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Saturday, May 9, 2015


In honor of Mothers Day, I want to introduce you to a very inspiring Mother. 8× References for Proverbs 31:26

Janelle is a friend from church and I have enjoyed getting to know her through Facebook. I remember the first time I saw her.  It was at our Women’s Bible Study which meets on Thursday mornings. She was pulling a wagon that held her three darling daughters, down the halls of our church. I was simply in awe of her. While 2 of my children are now adults and the baby will be 17 this coming Wednesday, I can still remember how challenging it was to get a toddler and a baby out the door for anything. So I can barely imagine what a challenge it would be to have 3 the same age. But she did it, and now that her babies are going to be 4, she doesn’t need the wagon any more.  Janelle truly is a wonderful example of the Proverbs 31 woman. Although she readily admits that she is not perfect, she does not give up. And isn’t that what we admire most about Mothers? They continue to care for their children, no matter how tired they may be, and no matter the cost… So when I asked her if she would consider allowing me to write an article about her, I assumed it would be about the challenges of raising multiples. What I learned though, is that her family is even more special than I originally thought. Janelle is also an advocate of adoption. She shared with me a glimpse of her daily life, and in the process, shed light on the need of our country, and especially Christians, to open our homes and our hearts to the family God desires to bless us with. Here is her story:


Janelle, is a wife, mother of five, MOPS coordinator, Business owner, and Educator.  She and her husband met at a Christian concert.  “We were friends, then when he was ready, we prayed together and he accepted Christ. We tried CCHD and we’ve been there since ‘99 and were married in 2002 by Pastor Dennis. My parents were Christians. They married young.  But it was Grandma who prayed and took me to church. When I was 5, my Sunday school teacher led me in the Sinners Prayer. Since then, God has always had a strong tug on my heart. In Junior High I asked my Mom if I could get baptized.  Grandma heard about it and set it up with her church. I knew God would always be there for me.”


“I went to college and became a Junior High school math teacher, and my husband became a fireman. After establishing our careers and our home, we began to try to have kids. But we were not blessed in that area. For 4 years, we dealt with infertility. We felt led to adopt. It was scary, but we felt the Lord calling us and knew we had to be obedient. Originally we wanted to adopt later in life, but God was leading us to try adoption then. At the same time, we considered IVF. But the same day we were scheduled for the procedure, we got a call about a little girl. So, we put the treatments on hold to do the adoption. We found out about Jessica who was 20 months old. She was living with us very soon after we were matched. I took time off work so we could bond, and from the first time I met her, she called me Mommy and she was very cuddly. We knew it was meant to be. God had planned for her to be our daughter, and He was the one who put her in our life.  After finalizing the adoption, we tried IVF because we wanted a sibling for her. We got pregnant right away with Caleb. Everything was smooth with our first pregnancy. They said we had 5 good embryos left and we chose to freeze them. When Caleb was 18 months old, we tried again. We were told that 3 of the embryos did not survive, so we tried two of them. We found out the IVF was successful and I was pregnant.  At one point, I began bleeding and had to go to the Emergency Room. They told me there were actually 3 babies. The girls were born at 33 weeks. So in a very short time, we became a family with 5 kids.”  



I asked Janelle if she and her husband had always wanted to have a large family, she answered, “We had imagined having a couple kids, but our hearts are so much fuller now than if we had just had two. God has blessed us with them. I definitely feel that our families are our biggest ministries. It is a huge a responsibility to raise them in the Lord. We strive for that. We spend time praying with them, talking about God, and going to church so they can learn. It is vital to our walk, I am thankful to our church and the children’s ministry. I think living it out, showing them how to love your husband, and how to put each other first, and that Mom and Dad love each other and love God is so important. We are not perfect, but we know God is faithful, even when we are not. God is perfect, we are not.”



Tell me about the challenges of raising multiples and how you face those challenges.

“All the little things, especially when they were little, are big things. It was a great struggle when my son was 3 and the girls were one.8× References for Proverbs 31:26

“Giving everyone attention, and going out to the store is much more difficult. It was hard, I was in a fog. After having triplets, I felt like I didn’t even want to get off the couch. Just opening the trunk of the car was too hard. I was at the point where I didn’t even want to go anywhere. But I sought counsel, and took care of myself by taking vitamins and exercising, and was able to overcome it. Being at church and worshiping God helped. “


What does an average day in your house look like? “We have a routine.  I just have to depend on God every minute of every day.”



