The year was 1999 and I had just transferred from one North Carolina University to another. I transferred in part because I decided to change my major to one not offered where I was studying, but it was largely because I was searching...for what I didn’t really know but I was confident I had not found it. I was lost and lonely. Sure, I had some friends, but our relationships were mostly shallow, and I craved more. I grew up in a small town and had never needed to make new friendships, so the concept was new to me. I was used to the kind of friendships that just happened by years of proximity and shared memories on the playground that evolved to memories at middle school dances giving way to memories built at high school football games. They were not deep in the spiritual sense but long on shared experiences. The transition to college was difficult and I felt an aloneness that was new and crushing.
Now, as I sat in a new dorm room, hoping for a different experience, I sensed that I might just have the same problem with different people. Not being one to go down without a fight I decided to join a sorority and while that did add significantly to my social calendar it was like drinking salt water. Immediate gratification that only added to my thirst for something truly satisfying. As I look back, I am grateful for that thirsty season because it led me to The Living Water.
One of my sorority sisters had gotten involved with a ministry on campus and she invited me to go with her to a conference that they were hosting. I went, thirsty but largely unaware of what I committed to attend. It was there that he began to satisfy my thirst...primarily in Himself as he showed me my sin and his grace in tandem. I was overwhelmed by a love that was unlike anything I had known. God knew me and yet loved me. He redeemed me and would never leave me. I was undone in the best way imaginable. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts he gave me was the immediate understanding of how the community of believers would be a well of grace to me as I began this new journey in Christ. I knew I needed them. I knew it because I was lonely and I wanted friends but I also knew that I had no idea how to walk with God and that these people around me, many only a few months or few years ahead of me in their journey, could show me how to drink deeply of God’s Word, live in a way honoring to him and commit my life to His purposes.
One of these “just ahead of me” friends was Kristin. As I look back on our relationship, I see how those early days must have been hard for her. She gave me so much of her time. She walked beside me, modeled the Christian life before me, took me to church and put up with my ignorance and immaturity. She loved me with her prayers, her time, her words and her actions. She did it because she was pouring out what had been poured into her. Just a year earlier she had been the thirsty one, newly satisfied by the gospel of grace, and another woman sacrificially invested in her. That was my first experience with discipleship. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says this to Timothy, “and the things that you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will teach others also.” He did just that and a couple thousand years later the church is still doing that. There are many ways that the church grows their people into Christian maturity but one of the most foundational ways is through discipleship. The commitment of one believer to lead another to the Living Waters of God’s presence through bible study, prayer, accountability, encouragement and instruction. These relationships are not always easy but they are built on far more than shallow interactions and shared experiences. They are built on Christ, his Word and his Spirit working in and through us to bring drink to the thirsty one friendship at a time.
Now, some twenty years later I still get thirsty and I still find myself drinking salt water instead of going to The Living Water. Thanks be to God that he has given me people to lead me back to Him. I have not outgrown my need for discipleship. And I have not completed my task of making disciples. Life has not gotten easier, but I now know where to go to be satisfied and I know I need people to help me on that path. Let’s pray that God always gives us teachers and makes us willing to be one, for His glory and for our everlasting satisfaction in His presence.
One of our desires in WM is to serve every age of woman well in our body. Based on the scriptures below and the desire to be intentional in embracing this privileged gift of service we want to be practicing tangible ways of encouraging and supporting the “distance runners” (older women) in our church.
Psalms 71: 18-19: So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. Your righteousness, O God reaches, the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?
2 Cor. 4:16: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
1 Thess. 5:11: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Psalms 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
One might, with some imagination, call this new emphasis in ministry The Cicada Chorus. The Cicada begins its life in the dirt, it climbs through life above ground and at the right time sheds its exoskeleton and emerges with wings to soar and sing. A very simplified understanding. And this is the privilege and admonition we have- to walk together through this life, encouraging, supporting and helping each other to believe, hold onto the hope of the gospel, and proclaim the goodness of God to the next generations until the time we shed our “exoskeleton and soar and sing” when our faith becomes sight.
