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    Daily Thread

    Colorful Mercies

    Vibrant Truth and the essence behind the launch of our Rainbow Truth-filled Activity Kits

    

    Before I went to the University of Texas, I had grown up going to private school. Private school was all I had ever known from pre-school through my senior year of high school. It was a dream of mine for Ellis and I to send our kiddos to the very same school one day and God was gracious enough to let me live out that dream for 2 years before we felt Him calling us away. 

    God had a new plan and place for us, and I was incredibly skeptical of Him for a while. Like I said, all I had ever known was private, faith-based school learning. We adored this school, and this was my dream, my hope, my life long desire for so long for my own children. Eventually God softened my heart to the reality of leaving, but the process definitely didn’t exclude a little kicking and screaming at first.

    Moving to public school meant no longer being in a faith-based environment everyday—where what was being taught at home was mirrored at school. God revealed to me I was relying on others to carry this load and now Ellis and I were going to have to pick it up. I was beyond nervous. No one else was responsible for teaching or demonstrating the Gospel to our children anymore, and that was a scary thought at first! God had to continually remind me that this is how it’s supposed to be anyways—He gave and entrusted us with 3 children. He has equipped and prepared Ellis and I to lead our children spiritually, which has now encouraged us to cling to Him 800x more than we did before. And let me tell you, I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

    Leaving familiarity, dreams and desires was no easy feat. God, in all His goodness, had to remind me to receive this truth time and time again: Where He leads is never to somewhere second best for me (or for my children). It is never plan B (read: Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11).  As we prayed for what was next, we clung to Psalm 65, which assures His path drips with abundance! We ended up following where the Lord led us, fully believing His ways are unsurpassed and His plans for our family far exceed any we could ask, think, dream or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  

    Following the Lord is not always easy, but it always leads to greater abundance of joy, fuller and more prosperous living, healing and purpose. God is never holding out on you.  

    At the beginning of last school year, one of my lifelong and most treasured friends, Meredith, and I felt the Lord call us to start a girls Bible Study at our kiddos’ school. We wanted to create a space for our daughters to grow in their young faith and to build Jesus-centered community. Because I deeply struggled with this for so many years, I feel so passionately about my daughters (in case you missed it, baby girl Welker is due at the end of this month!!!) fully grasping and receiving the Truth of their worth and how solid God’s promises stand. Because of some childhood wounds, these concepts seemed to fall on deaf ears and blocked so much of my reception of the Gospel when I was their age. Yes, only the Holy Spirit Himself can awaken a heart to receive this truth and allow for miraculous transformation, but it has been a fiery catalyst from the Lord in my heart to create a girly, purposeful, Truth-filled activity kit. In Meredith and I’s experience of parenting and teaching, we know kids learn and process information differently, so we used a variety of different methods and multifaceted learning techniques to help with the retention of information more profoundly. Between visual, kinesthetic and audible learning, we’ve included creative activities, customized scripture cards, science experiments and representative jewelry (are we surprised?) to enhance their experience.

    Ellis and I are actively choosing the maximum joy God has for us in the public school system, which leads us here to this unknown venture where we are begging the Lord to use these materials in the same way He has in our own life and family, to help young ladies grasp the foundational and key concepts of who God is, what He says about them and how accessible He is at all times.

    As a girly girl, I have always loved color and certainly the rainbow itself. I’ve always associated the rainbow in Scripture as an all-encompassing symbol of the entirety of God’s promises and covenants to us. The rainbow isn’t the only symbol that accompanies a Biblical promise (ie- the cross), but it was the first promise or covenant God ever made us in scripture as seen in Genesis 9. (Side note: some scholars say the first promise is in Genesis 3 when God tells of the coming of Jesus and His future victory over the enemy. I’m no scholar, but I consider this the first prophecy instead). Either way—so cool, right? About a year ago, I designed my own take on a “promise ring” by creating a dainty rainbow eternity band (see pic below) for myself. Clearly this right-brain dominate, creative-girl needs a daily illustrative yet physical reminder of God’s promises! But it catches my eye when I’m having a day (aka not just any day, the day where everything seems to go wrong) and I can quickly recall the Truth that inspired it into fruition, rebuke whatever lie I’m believing in the moment and reset my mind-frame onto His beautiful promises for me and claim them! Not the traditional idea of a promise ring, I know, but I flipped the idea on its head. I’m not “promising” someone else anything. I know first-hand that so many times, our human, earthly promises, although mostly given with the best of intentions, sometimes come up short or fail us. The Bible says, “Great is His faithfulness!” – unending, unwavering, unconditional and unchanging faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23). It’s our rock solid reality! With this ring, the Lord tells me, "Here is what I’m promising you, Jennifer." Not the other way around. 

    I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. – Genesis 9:13-16

    I’m very passionate about the small things and my personal life has obviously prompted the creation of these kits and collection for our daughters and the coming generation of darling young ladies. These kits are each filled with the intention that our daughters will become aware that there are over 3,500 promises listed out for them throughout the Bible—knowing that they are packed with hope, life, strength, protection, purpose, encouragement, provision, confidence and joyous expectation of what we can count on Him for. 

     

    These kits are each filled with vibrant, girly, imaginative, intentional, original GT artwork! It’s an all-inclusive, ready-to-use, fully packed Rainbow Truth-filled Activity Kit. I find that my most productive days with my kids are the dog days of summer when distractions are minimal and we have plenty of time to carve out opportunities to build the fundamental blocks of their faith. These are the moments to capitalize on and to begin planting the seed of trusting in their good Father who cannot and will not lead them astray. Our kits were designed for the girls in mind, though. They're for the ladies who love to color, love to add to their jewelry collection and desire to learn more about the Lord (think: daughters, nieces, granddaughters, birthdays, baptisms, confirmations, etc.!) My daughter and her friends love the rainbow, so I figured why not make it purpose-filled and tie it into foundational understanding of our God?

