Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't Edit Your Story

by Christina Stolass

I have something to say; it’s been on my heart for a long time. But, before I could say it, I had to live it, really live it.  I am old enough to know that talk with a life that doesn’t follow is only senseless chatter. You and I live in a world of continuous editing; everything is public and likewise everything is edited to make it a little better. We battle constantly to be a little better then others, a little better then reality, a little better then what we feel is expected of us. We photoshop pictures, smooth blemishes, add filters, and enhance colors. Our Facebook statuses and twitters remarks are typed with awareness and consideration of what our audience will think. How many times daily are we guilty of exaggerating the good and minimizing the bad?

And those of us who are writers, my goodness, we like editing. We cut lines, paragraphs and repetitive words. We use thesaurus to make our words sound more intelligent. We go through great lengths to make written words effective; to make our writing profoundly impactful. We edit because the rough drafts are messy, lengthy, and the reality is, rough drafts aren’t ready to be published.

And somehow, that’s what this messy life feels like on most days doesn’t it? Like it’s not ready to be published. We see our rough draft life; laden with mistakes, mishaps, and failures. We see weeks, months or even years that need to be deleted. But-- that’s a lie. Far too often our stories are so meticulously edited and cleaned up that they are rendered ineffective because they are no longer real. And sometimes, our stories are never told; because we feel they are never finished or never ready.

The truth is, this voluntarily silence, this continuous editing of our lives is one of the largest hinderances to the gospel in our world today. When we pretend we have it all together, when we wear masks and hide our failures, we damage more then ourselves. We actually hinder God’s work in all those around us.  God promises that He works in all things, in all things there is purpose. (Romans 8:28) But what happens when we delete some of “those things” from our story? When our editing attempts rewrite our story we minimize the power of God and cheat Him of the glory He deserves.

Believe it or not, you have a story that is uniquely yours. It may be one of heartache, broken dreams, and continuous struggle. It may be one of hope, redemption and restoration. It may be a story in progress with unexpected twists and turns painfully being scribbled into paper one day at a time. I don’t know your story; but I know you have one. I know there is a dying world that needs to hear it. 

As hard as this may be to believe, as hard as this is to hear, you need to know that if you are in Christ-- God has a purpose for your story. The unedited version. Are you willing to discard the attempts of cleaning up your story and display the rough draft instead? Rough drafts bring glory to God whereas edited stories bring glory to the person.

What have you been trying to edit out of your story? When we surrender to God the desire for the approval of others we get the privilege of God displaying His extravagant grace in our life. Every Believer can trace the fingerprints of God in their life, in the moments of triumph, but even more-so in the moments of despair. Don’t wipe away the Lord’s sovereign fingerprints with your attempts to beautify your story. The most beautiful tales are those where God’s grace is the cord that runs thick, His relentless grace connecting every page, grace headlining every chapter. And those stories are so relevant, those stories draw people to the gospel, because aren’t we all broken people who find it impossible to rescue ourselves? Yes. And there is a Savior, who gently whispers that we can stop trying to clean up our stories; the righteousness has already been purchased for us through His precious blood. We can stop the editing and tell our beautiful stories fearlessly; for the ending is predictable and glorious. He redeems all. He gives us beauty for ashes. He turns our mourning into dancing. He wins.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Christina Stolaas is an energetic mom to four adorable young kids. In her free time, she enjoys writing, training for roads races, and passionately pursuing a deeper walk with Jesus. Through a rough childhood, she has learned to earnestly trust in the Sovereignty of God and seek to be "fruitful in suffering" as God continues to mold her to His likeness and bring beauty for ashes! (Isaiah 61:3)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Introducing Parker Clay

by Allie Marie Smith

I'm so excited to introduce my dear friends Brittany and Ian's new venture to you girls: Parker ClayBack in 2008 Parker Clay founders, Ian and Brittany Bentley, were moved by number of orphans living in the world. Some statistics place the numbers at 163 million orphans worldwide. While those statistics are alarming, Ian and Brittany looked at these numbers and said, “What if that was Parker or Clayton” their two biological children. From that moment, the journey to Ethiopia started and in 2011 the Bentley’s brought home their newest addition, Selah who was 5 months old at the time. While in Ethiopia the Bentley’s spent time with a number of organizations looking for ways to address some of the root causes to poverty and the disruption of family. It was soon after this that the Bentley’s packed up their lives and moved to Ethiopia to help with development work centered around job creation and capacity development with vulnerable women. 

About the products
While living and working in Ethiopia, they founded Parker Clay, a beautiful line of Ethiopian made leather goods. Each product is individually numbered to make each purchase unique and at the end of each series we will be sending funds back to Ethiopia to go towards addressing a specific need.  This means you will be 1 of 300 to help provide urgent medial care, job training, or start-up capital to a person in Ethiopia.  This way every time you see your edition number you can be reminded that you're part of a global community committed to helping lift a specific person out of a cycle of desperation and poverty.

Their first partnership is with Woman at Risk here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and they will be funding women to go through the rehabilitation program as well as contributing to a prevention program of high school and college students.  They will also be contributing to the employment of 100's around Ethiopia, mostly women, because of the products they are producing.  From farmers, to factory workers, these products will make a lasting impact on the economy of Ethiopia and while creating world class products.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Beautiful Reminder

"For You created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14

The last few months, I have been thinking about this concept a lot. That we are all made in God's image and made perfectly because we were made by our perfect creator. If sin had not entered the world, we would all truly be perfect. There wouldn't be any sickness or crying or suffering or death. But, because of the fall and sin there is. Because we listened to the tempter and deceiver instead of our Savior, sin entered the world. And with sin came heartache, and death. BUT GOD, sent His son to redeem us from fear and sorrow of death. (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. -Romans 6:23) Through His son, we can have eternal life. What an incredible promise, that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!! (1 John 1:9)

Now, back to my first point, that we were all created perfectly in the image of our creator. (Genesis 1:27) God did not make a mistake when he created my mom knowing she would have lymphoma. He did not take a nap when he created me with my autoimmune disease and osteoarthritis. He knit me together in my mother's womb. He created me fearfully and wonderfully. He did not make a mistake, he did not mess up. He created us each with our unique "problems" and hardships, but they aren't mistakes. He created me this way and He created my mom this way so that He would get the ultimate amount of glory and praise on this earth. I wouldn't want anything less!!! What a blessing it is to know that I was uniquely thought of and perfectly made. You are too! We were all knit together PERFECTLY in our mother's wombs. God does not make mistakes.

So when you are discouraged or feeling anything less than perfectly made, remember that you are FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. God made you with a purpose and HE will get the GLORY from your life. I love reciting this back to myself when I am sitting with mom watching her suffer through some nasty illness. That God loves her and He created her exactly how He needed her to be. I also relate this to some of the children I have the privilege of working with. God created them PERFECT. He loves them just the way they are and He created them in HIS image. It helps me to love them unconditionally when I know that I see my Savior in their eyes. He is getting so MUCH glory through their lives and that is an awesome awesome thing.

This is not always an easy thing for me to remember, especially when I have flare ups with my Crohns disease. However, I know that James says to  "Count it all joy brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-3)

What a beautiful day it will be in HEAVEN when we can enjoy the GLORY of the Lord with NO MORE pain, heartache, sickness, cancer, fear, or death. But until then, we will endure and we will rest on the promises of our Savior.

I praise my God today that because of Him we know these promises to be true:

You are loved.
You are unique.
You are beautiful.
You are needed.
You are worthy.
You are made for so much more.

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