Now as we hear the cicadas in the trees singing their loud praises to God, may we remember the faithful service of those “distance runners” and may we now look to bless those who have spent their lives blessing others.
Chris Wissmann is a native Newport News-ian, Hymn lover, nature lover, foodie, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. Currently adjusting to her new role as caregiver to her Mom and new life style as empty nester, still learning how to love her husband and confess her sins.
Fall typically brings with it the anticipation of new beginnings. Whether you like pumpkin spice or not, most of us look forward to putting away our tank tops and pulling out some of those sweaters and jeans. But more than that, September typically means back to school and, at PCC, the beginning of a new ministry year.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Do not give up meeting together in the Lord” and while, there are certain safety precautions we take to honor the more vulnerable among us and to obey the authorities God has put in place over us, in another sense, we need each other now more than ever. Loneliness, isolation, depression, economic hardship, and fear are just a few of the emotions that can too easily cause people, and yes, even Christians, to despair.
With that in mind, I want to give you an overview of some of the ways that you can connect this fall:
Always the crux of Women’s Ministry, this year more than ever we need to encourage each other to stay grounded in the Word of God. You will be able to choose from two studies on Tuesday mornings and one on Thursday morning, as well as one on Tuesday evening. Additionally, limited childcare will be available during the daytime studies.
These are small groups where women can sign up to gather at a host’s back patio or back porch. Our prayer is that women will get to know each other over coffee and conversation, maybe over a light craft or even get to know a visiting global ministry partner.
This is something new! You’ll read a book ahead of time and then spend an evening discussing in a small group. We’ll read and discuss a new book every 3-4 months.
Global Partner Get-Togethers
In addition to getting to know a visiting or local global partner at a Porch Picnic, we’ll also have a couple of other opportunities to highlight their stories while showcasing their cultures and artistic talents.
Caring for One-Another (working title!)
We want to love and care for members of the Body at all ages and stages, but one area we need to grow in is in elder care – especially those who have served at PCC for many years, but now, because of health issues, have to step back from serving everyone else. Take the opportunities we will offer to bless those who have been such blessings.
And what about Dinner and a Movie? We thought about it. We wrestled with it. We prayed over it. We wanted to continue the Dinner and a Movie tradition! Alas, due to space restrictions, we had to make the hard call to cancel this long-running standard. But never fear! Dinner and a Movie will be back better than ever in 2021.
Some of what’s listed above will be in person, some will be online and some will be hybrid. Our goal is to encourage you as members of Christ’s Body to grow in love and knowledge of Him while growing in relationship with each other.
It was September 8, 2003. “Alex and I started kindergarten today…” As I now read over the journal entries from the day I started to homeschool in 2003, I am taken back 17 years in time. Seventeen years of experience, growth, marriage, teaching, and parenting. There are many families in my well-worn shoes this month, this Covid-19 season. Moms who are trying to figure out this new phase with children “schooling at home” instead of in a building.
I am struck by the words of my younger self on day two of my homeschool career: “Well, this has to work somehow, since God ordains it and knows the other things to which I am called. God, you know the plans you have for us. We will trust you to guide, direct, and help me live out each hour of every day. Never before have I needed so much help in staying structured – I probably think I need it so much that I have no peace in going with the flow, for fear of not measuring up to standards. Well, God will help me.”
If you are struggling with this season of life looking different, whether you are single with a calling, a wife with a man you love, or a mother with children facing change: hang on to Jesus. Remember this, “…We preach Christ crucified…Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 9:23-24, NIV). There is sustenance in Him for how you should conduct your day, how you can hang on to His presence in the midst of change and upheaval. Cleave to the wisdom and power that life in Christ can offer you.
I have vivid recollections of begging to be a fly on someone else’s wall, to know what this thing called homeschool looked like. I also have clear memories of being tired, strung out, and overburdened with home needs and childcare, but I was also so very hungry for God to show up and teach me how WE were supposed to tackle this new lifestyle.
