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Take it Off

“But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” –Isaiah 43:18-19, NLT
 
At lunch yesterday, I shared with friends a common scenario. We all giggled when we talked about it, because we’ve all seen a little one do it. 
 
It goes something like this. Your preschooler is going through his independent stage, and wants to dress himself. Sighing with exhaustion—because it would be so much easier if he would just wear what you laid out on the bed—you let him win this battle. Because you know this mom has already won the war, even if he doesn’t.
 
You turn your back for a moment, or you step into the next room to check on something else. Then you hear the cries. You hear the frustration. Surely, he can’t be upset because, “there’s nothing to wear.” He’s not old enough for that, and men don’t ever ask that question anyway. Do they?
 
You poke your head back into the room to see why he is so upset, and then you cup your hand over your mouth, so the laugh doesn’t escape—or be heard.
 
He’s struggling, because he dug through the drawers until he found the shirt that you meant to toss in the donation box months ago because it is just too small. You see that his head is caught in the neckline, and he’s determined to pull it on over his head, and rock that 3T size tee. But he can’t. And worse yet, he’s not able to see because the shirt is covering his eyes just enough to block out any clear vision. His head starts shaking, much like a wet dog does when she comes out of the mud, and for a second you’re thankful that this shaking is not sending sprays of water droplets and every germ known to humankind all over the room.
 
Composing yourself enough to help, you calmly walk over to him, and yank the shirt off his head. He can breathe again. He can see. There’s tears, but he’s making an instant recovery like most preschoolers do. Straightening his hair, you give him a kiss and help him put on the shirt you set out, explaining that he’s a big boy now, and he doesn’t really want to wear that baby shirt, does he? Seeing the logic—and the comfort—of taking off the wrong size, and putting on the right fit, he finally sighs and you can see agreement in his four-year-old eyes.
 
But as he runs out to play and you toss the old shirt in the donation box, you wonder how many things you should take off, toss out, admit that you’ve outgrown.
 
God challenges us to look at those things. But there are times when we act just like a preschooler, and insist on squeezing into that old shirt, and we’re going to keep wearing it. We’re going to stay in that job. We’re not going to step aside and hand that ministry over. We’re going to rock it. Even if it’s three sizes too small, even if what we’re doing isn’t speaking to others or meeting needs, even if we’re not flourishing in that job—and even if it’s clearly not the right fit. Because it’s familiar, and we know it. We don’t want to risk trying on that new shirt. That won’t ever work, anyway. Will it?
 
And God just stands there. I imagine He’s probably chuckled, too…thinking, “Oh precious girl, just take it off already. I have a better one, and it’s the right fit. Trust Me. You’ll see.”
 
Will He see agreement in your heart?

The F Word

I used to hate sitting down to do it. But it had to be done.

It was the inevitable “lessons learned” de-briefing that followed every ministry event. And while my team could celebrate the victories and the ultimate outcome, it was always necessary to examine the failures, too.

Failing. Oh, how I hate that word!
 
Yes, it goes without saying that sometimes you can’t avoid failure. And we’ve all read articles on why failing at times is important. We know there are times that we will indeed fail. And we know that there are always valuable lessons to be learned from it.
 
Another thought to consider is that there may be times when failing is absolutely necessary so that you can open the door that is yours to walk through. Some of the greatest figures in history are great because they failed at something. Consider the following individuals:
  • Fred Astaire – Remarks on Fred Astaire’s first screen test read, “Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little."  
  • Walt Disney – The man that brought us Mickey Mouse was fired from jobs and rejected for loans numerous times. One employer felt that he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”
  • Vera Wang – Before becoming a famous fashion designer, she wanted to be an Olympic skater, but didn’t make the 1968 team. Later worked as an editor for Vogue Magazine but was rejected for the “Editor-in-Chief” position.
  • J.K. Rowling – This single mom  lived off welfare before becoming the best-selling author of the Harry Potter series.
And then there was that guy that heard from God and wrote the Bible! The Apostle Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament from prison. I imagine he may have had a different plan for ministry, but God had anointed him for a unique mission. And 2,000 years later we are still learning from this great teacher. I’d say that he was a success, even behind bars!
 
As much as we’d love to avoid it, life will always see failures. And there are valuable lessons in those failures. Failure is also a good opportunity to remember that God never fails us.
 
“Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid…for Adonai your God is going with you.
He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

The Perfect Outfit

“Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ…” –Romans 13:14, NLT
 
We women worry about what we wear. We fuss over our outfits, making sure we look good and that we meet the latest style requirements. Our outward appearance is important to us. Sometimes I have an "off day” when my clothes don't match, my hair is a mess, and not an ounce of makeup touches my face. Boy, do I feel yucky on those days! But when everything is good with my wardrobe, my hair is where it should be, and my “face” is on, I'm ready to take on the world!

I remember as a child, watching my Granny get herself “done up.” She would tease her hair up all over her head. It was a crazy mess that somehow transformed into a nice style by the time she was done. And she would painstakingly apply her makeup. My memory recalls that she never quite got her foundation blended in at the neckline. When finished, she was beautiful. But my memory also recalls that she was beautiful before she ever started getting “done up.”

You see, it is not our hairstyle, our makeup, or our fabulous outfits in the latest fashions that make us beautiful. It is our heart, our soul and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Inviting Jesus into your heart, having that assurance of salvation, and owning that unsurpassable joy is what makes us beautiful. That righteousness that comes from a true relationship with the Savior is what makes us sparkle and shine. These are the true elements of beauty….the perfect outfit for all seasons. 

It’s okay to look fabulous ladies. Let’s face it…it’s a confidence booster when we know we look good.  But let’s remember that our inner beauty is so much more relevant than our outer beauty. The attributes of Christ really do make the perfect outfit.

Betty Predmore is an author, blogger, public speaker, and ministry leader in her spare time, but her greatest role is that of wife to Jim and mama to their beautiful collection of children. Betty spends her days sharing the love of Jesus with hurting and broken women through her ministry, Women of Virtue Empowerment Network, and through her online ministry, Grace & Virtue. Betty also is a part of several ministry writing teams, as well as enjoying guest blogging on other sites.
 

And The Winners Are...

















 
2017 Ruth & Naomi Scholarships AWARDED

WE ARE SO EXCITED to announce our 2017 Recipients of the RUTH & the NAOMI scholarships! The Ruth & Naomi Scholarship programs are part of our efforts to empower women in our world. 

This year, our RUTH Scholarship was awarded to Kari Nadler, of Cary, North Carolina. Kari is pursuing a degree in Psychology her state university. Kari's story is a poignant parallel to the young Moabite woman we know as Ruth in the Old Testament. Kari's newfound faith in Christ poised her to be considered a spiritual foreigner in her own family, who did not practice or live out the faith systems to which they claimed to identify. But throught the love and guidance of a friend's family, Kari began to develop her personal walk with Christ, and became a Senior Leader for YoungLife

Our NAOMI Scholarship was awarded to Jennifer Oliver of Roseville, California. Jennifer is furthering her education by pursuing a graduate degree in Organizational Leadership. Jennifer's own life exemplifies a modern day example of the Old Testament story of Naomi and God's plan to bring redemption to her family. Having navigated the pain of divorce but yet choosing to keep the perspective of a servant heart when interacting with her ex husband, Jennifer experienced God's restorative power firsthand. She now provides mentoring to younger ladies, including frustrated moms, disillusioned wives, and single women. 

Ladybug Women's Ministries would like to thank all of the qualified women who submitted outstanding applications. We are honored to help empower these two beautiful women for the work they will do to change the world around them. 

If you would like to donate to the 2018 scholarship fund, you can do that at our website. Simply select either Ruth or Naomi under the Give To: option on our donation portal.

Removing the Grave Clothes

I thought everything was fine.
 
After all, God had restored me. Literally. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally.
 
After four years of intense and continuous trials that included the dissolution of a ministry, agony in friendships, and—oh yeah—an ongoing battle with that pesky thing called cancer, 2017 was ushered in with an enthusiastic outlook that reflected the new things that God was doing in me.
 
Yet despite the restoration work that God had clearly performed, I found myself unable to truly walk in the freedom of His goodness. Did I share of His work? Absolutely. Did I believe it? Unequivocally.
 
It was only on a Saturday afternoon in a safe place with friends that I could realize why I was not walking in the freedom that God had intended for this new season. A prayer partner helped me to see that although God had completely restored all that had ceased to function, I was living as though I were still bound by the effects of those failures and trials.
 
