I met Jenny several years ago when she and her husband became leaders in the student ministry that my husband was leading at the time. We became fast friends and even had the oppertunity to live down the street from each other for a while. I’m so thankful that she is sharing her story with us today because it’s one of hope and healing and of God’s pursuit for her heart because of His great love for her, and for us all!
At 21 years old, I was a single mom of a two-year-old little girl and living in the big city. I landed my dream job at a trendy salon working as a hairdresser and managed to provide in our little duplex. I was lonely and empty, finding myself in dead-end relationships and bad decisions.
Rewind to my teenage pregnancy, I was very sick and unable to do much work. A lady from a large church in my hometown heard about my situation and offered me a job at the church on Sundays taking care of newborns-which became very useful considering I was about to have one of my own. She became a part of my testimony that forever changed my life. After I gave birth to my daughter and even during the time I lived in the city, I continued to work in the nursery on Sundays so my daughter could attend church on Sundays the way I did as a child.
Many of the ladies at the church would pray for me and encourage me as a single mom. That prayer led me to make a best friend at the hair salon who was going through a rough breakup and was also in need of a friend. She had a strong relationship with the Lord and I was so attracted to the light she carried in such an ungodly environment. One day we were hanging out, and she shared a Bible story with my daughter about Noah’s ark. I had this overwhelming feeling inside me as I listened to her tell that story. I wanted to be the one to do that for my daughter, so I really began to dig deep in my knowledge of the Lord and the Bible.
I was ready to decide if I truly believed Jesus when He claimed to be the Son of God. I studied and read and learned more and more everyday. The Scriptures were alive for the first time in my life. One day before church service, I asked my friend to pray for me because I was just so confused, scared and unsure. It was during that service that the Lord pierced my heart and I knew that day what I believed. I wish I could say that everything magically became perfect and my life changed overnight, but it was a long and very difficult process to remove the chains that Satan had bound me with so tightly.
I was in an abusive relationship, and spent many nights crying on the shower floor begging God to save me. I like to call it Satan’s last hurrah, because he did not want me to belong to anyone but him. The Lord prevailed in my life as He always does, and I was finally free from that relationship as well as many other things in my life.
I soon met the love of my life, we were married shortly after and had four little boys together. God is so good and I am genuinely amazed by Him daily. He truly is my healer and my restorer. He brought me out of darkness in the most beautiful and unique way, and He gave me a husband who loves me so fully. God was so patient with me on my journey and I will spend the rest of my life thanking Him for His goodness!
You know what I love? I love loving on people. I love making people feel special and letting them know they matter.
I am like a 98% extrovert, so meeting people and engaging in conversations come pretty natural to me. My husband on the other hand is the total opposite. He is an introvert by nature, but the Lord has really given him more extrovert characteristics through being in ministry. We like to say we balance each other out really well! I know when he needs some time at home and he knows when I have been cooped up and I need to get out! Ha!
We are in our sixteenth year of ministry and every year is getting sweeter! As I look back over the years, the one theme I find is that the Lord has been very gracious to give us favor with people. We have served alongside and ministered to the most amazing people and they have loved on us so well!
The one prayer that we as a family have always had is that we would be authentic, real, and love people intentionally right where they are. We view our mission field as more than just the church building. We strive to represent Christ and love people at the ball fields, schools, restaurants and wherever else the Lord may have us. Now, hear me out...we don’t always get it right and we have had to learn over the years how to love people well. It is a refining process that will continue until the day we take our last breath.
What would this world look like if we showed deep love for one another? What would this world look like if we were intentional and loving in the way we treated others and spoke to others?
I thought back over our married years and came up with four ways that we as a family have tried to show love to others. I hope they can help spur you on to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those you come in contact with.