    “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God — the faithful God who keeps His covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him!” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

    What’s included in the fun? Let me tell you:
    1. Rainbow Choker– a wearable reminder of God’s faithfulness. They’re 100% waterproof—you can thank me later, ha! My 6-year-old never takes hers off and I love when she asks me “well, what does He promise me?” Hello, conversation starters!
    2. Coloring Sheets (3) – 3 sheets inspired by Genesis 9:13-16, Hebrews 10:23, and Joshua 23:14
    3. Watercolor Scripture Cards (3) – perfect for practicing memorization, for displaying on bathroom mirrors, for binder pouches, bedside tables, etc!
    4. 5x7 Cardstock Sheet with a List of God’s Promises -- a list of hope-filled promises (only our top picks would fit) that our girls can cling to, relate to and claim!
    5. Rainbow Flip Sequin Pencil Pouch
    6. Jeweled Sticker Sheet
    7. 16 Crayons

    To purchase kit, click here.

    Not included, but just as cute, we have also created our Rainbow Neon Cord Bracelet, which is sold with a calligraphy scripture card. These do not tarnish and can be worn by girls of all ages. You can click here to purchase. These are easy, thoughtful gifts!  

    My prayer is that you receive these promises, speak Truth over yourself and share with others—proclaiming these promises that never return annulled, empty, invalid, hollow or cancelled.

    "If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:13)

    “He who promised is faithful!” (Hebrews 10:23)

    “Know that every promise of the LORD your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (Joshua 23:14)

    I pray you fully rest in knowing that God’s glory and everlasting faithfulness will shine through the darkness of your circumstances and appear as a radiant light of hopefulness in the midst of all the seasons and storms of life!

    We have a lot more coming in the Fall, so stay tuned! I’m so, so excited about it!

     

     

     

     

    "No I will not break my covenant; I will not take back one word of what I said." (Psalm 89:3)

     


     

    My Jamie Ivey Podcast Interview and the Value in Being Vulnerable

    “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story!” Psalm 107:2 

    It is with all humility and wonderment that I share with you all how I ended up here, on Episode #238 of Jamie Ivey’s The Happy Hour Podcast sharing all the details of my story. You know God is involved when you did nothing to put yourself there. 

    Jamie, if you don’t know or haven’t heard, is a must-know, need-to-follow, Kingdom-focused woman I deeply admire. Not only is she a gifted interviewer, but she’s also an incredible writer. Her bravery in writing her book, If You Only Knew, is what sparked a cord in me to open up with my story. Jamie has profound Godly wisdom and a heart for encouraging women to boldly proclaim the goodness of the Lord through their stories. Over the years, I’ve been an avid listener of her podcast, hearing God-fearing women of many ministries that have played an active role in changing my life come forward about some of the darkest crevices of their lives. Never in a million years would I have put my name amongst the admirable list of world changers like Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore or Lysa TerKeurst, but God must have a wild sense of humor.

    I am an unlikely candidate for Jamie, to say the least. It was on my bucket list to meet Jamie, much less be on her show. I often joked with the girls in the office about that dream. But through a random set of story-telling opportunities involving my brother Josh, my testimony ended up in front of Jamie. (Josh, you have believed in the power of God, especially in our story, from the get-go. You whole-heartedly believed that God was capable of performing a miracle. Thank you.) Six months later, I had a phone interview with her producer and as the saying goes, the rest is history (but I’m going to keep sharing the details, if you don’t mind).

    If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not short for words, so after a long conversation, the producer shared that many of their listeners had written in about the topic I share in my testimony, longing to hear interviews on this subject matter. Ellis and I know we have a story to share—it’s a hard story, oh so broken, messy even, but it’s a God story that points a spotlight on the Healer. When the producer said their team had been praying for a woman who would be willing to share her story, I immediately began to cry. I couldn’t be more in awe that the Lord chose this door on this very stage (very large stage, if you will) from which to share it. I don’t have a ministry or a book (although I hope to write a book one day!), I’m a jewelry designer. Doesn’t God know how ordinary I am? But God said, go and tell of The One. He doesn’t always use the most capable, the most talented or even the most likely. Scripture is filled with ordinary people fulfilling extraordinary callings.  

    At the end of our call, the producer shared some facts about the podcast and wanted to make sure I was fully aware of what I was getting myself into. She informed me the number of listeners are in the six-figure range and more than quadruple that number continue to download the interview throughout the following month. As if I didn’t already feel out of my league, that moment secured it for me. I had some big time praying to do and had some conversations to have with Ellis before we moved forward. There’s a huge risk in being completely raw, in making my secrets and struggles so public, yet I knew in my heart of hearts there is a priceless, Godly value in being vulnerable and there’s a reason He calls us to it. So for the next 10 days we prayed, asked the Lord for discernment and sought out wise counsel. There was an overwhelming response of Yes! Go! And I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am our entire village was on the same page.

    Full transparency: a few years ago, I wanted to put our story in a locked box and bury it 6 feet under. I would have never imagined ever wanting to share this story publicly in any sort of manner—small or large. I was shame ridden and wanted to hide it. What the Lord has done in my heart over the last few years is astonishing, though. He removed my shame (He doesn’t only forgive sins but also died for us to live free of the shame—see Hebrews 12:2 and Isaiah 35:4-6) to know that He is highlighted when we "boast in our weaknesses" and see that the purpose of the Gospel is to reach and minister the hurting, lost and broken. Withholding my story would be hiding Him as well.

