By Kris Bush
Grace. Five letters packed with power. ALL of us need grace. Yet the question that many of us seem to need to fathom is what does grace look like? Where does it come from? Grace is when you need to make enough money to pay your bills but God sends overflow and it culminates in you being able to satisfy a few wants! You can’t give grace until you’ve been given grace. Grace comes directly from God.
This is what Max Lucado addresses in his bestselling book ‘Grace’. It’s something we need, that we don’t deserve and no matter how much we try to imagine it, it is way more than our minds can visualize.
"More than we deserve…Greater than we Imagine…this is Grace." -Max Lucado
Not only does Max explain grace in terms of the bible, he relays people’s story of grace, of times when God extended not just mercy but HIS grace to them. Mercy would have forgiven the prodigal son, but grace threw him a party and decked him out in new threads.
In my life, I have seen grace so many times. Mercy kept me from dying from an accident. Grace allowed me to bear children even though I was told I would never carry full term.
Max describes grace in action. Two different ways Grace acts. Grace can be saving. There is the grace that God extends to us when we repent. Then there is sustaining grace. Sustaining grace is the grace that gets through each day. As a mom, I need sustaining grace daily, it keeps me sane and replenishes my patience each morning.
I recommend that every believer read this book. Every person who has ever doubted their salvation ever doubted the grace extended to them and has ever had a hard time extending grace to others. This book will further confirm to you the grace God has extended to you, strengthen you to extend grace and remind you why it is important.
By Fadia Patterson
Ever found yourself idolizing someone you know or a celebrity so much so that you wanted to be just like them or have their life? As a young lady pursuing the next level in her broadcast journalism career; I just wanted to take a brief moment to talk about being a fanatic and how it diminishes our faith in God. As I work in the media I see all of the celebrities that are glorified and admired. We see them on reality TV, on magazine covers, on Facebook and other social media sites. Sometimes it's difficult to avoid these "celebrities" who are virtually modern day idols.
"No matter who we are or where we are we need to accept who we are and where we are because it has not taken God by surprise."
Ever since I was a little girl; there were many noble women that I looked up to including Oprah, Kathleen Battle, New York News Anchors; Roz Abrams and Sue Simmons. These women have blazed amazing trails for women and minorities in Broadcasting. I was in love with the Oprah show; I wanted Kathleen Battle's voice and I wanted to anchor the nightly news like Roz and Sue!
We certainly live in a world that celebrates certain images rather than individual uniqueness. It's very simple to go off on the tangent and idea that you need to live this person's life and achieve all of the things they have to be successful or happy. And of course, this is so not true!
"Although I admire Oprah, I do not ever wish to have her's or anyone's life because we all were blessed with our own portion."
No matter who we are or where we are we need to accept who we are and where we are because it has not taken God by surprise. So many times, I hear people say that I wish I had this person's life or are wanting what they believe is making another person happy. I'm certain that there were many little girls, such as myself who wanted to be the next Oprah; the next hottest star, or the next multi-billionaire. However, have they thought twice about all the trials that came before that celebrity's or entrepreneur's success? Not everything is as easy as it appears. Surely we see the glitz and glam of their celebrity; but not the prayers, tears and low moments.
". .We see the glitz and glam of their celebrity; but not the prayers, tears and low moments."
In my short time on this earth I've realized that you cannot live to be exactly like anyone other than you. You must allow yourself to be the person that Christ created you to be otherwise there is no need for your existence. Do you realize that you are the apple of God's Eye? You are the head and not the tail. You were created for God's glory and he wants you to blaze a trail in his honor. I heard a Vlogger say it best; "God does not reheat blessings to serve you; he wants to give you something unique and fresh!" His word affirms that very notion; Isaiah 43:19 says, "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Indeed God is and will always do a new thing when it comes to all of the blessings in your life. We all have God-given gifts; but are unaware of how to use them. God has his idea for your life, relationships and career that far exceeds anything that you could ever imagine. This includes our careers! and our dreams! No matter what field we are in God is using it as our ministry to glorify God with the talents and abilities that he has given. That means that you don't have to be the next multimedia mogul, reality TV star or pop singer! We need not strive to achieve fame for ourselves. I encourage you to think twice about who you are trying to please with such fame; God or man? God can catapult you to a status that exceeds your own expectations and it will be for his glory; not your own!
