Finding Hope and Joy in Times of Uncertainty

Finding Hope and Joy in Times of Uncertainty

Welcome to another episode of the Heart of the Matter Radio/ Podcast. In today’s episode, we have the pleasure of hosting Grace Fox, author of the devotional book “Fresh Hope for Today.” With everything happening in the world today, it’s easy to lose hope and feel overwhelmed. That’s why we’re diving into the topic of mental health and the importance of finding hope and joy during challenging times. Grace’s book, filled with beautiful and touching reflections, reminds us that our hope lies in Christ. Join us as we discuss the power of prayer, finding hope in little moments, and how God’s love can bring us great joy and encouragement. Stay tuned for an uplifting conversation that will remind you of the hope that is available to you even in the midst of life’s challenges.

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Cynthia:

This is a time that we really need hope. Every day that I listen to the news or read something on the Internet, I am utterly amazed at the world I live in. How in the world could it get any crazier?

The next few weeks we’re going to be talking about mental health issues. We need hope and we need joy right now. I’m holding in my hand a devotional written by Grace Fox. I love purple and it’s purple and blue.

I’ve been flipping through it and really enjoying some of the things that I see in here because our hope is in Christ. Grace is with me today. Welcome, Grace.

Grace:

Hey, thank you so much for having me, Cynthia. I’m glad to be with you.

Cynthia:

As I’m flipping through here, you have one devotional that says, ‘Because You Prayed.’ It’s got the verse James 5:16 about confessing your sins to each other and praying for each other. Can you tell me a story about that? How does that help in finding hope and joy?

Grace:

There is such power in prayer. We can’t see into the heavenlies.  And so we pray. And I think sometimes God honors our prayers, even though they’re uttered with a little bit of knocking knees sometimes. But in this particular devotional, I talked about King Sennacherib of Assyria. He sent a letter to King Hezekiah warning of an impending attack. Hezekiah took that letter and he prayed about it, and God reassured him that Sennacherib was wrong.

And God actually told him, victory will come because you have prayed. And sometimes I wonder if God waits until we pray. I don’t understand all the theology behind that, but he invites our participation in what he’s doing.  Our first inclination might be to run to a friend and talk about it or to stew about it. But if we can understand the power of prayer, we might see God do amazing things because we prayed.

Cynthia:

Yes. I love that story because it talks about the King taking the letter and going into the presence of God. “Here it is. Lord, look what it says, I’m scared to death.”

And I just can so relate to that situation. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to Lord and said, “Okay, Lord, do you know what’s happening now?”

Grace:

I love Cynthia, too. He could have gathered all of his advisors around him. He could have called a board meeting. He could have done any of those things and laid the letter out before them and said, “Okay, what are we going to do? Let’s make a plan here. What’s our strategy going to be?”

But he didn’t do that. He went to the Lord and laid the letter out. He prayed first.

Cynthia:

You’re right. He was a king, after all. And he could have said, well, we’re going to get rough. But instead he went to the Lord.

I’m on page 80. ‘A little bit of hope.’ The verse is Psalm 62, five through six. “My soul finds rest in the Lord. My hope comes from Him truly. He is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress. I will not be shaken.”

Grace:

A little bit of hope sometimes is all we need in order to carry on. And I just love how God is so personal with us as his kids. He knows the situations we’re in that are hard. He knows the heartaches that we feel.  And sometimes he will send us that little bit of hope. That’s enough to remind us that we’re not completely in the dark.

There is that light ahead. There is the ending to this thing that we’re in. It will not last forever. And he might send that little bit of hope. Maybe an email from a friend that just says, “Thinking about you today,” Maybe something that’s beautiful in nature outside. And sometimes that is the kind of little bit of hope he sends because he wants to cheer our hearts and remind us that he’s there with us.

Cynthia:

Yeah, this happened to me one time. I had a daughter who was away from God. I went to a wedding and just came home very discouraged.

I wanted my husband to be able to walk a daughter down the aisle. But he wasn’t going to be able to do that. But someone sent me a message that day on Facebook.

“I’m thinking about you today and I’m praying for you.” And it’s like the light was turned on because God knew how I was feeling that day. He knew I was feeling blah, and he wanted to let me know he was there.

That made all the difference in the world.

Grace:

That’s beautiful. I got an email like that this morning from a woman who I met at a women’s conference probably five years ago. And when we met, she became interested in the mission organization that my husband and I direct. So she’s been going on short term teams and partnering with our national staff in the Middle East ever since and supporting their work. This morning I opened my emails and here’s a message from her.

She want to let me know she was praying for me right now.

 

Cynthia:

Yeah, God has a way of doing that. She had no idea what you were facing, but God did, and he got the words out of her.

Okay, here’s another one. This is “Ripples of Joy.” This is on page 60, and it says, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” Philemon 1:7.

Grace:

Our joy cannot be contained. I mean, when we feel joy inside, it’s going to come out. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. And so when the Spirit is in us, that joy is going to come out. This particular devotional was written about a friend of mine named Jane. She was a lady my age who volunteered at our church. The women loved her. She had such a sweet spirit. She would ask questions about how they were doing, and then she would listen as they responded.

She didn’t just ask, how are you? And then leave after a short fine. She would stick around and listen to what they had to say, because she genuinely cared. And there was a sense of calm, a sense of peace about her, and this joy just emanated from her, and it was contagious, it rippled. And so she was diagnosed with a neurological rare disease that claimed her life about six or seven weeks after she was diagnosed. People grieved the loss. I grieved the loss. She was a good friend of mine, too. I was at her service.

 

And we could say that even in the midst of the grief, after she passed away, there was joy because of the joy she left behind. We had joy in knowing that she loved Jesus and she was with him at that point. And there would be that wonderful reuniting know? Her joy, resembled a ripple that began with her faith in Jesus and reached more people than she realized. She left a legacy of joy.

Cynthia:

What a legacy.

Here’s another one on page 100. It’s about suffering.

“In this, you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while, you may have to suffer grief of all kinds and trials. These have come on so that the power of the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth and gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Grace:

Our human bent wants to escape suffering. Nobody likes pain. Nobody asks for pain. But when we experience it, we want to get out of it as fast as we can because it’s unpleasant. Who likes to sit in the middle of pain and suffering? No one. But we really need to do is to align our theology with what the Bible says. One, it will happen. It happens to all of us.

