What is the Focus of Your Table?

What is the Focus of Your Table?

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IF Table

For those who don’t know, the IF Table is a monthly gathering place where women connect with each other over one of the best things on Earth…food! A blog entry is posted about the monthly topic, and conversation cards are offered to facilitate conversation about the topic. For more information about how the IF Table works, click here (https://www.ifgathering.com/table)

The November blog was written by Bri McKoy, whose most recent book is Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace around the Everyday Table. In her blog, she references how Jesus taught us the importance of gathering people around our table. She stated that a table where Jesus is present is filled with meekness, humility, and service. She asks us to consider the “table,” Jesus’ experiences at tables, and our perspective of our own table.

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What is Your Banner?

Bri brings up the word “banner” in her blog and her questions. The question that stuck out to me is: “Do you have an intentional banner for your table?” In other words, do you gather people around your table with purpose? If so, what is it?

This question hit me hard. Sadly, I am running around so much during the week that I don’t have a lot of intentionality with my table. I’m lucky to plan dinner! The phrase “intentional banner” made me think about my home, my family, and the intimacy that meals should bring. What do I want people to know about me and my family? What do I want our focus to be with guests in our home? One of the ladies in my group said she wanted people to feel not just invited, but WANTED when they come into her home.

How true is that? How many times have we received an invitation to someone’s home but were not sure if they would even miss us? Oh, I pray that the people we invite into our home know that they are loved, wanted, and important.

Holiday vs. Everyday Table

Is your holiday table more important than your everyday table?

Talk about deep. How often do we really focus on the importance of our everyday table? This wasn’t a direct question (or statement) from Bri’s blog, but it came up in our IF Table discussion. We take time to focus on the holiday table–the decorations, good food, ensuring that we are surrounded by loved ones. Why do we honor and celebrate the holiday table more than we do the everyday table? Holidays come and go…relationships are rekindled, and memories are made. But why are we quick to dismiss the importance of our everyday table?

We may rekindle relationships at the holiday table, but we make relationships at the everyday table. The everyday table is where we cultivate, develop, and strengthen the relationships of our families, our friends, and those who may need a seat at our table. The everyday table is where we honor and reiterate the importance of community, which is vital to the rhythm of the church.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited to have holiday dinners just like most of us are! But I love Bri’s focus on the table in this blog. Her written words, along with my group’s spoken words, reminded me that our everyday conversations around our table have significance. Don’t exchange “table” time for distractions. God created us to live in community with others.

What is the Focus of Your Table?

I’m still thinking about which word to use for the “banner” over our table.  What would your word be? Joy? Peace? Grace? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section of our blog!!

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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Orphan Sunday: What It Means to Our Family

Orphan Sunday: What It Means to Our Family

Focusing on the “Least of These”

In November 2012, Joel and I experienced a worship service that focused on the marginalized, the orphans, and the least of these. This Sunday is called Orphan Sunday, where nations around the world come together to raise awareness about the social injustices that negatively impact children and which can, at times, leave them without a family. The service was moving, with videos, songs, and visual reminders of how children can become orphans.

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A Godly Revelation that Led to Action

After service, my husband Joel asked me to lunch. He told me about how he felt like God spoke to him during the service about choosing adoption for our family. At first I was taken aback, because we had actually started talking about having biological children. However, he felt convicted that God wanted us to do this for our family. He gave me space to pray and think about it.

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The next week, I attended a weekend retreat with our church’s youth group. We attended a social injustice tour where we heard from individuals who spoke about different injustices that affect our local communities. One room discussed “the least of these,” meaning children who couldn’t advocate for themselves. The speaker brought up foster care, adoption, and international orphan care.

I left the event and sobbed. It was not an accident that I attended this event with our teens. Living life with this youth group led to a Godly revelation. I was broken by the injustices plaguing the children in our communities. Although I was scared, I knew that God had spoken to me too. He was telling me “It’s OK. I’ve got this. Enter into this world of social injustice on behalf of these children. I bless this choice.” I went to bed, praying and crying. I knew that God had led Joel and me on a path that would be life-changing. And so, we began the adoption process.

A Reminder to Show Love to Those who Feel Unloved

Four years later, we are preparing to experience another Orphan Sunday at our church. So many things have happened in the past four years. How we entered into the adoption process is not how we finished it. When we first began the process, we focused on what WE could do to combat the social injustices that affect children: poverty, hunger, neglect, crime. But what God revealed to us through His word, our friendships, and our son’s birth mother is this…these children don’t need us to be their savior. They already have a Savior–one who actively seeking these children every day, loving them in ways only He can do and only He can understand. We are supposed to step into these children’s pain…not to “fix it,” but to love them enough that we pray them through it.

