Women Living Redeemed 2022 Speakers –

Rebekah and I are so thrilled to have every single one of these amazing women joining us this year for the Women Living Redeemed conference! Our ‘theme’ this year is “living in light of the Gospel” and we hope you will see that reflected well throughout all of our presentations, no matter the topic.

With that said, here are our speakers and what they will be sharing on:

Amber Durgan Host and Speaker
Topic: Christian Eating Disorder Recovery

Amber Durgan is the wife of Lance and momma to two precious boys. They live in Montana “where the mountains meet the prairie” and absolutely love it there. This year she will be homeschooling both her boys, as well as running two online ministries. The first ministry, Cultivating Jewels (find her on Facebook and Instagram) is truly her hearts passion, where she shares all about Christian eating disorder recovery. The second, Abundant Family Culture (find her on Facebook, Instagram and soon a podcast) she shares in hopes to encourage mommas to be more intentional about their time as they ‘harken back’ to more natural and purposeful days. Amber has a love for reading, traveling, coffee and one-on-one conversations.

Rebekah Hargraves Host and Speaker
Topic: Mothering in Light of the Gospel

Rebekah Hargraves is a wife, homeschooling mama of two, blogger, podcaster, speaker, and author whose passion is to edify, equip, and encourage women in their journey of Biblical womanhood, particularly with an emphasis on the gospel and its implications for everyday life. Rebekah’s first book, “Lies Moms Believe (And How the Gospel Refutes Them)” released the fall of 2017, and the “Lies Moms Believe” Companion Bible Study came out March 30, 2018. You can find Rebekah on her website, Hargraves Home and Hearth, on Instagram, or on iTunes via The Home and Hearth podcast.

Mariel Davenport Speaker
Topic: TEND Your Soul

As an atheist transformed by the Word of God, Mariel Davenport knows the power of seeking God through His Word. She is passionate about equipping others to tend their soul by the Word through her TEND method, via Scripture journals, her weekly podcast, membership community, and virtual Tend Gatherings. A teacher and writer at heart, Mariel’s work has been featured by sites such as Proverbs 31 ministries, Rachael K Adams, Living by Design and a regular contributor to Candidly Christian. She is reaching ladies of all ages and denominations with the joy of knowing God through His Word for themselves. Married for nearly 25 years and a retired homeschool mama of two grown sons, Mariel enjoys salsa from her garden as she pursues the Gardener who tends her soul. You are invited to cultivate intimacy with Jesus with her free booklet, Tools for Tending your Soul found on her website at marieldavenport.com.

Anne Markey Speaker
Topic: Trusting the Lord to Turn Your Past Struggles into Building Blocks of Faith

My name is Anne Markey from one determined life. I’m a Christian Speaker and author who has worked with multiple churches to grow their women’s ministries and helped hundreds of women grow in their walk with God. I help Christian women save time and keep focused during bible study. I guide them through a simple 4 step framework that helps them understand what they are reading in the bible so they can apply it to their, and grow in their faith without feeling overwhelmed.
You can find me online at www.onedeterminedlife.com, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Jennifer Elwood Speaker
Topic: Finding Rest as Redeemed Women in Christ

Jennifer Elwood resides in Yakima, Washington and hosts the Refuge Podcast and Bible Study
Community where women cultivate their faith in the shelter of God’s Word. She’s a travel
fanatic, coffee addict, and enjoys nerding out on Biblical context when studying the Bible. Going
to Israel for the first time in 2015 sparked her desire to write and she has not stopped since. She’s
author of Counting Up to Christmas: Twenty-Four Gifts from the Gospel of Luke and an
upcoming Cookbook Companion. Stay up to date with her at http://www.jenniferelwood.com and
@jenniferelwoodauthor on Facebook and Instagram.

Jennier DeFrates Speaker
Topic: Building a Bible-Based Foundation for our Faith

Jennifer DeFrates is a blogger, author, homeschool mom, and Gold Star Wife who continues to be connected to military wives and families. Jennifer helps women build a firm foundation in Christ as women, wives, and mothers by encouraging them to be excited about their Bible reading and embracing a deeper relationship with God. She is also passionate about Apologetics and inspiring women to learn why we have good reasons for what we believe so that we can spread the love of Jesus. Jennifer has contributed to two devotionals – Heart Renovation: A Construction Guide to Godly Character and The Power to Make a Difference: Strategies, Insights, and Encouragement in Forty Short Bible Studies, and can be found at her main website Heaven not Harvard and new website theMamapologist, along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Robbi Bittle Speaker
Topic: Homemaking in Light of the Gospel

Robbi Bittle is a Christ-following wife and homeschool mom of five blessings. She is passionate about Titus 2 ministry focusing on homemaking and natural living. She and her family have recently moved into their dream home in a small town in Virginia. She is enjoying making their new house a home that will provide a place for ministry to their neighborhood and church family. She has guest authored for various blogs and spoken at women’s conferences in addition to writing on her own blog. You can find her at her blog (https://www.timelessmamablog.com), on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/timelessmamablog), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/timelessmamablog), and Pinterest (https://pinterest.com/mrsbittle). 

