5 Reasons Why I Chose Avon

I have been unemployed for over three years now as my family has expanded from “Mr. & Mrs.” to loaded-down Honda Odyssey. About a month after discovering my first pregnancy, I quit my last job as a server in a small restaurant. Consequently, for the last three years, we haven’t been able to afford our life. Especially during our time in seminary school, we have depended heavily on financial gifts and government aid to provide for our family. God has always provided our every need, and we are extremely grateful; however, I don’t believe God intends for us to live (financially) dependent on others for the rest of our lives. For a couple months now, I have felt a prompting to seek out my own path—some way I might contribute an income to move in the direction of financial independence. With all the products that I see young women selling from home these days, only one company came repetitively to my mind: Avon. My first attempt as an Avon Independent Sales Representative did not go over so well. However, I am confident in my discernment in this decision. So, without further ado, here are my 5 reasons for choosing Avon:

1) I don’t have to choose between being a mom or being an entrepreneur, I can do both!

I am a “Mom”preneur. Discipling my children remains my number one priority. Therefore, I needed a job that would allow me to stay home with them or take them along. Avon gives me that opportunity. I recall helping my mom sort out orders and invoices and driving around neighborhoods tossing books. Avon can (and for us, it will) be a family business. I won’t have to pay for daycare (which would be outrageous for 6 toddlers), and my business hours revolve around their schedule.

2) My business goes where I go.

December is creeping up quickly, and my husband will be graduating (Yay!). Sometime between mid-December and January, we will be moving. Presently, we aren’t even sure where we will be moving. I can sell Avon anywhere I go, and my local customers can still shop with me if they choose to. With my online eStore, www.youravon.com/larayeharris,  anyone can place an order to be delivered directly to their address. With purchases of $40 or more, shipping and handling is FREE!

3) I am a role model for my children, in beauty and business.

If I want my children to learn a biblical sense of beauty and business, I must lead them by example. My job is to teach them modesty and honesty. If I don’t teach my children to use these tools for God’s glory, Satan will use them to lure my children away from Christ. Notice, I’m not focusing on ONLY my daughters. My sons must be taught to respect women—their bodies AND their brains. Likewise, I want my daughters to respect themselves, as well as the men and women they will encounter throughout their lives. My husband and I are responsible for raising SIX of the millions of people coming up in the next generation; we aren’t going to sit back and let the world do it for us. We choose to take an active role in molding our children’s character; by running my own business (selling beauty products, no less), I will be presented with countless character-building life experiences for my children.

4) I’m pushing myself into the public eye.

This one may seem a bit conceited. I’m not yearning for attention. Quite the contrary, I have a bad habit of hiding. Call me hermit. This past year has been tough. Tough to get out of bed. Tough to find a reason to wear decent clothes. Tough to prepare and eat healthy foods. Tough to clean…anything. Tough to muster the will or time to walk out my front door. How many people can I reach out to if I stay cooped up on this side of the door? I know, I know, I’ve got six kids… I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. The first year with twins is the hardest. I know, because I’ve survived it TWICE. I know what’s waiting for me on the other side of December 9th when I cross that line a THIRD time. God’s calling me out the door, and I don’t have to dump my kids to do it; but, I am trading bottles for brochures.

5) I honestly love Avon.

I love Avon products. From makeup, to shampoo, to accessories, Avon offers the best products for your dollar. Honestly, the challenge of selling is not spending all your earnings on yourself; in fact, I’ve heard of women who only sell Avon to buy products for themselves.  Like any other business, they encourage good marketing skills, but customer care is of utmost importance. Avon representatives are part of a large, diverse family—something like a sisterhood. We encourage each other. We teach each other. We share our heartwarming stories and successes. I haven’t even placed my first order yet, but I have devoted a little time each day to build my business in some way. At the end of the day, I feel like I have accomplished something for myself, my family, and (ultimately) for God.