Orphan Sunday is a somber reminder that we are here to show love to those who feel unworthy of being loved by anyone. For some people, that is walking alongside a struggling family in hopes that your support helps keep them together. For others, it’s sitting in another court session about the foster child who is in your care. In our case, it was adoption. Let me be clear. None of these situations are “beautiful” just because you are trying to live out what God has asked us to do. Even though we are all adopted by God, we are not all adopted by others in this world. That is a HUGE distinction. Caring for the fatherless/orphaned/widowed is messy, hard, and heartbreaking.

So what does Orphan Sunday mean to us?

For our family, it’s not just about raising awareness about the 150+ million children who are orphans. It’s also about reminding us of our daily, Godly mission. Serve the least of these. Fight social injustices that rip (either blatantly or subtly) our communities apart. If we are to live out the gospel, we have to do more than go to church and be at home. We have to be in our community, interacting with others who don’t look/talk/act like us. We have to teach our children through a combination of Godly example and Scripture. Then, we need to seek (and receive) discernment from God about how best to serve these children/families in a way that glorifies Him (not us).

What if we treated everyone like we wanted to be treated–with the worth that God has bestowed upon us? What if we loved God AND our neighbors? Would our world even have “the least of these” living among us? Would we have orphanages, foster care, and families broken apart? May we strive for restoration to occur around us and through us.

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Here are some scripture references from this blog post.

Isaiah 1:17

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

James 1:27

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless in this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Psalm 82:3

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Matthew 25:34-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Orphan Sunday is November 12, 2017. For more information on Orphan Sunday or to find an event near you, please visit Christian Alliance for Orphans.

Unasked Prayers: A Prayer Life Challenge

Unasked Prayers: A Prayer Life Challenge

Is Your Prayer Life Flourishing?

How is your prayer life? I definitely have some room to grow in mine. When I have a lot on my plate, I tend to schedule everything but God into my day. I do make attempts to read Scripture at night or pray before I go to bed, but most nights I am unsuccessful. I don’t really know why I don’t make prayer more of a priority. Sometimes, childhood teachings creep into my heart, telling me to only pray for God’s will because His will must be accomplished. Other times, my anxiety and stress level paralyze my heart and mind, causing me to stay in the here and now and not pray for the future.

A couple of years ago, I knew that my prayers (when prayed) were shallow. Even when I asked God for things, I knew that what I asked was meager and infrequent. So in order to challenge me and to stretch my concept of prayer, I selected the book The Circle Maker.  Several statements and passages resonated with me, including this quote:

“The greatest tragedy in life is the prayers that go unanswered because they go unasked.” (p. 19)

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Analysis of My Prayer Life

This made me analyze my prayer life. Why do I pray? Why do I ask what I ask? Do I only ask for select things because I question God’s power or interest in my life? Is it a lack of faith, or a lack of trust? Am I putting up emotional and spiritual barriers between me and God so I won’t get hurt? If that is the case, do I not trust God to carry me through whatever trials I may experience?

The follow-up passage to the quote listed above speaks to some of these questions.

“He will answer. And His answers are not limited by your requests. We pray out of our ignorance, but God answers out of His omniscience. We pray out of our impotence, but God answers out of His omnipotence. God has the ability to answer the prayers we should have prayed but lacked the knowledge or ability to even ask.” (p.19)

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What prayers of yours have been unanswered because they have been unasked? Where are you holding back in your prayer life? Your family, your career, maybe your involvement in a project or an organization? God may not answer your prayer exactly the way that you want him to, but He will listen and respond. Be still and know that God is with you.

 

Here are some Scriptures to meditate on…

1 John 5:14-15
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of Him.”

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Ephesians 6:18
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Jeremiah 29:12
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

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My Vision vs. God’s Path

My Vision vs. God’s Path

I’m sure every person reading this blog could relate to this statement: “I never thought I would do that.” We imagine how something will go in our lives, but our reality ends up being different than our dreams. This blog is my testimony about what God has taught me about my vision versus His plan.

Lesson #1: Everyone has a place in His kingdom.

For the longest time, I struggled with my role in the church. Whether it be related to woman’s roles, my personal relationship with God, my “holiness” compared to others…I never fit in. I always thought I would never belong in the church.

A few years ago, I struggled with anxiety, fear, and what I would describe as depression. I really struggled getting through my daily activities, especially out of the house. Then, I saw an invitation to teach fifth graders. For a reason that was none other than divine, I volunteered. That sparked an eight-year journey of consistently working with pre-adolescents and teenagers. I had to work through some SIGNIFICANT self-doubt. I still have to work through it. But because God is who he is, he made me realize that my personalities can be used for His glory. Since I accepted that fifth grade volunteer position, I have volunteered in our children’s ministry, our youth ministry, our guest ministry, and our adoption/foster care ministry.

If we aren’t careful, we listen to Satan whispering in our ears, telling us that we are not a “good enough Christian” to be part of the body of Christ. But what God has taught me is that we are all made in the image of God, we are worthy of Him, and we have purpose. It takes a faith community, solitude, and an open heart to discern what that holy purpose is.

