Actions Speak Louder Than Words

On Tuesday night, Cindy Price was our encourager on the topic of "Actions Speak Louder Than Words".

Love in Action can be carried out using the instructions Paul gave to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13:3-8 and the final verse says Love never Fails. We discussed the instructions as a garden wall of protection around all our relationships. We need to check ourselves. Are we being patient, kind, content, encouraging, humble, honoring, selfless, gentle, forgiving, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful and persevering?. If so Love Never Fails. For more information on Love Defined, like the page on FB, download the app, or go to the www.lovedefined.org.

"Love Like Jesus"

At our June 6th Forum, Anne Taylor shared with us about how to "Love Like Jesus" . . . 

I’ve learned that in order to love like Jesus we must believe we are loved.
 
Do you seriously believe Jesus loves you more than anything else and created you to be the person you are – right now at this very moment?
 
There are always people who like to tell us we’re not worthy of God’s love and sometimes the loudest voice is from inside our own head. We are all good at dwelling on the negative in our lives we’re also pretty good at putting Pintrest pressure on ourselves. Not being clever enough, smart enough, organized enough, pretty, skinny, rich enough, you –fill-in –the-blank-enough!
 
But when we love like Jesus we don’t have to be enough – because he is enough!
 
One of the most important keys to loving like Jesus loves is to believe Jesus really loves you! No matter what he is cheering you on, pursuing you as his beloved daughter, and drawing you into his arms.  
When you have the love of Jesus in your heart you can let that love spill over into every relationships and encounters you have each and every day. This is where loving like Jesus has to start – by accepting his love and allowing it to wash over us each and every day. 

Go forth and love like Jesus - we need more cheerleaders and encouragers in this world! 

"Love is Hard - Love Your Enemies"

Claire Fournier shared with J4 May Forum attendees her recent career change journey. Bolstered by peace from the Holy Spirit, Claire walked through her painful emotional journey leading to ultimate GRACE and acceptance. Though not part of our plan, sometimes sudden life changes can become the beginning of a growth season in our lives. Transparent of the ups and downs of the journey after hearing the 5 dreaded words in corporate America today, “your role has been eliminated”, Claire shared how her faith taught her a new life skill of truly living in the present.
 
Here is an excerpt from her speech:
 
"It took time to heal but God’s joy and love continue to fill my heart and lift me past what I now consider a normal life event and thankful growing season. While I hope to never experience those 5 words again, I now realize there is a Claire beyond the workplace. She is someone guided by faith, abundantly blessed with devoted friends and family who had the “gift” of time off to reset life priorities. I am so thrilled about what lies ahead because I am certain God does not make mistakes, he has a new path for me and I can’t wait to see what he has in store."
 

"Loving Our Neighbors Through Our Work"

At our April 4th Forum, we had Penny Jones come and share about "Loving Our Neighbors Through Our Work."  Penny shared about how her former boss, Des Cummings, always told her to remember to "Lead with Love" in both your professional and personal life. This is something that she reminds herself of often.  She also shared about her years of foster parenting experiences, both good and bad, and how God transformed her through these experiences.  One experience in particular involved the death of a foster daughter (Tariji Gordon) by the girl's biological mother.  As a result of this, Penny vowed to change child-welfare laws and therefore created "The Penny Project".  

Please click on the video titles below to see more . . .

Tariji Changed Me Video


"I got adopted" Video

 

"Love in Action" March Forum Recap

At our March 7th Forum, we heard Dr. Falecia Williams, President of Valencia College West share about "Love in Action".  Falecia openend with one of her favorite quotes from Author, Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” 

We can choose a path of indifference or we can choose a path of action.  We are all called to love if we are followers of Christ.  Falecia learned at a very young age the power of Christ.  She grew up living in public housing. It was there she learned the importance of community and the need for collaboration - to work together for a greater goal. This is something she implements daily in her position at Valencia College, especially as they work on the new downtown campus plan with UCF.  

We can do so much more when we are not trying to do it alone. Core value are important for everyone on your team to embrace.  We have to remember to be selfless and have a sense of commonality and respect.

"We are the greatest beneficiaries of love and therefore we need to share it!"

 

"What's Love Got To Do With It?" February Forum Recap

At our February forum J4’s Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer Lisa Schultz responded to the question about leadership: What’s love got to do with it?  

Lisa shared her personal career journey as she wrestled to reconcile the world’s messages regarding what it takes to be a successful business leader with what she had learned from the Bible.  Lisa said that the world would have us believe we have to use force, grab power, and aggressively seize opportunities regardless of the impact on others in our path to be successful.  However, the Bible teaches that we are all made in God’s image and that God is in control of everything, including our careers.  Further, the Bible says that we have access to the power of the Holy Spirit and gives us the second greatest commandment is to “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  

Lisa challenged us to think about what loving our “work neighbors” could mean in terms of living out the gospel there.  What would happen if we actually treated coworkers, bosses, staff, peers, and clients as we want them to treat us?  Could we be successful AND live out the “action love words” found in 1 Corinthians 13?   What would happen if we really were patient in listening to others,  showed kindness to everyone regardless of how different we are, were slow to anger and more effectively managed our emotional reactions at work?  These are just a few of the actionable love words and direction given in the Bible!  This does not mean that we should be a pushover at work either.  The word of God also tells us to confront one other with truth and "rebuke” in a loving manner.  Her testimony included personal lessons learned that convinced her we can be successful living out the gospel of love in our leadership.  

Lisa created her own personal management philosophy which is modeled after her life verse in 1 Timothy 1:7 "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, love, and discipline".  Lisa defines this model as “Gracious Leadership” and she holds herself accountable to live it out as a leader in business who is passionate about following Jesus.

We encourage you to join us this year as we continue to explore how we “Love our neighbors” well at work, home, and in the community.

"Love Our Neighbors" January Forum Recap

We kicked the year off right at our January 10th Forum at Camping World Stadium.  We had a great turnout of J4 Leaders, as well as many friends from LIFT Orlando and Grace Medical Home. 

Lisa Schultz opened the event by sharing her excitement about the coming year and about our theme for 2017 of Love Our Neighbors. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment he declared (Matthew 22:37-40) "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”  We look forward to examining this text and discussing what it means for us as leaders at work, community and home.  

Dr. Marvin Hardy, Founder of  Grace Medical Home, shared about  and their mission . . . "To be a medical home reflecting the heart of Christ by offering the highest level of health care to those in our community who need it most."  Currently, almost one in four in Central Florida lacks health insurance. The visionary leaders of Grace Medical Home sought to fill a void in our local healthcare system and developed a solution to remove the burden from the current healthcare community, including hospitals, ER’s and urgent clinics.  They wanted to create a home base where a patient’s medical history is known and their medical care is coordinated.  Patients have an ongoing and personal relationship with their physician and a place to turn for their healthcare needs. To learn more about Grace Medical Home, please click here.

