Guest Post {Maggie Yow}

This season of my life has been a true joy as I have dug into the Word and listened to what the Lord wanted me to share each month. However, one of the biggest blessings has been the depths of encouragement I have received from other women.

About a month ago, I was asked to speak at a Mother’s Day Breakfast at my local church. I knew that the audience would be very diverse — all women of all ages. This opportunity was an honor, but it was also a pretty big mountain that the Lord wanted me to climb. As I sorted through my thoughts for a message, one topic stuck out in my mind as being very relevant: women need other women.

In preparation, I got really close with two women in the Bible, Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. I believe their story lays a firm foundation for Christ-centered relationships with other women. It begins in Luke 1 but sends ripples throughout the New Testament and into our lives today.

In Luke 1:5-25, Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, is visited by the angel Gabriel who shares that Elizabeth will become pregnant in her old age. In Luke 1:26-38, this same angel then appears to Mary to share that she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the son of God. During Gabriel’s visit to Mary, he shares that her cousin Elizabeth is also pregnant with a child. From the very beginning of Mary’s knowledge that she was pregnant, she knew that God gave her someone who would understand. Luke 1:39-45 is where we find the height of their relationship. After Gabriel leaves Mary, it says that she hurried to Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth then greeted her joyfully and welcomed Mary into her home where they would share three months of pregnancy together.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” – Luke 1:39-45

I believe that we can unpack three major truths from Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship that gives insight into what God desires for us as women:

1.     God gives us women who understand.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too?” I truly believe this to be the heart of what I have found within Delight Ministry. As we share our stories, we have all experienced those moments where we say “What! You too?” God gave Mary a friend to walk with through her pregnancy. It probably wasn’t the friend that she imagined, since Elizabeth was about forty years older than Mary and pregnant in her sixties. God works beyond our imagination. As we walk through the seasons of life, I encourage you to look to the women God has placed around you. Don’t limit the people in your life to your own expectations.

2.     God gives us women to complement each other, not compete.

Scripture says that Elizabeth was so excited to see Mary. The baby actually leaped in her womb with joy. Elizabeth greeted Mary cheerfully and blessed her. Let’s think about this in reality —  Elizabeth is six months pregnant as an older woman. Mary had no phone to call ahead and warn Elizabeth that she was also pregnant and on her way for an extended stay. Elizabeth could have easily reacted out of jealousy or inconvenience when she saw Mary. She could have depreciated her pregnancy with John the Baptist when she realized that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. Comparison is the thief of joy. Elizabeth recognized that Mary’s ministry of raising Jesus did not minimize her ministry of raising his cousin. As women, our lives are going to look and grow differently. However, God did not intend for us to focus on competition with others when we are in similar places. We so often put up a “no trespassing” sign instead of a “welcome” sign. However, we are to complement each other in our efforts of Kingdom building. As women, we each have a God-given purpose that is aligned with God’s will.

 3.     God gives us women to leave a legacy of faith together.

Elizabeth and Mary raised John the Baptist and Jesus, which were both really big assignments as mothers. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As we walk alongside each other, let us not forget that we are running our own race while also preparing for the next generation of Kingdom workers at the same time. Hebrews 12:1b says, “Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us.” Since I ran track in high school, I visualize this as a relay race. Imagine you are approaching the finish line and running hard with a steady rhythm. As you finish your race, you are to pass the baton off to the next woman in line. This may be a child, a family member, a friend, a mentee, or even a complete stranger. In a relay race, the most effective and efficient way to pass off a baton is for the second person to join in the same stride and rhythm of the runner. Therefore, when the baton is finally passed, there is no time lost in the transition. This is how I envision our ministries to be as women.

I pray that as we run this race, we embody the spirit of Mary and Elizabeth.

I pray that we look among other women to see that they are running the race as well, and they understand what we are going through.

I pray that we let others join our rhythm and our stride as complements and not competition.

I pray that we pass our batons off to the next generation in line.

For when we pass these batons in Christ-centered rhythms, we have nowhere to go but from glory to glory.

Guest Post: Maggie Yow

Like many freshmen at UNC Chapel Hill, I struggled to find a place on campus that I could truly feel like myself. Everything seemed so new and foreign to me. I had a new room, new church, new friends, new teachers, new classrooms, and a new town. Sometimes I just felt uprooted and then replanted. As I was finding my way around campus, I decided to explore “Coker Arboretum” while walking back from class. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or if it was even worth my time to go inside.

As I stepped into the arboretum for the first time, I was in awe at how many beautiful flowers, plants, and trees were so intricately placed to create an exquisite garden. Something about being in the arboretum triggered a greater intimacy with God in me. I think this was a combination of the artistry of the flowers, the charm of nature, and the essence of being still on a busy campus. As I spent more and more time in the arboretum, I found that this campus was the place the Lord had planted me for this season in my life.

