Spring is in full bloom here in Hummelstown, PA, so last week I decided to start working in my flower garden to clean up all of the dead branches, leaves, and debris, including the shrubs and perennials that come back every spring. I neglected to prune them back in the fall. Like the leaves that shriveled and dropped, I left my rose bushes, peonies, and the branches of my Hydrangeas (pictured above) to dry up. The little dried puffs swayed all winter long, light and airy on frigid days.
As Easter approached, I set about plucking the dead branches off, and discarding the dead puffs. Even though it was no longer bearing fruit from the past season, I felt a sadness as I broke off what once was, to make room for the new, Within one week's time, however, my bush budded new shoots. It was simply waiting for me to take care of the the leftover dead weight from the past.
Spiritually, God tells us that we should go through the same process. Jesus shared the following verses with his disciples during the Passover meal the night He was betrayed and before He was handed over to be crucified.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." ~John 15:1-2
I am learning to trust that God's pruning is a good process to go through. But early on in my relationship with Him, I did not like the process. It felt painful and discouraging. I did not like to think I had failed in a situation or in a relationship. But His gentle guidance told me otherwise--He was teaching me how to become more. His pruning thins out all the stagnant spiritual growth in my heart in order to make room for more of Him and His purpose in my life.
I believe I am entering into a pruning process once again. But this time, I am (hopefully) ready for it. I will be 50 years old in a week, so I am reflecting on my new year that is ahead. In the Bible the 49th and 50th years are special to God. I'll share more about the Year of Jubilee in my next blog, but for now, I am holding on for the ride and trusting the process, to see what new growth He has for me!
Where is the Lord showing up in your life this season? How do you respond when He challenges you to grow! Please share your comments below!
THIS is ALSO America! My in-laws are White.
They grew up in Southern Illinois, just a few hours west of Kentucky. There is one traffic light in their hometown of Ina, IL. It is at the northern tip of the Deep South. I have visited their hometown numerous times, and it is a place that as a Black woman I would not want to be caught walking around outside at night. 😏
When Andy Slamans brought me home to meet his parents, let's just say I was a strong cup of coffee!!
I know they questioned my love for their son, BUT, in doing so, they questioned whether they could love me.
Fast forward 25 years later. My in-laws have watched me put braid extensions in my hair, they've learned how to cook collard greens, and they've listened to my childhood stories of growing up in the projects of Black America with mentally ill parents.
They've read my story and together we walk with the God who has woven the fabric of our multi-racial family.
In turn, I have received hearts of gold from Tom & Kay Slamans. They love me like a daughter, just as they do their White daughters-in-law, I can honestly say they have always had my back. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, they pray for me and my children daily. They ask often how my father is doing.
As a family, we are once again navigating racial issues due to the crisis in our nation. I am so incredibly grateful that I can be honest with my in-laws about the struggles Black America deals with. And in my honesty they still love me. I guess they always have. 💓
#racialreconciliation #blackinamerica #whiteinamerica #thisisamerica
Pictured from left to right, Kay Sweetin Slamans, Aj Slamans, Korri Slamans, Me, Andy Slamans, Uncle Keith Loretta Clinton Fowler, Tom Slamans
One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Joseph. If you haven't heard of him, you probably should find out who he was...and do it quickly! Why? Joseph found himself in some pretty unpredictable and unfortunate circumstances which resulted in him having to wait on God for deliverance. His waiting was throughout a span of several decades! Decades!
In his most recent blog post, Max Lucado outlines what it feels like to be in the "waiting room" with God, and the disappointment it might bring to us as we wait for His deliverance.
If you, like Joseph, have been in the valley of disappointment, but have seen God's hand work mightily in your life, encourage someone today with the truth found in the Scriptures!
One only has to experience about a decade or so of life to come to the realization that it can be a battle. My 2018 was full of battles. I fought battles all year long, and what's amazing about all of them, is that there wasn't one battle I lost! None. And if you're still reading this, you can say the same thing.