You might be hungering for others to show you how to pick up your pieces today. Community is so valuable. The experience of others and the paths that have been paved make the journey of life so much easier. Take the time to depend upon the value others offer. Spend time building the tribe around you that has veterans of your journey and also other newcomers with whom you can journey. Ensure you are also surrounded by women of faith and those to emulate. Spend time with people you want to be like.
Deep down, though, one principle undergirds everything a community can offer. We can learn from others, we can glean loads of advice and ideas, but in the end, we must go to our knees in front of the Creator to seek His wisdom for what He envisions for our unique life. Seeking Him only requires that we ask Him for His leadership, for His direction, for His creativity in living in this season.
I would encourage new “schooling at home” moms to be reaching for Christ first and then teaching the little ones entrusted to our care with insight only God can give. They are so unique and so special that what works for others may not be what your children need. Praise God that He can enable me to do the impossible. He can be the Guide, the Counselor, the Teacher of me as I yearn to do right by him in this season of life.
Three months after my starting day, I wrote this update in November of 2003. “Boy, what a thrill! Alex can read now, tell time with hours…what a wonder – I love this!” God showed up for me, like He will for you. He gave me excitement, energy, and delight in my new calling that year. Press into Him and you, too, will find Him faithful.
On Tuesday I had my moment. It had been a stressful few days, Isaias hit bringing down trees perilously close to our house and knocking out power and after five months of dealing pretty well with the whole Covid-19 situation (if I do say so myself), I was tired of it. Oh, and did I mention that Tuesday was my husband’s and my 30th anniversary? We had planned an overnight in Virginia Beach to celebrate but, of course, those plans had to be cancelled due to the storm.
First World Problems.
And that’s what I told myself as I tackled cleaning up the branches and significant lawn debris from the storm. But by 1, I needed a break and decided that it was time for my bi-annual Big Mac. Nothing like some fat and carbs to calm the pouty soul. But as my husband and I approached those golden arches, we noticed that the cars were wrapped around the building twice! On to Dairy Queen for a much-needed Blizzard. There were cars in the parking lot and it appeared to be open, but after waiting at the drive-through speaker for five minutes, we finally realized that Dairy Queen was out of power. Neither Big Mac nor Blizzard were to be had.
My pout took on permanence.
By 5:30 I had finished clearing the lawn, but due to the lack of air-conditioning, the house had heated up quite a bit. As my son ventured out to bring some pizza home for our anniversary dinner, I wrestled with my mood, bringing it before the Lord. I considered asking Him to have the power turned back on, but, as I mentioned before, I knew that my un-air-conditioned house and my cancelled anniversary plans were nothing compared to what most of the world deals with. I added feelings of guilt to my poutiness.
I talked to the Lord of all power for half an hour, refusing to ask him to turn on the electricity because asking for such a triviality would, in my mind, only be selfish. But at 6pm, I gave in and asked Him to turn it on. “Lord, I know this is really a very minor need, but would You??” Fifteen minutes later, just as my son pulled into the driveway with the pizza and ice cream, the lights came on, not only in our home, but in my soul as well.
The Lord does not answer all of my prayers in such a prompt fashion. I have asked Him for things to which He’s replied, “no” and there are other much more significant requests to which He’s said, “wait”. But He’s also my Father and He loves me. He hears my prayers and delights to give good gifts not only to me, but to all His children!
Next time I’m headed toward poutiness, may the Lord remind me that, whether He answers my prayer in the moment or not, all surpassing power belongs to God (2 Cor 4:7) and He delights when we ask and turn all of our needs, wants and desires over to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. (James 1:17)
If you would have asked me a few years ago if I was allowing myself to be vulnerable in community, my answer would have been, “yes!” I’ve always been quick to share my day to day frustrations and joys with others, and I’m honest when people ask me questions. However, it wasn’t too long ago that I noticed that I always left social events feeling unknown. One reason I felt this way may have been from some of my own conversation tactics. I have a habit of hiding behind the surface questions by answering as fast as I can, and then promptly turning the conversation on to the other person. I was happy to create a space that allowed other people to be vulnerable with me, but when the tides turned, I was quick to run and hide.