The significant beauty of the arboretum reminds me of the quote by The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales, “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”  As I found peace in the arboretum, I found peace within my own garden of life. As a Christian, it is important to unpack this concept of blooming where we are planted when we feel uprooted or planted in the wrong place. Finding contentment in our current place can be paralleled to the basics of good gardening.

1. Be Planted Deep

To be “planted” is to be placed somewhere intentionally. When planting flowers, the soil is fertilized, a hole is dug for the seed, then covered up with more soil. If the seed is not deep enough in the soil, it risks being washed away by the rain. Gardeners spend a lot of time strategically picking the perfect place for a garden, preparing optimal soil, and individually placing the seeds where they are supposed to go.

God is like our gardener. He prepares the soil, and then He intentionally plants us there. Whether we feel like we are planted in the right place or not, we are there for a purpose. At Passion 2018, Pastor Levi Lusko said, “Being planted can feel a lot like being buried.” When we are planted deep and feel buried underneath the weight of the soil, we must not forget that God is calling us here for our benefit. It reminds me of Psalm 42:7, “Deep calls to deep,” (NIV). This verse means that “our deep need calls out to the deep kindness of God’s love” (TPT).  We need Him to provide the fertile soil, and out of His kindness, He has buried us deep to protect us and optimize our growth.

“rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” Colossians 2:7 (NIV)

2. You Must Be Watered

Once seeds are planted, it takes water to help them grow. Flowers bloom into vibrant colors when the moisture is soaked up, thus a lack of hydration hinders their bloom. As believers, we must also be watered in order to bloom. Metaphorically, this water symbolizes suffering, but it also symbolizes a catalyst for growth in Him.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest one day, I saw the quote “I asked God to help me grow, and it started raining.” This reminded me of the story of Job in the Bible. Job withstood so much suffering that this rain came in the form of a hurricane. As bad thing after bad thing kept happening to Job, I’m sure he felt as though he was drowning in the flood of suffering. However, through the storms, Job came to a place of submission to God’s Holy Will. He not only lived through the rain storm, but he bloomed through it. God sends rain not to drown us, but to nourish us.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 (NIV) 

3. Get Plenty of Sunshine

My favorite days in the arboretum are the ones where the sun is shining bright and all the flowers seem to be facing up towards the sun, as they soak in every last drop until it sets. As Christians, God commands us to do the same. No matter where He has planted us, we must always be in the posture to receive Him. The gift of the Son is life giving.

When I think of the sunshine, I think of walking in the light. We all know that every day and every circumstance isn’t bright and sunny, but we always have the Son, Jesus, to guide us. In order to bloom where we are planted, we must find Jesus in every place. For me, the arboretum was the place that fostered that intimate gaze while planted in college. As Christians, keeping our eyes on Him can bring spiritual peace and control our attitudes. When we dwell in Him, we dwell in the light we need to grow. 

 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

4. Enjoy the Beauty of the Bloom

When I was in high school, I was a dancer. After each performance, I would leave with an armload of flowers from my family and friends, somewhat of a cultural norm in the dance world. I remember thinking one year, “why do all these people spend money on flowers when all they do is die in a week?” I wasn’t unappreciative, I just truly questioned the concept. I tell you this to emphasize the fact that what I was missing was the simple, yet extravagant beauty of the bloom.

Bloom” is an action word, something we must do. To bloom is to produce something beautiful. As believers, we are never in the wrong place to serve God and bloom into something beautiful. Seasons will come and go, and while rain and lack of sunshine are inevitable, each seed is planted with the intentionality to bloom. One of the greatest tragedies is to waste an opportunity and miss the beauty in the bloom. No one delights in the beauty of the bloom more than The Gardener himself, so honor the Lord and grow in the place He has planted you. Your beautiful bloom is the proof that He is sovereign in every stage of life, providing everything you need. 

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Towards the end of the school year, there is a lot of uprooting and replanting going on. Whether that be moving from a dorm room to your home, your campus to an internship, far away from your friends, studying abroad, or maybe graduating and moving to a new chapter of life, God could be planting you in a new place. If you’re experiencing a season of rain or a lack of sunshine, don’t doubt the design of His garden. We are called to “bloom where we are planted” as a part of His Garden, not our own. 