Rebekah Thompson Speaker
Topic: Bringing the Gospel to our Schedule

Rebekah Thompson is a wife and mother of five boys. She and her family live in the woods of Michigan. Homeschooling and home keeping take up most of her time, but she is also a certified birth doula and loves supporting her clients during pregnancy, labor, and the first weeks postpartum, and also shares her love of piano with a handful of students. All of these things mentioned, plus adding her youngest son after a gap of 4 years, mean that she is relearning just how much grace and the gospel benefit us as we look at our schedule. She writes at survivingtoddlerhood.com and is hoping to relaunch the site sometime in the next year. 

Joanna Cranston MD Speaker
Topic: Hand Lettering: A Creative Way to Meditate on Truth

Joanna Cranston, MD is a surgeon-turned-artist, blogger, and mom of three who lives in Tennessee. 
She is the founder of Words of Hope Designs, where she creates hand lettered art with messages of hope. She is a Veteran of the United States Army and a survivor of domestic violence.  She loves Jesus, thunderstorms, coffee, and dark chocolate. www.wordsofhopedesigns.com www.instagram.com/wordsofhopedesigns

Lahni Jones Speaker
Topic: Intuitive Eating

Lahni Jones is a seeker of The Way—the person of Jesus Christ. She is a multi-passioned woman who is on a journey of learning and understanding what it means to “number her days” on her pilgrimage towards that which is imperishable. She and her husband are Kentucky natives—now raising their own children in a small rural Hallmark-esque town in the Bluegrass state they’ve known and loved all of their days. Lahni enjoys reading, Pilates and lifting weights, espresso (always over ice), sunshine and flowers, and learning to steward beauty in her home and world. She enjoys studying church history and theology and having deep conversations with friends and family. She is passionate about intuitive eating and what it means to honor and nourish the bodies God has given us. Above all else, she is passionate about taking small steps of obedience towards intentionality in her life and home and stewarding well the grace she has been given by sharing it with those around her.

Laura Anslow Speaker
Topic: The Sweet Surrender

Laura is a wife of 24 yrs to her handsome Husband and Mumma to 4 beautiful children. She loves family movie nights, quiet early mornings and coffee. High on her list of priorities is reading, writing and speaking about the truth and love of God. Laura is passionate about her relationship with Jesus. She is constantly in awe of the power of God’s Word and the revelation of His truth to bring freedom and wholeness to our lives. Her heart is to encourage women, and she loves coaching them to walk in the fullness of life that Jesus promises.

Heidi Williams Speaker
Topic: Handling Hardship When Crisis Hits

Heidi Williams is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Love and SONshine Ministries-a non-profit organization dedicated to providing safe housing for some of our most vulnerable-pregnant teens, teenage moms, and their babies. In her spare time, she volunteers at her church as a counselor, focusing primarily on the needs of women. Additionally, she is a writer and speaker, often helping out in woman’s ministry at her church. Heidi enjoys spending time with her husband, Roger and their five grown children. She is joyously anticipating the birth of her first two grandchildren. She loves the outdoors and spending time admiring God’s creation. Heidi holds a Master’s degree in Human Services Counseling from Liberty University and is currently working on becoming certified as a biblical counselor.

Brittany Pennel Speaker
Topic: Choosing Intentionality in Lieu of Worldly Success

Brittany Pennel was born and raised in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Brittany is a wife and a mama to five kids residing in the countryside of Oskaloosa, KS.  Brittany considers her faith and family to be the most important to her. If she isn’t spending time with her friends and family, you can almost always find her around their farm. The Adventures of Tink: Lost & Found is Brittany’s first children’s book.
She has a heart for writing, love for family, farm life and the joy of uplifting and encouraging others. 
Brittany and her family have been farming in Oskaloosa, KS for 9 years and spend every moment that they can outdoors; gardening, caring for animals, camping, reading at bedtime together and going on nature walks. Her heart for kindling togetherness in families is evident in the life that she leads.

Bella Easterbrook Speaker
Topic: God’s Character in the Gospel

Bella Easterbrook lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband Daniel, their two little boys and another one on the way. In her online ministry Over the Teacups, she encourages women to further know and love God’s word. Bella is also passionate about finding Jesus in the pages of the Old Testament. In 2021, Bella wrote a devotional booklet called A Holy History which looks at how Jesus fulfils Old Testament promises. She also has a podcast which launched this year. You can find Bella at the Over the Teacups blog, Instagram or the Over the Teacups podcast.

Courtney Chambers Speaker
Topic: Glorifying Christ Within Your Local Church

Courtney Chambers is a pastor’s wife and mom of three living in northeast Missouri. She loves to teach and write all for the purpose of glorifying Christ. After serving alongside her husband in church planting and local church ministry she has a heart for others to find the beauty and need for the local church body. In her free time she loves reading, baking, and jumping on the trampoline with her kids. You can find her on Instagram at Courtneyrchambers. You also can read her writing on her and her husband’s blog, The Reformed Life. 

Ifeoma Samuel Speaker
Topic: Living the light of the Gospel in the Midst of Uncertainty

Dr Ifeoma Samuel is your down-to-earth Bible Study writer and speaker who is passionate about teaching and helping women find true joy in everyday life. Dr Samuel enjoys encouraging women to go deeper in search of God’s truth for their lives through many conferences, books, videos and articles scattered all over the web she is sharing her stories of inspiration and faith. She has a keen interest in childhood education and youth development and is happy to serve as a teacher and mentor. Dr Samuel is happily married to Obiora and together they are blessed with a daughter. You can find her Bible Study and Devotional books for women and resources for children on her blog Purposeful and Meaningful.com

A story of Shalom –

It’s been a week.

