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Jesus and Disney 

Jesus and Disney by Leann Lemons Winton

Now that I have your attention.  This is such a controversial statement. Trust me, I know!  Can the two even go together? Well, stick with me for a bit and let me show you what I think. 

DISCLAIMER: I do not agree with everything Disney.  

I said it. I don’t agree with everything Disney.  In fact, there are a lot of things that I down right say will not be on my tv or in our sight.  That’s just the plain truth of it.  As a mother of two beautiful girls, I waited for almost 20 years for them to come in to my life.  Having said that I am very careful to what they put into their eyes and ears.  

Being a pastor’s wife, mom and business owner, I mull over every decision I make.  Things have to filter through lots of lenses.  First is through the lens of my savior Jesus Christ.  I have to first please Him and everything I do must represent Him.  I am also accountable to my husband, my family and the church we planted close to 10 years ago.  It weighs heavy on me that I am an example of Christ to my little world in central Indiana. 

I come from a home that was based on God and the foundations of the Bible. We were very poor growing up and almost every year we would make the trip to my grandparent’s house in Deltona, Florida.  We would spend most of the time there hanging out and maybe going to the beach a couple of times but the highlight would be going to Walt Disney World.  

It was such a treat to be able to go.  I’m not really sure how my parents made it happen for my brother, sister and myself, but it made lasting memories that I cherish.  I dreamed of the day I could take my family to the most magical place on earth.  

This time was filled with such amazing memories for me and the most important memory was the importance of family.  You see, 20 years ago at the age of 20, my brother Jeff passed away.  I hold on to those very sweet and simple times my family got to spend together.  I decided that when I had a family, I wanted them to have such sweet memories too. 

In 20 years of ministry one of the saddest things we see is the lack of family.  In the two church plants that I have helped my husband plant this is a common denominator.  After the 20 years waiting for our daughters to come into our life through adoption, I was determined to make family a priority. 

My burden for family has brought these two things together, Jesus and Disney. 

Families seem to, now more than ever, have no time.  Our time is filled with work, school, sports, hobbies, and on and on.  Things that were foundations of a simpler life, like when I was growing up, are not a priority anymore.  There is no time for God or family. I mean, those things will always be there right?  

The simple truth is that we need to make these things a priority.  I started to help families find time for rest and togetherness so they can serve the Kingdom of God even better.  I found that when my family took a vacation, especially to Walt Disney World, we came back better equipped to minister to our community. 

The Disney bubble is a real thing.  Things happen when we get to Disney and escape the burdens of our busy lives. We have rested.  We have been inspired to create. We have bonded. We have made memories. 

This love of God, families, and Disney has become a ministry for me.  How can Disney become a ministry?  I help families and especially pastor’s families plan a Disney vacation on a tight budget.  I know how some struggle with finances and being burnt out and they need time to refresh.  They need to regroup. What better place to do that than by taking that dream trip to Disney.  

My sister and I started our Youtube channel over 5 years ago to show people how to accomplish this dream. We teach people how to go on any budget and make the most of your trip by using tips, tricks and hacks.  Also, we use it as a platform to tell people about Jesus.  This community needs it.  Disney is not a Christian company. I know that.  We see ourselves as a light to this community and have ministered publicly and privately to many over these years.  We have now expanded and have an Etsy shop where we sell Disney inspired candles and shirts.  And just recently I have become a Disney Travel Specialist and officially help families plan their trips to any of the Disney Destinations.  

I will say it again.  I do not agree with all that the Disney company does or says.  

I believe in family.  It’s important to Jesus.  It’s important to me. 

Leann Winton is a Pastor's Wife, mother, business owner, ministry leader and church planter who is passionate about Jesus, families, adoption and Disney. She has a growing YouTube Station with her sister and business partner, Amanda Lemons Ables where they share about Jesus, Disney reviews, tips, tricks and park visits to make a vacation to the Magical Kingdom affordable for all.  To learn more about Leann, the work she does or if you need help booking your Disney Vacation contact her at the links below!

www.thelemonssisters.com 

www.vacationwithleann.com

Set The Standard  

Set the Standard - Guest Post by Alicia Terry

In May the company I worked for had a lay-off and I was one of the people let go. I was certain I would find work inside of a month, but that hasn’t been the case. As I write this post it is October 3rd and I am still looking. 