    His power is made perfect in our weakness; so now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. –2 Corinthians 12:9

    Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12:2

    All that to say, this wasn’t a quick, light-hearted or careless decision we were making; but the Lord was continuously confirming it. After all, this wasn’t even about me; it was about God -- about His fame, His glory and His overwhelming living and active power! This isn’t my story to share, it’s His story! And my job is simply to be obedient in doing so. Our foundational hope and prayer would be that His beauty would be on full display -- for this story to promote Him, to declare the great works of the Lord and to testify of all His miraculous deeds. Our prayer is for radical heart healing and transformation to occur, for total freedom from sin, for shame to be eliminated surrounding struggles or failures and for revival to burst forth in so many hears in the lives of those listening!

    I’ve learned that when we withhold the full details of a story because we want to be seen in a better light, we steal focus from The One who is so very worthy of the complete spotlight. I stand before you, honored to look like a loser for the sake of the Gospel, joyfully testifying of all He has done in this broken heart and wrecked life to proclaim His hope for you too!

    Ellis and I divulge because we know that sharing shatters the shame and the power the enemy has over a story in the dark. Couples come to us weekly, it seems, in the midst of similar battles and storms. It's everywhere. The Lord has been gracious to let us play a part in so many stories over the last few years. As heartbreaking as it is to watch destruction unfold in people’s lives, it’s a very God-dependent place to be. Yes, it’s hard walking through the brokenness of life with people, but being up close to see the Lord work miraculously in other’s lives and marriages is amazing and it truly strengthens your faith, too. Our prayer for years has been for the Lord to use our pain, shame, embarrassment and humiliation for a purpose. Knowing full-well that He intentionally and sovereignly takes our biggest moments of failures and turns them into kingdom purposes (Genesis 50:20). What joy! He allows us to be the same vessels of grace and comfort that we once received in our time of need to others and graciously grants us an opportunity to partake in watching the marvelous process of others getting free! What a gift. 

    God is the only One who can fully change a heart, but we are thankful He can use our story to aid others in even the smallest of ways. These experiences in turn gave us the necessary courage and agreement to go share the details from the mountain tops on Jamie’s show. Our story is one that so many face, but they feel alone, faulty or deserted in the middle of it which is certainly not how the Body of Christ was intended to function. So, we long for this to be different. We want to help remove the sin shock, sin ranking, sin shaming and the brutal sin cycle of bad behavior to help build a safe place where the real work can be done in their hearts between them and the Holy Spirit. Our only mission in life is to lead people to Jesus. I know what it’s like to feel alone, isolated, defective and as if I’m the only one! I don’t want anyone to ever feel what I felt and all those lies the enemy is selling you!

    He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. Many, oh Lord, are the wonders you have done; the things you have planned for us. None can compare with you! Were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare! –Psalm 40:2-3,5

    So when the Lord clearly asked for me to walk through this open door, with my mom and best friend in tow, we drove up to Austin in late February for my in-person interview with Jamie. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Jamie is so good at her job! Her humor put me right at ease, which I didn’t realize I desperately needed in that moment while hitting on such a grim topic. She exudes grace, sees people through the compassionate lens of Jesus and keeps the theme of the whole interview about Him. I felt like I was catching up with a dear old friend, only we had just met! Thank you, Lord, for preparing the way and for making this tender time so very special.

    That being said, it is my honor to share with you what God has in in our life on behalf of Ellis and I. My story is a prodigal story, one of beauty from ashes. God has removed my shame and freed me from it, so I am happy to not-look-awesome in order for God to receive the most glory, praise and fame. He is awesome for what He is capable of doing in a life. When we testify of what God has done in our lives, it proves that God’s Word is true!

    How beautiful are the feet of those that bring the GOOD news!Isaiah 52:7

    Originally my episode was suppose to air in May or June, but to our glorious surprise, they moved it up to this week, what!! We know God had His Sovereign hand and perfect timing at work, even though it was a lot quicker than we expected. Today we’re choosing to rest safely in the shadow of the Almighty and are trusting in His ways and purposes.

    My prayer is that while I peel back the layers and let you peer inside my personal life, God would use my past pain and current vulnerability to draw you closer to our Lord and to help remove any shame associated with your failure, trauma or wounds; because there is so much hope in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

    And she defeated her accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony! –Revelation 12:11

    I hope I never get over what God has done in this mess of a life! I’m thankful God allowed me this chance to shed light on a dark topic, a soul-tearing issue that is happening all around us, yet very seldom talked about. I believe the enemy has a field day in its secrecy and anonymity. I am so, so grateful to Jamie and her team for pressing into this extremely heavy but very real and prevalent subject matter. Thank you for taking a chance on me and for flaunting the Lord every step of the way!

    Without further ado, we pray with all grace you click the following links to hear my full testimony on iTunes and Jamie Ivy's Website

    Thank you, Lord, for this invaluable and gracious sharing-opportunity and for entrusting us with this God-centered beautiful redemptive story.

     

    Grace Given, Received and Believed

    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:23-24

    Grace is an act of obedience that we are called to so many times in scripture so that we can become a conduit for the Holy Spirit, not an obstacle of personal offense. Grace centered relationships helped radically change my life in a season I can closely compare to the pits of hell. Grace is what transforms the heart, not the words of the accuser, enabler or condemner. Grace should be our Golden Standard, given endlessly with much encouragement.

    See also that you excel in grace. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:7-9

    Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13

    God has invited us to be a part of His work by living in community. How kind and how amazing is that? He allows others to bear witness to His unending grace in one another’s lives; we just have to look through His lens to see. The enemy knows that friendship is where the greatest treasure and power lie for defeating him and the hold of sin in a life. I don’t want to miss the work God is doing in a friend’s life because I can’t get over myself.