A week ago today, I went to the OB with every confidence in the world that I would see my sweet little babe nestled inside my womb, their heartbeat steady. Just two days prior I had been in to be seen for some spotting and while it took her a bit to find the embryo, we saw it. We saw that tiny heart beating. I was reassured and sent home with the words “keep doing what you are doing…things look optimistic”.

Early pregnancy is never easy. There is always that question if this one will be the one we bring home from the hospital. If this one will survive those first twelve weeks when everything is a gamble. They say miscarriage accounts for 12 percent of all viable pregnancies. For me, that percent rises to sixty. Of all five of my pregnancies, three of them have been lost before or right at nine weeks gestation.

Last Wednesday’s appointment was on a newer machine, with a well trained ultrasound technician. We made small talk of whether I was trying for boy three, as I waited with baited breath praying she would find the baby and that all would be well. She searched my uterus and came up empty. I lay there claiming life over this precious baby, claiming that it would be right where it needed to be (and just harder to find because babies at that age are tiny and often can hide).That’s when we saw it

Hope was there flicking away …

Baby had for whatever reason implanted not in my uterus but in my Fallopian tube. I had ovulated on my left side and somehow the egg crossed over to my right, because there the baby with that beautiful strong heartbeat was nestled.

Ectopic pregnancy is different than a miscarriage in that they pose a threat to both the mother and the baby. The baby doesn’t have a way out. Should it continue to grow, the fallopian tube will burst causing internal bleeding for the mother, which very likely would lead to her death. These pregnancies are rare, accounting for 10% of all viable pregnancies.

I am one in ten.

Phone calls were made. Covid tests taken. Surgery scheduled for the next morning.

I sat on my dear friends porch that evening stunned. Wondering why Lance and I were suddenly placed on this journey. We had already walked a long road of 11 months to get to where we were. Our first four babies were conceived the first try. Enter covid. My body no longer ovulates on it’s own and we struggled for eleven months to receive the sweet news that a wee one was on its way.

Why God…I don’t understand

We left the house at 6:15 the next morning in order that I may get to the surgeons office by 6:30. I changed into a robe that reveals all, answered approximately 252 questions and signed my life away (..the wager is still out whether buying a house or having surgery causes more paper work). A second doctor had to be brought in, because my OB who has been in practice for years and knows her stuff had never seen an ectopic like this one, leave it to me…

Turns out baby was right at the end of my tube and if it had only waited a little longer to implant our story would have been different. That sweet, steady heartbeat would have still been flicking away and hope wouldn’t have been lost.

Instead God had a different plan. A plan that might cause me to never be able to have another biological baby again. Yes, women go on to have healthy pregnancies after ectopics but with my cocktail of issues surrounding pregnancy the question hangs in the air.

Recovery has been hard. No one tells you, to expect basically a miscarriage (your uterus prepared for pregnancy and therefore has to expel its lining) after your surgery. It’s taken me a week to be able to move properly, and still I can’t do too much before I am exhausted and rendered to the couch to gain my strength back.

Shout out to Lance and our boys! Truly. These three men of mine have been amazing. The boys world turned on it’s side this last week and yet they have persevered. Matthew, my sweet Matthew who wants to be a big brother again so badly, who loves babies and has the most tender way about him. Whose watched all of mommies friends get pregnant this last year and wondered when it will be our turn. His sweet little soul. If not for any other reason, I am praying the Lord will bless our womb in months to come because that boy he is precious and “deserving”. Then there is Zachy. I am not sure his four year old little mind can really wrap around what is happening other than mommy has been sick. He doesn’t understand the ins and outs of life and death but he does know that when mommy looks sad coming up to me and smiling with all he is worth makes things alright again, if only for a little bit.

What a blessing these two sweet boys are to my momma heart in the midst of my grief.

And their daddy. If only everyone could have a husband so selfless and amazing as my man. He’s far from perfect (we all are…) we have our iron sharpening iron moments of marriage but the truth is that he is my very best friend and favorite human. He is a saint. I am so thankful for the tender mercies of the Lord and the way He provided me a man who goes above and beyond.

And then the friends and loved ones. When going through darkness, through the fire it becomes pretty obvious who your people are. Sadly, the opposite also rings true, there have been people who have caused further hurt in this time, but my focus today is on those who have poured life-giving water, quenching my souls thirst. We are so grateful for the ways the Church body has come together to bless us this last week. Thank you doesn’t seem adequate enough when such amazing people surround you and hold up your arms, but truly from the bottom of our hearts thank you.

Shalom, the sweet baby I long to hold, the baby who joined their two siblings in heaven a week ago tomorrow, a baby named for the opposite of what this roller coaster of a journey has been. I love you with all that I am. You are precious and momma’s heart takes courage and joy in the fact that when you first opened your eyes it was the face of Jesus you beheld. I have a hope that angels escorted you to heaven, just like Aunt Lahni prayed.

I don’t know what the next steps entail. I will be taking the next five months (the rest of 2022) to focus on my health. To focus on nourishing my body with healing foods and supplements and then if God gives us the green light in 2023 we will try again. The possibility of not ever being able to carry to full term is very real. It’s sobering to think about.

But what is more real and true than that is my God.

Even if…come what may…

God. He has a story for my family, He isn’t done with us yet.

Soli Deo Gloria

When Friendship Hurts –

I talk a lot about the concept of friendship, because it is such a beautiful blessing given to us from the Lord. Having friends to walk through life with proves to be a gift no matter how old we are or what season of life we find ourselves in.