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Date Your Daughter

Someday your daughter will give her most intimate self to someone. Just think about that. If you could decide who that will be, would you do it? As a father, you have a major influence over who she has sex with and when it happens. Your influence is determined by the quality and quantity of time you spend with your daughter(s). I have three daughters: Aniston, Madeline, and Magnolia. I’ve recently decided that I will date my daughters until they marry. It’s not enough to provide for them financially, I want to be very involved in their lives. Girls need to know what kind of man they need and deserve. Women are fragile-God’s most precious gift to men- and from infancy they should be taught how valuable they are. So how do I get my daughter to want a man that will give her the kind of a life that places God over her, thus cherishing her in the process? That’s simple… by spending time loving her and making her feel special; by taking her on dates where showcasing what the word “cherish” looks like in action; by taking her on ice cream dates where pulling the chair out for her time after time conveys the message that she is important; by praying over the meal; by praying for her specifically; by paying for her meal and sharing the Good News that Jesus paid the price for her sins so she wouldn’t have to. Men, it’s right there! It’s in these moments of small one-on-one time that we will change the world. This is what changing the world really looks like… leading those you love through serving them day-in and day-out.

            Here’s a challenge for you father’s out there: take your daughter on frequent dates. Those of you who work away from home need to get creative or get another job. I’m sorry that sounds harsh, but your daughters’ lives are more important than a certain lifestyle. If you absolutely cannot find a job closer to home, then skype or write letters. Do EVERYTHING you can to constantly be “the man” in your daughter’s life. Men are not meant to be absent or aloof. They were meant to be seen and heard and leading through serving. Remember men, one day your daughter will grow up and have sex. She will open her heart up to a man. Don’t be the reason she gave herself away to the wrong man at the wrong time. Instead, do everything you can to be the reason she waited for the right man on their wedding night. Date your daughter.

 

— J. Philip Harris

Dreaming Through The Cracks: A Poem For Mothers

I wrote this poem for all the momma bears out there who were brave enough to carry the cross of motherhood. This poem is decicated especially to three women Kimberly Dawn, Betty Yvonne, and LaRaye Ella who, in my own opinion, are faithful witnesses to the stregnth of Christ for the purpose of mothering. To my own Mother, Kimberly, I say thank you for being my wind.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

J. PHILIP HARRIS

 

She once dreamed between the cracks of life where a field of new skies lay. She imagined herself in new exciting places on new exciting adventures. The years roaring with accomplishments that would map her among the greatest minds. Stars would shine upon her with the glow of greatness and all would admire her tenacity….Then I came along.

Moments like me are unpredictable and indefinite. They seem unplanned and ill-timed. I ruined her plans. I extinguished her greatness. She was now obligated and restrained, pushed back to pauper status. However, when her eyes met mine she knew her purpose and as the years grew on she gleamed with satisfaction that I was hers. As a servant is faithfully indebted to their master so my mother never left me. She patiently took care of me, carefully watching my every move and hers as well. She meticulously made sure I was constantly learning all the knowledge she had acquired in her young life. She never seemed to mind all the hardships. Like a mountain planted firmly my mother never seemed to be moved by uncertainty. Her faith was stronger than any I’d ever known. Her wisdom only grew with time.

As I recall our late night conversations among the caterwauling and cacophony of life’s cruelty, I remember her depth of compassion and understanding. As she sat there listening to my life’s problems, of which parents cringe to hear, she patiently and kindly understood while never casting judgment upon me. Maybe she had been there too? Maybe she understood brokenness? Maybe she loved me deeply? My siblings agree we could all sense Christ in her. Although mother wasn’t perfect she was perfectly struggling to be the best mother God wanted her to be.

I’m all grown up now and time has slowly crept in to age the vivacious hero of my youthful past. I’m a parent of my own and I finally understand the reality of it all. My mother was as subtle and strong as the wind. She blew with the change and provided the sweet cooling when life got hot. My mother was the milk that gave me life and the meat that sustained me. My mother was the laughter when she saw sadness creeping in to steal her babies joy. She was the softest hugs that listened to my tears. My mother was strength that stood with her conviction against the tempting of the world. My mother was the dedicated hero that gladly gave up her dreams through the cracks of life so I could one day fulfill mine.

Time With My Kids

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Time With My Kids

The air smells good here

Better than I’ve ever known

I stop a little while longer 

And let the sweet smell linger stronger

 

All the eyes that look my way

As if they call to me to say,

“Here I am, Papa.”

 

I love the sound of little words,

In here they only come in thirds.

I love the way they make the noise

Even when there are no toys.

 

I love their little fingertips

And all the messy bathroom trips.

I see the writing on the wall

And find it hard to see it fall.

 

I love the Panda and how she talks.

And the Owl and how she walks.