First and foremost...BE YOU! Nobody wants a fake you. God created you for a purpose! Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. People are drawn to authenticity. When we realize that none of us have it together, the walls come down and real life happens. Whatever your struggles are, you can bet the people you are loving on have similar struggles too. We have so much to learn from each other, but that can only happen when we remove the mask.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
One thing that I hear people say about my husband is, “he calls me by name”. I am envious of that trait because I am not very good at it. Being intentional is not self seeking, but seeking good for that person. You loving on someone may not bring any benefit to you, but it may be everything that person needs to push them towards Christ. Scripture tells us to encourage one another! Let people know that you are praying for them and that you are interested in what is going on in their life.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
An important part of loving others well is being able to speak truth in love. God created each of us in His image (Genesis 1:27), so to treat someone poorly or to say things about someone that are hurtful is pretty much saying that what God created wasn't good enough. Have you ever thought about it like that? When people get to know the real you and see that you really care, my experience has been, they take truth so much better. People then begin to appreciate and respect your honesty.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15
Have you ever heard the saying, “talk is cheap”? Our actions help solidify our words. Be there for people. Be present in their lives. There is nothing better than doing life together. Be aware and notice when people are not around. A friend of mine recently said that her family will begin opening their home one night a month for anyone to come and have dinner with them. She wants to create community and love on people around her dining room table. WOW! What a great idea! She inspired me to want to do the same in a different format for the women of my community. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything, just being there is all someone needs.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10: 24-25
If I have learned anything about being a pastor’s wife, it’s to be bold in my friendships, to not fear rejection and to just be me. What you see is what you get and I am thankful for a Savior that is molding me and making me into an instrument to be used for Him everyday. If you are not an extrovert by nature and building friendships is scary for you, know that more times than not, people are wanting you to notice them and engage with them. People want to be acknowledged, loved, and feel that they matter.
Maybe there is someone that you have been meaning to reach out to...go do it! Maybe you see the same customer come through the door or the same lady at cheer practice...find out who they are and call them by name. This is where the journey begins!
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!
My daughter was in kindergarten when I came face-to-face with a big mommy fail. I had eaten school lunch with her the previous week and happened to notice a little boy pull a note out of his lunchbox with a big red heart on it. The handwriting indicated that it was most likely from his sweet mama. "I really should do that," I thought. “She would love it.”
Sadly, that good intention was already forgotten before the trash was collected and her class formed into a single file line. I kissed her goodbye, squeezed her tight and watched her walk away. The next thing on my to-do list was already filling my mind.
Then, as I was packing her lunchbox one night, I noticed the backside of a piece of paper in her zipper pouch. “I wonder what this is?”
I unzipped the pouch that held her spoon and the mystery piece of paper and this is what I found:
“I Love You from Mom”
My heart dropped.
“I never wrote the note. So, she wrote her own.”
With a pang in my heart, I documented this mommy fail on Facebook that night and wrote:
Mamas, do me a favor please? Help me redeem this error... Write your child a love note tonight. Tuck it someplace that will surprise them. Tuck it someplace...like a lunchbox...so that your kid can beam with pride knowing that mom paused, mom remembered, and mom loves them. I already have tomorrow's lunchbox note done and I hope you’ll do it, too.
The responses were swift and sweet. Some of my mama friends commented by saying that they hadn’t written a lunchbox note in years and were thankful for the reminder. Others commented by sharing how their own mamas used to write them notes and told me how much they still cherish them. Many more simply wrote, “Done!”
It helped my heart to know that, because of my goof, so many mamas were encouraged to pause that night and convey their love for their child. My child, and many others, were going to unzip a little surprise the next day and the thought of that made me smile.
The next day, much to my delight, my girl’s teacher sent me this picture and message:
“She was so happy that she wanted to keep holding it! When we got back to the room, I noticed her sitting at her table with it in her hands!”
Yes, it had originally been a mommy fail. But, it was also an easily redeemable mommy fail.
Unfortunately, I still forget to write her notes from time to time. However, like today, once I realize my lapse, I simply tell myself, “You can start again tonight.” And, that's exactly what I do.
So, mamas and grandmamas, will you join me? Will you pause and write a note to those precious ones in your life? Tuck it inside of their lunchbox. Tuck it inside of their backpack. Tuck it inside of the book they are reading. Tuck it under their pillow. Tuck it inside of their toothpaste drawer. Tuck it inside of their sock drawer. Tuck it some place that you are sure they’ll find it. Or, if they are long distance, mail it. Children love nothing more than receiving a letter in the mail.
A simple “I love you" is enough. Or, consider these other ideas:
Whatever you say, I can promise you one thing…your words will go deeply into the soil of their hearts. Scripture says,
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good...for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
What does this verse have to do with love notes? Well, notice the word treasure. This word is the Greek word thesauros and it means “a storehouse for precious things.” It is the origin for the word thesaurus. When you hear the word thesaurus, what do you immediately think of? Words! When we speak or write words of life to our children, they store them up as one would store up treasure. These spoken and written words are kept safely inside of their hearts and can influence their thoughts and speech possibly for their entire lives.