In 2020 I wrote a book on friendship, not because I had the concept figured out (still don’t) but because when friendship is good, it is really good, it is life giving.

There are times though, that friendship isn’t “good” times, that it is hard. Even with those we walk closest with in this life, there will be times we taste the fruit of brokenness in our relationships.

What are we to do then when friendship hurts?

Communication – As with all relationships in our life, communication is key. If you are someone such as myself who finds pulling teeth to be easier than confrontation, take heart. Before even speaking to your friend, my advice would be to pray. Intentionally set time apart to pray for your friend and the Lord’s heart for your friendship. Walk by the Spirit and wait on the Lord’s lead to approach your friend. The Lord very likely will be working in your friends heart during this time you are setting aside to pray, perhaps without either one of you really even knowing it.

Not every friendship is meant to last forever, many are seasonal, but truly length of days is in the Lord’s hand. If you are meant to part ways, He will let you know.

When it does come time to speak with your friend remember that we fight against the enemy and not flesh and blood. Satan’s plan is to kill, steal and destroy and that includes our friendships. Especially, Christian friendships. Seek to position yourself against the problem rather than your friend.

Attacking your friend or trying to even the playing field “tit for tat” is childish and only plays into the enemies hand.

Keep your words kind, be clear in what your needs are, where your hurt is coming from and what you need to change or work through. Giving clear direction will help your friend to understand what you are asking of them and therefore allow them room to improve.

Be quick to listen – This is where humility comes into play. We have to be willing to listen to our friend, through a heart that’s truly seeking to understand. James tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.

James 1:19 –  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

Be willing to ask for forgiveness if your friend brings up hurts you have caused, be willing to improve upon personal behaviors that may be a cause for friction.

Our goal in any sort of conflict should be that we are able to stand before the Lord at the end of our lives with “clean hands” and a pure heart.

It can be really easy to point a finger, but when we do so we must remember we have 3 pointing back at us. Again, we must fight against the issue rather than fellow Image Bearers.

Make sure you are reading the situation correctly – How easy is it for us to automatically get all up in our feelings when we feel we have been slighted by a friend? This is the enemy working to separate and destroy our bonds.

Each of our viewpoints are going to be slightly different and again this is why communicating is so important. A few years ago, my friend had told me about a really neat project she was to be working on in her ministry. I was super excited for her – until she announced she would be partnering with someone else. I didn’t understand why a friend as close as I thought this person was would choose to work on something with someone else.

This friend didn’t do this to hurt me (we were and still are very close) she had chosen to work with someone who had a skillset I did not have to accomplish her goal. I could have completely written her off and been jealous that she didn’t choose me, or I could (and did) go to said friend and explain my ‘hurt’ to see if there was a better explanation than what I was coming up with, and in this case there was.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of communication.

Refuse to gossip – It is really easy, especially for us females, to want to go tell our best friend (or husband, or mom) all about the conflict we are having (and usually why we are the one who is correct). This will only, ever go to adding kindle to the fire. Be someone who refuses to gossip.

If you should need to bring a third party into the situation, do so in a way that keeps your friends best interest at heart. Talk to someone you trust, someone who is wise and can help you negotiate but who will not take sides or cause the problem to become worse.

Friendship is not always easy, but when we learn to navigate through the hard times, we will find that our friendships are made all the stronger because of them.

My encouragement would be to do everything in your power to redeem your friendship from the grip of hurt and go on to build it into the beautiful gift it was before and can still be.

We serve a God who makes beauty from ashes!

Thoughts on Friendship –

In Friendship Matters the book I co-authored with my best friend, Rebekah Hargraves, I wrote of the importance of sharing your story. When I wrote this section my thought wasn’t of the “me culture” we find splashed all over social media. It is really easy to get on Facebook or Instagram and write “Friday Introduction” type posts. We crave attention, we want people to know who we truly are.

Can I suggest though, that this is likely not going to happen behind a screen? Oh, we would like for it to. It’s easy to get behind a screen and shout to the world who we really are because the screen gives us some form of anonymity. We don’t have to face a “real person” and share. Hi my name is Amber and I am…. is a lot easier to type than it is to be vulnerable and share in person.

It’s the culture we live in, this locking ourselves away by staying too busy to cultivate friendship. All of us want to be known, but many are not willing to do what it takes to truly be known. We would like to have our cake and eat it too please.

Some of us have been previously burned from an in person friendship and it became easier to place intimacy on the back burner and move on with our lives. Who wants friends between the ache of friendship drama and friendships breaking up?

True friendship is a gift. If I did not believe it to be so I would not have written a book on the subject. I have walked through many different friendships, some which I thought for sure would break me when they ended and others which are so strong I thank the Lord daily for His grace in blessing my life with that particular friend. These friends who are more like family.

I think its easy to point fingers. We don’t want to be friends with that person because of xyz-reason. How often though, do we slow down to really consider what is happening inside of our own hearts? Do we take the time to seek the Lord and ask for His wisdom and guidance in our own self being a good friend to those in our lives?

Friendship takes grit. It takes being willing to open up your heart and risk the potential of being hurt. It takes showing up and being willing even when it isn’t convenient for you. I love the C.S. Lewis quote “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What? You too? I thought I was the only one!”.”