    The gospel of Jesus is that much more powerful and dynamic in times of suffering. It’s the economy of how God works and how He grows His Kingdom here on earth. Smooth sailing and mountaintop experiences are not the times that radically change the broken or depleted, nor does avoiding hard circumstances. People need healing from the inside out. We are wounded, fractured souls who have cracks in the foundation of our hearts.

    Jesus didn’t come to earth to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive. If we have fully and truly experienced His undeserved love in our own lives and received this truth in our inmost beings, we should be changed people who deeply understand forgiveness and the cost of the forgiveness for your own sins.

    Compassion lenses develop in place of judgmental, haughty eyes when we recognize the vast failings of our own sinful nature and shortcomings. We all have to take repeated trips to the cross so that we might be healed, freed, changed and saved. None of us are beyond the scope of participating in heinous sins. We have totally missed the whole point of the gospel if we think we are above that. If we don’t choose to rally around brokenness, we haven’t come to grips with our own brokenness or deep need for Jesus. Therefore we cannot face the brokenness of another. 

    It’s because we have each received radical spiritual generosity that we can be radically generous with those in need! – Tim Keller

    Jesus knew what He was buying on the cross. He didn’t just see everything happening in 2019 and suddenly regret His sacrifice. He came to set us free from the slavery (law) of thinking we need to be better or be an improved version of ourselves. He asks us to bring our wounds and the places of our lives we’re trying to hide to Him so that we can be freed from the shame, healed and made whole. Let’s get out of the mindset that we have to approach God with tidy faith. He is more than capable to take on the mess, self-inflicted or victim to infliction. Show up and marvel at what He can do for you.

    God works from the inside out, not the outside in. Righteous choices flow from a healed heart. Let’s be women who walk hand-in-hand with our sisters through this process, rallying around brokenness, lifting our sisters up when she needs it most. Let it be our greatest joy to show her mercy. Leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit, but be willing to ask the hard questions that are spurred on from Truth.

    Let us not love each other only with words but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18

    I desperately pray that you have had that grace receiving moment, not just a believing one. He is bigger than any mess we can conjure up and can rescue us from anywhere…anywhere, I tell ya! Hello, we’ve seen it a thousand times over personally—within our relationship and also in the countless situations we’ve walked through with so many in their season of suffering.

    Our friends’ grace called out my wrongs and called me to repentance. They weren’t enablers and nothing was swept under the rug. Their grace rejoiced in truth and called for heart restoration in my broken situation, not behavior modification. Their love pointed me to Jesus to rebuild my identity. Real heart change couldn’t occur until I realized my self-idolatry and deep roots of unbelief. My friends had the faith to live out this mantra: Jesus took on all the burdens, He took on all the wrongs, all of the offenses on the cross. They knew they didn’t have to pick up the offense of my sin and they knew in their heart of hearts that Jesus had lost His reputation in order to give me an everlasting name.

    Their grace confronted, but did so with gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit born out of their reverence and own recognition of the depravity of their flesh. It was never given with judgment or a spirit of I’m better than you, Jennifer. Their grace was not contingent upon an immediate outcome, but was anchored to their deep trust in God’s faithfulness, wisdom and was given while yielding to the certainty that His ways are higher than ours. It was firmly tether to the long term confidence that is promised to us in parables such as Luke 15. It was given with the expectancy that grace would eventually invade and change my life.

    The burden was not on them to change me and therefore was agenda free. It endured by fixating on the anthem of knowing that grace given is always fruitful—recognizing that fruit isn’t grown in a day, and sometimes grace bears future fruit.

    Their love knew that gracious obedient responses never return void. There will be far greater eternal value for their grace response and obedience in choosing grace even when it wasn’t easy—and many can testify that I did not make it easy for anyone.

    Their grace wasn’t given for results, although it was certainly hoped and prayed for, but rather given because of who Jesus is. Their grace was foundationally Gospel-centered and did not have a one time validation or expiration date. They recognized the risks that grace does not always have instant gratification in regards to behavior modification. They knew full well that grace-giving can be long-suffering and is embedded in a deep yearning for heart change and not just focused on changing the behavior. Fruit of the Spirit each stem from a foundation built on our salvation and our salvation is built solely on grace and grace alone.

    If a human could change another human, Jesus would have never needed to come. – Paul David Tripp

    Grace profoundly liberated my relationships and fundamentally changed them. Understanding and receiving God’s grace changes you and creates a climate of grace for yourself and for others in your life. It is centered on the establishment of who He is, not on what I/we can bring to the table. Friendships and relationships prosper when this is the common thread shared and distinguished among the two of you (or group).

    Since I have been the recipient of incalculable grace, I have been give the privilege of having a genuine, weighty understanding and appreciation of grace and what it has the power to do in a human heart.

    There are two types of people in this world: those who divide and those who extend grace. I pray you’re the latter and that you’ll trust the Lord enough to simply obey Him at His Word. God guide us to choose grace when wrath seems like the more appropriate response and lead us to pray to You, who fully understands when we feel betrayed. God I pray our hearts are softened in the middle of trials and that we recognize Your sovereign hand over every single thing that enters our lives. We know that You work all things for good.


    A Friend Loves At All Times

    Are y’all kidding me?! I still can’t get over your response to the Encourage Her launch. Thank you for the overwhelming response! If you missed them the first go round, they’ve been restocked! You can check them out here.

    Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12.

    A few months ago, I had been asked to share my testimony at a conference dedicated to helping women heal from trauma and woundedness. It was a true honor and gift from the Lord to be able to proclaim all of the wonders He has performed for my family and me over the years. 