In the Gospel of John, Jesus visits the grave of a friend. Lazarus had been dead for four days. Absolutely and unequivocally dead. But when Jesus shouted, “Come out!” Lazarus walked out of his tomb and was completely restored to life.
 
But even though he was now raised to life, Lazarus had walked out of his grave still bound with grave cloths, the wrappings that had been used to prepare his body for permanent burial. He was absolutely alive and restored, but still tied up and certainly not walking in complete freedom.
 
“And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes,
his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them,
 ‘Unwrap him and let him go!’ ”
–John 11:44, NLT
 
There are so many amazing truths and illustrations in this story, but I share this specific verse because if you’re not careful, you may miss an important point. Jesus didn’t ask Lazarus to remove his own grave clothes. He instead commanded those around him to do it for him.
 
I needed those around me to help me remove my stinky, smelly grave clothes—those thoughts and behaviors that were keeping me bound, and keeping me from experiencing the true restoration that God had performed. I share this with you, because there is likely someone in your midst that needs to have his or her grave clothes torn away so that true freedom can be present—and  be lived. Friends, we need to be watching for those who are bound. Let’s be careful to not let them live with any reminders of death, but rather release them from any restraints that would prevent them from truly walking in freedom. Unwrap them and let them go into the fullness of life!

Deeply Rooted & Transformed

A quick look at the word root in an online dictionary and I found this definition: the essential core.
 
It is with this definition in mind that I considered the impact of Everbloom—Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives, the inaugural anthology written by the members of the Redbud Writers Guild, as I read the collection of essays, poems, and stories.
 
I had no sooner lightly chuckled at the declaration of a Kindergarten girl that she would write an authoritative autobiography on walking big dogs than I found myself shedding tears for a woman being beaten under a palm tree. This varying range of emotions continued throughout the pages of this book, and I am changed, sobered, and touched for having been given a glimpse into the lives of each precious writer that has poured her heart out in this labor of love known as Everbloom.
 
The stories are divided into the structure of a tree—roots, trunk, branches, and then blossoms. Each contribution includes a prayer to apply, followed by a writing prompt to grow the writer in each reader. What an inspiring way to plant seeds and bring out what is at the essential core of every woman in this world of beautiful, human trees—her own deeply-rooted and powerful story that is reflected in her trunk, her branches, and—most definitely—her blossoms.

Whosoever

If I had been doing what I was supposed to be doing, I would have never seen it.
 
Driving home from another mundane errand and just wanting to avoid the traffic and get home, I was feeling especially anxious at the “red light enforced” stoplight I found myself at on an ordinary Wednesday. None of my favorite radio stations were playing anything good to sing along to, and I had yet to conquer the insurmountable task of getting my iTunes™ playlist to cooperate with my car stereo.
 
Of course I should’ve just been paying attention to the stoplight, with hands at 10 and 2, and keeping a steady eye on the road in front of me. But I knew there were far too many interesting things to take in and observe from the scenery around me during my brief stop at the busy intersection. And none of them had anything to do with being a diligent and law-abiding driver.
 
To the right, a stuffed suit in a Mercedes was having a very animated conversation with someone on the other end of his Bluetooth™ ear piece. I have no doubt that the recipient of his words was thankful they were not in the same room. I offered a quick prayer that they weren’t in the same zip code. Beyond that, a homeless woman was defining her turf to those walking by and questioning it. And at each corner, the paparazzi permanently installed by the state of California flashed brilliantly, ensuring that careless drivers entering the intersection after the red light would receive a souvenir photograph commemorating their traffic sin.
 
But it was when I glanced to the left at the corner gas station—figuring those filling their pumps would provide some sort of entertainment—that I saw it. Where the curb meets the street—the gutter—and drawn with a thick piece of sidewalk chalk, anyone driving by could read it.
 
JOHN 3:16
 
It wasn’t on a billboard, it wasn’t on a bumper sticker, and it wasn’t on a sign being held and tossed in the air by an enthusiastic teenager wearing earbuds.
 
Nope. It was written in the gutter. JOHN 3:16.
 
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
 
The verse doesn’t tell us that whoever drives a nice car, or whoever obeys the stoplight, or whoever keeps their gas pump filled at the corner station.
 