One of my very favorite ways of growing friendship is fellowshipping over a meal or coffee. Jesus broke bread with His disciples and I think there is something so special about coming together and sharing our hearts while we feast. Taste and see that the Lord is good the Psalmist says, taste and see that the gifts He provides us (friendship in this case) are good.

Not every friend you have in your life do you need to share a “ride or die” relationship with. In fact I can count on one hand the number of ladies in my life who I share this type of bond with. I think we can sometimes get lost in building friendships, thinking we have to be closer than close simply because we are in relationship with someone.

But friend, that’s truly not the case. It’s really not even the point. Yes those friendships are precious and yes there is a place for them, but again 95% of your friendships are not going to be that deep. Still, cherish the people God has placed in your life. Make it your mission to get to know them and to love them well. Be the person they can trust to bring a smile to their face on a hard day, the person they know will pray for them should they ask. Have fun, laugh together, be adventurous, make time to be together.
And when those once in a lifetime friendships those best friendships are granted to you, thank the Lord for them.

Get out there and share your story. Love people like Jesus would have you. Build friendship and connection, people are in desperate need.

“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends on how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends on how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.” – Shel Silverstein

The Gift of Suffering

Perhaps this is not the most cheery post to end the year with, but I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to wrap up 2021 than to share with you all the Lord has taught me this year through the gift of hardship. No one signs up for suffering, or walks into a year thinking it be best that their overall experience would be lessons learned through trial, it’s just not a human response to want anything but the good and easy. Before this year, I didn’t understand just how closely joy and suffering are related, closer than two opposite sides of the same coin. It’s as if they are wrapped in the same package, a package only a Divine, All Knowing God could have ever created.

selective focus photography of woman holding yellow petaled flowers

It’s so easy for us humans to conjure up a picture of perfection in our minds eye. We walk into a new year, knowing exactly how we want it to look never slowing down to ponder whether or not that is God’s plan for our time. Thankfully, our all knowing God isn’t confined to working through only what we would call good. He understands that our wayward human heart’s often need suffering to see just how Holy and magnificent He truly is.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not for a moment think of God as some cruel taskmaster with His arms crossed as He glares down into the expanse that is the earth and throws times of hardship into all of our lives. Satan would love nothing more for you to believe that, that you may then turn from Christ, but friend, it simply is not the case.

We are promised abundance from the hand of God, but that abundance does not always mirror the prosperity we have come to think of it as. Sometimes, the most beautiful gift God can give us is to walk through the fire with us. To refine us with the flame. Be assured, if you are walking through a hard season right now, the Lord does not leave us in the fire alone and He will not leave us in the fire a second longer than it takes to burn the chaff away.

Hardship opens our eyes to His glory. To knowing without a shadow of a doubt where Holy Goodness comes from. Not to us, but to His name be the glory. Our wildest imagination of how our lives ought to play out cannot even hold a candle to His dreams for us. We must let go of this idea of only good in our lives. Yes, the Lord’s heart for us is good, and Yes He is the father who delights in giving us good things but once again, this abundance is not prosperity.

Suffering opens our eyes to mercy. As we understand on a deeper level what it meant for the Lord to take on our sin and disgrace. He took our place. That ugly cross He died on, the grave He was buried in, the way the Father turned His face from Him … those things should have been our fate. But in a way only God could do, He created good from them. Jesus beat death once and for all and while that doesn’t mean we will be spared the bitter taste of trouble in this life, it does mean we know how it all ends. To be absent from this life is to be present with Christ.

We are, through trial, brought closer to joy. Joy in the person of Christ. If it weren’t for the moments that drive us to our knees we wouldn’t know the beauty of delight. Both are a gift. Suffering and joy, used to draw us deeper into relationship with our Lord.

If we have to walk through fire to better know the heart of God, it is a gift is it not? If we have to stand in the fire to allow it to burn the chaff of our sinful nature away, we should embrace the time God places us there.

Suffering and joy are a gift packaged in the same box. Embrace both this coming year, know that God only, ever, always has the best intentions for His childlen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Lessons Learned on the Mountain –

Earlier this week I shared a post I had written in 2017 regarding lessons I had learned while in the valley seasons of life. This is a similar post, again written in 2017, of lessons I have learned while on “the mountain top”. We all have ups and downs (valleys and mountains) in our lives, and I think its a good and holy thing that we learn from them.

The mountain is where we all want to live. While no one readily signs up for time spent in the valley, people clamor for more time on the mountain. It is where we feel whole and believe that everything in our life is right. These two places, the mountain and the valley, form the stark contrasts of our lives – one up, the other down, one easy, the other hard, one where we desire to be the other we do our best to avoid. But reader, both of them teach us invaluable lessons and God uses both of them to form us into the people He has created us to be.

As a recap the lessons we picked up in the valley were: that God is Holy and All Knowing, there is still joy to be found, God is not finished with any of us and that through these times God gives us a love for Him we would not otherwise have known. We can actually say the very same about time spent on the mountain; God is Holy and All Knowing and there is joy to be found no matter where He currently has us in this life (because we are truly always in the palm of His hand and what better place to be?). The mountain is not the end-all be-all of life. We will eventually trek back down (God continues to work on us) and it is through all of these experiences in our lives that our love for God is grown. God is truly the God of the hills and valleys.

Before we dive into the lessons I have learned, I wanted to share an observation I have made. Many of us are prone to “forgetting: God in the good times of life. As if we had something to do with making the good happen, we don’t cling to God as we would in a valley. When life is going well we may not spend as much time in the Word or in prayer. We may lose our thirst for the things of God. Friend, this should not be so. Let us purpose to live every moment – mountain, valley or in between – for the glory of God.

