Lisa-Jo Baker's first book, Surprised By Motherhood, ministered to my heart so much. So when I heard she had a new book coming out, I immediately knew I wanted to read it. Never Unfriended is a calling to be the friend you want to have, to be a lasting friend. It's not a book about how to find or make friends, but rather a look at the person of Jesus, the One that will never unfriend us.
Ultimately, the message of the book is about learning from Jesus to be like Jesus to those around us. We simply cannot be the perfect friend. But in Christ, we can know who He is and aim to be like Him and share His grace; in Christ, we can love well, seek forgiveness, and live intentionally; in Christ we can learn to be gospel-centered friends and create gospel-saturated community. I really loved this book. Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker was truly timely and spoke straight to my heart to encourage and convict.
Mother's Day reminds me that everyone's story is different.
Ours started just six months into marriage.
We got pregnant six months into marriage. That was not anywhere near the plan. And that positive pregnancy test wrecked me. I knew I was supposed to be excited, that life is a miracle, that children are a gift from the Lord, that there were others who longed to be in my place. But I was crushed under the weight of uncertainties, the permanence of that change, the loss of foundational time with Spencer, desires and dreams being put on hold, and being constantly crazy sick. That gift of motherhood so early on in marriage did not feel like a good gift from a good Father.
As a freshmen at my local community college, I went with my mom to her women's Bible study. It was Beth Moore's Daniel study and I knew the host because she was the mom of a good friend from middle school, so I decided to go. I was by far the youngest, the one marked by a different generation. But I was immediately welcomed and accepted.
The host was Cathy.
She was someone whose home I always loved being in. Even in those awkward middle school days, I knew there was something different about this home. It was one that made anyone feel welcome and accepted.
Cathy was like that. She treated hospitality like a gift and offered it to all. Even with my friend away at college, she never treated me different but just considered me part of the Bible study group. Even after my mom wasn't able to attend, I stayed with that group of ladies for at least three different studies. Those Bible studies left a lasting imprint on me, because of what I learned and because of the community I was part of. I loved going; I loved soaking up with Word with other women; I loved being known and prayed for and respected despite my age. (And I loved Cathy's breakfast casserole!)
Cathy became one of the few people in my life I consider to be a spiritual mom. I never told her that, but now I have a suspicion she knows.
If you walked down the aisles of a bookstore looking for Love Lives Here by Maria Goff, you'll walk past the marriage section and the parenting section, past the shelves with books about work and books about healing. You'll find Love Lives Here among the many books in the general Christian Living section. But after reading it cover to cover, I can safely say you'll be encouraged in so many areas of your life. Maria shares stories from throughout her life in order to inspire readers to live with intention and love well.
Winter is a hard season. The cold weather and overcast skies takes a toll on me; they take a toll on our family. We are sunshine and warm weather people for sure. But there is something to be thankful for in every season. And there is usually something learned in every season as well as things to enjoy. So as my excitement for the coming Spring grows, I'm also trying to reflect on and grow from what has been.
Some books speak straight to your heart, echoing your own stories and struggles, and You are Free by Rebekah Lyons is one of those for me. There are so many things Rebekah shares about her life and thoughts that resonated with me. This book met me at just the right time. From Ann Voskamp's foreword to the heartfelt acknowledgements to the quotes throughout the book introducing each chapter, You are Free shares this significant, life-altering message from Jesus of freedom given to us in Galatians five.
To the mamas giving their bodies and emotions, days and nights to caring for children: You are displaying the gospel to the world as you give yourself for someone else's life, and it is nothing short of a beautiful miracle.
To the dads dedicated to intentionally raising their children: You are showing the world the love of the Father and how sacred life is by the way you provide and protect and love and serve.
To the ones who were crushed by a positive pregnancy test: You do not have to believe the lie that your life is over because another began, because it is actually the unplanned that gives way to something supernatural; and even though the unplanned is scary and daunting you do not face it alone, and in the midst of the hard unplanned something so beautiful blooms.
To the ones who have given their children up for adoption: Few know the weight of the sacrifice you made, but you chose the unbelievably courageous way; and that courage and that sacrifice is one of beauty and hope and remarkable love that reflects the One who is love Himself and gave the ultimate sacrifice.
To the ones who have had an abortion: You are loved by the One that took every ounce of sin and shame you bear on Himself when He died on the cross and with His resurrection from the dead He declared there is no condemnation for those found in Him; and you are welcomed by His Church because we are all saved by grace alone.