It says “whosoever believes in Him.” No matter where we are, the moment whosoever chooses to believe in Him, whosoever will not perish—but instead, whosoever will have everlasting life. We don’t have to get cleaned up, look good, or act normal. No matter where we are, we can be whosoever and believe in Him.
 
Whosoever means you. It means me. But it’s also for the suit in the Mercedes, for the one filling his gas tank, and for the traffic violator.
 
And it’s definitely for whosoever is in the gutter. Because we've all been there.

Normal is the New Black

I received an amazing call one week ago today, and honestly...it has taken me a week to process the impact of that phone call. 

Nearly four years ago, I began a journey down an unknown road that is NEVER a journey that someone chooses. It was the cancer journey.

During this journey, I have fielded many experiences. I was told that I didn't have "real" cancer. I was told that the median life-span for this type of blood cancer is 5-7 years. I even had someone tell me that she knew how I felt because she has struggled with sinus infections all her life. I'll just leave that one right there. But in no way do I mean to undermine the sinus infection.
 
The cancer journey is really like no other. It is full of emotions and feelings that are hard to describe and so many don't understand. It's full of those, "You just had to be there," feelings and yet it's a place that I never want anyone to have to be. It is unique and scary.
 
And it's beautiful. All at the same time.

Early in the journey, when I was NOT looking to Scripture to find comfort and peace in my diagnosis, God still dropped an amazing Bible verse into my heart from John 11:4. "His [her] sickness will not end in his [her] death but will bring great glory to God. As these events unfold, the Son of God will be exalted." At the time, I had no idea what that was going to look like, but this verse gave me great peace. 
 
I realized in this diagnosis that the truth is we all really only have today. But this cancer just made me more aware of that truth. It was this realization that caused me to take a posture of saying yes to however God was going to use this sickness. If He trusted me enough to use me in illness, I was going to trust Him enough to lead me. And it was through this season, that He really refined me in the fire. The Bible reminds us that in our weakness, His power is made perfect. 

There aren't enough words to fully describe what the past three years have been like. But each month, as I would get my CBC's drawn at the lab, and through bone marrow biopsies (yes, that's plural as in more than one), and doctor appointments where staff who barely knew your name just read your chart and rattled off information, God was there all the time whispering to me, "I'm here. I'm in charge. Keep your eyes on Me." And through this season, I have listened. I have kept my eyes on Him. I even became thankful for cancer

And then the call came. My oncologist called last week to let me know that for the first time in four years, all of my labs were normal. Every month, I have a five-minute conversation with Elizabeth who gives me the specifics of each blood count. After asking about what I call the "Fab 4," (white cells, red cells, platelets, and hemoglobin), she said this: "When the results are abnormal, they flash red across my screen. When they're normal, they're black. You, my dear, have levels that are all amazingly black."

Although I would never choose cancer for you, I do know that God does His best work in times of adversity. My prayer today is that if you are reading this, you will let Him do His best work in you. Chances are that it won't look like something fun, but it can be beautiful. And I can promise you that you won't be sorry. 

Searching for Significance? FREE GIFT

The devotional says it best—it’s not who we are, it’s WHOSE we are.

I was invited to share this FREE 7-day devotional from my friends at Wycliffe Bible Translators. Searching for Significance is available to you, to help you better understand that while society constantly pounds the message that we must DO something to be significant, God has already created us to BE significant.

In easy-to-read, downloadable form, Wycliffe’s authors have used uplifting images, memorable examples from Bible characters, and thought-provoking Scripture to remind us that, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7, MSG)

Searching for Significance has combined Creation, the Gospel, and the Great Commission into a week’s worth of encouragement. I would encourage you to take advantage of this free gift. Download it today and be reminded that we don’t have to search for significance—we just simply need to receive it from the One who has created us in His image.

Come to the Altar

"...from the ashes a new life is born..." --from "O Come to the Altar."
 
Today, I am reminded that many of us are looking from a heap of ashes. Life has a way of burning us.
 
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory. –Isaiah 61:3, NLT
 
Jesus sees you right where you are. He longs to give you beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61).
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars;
He calls them all by name. –Psalm 147:2-4, NKJV
 
He longs to heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds.
 
If you feel burned, let Him heal your heart. If you feel like an outcast, let Him gather you up and carry you. He's the only One who can. You just have to come to the altar...right where you're at.

*Image Used with Permission from David Bowman Art
 
 
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