And two, it is something to rejoice in Like James, the Book of James talks about counting it all joy.

Here in this first Peter verse, it talks about greatly rejoicing. Pain is temporary. It says now for a little while, just a little while. We have to keep in mind that this is not our home. Our permanent residency is coming. And this suffering prepares us.

Cynthia:

I’m thinking right now of a friend of mine that was my roommate in nursing school. She got brain cancer. She happened to be in the bathroom with one of the ladies at the church she went to. I heard about this after her death.

The lady said Mary came up and said, “I’ve been praying for you. I’m concerned about you.”

And the lady said, “I had back pain. I had nothing in comparison to a brain tumor.”

But Mary was praying for me, and I was so touched. Now, shortly after, Mary did pass away. but That love that she had was so precious. That’s the Holy Spirit.

Grace:

Yeah, it is. And we can find encouragement even when we’re in the midst of suffering. Our human mind always goes towards the negative. Our human bent will tend to question God’s purposes, may question his presence in our lives,  Remember that he knows what suffering is all about because he suffered too. And Jesus suffered on the cross and God the Father suffered as he watched that happen. And so we can be encouraged in knowing that we can cry out to Him in our pain and know that he gets it. He totally understands how we’re feeling when we are in that place of suffering.

Cynthia:

It’s for a little while because it can seem like a long time when you’re in the middle of it. I’m on page 116. It says, “Give thanks to the lord, for he is good, and his love endures forever.”

Grace:

Yeah, I love that, too. His love endures forever. There’s a little saying that I hear people repeat when something good happens. “God is good.”

And I just want to say, “Even in the bad times, he is good. His nature never changes, and his love for us never wavers either.” So whether we’re feeling blessed because everything’s going our way, we can be assured of his love in those places. But even in the hard times, we can be assured that his love is still there, and he’s still got us in his arms because his love endures forever.

I think one of the things that helps us to remember that and walk through those hard times with that attitude is to give thanks. In the middle of this, I will give thanks to you, because your love is still there. Your love endures forever.

Cynthia:

Thankfulness can change so many things in your heart when your heart is really heavy. I’m curious. I started off talking about the craziness of the world that we live in, and I’d like to know how you handle that when you keep hearing stuff on the news that’s absolutely bizarre. What kind of thoughts do you have?

Grace:

Going back to gratitude? I think gratitude is huge. And there’s that passage in Philippians, chapter four, that talks about, “Don’t be anxious for anything, but in everything with prayer and thanksgiving, let your request be made known unto God.”

So pray with thanksgiving. And it’s almost like a mathematical equation. I can pray, but I’m not going to have the peace that verse promises. If all I do is pray about those things, I have to engage in gratitude because that’s a part of that command. And so it’s like prayer plus thanksgiving equals peace. If either prayer or thanksgiving is missing, I’m not going to end up with peace on the other side of the equal sign. And so it’s gratitude and Thanksgiving. God, I thank you that in the middle of this mess. You are still in control.

God, I thank you that your love endures forever. God, I thank you that you are sovereign. It looks like things are out of control, but they are not. You still sit on the throne, and for that I am thankful. And God, in the middle of this mess, in the middle of this chaos, you are promising to do something that is good. You are still able to bring good out of something that looks so bad because you are God.

Cynthia:

That’s beautiful. And I love that passage prayer with Thanksgiving because if you look in Romans One, people start going on that bad downhill slope in Romans one, but the first step is that they’re not giving thanks.

Grace:

And Cynthia. It’s like when we start giving thanks, our focus shifts and we begin to reframe our circumstances and what we see happening around us. It shifts to the God of Hope. He remains on the throne. He says, “You’re going to go through suffering, but it’s just for a little while. And in the end, I’m going to wipe every tear from your eyes.”

There will be only joy and praise and worship. So that’s how our focus shifts. But it happens when we begin to give thanks to the one who is still in control.

Cynthia:

Thanksgiving helps you to let go of it.

Grace:

It does. And we need to do that. Who wants to hang on to those things that are so hard? We have enough stuff to think about in life. We just need to let it go. And seriously, sometimes I visualize my hands like fists. I’ll close my fist and then I will take and turn them over and open them so I can release the burdens. Then I can turn my hands over with my palms facing up and my hands are now open and in a position or a posture to receive those good things that God wants to give me. And those good things might not be material things, whatever, but I don’t even think like that. But those good things, I believe, would be peace and hope and joy.

So so long as I’m hanging on to those hard things, I’m not in that place to receive that hope that he wants to share with me.

Cynthia:

Yes. I think about that verse in Isaiah 96. It said, the government will be on his shoulders because his shoulders are broad enough to carry it and ours aren’t.

Grace:

That’s right. We’re not meant to carry the weight of the world. But he says, Any of you who are weary, come to me, and I will carry your burden.

Parenting Ahead: Build a Strong Foundation for the Teen Years

Parenting Ahead: Build a Strong Foundation for the Teen Years

Welcome to the Cynthia L Simmons podcast! In today’s episode, we have a special guest, Kristen Hatton, joining us to discuss her book “Parenting Ahead.” Parenting is a lifelong journey, and it’s crucial to start planning for the teen years and beyond. Kristen shares insightful tips on proactive parenting, measuring success, and how parenting can mature us as individuals. We delve into the difference between proactive and reactive parenting styles, as well as the influence of personal idols on our parenting decisions. Join us as we explore the challenges and joys of parenting and gain valuable insights from Kristen’s experiences and wisdom. Stay tuned for an engaging and thought-provoking conversation!

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Constitution Day Special: Unpacking our Constitution

Constitution Day Special: Unpacking our Constitution

Welcome to another exciting episode of the Cynthia L Simmons podcast! In this episode, we unpack the fascinating topic of the Constitution, just in time for Constitution Day, which is Sept 17. Our host, Cynthia, is joined by the knowledgeable Paula Key, a doctoral student at Liberty University and a teacher at Colorado Christian. Together, they explore the significance of the Constitution, its evolution from the Articles of Confederation, and its relationship to democracy and a republic. Join us as we journey through history and unravel the connections between our government and its British roots. Get ready for an engaging conversation filled with insights and revelations about the longest-lasting set of laws in history. It’s time to celebrate Constitution Day with Cynthia and Paula!