People often are surprised by a family with multiples or adopted children and although they want to talk with you, they don’t know what to say, please give us a few suggestions for thoughtful conversation starters. “Compliments are a great way to begin a conversation.  And please keep in mind, that I am distracted. I am not being rude; I just have to keep an eye on 5 kids all at once.  I have a lot of things to do, I can’t make eye contact, I just don’t want to lose anyone…. Or you could offer to help. Say something like, “I’ve noticed you need help, can I open the door for you?”




I imagine that you have to be very organized in order to keep your household and business running smoothly, please tell me about how you do it.

“My husband is organized. He has our cabinets organized like you wouldn’t believe. He is amazing, I couldn’t ask for a better husband, he cooks, cleans, and helps takes care of the kids.”



What do you do when you are discouraged or overwhelmed?  “I pray. Sometimes, in the morning when my husband is away with his job,  and I have to get everyone ready and I get overwhelmed even before I get out of bed, I pray and ask God to change my heart and I ask for help.  My parents live about 10 minutes away so I can call them for help sometimes. They are always there for me. My husband works 72 hours at a time. Occasionally I also get help from “Mothers of Multiples.”  There is a set of twins who sometimes comes to help. It helps to be able to talk to other moms of multiples. On Facebook, there is a good community and that helps me as well. I would never have learned about the “Choo Choo” wagon (a wagon she used to carry her triplets when they were little) unless I had been a part of that community. “



Do you have a favorite quote or scripture that helps you or inspires you? “Yes! Romans 8:28 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”



When I asked Janelle if there was a topic she wanted to talk about, she told me, “Adoption. More people should do it. It’s such a blessing and more people would be blessed if they did it. There needs to be education about it. Please tell your kids about adoption. A lot of times what we hear is about adopting pets, not children…People, (especially Jessica’s peers) give her a strong reaction when they find out she was adopted, and she doesn’t want to feel different. Adopting through Foster Care is not hard. If you are interested, you can go to:  When we were looking into adoption, we went there, filled out an adoption questionnaire, and were sent a package of adoption agencies in our area, and told how to qualify. We were walked through the entire process. It is completely free. You may have to do some simple things around your house like checking your windows, or making sure your home is safe, but everything is free.  You are asked what risk you would be willing to take of them going back to their parents and a child is placed accordingly. It’s worth it. After adoption there is a program called, Adoption Assistance Program, and there are tax credits. There is also free medical until your child is 18, and even free lunch at school. The government is willing and desiring to help.  


She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue

8× References for Proverbs 31:26

She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.  Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." Proverbs 31


I learned so much about adoption from Janelle, as well as how to approach and befriend someone with multiples. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did while writing it. If you are interested in adopting, please consider adopting through Foster Care. And please do your best to educate your children and others on adoption. If you are a mother of pre-school age children and would like to know more about MOPS, simply click on the link below.  Happy Mothers’ Day!  


For more information on MOPS:

Saturday, March 21, 2015



Punki Greene



I met Punki while I worked at Apple Valley Christian School. I was a substitute and she worked in the front office.  What I remember most about her are three things, her love of Jesus, hilarious sense of humor, and a great disdain of white chocolate. I have to say, that I share her love of Jesus and a similar sense of humor, but to be honest, I still don’t understand why she detests white chocolate…however, that is a question best answered another time. Each day, when I would pass her office, I could hear her encouraging a student or another employee. On a couple instances, it was even me. She would listen intently, pray, and then give solid, Biblical principles. Always directing whoever it was that happened to be sitting across from her, right back to Jesus.

When I approached her about doing an article with me, she blessed me with great honesty and characteristic wit, as well as several topics that I think women Christian women need to prayerfully consider. I hope you enjoy getting to know her today, and regardless of your stand on white chocolate, you are encouraged by her words.