We also heard from Eddy Moratin, the Executive Director of LIFT Orlando and their focus on the revitalization of the historic neighborhoods of Lake Lorna Doone and Lake Sunset, which surround Camping World Stadium.  These neighborhoods are among the lowest income neighborhoods in the nation. Their plan for this neighborhood is to create mixed-income housing, Cradle to Career Education, Community Heath & Wellness and long term economic viability.  To learn more about LIFT Orlando, click here.

Bob Lupton, Founder of FCS Ministries in Atlanta and Author of "Toxic Charity" shared with us about the importance of giving people in need a hand up instead of a hand-out. "When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.”  Through FCS, he has developed two mixed income subdivisions, organized a multi-racial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families and initiated a wide range of human services in his community. He also shared about the importance of being a good neighbor by helping our neighbors out.  This also includes using any influence we may have to help others get connected.  There are so many programs out there to help people, but they will only take them so far.  “Community transformation is about the quality of neighbors, not the quality of programs.” To read more about Bob, click here.

The evening wrapped up with a bus tour of the neighborhood narrated by Eddy Moratin.

#J4leaderslovesherneighbor

"In Case of Emergency" November Forum Recap

Last week at the November Forum, we talked about God's promise of Protection.  Christina Walker, former Executive Director of Samaritan's Village came and shared about how God keeps his promise to protect us . . .

I can look back on my life and see God’s presence and protection even in my earliest years, and how his protection did not be necessarily prevent or protect me FROM calamity, trauma, chaos and despair, but it protected me TO be a conduit and minister of His story and His Grace and His mercy. He protected my ministry- before I even had one. 

My life was an absolute mess. The trajectory of my life was the same as the many generations before me- despair, godlessness, brokenness. It was during one of these seasons of deep depression that a friend saw my hopelessness and offered to pray for me. We sat outside a Starbucks and she simply said- can I pray for you? And I thought- “eww” “awkward” but said o.k.- as I was pretty hopeless and resigned. She prayed that a fire would rise in me for the LORD. She prayed much more than that, but that is all I remember from the prayer. 

Over the next few weeks my heart softened. I began attending church by myself. Read the Bible and this hunger for God just grew. I was baptized about 4 months later. I was all in for God. 

That was about 13 years ago. Honestly- that doesn’t feel so long when I say the number- but it feels sooo far away when I think of who I have become. Honestly I often forget who I was. Where I was headed without the Lord’s great providence. Without His pursuit and His protection. 

As I said at the beginning of my time, in my story I see God’s providence is not in protection from, but protection to. It was protection to be called according to His purpose. Protection to find my hope and rest in Him. Protection to count it all good. If he had protected me from the sufferings of this world, would I have been as prepared to serve Him in the capacities He has called me to? Would I have sought Him? Would I have been open to His Lordship over my heart… through which he would he have then protected me from the hope of eternal life?

I believe God is fully in control of my life. In Job 42:2 Job says to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things, that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” 

But also that God does not prevent us from experience affliction. Paul during his ministry experienced much persecution as he spread the gospel, but also that pesky thorn in his side… something that he asked God to remove multiple times to no avail. 

Romans 8:28 promises us that God uses all things for our good. ALL THINGS. Not just the good things. ALL things including the thorns. Paul saw this in the scripture passage 2 Cor 12 where he says the messenger sent by satan to harass him, the thorn in his side was there to keep him from being conceited. 

I acknowledge, my will, my sinful nature led me to many of the wounds I have experienced and also to much suffering I experienced. But I can see God’s protection and provision woven throughout my life in the form of thorns such as Paul describes. Thorns that keep me close to God. Keep me at the foot of the cross. Keep me aware of my sinful nature, my foolishness, and my deep need for God’s grace. The trajectory of my life is completely different today with Christ as my Lord than it was 13 years ago outside that Starbucks with the world as my Puppetmaster.

God’s protection now seems most often to keep me close to him. Ever aware of my dependence on Him. Protecting me from pride, idolatry, and self-sufficiency. He protects me from complacency in my faith, but not from pain.

Since becoming a Christian, I have still faced loss and suffering. Suffering will continue. The Bible speaks directly to the provisions and meaning in our suffering, not if we suffer, but when we suffer. 

Romans 5: 3-5 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

Though heartache and loss are inescapable and some wounds will never be healed this side of heaven, I am now grounded in the hope of WHO OUR GOD IS- what He has promised us as his children, and the future we have in heaven.  I didn’t have that in my childhood or early adult years.

He has protected me for my good but more importantly for His Glory. He has given me a deep fire in my gut to live a life that serves Him. He has given me a testimony that can be used to speak of His grace and His love. A testimony that illustrates both our need for His forgiveness as well as the hope that can be found in Him. 

I like to live very transparently. Actually I just sorta can’t hide who I am and my story. I know what is professionally appropriate to share in the counseling room as I counsel women, or when I served the residents of SV. But I also know the vital importance of sharing imperfections with those around. To share our testimony and God’s pursuit and love of his children. 

I had one of the most meaningful interactions with a friend who struggles with shame, despair and hopelessness. I shared my life story… in more rated R details, with her over lunch one day. The good, bad, and the very ugly. She told me she had no idea what I had been through in my life. That she couldn’t picture me before I knew Jesus. It wasn’t the first time I had a moment like this when sharing my testimony, but it was a great reminder of why sharing the way God has pursued and protected us, both before our faith and after our Christian life began, is so important. 

God has comforted me, and that comfort has enables me to love and encourage, and sometimes comfort others. The blessing of participation in sharing the love of Christ with someone hurting gives meaning to my life story- and the suffering I had and will likely continue to experience.  It has given me not only an incredibly testimony, but a beautiful opportunity to minister to others. 


2 Cor 3-10
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I think of Joseph in the bible. What others intended for evil, God will use for His Glory and His purpose. When Joseph is speaking to his brothers- whom sold him into slavery- Gen 50:20 : As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”

God has used all that I have been through, and that my family and parents have been through, to mold me into the woman I am today. To create in me a heart that longs to serve Him and to be used according to His purpose. 
 
Romans 8: 28- and we know that for those who love GOD all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Let us never forget that the ultimate protection that God has given us is the death of his son, that we would be protected from the judgement of our sin and have eternal life with Him. He has not granted us protection from death in this world. But instead from eternal death. 