Did you have to fight for your health this year, like I did? I battled a disease I didn't even realize I had until it was too late. Through clean eating and drastic changes to my lifestyle, I unfortunately needed to finally give in to my doctor's decision to go through a life-altering surgery. Through the journey, I learned how important it is to listen to my body and how to take care of it. I also learned that I do have the discipline to eat in a healthy way, and I eventually came out the victor in the end! Did you battle with your health too? I know some of you who are winning this battle, one day, one pound, and one healthy decision at a time. You're winning the battle like I am!
Did you have to fight through grief and loss this year, like I did? Some of us stared into the face of Death itself while we clung to a loved one, only to find them eventually gone. We are wounded and tired, but we are still standing. And our standing means we can encourage others when they are left all alone. My grief has led to a new chapter in my relationship with my dad. I reluctantly took on the challenge of growing closer to him after my stepmother died. I didn't know him well growing up, and as adults we grew further apart. Now he's a widower and I get to care for him. It's a battle every day to walk in forgiveness toward him, also realizing I need forgiveness when I make mistakes. Are there decisions you need to make now after a loved one has passed? Are you battling depression and emotional roller-coasters? You're not alone. Reach out for someone to fight the battle with you.
Did you have to fight for your reputation and a broken relationship this year, like I did? Relationships can be messy because we are all broken and scarred. But the devastation of betrayal and back-biting is painful. If you fought for your relationships this year, you are not alone. Do not compromise your beliefs, but continue to fight for what is right. You will come out the winner in the end. I was blessed to have people praying for me--while also protecting and defending my character. It was a humbling and wonderful thing to experience. And as a result, I didn't battle it alone.
And, perhaps, like me, you had to fight to defend your faith, like I did. I am proud to be a Christian, but this year all I wanted to do was hide under a rock. Personal attacks can shake the core foundation of who you are, if you let them. The Bible says in Ephesians 6: 10-13:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm."
I am encouraged about this and I hope you are, too. I am encouraged because God knows life is a battle. He tells us this from His word that He wrote for us so long ago. I am encouraged that He knows where our battles come from--the schemes of the devil. The devil wants to see us destroyed and his goal is to steal our joy, rob us of peace, and eventually convince us to end it all. In other words, he wants us dead. But we have won! We are alive and have the opportunity to encourage others.
Did this year bring you challenges through broken relationships, insecurities, a health diagnosis that feels overwhelming, loss of a job, betrayal, fear and sadness and many other negative circumstances?
Please know that you are not alone! And if you're still reading this...you've won!! Keep fighting!!
I recently had a birthday and now proudly boast that I have made it to 45 years old in relatively good health and quality of life. Even though I've overcome a lot through the years, I admit that I still find myself holding on to bad habits at times. One of those habits is the habit of negative thinking.
When this happens, I am reminded that I've perhaps let go of some of the foundations that helped build my Christian faith so many years ago.
Rick Warren, well-known author, founder and senior pastor of the Saddleback Church, writes in his daily devotion how to continue to grow in the Lord:
Growth Requires a Teachable Attitude
While you were given a brand new nature at the moment of conversion, you still have old habits, patterns, and practices that need to be removed and replaced.
We are afraid to humbly face the truth about ourselves.
We often build our identities around our defects. We say, "It's just like me to be " and "It's just the way I am." The unconscious worry is that if I let go of my habit, my hurt, or my hang-up, who will I be? This fear can definitely slow down your growth.
Only as God is allowed to shine the light of his truth on our faults, failures, and hang-ups can we begin to work on them. This is why you cannot grow without a humble, teachable attitude.
Godly habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits. You can't claim to have integrity unless it is your habit to always be honest.
Your habits define your character. There is only one way to develop the habits of Christ-like character: You must practice them - and that takes time!
These character-building habits are often called "spiritual disciplines," and they include such things as meditation, prayer, fasting, Bible study, simplicity, stewardship, solitude, submission, service and evangelism.
I am so grateful for these simple reminders from Christian leaders. The push to keep getting better, growing, and being humble helps me to take stock as I approach another 45 years of life.
"Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." ~ 1 Timothy 4:15-16
And we are so excited!
This has been my dream since the beginning of our journey of homeschooling our children. I hoped that we would one day have the finances and the time to spend serving overseas together! And it's finally here!