Here is a brief introduction in her own words:

”I am a Shepherd follower, Wife, Mother, Sheep feeder, Iced Latte Lover, Beach Bum, Cat cuddler, Ice Cream Connoisseur, Laundress, Traveler, Organized Mess, and Procrastinating Perfectionist. I am contradictory, moody, and Redeemed by Jesus Christ. I have been married to my wonderful husband Eric, for 28 years and we have one son, Luke, who will be 18 years old in a few weeks, and leaving for college in the Fall.”

When I asked her how she came to know Jesus, she answered;

 “At a very early age, about 4 or 5 years old, I can remember cherishing my time alone, as I have gotten older and reflect back on those years, I can see that it was because I felt close to the Lord when I was alone. It was a time when I could hear Him more clearly, shutting out the busyness going on around me. I was comforted by my time with Him, and it opened the door to a lifetime of continuous and intimate dialogue with Him. When I was in Junior High my father explained to me that the only way to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and live with Him forever in Heaven was to acknowledge that I, like everyone else, have sinned, and I need to ask Jesus Christ to forgive me and cleanse me of that sin, because He took on my sin, and sacrificed Himself for me, by being crucified and dying on the cross to atone for my sins, and that He was raised from the dead and ascended to Heaven, where I will join Him some day. I made the decision to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and so the journey began.”

Punki is involved in many different ministries, but I specifically wanted her to share about her speaking engagements. I personally find it fascinating that some people are willing to get up, in front of a group of strangers, and be transparent, while at the same time being so confident in their message that they can actually get a point across.  (clearly this is foreign to me) I asked her to tell me about how she became involved in this ministry. She told me;

“I have always been pretty comfortable speaking in public but more importantly I am passionate about God. He had saved me, and I knew it. I understood my need for Him, and that He was the purpose for my life. I found it easy to talk about Him, and it was actually difficult not to talk about Him. Early in my career in Retail Management, and then again in the Title Industry, I was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of, or for, the companies that I worked for. At the same time I was also steadily growing in my relationship with the Lord, by studying His Word, and spending time in prayer. As my knowledge and understanding of Him began to grow, so did my ability to help others understand Him as well. I had spoken at a few Bible studies, and that grew into invitations to speak at some Christian Women's events. As my pursuance of God grew, so did the opportunities to speak about Him to different Christian Women's groups.

Often times, women will ask me how they can start a career as a speaker. But the reality is, I didn't pursue being a speaker. I just followed my passion for God, and asked Him to use me in whatever capacity He wanted to. I just wanted to honor Him, and love His sheep. So as I grew in my knowledge and understanding of Him, and surrendered my ideas of what I thought my life should be like, for His plan for my life. He was the one who opened up the doors of opportunity to speak. I can see now that those years spent speaking on behalf of companies in the secular world were a training ground, and after much study of God's Word, he began to bring invitations to speak.

 So, I would say, make the decision to use the gifts that the Lord has given you faithfully, right where you're at, right now. Whatever job you have; Mother, Store Clerk, Real Estate Agent, Housekeeper, Cook, Secretary, Administrator, Manager, whatever your vocation, use the gifts and the passion that He has given you, and use all of it in your current position to glorify Him, and to reflect His love to His sheep. That was my prayer every day, "Lord, use me. Use me to bring glory to You, and to help people to come to know You.". And He did. Whether I was in retail, or Real Estate Title, being a mother, wife, or friend, I wanted Him to use me for His purpose. If you are looking to feel fulfilled in life, and know what your purpose is, then surrender yourself to Him. There is no greater peace, and there's no greater purpose then living a life using your gifts to help others to know their Savior.”

 I asked Punki to share how she manages her responsibilities and ministries;

 “It doesn't mean that when you surrender your plans for His purpose that life will suddenly become easy. It definitely doesn't. I struggle with balancing all of the things that need my attention, whether it be my family, the house, preparing for a message, making dinner, taking care of elderly parents, being the mother of a teenager, ministry responsibilities, and so on. But I notice that if I neglect spending time with the Lord as my first priority, everything feels even more chaotic, and I don't have the resources to draw from to deal with the tasks at hand in a peaceful and organized way. Making Jesus the priority of my life has a way of helping everything else fall into place. “

I also think that an important part of staying balanced is saying, "No". As women we should not feel like we have to agree to everything that we are invited or expected to participate in, even if those things are "good things". We can only do so much, and if we let too many things gobble up our time, we and the people we love will be the ones who end up paying the price, and there is nothing "good" in that. I know that when I'm exhausted, worried, over-scheduled, over-committed, and over-loaded, I become irritable and short-tempered. Saying, "Yes" to everything, whether it's a good thing or not, is not worth the cost, to you or your family. When my schedule is more balanced, I am better able to love and take care of the people the Lord has entrusted me with, and ultimately I am better able to serve Him and His sheep in the best possible way. Peacefully. I want to be a reflection of His peace, not an implement of strife.”