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Cynthia:

We are in September again and it is Constitution week. We need to talk about the wonderful Constitution that we have, which is the longest that any country has ever been under a particular set of laws. It was signed in 1787, which makes 236 years. That’s amazing. Today I have with me Paula Key, and she is a doctoral student at Liberty University and she also teaches at Colorado Christian. Paula has also done some academic writing. Welcome!

Laura, can you tell me a little bit about what was wrong with the Articles of Confederation? I just mentioned that the Constitution has lasted such a long time. It’s incredible. But what was wrong with what we had before?

Paula:

One of the easiest ways to understand the Articles of Confederation is by knowing a couple of key terms. Those terms are federation and confederation. And I find that a lot of people are not super familiar with what these words actually mean. Today. Our Constitution in America, it puts us under a federation, which basically means that we’re a group of states that are united under one central government.

A confederation is a group of states that are united but they have more decisive power within the state itself rather than the federal government. Obviously, this can lead to a lot of issues. For example, if each state issued its own currency, we would have to exchange currency every time we cross state borders, which would be kind of a pain. So it just makes sense for us to be more united among ourselves and less divided among our individual states, especially with certain particular issues.

Cynthia:

You say that we are a republic, but we are also democracy and a republic. We obviously vote for our leaders, but what is a republic, and how is that different from just a pure democracy?

Paula:

Right? That’s a great question.

America is a constitutional republic, and I actually put this in the article I have published. It basically means that the highest power in our land is a document and not a person. That means that all of our leaders should follow our document, which is our constitution.

Democracy simply means rule by the people, and that’s our right to elect our representatives. We are definitely a republic. In the classical republican tradition at the time of the framing, our constitution sought to balance the interest of classes or estates, not individuals, which is often different than what we hear today.

I think modern history is really filtered through a lens of race, class, and gender. And so it’s interesting that the founders were thinking of those issues at the very beginning, but that changed as Thomas Jefferson came into office. We became much more democratic, and I think a lot of the people who were in office prior to Jefferson’s presidency, they sort of assumed that their children would end up taking the next positions and it would be a generational thing that would go on.

Jefferson said, no, we need to have more voting. The people need to make more of those kind of decisions. And it sort of angered some of the people who were in office that their posterity may not get the role going forward, but it definitely gave us more power as people. And so Thomas Jefferson is often criticized because of that. It’s very interesting, but, yeah, we are a constitutional republic, we are a democracy, and we are a federation. So all four of those words in various ways go together.

Cynthia:

One of the things that you mentioned is that you said that our form of government with the Senate and House of Representatives is based on Britain’s structure. How is it the same and how is it different?

Paula:

We were based on English law in a lot of ways. The American Revolution was sort of an English Civil War because you had England fighting England. Although we have the English Civil Wars of the 16 hundreds, so don’t confuse those. You can’t really call the American Revolution a Civil war, but essentially that’s what it was.

After we had our formal break from England, we took a lot of those laws and put them into our own constitution. Slavery is a big issue that we talk about today. Obviously, the Founders had that discussion, but there’s a lot of other things.

There’s a really great book by historian Forrest McDonald that talks about the ideological origins of the Constitution, and he makes a great case for international waters. Separation of powers, how that came from Montesquieu and a lot of the ideas of the Enlightenment, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson really leaned on Lockean theory. And Two Treatises of Government by John Locke was a major part of all of that. And you could really even go back as far as the Magna Carta in the twelve hundreds and talk about how English law developed all the way from the Magna Carta through the English Civil Wars and then how we took that and developed it even further to create our own constitution.

Cynthia:

Well see that is interesting because based on the Magna Carta, didn’t the people of Britain have some kind of say in the government?

Paula:

Yeah. So themes of absolutism were definitely prevalent in England and that’s a lot of what the English Civil Wars were all about were those themes of absolutism. And then you had Parliament coming in and trying to make some decisions. It wasn’t extremely democratic, but it got more democratic as time went along and there were a lot of aspects to what was actually going to be democratic. A lot of people want to incorporate things like the Second Amendment and gun laws into that. Well, that really wasn’t part of it in the 16 hundreds, but there were laws about weapons that we can even go back and look at today and kind of link those things together as to why the founders thought that was a good idea to put that in our bill of.

Cynthia:

I know that from my study of Georgia history that the colonists in Georgia did have an opportunity to vote for a kind of a lower house parliament in Georgia, but it didn’t have a lot of power over things that England decided to do. So in some ways, we kind of followed that pattern of the lower house and upper house, which I think is interesting. Of course they had the King and.

Paula:

Georgia was one of the weaker colonies as far as all that’s concerned too. We were the last founded and we were sort of a border protection. They wanted to protect that Spanish border and most of the people here were Tories, not Wigs, which means they were loyal to the Crown. Whereas like up in Massachusetts, in the New England area you really had more know, the Sons of Liberty and that kind of thing. Although we did have our own group down here, I think they were the Liberty Boys.

Cynthia:

They were the Liberty Boys. The reason that we were so loyal to the Crown is that we were protected from the Indians. We were the smallest colony and as people were moving over into the countryside. They were having problems with Indians and they wanted the Brits to protect them. Although there were some further down in Darien, Georgia that had come from Scotland. and They were very interested in freedom. Who authored our constitution and what kind of problems did they face?

Paula:

Well, so the founders saw problems occurring because of the Articles of Confederation and economics plays somewhat of a role in this. There are some historians who argue that if America wasn’t going through the economic issues that they had, we may not have the Constitution at all. I’m not a huge fan of that particular argument in history. Historians often are on each side of the aisle and so that’s one. You can look up the history of events like Shay’s Rebellion and maybe kind of come to your own conclusion about that.

But basically 55 delegates from twelve states gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to solve all these problems and that became known as the Constitutional Convention. Rhode island didn’t send anyone, so that’s why you have twelve. I think they were a little concerned about maintaining state sovereignty as well as some other issues.

In terms of difficulty, I would say that disagreement among the delegates was a major problem. There were a myriad of controversial topics and we kind of discussed that already. Slavery obviously was a controversial issue. Separation of powers. You had theories of mixed government, the economy, salaries, taxation, property qualifications were a big one at the time. You had to own a certain amount of property in order to serve in office. And the President, I want to say in McDonald’s book, he had to be 100,000 away from debt with his property, which was an astronomical amount at that time.  A lot of that dissipated when we get into the early 18 hundreds and of course dissipated even more as time went by.