Lesson #2: Marriage doesn’t look the same for each couple.

Love is not a feeling. It’s a conscious decision to act in love to one another. I never had a “lovey dovey” perspective of marriage, but I never understood the depth of work that a marriage takes. Marriage is not a cakewalk. Marriage is choosing to love your spouse. Every marriage is unique and can bring glory to Him.

He taught me to reach out to others (i.e. friends, family, neighbors) and ensure that their marriage is doing well. “Looks” DON’T MEAN A THING. Just because a couple “looks” happy doesn’t mean that everything is great behind closed doors. We finally started to tell people that we were struggling, and we received overwhelming support. Develop your spiritual network now to ensure a healthy marriage for tomorrow.

Lesson #3: God is the ultimate creator of life and family.

When I was younger, I had these thoughts of what my children would look like…white, smart, athletic, hard workers. I thought my children would be mini-versions of me. Isn’t that what your children are supposed to be? Yeah, God laughed HARD at that dream for my life.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would adopt a child of color. Adoption was not part of my worldview growing up. That’s not wrong; I had just never been exposed to it. God knew what he was doing when he brought Benjamin into our lives. Adoption, race, and social injustice has hit our family full force over the past five years. We are forever changed, and we couldn’t be more grateful to God for it.

He taught me that a family is what He designs.

He repairs the brokenness in families and loves us through our hard times. That love and repair may look very different than what we imagined, and we may not even understand it. Do I believe that God caused the hardship, loss, and grief within our family? No. Do I believe that He brought beauty from the ashes? Yes.

He taught me that the greatest way I can love someone is through sacrifice. At first, I didn’t know how to love Benjamin when I was fatigued, tired, upset, etc. He required 100% dependence of me, and I didn’t know how to give out of my “emotional and mental” poverty. However, God has worked on my four cornerstones through motherhood–spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental. He has put His word and His people in my life to help me navigate motherhood in the way that I need. Don’t get me wrong–I have my moments of anger, frustration, and fatigue. But those moments are diminished, so I can give my all to my family more often with no hesitation.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I don’t really know where I go from here. I think that is my main point behind this blog. We never know. To an extent we can plan, but we never know what God has planned or how He will work. But God is there, ready to give us what we need to fulfill the roles in our life journey.

There were times in my life that I know my heart and mind were closed to His guiding whispers. Now, because of these lessons, my family, and my faith community, I have a better idea of what His whispers sound like. Will you hear Him? Will you hear Him calling you to fulfill your role in a way that you never imagined?

“With” vs. “For”: How One Word Changed My Perspective on Prayer and Community

“With” vs. “For”: How One Word Changed My Perspective on Prayer and Community

Lesson Learned About Prayer Through Community

As many of you know, my husband and I adopted Benjamin from birth. The entire process took over three years, but the “waiting game” was almost two years. We struggled…hard. We experienced anger, heartache, doubt, and guilt through those two years. During this time, we had a village praying for us (notice I said the word for).

One time, when I was sharing our frustrations with my friend Kayci, she said something I will never forget. She said, “I am praying with you.” It actually made me stop and think, mainly because I had never heard it before. So many times, people had said they were praying FOR us. I had never heard someone say they were praying WITH us. That was the beginning of a prayer journey for me that I never had thought I would take.

To be 100% transparent, I don’t have the best prayer life. I used to have a prayer journal and make time, but even then I would fall asleep. However, hearing Kayci use the word “WITH” slowly changed my perspective of prayer and community. I think the word “FOR” is great if you are speaking a general, broad prayer over something/someone. This new word “WITH” in my prayer life means something different. It means that my prayer for a person has to be interactive. It isn’t just going home and praying for the person before I go to bed. It means that I need to reach deeper into the lives of those in my faith community and neighborhood. It means communicating with those that are struggling and remembering to reach out to them beyond the initial contact.

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Verses that focus on prayer:

Jeremiah 29:12

”Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

John 17:15

”My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Mark 11:24

”Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Psalm 145:18

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

So how has this word “WITH” changed my perspective?

1. I no longer try to assume that someone is doing okay, even if that person says they are.

2. When I think about someone who I know is struggling with something, I tell them. It’s difficult to feel your support group if they are silent. This was huge during our adoption, so I want to give that back to our faith community.

3. I attempt to reach out to people I haven’t seen in a while. I know it makes me feel special when someone notices that I’m not there. Why not use that tool to connect with community and see if a “praying with someone” opportunity presents itself?

4. It made me think about who I am praying about. Am I praying for the people I should? Am I only praying for those who are in my home or around me? Something that I want to commit to this school year is praying for community leaders and church leaders. These leaders interact with those around us every day. We need to be praying for the people who pour into us and our community.

5. Literally praying WITH someone is always better than praying for them when you get home to do it.

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I hope that this blog is a blessing to you about prayer, faith, and community! Perhaps you will gain a new perspective just as I did!

Be encouraged by these posts as well!
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