To the ones who are in the depths of postpartum depression: When the questions and guilt and darkness floods your mind, and you know the truth but can't seem to find the light or any way to celebrate life, you are not alone; and the One that holds the universe together is holding you and will not let go, and He will break through the darkness with His presence.
To the singles, the foster-parents, the churches, the social workers, the health care workers, and others caring for children and parents in your communities: You are heroes; and you're sacrificial care that is often unseen and under-appreciated and misrepresented is seen by the Lord, and your tear-filled prayers are heard by Him; He is with you on the tiring days and the long nights, and the trials you face in this hard work will be rewarded in the life to come.
To the ones who don't yet understand the gravity of this issue of life: Every single one of us was once like you and dedicated to choosing the lives we wanted, but God is rich in mercy and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and incredibly patient; and He graciously has given us the chance to choose a better way, a way dedicated choosing to follow Jesus who offers a life more abundant than you can imagine, a life filled with hope and joy and peace and freedom.
To the ones who march under the banner of pro-life: May we never lose sight of the souls behind this subject; may we speak words of truth that are saturated with grace and love and hope; may we pray for mercy and forgiveness for us all and for hearts and eyes to be opened; may we grieve the lives lost yesterday and support the ones struggling today; may people be drawn to the gospel because of the way we fight with gentleness and kindness and generosity; may we show that we value every life at every stage of life from every nation on Earth; may we not grow weary in this sacred work and never stop speaking for those that can't speak for themselves; may we show the world that the life that is dependent on another is incredibly valued life; may their be consistency in our message, urgency in our prayers, and compassion in our voices; and may we declare with our words and our actions and our lives that every single life bears the image of God and is radically loved by Him.
I'll be honest. When I first heard about the She Reads Truth Bible studies and app a few years ago, I didn't jump on board. I was hesitant because it just seemed like the cool new thing to get involved in. But I was wrong. It wasn't until this past year that I truly learned about the ministry and hearts behind it. And I'm so glad I did.
She Reads Truth is grounded in solid theology and a desire for women to open up their Bibles and dive deep into the Word. It is not a new fad to get women less connected in real life and more connected online, but it is in fact a beautiful tool to get women engaged in the eternal Word and the eternal God revealed in it and speaking with it. I am grateful for the ministry of She Reads Truth and the dedication they have to providing Bible studies filled with the truth of the gospel and constantly pointing to Jesus.
So when I heard the lovely ladies behind She Reads Truth were releasing a book, I was quite excited! I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the book, but once I started reading I couldn't stop.
I turned 29 at the beginning of December. Mix all the emotions of that with all the thoughts that go into entering into a new year, as well as being someone who takes time to process things, and here I am finally bringing all my thoughts and emotions to some sort of summary. I need time to appreciate the holidays, process the previous year, and think about what lies ahead. So, we are nine days into the new year and I'm finally collecting those thoughts and emotions into goals, resolutions, one word, a direction (whatever semantics you like...I kind of think they aren't too different).
I am pretty excited to be in the final year of my twenties, and I am pretty convinced my thirties are going to be great. I know hard things will happen and trials will come, but I also know what I've already gone through has prepared me for whatever I will face. And the me that I am now is much more mature and much less insecure, much more focused on grace and much less focused on striving than the me I was when I walked into my twenties. I really am a different person. (And praise Jesus for that!)
As I thought about what I'd like to focus on and accomplish this year, the same theme kept coming to my heart and mind.
Isaiah 7:13-14 “And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
What amazing news. Surely this announcement would bring joy. God declared His coming. God would dwell among His people. God would fulfill His promise. God would no longer remain silent.
But joy does not walk alone.
Just as we can’t have hope without darkness and peace without turmoil, the Advent season reminds us we cannot have joy without suffering.
Sarah loves Jesus and her family and is passionate about addressing the urgent spiritual and physical needs around the world. She is the wife of Spencer and mama of Katherine and Claire, and they live in Nashville, TN. She runs a photography business with her husband and writes in order to offer encouragement and invite others to choose grace, joy, and gratitude in the adventure and the mundane. She loves traveling and reading; she will choose unsweet tea over sweet and bootcut jeans over skinny; and she is all sorts of awkward with small talk but thrives with deep conversations.