    The conference just took place three weeks ago and dang y'all, my biggest takeaway was that pain is real and it is everywhere. While it may look different in each of our lives, pain is the common thread that somehow ties us all together. I was moved mightily by how God can use our testimonies and past pain to set others free; to remove the shame associated with trauma, disappointment and failure. The bill has been paid in full-- if we could out sin the cross, Jesus would still be in the grave. His sacrifice made grace possible and available to all, for all situations and circumstances. God really is who He says He is! It is God’s greatest delight to bring about healing, deliverance and wholeness.  And He allows others to be apart of witnessing this entire miraculous process.

    And she defeated her accuser by the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony! –Revelation 12:11

    The enemy loves to use our shame to keep us isolated and feeling like we are the only ones who have ever walked through something so painful or horrible. When you think about it, this may be his greatest work because culturally we don’t feel safe to come forward with our struggles out of fear of what they might be met with—either by sin-shock or sin-ranking. Our shame might be amplified or we might be rejected or misunderstood. 

    Jesus certainly understands how being rejected, misunderstood and abandoned all feels. He experienced it and identifies with us in the midst of our sufferings! Bringing our darkness into the light (to trustworthy and safe people) immediately muzzles the enemy and the power of darkness is defeated. If we try to fight the devil in the dark, he wins every time! 

    Our problem is not that we lack the light, but that we love the dark. This is the hardness of our hearts. – John Piper

    Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. --Romans 12:15

    Sin tells us to be ashamed, to hide and bow up with pride. It has the power to quarantine us and keep us from living in the freedom that Jesus freely gives us. An environment of trust is grown when you admit your failures regularly with others, proving we aren’t alone and how much we collectively need Jesus. Paul David Tripp says it so simply, we are never “grace graduates!” Sharing shatters the illusion of aloneness and the real delusion of the thought, “I must be the only one who has stood here before.”

    Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. –James 5:16

    We don’t need more eye-rollers, scoffers, gossipers, skeptics or drama-makers. Can I get an amen? We need more encouragers, more understanding, more compassion and more believers tethered to God’s Word in the middle of the storm! Let me be clear though, I use to be one of those women in the first category. I have so much compassion for them because I know how I felt inwardly at the peak of that season. My prayer is that the scales fall off of their eyes so that they may be healed and recognize that they are cheapening God’s work by choosing to be judge and jury. We are called to live unoffended and love defended by the covering of the cross.

    Such denial always leads to devaluing of and a resistance to God’s grace. Denying your need for grace and underestimating the power of what grace can do never, ever leads to anything good. – Paul David Tripp 

    Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. --Colossians 3:13

    Relationships are messy, I know. But they are also one of the greatest treasures and gifts we have while on earth. God knew how much we needed community to us get through life’s tough stuff. We weren’t created to be alone or function solo. Did you know cancer develops from a cell that’s isolated and alone? Isolation is the enemy’s playground—he thrives and feeds on it. Similarly, our hearts and spiritual condition decays when we are alone or relying on our own gospel, rules or coping mechanisms. So if it takes friends around us to help us through, we need to understand what it takes to be a good friend, especially to those who require a little (or a lot of) extra grace in their season of suffering.

    The highest joys of friendship grow in the soil of the deepest struggles. Struggles are not obstacles, but instruments in God’s hands. Every struggle is an opportunity to experience God’s grace yourself and give it to the other person. – Paul David Tripp 

    Above all else, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins. --1 Peter 4:8

    Just as I have you, love one another! --John 15:12

    Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. -- Ephesians 4:2

    In a season of my life where everything around me felt like it was imploding, I had a group of treasured friends walk through the whole explosion with me. Two handfuls of women that stood in the gap and interceded on my behalf when I remained virtually blind and deaf. They were a total force to be reckoned with and they showed me what it looked like to restore someone, carry their burdens, war in prayer, share in (long) suffering, and to deeply love their broken friend.

    Second to Ellis’ deep forgiveness and love for me, I had a radial encounter in regard to friendship—friendships that were built on the gospel of grace. In all of His goodness, the Lord put a community in place for Ellis and me that we desperately needed and relied upon in our time of suffering. It wasn’t easy by any means—there were many tearful arguments and painful conversations between these friends and us, but they were filled with authenticity, life-giving encouragement, vulnerability and hope. These women were extravagant grace donors for me when I was in the middle of my sin because they knew the stakes were high. 

    My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. –James 5:19-20

    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. --Ephesians 4:32

    Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. --Galatians 5:14

    I often look back on those deeply painful days and wonder how these people stuck by us. How could they deeply love me through my deepest, often torturous, soul-searching efforts? They provided a safe place for me to ask, seek and process. In that safe place I would uncover chunks of truth in regards to what was wrong with my heart and would eventually process my brokenness at a resounding level, a level I had been scared to explore my entire life. These friendships aided in helping me gain an understanding of how I had gotten to the lowest of lows. What I found possibly the most shocking, is that these people who had loved us back together in a sense had also experienced deep grace-needing encounters of their own and had a profound grasp on their past, current and on-going need for that daily rescuing and transforming grace only Jesus provides. Because of their understanding of their own need of grace, they were able to extend it to me in my ultimate time of need.  They were a tool of grace in the hands of our gracious Savior.

    Friendship is a choice and an expense of time. My friends hated the sin, not me as the sinner. Their love helped remove my shame so the real work could begin. It radically undid me and helped me begin to understand grace at its most practical human level. Because of it, I now know friendship, relational beauty and intimacy that I never knew before. I see the fruit and unforeseen riches born out of our pain. God’s promises truly never return to us void. Jesus talks at great length about how love is the greatest commandment. That above all else, we must love each other deeply (1 Peter 4:8). We can have all the faith in the world but without love, we have nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). This was exactly how the Lord designed the body of Christ to function. It was God's kindness that lead us to repentance (see Romans), not judgement or heaping on more shame or condemnation.

