August 1, 2020

So, Laugh

This LP Women’s blog is coming to you in the month when we start school. In 2020. During a global pandemic. I know, we are all tired of thinking about it. We are all tired of hearing about it. We are all super tired of not knowing how to discern truth and wisdom from all the noise. And sometimes, we just want to throw our hands up and say, “Whatever! I’m not in control anyway!” And then, give a great big hearty laugh in the face of it all. Turns out, I’m gonna permit you to do just that. Straight. From. Scripture. As I prayed about what to share with you girls this month, nothing was surfacing. I just kept thinking through the distress I have heard from friends. The worry from teachers. The desire to do the right thing but having little to no way of knowing exactly what that is. The daunting approach of the school year and all that it may mean for us and our kiddos. I thought about how the rabbit hole of 2020 is deep, and it doesn’t take much to lose ourselves in it — because we have no idea what is coming. And that’s when it surfaced: “...she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25, NIV Really, Lord? The Proverbs 31 woman? That’s what you’re giving me? The lady who has it all together and makes her clothes? The super-productive lady who has a great marriage, children who praise her, and well-toned arms on top of it? Oh no. I don’t think she’s quite what we need right now. We are in a mess! No, my child. I don’t need you to compare yourself to her. I need you to hear her laugh. Laugh. My dear sisters, in this blog we have promised to share with you what can happen in our lives when we put Jesus first. There are so many things we could focus on but today, we are going to focus on the idea that when we put Jesus first, we put ourselves in a position to think happily about the future even when things are a mess. Like they are right now. The Proverbs 31 woman does a lot of things well (obviously) but one of the things I love the most is that she comes across as an especially “unruffled” sort of person. And, hear me clearly, this is not because of her. I don’t want you to think that she’s just inherently some sort of person you’re not. The reason she can be this way is because she lets Jesus go first. He goes first in her thoughts. He goes first in her reactions. He goes first in her planning. And, He goes first when she thinks about “the days to come” and that lets her laugh. Here are a few other translations I found just for reference: And she smiles at the future. NASB She laughs without fear of the future. NLT She is confident about the future. CEB I don’t know if I can make my clothes as she does. And, if I end up homeschooling, these children will probably not be singing my praises every day. But I could use a laugh. I could use a lot of laughs. And, I’d love to smile at my future because I am confident about the God who will meet me there. That’s the difference. The reason the Proverbs 31 woman can laugh at the days ahead is because she knows who holds them. And, this doesn’t just give her peace in the moment. It gives her confidence that the days ahead are nothing to fear. So much confidence that it makes her smile. So, laugh. As you think about the days to come and things are dark, remember to have a sense of humor about the ridiculousness of it all. God is very much in control of whatever is ahead, and He does not intend for us to walk around in sackcloth and ashes until it’s all over. He’s okay with a giggle at the future every once in a while. In fact, He acknowledged her for it. Be confident in your future, my sisters. Put Jesus first and smile. After all, no one ever left this earth saying, “I laughed entirely too much.” -Anne Rulo

July 1, 2020

Musings From Meatloaf

Greetings sisters! I pray that you are in a season where you are growing deeper in your faith every single day and that God is showing you the desires of his heart for you. I am in that very season and feel like I have growing pains from all that He is bestowing on me. There is never a dull moment if you are serving Christ in any capacity and let me tell you as a seasoned Christian, I have learned to fall in love with those treasured life lessons. You know what I am talking about! Those times God takes the ordinary and turns it into extraordinary. Those incidents you look back on and can only to shake your head in disbelief? Oh sister, do I have a funny story for you! So picture this! It is a lazy Saturday and the hubby requests meatloaf for supper. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? Well it should have been that simple, but I am here to tell you God has a sense of humor. I have all the ingredients mixed and kneaded together in my pan and am just about to put it into the oven when, all of a sudden, I notice I don’t have my wedding ring on! I rarely take it off, but meatloaf is one of those occasions that I do. So I pause what I am doing to go to the sink where I keep a jewelry trinket box to hold my ring if I should take it off in the kitchen. It was not there, and I began to panic! I looked on the counter, checked my pocket, and double checked the breakfast bar where I had just mixed the meatloaf. If you were a fly on the wall, you could have seen my eyes get big as saucers when I am looking in horror at my meatloaf pan. What is a girl to do? So I stick my hands down in my uncooked meatloaf to see if by some chance it had fallen off while I was squishing the mixture together. (I have recently lost a significant amount of weight and have had issues of my rings being really loose). I was about to get through the last bits of muck and yuck, when I heard the ring scratch on the bottom of the pan. I squealed! I don’t know if it was in horror or happiness, but let me tell you I squealed in the middle of my kitchen loud enough my husband was concerned and had to check on me. Someone please tell me that I am not the only one who has silly stuff like this happen to them. I mean really, who loses their ring in a meatloaf and then almost bakes it? Oh yeah, it's me, and if you know me at all, you know the irony of it all. I laughed over it for several days and shared the story on my social media page and with anyone else who would listen. A story only meant to sound funny and get a few laughs, but then God showed up to grow my faith. About a week later I was folding laundry and happened to glance down at my ring, and God's sweet voice swept across my heart and said to me “My love for you is like that ring. I dug into the deepest part of hell so that you could be rescued and have eternal life with me.” That will stop you dead in your tracks, let me tell ya. I became undone standing there with clothes in my hand. God in heaven loved me enough to send his son to the cross for me! I can hardly fathom it at times. I’ve heard and read the Bible story time and time again, but I just don’t know this side of heaven if I will ever comprehend it. I will never share this funny story now without thinking about salvation and what Jesus has done for me and you. He took an ordinary meatloaf and turned it into an extraordinary life lesson for me. Jesus endured the muck and yuck of this word and then died on the cross so that we could have eternal life. You are more precious to him than any gold or silver. As matter of fact, he thinks you are to die for. Sister, I pray that you are blessed beyond measure and I can’t wait to chat with you again. I know between now and my next appointed blog, I will have made at least one more meatloaf. Next time though, I will leave out the secret ingredient. On second thought, God's love tasted pretty good. Love you precious friends! In Christ, Stacie