What a great reminder that our purpose in life is to love God, bring Him glory, and further His kingdom. Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, do it heartily as unto God...  Punki’s formula for serving God is a good one to follow: Follow your passion for God, ask Him to use you, and be a good steward by using the gifts He has given you, wherever you happen to be.  Thanks for joining us here today. I pray you were blessed!









Monday, January 26, 2015

Renee Grabiec

     Most people have the desire to be the center of attention, the person in the spotlight, the "star of the show." But there are others who are happy to help that star to shine. A person with the gift of helps is content to quietly get things done. She is satisfied in knowing that her service, no matter what it is, when it is done for God, honors Him. When you read this blog, I hope that you are inspired by how other women of faith use their gifts. I also hope, that by seeing various gifts being used, you will be encouraged to use your own gifts and if you are not already, that you will get involved in ministry. I would like for you to meet my dear friend Renee. She uses her gift of help to bless so many people, and while doing that, God is certainly glorified!
     Two years ago, I was asked to write a play for the upcoming women's retreat. I was scared to death. But I prayed, felt God's leading, and stepped out in faith. I trusted that God would provide what was needed. I assumed that our friend Heidi who was usually in charge of directing the plays, would direct this one as well. It turned out that she was going through a major health crisis so she would not be helping. Again, I was terrified. But Renee, who helped out in previous years, would be there to help me. Thank you Jesus for Renee! Not only did she co-direct, but she was also the stage manager, took care of all the costumes, time schedules, small medium and large details, and everything else that a stage manager does (which is ALOT!!!). She was such a blessing to me! It really would not have happened with out her. She uses her gift of helps mightily. Renee worked last year with me as well. And again, the play was successful. I have had so much fun getting to know this sweet, witty, generous, and multi-talented lady, and I know you will too.
     I asked her to share how she came to be a stage manager and here is what she shared with me:
"My grandmother taught me to sew at an early age. I was always amazed at her ability to see a dress in a store and then to make it for me. Hers were always better. Whenever I would visit her, I constantly wanted to sew or embroider. She worked as a tailor for many years and I am sure she would have liked to take a break from sewing, but she never said so, or even gave me a complaint. My mom also encouraged me and gave me my very first sewing machine one year for Christmas. I think I was 13 or 14. After that, I sewed almost all of my own clothes, including all Winter formals and prom dresses. A friend asked me to sew formal dresses for a cruise she was going on with her parents. That's when I started making things for others. I did a couple of  theater performances in high school and  really liked it, so several years, two kids and a husband later, I tried out for community theater...twice. I didn't get a part, but the second time, the director felt sorry for me, and said they had no stage manager and asked if I would like to be involved that way. I said yes. It was a lot of fun, and he asked me to do the next one. It was a musical version of Peter Pan. I did that also, and found out that I had an eye for the costumes too. Sadly, that was my last "professional" gig. I went back to work full time and with two young boys, there was no time for a hobby that took so much time.  Fast forward almost 20 years. I offered my sewing skills for vacation Bible school. They gladly accepted me. I made a cop costume and I was hooked again."