Romans 8:18- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. 

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

It has been my testimony, I believe, that has made me as effective in ministering to other women. Meaning, the work that God has done in me—the wilderness he plucked me out of, the promised land he has brought me into. 
Because I have seen great darkness and despair, I am not afraid to sit in it with others. Because of the sin I have committed, I am not shocked by the sin of others… and I judge far less. (Well, on a good day.)
Because of the life I was living, I am sooo grateful for my God’s great love for me that I long to share the new life I have in Christ, with others who feel hopeless… and alone. 

Because I have experienced joy even in the midst of deep pain and fear, I can testify to the hope and the provision found in our great good and loving God. 

My advocation to serve women, comes from feeling beyond blessed by our great God. It is an overflow. It is a blessing, and in many ways, an example of God’s great protection. I still struggle with shame, self-doubt, and anxiety. But God has given me the blessing of His comfort to sustain me and a calling to share that comfort and the Hope found in Him with others.

 

November Forum: "In Case of Emergency"

November 1, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation.

This year at J4 Leaders, we are learning to stand on God's promises! God promised that his children will not be overtaken by temptation.  In fact, he assures us that an escape route will be provided.  James MacDonald said that we should make little red boxes with glass doors that say "In Case of Emergency - break glass".  Inside the box we should have noted God's promises to review and cling to in the current situation.

Please join us on Tuesday, November 1st to hear Christina Walker share about God's promise of protection in our lives!

Christina Walker joined the Samaritan Village team in May of 2014 as Executive Director and recently transitioned to the Board of Directors in September of 2016. She has a masters degree in Mental Health Counseling from Rollins College in Winter Park. Her passion for excellence in therapeutics has helped to establish best practices for the Samaritan Village residential program. As a Board member of Samaritan Village she continues to engage in the fight against of human trafficking through public speaking engagements and other advocacy opportunities in our local community. When she’s not busy with meetings, vision-casting, and volunteering at Samaritan Village, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two kids, and providing leadership as a home-school mom. She is also active in her church, Grace Winter Garden, in their children's and women's ministries.

Grace Works Here? October Forum Recap with Lindsey Staton

Last week at the October Forum we talked about God's promise of grace. Life Coach, Lindsey Staton shared how God's grace enables us to be used by God, especially in the midst of our weakness.

In 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul urges us to boast in our weakness. Who wants to boast in their weakness? Those who want to see God glorified more than they want to look like they have it all together. "My power is made perfect in weakness." In verse 8, Paul said he asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn. Lindsey shared 3 different times in her life that she told the Lord, "I don't have it. I can't do this."

1. Becoming a parent - She wrestled with God during her pregnancy asking Him how she could be a good parent. God answered her by telling her that her daughter is HIS. She is God's daughter first. Secondly, she is her own. She doesn't belong to her mom. She belongs to God.

2. Leading a Bible study in her home during her divorce - She thought surely she would be disqualified by her divorce. But at the same time, God increased her bible study to ten women, by far the biggest she'd ever had. She asked, "Why are you giving me the largest Bible study group I've ever had when I'm at the lowest point of my human existence? I don't have it. I can't do this." God answered "Because now you're ready. You've got nothing to give and all your well-meaning efforts are out of My way. Anything that happens from here on out will be all Me." The group grew from 10 to 12 to 15 to 18 to 21 and finally 24. Her weakness had set the stage for God's power to be made perfect. And it was. 

Immediately following her divorce, she committed a major moral failure that she was certain would disqualify her. She called a friend in the middle of the night to come over. Lindsey's been a Christian her whole life but suddenly she needed the cross like never before. She asked her friend to preach the gospel to her like she had never heard it, to promise her that what she had done was on Jesus' shoulders when He died. God's love and grace overwhelmed her. He restored her, and now she is even more 'qualified' to teach His restoration.

3. Launching her coaching business - She thought it's fine to not have it all together when you're just a blogger and speaker. But why would anybody hire her to help them with THEIR lives if she can't even perfect her own? Having full knowledge of all the issues remaining in her life, she thought "I don't have it, I can't do this." But the stage is set for God's power to be made perfect in her weakness.

Her stepson played baseball when he was younger. Her favorite cheer was after the hitter's first swing and miss: "NOW you're ready!" When we are at our smallest, God is at His biggest. The weaker we are, the stronger God shows Himself. And we are never more prepared, never more qualified for ministry than when we have nothing to offer.

In Judges 6, God calls Gideon to fight against the Midianites, calling him "mighty warrior." Gideon asks, "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The Lord answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive." (v. 14) God chose the least of the family of the weakest tribe in Israel. Even after Gideon gathered his army, God sends most of them home, purposely outnumbering His people in battle. And when they won, there was no doubt Who had done it.

So prepare yourself, mighty warrior. God may be about to ask you for more than is humanly possible. All your failures, limitations and weaknesses have made you the perfect candidate for His plan and purpose. Get out of the way and let Him show Himself strong through You. It'll be all Him, just like it is supposed to be.

Lindsey Staton, Certified Life Coach

Lindsey Staton, Certified Life Coach

Lindsey Staton is a certified life coach, blogger and speaker. She graduated with a journalism degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and has worked for several different publications including Southern Living, Southern Lady, HomeLife and RELEVANT magazine. Originally from Ocala, Florida, she is a fifth generation Floridian and has held ministry positions at several churches, including 20s-30s director at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Her other professional experience includes occasionally dabbling in various aspects of the field of law, which is the family business.

She blogs weekly about faith, marriage/remarriage, parenting/step-parenting, identity and purpose. She also speaks at conferences, retreats, corporate events and was even recently invited to speak to a men's Bible study group! Driven by God's redemption of her own story, her passion is to help people recover lost identity, survive transition, live proactive/intentional lives, discover their purpose and get them living it. Visit Lindsey's website here! 

October Forum: Grace Works Here?

October 4th, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation.

This year at J4 Leaders, we are learning to stand on God's promises! God promised that his grace is sufficient for us.  Whatever we face, God is more than enough. We may feel weak or ill-equipped to do something but thats great, because that's when we can surrender the project to God and He is glorified even more so! Please join us on Tuesday, October 4th to hear Lindsey Staton share about God's grace in our lives!

Lindsey Staton.jpg

Lindsey Staton, Certified Life Coach

Lindsey Staton is a certified life coach, blogger and speaker. She graduated with a journalism degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and has worked for several different publications including Southern Living, Southern Lady, HomeLife and RELEVANT magazine. Originally from Ocala, Florida, she is a fifth generation Floridian and has held ministry positions at several churches, including 20s-30s director at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Her other professional experience includes occasionally dabbling in various aspects of the field of law, which is the family business.