Cynthia:

The problem with a pure democracy, I understand, is that if you have a pure democracy then all the people voting can vote themselves the money of the rich. How does the constitution protect us from that?

Paula:

We have the upper house and the lower house. So England has what’s the it’s the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Right? And so the House of Lords was sort of like the elitist House and the House of Commons was for the general public and so we have the Senate and the House of Representatives, which is very similar to the setup that they have. And of course, the Senate would be more of our elitist and then the House of Representatives would be more for the common people.

I think by separating things out and then even within the states to take that a step further and this gets really confusing when you go to write your state representative you have a representative for the federal government. You have a representative for your state.

A lot of times the representatives in your state have certain specialties that they work under. So you may write to the representative for your state in your district. Well, they may not handle the issue that you’re writing about. So then you have to figure out which representative handles that particular issue, and it just becomes more specific, which does get confusing. But once you navigate your way a little bit, it really is a beneficial thing because you’re getting an expert in that field that you need help with.

Cynthia:

I did not know that. You could not necessarily write your state representative with a problem, and they might not even know the answer. How interesting.

Paula:

They work together.

Cynthia:

Cynthia:

What are some really fun things that homeschool families could do to celebrate the constitution?

Paula:

So we’ve done a lot of things. I homeschooled my two children for a long time, and I will say I think it’s obvious that they should read it. But that’s rather tedious and not always fun to sit down and read an antique document. Some people really enjoy that, but I think most kids especially find that a little bit difficult. So maybe find an annotated version or annotate it yourself. Go through it and look at it and kind of put it in layman’s terms. Okay, I just read this. What does it mean? And just kind of go through it like that.

Audio constitutions might be good for auditory learners, but I think the biggest thing you can do is once you’ve read it, make it fun, find things to do that are engaging. So you may want to do a mock constitutional convention. If you’re part of a home school group and you have a lot of students, you can assign everybody a role. They can even have a name of a certain founder and kind of research that founder. Figure out how would this person have voted. What was their argument? Then live it and make it interesting.

There’s a curriculum called a Noble Experiment by Zzok Publishing that we really liked. It’s got some great activities, including it’s got an American political heritage timeline that was super interesting. And you kind of go through all of these things and talk about how America gleaned from all of these. So that one’s really fun. And I think iCivics is another one. That’s a website that we’ve used when the White House game is fun on there. If you want to learn how elections.

Cynthia:

Go, it is interesting. I think the Bill of Rights is real important for kids to understand. How could we highlight some of the information in the Bill of Rights?

Paula:

Yeah, that’s a really important one. I think memorizing it is the key and understanding what it means, but I think it’s pretty easy to understand, and memorizing it is the harder part. So I would just play games with that. I think there are so many memorization games out there. You can do a matching game or you can create one online. My goodness, there’s just so much. But definitely memorize a Bill of Rights.

Cynthia:

Okay. Maybe have a trial by jury and try somebody. I think that would be fun. Yeah, argue the case and everything. Religious freedom of religion and speech and press. I mean, all of that’s important for us to know and for kids to understand, especially today.

Unlocking the Power of Hospitality

Unlocking the Power of Hospitality

Welcome back to another episode of the Cynthia L Simmons podcast! In today’s episode, we have a special guest, DeAnna Kane, the founder of the online magazine, The Heart of Hospitality. Join Cynthia as she dives into a conversation with DeAnna who explained unlocking the power of hospitality. They discuss the excitement of creating connections, the joy of celebrating women, and even explore the concept of “fast-food hospitality”. You won’t want to miss this inspiring and insightful conversation about creating community and meaningful relationships. So grab a cup of coffee and get ready to be inspired to extend hospitality in your life. Let’s dive in!

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Cynthia: My mother was very good at hospitality, and I watched her for years. After I got married, I suddenly realized that it would be up to me to do hospitality, and I felt a little intimidated. And of course, then I felt a little insecure when I thought about how I was a newlywed and didn’t have as many pretty things and my apartment wasn’t as fancy as some people. And finally, I heard someone say this little phrase, and it stuck in my mind: hospitality before pride. And I thought, that’s what I need to think about every time somebody comes over.
And so, I try my best to make them feel special and just have people over and be a good hostess. Well, today we’re going to talk about hospitality with DeAnna Kane, and she is the one who started this magazine called The Heart of Hospitality, which is an online magazine. She apparently loves it. Her magazine is gorgeous, and gives tips on unlocking the power of hospitality. Welcome, DeAnna.

 

DeAnna: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

 

Cynthia: Can you tell us why you started a magazine? Because, I mean, hospitality is one thing, but a magazine? Oh, my goodness. That’s another thing. So, what is it that you had in mind when you did that?

 

DeAnna: Sure. I do have a business partner. Her name is Leslie, and she started a women’s ministry. I’ve known her for about 30 years. She’s my pastor’s wife, and so we’ve been longtime friends. And she started a women’s ministry about 25 years ago called Mona Mi, which means my friend in French. It was about connecting with women in the church when you just don’t have enough time to meet somebody in the foyer.

You say, “Hi, how are you?”

She replies, “Oh, I’m fine.”

And then you find out that marriages are falling apart. Kids are losing their way. They’re losing their jobs, their homes. Leslie kept thinking, well, why don’t we know about this stuff going on? So, she started this ministry called Mona mi, which is about extending hospitality, and that’s kind of what the basis of the church was.

We all realized that in the Bible Jesus always broke bread and then gave the Word. He created a relationship before he gave the Word. It lays a foundation for creating a relationship and a connection with people.

I’ve had a lot of experience in event planning, so I’ve done very large events with conferences, women’s conferences, and just all types of events back and forth. And so, when she and her husband Mark were moving to California, we were trying to figure out ways of how we were going to extend our church. We always come back to hospitality because that’s just what we do.

So that’s just one of the things that’s kind of ingrained in both of our DNA. And we’re also hospitality experts and they kind of go hand in hand. So, one day we were just kind of shooting the breeze and I just kind of threw it out there and I said, “Hey, what do you think about putting a magazine together?”

And she said, “Oh, my gosh, that sounds like a great idea. It’s always been my dream.”

