Giving Church A Chance

Many of us have experienced the loneliness and confusion that revolves around church attendance and religion. We know it’s God’s will for us to get connected, but it often comes with messy experiences, internal questions and life altering decisions. We know this post by Rachael will touch many hearts, and perhaps bring healing to those who have felt like they need to give the Bride of Christ a second chance.

Inviting people into the church community can be one of the most awkward things to do, but as I have learned, it is also one of the most powerful.  Sometimes someone is just standing before us, waiting and hoping for that invitation.  And sometimes they are running far, far away from it, towards less awkward things, like brunch.  Today I want to share my own story of how my friends invited me to church by inviting me into life-giving community.

It all started in 2010.  I left my family and friends and all I ever knew, and traveled with my life partner 3,000 miles across this great country and showed up on California’s doorstep with zero clues.

Giving Church a ChanceBut really, how big of a deal is moving to a new state?  We will show up to church a few times and go to lunch with some friends.  Next, we will go on vacation and raise our children together.  

One problem with that plan is I had no history or connection to a person on this coast beside a handful of family members I had only met a few times.  The other problem is, California is like another country, completely culturally different from the deep South (where I lived for ten years) or the rural Midwest (where I grew up).  It’s possible I was also recovering from a season of spiritual and ministry burn-out. (So…maybe more than one problem here.)

Upon our arrival to this great state, we had been out of church for at least three years, which seemed like a decade.  If you had told me at that time that we actually would be uncommitted to church for close to a decade, I would have been extremely concerned for myself.  (And plenty of people were, which was mildly irritating, impossible to explain, and yet super understandable.)  

I have a rich spiritual lineage and was raised in a home that encouraged me to cultivate a deep faith in God.  David and I met working together in ministry, so the early stages of our friendship were also nurtured the same type of spiritual atmosphere.  It was a community of zealous young adults going after a lifestyle of prayer, fasting and worship.   (Not a bad place to meet a spouse, if I do say).  The time I spent with this ministry was profoundly formative to the person I am today.  I sometimes say that the year I was there feels like ten years in the impact it had on my life.  Overall it was extremely positive, but being twenty-three and lacking maturity in many areas, my relationship and boundary-setting skills were not fully developed, and I fell into some imbalance and confusion.

A few months after we got married, something weird started to happen where one day, I couldn’t stand any more church.  Any more Christian jargon.  Any more acoustic guitars.  Any more religious obligations.  Suddenly and unexpectedly, the thought of church just made me want to run the opposite way.  There was one particularly low Sunday I remember sitting on the steps of our townhome begging David not to make me go.

At the time it seemed like something dark and shameful was happening to me.  Looking back ten years on myself, it was really probably just your garden variety ministry burn-out and also being sort of a typical Millennial about church things.  I had come to feel like church was a disingenuous place of leaders with a bunch of visions they wanted us to fulfill.  I also had some intellectual/philosophical questions about the Bible and Christian faith, which ironically I had never really sought answers to before this “church crisis.”

I was really hoping that after we moved everything would just be fixed.  We were optimistic and immediately tried getting “plugged in” to church, but that actually just left us more confused and weirded out.  

Then a wonderful thing happened.  I got pregnant with K.K.  and decided to have a home birth and stop drinking diet soda.  (That was so hard, the soda part.)  I found a community of other home birth and naturally-minded mothers who, just so happened to be Jesus people. Some of them, unbeknownst to me, leaders at a big, local church called The Father’s House.

We all had our first babies around the same time and we called ourselves the Crunchy Moms.  I’ll never forget my first time at my friend Katie’s house…I just felt like I had finally found some people that I wanted to throw myself upon and cry “PLEASE, PLEASE INVITE ME OVER AGAIN.”  I felt energized and hopeful…especially that I would be invited back for more of this energy and hopefulness.

They did invite me again.  They also invited me to church, but not just to church…into their actual lives.  It was barbecues and baby showers and play dates and group texts.  Meal trains and clothing exchanges and park dates and prayer meetings.

We did go to church a few times out of obligation and even had stretches at a time where we would go maybe once a month.  We tried and tried again at various churches, primarily with awkward results.  (We mostly had brunch.  Because trying to sprint from your seat to your car without being greeted by friendly congregates is a panic attack, but waffles with whipped cream just let you live.)

