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Faith

Accompanied in the Furnace

Image of Victoria Mejias and her daughter

My daughter burst through the door shouting she made the honor roll! My son trailed behind her with his head down low.

She is bubblier by nature. He has always been more pessimistic. But something was different. Something was off. He wasn’t his normal self. He didn’t even say, “hello.” Instead he strolled into his room, laid his stuff down, sat down and just stared off.

What was going on with my baby? My first born. I wanted so badly to console him but he wouldn’t let me in.

Two sleepless nights followed. Two consecutive days of no rest – not for either of us. I even asked my daughter what was going on but she had no idea. He was desperately trying to work through a struggle all on his own. But why? He didn’t have to?

On the third night, he asked to come into my room. We sat on the edge of my bed as he looked at me with tears welling up in his eyes. “Mom, can we talk?” My heart leapt hearing those words. “Of course, honey,” I responded.

There he unloaded a very heavy and unsettling story about a racist altercation in the locker room.

At first I fought back tears while I listened. It broke my heart. The whole situation was disturbing. I couldn’t take away his pain. But I decided to cry with him, to comfort him and stay by his side. I thank God he allowed me to share in his pain. Click To Tweet

I could relate. That seems to be my lot in life. Not to have my suffering removed but to feel relieved knowing God is with me through my toughest moments.

It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible passages. Scripture recounts the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three Jews who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar. These three men remained faithful. Each time the king demanded they worship him they responded that “…the Lord would deliver them.” And one of the most powerful statements yet, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up,” as they rejected the king over and over. (Daniel 3:16-18, ESV)

They took a stand for what was right. They were faithful to God. Were they spared suffering? 

No, God didn’t swoop in on a magic carpet and rescue them. They were thrown into the fiery furnace. And did the door swing open? Were they saved from danger? No, instead, the king had the temperature of the furnace turned up seven times hotter.

Isn’t that how life works much of the time? You do the right thing and you’re punished. At least that’s how it goes for me. You pray for a break. But, no, the flames grow and the fire intensifies.

And that is what makes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s stance so powerful. They recognized they were in danger and still believed God would rescue them but “if not, be it known to you,” they said, they still wouldn’t bow down. The furnace would not break their faith. Click To Tweet And the story did not end there.

Scripture says, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” (Daniel 3:24-25, ESV)

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“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!’”  (Daniel 3:26, ESV)

What an amazing testimony! That the Lord would accompany us in bad times. That we’d not be alone. That He’d be fully present in the furnace. And not only that but that we’d come out on the other side – freed! 

And “The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.” (Daniel 3:27, ESV) The only damage the fire caused was to burn off their shackles. Click To Tweet

The truth is we will encounter good times and endure bad ones. But I praise God that we are not alone in our struggles. The Lord is available to us. We need only let Him in.

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Know that when you hurt, He aches and He wants to be with you in your roughest moments. Click To Tweet

Like my son, I think our tendency is to hide and internalize pain. But Jesus is waiting for you with arms open wide. He will see you through the suffering. Refuse to surrender to your trials and turn to Him when you’re hurting. 

So what battle are you fighting? Are you facing trouble or experiencing hardship? Have you let God in to comfort you in your pain?

Get to Know Victoria:

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Victoria Mejias is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska College of Law prior to making a leap into public service. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the private, public, legal and non-profit sectors. She has previously served as the Missions and Small Groups Pastor at StoneBridge Christian Church and the Development Director for Open Door Mission / Lydia House. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Heartland United for Puerto Rico and her past service includes a variety of other boards.

Victoria received her Certification in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute in 2012. She has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally as far out as Damoh, India at the World Leaders Evangelical Conference. Recently Victoria was the recipient of two Congressional awards for her service by Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón and Nebraska’s Congressman Don Bacon during a floor speech at the US House of Representatives.

Victoria serves with Wholly Loved Ministries in numerous capacities, including functioning as one of their feature writers, writing articles on behalf of the ministry for iBelieve. She has two children, loves the Lord, reaching the lost and enjoys travel, arts and culture. Visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE.

Wholly Loved Ministries is a non-profit organization that exists to help women live in Christ’s freedom. Donate now to support our mission or contact us to learn more.

Wholly Loved Sponsor Interview

Interview With Sponsor Kathy Collard Miller

Kathy Collard Miller's headshotWe love freedom stories, and man, does our sponsor Kathy Collard Miller have a powerful story to share. We know God and does transform lives, but sometimes it can be easy to forget this. Sometimes when I look at our world, honestly, I see so much darkness. So much hurt. It may appear as if the darkness is winning. But then, through stories like Kathy shares below, I’m reminded that God is actively filling our world with life and light.