November 11 051

One of the most important lessons from the mountain seasons of my life has been to stay grounded. No one is going to be on the mountain forever. It is important to keep a view of the ground below. This isn’t to sound pessimistic; please rejoice mightily in Gods blessings! He wants to bless us. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing”. God wants good for us. But I believe He also wants us to be grounded and practical about our mountain top experiences, so that when He changes the terrain in our lives we are still steadfast followers. Praise God for the mountain tops in your life, for sure! But don’t become so blinded by the mountain you forget the fertile soil below.

I have learned to pray differently because of the mountains in my life. Everyone prays for blessings to come to them – this is not wrong, remember God longs to bless His children. What is wrong however is seeing the mountains as the only blessings God gives. Blessings are to be had all along our life path, not only on the peaks. Count your blessings! There are beautiful surroundings on the mountain and just as beautiful in the valley.

Be open to what God wants to accomplish through you and how He chooses to grow you. Isaiah 64:8 “But not oh Lord, thou art our father, we are the clay, and thou art our potter and we all are the work of they hand”. I have learned to share what God is doing in my life. Truly this is a lesson that could fall under both the valley and the mountain. I feel that often times this is the only time we share Gods work with others; when we like what He is doing and we are happy. Not everyone journeys to the mountain at the same time, so while these moments in our life can encourage others, let us remember to be careful how we share them. Do so in love. If someone for instance has just gotten laid off, it probably is not the best time to come to them with the news you’ve landed your dream job. And please, also take time to share what God is doing in your life through the valleys. Fellowship and the ability to learn and grow with and from others is such an important aspect of our Christian walk.

I hope that through these two posts you were able to understand that God really is Holy and all Knowing. His timing is perfect and He so intimately cares for each one of us. He had our life journey planned out before He hung the stars in place. Bloom where you are planted – rejoice in the moment and truly live abundantly.

Lessons Learned in the Valley –

Hello there! I pray that this post finds you well and that you had a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our country with your loved ones! Today, I am sharing a post I wrote some time ago (2017) in hopes that it will be an encouragement to you!

When I imagine a valley I see lush green meadows, fertile soil, babbling brooks, grass blowing in the breeze and mountain views. I think of the beauty God created and am in awe. Not only did He create majestic mountains but also peaceful valleys and they come together to form our earthly home. Though very different, both are beautiful and needed for our world to thrive. God created both for our enjoyment. Similarly, life has it’s high and low spots, and we’re intended to experience both. We can easily get the notion that joy is only experienced when life is lived on the mountain top with no view of the valley. We all desire a life free of pain; we don’t find ourselves praying for hard times. If we are not wise with our time spent in the valleys we might wonder why they even exist. God is intimately involved in all of our lives and cares very much about the paths He leads us down. There is a purpose behind every painful moment as He uses the trials in our live to refine us. If we are receptive, we’ll gain wisdom through our time spent in the valley.


I am not much different from you, dear reader. I did not ask for the times of trial in my life, but like all of us I find myself in them from time to time. Sometimes we know hardship will come; other times it sneaks up on us and we are suddenly thrust into the unexpected. Regardless of our awareness, it is up to us how we will respond during adversity. God has graciously used such instances in my life to grant me wisdom I would otherwise never have gleaned. God gives us wisdom, if only we will be prudent enough to ask for it. I don’t want to squander moments in the valley where there are lessons to be learned; there may be opportunities that have no other way of presenting themselves.

Our Christian walk is built on lessons God teaches us. If we are not learning we are not living. I believe this is true no matter what spiritual terrain we walk (mountain or valley). 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” One of the ways we can live this command out is by being open to the lessons God chooses to bring into our life. Today I have chosen a few of the lessons God has taught me through the valleys in my life to share with you.

God is Holy and All Knowing. He doesn’t just throw us into the fire to watch us burn. I really cannot say this enough, there is a purpose for the pain. Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things together for those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose.” All things, not just the mountain but also the valley. I have learned to not question God when walking through these times. The “why” question didn’t used to be far from my lips but now through the grace of God, I have turned my complaining into praise – not because I enjoy hardship – who does? – but because I know God is accomplishing His purposes through me. On this side of heaven, it is easy to question God because we only see a piece of the puzzle; we have to remember that God has the whole puzzle in His hands and He lovingly puts into our life whatever piece fits best.

I have learned there is a certain type of joy even in the valleys. A common trap we can fall into is walking through a hard season and losing sight of the joy and beauty that are omnipresent. I think of when David wrote the 23rd Psalm. He was facing death (verse 4- “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”) and yet this psalm shouts God praises. That very same verse goes on to tell us that God was with David He did not leave Him to walk through that valley on his own strength. Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts is quoted as saying “the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” God will never abandon us and therefore there is always joy. While the thing that is causing you pain hurts and is not joyful, God knows that and grieves with you. There are joyful moments in the midst of our pain and when we block out the pain we end up blocking out the beauty. I have learned that all my days are beautiful, blessed days. Not because my life is perfect -oh dear reader, I have been broken – but because I choose to see Gods fingerprints.