I didn’t notice this pattern in my life until a friend kindly sat me down and shared that she felt like I acted more like her counselor than her friend. I wanted to dive deep with her but not let her dive deep with me. At first, I responded defensively, but as I gave myself time to process, I realized that my friend might be on to something. The feeling of not being known wasn’t because people hadn’t tried to be intentional; it was because I wouldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable.
Over the years I have learned a lot about friendship and community through the people that the Father has so graciously given to me. One of the most recent things the Father has been teaching me comes from the wise words of my sweet sisters Kate Bart and Adelyn Noble - “You can’t fight the enemy in the dark.”
The enemy does some of his best work in the dark. He takes the parts of our hearts that we keep hidden and speaks lies that create shame. This shame makes us silent, and, just like Adam and Eve, we hide. We hide from our Father, thinking we can’t approach his throne until we fix the dark parts of our hearts. And, we hide from our friends, thinking that the embarrassment of sharing our sin is worse than keeping it hidden.
Sisters, both of those thoughts are complete lies and opposed to the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We don’t have to live in shame because Jesus took our shame on the cross, and in return, he gave us honor. The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us to cast our burdens on him and he will sustain us (Psalm 55:22). It doesn’t say he might sustain us, it says he WILL sustain us!
But, the gospel message does not stop there. Not only does God give us the gift of his Son that allows us to approach his throne free of guilt and shame, but he has also given us the gift of Christian community to push each other towards him. When we are sharing our sin with others we aren’t just telling a story. We are openly allowing others to speak truth into our lives and hold us accountable. When we decide to stop trying to fight the enemy in the dark, the Lord begins to shine his light into the parts of our hearts we never wanted anyone to see. In doing so, he breaks down our shame and unites his Church. While we begin to recognize the depths of our sin together we also become amazed by the depths of his grace.
If our goal is to be made more and more into the image of God, then we must confess our sin to one another, and boldly approach the throne of grace.
This is still a challenge for me. The Father has to continually remind me of my need for confession and community. But I challenge all of us, in a season where it is even easier to remain isolated and hidden, to come out of the darkness, approach the throne of Jesus, and allow your friends to be a part of the journey with you!
When you read the words “Quiet Time,” what do you think of? Do you imagine hot coffee steaming, colored highlighters laid out, journal open, gentle music playing, peace and stillness? Is the reality more like nodding off after reading the same passage five times or getting constantly interrupted the minute you sit down? Or perhaps that dreaded “ping” from your smartphone the moment you settle in?
During different seasons of life, many women have told me that the amount of time they have for a Scripture study has fluctuated, and I have found that to be true in my own life. Truthfully, the idea of a formal “quiet time” has intimidated me for years, and in this season especially, I’ve been searching for something new and fresh. The purpose of studying the Bible is to help us grow in our relationship with God; for me, that means taking some of the intimidation out of the process.
So often, my heart and my day feel flustered. I don’t have time to chase that perfect picture I described earlier; I need practical and I bet you do, too. Look for pockets of time when you might otherwise be on your phone or listening to music. See if you can make swaps instead of trying to carve out more time. For me, habits that last tend to fold into practices I’m already doing, so I spend lots of my time listening to Scripture on audio as I walk the dog, fold laundry, or commute to work. The beauty of a lifelong relationship with God is that we aren’t stuck doing the same thing year over year! There is always time to try something new. Here are just a few resources that others have shared which I find encouraging, and I hope can be easily added into your regular routines.
I’d encourage you to pick one or two of these resources and try them out. Which ones sound most interesting to you?
Two weeks ago I was on a paddle board on a lake all alone with no people or technology around to distract me. For 45 uninterrupted minutes it was just me and my thoughts. I don’t know about you, but alone with my thoughts can be a scary place! As I stood paddling I was thinking about everything that has happened in the past few months and found myself feeling grateful that my family had a place to get away to where we didn’t have to interact with anyone. I felt safe. Safe from germs, safe from the news, safe from politics, just safe.