I love the Whale with his sad eyes.

And the Lion’s dapper guise.

I love the Monkey and her cheese.

And Elliot the Dragon’s sneeze.

 

I love the sleep I do not get.

But cherish more the moments when

I get to hold them close.

 

I stop a little while more

And revel in the dirty floor

The never-ending laundry pile

The leaving home that takes a while.

 

I breathe right in the chaos days

Wishing they would only stay.

I’m quite aware of how time flies

And, soon I’ll have to say goodbye.

 

I just wish that time stood still

And sat upon my windowsill

Where always I could take it down and

Spend it with my kids.

 

Written by J. Philip Harris

My Valentine: For Better or Worse

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We spent the better part of six months on hiatus from one another. It was a time of anger, agony, and running from God. It was a time of breaking down barriers and busting up ground. I didn’t know it then, but God was doing something in my life that would change me forever. It was the most brutal six months. During that period, LaRaye tried very hard to fight for me to “come back.” I remember Valentine’s Day came and she had sent me a card. I bought her some chocolates, but I was mad at her and ate them. That was the last time she had got me a card or present for anything: February 2013. Honestly, I can’t blame her because not long after that we started having twins. This year LaRaye wrote a letter to me. My busy wife. She’s like a firmly planted tree; beautifully knotted with elegant, lengthy arms of wisdom. She bends for no one except God.

Most people view Valentine’s Day as an excuse to ask a crush out, or they dread Valentine’s Day because they don’t “have someone” to share it with. Valentine’s day is a celebration of love. It celebrates the love between people no matter the relationship. I hope you thought about the people in your life who mean the most to you and celebrated the love between you. Valentine’s day is for lovers, but it’s not always so black and white.

            I wanted to include the letter my wife wrote. It was so beautifully written that I had to share it. I bawled like a baby. Though this woman doesn’t say it much, I know without a doubt she loves me.

 

Dear Joshua,

 

            Do you realize it has been seven years since you asked, “How do I know you?” It snowed that year, and I made my first snow angel. I remember watching videos of your bulldog, Boss, playing in the snow so I could hear your voice and catch a glimpse of your face. I had no idea that you had been thinking about suicide. You had no idea how much I already adored you. I had crushes during my one month of singleness, but what I felt for you was not a crush. It felt entirely different. I could see exactly how my life would play out with any of those other guys, but life with you was a total mystery.

 

Now, I know why. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined we would be parents to six tiny humans less than seven years later. I could never have imagined we would have changed our address so many times, or that at one point we would have claimed separate homes. I couldn’t imagine the measures God would take to wrestle us onto the right path, or how many fights we’d have over whether I love you (starting with the argument we had the first time I spoke those words to you.) Now that we’ve built this family together on a beautiful Rock foundation, I can certainly “imagine” what our future holds from here; but if I know God, I know that the truth of our fate is wilder than anything you or I could conjure.

 

Be assured that I will keep on loving you through it all. My love for you is like… a banana tree. At first I was so excited that God handed me this beautiful, exotic creation of his (which I blissfully knew nothing about) to plant and tend. I quickly realized that banana trees are more particular and much needier than I expected. Every time I decided to throw my hands up and give up on that tree, it started showing promise again and drew me back in. I never could escape the drive to tend that crazy tree. Before I knew it, little banana plants started popping up everywhere. Now, I’m standing in the middle of a banana jungle with my hands in the air thanking God for that beautiful, exotic tree. I’m glad He didn’t warn me of the efforts or sacrifices necessary to grow it. The surprises and curveballs have nourished my love for you. And, the storms our love has weathered leave me standing in awe.

 

Only God could have orchestrated this journey we’re on. I’m so glad to be riding shotgun with you. Or to drive when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or to climb across to the back row to check on the baby because you won’t pull over the van and I’m terrified of that sound he just made. I’m down for seven more years. How bow dah?