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" -Colossians 3:23
It's natural to want to excel and move forward in our careers; but God will always look at your heart and motives. True promotion ultimately comes from God! Give God the chance to shape you unique career or ministry! I remember instances where I knew in my mind and heart that I was qualified for a job; but could not get a break or an opportunity to advance. But, God had the final say ultimately; he has opened many doors for my career that I could have not dreamed of. I have also reset my mind to work to bring him honor. I no longer look at the path another individual's career is going in or their successes because I'm a believer in God's greater plan for my life.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jer. 29:11
You were created by the almighty powerful God! He has a plan for your life and career. Whatever it is that you do; do it unto God and watch him promote you every step of the way. It does no good to idolize the career, money, fame etc. and idly worship the heavenly father who is worth far more than all of those worldly things. These worldly things will never bring the true eternal joy and peace that only God could give. They can all be gone in a moment! You can always position yourself to make a living to pay your life's expenses but, God has so much more in store and it is specifically for you. Use your life's work as your ministry to honor him.
Guest Series by Natalie Borton
| |This is part of a series called Weekly Bite, featuring plant-based recipes I've cooked from around the web. Links will take you to the original recipe—all recipes without links are created by me and shared at the bottom of the post. Catch up on previous posts here.
Due to a packed week and travel plans this weekend, I didn't cook nearly as much as I did last week. However, I did manage to try two new recipes, as well as several delicious dishes in San Francisco, which I'll be sharing with you today (stay tuned for the Wanderlust
guide to the city—it's coming soon!)
This was absolutely amazing! My friend Karen made this with corn and bell peppers added, and I think that would make this even better. I recommend topping it with Sriracha or chipotle hot sauce for an extra kick.
I forgot to add the ginger, and I didn’t have turmeric and cardamom on hand. It still came out great, but next time I’d try following the recipe exactly. I do recommend serving it in a bread bowl—it was delicious!
Made with cranberry sauce, sriracha, vegan cheese and vegan turkey, this is far from a "whole foods" meal, but tastes a lot like Thanksgiving leftovers. I loved it!
Simple and delicious, this new latte from Peet's warmed me up during the chilly San Francisco weekend. Made with just soy milk and matcha green tea powder (and sweetener, if you like), it's simple, nourishing and tasty.
Let's just say I didn't leave anything on my plate! Here's how the website describes this dish: kim chee fried Bhutanese red rice, snap peas & edamame, watercress-chrysanthemum green salad with yuzu-ginger vinaigrette, toasted peanuts, spicy pickled Thai chile & fuyu persimmon relish. Yum!
Before I was entirely vegan, Huevos Rancheros was one of my favorite breakfasts. I admit, I've missed it a little bit over the past year and a half, but this vegan version completely satisfied that craving. Once again, my plate was scraped clean by the end of the meal!
Since it looks like the Milk Free Mom website is under construction, I thought I'd share her chili recipe right here for anyone who wants to try it this week...
Vegan Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili
Makes 6 hearty bowls of chili
29 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
6 oz can tomato paste
32 oz vegetable stock
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 cup dry quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, cilantro for garnish (optional)
Heat the oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium low heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and they start to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beans, stock, and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the quinoa. Continue cooking for about 15 minutes – 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until quinoa and potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. Add a bit of water if the chili becomes too thick for your liking. Top with avocado and chopped cilantro.
What was the best thing you ate last week?
Guest post by Olivia West
Since we are in the midst of tax season, many people are probably making plans on what they are going to do with the money that they will be receiving back from the government.