These friends kept on inviting me into their lives over about a four year period.  They kept including me in their baby showers and park dates.  They probably kept wondering what was up with me and my weird church attendance issues (They were definitely wondering).  Any time the subject would come up, I would pretty much make up a new answer.  “Yes, we’re going to church in Roseville.  Oh, no we’re going over here now.”  Or simply, “No, we don’t go to church here.”   Let me tell you if you want to make it awkward, hang out with Christians and tell them you don’t go to church anywhere.  

I can’t tell you how many times I laid my head on my pillow at night and just wondered, “WHY? WHY IS THIS HARD?  WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?  WHY CAN’T I JUST MAKE MYSELF DO THIS?”

But I can tell you this, Jesus was not scandalized by my church attendance records.  At a time when I could not deal with walking into a church building, He sent friends to be the Church to me.  They gave me the free gift of friendship and community, no strings attached.  No spiritual checklist.  No special performance.  No slots to fill.  Just friendship and love and acceptance and someone to text in the middle of the night. It was the Zoe life of Christ, shared freely.

Last year in November, I went to my first IF Table.  I was invited, of course, by the same friends who had been inviting me to these kinds of things for four years.  I walked into my friend Arianna’s house.  In this process of being part of that table, a new thing awakened in my heart.  I wanted to come back.  Not just to come back for the food (though that was really good), but to be part of a church again, for real.  Like in a tithing-regular-attendance-taking communion kind of way.  As we met together over the winter and spring, I stopped feeling like a skeptic and an imposter and started to feel a legitimate sense of belonging.

At the end of 2015, that church moved into a new building.  Something strange happened.  First, we went to it…on our own accord.  Second, instead of being annoyed about the lights and sound system and mega-church seating (like we were SOOOO sure we would be), we actually loved it.  (“Judge not, lest ye end up eating your words and being asked to write a blog about it.” —Me)

As we walked out of our first service in the new building, David looked at me and said, “You know, this is the first time in years that I have been to church and felt like I belonged here.”

And I said, “You know what?  Me too.”

A few months later we were sitting in a sermon called The Invitation. Right in the middle of it, our pastor said, “You know…you’re here because someone invited you.”  Yeah, that was me.  I was that person who was really here because I had been invited to this stuff a whole bunch of times.  Otherwise, I knew I wouldn’t have been sitting in that seat.  As this realization dawned on me, I felt incredibly humbled, and yet incredibly loved and pursued at the same time.  (That’s how you know it’s the Holy Spirit talking.)

On that day, the confusing bits and pieces of the last ten years sort of started to fall into some semblance of a story.  Mine is the story of being invited to the table and told that I belonged.  Strangers took a risk on me.  They spent their friend-equity on me.  They gave me something that I couldn’t create alone.

After it was all said and done, it wasn’t church leaders suddenly becoming faultless saints or all my intellectual questions being answered (though having some of those questions addressed did help) that brought me back to church.  It was Jesus-people inviting me to share in life-giving community, everywhere from the church sanctuary to their own dining room tables.

Giving Church A Chance

God’s Tips for Parents

This week, TFH’s very own children’s pastor, Heather Stow, has a word for you parents! We all know being a mom and dad is not always easy. Luckily, as Pastor Heather will share, we are not left without valuable tools for this thing called parenting! Enjoy her encouraging word, have a very Happy Mothers Day and don’t forget to sign up your child for Adventure Camp!!

God’s Tips for Parents from TFH WOMEN on Vimeo.

Jenn’s Conference Story

It’s that time of year again and, as always, we are so excited and expectant for what God is going to do at TFH Women’s Conference! Below is a story from Jenn. Jenn attended women’s conference for the first time last year, and like many women, she wasn’t sure what to expect. Read more about how God met her, and how God can meet YOU at conference !

Last year my mother in law invited me to attend the Women’s Conference and I was excited and a little nervous. When we arrived there were so many people, none of which I knew.  It was a bit overwhelming at first.  It felt as if I was just going to be just another person in the crowd, but I was trying to be open to what God was going to do through this conference.  So I leaned in.  The first speaker came up and it felt like she was speaking straight to me.  I had never heard anything like it! She was a strong, beautiful, woman of God speaking encouragement and truth through His word. Then this strange “feeling” came over me.  A passion started to stir within me. I wanted to be the someone who encourages others to follow God.  By the end I was in tears and as the altar call began my arm shot up so fast. At that point I realized, though I had been a believer, I was following in my husband’s faith and it wasn’t fully mine.  So right then I committed my life fully to Christ.