 

With all my banana plant,

LaRaye

Everywhere the Kids Are

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Everywhere the Kids Are

Written by J. Philip Harris

 

Kids are here, Kids are there

The kids I see are everywhere

I’m swimming in a toddler pool

Of poop and pee and puke and drool

The chaos ripe, as it abounds

That rhythmed, cacophonic sound

It’s heightened ring, I hear resound

Everywhere the Kids Are

 

The messes here, the messes there

The messes roaring everywhere

Like little flames set forth to fire

Consuming up the precious briar

And through the forest manor

It’s hectic, yes, I’m quite aware

With passing hyper critic stares

But something lingers in the air

That few will ever know

 

Kids are here, kids are there

Bringing with them pungent airs

Of joyous love eternal

A moment captured amongst the war

Of happiness felt like that of lore

But truest ever known

 

When time has left us standing here

Aged, creeping heads of steer

We will hold that love so dear

Everywhere the Kids Are

 

The air is sad; I feel it, too

The seasons change from green to blue

The light has left us in the dark

With our glowing flame

It may be small, but we can see

That Christ is leading you and me

 

Though the funny pits and pats,

The banging walls, the clicks and clacks

Are faint and distant echoes,

The love we gave in toiled past

will seeds be sewn in futures vast

Everywhere the Kids Are

Finding Joshua

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“I may be a screw-up and a failure, but at least I know I am nothing without Jesus.”

It has taken me quite a long time to end that sentence with Jesus. I used to just think of myself as a screw-up and a failure. Failing was the single thing I was most proficient at. (Laughing) I say that as if I’m not any longer. That is not the case, however. I still am a screw-up and a failure, but now I have the wisdom to keep my faith in God, the one who moves my vehicle of life.

I’ve always had a self-esteem issue. Growing up with ADHD and Bi-polar type 1, I was an easy target for bullies. I was always the outcast within and outside of my family. Looking back, I can see why I always felt alone. I have always had identity issues. I have still yet to “find” myself. I am very good at method acting. I could always play other people well due to my extremely low self-esteem and constant state of searching for myself. In hopes that I would find myself, I often personified the people around me, including females. I know that sounds strange, but at least I’m comfortable admitting it. I’m 30 years old, and I have absolutely no clue what God wants of me. Cliché, I know, but for me it’s more than that. For somebody who has spent their whole life watching the surety and courageousness of others in the passionate pursuit of life, only wishing and dreaming that I could somehow “be something,” it is devastating. It’s devastating to me that even after devoting myself to God, who has all the answers, I  still have to wait for His answer of where He wants me, who He wants me to be, and when that will happen. For almost four years now, I have prayed myself sick asking God what career-direction He has for me. Where does He want to use me? I felt the call to ministry, and here I am. Having all these fellow students at seminary who seemingly know where they are going, I scratch my head and ask “well what am I doing wrong?” I’ve had numerous conversations about “picking” a career path versus God “leading” me where He has already chosen for me. Some think that we pick our destiny, and God uses us there. Others believe that God has chosen the perfect path, and we should submit to what He wants. I have been more inclined to believe the latter. In fact, I can remember as a young boy thinking about this. I felt that God had something specific for me. It was something that He chose for me to do, and one day He would let me know. I remember the first time I thought about this; I was very young, maybe 5. I don’t know why I thought about it or where it came from; all I can say is that I already had a preconceived view about God, and it was this view that would get me through bullying, suicide attempts, drug abuse, and alcoholism.

We all want to be happy. Knowing things makes us happy. Knowing the logistics of things brings peace and comfort. It’s the surety of it and the lack of faith that it brings. Wow! The lack of faith. Even as I write this, I realize that that’s exactly what I crave. The lack of faith. I pray earnestly that God will, in His mercy, keep me blinded. That I won’t know what He has for me until the very moment comes to slay the giant. I pray that my passion for Him will, like these 30 years prior, keep me motivated to keep pressing on. I pray that you reading this will join me in these prayers. Maybe you have struggled with your identity as I have. I pray that God will show you your identity… IN HIM.

A man who truly finds himself, finds God first. It is there that our real identity lies.

I love each one of y’all, and I pray earnestly for your relationship with our Creator. May God richly bless you with true wisdom and peace beyond all comprehension.

~~Joshua P. Harris

Clenching the Pew: The Day I said, “I do”

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I don’t remember the exact date, though I could figure it out if I did some digging, but I do remember the feeling. I remember feeling nervous to walk down the aisle because I knew everyone would be looking at me. I remember thinking everyone was judging me, silently calling me “that sinner.” I remember feeling like I wasn’t good enough for God’s forgiveness. I had done some awful things in my less-than-a-decade-of life. Why should God forgive me? I wasn’t even sure if I wanted forgiveness. I’d battled the debate in my head all week. In order to be forgiven of my sins, I first had to admit that I sinned. Ouch! My anxiety was overwhelming me.