May 27, 2020

Let’s face it, Gals. We love God. We want to know Him more. We want to grow in our relationship with Him, but, sometimes, we have to fight for focus. It’s a battle. It simply takes intentionality and being deliberate, doesn’t it? Especially now, in these days of new normal and resets and relearning. We know the things. We know THAT we need to read our Bible and SHOULD spend time in prayer…we somewhat know what to do, or we’re learning how to do it. We simply just need help following through sometimes. Our intentions are good, but we get distracted. We are told to put some practices (disciplines) in place to help keep us accountable and to stay the course. We seek to incorporate tools, per se, that help us find our way. Devotions, reading plans, blogs and podcasts can be good, for example. Because, hey - words matter. Written words matter. Spoken words, they matter. Even the words we think, matter. The written words and insight of others help us learn and maintain focus. They can challenge and inspire us. They can be really good. The words we choose to intake and listen to matter. ALOT. In fact, they color and shape the way we live our lives. BUT the promise we MUST hold onto is that THE Word (of God) matters most. THE Word of God, the Bible, is life. His very Word spoken to us and for us is a gift. If you don’t already know this, take my word for it. Please take my word for it and trust me. But don’t just trust me, see for yourself. It’s noisy today, isn’t it? It’s loud and there is constant movement in our lives. We’re crazy busy, and many, MANY things compete for our attention. That’s why I’m excited that you’re here and that you believe in this blog enough to find something helpful here. It’s so fun to see what was simply once a thought inside my head, a hope for one day, become a reality in God’s way and time and with the people He had in mind. My true hope is that this blog will be a place for you to slow down and exhale. That it will be a place for you to be encouraged and inspired, to learn, and to find practical ways to keep Jesus first in your everyday lives. We know that to keep our focus and fight through the noise, we MUST keep Jesus first. We simply must. We are so much better when we’ve been with Him…when we are filled up and our tanks are ready to pour out. I love the fact that we have another way, another tool, to help us grow in our relationship with Christ. My prayer is that you will learn to live with God’s Word as the loudest voice in your life, louder than feelings and distractions. I want this “dream to reality” blog to be a contributor to hearing the voice of God and knowing His revelation to us and to learning from His Word. I want you to glean from this space and find it a safe place to consistently land. I don’t, however, want it to ever be a substitute for one-on-one time with God or a substitute for reading His Word. This space is meant solely to be a supplement to what you’re already doing in your time with Him. I so hope that you will know that it’s not about what we put here on the page, but who we point you toward. We want to make much of Jesus here. Period. I truly hope that you learn to love God and His Word more as a result of stopping in here. When we know more fully who God is and who He is to us, we can embrace who WE truly are and rest in our true identity as His child. Girls, He speaks to His children. Every one of us. He teaches us – knowing what the Scripture says is not just for the educated or elite. We can hear from Him if we are His. Maybe He’ll use this landing space to speak to you. I hope so. I’m so glad you stopped by and hope that you’ll pay us a regular visit. God has established a really great lineup of contributing writers, ready to put Good Words here. From time to time, you may even find out about what’s going on in Women’s Ministry and other happenings. Everything we do is motivated first out of our love for God and secondly out of love for you. You matter to us so much. At "But First Jesus," I hope that you will find ways to fight for focus by quieting the noise, the movement, the busy and everything competing for our attention. Welcome. Angie Gutshall