A Tribute to Friends, Silver and Gold

P1120657.3

My “silver” friends. Love the bond we’ve formed already.

As a child I was shy and insecure. I didn’t make friends easily, as you have to look someone in the eye to befriend her. The friendships I did manage to form were the on-again, off-again type. (Can I just say girls can be mean? And I wasn’t always on the receiving end. I knew how to dish it out.) The difficulty in maintaining friendships was intensified by the fact that my family moved across country twice between my eighth grade year and my sophomore year in high school.

high school friends

High School Graduation

 

The moving didn’t cease. Since high school, I have lived in six different towns, moving, on average, every five years. Some would think this lifestyle makes it more difficult to make friends. While that was true of me growing up, as I’ve matured, it’s had the opposite effect. I am friendlier and more determined to find friends.

P1120615.3

My “gold” friends.

On my recent visit to IL, I re-connected with many of the friends I left last summer. I felt so blessed to be loved on by these precious ladies. On the flight home, I thought of the new friendships I’ve forged. I started reflecting on the groups of friends I’ve belonged to over the years–how attached I get, how difficult it is to leave. It reminded me of the Girl Scout saying:

Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver,

the other is gold.

My attitude toward moving has changed. I used to be so emotionally devastated to leave the comforts of what I knew, I took a “don’t look back” approach, choosing not to stay in touch with those left behind. Additionally, my insecure-self knew I didn’t do friendships well, and I was sure I would be quickly forgotten. Now I seek new friends, overturning every rock, looking for them like the gems they are, not forsaking those established relationships. Now I cherish each friend I have – one is silver, the other is gold.

102_9806.3.

More “gold” friends.

So here’s to friends!

They fill us up. They cheer us on. They teach us.

They encourage and admonish. They give us strength to face the day.

They laugh with us, and cry with us–on occasion at the same time.

They rejoice in our triumphs and mourn our losses.

They pray for us on a good day.

They pray for us when we have lost our hope and have no words.

They know our strengths and weaknesses, our strong points and flaws, our courage and our fears–and yet love us.

They hug us hello and hold our hand when we hurt.

Without friends, our marriages would suffer and our sanity would flee.

Friends are a gift from the Lord. Cultivate and nurture your friendships, old and new.

One is silver, the other is gold.

In the comments section, tell me what you love about your friends.

Merry Christmas, from Florida

P1100823.square

Don, Barb, Kenneth & Melinda Winters with Samuel and his fiance, Ashley

We miss God’s beauty in snow on the ground (a little) . . . but are basking in the 80 degree weather.

We’ve added one (Samuel) and lost one (JT) . . . but there are still five of us journeying together.

We miss our old jobs and co-workers . . . but are thankful for new jobs and those helping us through.

We miss celebrating Christ’s birth with our friends . . . but are meeting and making new.

We are reading our advent book in a different house . . . but it’s the same candles and the same story.

We will spend Christmas Eve outside with a different group of people . . . but it’s still for God’s glory.

We will spend Christmas Day with different family members . . . but it’s still the same celebration.

Some things change, but Christ never will . . . yesterday, today, and in tomorrow’s expectations.

Merry Christmas from the Winters Family

 

Bread Crumbs and New Beginnings

bread crumbs

God began tugging at our hearts, individually and then, over time, jointly. We didn’t know where specifically He was leading, but we started to pay attention and follow the trail of crumbs He laid down for us. Books like True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth by Palmer Chinchen and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker brought us to our knees. We felt as if we hadn’t completely understood God’s directive to reach out to the brokenhearted. We weren’t connecting with the unchurched like we should.

I knew the stirring was leading up to something big. I read Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and began purging my house of extra items in preparation of something, not knowing what.

On we followed, crumb after crumb, wondering and anticipating with excitement where the trail would lead. We asked questions, we perked our ears, we focused our eyes. We explored various new avenues of ministry. God led on, crumb by crumb. We narrowed our search, discarding anything not lining up with our thoughts and beliefs. And the phrase that kept surfacing out of discussions and books was “church plant.” He plopped church planting authors’ books in our laps. He put people in our path that were pursuing a church plant. Just as God had used people who had adopted, were adopting, and wanted to adopt to tell us to adopt, the topic of church planting came up so often we couldn’t ignore it. So we pursued it . . . bread crumbs.