She blogs weekly about faith, marriage/remarriage, parenting/step-parenting, identity and purpose. She also speaks at conferences, retreats, corporate events and was even recently invited to speak to a men's Bible study group! Driven by God's redemption of her own story, her passion is to help people recover lost identity, survive transition, live proactive/intentional lives, discover their purpose and get them living it.

September Forum Recap

In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Julie Colombino, CEO of Rebuild Globally discussed her personal journey of God leading her to Haiti to fulfill an important mission . . .

August 14, 2010,  is a day I will never forget.  Only 7 months after the unforgiving earthquake that claimed countless lives and left millions homeless and jobless. This is the day, however, we opened the REBUILD globally training center and workshop. This is the day that marks the beginning of the bravery of our Haitian craftsmen and women, Board of Directors, international and local volunteers and many friends and family. This is the day the people of REBUILD globally took the plunge to turn found objects into fashion and the impoverished into entrepreneurs.

“Integrity” is the word that rang in my head every moment after the earthquake. How can REBUILD globally make a significant and long term positive change in Haiti after all it had suffered?  I decided to listen to those who were most affected and to act with integrity no matter how scared or complicated the situation became. People asked for jobs….simple as that. We worked hand in hand in order to create a system that would provide dignified living-wages and livelihood opportunities. On that day, August 14, 2010, that was all we could conceive: four people, four lives.

Employment and empowerment have effects that extend into generations. Our craftsmen and women are financially secure, which empowers them to send their children to school from their hard earned paychecks. Each one of our staff members is even able to support orphans or others who are vulnerable in their own community because of their own fiscal health. Some have contributed to local micro-finance projects. Some have become leaders of their community groups. Some have taken in children to help support other family members. It is through this kind of chain reaction that these towns, cities, and eventually the world can be rid of poverty once and for all.

By providing dignified living wages, our craftsmen and women not only become leaders in their community; but they are turning waste tires into beautiful, high-fashion sandals. Employment and local ownership are the game changers in developing countries. When charity dries up, those in poverty need a means to sustain themselves and support their families. Employment means parents can educate and feed their children; it means they can live in safe dwellings and not tent cities.
 
We have transformed the traditional methods of charitable aid with a business model that provides a dignified solution to economic injustice while producing a desired product. After years of working on the ground, we have found the most impactful way to respond to a disaster and lessen the effects of poverty is to combine the efforts of our non-profit with the for-profit sector.  In 2015, we incubated a locally owned for-profit social business, deux mains designs, Haiti’s first social impact factory that handcrafts high-fashion sandals and accessories from genuine leather and upcycled materials. REBUILD globally and deux mains work hand in hand to change the system that keeps poor people impoverished. deux mains designs is our paradigm social impact business that empowers and employs Haitian citizens to handcraft unique products from up cycled materials.

Nearly six years later, I am honored to say we have over 25 full time craftsmen and women, 3 of whom are managers and who also have ownership in the local business we have created, deux mains designs.  We also employ 6 part-time tutors and teachers who work with our 30 vulnerable students in the Elèv Program.  

REBUILD globally was born is a disaster, but it has thrived in its wake as a result of the compassion each individual donor and customer has shown throughout the years. Thank you for being a thoughtful buyer, conscious giver and educated global citizen. It is people like you who inspire others to be the best they can be when situations seem dire and hopeless.

To learn more about Rebuild Globally and to shop from their on-line store, please click here.

Thank you for choosing to walk a mile in our sandals.

In solidarity,
Julie

August Forum Recap

In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Secily Wilson, Director of Community Relations & Financial Development for YMCA of Central Florida discussed her personal journey of God leading her through the the trials in her life.  

The grace of God is the favor of God. The grace of God causes good things to happen in our lives through the channel of faith. Here’s what you need to know: divine favor can come and overtake you. Divine favor comes by God’s anointing and is triggered by faith. Divine favor is not the result of luck but of obedience.

Psalm 84:11 "For the Lord God is a sun and a shield; THE LORD WILL GIVE FAVOR and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly"

Psalm 5:12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield. 

Psalm 23:5-6 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

The truth is that if we just concentrate on pleasing God, HE will give us favor with others when we need it most.

Women with Favor:

Hannah in Hebrew is Favor, Grace. Mother of the prophet Samuel.

Mary, Mother of Jesus. 

Then there’s Ruth a Moabite and another example of a humble, contrite woman who had been separated by God but received God by grace. 

Esther had abundant favor. 

The definition of ‘grace’ is unmerited divine assistance. It includes approval, favor, mercy, pardon and privilege. 

God has granted you privileged status. You’re His child, a child of the King! 

Proverbs 16:7 (NIV) says, "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him”.

All God’s power is available to you through His Word, His grace and His favor. You know the saying…..membership has it’s privileges. American Express doesn’t have anything on the benefits you receive through the gift of His grace. You might have great benefits through your employer, Florida Blue, United Health Care…..But I can guarantee you….God’s benefits are far greater AND there is nothing that is not covered!

SOME of his Grace and Favor Benefits:

Grace blesses. The Bible says the Lord blesses you continually….more and more. When the blessing of God comes, the favor of God comes with it. 

The blessing is the empowerment to prosper. The favor produces the opportunity to prosper. You can have the ability to do something, but if you never have the opportunity, it’s not likely the ability will benefit you.  Every person who has accepted Jesus has the blessing of God on their life.

You’ve already been given the blessing. Now you have to start believing God for his opportunities. I thank him daily for divine connections and opportunities opening up on my behalf.


Grace gives. Psalm 68 says the Lord daily loads you with benefits! Psalm 103 lists some of those benefits: forgiveness, healing, lovingkindness, renewed youth and protection. Don’t take my word….it’s in the book. 

Psalm 103:2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.  He who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good thing so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

So think about your own life and where he “gave” you some these benefits. While you’re thinking let me tell you what he gave me. Forgiving me of my sins of being judgemental. Don’t act like I’m the only one. I KNOW we have some JUDGE JUDY’S in here. But don’t worry, he’ll forgive you. He healed my heart of 2 strokes and restored my my voice giving me the ability to speak again. He restored my career, my finances and gives me good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagles. I’m 51 years old and I feel like 25. He gave me my good genes and good looks! Thank you BIG DADDY!