     "I love to be behind the scenes. It's a lot of work to memorize lines, remember cues and all that goes along with being on stage. I have great respect for people who do that so well. I am happy to make costumes and to be available to help back stage when I'm called to do that. I haven't thought of auditioning again, although I have made a few appearances at women's retreats. Fun as it is, my true calling is helping bring it all together. I sometimes think I am going to "sit this one out," but then, God reminds me that it is a talent He gave me and He is pleased when I use it for His glory. How can I say no?"
     "I have to stay organized to be able to handle all I need to by the deadlines given. I never thought I was organized until recently. I've never been a procrastinator, so that helps. If I put things off until the last minute, organization goes out the window. All is lost to a frenzied-up-too-late-meal-skipping-husband-neglecting-heart-thumping-survival-instinct. I learned in the behind-the-scenes banking industry (20 years) to pay more attention to the details. If you are a detail oriented person, you drive the "big-picture" people crazy, but we need you. I've learned from a few really good managers and patient  detail people (my husband for one) that the details matter, but shouldn't keep you up at night."
     "I've been working on VBS productions for about 6 years. I love to see the vision each year come to life. But more than that, I love to see the smiles on the faces of the little ones. That blesses me more that all the chocolate on the planet, or a whole warehouse full of fine fabrics. I tear up just thinking of them and the looks on their faces."
     "My own grandchildren inspire me each day too keep doing what I do. Even though they don't have the opportunity most years to be at VBS, I think of them when I'm working on costumes and all the others who will not see the work I've done, but will see God's work in our lives instead."
     "Each morning I try to spend time with the Lord and to hear from Him. I give Him my 'agenda" and list of what I need or want to get done that day. I ask that He help me to be productive and to do what He would have me do. I have a peace in that. I know He is faithful, so if something doesn't get done, I try not to stress about it. I also have a wonderful husband who is very supportive of my ministry involvements. Without his support, I would not be able to do what I do and serve. I don't always balance this well, but somehow it all works out."
     "I would encourage anyone who has the desire to get involved with productions, VBS, or any ministry, to take that first step - PRAY.  Then fill out a ministry questionnaire.  That can be the hardest part, but God will give you answers. Don't doubt yourself or your abilities.  God has given you this desire for a reason and He will give you what you need when you need it.  The enemy wants to steal that from you - don't let him do that!   Also, be willing to do the small things to start.  Be faithful in the small things.  Be flexible and willing to serve as called.  That's all I do.  When there is a need, as I am able, I step in and fill it to the best of my abilities.  That's all God asks. One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 19:26, But Jesus looked at them and said, "with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
     When I think of Renee, the words precision and detail automatically come to my mind. I can't help but think of how what she does, is so similar to the way she uses sewing patterns to create clothing and costumes...there are many pieces, and many steps involved, but, with great attention to detail, dedication, and determination, the end result is  a fine garment that is both beautiful, and useful. Corinthians 12:28 tells us: "Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers, then those who do miracles, those who have the gift of healing, those who can help others, those who have the gift of leadership, those who speak in unknown languages." I truly am blessed to have so many women who exercise their gifts in my life. Each one of you is an inspiration to me!