    Hurt people hurt people, but helped people help people. Broken people shatter people, but whole people restore people. Damaged people break people, but rebuilt people build people. Shatter people damage people, but loved people love people. Wounded people wound people, but healed people bind up wounds. Bound up people bind people, but freed people lead others to freedom! – Christine Caine 

    She loved much because she had been forgiven much! --Luke 7:47

    A friend loves at all times! --Proverbs 17:17

    Let me leave you with my favorite display of friendship from the Bible. If you have a Bible handy (or a the App on your phone), read Luke 5:17-26.

    And behold, some men were bringing a man on a bed who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. –Luke 5:18-19.

    Spark Note version: a group of men heard Jesus was teaching nearby, so they carried their friend, who couldn’t walk (sick, broken, wounded), to be healed by Him. When they arrived to where Jesus was, there was a huge crowd, so they had to come up with plan B. Most people would’ve just given up, but not these guys—they went up on the roof and removed roof tiles to literally lower their friend to the feet of Jesus. One, can you imagine the physical labor they had to endure to lift this man’s dead weight up to the roof? Two, can you say bold and desperate?

    Hello! If that isn’t a precise picture of the types of friends we need to be to each other, I’m not sure what is.  These men suffered, persisted and endured all the while being bothered and troubled for the sake of their friend—all to bring him exactly where he needed to be. That is love and grace, you guys. These men recognized they couldn’t heal their friend or fix him, they just knew, in faith, where to go and they took him there.

    Sometimes we each have to be carried to the feet of Jesus, to the Healer, for fixing, restoration and recovery. And yes, this man was healed (it’s actually one of my favorite miracles of Jesus’ in all the scriptures, probably because I see me so vividly being carried by my friends to Jesus)! Jesus then says in verse 24, “Stand up, pick up your mat and go home!” What was broken was now healed, all because of an encounter with Jesus. Bring your friend to Him and encourage them every step of the way!

    And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe and wonder, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today!” – Luke 5:25-26

    I want this for all of us! But we have to be there -- up close -- to witness the miracle take place. Go love on your broken, wounded friend today, y’all. Bring the truth of God’s loving, merciful Word to her and show her where to go!

    Encourage one another and build each other up! --1 Thessalonians 5:11

    I could go on and on when it comes to friendship. But because I know you all have busy lives, I’ll save the rest of this for my next blog. We’ll be digging deeper into grace, so get excited.

    Praying this bracelet and scripture gift set is given as a tool for others (or yourself) to be reminded of how deeply loved, known and cherished we each are by our Heavenly Father. 

    EncouragHER

    Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, which can either spark exasperated sighs or total delight. Our culture stigmatizes it as a day for grand, romantic gestures and even higher expectations with your significant other. However, I have loved the rise in emphasis on friendship with your “Galentines” over the years, as the subject of friendship has become one of my very favorites, thanks to the steadfast, wise women God so generously put in my life during such a tumultuous time.

    Which is why I designed the EncouragHER bracelet. Do you see where I’m going with the name of this? I’m sure you had somewhat of an idea at first glance. Encourager of Her, a new take on friendship bracelets inspired by Ecclesiastes 4:

    “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 

    This kind of friendship isn’t light-hearted and doesn’t consist of Stepford-like encouragement; it’s not enabling or fake. Quite contrary, it is one that is down in the depths of depletion with a friend, who is so lost in their own personal darkness that they need to stand on your faith for a bit. In other words, this is the foundation of healthy relationships. I feel so passionately about this and about the Body of Christ rallying together to be the hands and feet of Jesus to one another in the midst of our messy and broken world. I can’t wait to dive into what the Lord has shown me over the last few years about friendship and love through this blog series and the introduction of the Encourage Her Bracelet and Gift Set.

    This bracelet was designed with you and your best friend/sister/mother/daughter in mind as a visual representation of a “cord of three strands” (you + your friend + God) and a reminder that we are not alone nor easily broken when we are deeply rooted in community, accountability, friendship and Biblical love!

    Do you remember the days of sending roses or chocolates to your classmates in high school? This is the Golden Thread spin on candy-grams this year, intentionally packaged with 15 watercolor scripture cards, bound together to be easy go-to’s in moments of need for truth-telling and promise-reassurance from our Heavenly Father. Dripping with love, identity, worth and words of life!

    Our culture tries to tell us that there are some people too far gone to help, but Scripture encourages us to unite together and fight darkness with light.

    “Above ALL else, love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.” -- 1 Peter 4:8

     Let’s dive in. 

    1) NOT EASILY BROKEN

    “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken." – Ecclesiastes 4:12

    A cord of “three strands” – meaning yourself, a friend and God!

     

    2) DELIGHTED IN

    “The Lord DELIGHTS in YOU!” –Isaiah 62:4

    God doesn’t delight in a better version of you. He delights in you, right now, in the flaws, through the mistakes and the screw-ups! I pray you believe AND receive this truth and run to Him today!

     

    3) GRACE UPON GRACE

    Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. –John 1:16 

    Grace is an act of obedience – it’s what we are called to so many times in Scripture – instead of becoming an obstacle of personal offense, you then gorgeously and fruitfully become a vessel or conduit for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in someone’s life through you:

    See also that you EXCEL in grace. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich. --2 Corinthians 8:7-9

    Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. -- Colossians 3:13

    Nothing is more stunning to me than the heart of God. The fact that He delights to show mercy (Micah 7:18) is something that I wish we were all more prone to do. 

    Extending grace is an act of obedience. He tell us to show grace just as we've been shown grace. Grace is what changes hearts and lives (hello, I've experience it time and time again). Romans 2 says that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance, not our own. He calls us to swallow the injustice, to grieve the sin, embrace the loss, see past the depravity and to focus on what the cross truly means!