Grace is merciful. Mercy is defined as lenient, compassionate treatment, an act of divine favor. The Bible describes God’s mercy as ‘plentiful’, ‘new every morning’ and ‘from everlasting to everlasting’.  Mercy holds no grudges and stops punishment. God treats you as if it never happened.  Grace and Mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. It is God’s eternal grace. Cece Winans wrote a song that I love. Mercy said no!  ….when sin demanded justice for my soul……mercy said no. I’m not gonna let you go, I’m not gonna let you slip away, you don’t have to be afraid, Mercy said no, sin will never take control….life and death stood face to face. Darkness tried to steal my heart away…..thank you Jesus, Mercy said no.

Grace protects. Psalm 91 details the many protections available to those who make God their source. It says ‘surely’ He will deliver you, be your refuge and fortress, and that nothing can in any way harm you. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, not even the weapons we form against ourselves. A VERY clear example of his protection yesterday morning.      

Grace gives favor. Repeatedly, the Bible says that God ‘gave favour’ or ‘shewed favour’ to His people.  Ephesians says He ‘raised us up to sit in heavenly places’. Having a place in the throne room of God is pretty prestigious, don’t you think?  That’s like being in VIP all the time. He adopted us into His family and told us to call Him ‘Abba, Father’. I call him Daddy.

Well, God is your ‘Daddy’ and He wants to show you His favor. He told you to ‘come boldly’ and ask Him for whatever you need (Heb. 4:16) so you ‘obtain mercy and find grace to help’. God wants to show you favor! That’s grace – love in action.

As women God favors us more! It’s true. He said in Proverbs: 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing AND obtains favor from the Lord. You need to go and tell your husbands…..you know you are successful because of me. Without me, you would have a hard life! 

As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord. As mothers, when our home obeys the Lord and operates in his principals we gain generational Favor.
    
You see, when your relationships feel like they are totally off their equilibrium and causing tension in your emotions.... use your words.
When your business seems stalled and everywhere you turn there is delay...use your words.
When your creativity has waned and you feel like access to the very thing that makes you you, has been limited... use your words.

Here’s the deal. life and death is in the power of your tongue.
What I know for sure, is that none of us get to make it through life without encountering mountains and when you do, your instruction is to SPEAK to the mountain and it shall be removed.
Don't try to scale the mountain,
Don't try to go around the mountain,
Don't try to go through the mountain.
No matter what mountain tries to rise up against you today, the instruction is the same...
USE YOUR WORDS!!

Let me encourage you to Use your faith and the power of your words to access His grace and favor. Refuse to talk about the problem when God’s grace has already given you every answer in His Word. Refuse to let this world’s system dictate your life. Take your place in your home, in your marketplace, in your community;– the place He created for you. Stand in your power. YOU Choose what happens by your faith and the words you speak.

His words say, "You are the apple of My eye. You are My favorite child" Deut. 32:10. Because you are his favorite…….you better get ready. Your future is so bright, You have to wear shades!

A special thank you to Secily for sharing her story with us!

 

September Forum - Working with Jesus – #travelbuddy

September 6, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation.

This year at J4 Leaders, we are learning to stand on God's promises! God is always with me- He promises to never leave me or forsake me.  He is my companion at work therefore I am not isolated as a leader.

There is no need to fear the future- no matter how bad we imagine, we need to remember that God will be in that situation and He will give us peace, comfort, provision.  We can enjoy peace in his companionship at work and even when traveling “alone”.  

Don't miss Julie Colombino sharing about God's promise of Omni Presence in our lives!

Julie Colombino is the Founder and CEO of REBUILD globally, a Kingdom business fighting poverty in Haiti. Since its inception, she has been a champion for impact-oriented business that are leading social change. From their global headquarters in Orlando, REBUILD globally has been making an impact in Haiti through education and job training, while developing a Haitian owned and operated business and fashion brand, deux mains designs. Under Colombino’s leadership, the past six years has been a dramatic evolution from earthquake recovery to a sustainable business that was quickly propelled into the world of ethical fashion. REBUILD globally has created partnerships with The United Nations, Kenneth Cole, supermodel Heide Lindgren and Ron Jon’s Surf Shop to fight poverty and strengthen families in Haiti.

Julie received her Master of Nonprofit Management from UCF and is the proud recipient of the 2014 Credo Social Business Award, the 2013 Rally Award; the 2013 Young Leaders for Haiti Global Humanitarian Award; the 2012 Business Innovation and Growth Award from the Chamber of Commerce; the 2011 UCF's Alumni Community Service Award; and the 2011 Public Administration New Professional of the Year Award.
Julie's book, From Death to Dollars, will be available in 2017. It is based on her real life encounters post earthquake and documents the growth of the social business ecosystem she created to instill dignity and financial security for the most vulnerable in Haiti.

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August Forum - The Future's So Bright, I Need New Shades!

August 2, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation

Future's So Bright, We Need New Shades! with Secily Wilson - There is incredible promise for you as a woman living and leading for Christ. As J4 Leaders in 2016 we are exploring the promises that God has made to us, His daughters. What would He have us do as His women in the marketplace? Which of His promises can we cling to as we face the challenges of everyday living? Join us as Secily Wilson shares about God's Promise to Give us Favor!

Secily currently serves as the Director of Community Relations for the YMCA of Central Florida. She is the mother of 2 daughters, a Telly Award winning broadcast journalist, media communications professional, Mrs. Florida International 1999 and founder of her own non-profit WOW Legacy Group Inc. which supports women in transition. For more than 20 years Secily delivered hard hitting, inspiring and entertaining reports in news, lifestyle, art and entertainment. Over the years Secily has interviewed notables like Oprah, Civil Rights icon Andrew Young, former NFL coach Tony Dungy, former CNN anchor Soladad O’Brien and many others.

She is passionate about issues like stroke awarenessand domestic violence. Secily is often found giving back to her community, spreading awareness and volunteering. She received her broadcast journalism degree from Valdosta State University, is a member of  Jack and Jill of America Inc., National Association of Black Journalist and a leader in the Central Florida community.

June Forum Recap - 'The Ultimate Delivery Man!' with Amanda Ober

In J4 Leaders this year, we are discussing promises we can cling to, as Christian women leading in the marketplace. On Tuesday, Amanda Ober, reporter for WESH 2 news and J4 Leader Board member, discussed her personal journey of God leading her through the storms of life. 

Amanda has always loved stories. In fact, when she was in the 4th grade, she confidently told her parents she wanted to be a news reporter. Because she loves stories so much, God often uses them to speak to her.  