Some people are probably planning on going on a trip, a shopping spree, or buying a new car while others are planning on paying it down on some debt or invest in a safe market.
However, studies have shown that most consumers, even when given the opportunity to pay off personal debt, do not.
So, here are a few options for using your tax refund: Pay Off Some High Interest Debt
- Whether it’s department store credit cards, a car loan, or even a student loan, try to pay off some debt with this year’s tax return. If you are still trying to pay down some holiday debt, knock those balances out immediately. Department store cards’ interest rates are on average 10% higher than commercial credit cards. It would be in your best interest (pun intended) to leave the plastic at home and use cash instead. Put Money on the Back Half of Your Mortgage
- With one extra payment per year, you can reduce the life of your fixed-rate 30- year mortgage by up to seven years. Not only will you be making one extra payment a year, but you may also get an extra month’s worth of mortgage interest deductions that will benefit you during the following year’s tax season. If you do not own a home, take this opportunity to start saving for one. Establish An Emergency Fund
- Every family should have an emergency fund with at least 6-9 months’ worth of living expenses for a two-income household and a 12 month safety net if your family is being supported by one income.
If the breadwinner in the family loses his or her job, this cushion will allow enough time for one to do a thorough job search versus settling for a position due to time constraints. In an economy where the average American stays in his or her position for less than 5 years, having cash on hand is an absolute necessity. Seek Out Assistance
- If you are unsure whether or not you are making wise decisions with your money, seek out assistance. Feel free to go to www.westadvisorygroup.org
to find a financial coach. Someone there will be glad to work with you to develop a plan for your financial goals.
Olivia holds a BS in Industrial Engineering and is a Certified Money Coach. She was obedient to the Lord and quit her engineering job to focus on her family. This stay at home mom/home schooling mom is now the co-founder and President of West Advisory Group, an organization that teaches individuals how to live financially free lives. In less than ten years after graduation, Olivia and her husband Norman managed to pay off ALL of their student loan debt, credit card debt, car loans, and personal loans! Olivia is the co-author of a newly released book “Debt Free at 33”. Follow Olivia on Twitter at Debt Free at 33.
By Nicole Wian
I took a short break from Facebook, back in November. The decision came after a particularly frenzied week accompanied by a frenzied mind. I had way too much going on in my brain – too much clutter and nonsense. So, desperate, I decided to ‘unplug’, hoping to clear my head and gain a little perspective in regards to my priorities.
My brain- or, perhaps, my flesh- did rebel a bit after this initial resolution, attempting to talk me out of such ‘extreme measures’. “Besides,” my ego reminded, “You’re in the middle of your thirty days of gratitude- posted daily”. As if my thankfulness in life deserved the attention and applause of all my Facebook friends. Rejecting the silliness of such a last ditch effort argument, I chose a Friday to begin my Facebook fast, if you will. I told myself it would be a week. It was surprisingly easy.
When the following Friday arrived, I realized I didn’t miss Facebook and that I had no desire to return. I felt the same on Saturday and on Sunday. Deliciously unencumbered. Free. Not just free of others’ drama updates and food pictures and gratitude statuses but free of my own voice—my own need to share.
I don’t recall what, on Monday brought me back but now, weeks later, I’m recalling the freedom I felt that week that I was off. I am experiencing again, that same sense of peace. Today, I began my day with God’s word. How embarrassing it is to admit that it’s been far too long since I’ve been in the habit of giving my first moments to God. God has been gently nudging me in that direction and this morning, I obeyed. After prayer and reading this morning, I found myself picking up the Bible again this afternoon. Then as I resumed my household duties, I suddenly realized that I was feeling peace. My mind wasn’t racing as it usually does. I wasn’t rushing through the dishes to get on to the next thing. My Pandora wasn’t playing. And I was content. What else can I attribute this returned serenity to, but the choice to give my day to God?