I’ve applied like crazy and have had my fair share of interviews, but nothing has come to fruition. At one point I found myself applying for jobs simply based more on my ability to do them. Would I be happy to do any one of them? May be…may be not. 

One thing I do know for certain is just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  There is a grace, a time and season for everything (Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). 

I wouldn’t advise anyone to take a buckshot approach to job hunting, but there I was doing it. Trying to force something to happen when I really didn’t know what I wanted to happen. My buckshot strategy was totally misguided and I knew it. 

Why is it when stressful situations arise it’s so easy to fall back into familiar bad habits? 

Of course I have people praying with me for the right job at the right time and all according to God’s will for my life. However, when I asked my friend Jackie to pray she requested I give her specifics for what I’m trusting God for. Later that day I sent my specific request to her.  

That one exercise was a game changer. Why? Because I now had a standard by which to judge each and every job description before I took action to pursue it. Does it meet the standard or not? Yes or no. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. 

God’s Word is like that too. It sets the standard that brings great clarity for how we are to live in today’s society. It enables us to stop exerting energy on things that rob us of it. God’s Word equips us to focus on the things that matter. That is why we, as Christians, must read the Word, know it, own it and live it. Clarity based on God’s standard is how we will change lives and how we will impact the culture for His glory. 

Let God’s Word set the standard.

 

As the owner and founder of Idea Haven, a communications and training practice, Alicia Terry helps entrepreneurs, teens and women clarify the message around their mission so they can attract and connect with the people they are meant to serve. You can learn more about Alicia at aliciaterry.com and connect with her on Facebook. She is a frequent writer for the Refreshing Life Blog.

#aliciaterry #jobsearch #trustinggod #godstiming #godsstandards

 

Brother Harlow Turns 90 

Brother Harlow Turns 90 by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush

I miss unlimited soup and salad from the Olive Garden. I desire to pop into Barnes and Noble and visit the discount craft store when I want to pay less than Michael’s prices. I long for prepackaged nuts from Trader Joe’s and nitrate free turkey pepperoni from Whole Foods.  And let’s not even talk about skipping down to Disney on a Saturday afternoon, laying on the beach, burying my toes in the sand and roaming the countless thrift stores, vintage shops, flea markets and garage sales that pepper the greater Jacksonville area. 

In these areas JAX – Duval County to be exact, where they bring the RACHET… (yes that is a city wide slogan) has tiny little Leesville/New Llano, LA beat.  But these temporal things mean nothing when I think about the family we have found in this place.  We have been embraced by the beautiful and colorful southern hearted home folks in this area.  In this place I’ve puzzled over crawfish houses, been introduced to finger licking Cajun cooking, been bitten by fire ants, waved at the po po, who always make sure I’m safe when I’m in the yard with the dogs after dark and everybody else who has driven up our street, and had more, “Girl how you doing!” meetings in Wal-Mart then I can count. 

But I knew I was home when I attended Brother Harlow’s 90th birthday party.  Brother Harlow is the sweetest man, filled with faith and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  He always makes sure that Jon Bush is behaving and seriously insists that if my husband steps out of line I should promptly inform him.  We celebrated him with the most delicious cake, mounds and mounds of food, lots of laugher and a picture to commemorate the event. When we told him we were honored to be invited, he told us we were family. 

As Jon and I left we paused to view the display that had been set up to celebrate his life. My heart filled as I examined a life in pictures that told of triumph and struggle, of love, faith, family and great loss.  And when we left I was overwhelmed with sadness because the last picture I studied was of Brother Harlow and his beautiful wife who had passed away. I remember thinking, I wished she was here to celebrate with him and how much he must be missing her even with all the laughter and the crowded room of well wishers and loved ones. 

And it dawned on me, that one day, if Jesus should tarry, Jon or I would be in the same situation. There will be a day when one of us will have to say good bye to the other one for a season.  I can barely breathe just thinking about it.  How many of us have had to say goodbye to the ones we treasure and have never really recovered even though life and the love still goes on? 