Thanks to my husband Andy Slamans' eCommerce business, Amazing Freedom, of which I am now a partner, we now have the FREEDOM to serve in Haiti alongside John Engle and his wife Merline Engle and Alex Myril through Haiti Partners.
I have always taught our children to be generous. Not just with their time but with their finances as well. So, Amazing Freedom and the Slamans want to invite you to be generous along with us. How?
Be Generous with your time: By joining us in prayer for this beautiful country and most of all the Haiti Partner's Children's Academy.
Be Generous with your resources: By donating to Haiti Partner's Social Impact program.
Our trip is paid for, so anything you give goes straight to the organization and not to us.
Find out more about Partnering with Haiti below:
I am probably the first ever self-proclaimed "anti-feminism feminist" in the world. I absolutely love and adore being a woman! I love the stance women are beginning to take for our own empowerment and overall welfare. For the first time in my personal history, I have witnessed more women empowered to fight back against the social disorders of this world than ever before.
It is so very refreshing and very long over due.
The numbers of women underutilized and ill-treated all over the world are staggering --just glance at the new economic survey revealing the long road women have taken globally, but also the long road still to go to gain acceptance.
These fights have made me proud to be a woman. I love being a woman. And I especially love being a Superwoman.
However, I have never been afraid to acknowledge that every once in awhile when my cape starts to weigh me down and the tasks become too great, I need to lean into the arms of my Superman, who is bigger, stronger, and faster than I will ever be.
My Superman is Christ.
Lately, I have come up against a few mountains that just won't move. They are too difficult to climb in my own strength. They have threatened to rob me of my health, emotional well-being, my peace and my joy. During these times Christ reassures me through the story of the Samaritan woman found in John Chapter 4. She was the first missionary who told everyone in her village about Jesus, a Jewish man who sought after her heart and loved and respected her despite her struggles and He set her free.
You have to understand during that particular time in history Jews did not typically associate themselves with Samaritans, and Jewish men certainly did not take the time to engage the heart of a woman. But my Superman did and He still does today.
Jesus is the founder of the equality movement. Jesus reminds me that His love is never sexist or demeaning. The Apostle Paul proclaimed one of God's promises to us in that our identity in Christ is not based on class, race or gender when he wrote in his letter to the Galatians around 50 A.D.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:28
Jesus reminds me that He can take on the weight of my world. He silences the cry in my soul and promises me rest and peace:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
It's not easy to shed my cape and lose the battle so that Christ can win it for me. But Jesus promises He will forever remain close to me even though He has given me a life full or burdens. He is perfectly fine with carrying them Himself, and quite frankly, I am happen to relinquish my cape to Him.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted,
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I am one blessed woman to have stayed married as long as I have. Andy and I will be celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary on November 25, 2017! This man is truly a saint for putting up with me for so long! Thank you, Andy Slamans for asking me to be your bride.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the Lord. ~Proverbs 18:22
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? - Numbers 23:19
I had the opportunity to share a biblical truth through teaching at the Woman 2 Woman Leadership Conference, at Fleetwood Bible Church, yesterday, and it was a blessing indeed for my thirsty soul! The group of women we were chosen to bless was small and intimate--my favorite way to minister...which is up close. If you are not a Bible teacher, then you may not realize that when teachers of the Word join with God to bring forth His truth, there can be a spiritual battle during the preparation. Well, for the first time in a long while, I became very astute to the enemy's schemes and so I asked the Lord to guard me from any wounds, because lately, I have been battle-weary.
I can testify that God was faithful in answering my prayers. He touched my heart through the lesson I brought forth. Yes, He was speaking to me, as I prepared to speak to the women (honestly, I sometimes I wonder if my ministry to others is really for me with just an audience watching!!). He showed me that He wants more of me, and He shouted to me in my heart, that I am loved! I am in awe of His continued faithfulness to me over the years--especially when I am distant toward Him. He has never given up on me, and Dear Child, He will never give up on you. Trust Him today with your heart, and watch Him deliver you!
My most recent speaking engagement afforded me the opportunity to share with the Hershey Rotary our Leadership and Character Development initiative known as The Compass Project.
I am an author and speaker who loves to show my passion for Jesus and people through my writing. Words are powerful!