Maggie Yow // @maggie_yow

“Being Present”

my new mantra is “being present.” ☀️🙏🏼

A little less than a year ago, I became really convicted about my cell phone and social media habits. I would go as far to say that I was somewhat addicted to this rectangular device. I checked it constantly. I rushed to social media every five minutes. I went about 7 months with no social media. It was wonderful. I chose to go back on for ministry purposes but I made strict guidelines for myself such as who I would interact with, what times I would check it, how much time I would spend holding it in my hand, etc.
My latest conviction is checking the phone in general. I have discovered that 90% of the messages I receive do not require an immediate response. Therefore, my phone no longer receives texting notifications. I am not tempted to check it when it lights up. I am not distracted from being totally present wherever I am and with whomever I’m with. My new reality has been truly blessed by God.
I’m no longer a slave to my phone. I am learning that someone else’s emergency is not necessarily my emergency and that life goes on. I have written so much about being intentional- it was time I took it to another level in my own life. My phone alerts me when I receive a call or when certain people contact me, but that’s it. Everything else can wait. It can wait for you, too. Don’t be a slave to this rectangular box. Be present with those you are around in this moment.
I challenge you to consider how much of your time has been or is currently being robbed by a screen and take a few simple steps to experience this life God has given you and the people He has blessed you with.

twenty-eighteen: resolutions {GUEST POST: Elise Morris}

As 2017 has come to an end, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on all of the good – and bad – that the year has come with. More than focusing on the past, I am looking forward to all that is going to come with 2018. However, I am making it a point not to stay in the past or look too far into the future, but to live in the here and now: to be present. With this mantra, I have decided on three resolutions I hope to carry with me through 2018.

  1.  Remember that Jesus is the Reason

As we come out of a holiday season that is always accompanied with the common “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” slogan, I have found that it is way too easy – and common – for us to leave Him there. The fact is that Jesus is the reason for everything. He came and He died for our sins so we could live. As Christians, we should be living our lives as a reflection of His love and sacrifice every minute of every day, not just at Christmas time. That is why I am making it a point to remember every day that Jesus is the reason we live.

  1. Give the Grace that has already been given

This year, I am committing to show everyone the grace that God has shown to me. Reflecting on 2017, I have found myself judging people all too often. In some cases, I will judge people I don’t even know and make assumptions about their character before I ever have a conversation with them. In other cases, I make judgments about people I know well based off of their actions or their words. However, I have constantly been reminded that Jesus died on the cross not only for my sins but for the sins of everyone around me. John 1:16 tells us that “out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” We have ALL received grace even though we don’t deserve any of it. In 2018, I will try my best to give the grace that Christ has shown to me to others, regardless of the situation or my personal feelings.

  1. Share His Love

The most important resolution I have for 2018 is to share the unconditional love of Jesus Christ with everyone that I have the chance to share with. If Jesus gave up His life for me, and shows me grace that I don’t deserve, I cannot help but tell everyone that I come in contact with. I want everyone to know the grace and love that He has to offer, and the joy that comes with being a follower of Jesus Christ.

In 2018, and every year following, I will be a light for Christ. Yes, I am human in a broken world where sin consumes every part of our life. Yes, I am going to occasionally – or often – fall short of my goals and resolutions. However, I follow a King who will never fail – a King who already rose and conquered. I know that with the power of Christ and the grace that He has given us, I can be a vessel for Him and share his light with the world.

Although these resolutions are very personal to me, I encourage and even challenge you to adopt them as your own. I challenge you to remember that Christ is the reason we live every minute of every day, show others the overwhelming grace that Christ has shown to each and every one of us, and share the gospel with everyone you meet.

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

2 Peter 1:2

Happy twenty-eighteen, friends.

Xoxo,

elise morris

Imperfectly Planned is thrilled to share this piece by Elise Morris to encourage you as you start brainstorming resolutions for 2018.

On Imperfectly Planned, our 2018 Focus is {Intentional Living: Honoring HIM through our daily Bible study, routines, fitness regimen, and relationships.}

Email subscribe to Imperfectly Planned at imperfectlyplanned.com or find us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Join our journey to a life of intentionality this year! Can’t wait to connect with you.

Encouragement for the Discouraged Mother

My mother knew that in order to raise children who would choose to walk with Christ on a daily basis, she needed more than rules. She needed to be a living example of a woman after God’s heart.
Your children observe your lifestyle.
After all, it is a direct reflection of your heart. A lifestyle is seven days a week- not just the seventh day. Making the choice each day to submit to Christ can be difficult when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, people (yes, even your lovely children), or anything else we cannot control.
Sometimes I feel like asking, “God are you really listening?” As my heart burns with a desire to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God and to be a solid Christian example for the little ones in my life, it seems insulting to let the thought cross my mind that I might need to jump back into the driver’s seat of my life and let Jesus take a break for a few miles.
           