So, I write to share, to encourage, to stay away from self but also to remind myself because I, too, easily forget this simple principle. This year, my resolution is to release my stubbornness, my neglect and unplug a little more, read a little more of God’s words and a little less of others’ words. I know that as I do, I receive. I receive the peace that surpasses understanding.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: We are grateful for our partnerships such as with our friends at Good Women Project. It has given us the opportunity to spread God's message of love, grace, and healing even further. This story below is a perfect example of why we exist. If you are or know someone who has been a rape victim this particular story may by difficult to read, however it is an example of what happens when we let God into our hearts and souls to begin healing and restoration. This post will remain anonymous out of respect and safety for the the victim. You can now read the full article here or there.
I punched his name in the search bar. Him.
I sucked in a sharp, bitter breath, and held it. That’s him.
Quivering, the corners of my mouth pulled down. I scrunched my nose, sickened, and grabbed the side of my face.
That’s HIM. He did THAT to HER.
I stared at his picture with stinging, narrowed eyes. Hatred filled me.
Those were his lips. Those savage, smirking, greedy lips. How dare he.
Scanning his body, I soaked him in. A searing flush pumped through my blood, caving my chest with fury.
Those hands locked the door behind them while she panicked, horrified. Those filthy hands touched her, pushed her, shoved her, forced her. They dug into her curves, squeezing her flesh with uncontrolled lust.
My gut became tense and twisted. I seized air with curled, clawed hands, baring my teeth. Something intangible shattered in the depths of my being.
HIIIIIIIIIIIM!!!! That was the man who abused her, used her, exploited the innocence of a good woman. THAT MAN!!! Who ignored terrified eyes and a screaming heart and RAPED my naked, sobbing twin sister in a basement.
Heartbroken rage welled upwards, crescendoing into a grieving, guttural call. It exploded out; I beat the couch rapidly, screaming furiously. I hated this man. What he did was evil. It was evil and malicious and it was done. I wasn’t there, I couldn’t do anything about it.
My twin sister has been my best friend for nearly thirty years. We fight, we love, we know each other deeply. We’ve done life together. Growing, breaking, healing. Making it through our twenties. Two years ago, she moved across the globe, to an entirely different hemisphere. I felt so far away from her right now.
Anger, agony, and inky black tears rolled down my face. They welled on my keyboard. I yelled explicits at my monitor, shaking. The pixelated man on the screen smiled back, arms folded, completely indifferent. I closed the window.
“Why didn’t you tell me a month ago?” I sniffled at the video camera.
My identical sister wiped her wet face, ashamed. “I didn’t know what to do, I was scared. I spent all my Christmas money on the abortion.”
I’m so angry. So livid, I can hardly breathe. I want to throw up. I beat the couch again, punching it with white knuckles. By nature, I’m not an angry person. I can count the witnesses of my rare, seething moments on one hand. I strive for harmony, grace, and understanding. I’m curious and compassionate. I love people. I don’t love people enough. I felt no love for this man. I wanted to rip his face to shreds, and cause him pain, regret, remorse.
My voice wavered as I spoke low and long, “If I were over there, I would literally track. him. down. and BEAT the ****ing. living. SHIT out of him.”
Grace and forgiveness, love and compassion; these things were far from my mind.
Who did this guy think he was? Like he’s entitled to help himself to whatever woman walks his way? Like he’s got some sort of right to target her because she’s beautiful, kind, and soft spoken?
He forced her to have to make a decision about her body; one that brings judgement from strangers condemning her to hell.
With all of my soul, I hate it. I hate rape. I hate pornography. I hate the burden a woman bears because of someone else’s selfish lust.
Lust that forces her into a basement, or clutches her neck in the front seat of a car while he unzips his pants. Lust that hides in the woods at twilight, grabbing her while she runs by. Lust that helps himself into her apartment, ripping her clothes off because she smiled at him earlier, and “she wants this, really.”
It infuriates that we have to train women to defend themselves, carry pepper spray, and never show any skin instead of teaching men to respect and value women.
“I can’t stand it. I hate it. I HATE IT.”
