is Matt Maher’s “Because He Lives.” It’s such a beautiful and powerful worship song. One of my favorite parts of the chorus is this:
I’m alive, I’m alive Because He lives
Followed by singing “Amen, Amen.”
I was singing this in the car recently and after, I started thinking about what the meaning of Amen is. I mean, I know the basic meaning, but it’s such a profound part of the song because it’s exclaiming the truths of the song, like these:
I believe in the risen One
I’m alive because He lives
I was dead in the grave, I was covered in sin and shame
I heard mercy call my name
I can face tomorrow
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life
My future in His hands
Yes, I basically just bullet-pointed (new word!) the lyrics, but when you read them isn’t it amazing? As I started researching the meaning of Amen, not only is it a declaration of affirmation, but it also means “So be it” and “Truly.”
When I say “Amen!” I’m declaring such statements true. I’m declaring the words unshakable and unchanging. I’m saying that no matter what, this is life. This is truth.
And all for His glory.
For me, this song and research was a reminder I need to not fear living out that truth. My future is in His hand, everything is okay because He is the risen, my past is in the past and I can experience grace freely.
What a beautiful truth.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Once upon a time I was compared to Gollum. Please feel free to chuckle along with me, because if those aren’t the words every woman longs to hear, then I know nothing of my fellow females.
The cliff notes version goes like this: several years ago two friends (a guy and gal) and I were enjoying lunch when one of his friends joined us (it was at event that provided free lunch). In all fairness, he did start by saying “You have nice eyes” but ended it with “…like Gollum’s.” (Yep, he was 100% serious too) Any hope of that coming across in a positive light was destroyed when Smeags was thrown in. Who knows, maybe he watched Lord of the Rings the night before. We shall never know. Yes, it was hilarious, but definitely one for the books.
Fast forward about 10 years when my two good friends and I were exploring Japan. They have photo booths, so we obviously took part:
1. Can we talk about the size of my eyes (see top right). I mean good jolly, I look like a puppy (or Gollum right? ;)) We laughed for a solid amount of time. Do you blame us? 2. We barely figured out how to work the machine, so the captions on the images? No clue. Although we did get the date right. Woot! 3. It blows my mind there are photo booths out there that give you the “perfect” skin, make your eyes bigger and make you and your buddies “glow” like you’ve never experienced uneven skin.
It would be easy to toss this aside and say it’s a cultural thing, but it’s not just in Japan. Recently on Facebook an ad for an app to “fix” your face popped up. You know, so you can have the perfect selfie. I knew this would make for some interesting discussion, so I investigated further and apparently there are several options and one even featured a toddler in the before and after how-to.
Lord help us.
It seems like there’s always something thrown at us about how to look, what looks good and how we should portray ourselves. Will there ever be a day where there isn’t something to make us question if we’re good enough? I think it’s safe to say we all have dealt with this in some way or another. It comes in all different ways too. From the anonymous internet user, to a person you know, to the advertising monster taking over culture.
We all have our experiences. Some are similar, some so very different. But I can’t completely blame the outside world for the battle with beauty and of being enough. For over a decade I didn’t wear a cap because when I was 16, a guy told me I looked like a boy with a cap on. Yep, it took 11 years for me to move past that. Nothing like high school to haunt you right? Or the times after a breakup? Questioned myself for weeks. Or when a pretty woman walks into the room and, even if it’s for a brief second, inadequacy hits?
Am I the only one who has ever struggled with this?
I so often have to do a heart check and ask myself why these things creep on me. They shouldn’t bug me, but when they do, I know it’s because I’ve missed it (once again). Where do I find my value? Where to find my worth?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the wrong areas. What I do or don’t look like doesn’t really matter. Whether I have a six pack (that’s funny) or have to buy a size up in jeans. Whether I love or hate makeup. My value is found in something far greater and more perfectly beautiful than I can ever imagine.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Psalm 139:14
That right there. It’s all that matters and it’s a promise.
When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.Ephesians 1:13-14
What a promise!
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
The Lord made me and values everything about me. That is enough.
To quote “Crooked Smile” by J. Cole: “We ain’t picture perfect, but we worth the picture still.”
And I just quoted a hip hop song after Bible verses. So there’s that.
But what a beautiful and wonderful hope: I’m God’s chosen – holy and beloved. And He will never leave nor forsake me. What more do I need?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Has there been a scripture that has gotten you through feelings of inadequacy?
With the new year upon us, there’s some things I want to keep believing in (I did a post like this a couple of years ago, but wanted to expand this year!).
So how about you? What are you choosing to hold onto as we make our way into 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts and goals. As for me,
I choose to believe in Grace I choose to believe in Second Chances I choose to believe in Hope I choose to believe in Love I choose to believe in Truth I choose to believe in Forgiveness I choose to believe in Courage I choose to believe in Wonder I choose to believe in Beauty