I do remember feeling Him calling. This may seem cliché, but it was a “tugging” feeling. I may not have literally “clenched the pew”, but I did clench my fists. I was scared. I don’t remember the sermon. I do remember the preacher: Bro. Mack Black. I don’t remember who was sitting next to me. I do remember the chapel at Clara Springs Baptist Camp. I remember standing up and walking forward. I do not remember the moments following. I know I told Bro. Black what I was feeling, and I know he lead me through a prayer of acceptance, and forgiveness, and faith, but the memory of it has faded now. The next thing I remember is sitting on the edge of the stage in the chapel next to the other kids who had also just accepted the gift of eternal life. I remember I was the only one wiping tears out of my eyes, and the other kids were asking me why I was crying. I didn’t really feel “different,” but I did feel something. I can now confidently say, looking back over my life, that the something I felt was joy. From the moment I said, “I do,” I have encountered countless times of temptation and tragedy, but none of them could remove from my heart the joy of Jesus Christ and the comfort of knowing that my body will die but my spirit will not.

Like I mentioned before, I don’t remember the exact conversation I had with God on whatever day it was. But “I do’s” always come with vows, right? If I were having this conversation for the first time with God today, this is what I would say:

  • I do believe that You are God. The only God. The true God. The Creator.
  • I do believe that I am a sinner, in need of your saving grace.
  • I do believe that Jesus, your Son, lived a perfect, unblemished life to be the perfect sacrifice and was crucified to provide a way for all to be forgiven of their sins if they believe this Truth and repent.
  • I do believe your Holy Spirit is alive in me and guides me along the right path for Your name’s sake.
  • I do believe that the Bible is Your living Holy Word and that anyone who has ears to hear will understand it’s truth.
  • I do believe that Your call for me is to grow ever closer to You through prayer and praise, reading and hearing and studying of the Word, fellowshipping with and encouraging fellow believers, witnessing through my testimony and raising up disciples, and serving the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, and the grief-stricken.
  • I do believe that You will never leave me nor forsake me.
  • I do believe that I will live eternally in Heaven when my body dies, but that I will first be judged by the way I lived my life.

I wrote this blog months ago. When Josh first read it, he was concerned about why I had told about my deliverance without first stating what it was Jesus had delivered me from. I reacted angrily. I didn’t want to share all that nasty stuff. But, Josh was right. I felt myself distancing myself from God, unable to pray because I knew what He wanted me to do. Finally, I wrote This Is My Song, but the devil tried earnestly to keep me from doing so all day. I asked God to help me, to take the wheel and give me the right words. I had to abandon the dishes and the laundry. The kids watched TV for hours. At nap time, the girls dug through the diaper pale and the big twins snuck out of bed to make “pizza, like the ninja turtles.” God’s grace got me through all that, and when I had to make up for it the next day, everything fell into place and all my kids were still as happy as ever. And, I have never felt more free in my life. Now, I can pray without hesitation and focus on the two whose salvation is pressing heavily on my heart. Confession is not meant to serve the purpose of forgiveness, but of testimony to unbelievers, accountability among believers, and freedom from guilt. Share your story. 

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on a stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”                        Matthew 4:21-22

——Raye

This Is My Song

 

*Disclaimer: I would rate this version of my testimony as PG and encourage any young people who read this to discuss it, as you feel led to, with a parent or trusted adult. I have forgiven those who hurt me in my past and consider them equal to me in falling victim to Satan. Despite Satan, I have matured toward Christ through each of the following situations. I have denied God the use of my testimony for too many years, now. Any comments calling out names or demeaning anyone’s character for their past actions will not be approved.

No one can serve two masters at the same time. You will hate one of them and love the other. Or you will be faithful to one and dislike the other. You can’t serve God and money at the same time.