And one day before the end goal had solidified (it was still quite fluid and abstract), I came face to face with my sinful nature of desiring comfort and stability. I came to the passage in Luke where Jesus asks some men to follow Him. Each had an excuse. Each excuse I had.

While Jesus had “no place to lay his head,” I had the comfort of a nice home with a newly remodeled (did I say beautifully remodeled?) bathroom & kitchen. And similar to the man who wanted to “bury his father,” I wanted to continue living within three hours of my mother so I could take care of her should she need me. But the hardest obstacle to hurdle was the last. The final man asked to “go back and say goodbye to his family.” And the weight of reality sunk deep. I did not want to say goodbye to the “family” I would leave behind: my 20-year-old son. His decision was clear. He would not go. He would stay back to finish his degree.

I wrestled with these excuses, these obstacles, these real-life issues. I knew I could not pursue God and continue to hold on to these securities. “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:62) So I let go. I wrote in my journal that day, “I know God is asking me to lay it all down for Him and His glory because of Him, because of His kingdom, for His children . . . in recognition that it is not about me. He cannot increase if I do not decrease.”

So we are going. Our bread crumb trail leads to Wildwood, FL . . . and a new church aptly named Hope Community Church. On August 1, four Winters family members and one new college graduate, Samuel Cutshall, will begin the process of planting. We have been warned it won’t be easy. But we are confident we are pursuing God’s plan.

I invite you to check out the church website HERE and like our facebook page HERE. I also ask that you pray for us as we transition and consider contributing a special gift or monthly gift toward the start-up of this ministry. If you would like more information, let me know.

Run on the Right Path

Fear motivates, and I run. What from?

A ghost? A memory? A potential confrontation?

A hard situation? . . .

People?

Instead of staying, I run. Instead of facing, I hide.

My desire: stop running from something. My choice: run to Someone.

When running from something, my head turns back. My eyes gaze on potential danger. My feet falter.

When running to God, my head stays forward. My eyes focus on Him. My feet uphold. The threat of peril disappears & safety abounds.

The environment persists. The situation continues. The potential confrontation lingers. But much has changed. Trust motivates. Truth triumphs. God prevails.

I am free to persevere through the trial as He leads or follow Him down a different road.

path 1

Can I clearly see the resolution? Not always. But the path is unobstructed. As long as I follow Him, my feet are secure and the answer is in His hands.

path 2

Corners are less menacing.

path 3  path 4  path 5

The unknown feels adventurous.

path 6  path 7

God’s guidance reassures—a friendly Presence.

path 8

And, while tomorrow’s answers may be a mystery, the ultimate destination remains the same—Paradise.

paradise

When faced with difficult situations, do you run from them or face them head on? What would it look like if you chose to run to God instead of running from something?

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

A friend of mine tragically lost her four-year-old niece a few days ago. When I first learned of the calamity, my heart sunk, grief rose, and tears flowed. No four-year-old should die.

I have never met the parents of this precious child, but as I processed the information and my emotions started to surge, I thought, “I wish there were some way I could transfer some of this young mother’s anguish to myself, to siphon some of the heartache.” If only hearing of the death of this beautiful girl moves me so profoundly, how extensive is the pain and sorrow of her parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles?

full of grief

Yes, I wish pain, grief, and sorrow could be measured like we measure water. And when it was on the brink of overflowing, it could be poured into someone else; thereby reducing the amount of distress felt by the original sufferer.

pouring water

I desperately want to help and at the same time recognize there is not a thing I can do (physically) to ease the discomfort, the agony.

Pain and grief are a part of life. No one can walk through it for someone else. That leaves those of us watching at a loss, feeling inadequate and ill-equipped (which probably explains why I skip out on most funeral services).

I believe God created me with an “extra-sensitive” feelings button. I easily “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). But the mourning feels unproductive and “less than.” If I had a measuring cup that magically reduced the hurting person’s misery by the amount of pain I feel for him/her, I could bear it easier.

shared grielf

But while I own no magic measuring cup, I know of One who can bear the pain—One who has borne the pain. Jesus is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:12).