The next day I woke up with a renewed energy and excitement. I couldn’t wait to hear what came next.  As the next strong, beautiful, woman of God stood up and began to speak I could feel my cup being filled even more. And again there was that stirring. The undeniable urge to be immersed in God’s word and sharing what He is speaking through me.

Saturday afternoon I sat in on a breakout session led by two of the pastors of TFH.  They were laughing, being real and speaking plainly about day to day life. I immediately connected with their stories and I knew this “feeling” was not just a feeling.It was very clear, not only were these two ladies going to become my new best friends, but at that point God was revealing my calling through these amazing women. That I was meant for a life in ministry.

Since Women’s Conference 2016, God has placed the call of ministry on both my husband and I. He has broken down walls and opened up doors we would have never imagined.  I am so excited for Women’s Conference 2017 as I know He will continue to reveal His path for my life.

So if you have never been to conference, come with an open mind, an open heart and be ready to hear from the strong and beautiful women of God and experience what He has planned for your life.

To purchase your 2017 Women’s Conference tickets click here.

With the Sheep

Hey all!

I hope you had a lovely Valentines and/or Galentines Day! Thanks for letting me join you in your day. I hope the few minutes of this video meet you where you’re at and give you the motivation you need to continue in the good work, and believe for the things of God. There are great things ahead, for you and through you! Happy watching!

Hilary  

With the Sheep from TFH WOMEN on Vimeo.

Bible Reading 101

With the new year upon us, it can often feel like the perfect time to start fresh in areas such as diet, relationships, and reading your Bible. We’ve asked our very own Pastor Kathi Shaw, overseer of Jewish ministries and Bible study author, to give us her tips on starting out your journey in Bible reading. Her piece is not just applicable but reveals her “why” behind an insatiable need for the Word in every season of life. It’s an honor to hear from this amazing teacher. Enjoy! 

I’ll never forget the winter of 1995-2000 . . .

Winter? Surely I meant winters.  No, crazy thing, I really meant it as singular, for that chapter was a winter season not in the natural, but for my soul.

Leading up to that season, I had been connected to a women’s Bible study group for seven years, where community was strong and friendships crossed generational lines. We were a fun but serious bunch when it came to our studies and we went at them book-by-book, verse-by-verse, semester-after-semester. It was life for me.

I was coming to know God for myself,; to experience Him for myself, and for the first time enjoyed a deepened intimacy with God through time in His Word.  Most days I had more questions than answers as I read, but I loved the process and stayed at it.  It was a season of growth and incredible discovery.

And then, the winter hit.

The time opened when our, then, 11-month old daughter was struck with an illness that took her life within 24 hours. That tragedy alone had the force to plow under even a sturdy soul, but the winter winds continued, and over the next five years we were hit by one storm after another: against our marriage, our family, our finances and my health.

All I knew to be true of God in the one season was brutally tested in the next.

By the grace of God, I stayed in His Word and found it unshakeable and relevant, and Jesus, faithful – boundlessly faithful. Colossians 1:17 says:  

. . . and in Him all things hold together.

Truly, He held us together

Life comes to us in seasons, doesn’t it? There are those we embrace, and others we . . . well, He holds us together.  We need Him in every season, and even if we don’t fully realize it at the time, our preparations in one, help us in the next.  What’s true in the natural is so often true in the spiritual.  So how do we best prepare ourselves for the various times that will come our way in 2017?

We have a handful of spiritual tools that are key to our success, tools you know: prayer, worship, fasting, meditation, staying in community, and Bible reading. Each is important, but let’s talk about daily Bible reading.  How’s that going for you? I bet a good percentage of us made at least a mental note, if not a resolution, at the new year that we want to grow in our Bible reading in 2017. It isn’t always easy, is it? Where do we start?  What do we do when we hit verses we don’t understand? How can we get the most out of it?

TFH Women Bible Reading 101Where do I start?