Amanda explained that she is not known for being athletically gifted. She thinks she must have been doing her hair the day that God gave out the athletic gifts! In her 20s, she had a lot of very athletic friends, and joined them to climb Mt. Washington, the highest mountain peak in New Hampshire, where they lived. During this climb, the group leader, Brian was keeping a special eye on her, knowing this may be a bit of a stretch for her, physically. When they were nearing the top, a huge storm came and she started fearing for her safety. Brian grabbed her, looked her in the eyes and said "Amanda - Just follow my every step. Whatever I do, just copy me." He led her in the 'Step.Rest' method, alternately giving each leg time to rest after each step, allowing for more control and avoiding exhaustion. This was a method that she knew well, but had forgotten to use in the panic of the moment. Step by step, she followed him. 

Wouldn't it be great if we could make it to the top of the mountains without any storms? In John 16:33, Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world." 

What trial do you face today? We all need to be delivered from something. 

Psalm 34:4 says "I sought the lord and we answered me." and in verse 17, : The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles." When we seek God and cry out, God's word says that He will hear us and answer us and deliver us. 

In 2014, Amanda was enjoying a season that seemed as though God had given her a gift that had long been a desire of her heart. As quickly as it came into her life, however, it was taken away, leaving her devastated. Her heart was utterly broken but she was in a place in her walk with God where she knew that He was the only one who was going to catch her heart so she turned to Him. She sensed God asking her to devote 10 weeks fully to Him. All the time she had, she gave to being in His presence. Sometimes that looked like just weeping to the lord, other times she would read scripture and books, or journal or listen to sermons. Her condo became a holy place where she experienced the presence of God.

When we set our desire to seek God with all of our hearts, He honors that and makes a way. 

God delivered her through her storm, one step at a time. 'Step. Rest. Step. Rest.' She followed Him step by step. It was not instant, but slowly hope entered her soul. While the enemy went after her mind saying she was rejected. God revealed to her that she was being protected.

Since then, God has allowed Amanda to use this storm that He led her through to minister to others experiencing heartbreak and longing, causing them to question if God really cares about them. She now has confidence in God's love for us and ability to make broken hearts whole again. God turns the storms He delivers us from into our ministry. We can reach out to others and let them know they are not alone in experiencing the storms of life. 

On Mount Washington, as she followed Brian, step by step, eventually, the storm subsided. When she got to the top, it was one of the most beautiful views she had ever experienced. When God delivers us, there is joy and there is laughter.

When we seek Jesus in the trials of life, He will deliver us either from it or through it. When He leads us, out we can look back and remember His faithfulness and we can run to people who's hearts have been broken and show them the way out

A special thank you to Amanda for sharing her story with us!

Amanda Ober is a general board member for J4 Leaders. She joined WESH 2 News in August 1997, moving to central Florida from her home state of New Hampshire where she was the morning and noon anchor at WMUR-TV in Manchester. She earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Troy State University in Troy, AL. She has received several professional awards, including the Associated Press Best Spot News award for tracking down two of New Hampshire's top 10 deadbeat dads. Amanda is an accomplished political reporter, part of the WMUR-TV team that covered New Hampshire's presidential primaries in 1992 and 1996. Amanda was also part of the team that won a Columbia Dupont award for coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, as well as an Edward R. Murrow regional award for her reporting on the Casey Anthony trial. Amanda has volunteered on the board of several faith-based non-profits including the Christian Service Center and Samaritan Village. She currently serves on the Governing Board of Summit Church as well as the board of J4 Leaders. She also volunteers as a coach to small group leaders at her church and as a mentor to several young woman. Amanda is a proud graduate of Lifework Leadership Orlando.

May Forum Recap

 

Calling on God at Work... What's His Extension? with Natalie Hamer - There is incredible promise for you as a woman living and leading for Christ. As J4 Leaders in 2016 we are exploring the promises that God has made to us, His daughters. What would He have us do as His women in the marketplace? Which of His promises can we cling to as we face the challenges of everyday living? At the May Forum, Natalie Hamer shared about God's Promise that He has a perfect plan for us.

Forum Recap:

We've all had times in our lives when our circumstances don't seem to add up and we wonder what God's plan is. Those seasons of life can be major growth opportunities if we let them! Here are a few things I've learned through seasons of waiting:

1. God truly does care about the desires of our hearts. He puts them there for a reason. It’s important that we believe this because it helps us to wait for God’s best for us instead of settling for less. We really can trust Him. A good thing at the wrong time is really not a good thing for us. God’s timing is perfect and we have to wait for God’s best.

2. He’s always taking us somewhere. We don't serve a static God; We serve a God who’s alive and who is always moving on this earth and in our lives. And when he’s taking us somewhere - there’s always a preparation period.  God sees the big picture, he knows every detail, every circumstance, everything that will happen in the future and we have to be prepared.
 
"My ways are higher than your ways, my thoughts are higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8.

He also uses these periods of time to tests us: Does our faith only work when we have the things that we want? Because that means our faith is actually in the things themselves and not in God. If we can follow Him and be obedient during hard times, when we don’t have the things that we want - He knows He can trust us when we do get to the 'promised land', so to speak. 

3. God’s perfect plan is about so much more than our jobs and our circumstances and what we want. As daughters of the king we can be confident that God has a good plan for us.
 
Matthew 6: 31-33 says: "Do not worry saying what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear? For the pagans worry about these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well."
 
God’s greatest purpose and plan is for us to seek the kingdom of God right where we are. I don’t have a ton of huge regrets in my life, but I regret every second I spent worrying about my life! Looking back, every moment I spent worrying about how things were going to work out and what was going to happen next, was a complete and waste of time. 

God’s plan for our lives is that we would grow in the knowledge of the word and in the character of Christ. That we would have integrity as we carry out our daily duties. That we would care about those around us. That we would be prayerful and listen to the Spirit each day. God’s perfect plan for us is that we would know him, experience his presence and bear much fruit.
 
We all have gifts and a calling and things God is calling us to do each and every day right where we’ve been placed. There is a world around us that needs us to listen to the Spirit and dig into the place God has put us for today. All of us, regardless of our circumstances, have the most perfect calling – to bring the kingdom of God to earth. To be a part of restoring a broken world. Let’s let this be our first priority in all that we do. 

 

 

Natalie Hamer is the Community Partnerships Coordinator for LIFT Orlando and Executive Assistant for J4 Leaders. 

Encouraging Word - Seeking the Kingdom

by Marlee D'Arco, J4 Board Member and Founder of Radical Entrepreneurship, LLC

When I first graduated from law school, I was concerned. The job market wasn’t booming in Miami, and a quality employment opportunity brought on serious competition.
 
Would I be able to find a job?
Would I find a job that actually paid the bills? (When your student loan payments are the size of a mortgage payment, you wonder.)
How will I make it all work?
 