But first, fun news! Right now for a limited time, the Kindle version of God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature is available for 99 cents. Check it out HERE It’s perfect for an individual or couple devotional time.

How long have you been writing?

A long time! LOL. My first article was published in Moody Monthly Magazine in 1978. I wrote about how God delivered me from being an abusive mom. I requested they publish it anonymously, which they did, because I was still so ashamed of what I’d done.

But that initial confirmation of the importance of my story encouraged me to share. And when an invitation came to speak at the mom’s group for our church, God gave me the courage to say yes! With great fear, I shared my story with the 120 women who were there and their response let me know this was something important giving God glory.

Then I went to a writer’s conference in 1980 and four years later, my story was published as a memoir book. Today that book has been updated and it’s titled, No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom.

Of course everyone wants to know about your family now. Give us an update.

I love to tell of God’s healing work. One of the problems contributing to my anger was the unrealistic expectations I had that my husband, Larry, should meet all my needs. God changed my perspective and this year (2020), we’ll celebrate our 50th anniversary. We are more in love than I could have ever thought possible. And Larry actually wants to meet my needs as much as possible even if we both know only Jesus can do that.

As for my daughter who I abused when she was a toddler, we have a very close relationship and she supports my ministry and has aspirations of being a novelist! She is a loving wife of 20 years, mom of two (my grandkids!!!!), and ministry leader at her church. Amazing what God can do!

What would you say to someone who is currently struggling with anger?

God knows exactly His plan for your healing, and it will be a process. He loves to work through our Holy-Spirit-supplied strength because then we learn what we can share with others later. No matter what your struggle is, God is working more than you realize. There will be starts and delays and backups, but God is progressively working. He’d working not just for your benefit but because it gives Him glory.

I love 1 Timothy 4:15: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” The word “progress” is the idea of a pioneer cutting his way through the brushwood (Vine’s Dictionary). Little by little by little. We would prefer to have God’s instantaneous deliverance but then we would no longer need God’s help.

As we study parenting books, attend parenting classes, study God’s Word about parenting, and share vulnerably and ask for prayer, God will do a work deep in our hearts, not just make everything better. I also recommend getting counseling and spiritual support. I found all those avenues helped me.

What is the main message you believe God has given you and why?

At different times in my ministry of over 40 years, God has made different things especially important to me. Right now, I’m most passionate about Christians knowing God’s attributes in truth. As I’ve grown spiritually over the years, the Holy Spirit has spotlighted different lies I believed about who God is. I might say, “I know He’s trustworthy” but I still worried. Or “I know He’s leading those I care about,” but I still need to tell them what to do. We can subtly respond in ways that reveal our deeper beliefs and heart commitments. We’re acting out lies about who God is and may not realize it.

 

That’s why my two most recent books are devotionals which explore how God reveals Himself –His true nature–in the Bible. Kathy's book cover imagesInterestingly it’s through the questions He asks. In the Bible, God/Jesus asks more than 300 questions. Isn’t that fascinating? He doesn’t need information but He still asks people questions to help them examine their beliefs about Him and their own motives. Just think, why did God ask Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” and why did Jesus ask the sick man, “Do you want to be healed?” Both questions offer opportunities to delve into the longings and motives of the person He is addressing. God and Jesus are the expert question-askers with a purpose!

My husband, Larry, and I wrote these two books which are:

“God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature”

“God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 Old Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature”

Kathy, what is your favorite attribute of God?

For me, it’s His sovereignty. He is totally in control and in charge of everything that happens even as He doesn’t take away human choice. How that all works, I don’t know exactly. But I do know how much peace, confidence, and desire to obey God comes from my growth in knowing God is sovereign.

Find her author page HERE.

Visit her on YouTube HERE.

Do you have a freedom story to share? We’d love to hear it! Find out how to participate in our freedom challenge HERE. See what you could win HERE.

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE.

Wholly Loved Ministries is a non-profit organization that exists to help women live in Christ’s freedom. Donate now to support our mission or contact us to learn more.

Wholly Loved Sponsor Interview

Interview With Our Sponsor Nicci Smith

Phot of wedding rings side by side

Today we’re excited to introduce one of our generous sponsors, Nicci Smith. She’s a gifted photographer with keen eye, a love for capturing memories and connecting with people.

Hi Nicci, thank you so much for your generous support of Wholly Loved Ministries and our next project! We appreciate your honesty and transparency!