If you aren’t sure where or how to start, I recommend using a Bible reading plan that fits your style.  One of the best tools available is the YouVersion app.  Download that to your smart phone or device and you’ll find a slew of options. You might choose a theme-related reading plan, or a plan to read through the New Testament, or the gospels . . . you’ll see different plans for reading through the entire Bible in a year.  Lots of options, don’t be overwhelmed(!), but select something that works for you and then – here’s the key – get started and stick with it.  If you’re new to Bible reading, try a shorter plan (7 days, 21 days, month), with measureable goals and frequent wins.

I’ve done different reading plans through the years, from theme-related, to reading the Bible chronologically how it was written, to book-by-book.  For me, my go-to is the book-by-book plan, and here’s a link to the plan I’ve used for several years:

https://www.navigators.org/www_navigators_org/media/navigators/tools/Resources/DJ-Book-at-a-Time-Bible-reading-plan.pdf

I’m not bound by the order of this plan; some years I follow it, other years I jump around, but keep track of my reading so I know I’m getting in all the books of the Bible. But you find what works for you.  Bible reading, like prayer, is called a spiritual disciple. Yeah, the word discipline is used for a reason. Your flesh will fight you on it, but it will be enormously rewarding!  You can do it!  You’re preparing your heart and mind for today, but also for the next season, whatever that season will be.

What do I do if I don’t understand something?

When, not if!  I guarantee we’ll all come across verses, sections, entire books, we will wonder aloud What does that even mean? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to explain it to you. He may answer immediately, or He may provide an understanding over time, through other readings or conversations. It’s amazing how often the unclear passage will surface in weekend messages, random conversations, etc., when we invite the Holy Spirit to explain it.

The key here is to not get bogged down. Keep going.  If you enjoy journaling, write the questions down.  I promise, the Lord will not let those go unattended forever.  I have a “stew pot” simmering in my mind, full of questions for the Lord.  It doesn’t frustrate me, and He’s not intimidated.  Every so often, at the right time, He prepares a meal for me from the pot, and lets me taste the understanding of something that’s been on my mind for months or even years.

If you’re a student-type and want to dig deeper, I highly recommend looking up the passage in a commentary, or doing a word study using an online Bible-study site.  Here are a few options.

How can I get the most out of my daily reading?

Start with prayer.  Spiritual understanding is given by God, not attained by our wisdom or cleverness, so ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your reading and teach you along the way.

King David’s prayer is often what I use to open my time:

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. (Ps. 119:18)

Not every time, but many times, maybe most, there will be a word or verse, a thought, that stands out to you during your reading.  Don’t rush past that.  Pray it in, pray it through, ask the Lord what He wants to say to you about that.  If you journal, right down your insights and impressions.  The key is to be interactive with the Bible and our teacher, the Holy Spirit.  (John 14:26; 16:13)

Be encouraged, Ladies, as you dig into the Bible this year.  As long as we’re reading and learning, we’re winning. Don’t swallow the “failing” or “doing it wrong” lie.   Learn from one another, but keep your eyes on your own plan and stay at it!  Let’s be preparers in the spirit – preparing ourselves for ALL God wants to do in and through us, individually and corporately.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

Let’s be women who grow in our faith this year, by growing in the word of God!

 

An IF Testimony

With a new year comes a new semester of small groups. This means, a new opportunity for you to find “your people”, get out of your comfort zone, and get further connected to the church body at TFH. To some this may sound exhilarating, to others, exhausting. That’s why we wanted to share the story of a woman, just like you, who took the leap and ended up overcoming fears, hurdles and misconceptions through her very own IF Table – One of the many small group avenues we have at The Fathers House. Enjoy Ari’s story! 

The premise for If Table can be intimidating. Invite 4-6 women, preferably women you don’t know or don’t know well, to your home to share a meal and answer questions about Jesus together. The catch to these questions is that they take you from shallow to deep at rapid pace. If you are anything like I was when I started out, the thought of that makes your pulse quicken and look around for the nearest exit. On top of that, in the promo videos and some of the IG posts, the homes and tables are expertly decorated. With fresh florals, and clearly a meal that has been prepared from scratch. Queue nervous sweating from yours truly. But as I listened to the promo video, I could hear the Lord soothing my soul and whispering that this was exactly what I needed. I was walking through life holding my cards real close to my chest. With a toddler and barely 4 month old I was drowning, silently. I so desperately needed community but didn’t know how to create it, and here this promo seemed to be outlining perfectly. I should also mention that I saw this promo and the kick off of the Propel chapter, that I showed up to by myself, because I was desperate to meet women.