I said, “Great.”

And she said, “Well, how do we do it?”

I said, “I don’t know.”

And she goes, “Well, how do we get started?”

I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.”

That was kind of how it happened. We have this decade of information kind of welled up in our brains. It’s not necessarily just big events, but it’s really creating that connection and that community with the people around you.

So, we felt like we wanted to put it all into a readable digestible form that people could learn from. All the way up from the really high end to you’d be surprised at what we’ve done on the other scale of things. And we really do break it down very simply.

People say this all the time, “Oh, anybody can do it.”

They have their product or their business or their idea. When we say everybody can do it, we really mean you can do it. And we break it down into so many ways. Not everything is going to fit everybody’s personality to be able to do things a certain way. We’ve created lots of different ways for people to extend hospitality in ways that are comfortable and suitable for them. So that was kind of how we did it. It’s just about creating connection and community for women just across the country and around the world.

 

Cynthia: You are pointing out the power of hospitality. It creates connection. We women really need to have other women in our lives. And when we don’t, there’s something missing.

 

DeAnna: Exactly. And that’s exactly what we wanted to do, is give a foundation for people to have the ability and the tools so that they could create that connection. We’re about encouraging and supporting and celebrating women in general. We’ll use any excuse to have a party.

 

Cynthia: I was reading your website, and this is a quote, “Best tips and ideas on planning the best event, party or decor you could possibly imagine.”
I think that’s neat and exciting to think that you have someone that can walk along beside you. It’s exciting.

DeAnna: It is. Thank you.

 

Cynthia: I’m want more keys to unlocking the power of hospitality. Can you describe what you said was fast food hospitality is?

DeAnna: Yes. So, I was talking about all the different types of ways that we try to introduce for people to be able to be hospitable and create a connection. I love the concept of fast-food hospitality. It was created by Leslie’s daughter Shay, who lives down in Texas. She’s a millennial, and so she kind of brings in that whole generation that it’s very fast paced. We live in a very digital world nowadays. We don’t have conversations on the phone anymore. We don’t sit down and slow down, and it’s something that we’ve always done anyway.

She just kind of put it into a nice package for us. Our way of fast-food hospitality is a very quick and easy drive through sort of mentality where you can go pick up a coffee and drop it off at a friend’s house or drop it off at their work. Schedule a quick three-minute phone call with your best friend, and you say, “There are three things that we’re going to ask every single time we get on the phone.”

And then that way, you know, you’ve got your beginning, your middle, and your end, and you can catch up and you still feel connected, but then you can move on to the next thing that you have to do. So, it’s sort of that mentality of still staying connected in a way that suits your schedule, your friend’s schedule, your budget.

Leslie’s other daughter Isabella created this concept called happy Mondays. And it was created out of the talk about the Monday blues. And she just didn’t really like Mondays and she wanted to figure out a way to really enjoy Mondays. And she found that giving back to other people really made her happy.

On Happy Mondays, we kind of promote this fast-food hospitality where we will go to our favorite coffee barista and we’ll grab three or four coffees. We will drop them off with a little bag and a little note to a friend with an encouragement on there. We’ll just literally drop it on their doorstep, take a picture, ring the bell and run away.

And then we’ll send the picture to them, and then they come out and they see this cup of coffee and a little treat and a little note of encouragement. So that’s kind of our fast-food hospitality where we just kind of drive through. We’re still staying connected, but letting other people know that they’re still special, somebody’s still thinking about them, still praying about them and encouraging them for their day. It’s our way of just kind of going on through and keeping it all connected.

 

Cynthia: I think you just revealed another key to unlocking the power of hospitality. You said you had three questions that you always ask your friend, and I thought they were great questions. Can you share those?

 

DeAnna: Well, they’re always different. Usually, you’ve got your first question of, what was your week like, depending on what time of week that you’re calling. So that’s always in reference to where you are during the week.

If it’s at the beginning of the week, what have you got coming up? What can I pray for you? If it’s in the middle of the week, how are you doing? Whatever happened in the beginning of the week or what’s coming up at the end of the week. It’s always in a time relevance area, so we always ask what’s going on during their week.

We always ask what is coming up for them that we can pray for them for. So, we want to always make sure that we encourage, and we celebrate. And be there to lend an ear if they’ve got something that they need prayer for. We always want to make sure that we include prayer.

And then the third question is kind of a wild question. It’s just whatever it is that they do. Do they have an activity? How’s relationships going in their family? So, the third question is just sort of an impromptu. But we always want to make sure to really focus on what’s going on with them presently and what we can pray for them for their future.

 

Cynthia: You just mentioned another key to unlocking the power of hospitality. You made the statement that relationships fade if you don’t nurture them. And I thought that was so good because that’s true. I have good friends that I’ve kind of let drop, and that’s not what you really want to do. So that sounds like a great way to just stay in touch. Just a quick phone call. How are you doing? Give me an update. What can I pray for you about? Because you’re going to find out what’s really on their heart when you ask that question.

 

DeAnna: Absolutely. And one of the things that we really like to stress, especially when you’re creating new relationships, is confidence and confidentiality. So being confident in the fact that you can be there and support that person but being confidential in knowing that when you’re sharing and when you’re opening to somebody, that you make sure that all of that information is kept in confidence.

It doesn’t matter how well you know that person and a third person. You don’t go and talk to that third person about what’s going on in somebody’s life now. It’s different. If you want to say, “Hey, I’ve got a friend that needs prayer.” That’s one thing. But you don’t divulge details. So, when you create that trust and that relationship, you’ll find out how much easier it is to sustain relationships throughout the years.

 

Cynthia: Okay, so let’s just say that you’ve got someone who was like me, who was sort of new at hospitality, and they want to do something to get to know someone. How would they go about it? How would they start?

 

DeAnna: Sure. With Mona mi, we call it equipping and sending out. We will call people from the church that are not really connected. They come and they listen, and then they leave right away. They may not stay afterward for coffee. So, we kind of will talk to those people, and Wesley will call or the staff administrator will call from the church and say, “Hey, do you have 45 minutes? Because if you do, we’re bringing the party to you.”