    Showing grace makes a way for the Lord to come in and do His greatest work. Offense, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness are self-righteous mechanisms that in the end make us sick. They are rooted in pride and unbelief, a vast misunderstanding of the gospel, thus paving the road for the enemy's best work, which is to short change, isolate, divide and cause disunity (especially amongst fellow believers). 

    A grace response doesn’t just aid the other person’s soul; it benefits your soul as well. Obedience blessings are not just one sided! But help both parties involved. Followed by freedom, healing and His mighty wonder-working power. 

    Grace allows you to face your sin, to own it and not shift blame. Grace forces you to feel the pain of your regrets, but never asks you to pay for them, because the price has already been paid by Jesus. - Paul David Tripp 

    Theology that isn’t zealous to promote forgiving and transforming grace, the kind of grace that changes your life, is simply bad theology. – Paul David Tripp

     

    4) LOVE HAS NO END 

    His “love never fails!” – 1 Corinthians 13:8
    For great is His steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever! –Psalm 117:2 

    Jesus tells us at great length how love is the greatest of all commandments (check out Matthew 22 and John 13).

    ABOVE ALL ELSE, love each other deeply --1 Peter 4:8

    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. --1 Corinthians 13:2

    How could I love like the Father does every. single. day? We realize that we don't have it all, when we see that human love and forgiveness eventually come to an end, we give room for supernatural love and forgiveness to pick up and take it the rest of the way.

    We have to shift our minds from being self-reliant to being Spirit-reliant to gain access to His fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control). Let me tell ya, the fruit of the Spirit looks a whole lot different from the fruit of Jenn, yikes. 

    God never tells us to have it all together and resourceful enough for these good things-- it’s in our weaknesses that we get to fully experience His strength! His love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), but our's does...big time! But when it does, ask the Spirit to show up and give you what you could never give to yourself: the fruit of the Spirit! It is supernatural and creates in us a dependence to daily rely on Him (John 15).

    For “His love protects, His love hopes, His love heals, His love perseveres, His love endures forever and it never fails!” (1 Corinthians 13:6-8, Psalm 103, Romans 8, Jeremiah 31:3)

     

     5) A FRIEND LOVES AT ALL TIMES

    “A friend loves at ALL times!” –Proverbs 17:17

    The ministry of Jesus Christ was to reach and love those that were lost. He didn’t command us to be partial to the easy-to-love people or to love only when convenient. Instead He lived His life as an example of how to love unconditionally, sacrificially, and boldly. Maybe Jesus was trying to tell us something about those hurting people, the ones that screw up big time or the annoying ones who require a little extra grace? Maybe they are the ones who need love, compassion and tenderness the most. They need radical healing from The Healer – not behavior modification. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive! And if we have fully and truly experienced His underserved love in our own lives and radically receive (not just believe) this truth in our inmost beings (Psalm 51), we should be changed people!

    I personally didn’t realize what a terrible friend I was until I finally understood the fullness of the Gospel and my brokenness was brought to light and healed. A true friend recognizes their own depravity, truly knows they have been saved, spared and rescued too, and walks in that beautiful transforming truth with a radically changed heart by the grace of Jesus Christ. It’s the stunning cognizance that Christ died for you and me while we were still sinning and commands us as believers to love one another; just as He loved us (and that love is underserved, unjust, unfair, counter-culture and at times, baffling and difficult).

    “It’s because we have each received radical spiritual generosity that we can be radically generous with those in need!” -- Tim Keller

    Compassion lenses develop in place of judgmental, haughty eyes when we recognize the vast failings of our own sinful nature and shortcomings. We, too, needed to be bought on that cross and in the grave so that we might be healed, freed, changed and saved. None of us are beyond the scope of participating in heinous sins. If you think you are above that, then you have missed the whole point of the gospel and I pray you seek further understating and wisdom from Him who desires to give that to you!

    Let’s be women who walk hand-in-hand with our sisters through this process – who rally around brokenness, who lift our sister up when she needs it the most, and it be our greatest joy to show her grace! I promise what you will experience will bring you closer to the Lord and you will be a testifying witness to His miracles when you choose to be close to your hurting friends. I’d hate for you to miss that! Receive His grand and endless love for you today, so you can freely and joyously give it to others! 

    6) BUILD EACH OTHER UP

    “Encourage one another and build each other up!” –1 Thessalonians 5:11 

    Life is hard. We each need encouragement and words of life spoken over our circumstances and us. Community is a fabulous place to encounter the love of Jesus when you surround yourself with people who speak life into you! Lets be ladies who encourage one another towards the Truth, towards our one True identity and towards the magnificent purposes God has for each of our lives.

     

    7) JUST AS HE LOVED US

    This is my commandment, that you love one another JUST AS I have loved you.” –John 15:12 

    I pray desperately you’ve had that grace-receiving moment, not just a believing-one. And fully know in your being that these verses are ones we must obey, long to obey, delight to obey and for it be out pleasure to show grace and mercy…JUST AS we have been shown mercy.

     

    8) POWERFUL LOVE

    “Mightier than the waves of the sea is His love for YOU!” –Psalm 93:4

    Gosh, I know what it feels like to be an outcast – seemingly unloved and alone, but what encouraging truth to know that the God of the Universe has a love for me SO grand, so powerful, so overwhelming that it is mightier than the waves in the ocean!

     

    9) WITH GOD, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION

    “God is within her, she will not fail!” –Psalm 46:5

    If the Light of the World lives inside of you, then you, dear sister, are on the road to victory. No matter what is going on in your life, the good, bad or ugly, He is actively pursuing you, calling you to Himself through your circumstances and chasing you down! Because His love for you is so immense, so all encompassing and never-ending or changing, He is leading you into victorious, triumphant places. When you’re on the journey with Him, you cannot fail. Of course there may be moments of failure, but the end result will never be total failure. Just when things seem hopeless is when the Way-Maker makes a way for you!