     Matthew 6:24 NIrV

I hate Satan. My hate for him has grown with my understanding of who he is. Satan has been after me my whole life. My existence came from sin. The beauty of that is that I know God was after me my whole life, first. God took a situation, a sinful act between two people, and brought a blessing from it. I’m not saying I’m special or putting myself on any kind of pedestal. All I know is that my mother was in the middle of an intense battle of spiritual warfare when God created me. In the midst of confusion, guilt, pain, and a series of sinful relationships, my mother discovered, simultaneously, that she had miscarried one child but still carried another: me. As a child, I never could have imagined the impact that Larz’s (my twin) brief existence would have on my life. Mostly, it’s the realization of how different my life would have been had he survived. Though I miss him and find myself longing for the kind of relationship I missed out on, the kind I see in my own children, I thank God for sparing my brother from this world: from a world of spiritual warfare, where a great majority of people are in complete denial of the God who created and loves us and of the armor He has given us to rise above the enemy.

 

I hate Satan. Like I said, he’s been after me my whole life. I love God. He’s been after me my whole life. From my first breath, I’ve had a choice to make. When I became of age to make that choice, I was afraid to. Satan makes his way of life look so alluring. But the fact is, his “way of life” ends in death; not sleeping-peacefully-in-a-coffin-covered-with-pretty-flowers death, but burning-eternally-in-the-pits-of-hell-finally-knowing-all-the-things-you-wished-to-know-and-regretting-every-moment-of-your-God-given-life death. The facts were lain before me, and God sent the invitation. The details of that glorious day lie in another blog which I’ve yet to publish, but when I was 9 years old, I vowed to serve God. No longer was Satan the master of my life. So why did/do I continue to live my life in constant spiritual warfare?

 

I hate Satan. He was there when my mother made the incredibly difficult decision to lie to me about where the other half of my DNA came from (even though she was unsure, herself). He knew just the perfect time to introduce me to my dad (the one who adopted and financially supported me; the one who encouraged the “lie” of my life) when my little brain was just starting to form memories. Satan was there when my older cousin sexually abused me; and he filled my little toddler brain with a secret fascination with sex, as well as a constant sense of shame for feeling that way. He was there when a male schoolmate pretended to commit sexual acts with me in the classroom; he was with the teacher who never questioned what was going on behind those desks; he was there when another male schoolmate became obsessed with slapping my butt. When God gave me the courage to request a classroom change, Satan reminded me of my shameful past and convinced me that I had to lie to my mom and principal in order to keep my secret. So, all I told them was that a boy in my class hit me. Again, Satan was there at all the sleep-overs filled with sexual games and porn; and, he was there when I lied to my mother about it. God’s power is greater, still.

 

I love God. Remember the courage He gave me to request a class change? The request was granted. In my new class, I made a new friend. She invited me to church for a Wednesday night service. It was a Baptist church. There was food. When I got home, I told my mom we HAD to go back because someone had made the most amazing Mexican Bean Casserole. We did. And we continued to go. This church sent their children and youth to camp every summer. I went one week, and God had certainly captured my attention. This encampment offered two other camps that I could go to, so I spent nearly half my summer there. My timeline may not be exactly correct, but I believe it was two years later that I had my “walking on water” experience (spiritually speaking). I felt that infamous “tugging” feeling; the things I had been learning over the past few years were sinking in and making sense. “Lord, is it you? [LaRaye] asked. “If it is, tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14: 28 NIrV) Jesus personally invited me, in the midst of my sexual immorality, lies, guilt, confusion, and pain. Love wins. I chose my master. I chose to put on the yoke of Jesus. So why did/do I continue to live my life in constant spiritual warfare?

 

I hate Satan. He knew he lost the battle of my soul. But, he still did not give up on trying to use me against God’s mission. He wants to give Christians a bad reputation, to pin us as bigots or hypocrites. Satan continued to tempt me with sexual thoughts. He brought novels into my life which held explicit sexual scenes within their pages, leaving my pre-adolescent mind to wander where I knew it ought not to. With puberty, naturally, came stronger curiosity and desire. My home-life, lacking a strong spiritual leader, was a warzone (spiritually speaking) rather than a safe-haven. In the meantime, Satan entered my first home-church wearing lambs clothing and broke it to pieces. My family was among the ones who left. For a couple years, I tried to run/hide from God. I remember purposely sleeping late on Sundays to ensure that I had escaped any possibility of going to church. Every Sunday, God called. Every Sunday, I hid. As far as I can remember, we did not attend church for about three years. Not ironically, my parents moved my brother and I to private school for the duration of my “running.” It was a Catholic school. Though I did not accept the Catholic faith, God sneakily placed me there to surround me with His Word. I didn’t lose my faith when I quit attending church, but Satan surely tried to convince me that I did. An outcast amongst my Catholic peers, I could not wait to return to public school for my high school career.