And so, in every magazine, we feature a seasonal basket. We have beautiful wicker wooden baskets that we bring, and we put all our best in there. We put our best China, we put our best linens and tea services, and we put a little snack to nibble on. We do either coffee, tea, lemonade, whatever is the preference of the day. And then we always bring a little thank you note with a gift that says, thank you for letting me share this time with you.

And then we go to the person’s home, and you don’t need to have your home looking perfect. This is not what this is about. It’s about us getting to know you. So, we will set it up on a table or a kitchen table or a coffee table. We bring everything, and we set it all out. We sit down, and we always go in twos. Leslie and I would go together, and we will say, “Tell us about you. Tell us what’s going on with you.”

And we’ll just sit there and listen and let them talk. And so, if you’re interested in doing something like that, get in touch with somebody and say, “Hey, this isn’t really the right environment for us to really get to know each other. Why don’t you come over to my house? Or maybe I can come over to your house or maybe we can meet somewhere.” It doesn’t have to be you taking a basket.

You are creating the time to say, “Let’s grab a coffee together. I’d love to get to know you a little bit more.” That phrase will go miles and miles and miles and that’s all it takes.

 

Cynthia: I love that idea of taking a basket. I saw the baskets on your website, and I’m going to remember this for someone who has a baby or something like that. But doing that to take a gift over to someone’s house and say, “Let’s just sit down and chat. Have a scone with me.” I think that is a wonderful idea.

 

DeAnna: It is. And it’s a great way to connect with people and to grow your community. And then now you have two people who have created a relationship with this person. So, the next time you want to go and visit bring a new person.

So now you’ve created three relationships with that person. So that’s just one of the ways that we do it. Like in the church, that’s really beneficial because we really want to encourage and lift people and let them know how special they are and that they’re not in life alone. We weren’t meant to be alone. So, the basket idea is fun.

 

Cynthia: I think that is a wonderful thing because, you know, as women, you don’t know what the other person is like. And you can’t really love them unless you know where they are.

DeAnna: And our actual church concept is called Church Around the Table. We provide a meal for all of our congregants. We sit down and we break bread and then we listen to the sermon. We’re able to talk. We just really found that in hospitality that’s really where relationships happen. It’s usually at the table.

 

Cynthia: Yes. I love the fact too that your magazine has fun little ideas. I was noticing that you had a note about how to store your silver trays. You had yours displayed in a basket. That is a wonderful idea.

 

DeAnna: It’s literally sitting right in front of me here in my kitchen. I put one of those buffers filled with air between them. You can’t see that but it protects them, so they don’t scratch.

It’s a great way to store all of your trays without taking up any shelf space. It takes up barely any floor space and it’s a beautiful display. People walk in and say, “Oh, that’s so beautiful.” It’s very uncommon that you see so much silver nowadays.

 

Cynthia: Yeah, I do too. I love my silver. I noticed you also had fun ideas like an outdoor picnic, ideas where you buy stuff specifically that can handle the outdoors. To have an outdoor picnic, it doesn’t have to be something fancy. Can you share a little bit about that?

 

DeAnna: We’re here in Southern California so there’s a lot of outdoor picnics at the lake or at the beach. The sand is going to come and it’s going to blow in your food, there’s not much you can do. It doesn’t matter what you have.

We like to go the method of just being able to grab and go sort of thing. So, we’ll make a lot of finger sandwiches, and we’ll do things like sushi because that’s fun. We like to keep it simple. We’re obviously not going to prepare a huge pasta dinner with salad and bread, but it’s just keeping it light and easy and remembering that of course we want great-tasting food.

But again, when you’re going out it’s really about creating that relationship. If it’s cold outside, we get these travel cups for soup. We did that a lot during COVID. One of the ways that we kept in connection with people is we started a soup ministry.

I have to pat myself on the back a little bit on this one. I make an awesome homemade chicken noodle soup. I make all the noodles homemade, and I started to put all of those into little to-go containers. We would drop them off at our friends’ porches. Just kind of like a happy Monday thing, but we’d do it all throughout the week if they weren’t feeling well. Cucumber sandwiches are big during that time, so we kind of did that kind of drop and go ministry of soup. So that’s always a good one to take with you on a picnic.

 

Cynthia: I love that. I was reading some history recently. I’m part of a history group, and we’re about to have our 125th anniversary, and we were reading about one of the founders of the group. She loved to pack a picnic basket with fried chicken and homemade pickles. And I was thinking it’s eternal.

 

DeAnna: That is fantastic. Well, I love the homemade pickle idea because I just started getting into gardening and agriculture. I literally just planted my first three bushes or first three plants of cucumbers. And they’re starting to come in, and I’ve got, eight big fat ones. Those are going to be so good. I could pickle those.

 

Cynthia:  I think it’s so neat that you’ve got all these ideas. Another thing I noticed. You had a whole section on moms and manners and how you can teach your kids manners. I love it.

 

DeAnna: Absolutely. Throughout the years, we’ve seen a little bit of a decline in etiquette, and Leslie and I are huge on etiquette. We wrote a book called Just the Basics, Manners Made Easy. And it’s very small. It’s got all the basics of etiquette.

And we’re big on teaching that to our smallest kids all the way up through to our most seasoned professionals as well. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know where the silverware goes.

This is a constant battle with my children because they know how to set a table, but they will purposely do it wrong just to tease me. But I’m very adamant about sitting down with my kids for dinner every night. If we’re all home, we are all sitting down to dinner. And it’s always a teachable moment.

They’re all two years apart, and there’s four of them. So, there’s constant back and forth. There are always teachable moments and doing it in a way that is fun and loving. And they may not always practice it now in front of me, but I’m confident that when they get older, and they start meeting significant others that they’re going to behave.

So, it’s important to bring up our young children in a way that shows proper respect for other people. Etiquette is not for us, really. It’s for other people and showing that we have respect.

 

Cynthia: I love it. You even mentioned that you can teach your kids how to start a conversation, how to close a conversation. And sometimes kids need to learn that.

 

DeAnna: When we first started doing this concept, long before Leslie and I had the magazine, I was doing this with my children when they were very young. And we’d sit down at the table, and I would say, “Okay, everybody has to go around the table, and you need to tell me two things.”

We called it talking about our day. So, they had to tell me one thing that they learned in school and one fun fact, and they got used to sharing at the table. Eventually, as time went on, it would lead into conversation. When we sit down to dinner, I don’t even have to say anything. They just start talking about what’s going on. “Hey, what did you do today?”