Fast forward a few weeks, andI get the email to attend the training to host a table. I decided that I believed what the Lord whispered to me, so I RSVP’d and showed up solo to the training. And before the night was over, I invited a mama I met there to my first table. Then she brought a friend. I invited another new friend I met in our membership class. Then I invited another gal who had welcomed me into her home. The development of this table was so Jesus woven together. These women have walked with me through the darkness of depression and celebrated every victory. We have wept for our children, our husbands and each other. I have realized it’s not that I needed others to carry my burdens. I needed them to help me lay it down at the feet of the only one who could take the weight from me.

We had been at TFH for 2 years before this, and like so many we checked in and checked out on Sundays. We were satisfied to be lost in the crowd, until life gripped us hard with struggle and we realized we could no longer live a life for Jesus outside of a life-giving community. If Table has so beautifully constructed a fool proof formula for breaking down the barriers we so often allow to block the depth we need to hear Jesus through others. These barriers, when broken, allow a flow of the Spirit that is life changing. If you’ve been on the fence of starting or joining a table DO IT. And if you haven’t heard of the ministry find out more. And start it where you are. You just need a table, at your house, a restaurant, coffee shop, a picnic table at a park, anything. I can guarantee you a few things, it’s going to push you outside your comfort zone and it’s worth it. And so are you.

If Ari’s story has you interested in IF:Tables make sure to stop by the lobby before Propel tonight and get more inforamtion on how to sign up!

TFH Women Holiday Gift Guide

If you haven’t noticed, Christmas is near! We are in our advent series at the weekend services, lights are hung and stores are – PACKED.

We at TFH Women care about your sanity and your time, so we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite gift items for this year. The best part of all, they can be purchased online!

Togetherness by Wil Lake – Available on Amazon

Togetherness, Wil LakeIf you haven’t heard, our Napa campus pastor, Wil Lake, has written a book on marriage and we think it is relevant, applicable and full of wisdom. Wil and his wife Autumn have been married for over 30 years, have 4 grown children and 2 grandchildren. They’ve walked their own road and helped countless others through marriage counseling. It’s a must read for all couples.

Split the Sky – Album by Chris Quilala –  Available on iTunes

Split the SkyChris Quilala is one of our favorite worship leaders from Jesus Culture church in Sacramento. This is his debut solo album and we simply love it. If you have an ear for Coldplay, Daft Punk, or upbeat/electronic music, this is a must. It’s got great style with an obvious message of Jesus in every song.

Unashamed by Christine Caine – Available on Amazon

UnashamedYou see her every month at our Propel meetings, and you know that anything she writes is going to be good. Founder of anti-slavery organization A21, and founder of Propel, Christine has written her latest book this year uncovering the lies about shame. This is a great gift for the friend wanting to go to the next level in their walk with God.

How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith – Available on Amazon

How's Your SoulThis is one of many books written by bestselling author Pastor Judah Smith. Judah has a gift for communication that has helped lead a generation toward Jesus. In his latest book he touches on health beneath the surface – in the soul. This is a refreshing book that isn’t just applicable but ministers to the deep parts of your heart. And you may even see TFH do a church-wide small group study on it in the near future…

Truth to Table, a website of resources by Havilah Cunnington – Available on TruthtoTable.com

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If you were at last year’s women’s conference you know we love Havilah and the truth she brings. On her newest website, Truth to Table, you can purchase a series of solo and collaborative teachings from Havilah and friends. These are a great gift for the friend wanting to dive deeper into the Word and God’s truth over their life.

Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!!

Health, Healing, Wholeness

Thrilled to introduce you to Kara Powell. A multi-talented sister, friend, administrator and leader, Kara has become a source of inspiration for us all as she has undergone a dramatic physical change and has taken on a lifestyle of health and fitness. We can’t wait for you to be inspired to walk out your own journey of health as you hear part of her story. She’s also included a delicious and healthy recipe for your holiday get togethers! You can be that hostess that smiles and says, “Oh this? It’s gluten free!” 

image1-2Health: The Facts

Three years ago I was 23 years old weighing in at my heaviest, 338 pounds, and having upper right abdominal pain that was gradually intensifying over the course of six months. I was diagnosed with a fatty liver. Due to my extreme weight, my doctor recommended that I get gastric bypass surgery in order to lose the weight quickly, thus relieving the liver.