1. What do you love most about photography?

When I was a child I use to love going to my grandmother’s house where I could spend endless hours examining photos from her youth and my mother’s childhood. Looking at those images made me feel more connected to them and ultimately to who I was. I suppose that’s what I love most about photography. Capturing an image in the right light or with a great composition is so important, but I think the moments trumps all the rules and it allows generations to come the opportunity to connect with their loved ones - to walk alongside them down the… Click To Tweet

2. What do you love most about working with clients?

I love that all my clients are unique and have their own unique story to tell. Click To Tweet I consider myself to be incredibly blessed to be able to be a part of one of the most important days in a person’s life.
3. What makes your photography unique?
Perspective. I love to experiment with different angles and perspectives. I believe it encourages the viewer to step into the frame and experience moments alongside the subjects.
4. What types of photos do you take?
I’m primarily a wedding photographer but I also enjoy senior portraits and have recently been dabbling in some fine art portraiture.
5. Your photography has won awards, correct?
My images have been featured in photography exhibits across the midwest and I’ve been published in Shutter Scene Magazine.

Also, make sure to visit us on Crosswalk to receive daily devotions sent directly to your inbox. You can find our devotions HERE.

Wholly Loved Ministries is a non-profit organization that exists to help women live in Christ’s freedom. Donate now to support our mission or contact us to learn more.

Faith

The Key to Navigating Change Well –– Guest Post

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Change is seldom pain-free. Even good changes carry challenges, right? Becoming a parent, for instance, means learning to function on very little sleep. Starting a new job may require moving to a new city. Seeking better health often means changing one’s eating habits.

In contrast, life sometimes deals a blow that requires change beyond the scope of our imagination. COVID-19 falls into that category. Some of the changes you and I are undergoing fall into the category of minor inconvenience. Others are monumental. So, how do we cope? How do we walk this journey when the path before us constantly shifts direction? Our personal circumstances will dictate specific steps we take, but there’s one principle that remains the same for everyone.

With my whole heart, I believe the key to navigating change well lies in where we camp our thoughts. Click To Tweet

With my whole heart, I believe the key to navigating change well lies in where we camp our thoughts. If we linger on the what-ifs, then fear will rule us. If we park on the disappointments, then anger, bitterness, or self-pity will take control. But if we park our minds on truth, then we will walk this journey with maturity and grace.

So—what’s the truth? God still loves us. He always has our best interest in mind, and nothing can touch us that He does not allow. Click To Tweet

For me, COVID-19 has been and continues to be an opportunity to walk out what I teach—that understanding God’s love helps us get through the challenges we face when everything familiar shifts. With that in mind, here are three truths to help keep us grounded and secure as we try to understand what our new normal might look like.

  • God’s love will calm our fears.

Freedom from fear comes when we remember that God’s presence is with us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet He will teach us, guide us, and comfort us through the disruptions we’re facing. It also helps to remember that God delights in us and rejoices over us, therefore He would never do anything designed to destroy us. We can rest in His care like a newborn rests in her mother’s arms.

Quote pulled from post“For the Lord your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

  • God’s love is stronger than any force seen or unseen.

COVID-19 has upended our world, but this crisis doesn’t mean God loves us less. No matter what the future holds, He holds us close to His heart. Nothing—absolutely nothing—can separate us from His love. He’s got our backs as we navigate the changes thrust on us.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

  • God’s love gives us the ability to rejoice in every situation.

We certainly don’t rejoice in COVID-19 and the way it’s wreaking havoc. But we do rejoice in knowing that God’s love will never let us go. We rejoice in His provision and protection. We rejoice in opportunities to connect with friends and family via technology. And we rejoice in knowing He will use this difficult season to deepen our faith and make us more like Jesus.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3-5 NLT)

When the enemy tries to fill your mind with anxious thoughts, fight back with these three truths about God’s love. Write out the three Scriptures and post them in an obvious place. Keep your mind fixed on them, ask God to make them a living reality in your life, and you will navigate these changes well.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Get to know Grace!

Grace Fox's headshotGrace Fox is a career global worker and the author of nine books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. She’s a member of the “First 5” Bible study writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries and a regular contributor to Guideposts’ annual devotional, Mornings With Jesus.

Grace and her husband Gene co-direct International Messengers Canada, a sending agency with career missionaries in 28 countries. She leads short-term mission teams to Eastern Europe annually, trains nationals for career ministry in the Middle East, and provides missionary care.

Grace lives aboard a sailboat in Vancouver, British Columbia. Married in 1982, she and Gene celebrate three grown kids and nine grandchildren.