I prayed, and I worried. Mostly, I worried.
 
Then, I decided to start my own business.
 
Could I actually successfully launch a business on my own?
How would I convince people to do business with a newbie?
Would I make enough money to survive?
 
Again, I prayed. But this time, things were different. This time, I didn’t just pray and worry. This time, I prayed and listened.
 
And I heard: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
 
Seek the Kingdom…
 
I used to pray and seek God to meet my needs…
 
“God, please help me find a way to make ends meet.” “Father, give me your supernatural favor with clients so that I can prosper.” “Lord, make a way for this business situation to change.”
 
But He’s told us to seek the Kingdom and our needs will be met, so when I heard that from Him my prayers started to change.
 
“Thank you, God, that you are teaching me to become love, so that I can be the Kingdom to those around me.” “Thank you, God that you are growing me in patience, so that I can do your will on your watch.” “Thank you, God that you are showing me the needs of others, so that I can bless them in any way possible.”
 
My prayers changed, but my needs didn’t.
 
And, do you know what?
 
My every need was - and is - met. He meets my needs before I know what they are, and more than ever He’s equipped me to meet the needs of others.
 
But here’s the best part.
 
I rarely find myself concerned with my needs. I find myself concerned with my King. I find myself concerned with the Kingdom, and every time I seek more of the Kingdom, more of the Kingdom He gladly gives.
 
All of my needs are met according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
 
He desires to do the same for you.
 
See: Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:32; Philippians 4:19

June Forum | The Ultimate Delivery Man

June 7, 2016 | 6:00 - 7:30 PM (Registration begins at 5:30)

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando | 106 E. Church Street | Edington Ministry Center | 3rd Floor, Sterchi Conference Room | Parking Garage located at Jackson/Rosalind - Bring parking ticket for validation

The Ultimate Delivery Man with Amanda Ober - There is incredible promise for you as a woman living and leading for Christ. As J4 Leaders in 2016 we are exploring the promises that God has made to us, His daughters. What would He have us do as His women in the marketplace? Which of His promises can we cling to as we face the challenges of everyday living? Join us as Amanda Ober shares about God's Promise to deliver.

Amanda Ober is a general board member for J4 Leaders. She joined WESH 2 News in August 1997, moving to central Florida from her home state of New Hampshire where she was the morning and noon anchor at WMUR-TV in Manchester. She earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Troy State University in Troy, AL. She has received several professional awards, including the Associated Press Best Spot News award for tracking down two of New Hampshire's top 10 deadbeat dads. Amanda is an accomplished political reporter, part of the WMUR-TV team that covered New Hampshire's presidential primaries in 1992 and 1996. Amanda was also part of the team that won a Columbia Dupont award for coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, as well as an Edward R. Murrow regional award for her reporting on the Casey Anthony trial. Amanda has volunteered on the board of several faith-based non-profits including the Christian Service Center and Samaritan Village. She currently serves on the Governing Board of Summit Church as well as the board of  J4 Leaders.  She also volunteers as a coach to small group leaders at her church and as a mentor to several young woman.  Amanda is a proud graduate of Lifework Leadership Orlando."

The Great Provide with Claire Fournier

On April 5th, Claire Fournier, Chief Strategic Partnership Officer at Orlando Health (read bio here) and our very own J4 Leaders Board Member, shared about God's promise that his will always provide for us! Here is her talk in it's entirety:

Just so I can get a temperature of those here tonight, how many of you try your absolute best to allow Christ to be at the wheel, guiding your life? All right, a great number!

And how many of you might find yourself in the same trap that I find myself, many times trying to have the Lord drive from the back seat, or even worse, I lock him the trunk? OK, I’m glad I am not the only one who is a work in progress here tonight in my faith journey.

Many times in public speaking, you can warm up your audience with humor. And I think I have some humor to share with you tonight. Up until about 5pm yesterday, I had a great talk prepared for you on the Great Control – allowing God to have control in your life. Imagine my surprise at the end of the day when reading the email reminder; I realized the subject was the Great Provide.

Leaning not on my own understanding, I definitely leaned on Him last night to PROVIDE words for me to share with you tonight. So goodbye to my speech on handing God control of our lives. Please see me afterwards if you need someone to give that speech in the future. In reality, maybe giving up control leads to the Great Provide.

When thinking about how God has ALWAYS provided for me – I can say he has provided for my needs 100% of the time in my life….that is when I allowed him to guide me. So many times, I want my human needs to be met. As crazy as it sounds, I try to strategize, analyze or prioritize what I think is best for me. I ask for my prayers to be answered, promptly. Thankfully as we age, we come to understand many times unanswered prayers were anything but unanswered. God knows best what we need, far beyond our earthly desires and requests.

As best as I try, I hate to admit, I only give the Lord a part-time job most days in leading my life. And I’m learning that breaking that pattern starts with simple daily steps of trusting him to provide. When I wake up in the morning still thinking through last night’s problem, whether at work or home, I’m trying to cheat God out of his job of providing an answer to my challenge through quiet contemplation. Listening to him.

Christ wants to sit at the throne of our life. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. Isn’t it almost comical that we would think with our faulty human brain that we could direct our path better than the creator of the universe?

In my favorite devotional, Jesus Calling, I was given some great content for tonight on March 29th. It read, “Stop trying to work things out before their times have come. Accept the limitations of living one day at a time. When something comes to your attention, ask Me whether or not it is part of today’s agenda. If it isn’t, release it into My care and go about today’s duties. Listen…for God to provide you your answers. You’ll recognize them.

I’m learning this one day at a time approach of trusting God with today, and not getting overly analytical about the past or future actions works well. In today’s crazy pace and constant demands, I yearn to simplify my life and find peace.

Why else do we envy children with their reckless abandon of freedom and happiness, except for the simplicity of their lives? They truly live in the moment. Let’s go back to being kids! And let our Heavenly Father provide for our needs in our daily walk.

When I think of the 3 areas that concern me the most, areas I continually ask God to provide for me and family, it includes: My personal happiness, health, peace and joy. You know, the fruits of the Spirit more: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. Pretty good list. Because we all know if Mama isn’t happy, no one is happy.

My prayers next are for the health, safety and happiness of my family and cherished friends, my chosen family.

And lastly, I worry about being financially secure. It is the only explanation of why I would spend so much time and energy thinking about career or changes at work. Financial instability is a frightening thought to me.

Number one: When trying to make myself happy, I’m learning God can do a much better of job running my life. But it still doesn’t mean I am not hard wired to take the wheel back from him all too often. This is especially true when we are in the valleys of our lives.