Healing: The Journey

My entire world shattered when I left my doctor’s office that day. I knew my weight and health were out of control, but this diagnosis proved to me just how bad it really was. I opted out of the bypass surgery and told my doctor I wanted to lose the weight naturally and on my own. After one crash diet, months of calorie counting and several episodes of relapsing in my eating habits, I had lost 60 pounds in one year, but I still was not committed to a lifestyle of healthy habits, and my abdominal pain was worsening. I went back to the doctors but this time I was diagnosed with a very, very low functioning gallbladder. A normal function range should be over 30% whereas my function was a whopping 6%. I was sent straight to a surgeon who agreed to operate on me and remove my gallbladder. A “simple” and “low risk” procedure that millions of American’s undergo. This new diagnosis and plan of action left me completely defeated and hopeless yet again. I did NOT want surgery. In fact, I was completely terrified of surgery. I asked my doctor if there was anything that I could do naturally to get this little organ back to working properly. In her words, “I have never seen it been done before.” Right then and there I was determined to prove the doctor (and surgeon) wrong.  I had eaten my way into this, I would eat my out. After the surgeon determined I was not an emergency case, I was cleared to look around and see if there was anything I could do over on the holistic side before he operated. I spent hours, days, and weeks researching the web about the gallbladder.  Around this time, The Father’s House was having a health conference called, Flourish. I attended and it was there that I met Christine Andrews, who spoke on gut health. For the first time in months I had actual hope. That day I made a decision and an appointment to see this holistic nutritionist and commit to whatever she had planned to help heal and restore my gallbladder. Christine helped change my entire perspective on health. She targeted not only my gallbladder during our times together but also my weight. Since seeing Christine I have lost another 87 pounds bringing me to a grand total of 147 pounds lost naturally. My gallbladder was re-tested and has shown significant improvement. The surgeon no longer wants to operate on me and has encouraged me to stick to the holistic side and live a healthy and free lifestyle.

Wholeness: The Transformation

It has been a wild three years filled with physical, mental and spiritual transformation. After getting healthy physically, I began struggling immensely with my spiritual identity.  To that point, I had lived my entire life over-weight due to the lack of education and had always been the quiet, anxious kid on the sidelines who loved to draw instead of kick a ball around. I had lived 23 years in a heavyset frame that was “normal” to me. After losing my weight I struggled to find this new identity when a dear friend told me, “You have to love the old her.” It was like a light switch that went on in my brain. I had been living my entire life under the covering of a false identity that numbers on a scale were masking. I did not truly love myself. For three long years I had worked hard on the external, but now I needed to look internally. With God, I had to walk out a painful and hard process of true inner healing. I needed all versions of myself to be whole and healed to truly walk out the confidence God intended and desired for me. It is now, 3 years later, that I can say I have received a full healing, mind, body and soul, and can celebrate the hard things I’ve overcame.

Below is a treat I like to make to stay motivated during the holidays

“Paleo Angel Food Cake”

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Biscuit Recipe (By Brittney Angel)
-2c almond flour
-1/2c arrowroot
-1/2-3/4 TSP baking soda
-1/2c Kerry gold butter
-2 eggs
-3/4TSP vinegar (or lemon juice)

Line baking sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and form into biscuit shapes. Bake for 8-12 minutes.

Coconut Milk Whip Cream
-1 can full fat coconut cream (I like the Thai brand)
-1-2TBS honey (or can use a couple drops of liquid stevia as a substitute)
-1TSP vanilla extract

Refrigerate can of coconut milk overnight. The coconut fat will rise to the top and harden. Scoop the hardened coconut cream into a bowl and mix. Add sweetener of choice and vanilla until the mixture forms a whip cream consistency.

Top biscuits with coconut whip cream and berries of choice.
Note: I also like to sprinkle cinnamon on top to add a little extra flavor.