For a moment, I was able to breathe easier because of this “safety” but my thoughts inevitably turned into a countdown of how many days I had left before we had to return to our normal lives. What was once a moment of peace turned into anxiety. As I started to feel that tightness in my chest, Hebrews 6:19a came to mind: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. I found myself reciting this verse and began wondering – what exactly is “this hope” and how can it keep me stable amid uncertain times?
To know what “this hope” is we have to read beyond the first part of this verse and into the second part to realize that this hope isn’t a thing but a person, namely Jesus. This hope isn’t a wish or a desire we “hope” to see fulfilled one day, but a promise from God. Verses 19b – 20 tell us this hope “enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever…” Those who are in Jesus, have the assurance that he is our great high priest intervening and praying on our behalf.
Chapter 7 goes on to explain more about the priestly order of Melchizedek and in verse 19 we read “for the law made nothing perfect; but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God.” Because of Jesus, our better hope, we are now able to draw near to God. Where we were once separated, we are now drawn close through the cross. Jesus, being both God and man, was able to perfectly fulfill the law and through his death and resurrection, he is the guarantor of the covenant (v. 22). All the promises God made throughout the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ. And, because of his permanent priesthood, we can rest in the promise found in verse 25, that “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
To be honest, this past week has been especially challenging for me in terms of battling anxiety. I’m so grateful to be able to look back on my experience two weeks ago and find the comfort of Hebrews 6:19. For the moments when fear and uncertainty begin to take hold, I need to remind myself of the hope promised in this verse.
So, what is “this hope”? It’s Jesus. Sitting forever on his priestly throne at the right hand of God making intercession for us. As we wrestle with political uncertainty, the unknowns associated with the pandemic, and all the other instability that comes with living in a broken world, let’s hold fast to the hope set before us. Let’s cling to the one thing in this world that is able to provide a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls: Jesus, our great high priest.
I still remember how nervous I felt. I was 17 years old, a high school senior. I approached Jean at the church potluck with a relationship question and a request for prayer.
My Sunday afternoon inquiry would be followed by a one-on-one, hour long discussion with Jean. She took me aside and gave me her attention. From that day on we continued to meet regularly to process faith and life. She was full of wisdom, and her presence embodied the grace of Christ. She modeled a life of godliness. I knew I could be honest with her without fear of rejection. I knew her words would point me to my Savior.
What I did not know was the precedent this would set for the rest of my life when it came to relationships with women in the Body. I thought my words were asking for specific advice for a particular situation. While that was partially true, my wise and loving Father had a greater, more expansive purpose.
The following year catapulted me into college. It only took a few weeks before God placed me in Olivia’s small group through Cru (Campus Crusade at the time). Olivia and I studied the Scriptures together that year and in her presence was radiant joy because she had been profoundly changed by the blood of Christ. She saturated herself in the Word in a way I had never seen. Our relationship continued and deepened in those years at university, and though she was more or less a peer to me in terms of age, God used her to speak into my life for His glory in years that were full of change, severe anxiety, and disappointment.
Olivia was honest in her own struggles, and that opened the door for me to do the same. She didn’t listen to my struggles and questions to offer pity, but to graciously point me to the stream of Living Water. Her words were seasoned with grace and truth.
When I moved to Atlanta as a new college grad and a newlywed, I entered our new church body with zeal for finding an older woman who might walk with me as a spiritual mentor. It wasn’t long before I asked a woman about getting together and we found a time that worked.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that she wasn’t able to commit to a relationship at the time. She was a godly woman. She was wise. And at the time I felt a sense of rejection.
Looking back, I see our Father had other relationships he was weaving together in both of our lives. She and I continued to have a relationship, just not in a formal or structured way. God had other plans for where He wanted us to invest our words.
In another year or two I met Sharon, and she quickly and organically took on the role of a spiritual mother in my life. She exuded wisdom as we met weekly. I cherished and looked forward to the safety of her presence. She ever so patiently listened and prayed and rooted me in Him, particularly as I shared with her my longings for motherhood.