Notes that say, “I cannot wait to see you after school,” or “I’m praying peace of mind over you as you take your test today,” or “You are showing so much responsibility lately,” spur our children on.
Like seeds planted deeply into the soil, our words are deposited into their hearts and remain there.
Today I am challenging myself, and you, to what I’m calling The Love Note Challenge. Write a note tonight and tuck it into a familiar place. Then, do it again a week from now, two weeks from now, or a month from now. Just choose a frequency that works for you, circle it on the calendar, and stick with it. Your child may never mention it. But, I promise you, they WILL read it.
So, are you in? Do you want to add words of life to your children’s treasure boxes? Do you want your children to store up the good words that you speak into them? I know that I do! It would bring me great joy to know that a kindergartener's forged lunchbox love note resulted in a wave of mamas everywhere putting pen and heart to paper and joining me in this privilege that we have been given. Let's do it together!
If you want to accept this challenge, let us know by commenting! And, if you snap a picture to post on Facebook to encourage other mamas to join you, tag us by adding @byfaithshe so that we can see it, too!
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.
If you have had an abortion, this may be hard to read. If you have not, but consider yourself a Christian, please read this with a heart to hear the message I am attempting to relay. May God be glorified above all.
Many stories are floating around about women who, against all the odds, delivered babies deemed terminal. There have also been stories from women, in willful defiance, celebrating their abortions.
I have not seen many stories shared like mine.
Abortion is one of the church's greatest shame and dirtiest secret; we are conditioned to be silent. However, healing is found in the light, not the darkness.
17 and a half years ago, on June 26, 2001, before I was legally allowed to get my ears pierced without parental permission, I had an abortion.
I was eleven weeks and four days along and the ultrasound tech who confirmed my pregnancy before the procedure commented on how "lucky" I was. Had I waited three more days, it would have been too late according to Colorado law at the time.
It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I knew how to prevent pregnancy, I just never thought it would happen to me. I believed that a baby was growing inside of me, I did not think of life before birth as just a cluster of cells. If we are honest, no one really does, we all know what is in a woman's womb.
When we were younger, my parents had taken in a couple of unwed, pregnant moms with no place to go. They didn't just preach against abortion; they put their money where their mouth was and opened their home to women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. They taught us about the sanctity of life...from womb to tomb.
Several years before I had been sent to a Christian behavior modification camp in Canada after running away from home. In my mind, I was sent there because they did not approve of the boy I was in love with and wanted to control my life.
I was a child and so reasoned like a child.
When I was brought back home under the threat of another year "in the program," I was sent to a Christian school where I fell in love again and resolved to just bide my time until I could escape from under my parents rule. When I found out that I was pregnant, I was terrified.
Still a child, I reasoned like a child.
I resolved that I would not be sent away again. I set my convictions and morals and beliefs to the side, locked them behind a steel wall in my heart. I set my God aside, thinking if I did not look at him, acknowledge him, I could pretend he wouldn't see. I tried to push him there, into a corner of my heart, pull the blinds, and hide him from sight.
The director of our local Planned Parenthood met with me personally. She spoke of my future, my beauty, intelligence, and potential. She explained the procedure clinically but commiserated personally, in that she too had an abortion when she was around my age. And then, when she was ready, some years later, on her own time and her own terms, she had another baby.
She talked with me, not at me.
She treated me as an equal; she was earnest and kind, nothing about her was scary or threatening. She had no malice in her eyes; she truly believed the words she said, she believed she was helping. She was not evil.
The next available appointment wasn't for a week. For that week, I held onto my resolve by the tips of my fingers. The Bible tells us that the Lord will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can stand, instead he provides a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Looking back now, I see where he was faithful to that promise.
Three times I was offered a way out during that week of waiting, three times I ignored them.
- My mom came into my room and asked if I was pregnant one night, she noticed I hadn't marked my period on the calendar, I lied.
- My best friend offered to talk to my parents with me, but I said no.
- The boy said I didn't have to do this as we read the long list of potential complications, even up to death. I grimaced and said it would be fine. I was resolved, and when I decide to do a thing, I do it.