 

Satan was there, too. But, he was not my master. I struggled with depression throughout my first half of 9th grade. I am a major introvert. I had no friends, at first. I could make perfect grades on tests, but barely scrape by with a C due to absences and incomplete homework assignments. My teachers showed great concern for me, but could I tell them that Satan was trying to ruin my life and, therefore, my testimony? No. I couldn’t tell them that Satan was trying to make a mockery out of my belief in Jesus. First of all, at that point, I didn’t understand what was going on with me. Secondly, I was still running. I find it so amazing, though, how God can take what Satan intends for evil and use it for His glory. I had many crushes throughout my junior high days, but they were all fleeting, including that one week-long relationship. I had this neighbor who would frequently ask me to church. Of course, I always “accidently” overslept. Lo and behold, my hormones would direct my attention to another individual who attended that same church. So, one Sunday, I heeded God’s urgency and took my neighbor-friend up on his invitation. Though I first attended the church for the attention of my crush (who would later become my first boyfriend), I was captured by God’s presence in that place, as well as the measures He went through to get me there.

 

I hate Satan. Have I mentioned that? With all my (hidden) exposure to dirty novels and television, daddy issues (the extent of which, I was still clueless of), and deep desire to be loved by another human being, Satan was all too eager to get in the middle of my first dating relationship. What started out friendly and fun and mostly church-based quickly received a driver’s license and a car which led to finding ourselves unsupervised in movie theaters and empty parking lots. The first time I told him no (not the BIG no, but for another reason), I was struck with fear that he might end the relationship, even though he clearly stated that he admired a girl with boundaries. When Satan convinced me that I had to give up the boundaries or say goodbye to my first boyfriend, God graciously placed my brother at home to block Satan’s big plan. And, my first boyfriend, the gentleman that he was, ended the relationship before Satan could present another opportunity. I continued to attend that church and the youth functions; it was my home, at that point.

 

I hate Satan. He had a solution for my first heartbreak. In the midst of trying to focus on growing closer to God and finding fulfillment in Him instead of the male species, I somehow managed to catch the eye of a “college guy”. He asked me out while we were at one of those youth functions. I said, “maybe.” Later that night, he tried to kiss me. It was mid-fall, but I was twitterpated. Of course, I did what any 15-year-old Christian girl would do: I went home and asked my parents’ permission. When my dad gave me a firm, “No,” I cried and kicked and screamed like a toddler. Either my mom is a hopeless romantic or a firm believer in letting a child learn from their own mistakes, but she supported me. After all, I had met him at church. He came from a nice family. While those things were true, he and I were both being fed steady lies from our arch-nemesis. By Spring, those boundaries I once had were a thing of the past. I was in love, and according to society, this is what you do when you’re in love, right? The day after my 16th birthday, 6 months into the relationship, I was wearing an engagement ring. The two of us served side-by-side in our church-home for nearly two years, lying to everyone’s faces. We lied to our parents, who trusted and believed in us. We truly did believe we were in love and destined to be together forever, and that was the grounds Satan gave us to justify our actions. The further along we got into our relationship, the more angry-tension seemed to grow between us. In the midst of my sin, I continued to mature in the Lord, and my conviction grew all the more. But, it was too late to turn back, right? Girls and guys, Satan will tell you that you can’t turn back once you’ve crossed that line. That’s a lie. Hindsight, I’m sure that my “fiancé” was dealing with his own convictions. He knew we weren’t wholeheartedly seeking God’s Will together. At a winter-retreat at the very encampment where I came to know God, I ended that relationship. He seemed not to care at all. If I thought I had experienced heartbreak before, I was clueless. I had planned my entire future around this guy who did not seem slightly pained at the idea of a future without me.