I have learned that God is not finished with me… or any of us. How often do we experience something painful and pray that our feet will never touch the valley floor again? We forget that the soil is often most fertile here, that God is cultivating our hearts there in the midst of the valley. We will not be ‘finished’ until we are in heaven and knowing that, there is the guarantee that life will present us with more time in the valley. We praise, because we trust God. We know that He is preparing a place for us so that when we are finished with this life, “the God of all grace who has called you into His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10).

Finally, I have learned a love for God I would have not otherwise known if I had not endured the refining fire. He has broken me to fill me with His glory. Much like the Japanese custom of filling broken lines of pottery with gold. We are sinful creatures who cannot stand before a Holy God. I can only turn around and offer praise that God would bring me through the fire to draw me to His side.

So dear reader, can I encourage you, next time God places your feet on the valley floor. Stop and look around a little. Take time to breathe in God’s glory and know that He is there with you, and that there is wisdom He has for you to collect even there.

Do You Believe? A Guest Post by Lahni Jones

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I can only imagine the thrill of hope and comfort that must have rushed through Martha’s heart as she was asked those four words by Jesus himself—“Do you believe this?”. Her brother Lazarus had just died and in the midst of her sorrow and anguish she said to Jesus, “Yes, Lord; I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, and He who comes into the world” (John 11:27).

Martha’s faith was evident, but it was not without distraction. As we see later in this story, right before Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, he says “Remove the stone” (v. 39). Martha seems to respond to Jesus hesitantly when she says, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” (v. 39). There’s a hint of doubt that has clouded Martha’s faith. Jesus quickly responds to her by saying, Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v.40). Martha’s faith did not rest in her human effort to believe perfectly or her ability to believe without doubt—it rested in Jesus Christ who was faithful to remind her of what he had already told her before.

In this account of Lazarus being raised from the dead, we observe a pre crucifixion/resurrection world and reality. Martha didn’t have the whole story just yet. She couldn’t fully understand the weight of what Jesus had so faithfully reminded her of, “ I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die”. In fact, on the timeline of history when we observe the events that would lead up to the crucifixion of Christ and a post resurrection world,, it was this very miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead that would immediately lead to the conspiracy of killing Jesus. Interestingly, many scholars believe that this is why “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. It is plausible to believe that he was not weeping because of the death of Lazarus, for he knew that Lazarus would be raised from the dead. Rather, it is believed that the reason he wept was because he knew this was the miracle and event that that would lead to the conspiracy of his killing and the eventual moment in Luke 22:42-44 where Jesus would be sweating in agony pleading with the Father “to remove this cup from me”. Praise be to God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ for the immeasurable sacrifice he made for us on that cross. 

Everlasting Life—a promise that rests in the work and person of Jesus Christ. A promise that remains secure in “I am”. Do we believe this? 

As believers who are living in a post resurrection world, we have been assigned to live in the shadow of the cross. We may not have the person of Jesus in the flesh reminding us of eternal life like we see in Martha’s story, but we have the benefit of believing in the finished work of Christ on the cross—his life, death, burial, resurrection, and his coming again! 

As we carry on, each on our own journeys, striving to walk in the good works he has set out for us to do, let us remember that he has rescued us from this present evil age. 

The cross reminds us of his burial. The burial reminds us of the empty tomb. The empty tomb reminds us of his going away. Let his going away remind us if His coming again!

Share below—I’d love to hear! How are you living in the shadow of the cross? In what ways is the Spirit strengthening your faith?

Lahni Jones is the wife to her high school sweetheart and mother of two little ones. She and her husband are raising their kiddos in an old Victorian-esque house nestled in a small rural town. She spends her days chasing her 3 year old son and putting pig tails in her 1 year olds curly red hair. She loves tea and coffee and is an “old soul”, relishing the small and simple moments of life. She enjoys reading books and writing. Most importantly, she is a believer of Jesus Christ and loves studying His word, growing, and learning in Him.

Live Your Best Life

My husband and I like to drive around town looking at houses and conversing about what we like and dislike about them. This is a habit that we have kept even now that we have a home to call our own. While Lance and I are different in a lot of ways our tastes for houses is actually fairly similar. We like space, trees, front porches and cupolas. We appreciate when people work at keeping their places clean and well manicured and we always enjoy finding fun things such as a lawn ornament or a pretty flower arrangement that set homes apart. What Lance and I notice just about every time we go on a drive to look at houses is if they are unique or cookie cutter from the others around. We will never live in a home owners association, to each their own, but it is totally not our jam. We want to be able to do what we want with our property and not have our home look exactly like all the others on the block.

Much like houses I think we as people, (perhaps women especially) get caught up in this desire to be similar in an effort to not rock the boat by standing out. If we follow status quo as closely as possible we will fit in and make friends. We wont experience the bitterness of rejection and more or less life will be predictable and safe.

Psalm 139:14-16 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:14 tells us that we are wonderfully and fearfully made. Ladies that’s enough to tell us that we are not meant to be carbon copies. God created us, knit us together in our mothers womb, to be set apart and unique. To not be like our best friend or our sister or -insert whoever you may try to be like-. Amber was created to be Amber with all her imperfections and quirks and you were created to be you with your own set of imperfections and quirks. I write this post today with last Sunday, a day celebrating the sanctity of life, still fresh in my mind. Life is precious and beautiful, it is meant to be lived wholly and uniquely. God created you to be the woman He needed to fulfill His purposes in and around your life.