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For more recipes like this you can follow Kara on Instagram: @health.healing.wholeness

After The Race is Over

Phew, we made it! The ballots have been cast and we are officially out of the debate and pseudo SNL debates of this historic Election 2016. So now what? Well, we pray 🙂 We hope you receive from a beloved pillar of our house, Lee Brooks, as she shares her wisdom on how we pray, why we pray, and what faith looks like in these next 4 years. Lee is a seasoned warrior in intercession and carries a specific anointing for prayer. You can join her movement and see what is stirring in her heart at When Women Pray The Movement

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After The Race is Over

After The Race is Over

The people of the United States have voted. There is now a president-elect, to be sworn into office during January 2017. Many are celebrating victory. Others are disappointed, perhaps angry, or just let down.  I pray for emotions and hearts to be healed.  I pray for the peaceful transition of power from the current administration to the next. But honestly for the people of God, the work is just beginning.

As I prayed about what to write for this post, I kept being reminded of Acts 17:26: “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings . . .”  Once more I heard that phrase that always points to destiny, “For such a time as this!”  You and I have certainly heard this before. Yet, the Spirit is reminding us right now – we have been called for such a time as this! God purposed for you and I to be critically important to the election process but more importantly, the upcoming presidency! For such a time as this . . .

You most likely know the account (if not I invite you to read the book of Esther – it’s fascinating!) when God used the young and newly-crowned Queen Esther to save the Jewish nation. She had been preappointed to approach the king and speak out boldly on behalf of her people, the nation of Israel.

Once again and centuries later, God wants to work through a people He preappointed to dwell in the United States and predestined to be the 21st-century Church, and to see us step forward before the King and speak boldly on behalf of a nation, the United States of America! Just as King Xerxes extended his scepter toward Esther indicating his favor, the King of Kings is extending His royal scepter toward the Bride in this season, and we have favor to step into His presence to present our petitions with boldness.

So let’s go before the King on behalf of our new president. You may be wondering, Exactly how do I pray?  This may be especially true if the one elected was not your choice.  Well, good news, there’s always an answer to be found in scripture! Let’s consider the words of the Apostle Paul to young Pastor Timothy: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Timeless wisdom right there.

So loved ones, let’s purpose to do this better than we did during the past decade, because if we, the Church, don’t pray, who will? I certainly want to live a peaceful life in godliness and reverence to our Lord, don’t you? If you agree, then we will have to pray for righteousness to supersede the darkness in the highest office of our nation. We must pray for our president to be surrounded by godly men and women, but most of all that there be many divine encounters in the Oval Office.

We will have to invite the Holy Spirit to bring conviction when there is wrong, and for conviction to lead to contrition that draws to repentance and correction of what is not right. We pray our president will kneel in prayer when answers are needed, or divine counsel is necessary to make decisions that affect the entire world. We pray the Holy Spirit will do as He always does – point to the One who alone can save! We pray that our president surrender to the King of Kings and serve Him from today throughout eternity!

We pray the favor of God upon the Church be extended to the White House, the Capitol, the halls of the Supreme Court, the “situation room,” and every building, room, or other location where national and global negotiations take place. Jesus be the Center!

As the Apostle instructed, may we give thanks often for the blessings afforded our country and for our president. My personal prayer is that we each pray for our hearts to hold reverence for the office of the president regardless of our personal feelings, to speak highly of the office, and teach our children the same. There was a time when all respect was given to the president, pastors, parents, and teachers. I never heard my parents speak harshly of any president.

Perhaps military families understand this best. They recognize the president is the commander-in-chief and to be given all honor due the office. If I could see one thing change it would be respect for authority to be revived in our nation, then taught and modeled in the home.

Finally, I pray that we who are His and part of His Kingdom, remember we live under the prophecy fulfilled from Isaiah 9: “Unto us a Son is given and the government will be upon His shoulder . . . and, of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

And it is so in the kingdom.

When Women Pray The Movement - Election 2016

Answering the Call – A Foster to Adopt Story

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Hannah Craig, you know that Hannah is a “doer.” Hannah is from our Napa campus, and for years she has mothered dozens of children through the foster system, two of whom she has now adopted as her own. Her story of fulfilling her call to foster care is sure to inspire everyone, especially those considering a similar journey. We know you’ll enjoy hearing from her!


True confessions moment: I’m the worst about screening calls. Sometimes I’m legitimately swamped, sometimes I’m over-exhausted, and sometimes I just cannot even. It doesn’t matter who it is: telemarketers, meddlesome aunts attempting to set me up, my best friend who saw something on Pinterest we need to make, or my own mother.  Honestly, calls are the worst. My guiltiest “send the call to voicemail” moment was actually a lengthy phase in my life. I was actively ignoring my life’s purpose and sending God to voicemail.