At the end of that wonderful man’s party when grief tried to grip and squeeze me, the Lord reminded me of this simple truth. Death is hard because it is unnatural. How often do we hear death is a natural part of life? But honestly, death was never part of the Lord’s original plan for us, so it isn’t natural at all.  We mourn because we lose something we were never supposed to lose…  each other. That’s why it hurts so bad. And every new person that takes up residence in my heart gets not only my love but will one day be mourned or mourn me. And recently in the tiny town where I now live, many people have made my heart their home by moving in and finding a favorite chair or a place on the couch to chill out. 

The thought could be unbearable, but that is when hope rose up with healing in its wings. Brother Harlow’s wife was a believer, so we rest assured that we will see her again. And all the separations, all the loss, all the tears will be wiped from our eyes because death, hell and the grave will be over and done forever. I’ve dealt and struggled a lot with death this year, so here is where I dig in and refuse to let my faith be shaken.  I know God is a promise keeper and a miracle worker.  And I know He is not a liar.  

There are many mansions in my Father’s House, if it wasn’t so He would have told me.  And somewhere in that huge dwelling, Sister Harlow is worshipping with my grandmothers, my aunts and my sweet Leslie. Accepting and living for Jesus means forgiveness, unconditional love and everlasting life… so life is like the night and being in the eternal presence of the Lord is the morning. 

Remember, the Lord never lies… fill your heart with love knowing that one day you will face the unthinkable. Because weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning – and reunions to!

 

Dr. Naima Johnston Bush is the founder of The Refreshing Life with Naima and is on a mission to help you live a life of joy, powerful prayer and sincere gratitude! Please leave a comment if the blog is blessing you and feel free to share if you think it will bless someone else!

Have you grabbed your copy of the Refreshing Life Prayer Journal? For more information click here: The Refreshing Life Prayer Journal

I Am One In Four Part Two 

I Am One In Four - Part Two by Heather Hughes

(If missed the first part of this guest post, please scroll back to read Part One from last week)

Based on all we had walked leading up to her birth, all the doctors' reports, I was positive she would be an only child. Because honestly, there was no medical reason for her to be here. She was truly a miracle baby. I became pregnant again. There were also issues early on in my pregnancy and I was put back on modified bed rest. At this point, even before we knew if I was carrying a boy or a girl, my husband and I decided this would be our last child. 

Pregnancy was too hard and it was emotionally exhausting. When we found out we were having a boy, we were thrilled. We were going be a family of four. This was way more than we expected back in 07. At this point my husband and I were on the same page. We felt a peace about being done having children because of all we had walked. Our little boy came after we had experienced the Nashville Flood of 2010 and a summer that broke long standing heat records. When I looked at the picture of the four of us, I was honestly content. The Lord answered major prayers and had blessed us with two healthy children. 

Little did we know the Lord would give us one more blessing. My husband and I were not trying to get pregnant. In fact, we were trying to be careful. We found out we were expecting again soon after we brought our new son home and we were in shock. While a part of me was thrilled, I knew what I had walked with our other two children and wasn't sure I could walk it again. 

The first ultrasound with our third brought another heartache. When we looked at the screen there were two babies. I was pregnant with twins! I was ecstatic. The tech then looked at me and said "Baby B has no cardiac movement." 

Her tone was harsh and I was again crushed. The tears started and stayed for most of the rest of the day. Based on what the radiologist saw, we were told I was carrying identical twins. We lost baby B due to a chromosomal abnormality. 

I can't tell you the anxiety that came with the rest of that pregnancy. I had similar issues to my other pregnancies, but now there was uncertainty about the health of our baby. I carried my anxiety in private. I never voiced anything to my OB or my husband. Our child was a planned c-section because my daughter had been an emergency c-section and our older son had also been born vie c-section.  Even though we had been told he was healthy, I still carried concerns of unknown issues until he actually started school. 

Our journey to parenthood was anything, but easy. All three of our children are walking, talking miracles. I still mourn the loss of our other four children. I often wonder what they would have looked like. What would their personalities have been? What would their interests have been? I try to imagine myself as a mother of seven. 

Miscarriages and infertility issues caused struggles in my marriage and my faith. I can't say I handled it with grace and dignity. There were many nights where I would cry myself to sleep. I stopped going to church on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because it was just too hard. I would send gifts to baby showers, but I wouldn't attend. 