I’ve been in a personal season of change the past two years as I transitioned from raising a child at home to launching my son Michael into his college career. Letting go was really hard, as was the joy in giving daily maternal love and influencing his life decisions.

How many of you have launched a child into college? How many found it extremely difficult to give ownership to that college freshman to make good decisions in their life? Aren’t we certain we would make much better decisions for them, based on our years of living and parental wisdom?

I wonder if the Lord feels the same way about us. He is beyond capable of directing our path and keeping us from harm. But much like our college freshman children, going away from home for the first time, we often don’t give Christ a chance to fill our lives with the fruits of the spirit. Only when we scrape our knees, or for our children they skip a class, flunk a test or overindulge at college kegger, do we both come to realize we are not as capable of making Godly decisions without his guidance and provision.

With time, I am finding it easier to easier to know that God will provide for Michael’s welfare and safety when away from me. He is the Lord’s child first and foremost.

My son is really precious to me. For you see I almost missed ever knowing him at all. Many of you know my childbirth story but some of you have not heard it. And it is a pivotal event in my life story. I hope I can get through it since my dear friend and sister in Christ, Sherrie Sitarik, is here tonight. Sherrie well remembers that day on August 7, 1996. Sherrie (then President of Arnold Palmer Hospital) sat with my husband Glenn, after Michael’s birth when things looked grim for my survival. You see no healthy first time Mom expects to give birth and wake up 13 hours later on life support with a hysterectomy.

With heartfelt gratitude I marvel at the miracle of what God provided to our family that day. A future, me being there for the first day of kindergarten, high school graduation, dropping him off at college and a lifetime of memories in between and hopefully beyond. God provided my good health and survival, something so easy to take for granted.

Christ turned that near tragedy into one of the greatest gifts of my life. He provided a dream job of working at Orlando Health where I can live out my desire to give back and serve others. When an organization and individual caregivers save your life, you feel a level of gratitude that is hard to express. God and I would add Sherrie and Kathy Swanson, provided me a second chapter career to feel passion again in my life and career. I have worked my entire adult life so my career and financial security has always been an area of high importance.

Maybe because I grew up in a solidly mid-class home where there were occasional financial concerns, I knew the meaning of a dollar and the delayed gratification of having something on layaway. By the way, who in the room remembers ever having something like a new outfit on layaway?

But the Lord has always provided richly, though not in my desired timing, especially during the economic downturn from 2009-2014. The real estate development jobs in Orlando virtually dried up during that period which impacted my husband’s career. Suddenly, I found myself as the sole breadwinner of our family. We had always been partners in providing for our family, and I found it extremely hard to trust God’s timing when job opportunities seemed within reach and then slipped away. This season of drought lasted 5 long, laborious years.

What God did provide during that time was clarity on what was really important. My teenager confided he was fine to stay home more, travel less and have more home cooked than restaurant meals. But where the Lord really impacted my attitude was when I was down on knees in despair that I didn’t know how long I could carry the financial burden. Just when I was about to give up, an absolute financial miracle would happen.

When the Orlando Health opportunity presented itself, my business partner at the time, in a handshake deal, provided me 15 times more than I expected for my stock purchase. It was the financial lifeblood we needed to bridge our shortfall. But Christ knew he needed to take me to the 2 minute warning in the fourth quarter, to recognize his hand in this miracle. Then I could say, I’m hearing you, Lord, because I was about to lose faith and fall into despair. But you had me covered the whole time.

Recognizing our shortcomings and natural instinct to sin and exert our will over God, helps us to identify areas of opportunities to grow. Even the disciples doubted Christ. And they were the group of followers anointed to follow him in his brief life on earth.

So if the chosen 12 can doubt and worry, I should forgive myself when I find myself going down a path of doubting his ability to provide exactly what I need, when I need it. I love Proverbs, and one of my favorite passages is Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” And then there is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”.  When we doubt, when we reach the end of our ropes, verses like these have been my lifeline to hope.

Learning to trust the Lord to direct us in our lives takes trust and faith. A recent devotion really stuck with me when it differentiated the difference between facts and problems. We can identify a situation either as a problem or a fact, depending on our lens. Think of a problem as something that we have some power to influence, change, improve or solve. But think about that same situation as a fact, something that I have no control over, so why anguish about a fact?

Back to that college freshman, once I learned to but my trust in the Lord to direct my son’s path and to keep him safe, it was a freeing experience. The fact was my son lives 11 hours away in New Orleans. I can’t possibly influence his daily decisions or actions. Or at least I shouldn’t, I’d be one of those helicopter Moms! Though a work in progress, the Lord continues to take charge of my life and in trusting him to influence Michael; he helped me to transition in this new stage of life.

And trusting God to provide requires me to spend time with him each morning in study and prayer. It has had the single most positive impact in recent years and even months. Philippians 4:19 tells us, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”. Starting my day in quiet time, focused just on today, even journaling has expanded my faith. It has been uncanny how my “Jesus Calling” devotion would address my natural need to worry about direction instead of waiting on God to answer my prayers. Slowly, I have begun to shift this natural inclination to want to figure things out, influence the outcome.

Does anyone relate to this need to control outcomes? Do I have any A type personalities in the room? Yes, I thought so. Whether at work, at home with our spouse, our kids or in community activities, we do not pray in the Lord’s Prayer that OUR will is done – rather HIS will be done.

The Lord is capable to provide for all our needs if we only listen and obey. Glenn and I got married in 1996, I purposely took the word obey out of our wedding vows because this modern women was not looking to obey my husband. A bride at age 34, I wasn’t about to sign onto obeying my spouse. But the Lord does call on us to obey his word. And if we can only trust and obey his instruction, we can experience his Great Provide.

Do I have any Gator fans in the room? Anyone remember the scripture that Tim Tebow often had on his face? Philippians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Now that is worth obeying and walking in God’s instruction for our lives. I need that type of strength at work and home. Trusting and loving God to provide for our needs brings real peace.

First Corinthians 13 tells us the greatest thing on earth is love. Love heals our hearts and hurts. Love can help us address pride and pain. Love helps to experience freedom in forgiveness. Using love as a barometer for our motives helps us flush out right from wrong. And love simply feels good. It feels good when love is in everything we do.

When we can make loving our Heavenly Father and all he has placed in our lives, our number one priority, we have the peace that he is more than capable to provide. God loves us enough to give us the desires of heart and make our plans succeed as he promises us in his Word. Love conquers all while God provides his Great Plan.

It has been a pleasure to serve on the J4Leaders board and I encourage you to get involved with these exceptional women. Your friendships can help you grow. I treasure the friends I’ve met through J4. God bless you all and goodnight.