I regretted it before it began.
Trembling, I forced myself to lay down on that table. Clenching my fist, squeezing my eyes shut, I stayed there by will power alone. When it was over, and I opened my eyes, the nurse walked right past the bed, carrying a canister that held the evidence of my choice, my shame. As realization dawned of what I was looking at, the devastating weight of my choice rushed over me like a landslide. My feet had not yet touched the floor, but it was already too late to take it all back.
It could not be undone, though I would have given everything to change my mind.
I can still see the room, still smell the antiseptic. I can still hear the sounds and the hairs on my neck stand up to think about it. The whole scene is burned into my mind, even all these years later. With just a whisper of remembrance, I am transported right back there. I am 17 again, trembling on the crinkling white paper sheet.
But, you see, what that lady didn't prepare me for was the crushing regret and shame.
The utter brokenness and devastation I would feel afterward. She didn't prepare me to hate my reflection and reject the boy whom I had loved. She didn't prepare me for the years spent seeking to drown out the demons that tormented me, or tell me how to stop dreaming about a little blonde baby with blue-green eyes. She didn't tell me how to build a future while being crushed under the weight of this secret when my head whispered "unlovable" to my heart.
When she spoke of my future, she didn't warn me that just two years later, after men, drink, and drugs failed to cover the shame, I would try to kill myself.
But, even as I sped toward the top of the overpass in the dead of night, Jesus was still with me. Though I had tried for two years to silence and gag him, to fight my way through the blinding regret, carrying my secret shame alone, he was there; he carried it with me.
I didn't realize until recently that he was always there.
He was with me in that room, he wept over me, over my baby. He held me tight as I fell apart.
"I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)
He was with me at the parties, the mornings after. He was there when I woke up with bruises on my throat and breasts, confused and scared. He was there when I bent my head over a line of coke, he interceded for me, kept me alive against all the odds.
"I have loved you with an everlasting love." (Jeremiah 31:3)
He was there when I sobbed on the bathroom floor and as the joy drained from my eyes. He held me in his arms and whispered truth to my broken heart.
"I have called you by name; you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1)
He saved me on the bridge that night, and he continues to save me day by day. But the scars from that day are still there. The shame threatens to bubble up in moments like these.
Church, I am one of yours, your sister in Christ.
I am the daughter of the King, whose Son's sacrifice on the cross covered over my sins. I am redeemed, set free, wholly loved, and set apart for such a time as this.
Fight against abortion, yes! However, please, I beg of you,
- empty your pockets and your hands of the rocks.
- Watch your words, your posts, your pitchforks,
because, with each calloused remark about damnation, each meme calling us a baby killer or murderer, you may just be drowning out the gentle whisper of the healer to one of your sister's hearts.
You cannot in one breath condemn us to hell and in the other profess love for one of us. Christ's sacrifice demands more from us than this.
Jesus' blood covers over a multitude of sins...including mine...including yours. May truth covered with grace be the language with which we speak, forgiveness be the blessing we offer, and redemption through Jesus be the very breath on which our words rest.
For years I sought redemption by working with crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence organizations. There is not one woman, regardless of her beliefs who goes to her death bed without regret, without sorrow for what might have been. Moreover, when that day comes and the words from the past play in her mind, these women will remember your reaction.
Your words from today will tell her later to whom she can turn with her shame.
Will it be you?
Will you be able to extend grace to her then, because you extended grace today? Or will your words haunt her in the quiet night, suffocating her hope for redemption?
Is there a woman in your life, even now trying to gather the courage to stand naked in her shame in front of you? And, are you showing her that you will cover her with the cloak of grace or are you showing her your hands filled with stones?
My sisters, one in four of you are carrying this burden. You do not have to labor under its weight alone, I will stand with you, and beside you, and behind you. I will stand in front of you as the stones fly, because I know I have been forgiven and set free. (John 8:32)
Because my Redeemer bore the brunt of the blows, he has already paid the price. I pray you too will find healing through the love of Jesus. I pray you also will learn to listen to the Only voice that matters, the One who knew all your sins and shame and chose you anyway.
You have already been forgiven and healing is offered, you need only accept it.
"God only know what you've been through.
God only knows what they say about you.