My sympathetic grief need not be fruitless because I have access to the One with the answers. I have a direct line to the One who heals. I can throw myself at the throne of grace and ask for mercy to be poured out on the victim of grief. I can ask God to be the Vessel in which they pour their aches and pain. I can hope God’s healing will eventually come. I can rest in the promise that His complete healing will eventually come to those in Christ.

This is my prayer for this young couple and family still reeling in shock.

This is my prayer for those of you suffering from loss or unbearable pain.

Leave a Legacy of God’s Love to a Thousand Generations

B D L and Mom May 1992.1My mom blessed me with a box of old pictures. Some date all the way back to 1968 . . . the beginning.

In the span of 15 inches (of stacked pictures) I age 40+ years. My life literally flashes before my eyes (especially if I fan them quickly, like one of those old-time flipbooks in which the little character drawn on the bottom of each page looks like he’s walking or eating).

But it’s not the pictures of me that I am enamored with; it’s those of my family, some of whom have since passed on. I see a picture of my grandmother holding me as a baby and wish I could ask her what she was thinking.

Barb as little girl1

I see a picture of my three-year-old self kissing my little sister and want to reach through the 243-mile gap and plant one on her in the here and now. I see a picture of my nineteen year old son as a toddler and can hear the sounds he was making when I snapped the picture.

I laugh. I cry. I long.

I long for a simpler time. I long to stop the clock so my children won’t grow up. I also long to create an environment in which they look back and smile.

Barb Donna Dad Grandma Grandpap1

It’s the time of year when the value of family prevails. “Family” (children, parents, grandparents, in-laws, adopted families, church families, etc.) is found at the top of most Thanksgiving lists.

This leads me to ask: How do I preserve these precious moments, these delicate relationships? How do I capture and retain something that is ever-changing and contains so many dynamics?  How do I hold on and let go? How do I protect those who follow behind me?

I realize I cannot pause time and hold fast to my dear babies; however, I can (and will) influence the next generation and, probably, the one after that. The memories will impact their lives. So I want to be purposeful in my teachings and behaviors. I desire to model Godly wisdom . . . and Godly love. If I keep my eyes on the Creator, they will too.

Exodus 20

Become A Great Christian

“The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.” 1 John 3:7 (NASB)

Adoniram Judson, the first U.S. missionary, sailed to Burma (now Myanmar) in 1812 and served there for almost forty years. His story is one of many accomplishments as well as much heartache. One of the most memorable narratives of Judson takes place during his imprisonment. A caged lion was locked up with the prisoners. After it starved to death, Judson asked permission to reside inside the lion’s cage, and his captors consented. I can’t imagine how horrendous his cell must have been for him to prefer living in a lion’s cage.

Recently Dr. Jerry Cain, former President of Judson College, visited our church. Dr. Cain recounted the story of Adoniram Judson. He explained that within the first fourteen years of his ministry, Judson lost his children and his first wife. This, accompanied by other stressors, sent him into a depression. “However,” Dr. Cain told us, “in the midst of his depression, he maintained translating twenty verses [of the Bible] a day, whether he felt like it or not. We have a Burmese Bible because he stuck to it.” Then Dr. Cain cautioned us, “Don’t live by feelings, but by commitments.”

This reminded me of something my husband said to me. “We become great Christians by being a Christian.” In other words, we need to do what is right because it’s right, whether we feel like it or not. It’s a choice. It is not dependent upon a good attitude or a perfect track record. However, it requires self-discipline, consistency, and determination. All of these are obtained and strengthened by exercising them.

I used to sing a song by Pam Thum entitled, “In the Middle of It All.” The chorus of the song sums it up well.

In the middle of it all
In the middle of the darkest night
Lift your head and tell your heart
To walk by faith and not by sight
In the middle of it all
There’s a loving God that’s holding out his hand
If you reach for Him, he’ll catch you when you fall
In the middle of it all

Do you find it difficult to continue exercising your faith when you don’t feel like it?
Do you rely on God’s strength and His fruit of the spirit (specifically: faithfulness and self-control) to practice righteousness?

walk by faith