Please know, as long as you are not causing harm to yourself, there is no right or wrong way to grieve your loss. Again, miscarriages are real losses to be grieved. We all handle this type of loss in different ways. One way for me to find closure and peace with the loss of my children was to name them. While I only know for certain the sex of one of my four, I feel in my heart that I miscarried one girl and three boys. I had several friends who reminded me that even though my children weren't in my arms, I was still a mother. You are still a mother! 

Please don't walk this path alone. Reach out to your inner circle. Find a group of women who have also walked this path. I was blessed with two incredible friends who were there through all of the losses, as well as a church choir who surrounded me with prayer. I was also blessed to find an online group of women who had losses around the same time I did. I am still friends with these women today and I have had the privilege of meeting a couple of them.

Remember, you are not alone.

Heather Hughes is a wife, mother of three and on staff at The Glade Church. She has been blogging for several years and has a book in progress. Heather's passion is to speak into the lives of women, assisting them to build authentic relationships with the Lord and those around them

 

I Am One In Four 

I Am One In Four (Part One)  - Guest Post by Heather Hughes

Statistics. There's nothing overly fun about being a statistic. With miscarriage and infertility, it's not really something you strive to be. It's not a club anyone wants to join. Yet, here I am. Too many other friends are members of this painful club as well. Every October I am open about the journey my husband and I walked to have our children. Too many times women are silenced and made to feel their losses weren't real or important. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. When you have a miscarriage, it is a loss. 

Growing up I always wanted to be a part of a large family. The older I got I prayed to have a girl, followed by two boys and then another girl. When my husband and I were first married we talked about having two or three children. I prayed for twins in order for us to have the larger family. He was aware of what I prayed. It took a long while to get pregnant. When I finally saw the first positive on a pregnancy test in Dec of 05, my joy was short lived. Within a week of finding out we were expecting; our precious child was gone. The next miscarriage came at the end of April of 06, just a week shy of Mother’s Day. It would take well over a year before I became pregnant again, only to lose baby three in August of 07. 

After three miscarriages and it taking so long to get pregnant in between, my OB decided to run an extensive blood panel in attempt to identify the issue. After the panel was run, I was sent to a specialist to review the results. My husband and I sat in a tiny little room as the specialist looked at us and told us I was a Type 1 carrier for 2 types of blood clotting disorders as well as a carrier of MTHFR. I could continue to get pregnant, but chances were, I would never carry a child to term. I remember standing in the stairwell of this building, overlooking downtown Nashville and sobbing. My husband had his arms around me, but nothing could bring peace to what appeared to be the death of a dream I had of being a mother. My dreams of pregnancy, cravings, picking out nursery furniture, baby clothes, hearing "mama" were gone. All I wanted was to be pregnant and my body wasn't doing what it was created to do. 

My husband had talked about adopting. I saw it as an option, but at the time my heart just wasn't there. In the spring of 08 he broached the subject with me again and I was open to at least talking about it. He was all in. In his mind, the Lord could and would grow our family how He saw fit. All the while my husband was praying the prayers of Sarah, Rachel and Elizabeth. He had the faith the Lord would bless us with a child. Honestly, I felt like the Lord was angry with me and I was being punished for something. My walk with the Lord had been rocky at best since the last miscarriage. My faith was almost none existent at this point. 

Then came the fall of 2008. There was another positive pregnancy test. I distinctly remember telling my husband "Give it a few days and it will all be over." 

My loving husband continued to pray. There were several trips to my OB. I was placed on a prenatal vitamin, progesterone, a high level of folic acid (something my body refused to produce or absorb) and a low dose of aspirin to reduce the chance of blood clots. We had multiple scares. I was placed on modified bed rest. I was only allowed to go to work because I was a school based therapist and I could sit most of the day. I had more ultrasounds than most women would have in 6 or 7 pregnancies. It took until December when we had the gender reveal ultrasound before I could get excited about being pregnant. 

When the tech told me, we were having a little girl, I cried tears of joy. I couldn't believe I was staring at MY baby on the screen. Her heartbeat was strong and one of the most beautiful sounds I think I had heard up to the moment in my life. When the tech left, my husband prayed over me and our precious little girl. Two days after Mother's Day of 2009 I held my beautiful, healthy, baby girl for the first time.

Visit the blog next week to hear more of Heather's Story!

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