There is another side of this issue, which actually gave me the idea to write this post. We may realize we are unique and readily agree with the above verses found in Psalm 139, but at the same time we question if there is room to be heard because everyone else has already added their voice. For instance, in the ministry world in which I belong, people hold themselves back from reaching their full potential under the false belief that the world does not need another mommy blog or another prayer guide. I don’t know that it is as common but I am sure this happens in the business world as well. Why go into xyz career when there are already so many people doing the same?

I want to challenge and encourage you to put those lies of the enemy away. One of Satan’s biggest ways of stopping Christians in their tracks is to make them feel useless, as if they cannot add value to something because “so many others” already are … oh and look…they do a much better job of it. Want to know a secret? I myself have never heard these words uttered to me by anyone who is in my ministry sphere. I have had a ton of people thank me for what I do, a lot of people relate to me, reach out to me and follow along with my work but no one no one has ever criticized me for adding my voice. It is a lie of the enemy to stop your passion because he fears the impact you will have.

Whatever it is that you find yourself doing, whether you are a stay at home mom, a teacher, an accountant, a librarian, an author, a police officer, etc. there is a place for you, room for you. No one else can do what you do exactly as you do it. You fill a unique set of shoes and have a distinct voice given to you by your personal experiences through life, the people God has brought in and out of your life, your very walk with the Lord and your personality.

Again, I really can’t emphasize this enough – the world needs you! We need the beauty and light you alone can shine! We need you to embrace your callings and make them radiant! I cannot reach people who have walked through a divorce because I have never walked that road, you may not be able to reach people who have lost a parent. Perhaps you have a louder or quieter personality than I. The Lord will enable you to reach people through your personal set of characteristics. If you hide your light because so many other people are already doing what I want to do there will be people who are not reached, there will be opportunities that are missed.

Go out and live your best life by giving all you can to the calling God has placed on your heart and watch Him move mountains through your obedience!

To God be the glory!

The Praying We Don’t Want to Do

Hello ladies! Happy Thursday. I realize this is getting out much later in the day than usual but I hope you will forgive me. The day snuck up on me and when I realized what I had written down to write about I needed some extra time to pray about what direction to take it.

Today, my plan is to talk about prayer. It is a huge subject that could be looked at a thousand different ways. I want to scale back and look at one aspect of prayer that I think often gets overlooked. We are really good at going to God and asking for what we (or a loved one) needs. That part of prayer (known as supplication) is something in which we are well versed. Today, I want to shift our focus to something we do not like doing. Something that many of us might sign up to eat kale or run a marathon before we would ever want to add this to our prayer lives. And that is, praying for our enemies.

Yep, were going there today. Don’t shut your window just yet though. I think God is going to give us some gems and bless us in ways we wouldn’t expect. First, somewhat of a testimony. At the start of this year my pastor initiated a 21 day challenge and instructed us to choose something to do over the next 21 days that would being us closer to the Lord. Because I had already made goals of reading the Bible chronologically, going deeper with my prayer life, joining a life group and having regular church attendance I wasn’t really sure where to go with such a challenge. And then God placed on my heart the idea of praying for my enemies. Ouch. God are you entirely sure about this because I will gladly give up sugar (my kryptonite) and eat kale all month long if you’d rather. I mean honestly I am not even in contact with any of these people but praying for them just wasn’t how I thought I would like to spend my time. But God was certain and so I began to eke out prayers for people who in my fleshly opinion didn’t deserve my time. Prayers for people I would gladly leave in the past. Prayers for people I didn’t even really know how to pray for. And then the most amazing thing happened. God shifted my focus from “God I would really rather have nothing to do with said person” to “Amber, these too are my image bearers and need my presence in their lives”. These are people, as I said, I have no contact with however praying for them has gone from a burden to a blessing.

Matthew 5:44 (kjv) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

We are told to pray for our enemies. It’s a backwards upside down Kingdom we live under. He is God of the hard and of the wonderful. He is -not- however a God who commands us to do things just to make us squirm in our seats. So, why then must we pray for our enemies? If we continue reading in Matthew 5 (in fact, the very next verse) we find that God’s heart in instructing us to do so is that we would become like our Father.

Matthew 5:45 – That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

When we pray, the scales fall off of our eyes and we can see more clearly. This does not mean that all of the sudden everything someone did to hurt us is made right. It does not mean we disregard our boundaries and re-friend the person who harmed us. Unless of course that is where God should direct you. In my experience, praying for my enemies has softened my heart towards the hurt they caused and allowed me to give them grace. Perhaps they hurt me because they were hurt themselves, people are sinful and hurt people hurt people.

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Often our first inclination is that these people should have to pay for hurting us. Something should happen to them to show them just how much they negatively impacted our lives. However, revenge is not ours to be had that is left in God’s hands. Our role is to pray and to forgive.

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” – C.S. Lewis

So we pray for our enemies and then what?

It heaps burning coals on their head. Honestly, check out Romans 12:20. Our hearts are softened as we bring our enemy to the foot of the cross. We (hopefully) begin to see God’s loving Kindness through our situation and have any chains their pain may have caused released. It is a hard calling, but a beautiful meaningful one.

So friends, today would you take even just a few moments to stop and pray for your enemies. We all have them, those people who have hurt us, mistreated us or at the very least bugged the stew out of us (as my pastor is prone to saying). Bring them to the foot of the cross. I can guarantee you, you will be blessed. God doesn’t ask us to do hard things without reward. There is always a purpose and blessing to follow!

Soli deo gloria!