“What did you play today?”

“How’d you do on that game?”

And so it’s nice to see that coming to naturally, and they don’t even realize it. I do a lot of entertaining at my house, and so when people come over, I’m very confident they’re going to come up, “Hi, my name is,” and they’ll give their name, they’ll shake their hands, they make eye contact. It’s just those little things that we practiced throughout the years that they don’t even realize it. And that’s the beautiful thing about etiquette, is a lot of times your kids aren’t even going to realize that they’re getting a lesson out of you.

 

Cynthia: Yeah, I love that. I had a friend that would ask their kids “What was the best part of your day?” and “What was a sad moment in your day? When you do that, then you start getting their emotions on the table and they continue to talk to you. So those things are important.

 

DeAnna: Absolutely. And one of the pieces of advice that I always give parents when they ask, when your kids have something to tell you, you need to listen to everything that they say. Even if you don’t listen to the small stuff, they’re not going to want to tell you the big stuff. There are times that my kids come in, and I have to say “Give me a minute, I’ll come back to you.”

But always make sure that you remind them that we’re going to come back to this and let them know that what they have to say is important. When you cultivate that relationship with your child, there’s really nothing that they won’t share with you. Take that time when they’re younger.

 

Cynthia: Yeah, I love that. Well, is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?

 

DeAnna: I’m so passionate about this because we have so much fun. I am a 100% true introvert, so I do not find it very easy to go out and meet people and have conversations with them. And my business partner, Leslie, is the beautiful thing about it. We’re kind of the opposite of each other, which is good.

So, if I can teach you how to do hospitality and I can do it, you can do it, too. Because as a true introvert, I can do things. They’re not very easy on me. But the way we do it and the way we describe it, literally anybody can do it.

You start off with doing fast-food hospitality or drive-through hospitality or doing a happy Monday where you don’t even have contact with anybody. You literally just put something on the doorstep, ring the bell, and walk away. That’s extending hospitality in a way that could be in your comfort zone. So, I really would encourage people, especially if you are feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, you have anxiety or you’re going through stuff.

Reach out to people, because not everybody will reach out to you. Sometimes you need to take that first step, and don’t be afraid to ask. But if you are a person who wants to extend the hospitality, give it a try. And you’d be surprised at how many amazing relationships and connections that you will make. Because as women, there’s a lot of competition. And what we’re trying to do is break that preconceived notion that we’re in competition with each other, because we’re not.

We lift each other up when we support each other and when we encourage each other. It helps women. Women help economies. Women help the core family values. So, you get your tribe in there, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. So, I would encourage people to give it a try. And if you have questions, reach out. We’re always available. We have our contact information on everything. And we don’t pass emails off on an assistant. We handle all of those ourselves. So, everyone’s always welcome to ask questions.

 

Cynthia: I encourage people to visit your site: heartofhospitalitymagazine.com.

For a few hospitality suggestions from Cynthia, click here.

 

Hope for a Disabled Child

Hope for a Disabled Child

Wonderful news: there’s hope for a disabled child.
Listen here

For another podcast on teaching a disabled child, click here.

Cynthia: Life is never what we expect it to be. And as parents, we sometimes are presented with challenges. The way to overcome those challenges is a dependence on the Lord. I have with me today, Annie Yorty. She had a child who has Down’s syndrome. And that is a whole bunch of stuff because as a nurse, I know that there’s a lot involved in that.

She’s going to talk a little bit about how she raised that child. And this is important because these days, people in many countries are aborting Down’s syndrome babies. It is considered to be by some people not worthy to live, and we believe as Christians that that child is worthy to live, but how do we deal with them?

And that’s the question we’re asking today. Welcome, Annie.

Annie: Hi, thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to your audience.

Cynthia: Tell me a little bit about what you face and how you overcame that and how you’ve dealt with her issues.

Annie: Well, I have been dealing with these issues for 34 years now.

I find that hard to believe, but Alyssa came into my life 34 years ago, and I could not have been more surprised at the diagnosis of Down’s syndrome. It was a huge shock. It was life changing, like earthquake life, life changing. Before I had her, I had not really known much about the Lord at all.

And God used her and some of her challenges and other things about her that brought me into a much, much closer relationship with him.

Cynthia: I can agree with that. I do have my own disabled child, not Down’s syndrome, but it’s changed my life.

Annie: Life is all about depending on God. And frankly I could not have been more independent of God before I had her.

And he forced me into that position of needing to fall back and look to him and made me uncomfortable in many ways. From the time she was born, I knew nothing about people with disabilities. I did not know anything about Down’s syndrome. And I will say I applied my own self-reliance to that problem early on and found that it had no traction.

Little by little, through one experience after another, God kept showing me and bringing me closer into him. Things like medical questions. With Down’s syndrome, there can be a lot of medical uncertainty. Certainly, there are many, many delays.

So, it caused me to really adjust my worldview. You mentioned a minute ago about how in many countries and including our own, people abort children with Down’s syndrome at alarmingly high rates. I didn’t even know ahead of time, but I would not have considered abortion.

But I learned quickly that I had some perceptions about what makes people valuable that were way, way off base. They were more based on ability. What can a person do versus who they are? So that was a huge process for me to begin with.

Cynthia: I think that’s a really good point because people are valuable because God made them. They are made in his image and it’s easy for us to say, “That disabled child is not very smart or very pretty or very rich and so they’re not worth it.” But that’s not what scripture says.

Annie: Exactly. I’m very much a planner in life and a future oriented person. So, once I kind of grasp the Down’s syndrome thing, then I get into high gear. I laid out sort of a vision for her life to help us just guide the opportunities that we would want for her.

We could kind of aim towards something and that all included inclusion, public school, all of that kind of thing. We went headlong into that plan and then in 3rd grade that plan was just turned upside down.

We had moved, and the public school where we moved was not at all interested in doing any kind of inclusion for Alyssa. And that just wasn’t part of our plan for her. I went through two years of due process with them and ultimately won that case, but God turned my heart towards something else.

I realized that effort was not going to change their heart. She is not going to thrive there because they don’t want her to thrive in the environment that I was hoping for. So, God turned my attention to home schooling. Once I investigated that, I was hooked. And then I spent 16 years homeschooling her and another child.