God only knows the real you, there's a
kind of love that God only knows."
- For King and Country "God Only Knows"
Shawna Downs thank you for so vulnerably sharing your story with us. We pray it helps others, as it has helped us have compassion for those who have walked a similar path.
Shawna is wife to James and momma to 3 plus a bonus daughter. Several years ago, James and Shawna founded a nonprofit shipping ministry to serve missionaries, church planters, and crisis relief groups. Together with their children, a cat, and a dog they transport goods from Florida to the Caribbean on board their boat. She is equal parts teacher, deckhand, administrator, cook, captain, engine room helper, boo boo kisser, and storyteller.
Above all, she enjoys telling people about Jesus and that if God can use her and James, he really can use anyone.
Queue the sappy movies, the jewelry commercials, and flowers galore…Valentine's Day is right around the corner! It's a day of love and great expectation from your significant other! Some people love it, and some people completely despise it.
It has become so commercialized that U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $161.96 on Valentine’s Day as 55 percent of the population celebrates this year, an increase from last year’s $147.57, according to NRF’s annual survey. Total spending is expected to reach $20.7 billion, up from $19.6 billion last year.
But what if you don't have a special person to spend the day with? What if someone just walked out on you or you just lost someone to death? What a hard day to sit back and watch others wallow in the joy of love! I have had a really stinky Valentine's Day before. I was actually broken up with on Valentine's! Talk about bad timing!
I was talking with a friend the other day that had been severely hurt by someone she was dating. Trust was broken time and time again, and she had to walk away. She made the comment that she has learned that God was her first love and He will always be her true love!
So that's what brought me to this blog post. On a day that is filled with cupids, hearts, and gifts galore, God gave us the ultimate gift and showed us the greatest love that anyone could possibly show…His one and only son, Jesus!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
I want to challenge you to shift your focus from the materialistic and tangible ways that the world says we should love and start at the beginning, where true LOVE first began.
If you are a child of God, how do you rekindle that love relationship with Jesus? You may not know Jesus as your personal Savior. If that's the case, we want to pray for you and talk with you!
I came up with an acronym for LOVE that may help to keep our eyes on the One who gave His life for ours…the most beautiful act of love.
L - Lean into Jesus: Lean means to "rest for support."
Audra wrote a post about how we can be intentional about spending time with the Lord. In any relationship, you have to spend time with each other to get to know one another. You have to communicate, and you have to listen. Leaning into Jesus and spending time in His Word and in prayer is a great way to combat Satan's lies that you are "lonely" on a day like Valentine's or that you don't have anyone. Rest in Jesus that He is enough!
In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. Psalm 5:3
Come near to God and he will come near to you. James 4:8
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. Psalm 1:2
O - Obey His Word: Obey means to "carry out commands or instructions."
As we spend time with the Lord, we are called to put His Word into action! How blessed we are to be given the most perfect, infallible book that was ever written! It's our instruction on how to lead others to Christ and how to live daily. God's Word is our encouragement when we feel alone, when we don't know where to turn, when we don't think we can make it another day…it's God speaking directly to us. So why do we take it for granted? When we hide His Word in our hearts and memorize Scripture, the Holy Spirit brings it to our minds exactly when we need it! Fill your heart and your mind with His promises, so when Satan tries to tell you differently, you can take those thoughts captive!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24
V - Value who you are in Christ: Value means "importance, worth or usefulness for something."
You are valued, you are beautiful, and you are loved. If no one has ever told you that, let me be the first to tell you that Christ thinks you are super amazing! Don't take my word for it, read the Scriptures and believe it! Christ has placed you where you are for a beautiful purpose, ask Him to show you and use you where you are.
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
E - Enjoy knowing the love of Christ! : Enjoy means "take delight or pleasure in."
Christ delights in you! Yes…He really does! Sometimes we let the noise of the world overshadow what Christ is doing. Make it your prayer to notice all that Christ is doing around you and through you. He never leaves us! We are the ones that drift away; He is just waiting for us to run back to Him!
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:26
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. Psalm 63:3
I don't know your situation, but I pray that if you are feeling lonely leading up to Valentine's Day that you will know that there is someone who loves you so very much! He loves you with an overwhelming, never-ending, reckless kind of love! He loves us, and He pursues us! There is no better message of love than the love of Christ!
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!