When my family moved to Virginia five years ago and immediately entered a season of fiery trial, Sharon faithfully interceded for us from eight hours away, taking her words straight to the throne room. Over the course of that year and the following year she devoted hours to phone conversations with me. She helped me to see idols in my own heart and helped me wrestle through grief and depression and loneliness. She pointed me to the Psalms and kept me rooted in the Lord’s character – particularly His sovereignty and His goodness. She helped me honestly take my “why?” questions to Him and learn to trust His goodness rather than strive to feel in control because I had an answer to “make sense” of my circumstances.
She didn’t use her words to magnify my problems – she used her words to magnify God, and that’s where I found hope.
Sharon and I continue to keep in touch and even still discover aspects of our lives that are so similar. We have marveled together at God’s sweet providence in intertwining our lives.
Even still, as an embodied image bearer, I prayed and waited on God to cultivate an in-person relationship with a godly “mother” in Virginia.
After a couple of “small talk” conversations in the bathroom at PCC, I asked Meg if she’d be willing to get together. We spent a morning together with my young children, and I sensed the Spirit leading me to ask her if we could cultivate a more intentional discipleship relationship.
I had to muster the courage to send her that message. I felt like I was asking someone to date me.
Nearly four years later and God has been so kind… Meg and I are still dating ;). We talk and we pray and we encourage one another. She has helped train me in loving my husband and children as Titus 2 instructs. She asks me tough questions, she tells me the truth, and she points me to the Truth Himself. The more we get to know each other, the more ways I see God’s blessing in how He has uniquely knit us together. She has walked with me through the joys and the challenges of motherhood. My children adore her and her family. She’s hugged me through tears, prayed for me in deep pain and sorrow, counseled me in godly wisdom through conflict, laughed hysterically with me, and so much more.
Her words are life-giving because they are Christ-centered. I pray and hope my words are the same for her.
Don’t underestimate what God is doing with your words to build His kingdom in and through relationships. There are many more women whose names I could have included above. He’s always doing more than we ask or imagine, according to His wisdom, not ours, for all wisdom is sourced in God. The one who upholds the universe by the power of His word delights to fill us with joy as we use our words to glorify Him. Our relationships each look different in form and function, but they share the same purpose: to make much of Him.
Will you join me in the race to use words with intentionality - rooted in love - trusting His purposes? He is worthy.
This morning I listened to the Podcast, Let’s Talk, where The Gospel Coalition’s Jackie Hill Perry, Melissa Kruger and Jasmine Holmes discussed the topic, Overcoming Church Hurt. I don’t know about you, but I’ve received my fair share of hurt within the walls of the church from brothers and sisters in Christ. And while the Lord has used each and every one of my wounds to change, refine and prune me, I can’t say I would want to go through any of those situations again.
Several years ago, when I was still quite new to Women’s Ministry leadership, I received an email from a woman who had been at a WM event the evening before. She was livid. Someone had cut her off in a conversation she was having and hadn’t even apologized or, for that matter, realized the great offense she had caused her. For the writer of the email, this was the final straw. She was leaving the church and she, along with a close friend, would be starting their own church. She was convinced that her Sunday morning gathering would be a place where no one would get her feelings hurt.
Over the years I’ve learned some of what does and doesn’t work when dealing with hurts – both those that I’ve received and those I’ve given:
I’ve occasionally wondered how that Sunday gathering those wounded women started worked out for them. I have a feeling that they ended up disappointed simply because they had such high expectations of each other – as well as a sense of entitlement to their right to be justified and vindicated.
With those women as an example, here I add one more point – and perhaps it’s the most crucial and gospel-centered: we must be quick to justify others, but slow to justify ourselves. It’s not that we’re called to forgive others (though we are!), but that that we need to be forgiven constantly, not only by God, but by others as well.
In all these situations, may we be propelled by the Cross, which not only is the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation to God, but which also enables us to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility to count others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3).