 

I hate Satan. All of a sudden, I was “on the market,” and older guys started coming out of the woodworks trying to talk to me. How gross is that? And the guilt that Satan surrounded me in was next to unbearable. But, God was there. My mom rocked her 17-year-old daughter to sleep several nights. My friends reached out to me and loved on me and encouraged me.  I started taking care of me. I made healthy decisions. I was focused on God and seeking His true will for my life. I had my eyes on a young pastor, God-willing. I literally have written in a journal somewhere, “I believe I am going to be married to a pastor someday.” God has a sense of humor, and He works things out for the good of those who love Him. A few weeks after I journaled about my dreams of being a minister’s wife, I met the town-rebel. I made the same mistakes with this new boyfriend, but God won a new soul and servant in him. The obstacles that Satan placed in each of our lives prior to meeting each other continue to try our marriage. On God, the solid rock, we stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

 

I hate Satan. I hate seeing my son raise his hand to an adult when he doesn’t get his way. I hate seeing my daughter inflict pain on her siblings when she thinks no one is watching. I hate knowing that Satan is already studying my younger daughters and waiting for my younger sons to be born so that he can study them, too. Don’t deny the fact that spiritual warfare exists for these little ones. I’ve displayed my entire testimony of the devil’s snares that God saved me from. Satan didn’t wait for me to become an adult. He didn’t even wait for me to be born before he started attacking me. This is my story. This is my song.

 

I love God. I want my children to love God. That’s the reason God gave us children in the first place. We don’t take God’s blessings lightly. My children are not my own, but God’s. Be bold in acknowledging the spiritual warfare in your life and the lives of your children. To ignore it only gives Satan an advantage. Suit up. Jesus is calling.

 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Acts 20:24 NLT

 

 

—-Raye

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#LoveYourSpouseChallenge

I am pregnant.

Pregnant is not all that I am. In fact, pregnant is such a small fraction of who I am that I often forget. I’m startled when I feel a jolting kick to the ribs, especially the realization that they are already so high up in my abdomen. I’m surprised when I grunt standing up, lose my breath doing chores, or find myself waddling across the room. If someone asks me how I’m doing or feeling, I sometimes don’t realize until after the conversation ends that they were asking in regards to my pregnancy. I do enjoy pregnancy, and it is exciting to feel these little miracles moving inside of me (that’s my favorite part!). However, at this time of my life, I am so much more than just pregnant.

I am a Christian. I have a duty to defend the Faith: the Truth, the Life, and the Way. Mostly, that means introducing my children to who Christ is, living my life as a Christian role model to them, and showing them how to respond to sin or temptation of sin. Sometimes that means giving my husband encouragement or advice when he faces spiritual battles. I could write an entire blog, or even an entire book, on all the duties that fall upon me because I am a follower of Christ. This is the short version.

I am a Wife. Lately, this has been a pretty tough job. My husband and I have been feeling like we’re standing back-to-back in a spiritual boxing ring with Satan coming at us from all four corners. Josh is the type of person who tends to worry. He also tends to act impulsively. He needs me in his corner to remind him that God knows all and will work everything out for the good of those who serve Him. He needs me to understand and forgive his humanness; none of us are immune to sin. He needs me to love him like Jesus does. And, he needs me to need him, too.

I am a Mother. I have four toddlers to dress, feed, bathe, teach, and entertain. I swap their wardrobes out, when the time comes, through tears of denial. I know almost everything that goes in and comes out of their bodies; I set limits on sugar and know what is a normal “poo” for each of them. I’ve taught them to love books (letters, numbers, & art). I recognize and encourage their individual gifts and hobbies. Every day they are told that Jesus loves them. I study their thought patterns in order to discern the best form of discipline for misbehaviors. Being a stay-at-home mom, these things occupy the biggest portion of my time during this season.

The three things I’ve listed still only skim the surface of who I am on this earth, but for a time these are the parts of me which are most prevalent. And, these are the parts that my husband sees of me. This is who he acknowledges me as. Okay, so what? What was the point of this whole blog?

The whole point of this blog was simply my thought process in coming to realize that I have no right to expect my innocently ignorant husband to ALWAYS remember that I’m pregnant if I can’t remember myself. The whole point of all this was to say: Josh, I love you. I know you’re trying. I know you cherish me. I know you’re under an immense amount of stress. I know that you are more than just my husband, and that you hold that part of your identity in high regard. I know that you feel stretched thin. I know that you’re still trying to figure out who you are…who God is growing you to be. I’m sorry for my lousy attitude. I’m sorry for holding unrealistic expectations for you. These hormones won’t last forever, but the growth we’re experiencing together will. We will get through this together. I don’t know what the future holds, but we both know who holds it.

 

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—-Raye