When I was about 9 yrs old, I was at a county fair with my family and heard a woman speaking passionately at an adoption agency’s booth about the crisis that is foster care and the beauty of adoption through the system. After failing to convince my mom to immediately sign up (in all fairness she was in the middle of an awful divorce), I felt this wildfire run through my spirit and I knew that one day I would foster and adopt. Many years went by, and before I knew it, I was in my late twenties. Incredibly bored and incredibly unfulfilled, I once again was reminded of my calling.

I lackadaisically went to an information meeting at an adoption agency in Santa Rosa. The meeting was wonderful, the snacks were yummy, the room was air conditioned, and the people were fun. But I was terrified. The entire time they were speaking, all I heard was a voice in my head screaming this was too much, I was too single, too busy, too narcissistic, totally unqualified . . . you get the idea.

I left that meeting basically running – RUNNING – away from my calling. I was terrified. So like the super-procrastinator, truly-professional avoider that I am, I sent this call to voicemail. God spoke to me when I was a child and told me one day I would take this step. The day came, and I didn’t take the step. I ran the other direction. All the running away did was produce suffocating levels of anxiety, greater boredom, bitterness, and loss of hope – all negatives. Living in fear of something makes that thing grow to outrageous proportions in your mind. Your brain can make mountains out of molehills for sure and that’s exactly what my brain was doing with the idea of foster care. In 2011, I found myself face down in my bed sobbing over God’s persistent, steady love. I remember thinking, In comparison to all of God’s might, all my excuses amounted to nothing. There wasn’t a good reason to avoid my calling any longer, because when it’s from God it will succeed.  So I took an enormous leap of faith and began the certification process.

Answering the Call- A Foster to Adopt StoryTo date, I’ve had about 70 kids (I lost count in the 40’s and recently my agency started a manual count). In 2015 I completed my first adoption and I’m nearing completion on my second.  I would love to tell you it’s been Pinterest-worthy:  we bake cookies, sing songs, make homemade playdough and all aspects of the system function beautifully. I cannot tell you those things with any honesty. We do make homemade playdough, we do sing songs and just last night we baked cookies, but there’s a level of hot-mess that comes with this life that cannot be overlooked. The system is broken. The kids are hurting. The biological families are angry. There is trauma everywhere you look. It’s emotional. It asks too much of people. It’s really hard. It’s also really beautiful.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that our lives look wildly different than society’s image of a family. I’ve had to let go of children. I’ve had to acknowledge God’s sovereignty on a level I never knew existed before I started living beyond what I could manage. Through it all, God has been faithful. He has faithfully provided, protected, and moved on our behalf. The Holy Spirit has comforted. Jesus has healed. I’ve seen hearts healed, blind eyes opened, and lives changed forever. I’ve seen families restored to health and wholeness. I’ve watched addicts recover and live in freedom. I’ve seen families woven together from shredded pieces. I’ve gotten a front-row seat to watch miracles unfold before my very own tired, weary eyes.

Answering the Call- A Foster to Adopt StoryRecently, I was honored by Congress and given the opportunity to speak to our nation’s leaders in Washington, DC about the foster system, God’s faithfulness, and the future of our children. When I said “yes to this life, I could never have imagined I would be entrusted, even for a moment, with the responsibility and privilege of speaking with influencers. I was too consumed with completing the day-to-day tasks that come when you give yourself wholeheartedly to something. Even though I was living for an audience of One, people were watching what was happening in my life, and the lives of the kids and families that I’ve been blessed to partner with.

As your friend, I want to give you a gentle nudge. I have a crazy notion that most people already know what they should be doing. I also believe those same people are letting fear keep them from moving forward. Don’t be that cliché. Be the wild one that runs towards your purpose. I can tell you that answering your calling might come at an inconvenient time, it’s pretty sure to be messy, and it probably won’t make a ton of sense to anyone around you. I can also tell you with certainty that, despite it all, you will be closer to God, more fulfilled and happier than you can imagine. I’ll just be over here cheering for you!

Hannah would love to answer any of your questions, or help you get started on your own foster-to-adopt journey! You can email her at: hannahecraig@yahoo.com