Cynthia: So, what were some of the difficulties that she had and how did you adjust to accommodate her?

Annie: She has some excellent skills that we could really capitalize on, but she has some pretty serious deficits in the math side of things.

When teaching math, I probably went about that the wrong way for a good amount of time. I did it in a way that made sense to me, but it wasn’t great for her. I wasn’t capitalizing on her strength.

I was focused way more on her weaknesses. We really need to focus on strengths so that they can really feel that success and do what God meant them to do. God did not plan for Alyssa to be any kind of an accountant, a mathematician, but he had other plans for her.

That helps our children see what God made them to do and to be .I really, really struggled with writing for many years. We knew we wanted her to be able to write.

So, we really persevered. Like I said, over the course of years, she had learned to read relatively easily and then writing was so difficult.  I figured out she did not learn with phonics. That’s sort of the way I was going about the writing instruction.

Nevertheless, God’s grace just prevailed in all of that. She had previously learned what letters were and things like that, and she could write a letter. If you said, “Write the letter C,” she could write it, but she could not think of a sentence in her mind and then put it on paper.

And when she was in 3rd grade, I mean, we were just slogging through one day after another, just working and working at that. And one day, she just walked out of her room with a piece of paper. And there were three sentences written on that. So, I didn’t do that. It was just God’s grace.

That’s another thing I like to tell moms. It doesn’t all depend on us. We have a lot of responsibility as moms, but it certainly isn’t all in our hands. And sometimes I would get into that fallacy. You get very deep into the weeds and forget it.

God is superimposed over everything that you’re doing. Now Alyssa’s a good writer. She enjoys writing. She wrote a chapter in my book From Ignorance to Bliss.

Cynthia: That’s exciting. That’s good to know. What were some of her strengths?

Annie: Yeah, well, reading certainly was a strength.

She has a vivid imagination. She has ADD, which we don’t often think of as a strength. But her mind works very quickly, and so that’s a strength. She’s very verbal.

She has an extremely high vocabulary. She has read many, many books and that’s where her vocabulary comes from. She’s had many classics and there’s good vocabulary in those.

She likes to write. She likes to read. She has a superb memory. That can be a weakness sometimes, but that’s where her strengths lie.

Cynthia: I didn’t know that anyone like that would have the ability to read classics. I think your idea about focusing on strengths is a wonderful thing, even for people who have normal children.

Annie: I love that. Yes. My son has typical academic abilities and still has strengths and weaknesses. As far as other strengths go, my disabled daughter has a certain empathy for people where I think God uses her to kind of perceive underlying needs that I don’t necessarily notice.

And she connects with God in a way that I don’t. She doesn’t have some of the inhibitions that I might have, or you might have about responding to God. So, I think that’s a strength for her. It throws me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it’s a strength.

Cynthia: That’s great. What kind of message would you give to a mother who is in that early stage where they’ve just found out they have a child who is disabled?

Annie: I would say, first. It’s normal to feel some grief.

I think most moms feel some grief when they learn their child is disabled. And frankly, at many other times in life at certain developmental stages, we’ll notice differences and our expectations must change. And there’s a certain grieving process that goes on at those times. But, when you first learn of the diagnosis, there’s that grieving process.

We also need to dig in with God. Throw questions at God. It’s, going to be ugly sometimes what you have to say to God, but he’s ready, willing, and able to hear you and respond to you.

And he’s a loving father who will step in and just guide and shepherd you along the way. He carries you. The Bible says he carries you from the time before you were born and into your old age. And I also suggest finding some like-minded people.

We found support groups early on some of them. In fact, many of them were not necessarily Christians and they were kind and helpful. But I think if you can find somebody who’s in the same boat with you, that is a Christian, that will really be good to just support you.

And you do need to ask for help. We lived for a good bit of our time with Alyssa away from family members. We felt a lot of burdens that, we couldn’t just take our kids and get a little bit of a break and that kind of thing.

So, we had to form relationships with other people and try to trade off and talk to people about feelings. Your friends with typical kids won’t necessarily understand or relate to you. So, it’s good if you can find some relationships like that.

Cynthia: I had a friend who had a disabled child, and she came to me one day with some questions. We were able to talk through some solutions that a person who didn’t have a disabled child wouldn’t comprehend at all.

So, it really is good to have people who are in a similar situation. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?

Annie: I want moms to know that each child is a gift from the Lord. There are no mistakes. Your child was designed by God and given to you, and you are the perfect mom for that child. And he wants to just show you what he’s doing in the middle of your circumstances, whatever they are. Isaiah 43:19 says, “God’s doing something new. Will you not perceive it?”

That’s the subject of my blog. I want to help people perceive God in whatever their circumstances, whether they’re wild circumstances, like getting a diagnosis, like Down’s syndrome, or the everyday kind of thing. My heart is to encourage people to see God and what he’s doing in their lives.

I have a podcast called ordinary moms of extraordinary kids. It’s a weekly dose of Bible encouragement for moms. It’s not lengthy, but it’ll give you a little shot of God’s word once a week.

Why Chuckle?

Why Chuckle?

In the wee hours of the morning on D-Day, June 6, 1944, a young paratrooper prepared to jump over France, supporting the troops invading Normandy. He checked his parachute and noted it was packed by a company near his hometown. He chuckled.

Wearing heavy gear, his squad sat all around him along the sides of the plane. “Hey, what gives?” One man asked. “Share the joke. We’re all nervous and could use a laugh.”

“I know this parachute will work,” the trooper answered.

“Really?” Another soldier said. “How can you be so sure?”

He pointed to the name tag on the chute. “Because my mother packed it. She works in the parachute factory.”

The warrior landed safely and performed his job well. After the war ended, he told this story.

I challenge you to be like that airmen’s mother. She had no idea her son would use a parachute she prepared, but she earned a reputation for excellence. It served her and her son well. With God’s help, strive to do your best with every task you undertake.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

Photo by Duncan Kidd

Welcoming September of 2023

Welcoming September of 2023

 

“Holy Father, as we watch summer fade, we praise you for establishing the seasons and bringing autumn rains. We thank you for the food we harvest from the earth this time of year. May we continue to seek your face for wisdom this month. Strengthen us to share our faith with our family and the wider community. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.”

CLICK HERE for your monthly encouragement  so you can download the September 2023 Calendar Challenge.

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