Learn more about Grace on her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Moving From Fear to Freedom: A woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation:

From Fear to Freedom CoverFears, if left unchecked, can tie us in knots and hinder us from enjoying life and becoming who God intended us to be. Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation identifies common fears women face and then provides practical solutions for overcoming them using real-life stories and biblical truth. Discover how to experience peace while facing an unknown future, accept the exciting assignments God has for you, say goodbye to the ghosts of your past, and more. (Harvest House Publishers)

*Wholly Loved Ministries takes no responsibility for guest’s theology, associations, and interactions shared apart from our blog and may not be cognizant of these things.

Make sure to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook!

If you’re looking for more support and to connect with a community of women all growing in their faith, make sure to join our private community. You can find us HERE. 

Wholly Loved Sponsor Interview

Interview With Sponsor Lee Ann Mancini From Sea Kids

There’s such power in knowing truth. God’s truth, when soaked into our deepest places, provides a firm foundation, an anchor for our souls and a courage and faith-bolstering weapon against every falsehood that threatens to weigh us down, terrify our hearts, and distance… Click To Tweet

We cannot come to Him apart from truth, nor can our children. Our sponsor, Sea Kids, understands this and has created resources to help our kids learn, own, and stand secure on truth.

But first, some information on Sea Kids’ founder, Lee Ann Mancini.

Sea Kids Promotional picture

Lee Ann holds a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Regent University and an M.A. in Theological Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Trinity International University). She also holds an M.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies and an M.A. in Christian and Classical Studies from Knox Theological Seminary.

Lee Ann, what motivated you to launch your ministry?

My children are now grown adults. However, while they were still young, I remember thinking to myself, “There aren’t many resources out there to help parents like me teach their children biblical principles regarding difficulties children face daily.” In response to this need, I began to write stories with Christian morals for my children. My goal was to teach my children how to respond biblically to real-life scenarios like being bullied. When my children grew up, I held onto my handwritten stories, thinking that perhaps I would read them to my grandchildren one day. But for years, they only gathered dust in the attic.

Over the course of time, though, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging at me, urging me to do something with the stories my children had loved. I had no desire to be a children’s author. Then again, I never had the desire to be an adjunct professor at a Christian college either. But God had other plans for me. Fast forward several years, I am not only an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary, but an award-winning Christian children’s author and the executive producer of a new Christian animation series called Sea Kids!

What makes your resources so unique?

There are certainly many wonderful children’s Bibles, Bible stories, and Christian character-building stories available on the market today. However, most of these books do not focus on real-life dilemmas that children encounter on a daily basis. Children need to be reading stories that teach them to turn to Jesus in times of trouble and to give thanks to Him in times of gladness! Click To Tweet

What’s your mission in a nutshell?

My desire is to create products that help parents build a strong foundation in Jesus in their children before the age of ten. The foundation we give our children in the Lord must be rock solid. The Lord has called all of us to adhere to Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which states:

4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (NIV).

Impress is a command. By definition, it means “to mark, brand, mold, impact, influence, teach, love, lead, and disciple our children.”[1] We must teach our children God’s Word in such a manner that it leaves a lifelong impression on their heart, soul, and mind.

Can you tell us more about the resources Sea Kids offers?

Sea Kids promo imageIn addition to my 7 award-winning picture books for children ages seven and under, my new animation series, Sea Kids, features 26 high-definition, closed-caption episodes that are each twelve minutes long. Throughout the series, Freddy, David, Melissa, and their friends navigate the rough waters of peer pressure, temptation, fear, forgiveness, obedience to parents, bullying, lack of self-esteem, and so much more. Each action-packed episode is beautifully animated and shows the characters praying to Jesus, asking Him for guidance and wisdom. Children can easily relate to these adorable characters and the problematic situations they encounter. My prayer is that the Sea Kids will help every child build a strong foundation in Jesus and, in so doing, become a living example of biblical virtue.

Children can view our episodes on Right Now Media, Pure Flix, and Trinity Broadcasting Network, or they are for purchase on our website: https://seakidstv.com Click To Tweet In addition, all of our books are featured on the amazing app, Novel Effect, which you can download here for FREE: https://noveleffect.com. Novel Effect has many classic children’s books, such as Good Night Moon and Love You Forever. As you read through a book, the app plays sound effects to accompany each page of the story! Children love this interactive app because they enjoy triggering the sound effects as they read the story.

Sea Kids understands that some families are facing economic challenges and they want to help. They are offering free resources that are educational, and made them fun for the parents and their children! Click this link to download your free materials: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/bVcmG9M

Where can readers find more information?

For more information on our products and our curriculum, please visit: SeaKidsTV.com

Fun News! Sea Kids is giving Wholly Loved readers a 10% discount and free shipping through the month of May. Simply use the code SPRING10 when checking out. Click To Tweet

[1] Art Murphy, The Faith of A Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for Your Child, 36.

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™