    “No weapon formed against you shall stand” –Isaiah 54:17

    “He is for you, not against you” –Romans 8:31

    He is not careless with your story. His careful hand is in it all! He guards and keeps you on all sides—in every single detail of your past, present and future. He is a Good Father who loves you and wants good things for you, to give you a hope and a future. When you know the promises and truths God has for you and you receive them too, you will be a conqueror and an overcomer! 

    10) BE HUMBLE AND KIND

    “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love!” –Ephesians 4:32

    Humans cannot change humans. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can truly change someone. Because we are not God and do not know His plan at all times, I urge you to head the message in this verse: bear with one another. We don’t know the time or place God will call someone out of bondage, out of darkness, out of a struggle, but what we do know is that we can obey His word (because His ways are higher than ours!) and we can humbly surrender our ideas and thoughts on what might be best. Lay those down at the feet of Jesus and say, “I want to be a vessel of love in this person’s life, not one that stifles the process -- so that the Holy Spirit can show up and work through me.” Spiritual maturity is when you are called to something, you’re obedient and you surrender – not bearing the weight of the result. No. We are free. It’s all on Him. Loving and trusting Him in our willingness to wait!

     

    11) HOPE, FAITH, PATIENCE

    “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:12

    Full honesty: this one burns me at times, ha! I felt compelled to include it because it’s a hard one to swallow, but it’s powerful and needs to be at the forefront of our minds!

    We don’t know the Lord’s timing, therefore He longs for us to be patient. We can find great joy in the hope we find in Jesus Christ who is unchanging, who when things seem the most dead, we can lean on the fact that He is a resurrection-minded Father.

    As we wait, we reset in who He is, taking every thought captive, we dwell on what we know about our Father—He is loving, good, merciful, perfect, purpose-filled, sovereign, wise, unchanging, AND trustworthy. He always has redemption purposes in mind and phenomenal whole and healed plans for our lives — it’s through pain that we may fall and fail, but left standing with nothing, at the end of ourselves, at the end of our ropes, we draw near to the One the enemy tried to keep us from — our good, good wonder-working Father!

     

    12) WORTH 

    “Your worth is far above rubies!” –Proverbs 3:15 

    I can easily get caught up in believing my value is based on what I do or what I look like. And although I’ve learned to believe over the last few years that your value is based on who lives in and guides your heart, worth continues to require a whole lot of prayer and supplication on my end.

    We all struggle up against our identity, self-worth, self-love, etc. But keep this in mind: a crumpled up, ripped, marked on $20 bill is still worth $20. God is not pressuring us to have tidy faith (or story) in order to earn His love or acceptance. That is given freely!! And your worth FAR above rubies!!

     

    13) UNDENIABLE LOVE

    “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! They cannot be numbered; your thoughts for me outnumber the grains of sand!” –Psalm 139:17-18

    Imagine all of the things you think about from day to day (family, friends, work, what you’re going to eat next, etc) and multiply that times infinity. That’s how often He thinks of us each individually. And He thinks of us that many times in specific detail, remembering everything. You are seen, heard, deeply known, loved and understood. He thinks about YOU constantly – more than the grains of sand on our planet, says the Psalmist! Wow! Our human minds can’t even begin to comprehend that reality!

     

    14) IMMEASURABLY MORE

    “He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask, think or imagine!” –Ephesians 3:20

    This is one of my all time favorites!! I can get lost in my own sea of creativity, hopes and dreams, so the fact that God could do more for me than I could ever imagine gets me all kinds of excited. But we have to be willing to see how He does His thing in His own timing—that’s the kicker, BUT it will be better than we could ask, think dream or imagine! Yes, Lord!! I can’t wait!

     

    15) STRENGTH AND DIGNITY

    “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear at the future.” –Proverbs 31:25 

    I can’t stress how important it is to wake up every morning and put on the full armor of God so we can stand against the schemes of the enemy. We are up against a real enemy, but when we accept the clothing of “strength and dignity” (He gives us His strength, honor and dignity), we are able to look our anxieties and fears in the face and laugh. My prayer is that we remain alert, but that we walk in the freedom AND identity that is promised when the Spirit clothes us. 

    God has invited us to play an active role in His Kingdom by living in community, friendship and relationships. Sure, life gets super messy, but let’s not let that get in the way of witnessing the work He is doing around us. I definitely don’t want to miss what He is doing in a friend’s life simply because I can’t get over myself. The enemy is fully aware of the goodness of community – he knows that friendship is where the greatest treasure and power lie for defeating him and sin.

    As women, our sin so often stems from the lies we believe and give power to—lies of our identity, significance, shame, comparison, and unbelief. The enemy isn’t creative, but he’s crafty. He has grown up with us and knows exactly what to sink his teeth into to really lead us into temptation. But those lies only have as much power as we give them, and the same goes for the Truths God tells us. 

    I pray these bracelets and these scripture cards are used as tools to speak truth over yourself and others—proclaiming the Promises that never return void! 

    As this New Year kicks into full swing, I am thankful for new mercies and the fresh found hope we have in Him! God has so much purpose in our pain, struggles and hardships. Let Him heal you through those wounds and He will turn them in to strength to use in the lives of those around you. The path to freedom is through the wound, not around it. Remember: what was meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). Let grace break through that struggle and transform it into something beautiful! 

    “May mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.” –Jude 1:2

    Because Light wins every time, lead off today by encouraging that friend/neighbor/coworker/spouse/sister/cousin that needs it spoken into her life!!

     

    Praying you speak those words over yourself, too,