“I know,” she choked, “I’ll never forget laying in his basement, or on the operating table. I’m having a hard time finding the line between forgiveness and justice. But you know, just because he destroyed my life, I don’t feel any desire to go out and ruin his. It’s not okay what he did, it’s wrong and perverted. I’m angry and traumatized. But…. I’m not the one lying awake at night wondering if my life’s going to be okay, wondering if I’m loved or valued. He is, and, and… well, that’s sad. I think that the people who do the most hurtful things to others are the ones who are the most lost and broken and lonely, and probably the ones who need love and forgiveness the most.”
As I listened to my sister talk, handing her predator his heart back, it softened me. I didn’t even see him as a person. As she was to him, this man was just a disposable entity that I wanted control over. To hurt and beat down and belittle. And isn’t that what’s wrong with us all?
See, our problem lies in our inability to humanize people. Humanizing people means recognizing that everyone in this world – everyone – has a heart. They are more than the roles they fill in your world, or the perception you have of them.
Humanizing people means soaking in their stories and dreams; allowing their past and future and feelings and heartaches to be a reality. Seeing them as a broken, living, dynamic soul with valid emotions. With deep wells of heartache, and a pulsating hunger for love and acceptance.
What that man did to my sister is not okay. But he’s more than a rapist. He’s more than a criminal. He’s a person. What made him this way? What’s going on in his heart? Accounting for the value of a heart is what helps you be a more loving person. Although hard to acknowledge, the messiest heart is still a heart.
We are all messy.
We are all human.
We need to start humanizing people. This requires compassion. This is Jesus. This is Love. This is where redemption is found. Wishing others good. Grace. Forgiveness.
This includes the man who raped your sister.
To a man who caused my sister scathing pain, to a man who broke twin hearts:
I forgive you. She forgives you.
I’m sorry that you had to steal from her body to feel like a man. I’m sorry no one told you this isn’t okay. I’m sorry that you don’t know what real love is.
I hope you do better, grow stronger, and find real Love. Nothing else will ever satisfy you, did you know that?
Hear me clearly: I am not sorry that I’m angry, or hurt, or devastated. What you did was appalling. But I am sorry for hating you. For envisioning myself at your door, whacking you in the head with a metal pipe when you opened it. That’s not loving. People aren’t objects to use and destroy.
I’ve pulled up your picture again. I’m looking into your eyes once more, and a wave of sympathy undulates through my heart. A deep, poignant understanding overwhelms me.
You’re a person.
Just like me. And just like you, I need love and affirmation and grace and forgiveness every day. Especially when I don’t deserve it. So do you.
I will never get to look you in the eyes and tell you this, but I hope one day you know: you don’t need to detract from other hearts to feel important. Your heart has value. As messy as it is, it has value, and it is forgiven and Loved.
By Carmen Miller
When I think of the ending of the Holidays, and the New Year rolls, around. I think of lots of change. I think of all the things I have to do and getting breakfast on the table for my big family can sometimes be a challenge. So when I found this amazing recipe for a Breakfast Casserole, I knew—after I threw in my special touch—it would be the perfect meal for my big family. This was a great dish for a gathering of 6, whether family or friends, I promise you will be satisfied!
Ingredients for 6 servings:
1 pack of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns, cooked
4 eggs, scrambled but not cooked all the way (they will finish cooking in oven)
3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
1 package of Farmland (fully cooked) Diced Ham
16 ounces of Bacon cooked and crumbled (I added them into the scrambled eggs)
PREHEAT oven to 370°F. Grease your 8-inch square pan or baking dish.
1st layer: Cooked has browns
2nd layer: Shredded cheese (light to medium thick)
3rd layer: Crumbled bacon
4th layer: Shredded cheese (more than last)
5th layer: Scrambled eggs and diced ham
6th layer: The last think layer of cheese
Place in OVEN and BAKE (uncovered) for 25 to 35 minutes. Cheese will brown on top. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!