I was reminded a few weeks ago of John’s doubts while in prison. In Matthew 11:3, John asked if Jesus was really, “The One who is to come?” Note, John had already baptized Jesus even though he felt he was “unworthy to touch His sandals.” John knew who Christ was. He baptized Him in the name of His Father. Lastly, in v. 2, John had heard what Christ was doing while he was sitting in prison.
Jesus never rebuked John for asking questions.
For wondering.
For maybe even fearing a little.
And Jesus will not rebuke us in the moments of life when we just can’t seem to grasp what He is doing and we do not know what we should do either.
           
When my heart is burdened and I can’t seem to release what I know He can hold, instead of bashing myself, I know I should remember how Jesus worked in John’s life. John found himself in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be the forerunner of Christ. He did not stay caught up in his doubt-He continued to love like the author of love. He found faith in our awesome God to be all he needed, and he lived a life of devoted ministry to Christ.
“Truly I tell you, among these born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared..” (Matt. 11:11). 
God strengthened John to fulfill his calling in this life and He will strengthen you, too, as you fight the good fight to raise champions for Christ.
           
Your success as a mother is not dependent on your ability to bake the best cookies, to keep a spotless house, or to be liked by your child at all times. Your success as a mother will hinge on a consistent walk with Christ. Following Jesus will not exempt you from parenting woes, discouragement, or children gone wild, but following Him does mean you are equipped with the armor of God and perfect guidance and direction for each day as you raise your mighty warriors of God.
I encourage you to submit yourself to Him and be faithful to make decisions each day that place Christ at the center of your home. The fruit of God-fearing will grow and bloom in the lives of your children as they watch you trust in The Lord with all your heart, leaning not on your own understanding.

Guard Your Plans

Part of my morning routine includes praying over my plans for the day. Lately, I have found myself filling the pages of my planner with snippets from my meeting with God earlier that morning.

A few words. A few minutes of my time. A major impact on my day.

I am reminded what is most important: Serving Him who put me here.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of life. It is equally easy to become immersed in things of this world rather than to stay focused on why we’re in the world to begin with. I sometimes find myself signed up for too many things, leading too many groups, or committed to too many personal obligations.

But why?

Because no one else signed up and the schedule was due. Because no one else felt comfortable leading and someone had to take charge. Because I hadn’t seen that friend in a while and felt like I should reconnect.

There is nothing wrong with signing up to serve on a committee, leading an organization, or taking personal time—until it becomes a distraction to our relationship with Christ. These distractions can continue to snowball, pushing God further and further away until we are no longer giving Him our first fruits but the leftovers.

I have chosen to align my heart with Christ, and I seek to honor Him in each block of my time. Therefore, I must be discerning.

In Proverbs 4:23, we are urged to “guard our hearts.” If my heart’s desire is to seek God’s will in my life and respond accordingly, I should begin with daily choices that reflect Him as top priority. When I am overwhelmed or exhausted by the things filling my schedule, I am not preparing myself to be a useful tool in the hands of an awesome God.

Saying yes to serving God means saying no to people, things, or activities that fail to build us up in Him. Where, how, and with whom we spend our time is a direct reflection of the posture of our worship and the state of our hearts.

I have realized that my day is more than lesson planning, meetings, organizing girls’ ministry, or writing. My value is not based on my performance as a teacher, Bible study leader, friend, or daughter.

As you glance over your schedule, introduce your plans to your Savior. Ask God to make it clear to you what is most deserving of your time. Be sure to take notes during your daily one-on-one conference with Him so that you can assess and reflect.

You may not get everything accomplished. That is ok.

You may need to say no to someone. That is ok.

When we get in the habit of prayerful planning, we will begin to notice that our attitude towards day-to-day activities shifts to desire a spirit of submission to the Father. While walking closely with the Prince of Peace, He will remind us of His plan and purpose for our lives.

Christians Against Culture

Christians aren’t better, just forgiven.

Is our goal to change culture, avoid it, or simply live and let live?

Christ-against-culture people see a clear and unreconcilable division between the goals of Christ and the goals of current culture. Jesus’ words and actions picture a new way of life, a way that is at odds with the status quo.

To pray, “Thy Kingdom Come” is a petition of surrender, a letting go of the objectives of this world in favor of the way of God. You can’t look like the world and have a heart sold out for Christ.

We all fall short of what God wants us to do and to be. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ is radical, wide reaching, and life changing.

Jesus came preaching a gospel that set people free from cultural norms and for new life. The question before us is: Will we follow where Jesus Christ leads? Chances are, you won’t look like everyone else. You might even offend someone.

Jesus’ words speak directly to us. We are now the ones who carry the responsibility of living a life reflective of the gospel and sharing the gospel faithfully.

Just as Jesus challenged His first disciples to believe in Him and follow, so He challenges us today through His word.