Monday, December 15, 2014


     As I sat across from my new friend Niki, I couldn't help but be blessed by her. She was wearing a  head scarf to protect her tender scalp that was covered with the downy soft, hair regrowth that comes after chemotherapy. Quick to laugh, with a sparkle in her eyes, the beauty of a humble spirit, and a most radiant smile on her face, she told me of her battle, and of God's victory. She has graciously allowed me to share her story with you here, in hopes of bringing someone else hope who may be in a similar battle.
       "I have the BRCA1 cancer gene," Niki shared with me. "I also have a very strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer. I was just recovering from breast cancer and my mastectomy, and I didn't have to undergo chemo for that, since it was not invasive, and all the tissue around it was removed. I got that surgery just in time! I was just starting to feel better when I decided I wanted to know how my ovaries were doing. I got ultrasounds and found out on Christmas of 2013 that I had a cluster of cysts. I had the choice to either wait, or schedule a routine hysterectomy. We decided to wait. I figured that I could just do that surgery in the summer of 2014 since I was still recovering from a reconstructive surgery already from that month. I went ahead and did another ultrasound in April 2014 to see how it was doing, and got an urgent call from my Doctor just a few days later."
     "She said I had cancer. She was sure of it. My ovaries needed to come out immediately. She rearranged her schedule, and my surgery was scheduled right away. I had to get my blood work done, and a CT scan. My head was spinning and I was in shock. My prayer was, "Lord, contain this cancer, all I want is for you to be glorified!"
     "The surgery was successful. Through the 7 hours I was in surgery, much cancer recovery was done and 31 lymph nodes were removed. We found out that cancer had spread to one of them. It was stage three, but they got it all and believed that it was all contained, JUST LIKE MY PRAYER! If I had waited a few weeks later, I may not have had a chance to beat this. I had 18 weeks of chemotherapy. It was very difficult to lose my hair. My hair was so long and pretty...But the hardest part, was seeing my husband scared out of his mind that he was going to lose me."
     I asked Niki to answer some questions, here are her answers:
     Jodi:   "What sustained you though this battle for your life?"
     Niki:   "Humor! I tried to find things to laugh about. Laughter is really good medicine! One example is when I was at home after a chemo, my husband came into the room to see how I was doing. I looked at him with a serious expression and said, "Honey, I think we have a problem...I'm two months late!" I had him going there!"
     Jodi:   "Where did you get the strength to fight?"
     Niki:   "My strength came from the Lord.  Without Him, I would have been laying in bed feeling sorry for myself. He gave me many reasons to smile and get out of bed! I knew He had a plan! My strength also came from my family and the friends that stopped by, cards that were sent, and meals that were prepared by friends and my daughters. Also my husband who would go to Denny's to get me the only things I had an appetite for: hot wings and lots of bacon!"
     Jodi:   "If someone else is going through this, how would you suggest encouraging them?"
     Niki:   "Just show up. Be there. Send cards. Let them know you are there. Cancer was truly a lonely place for me. Sometimes I wanted to be alone, sometimes I wanted someone there. It was a really strange time for me. I would just tell you to be as understanding as you can, and to try to comfort them as much as you can. "
      Jodi:  "What was most helpful to you and your family?"
      Niki:  "Definitely the prayers, meals, and cards. People have no idea what that means to us and how it helps. Some even came by and cleaned my house and did laundry! My girls loved reading the cards and all the prayers and thoughts of every one on my cancer support group on Face Book. My husband was very encouraged too."
     Jodi:   "Is there something that we should NOT say or do to someone who is going through this?"
     Niki:   "Don't jump ahead and talk about losing their hair. It is difficult enough dealing with Cancer. I knew it was going to happen eventually. It was just a hard and personal thing to deal with. "
     Jodi:   "In what areas are you stronger now that you have gone through this?"
     Niki:   "I just survived each day. I woke up and got out of bed. I went to all the blood draws even though I am scared of needles. I couldn't stand going to chemotherapy, but I knew it would give me a chance to beat this cancer. I believe my marriage is stronger. I am so proud of my husband! He worked so hard taking care of me and even made sure to be at every blood draw. Then he went to work, not knowing if I would survive..."
     Jodi:   "Now that you are in remission,  what lessons did you learn through this very difficult time?"
     Niki:  "It is hard for someone like me who loves to help others and make them happy, to sit down and let people do that for me. I learned to sit down."
     Jodi:   "Is there a scripture that you held onto?"
     Niki:   "Proverbs 3:5-6 On trusting in the Lord. Also, Mark 4:35-41 that tells of when Jesus said to His disciples that He was going to take them to the other side. Then He fell asleep and a huge storm took place. the disciples thought they were going to die and woke Jesus. They forgot that Jesus already said He was going to take them to the other side! I believed Jesus would take  e to the other side of this cancer. I had to have faith and tryst and remember that God is always true to His words!
     Jodi:    "What is your favorite quote?"
     Niki:    "I am a huge fan of Corrie Ten Boom and love this quote the most, "You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have."
     What I learned from this vivacious, funny lady, is that we should never lose hope. God is our anchor. Through the storms of life, if we hold fast to Him, we will, just as Niki has, bring Him glory as He accomplished His will. Thank you Niki, for sharing your courageous heart and your testimony with us here at Proverbs 31 Collective.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rebecca Veloz

      Rebecca is a missionary in the church I attend. I have been praying for her on the last few trips she has taken and was so blessed by how hard she works to be able to do what the Lord has called her to do. She faithfully lives by the words of Jesus in Matthew 28 that tell us to: "Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this-that I am with you always, even to the end of the world."  I think she may be an inspiration to you as well. Here is her story.
     "I was raised in the church. When I was 11 years old, our church was planning a mission trip to Mexico for Jr. High students. My mom wanted my brothers  and I to see and experience how other people in the world live, so we all ended up going together as a family: my mom, dad, two brothers and myself. It was only for a weekend, but ever since then, we continued to do Mexico missions trips on a regular basis. I think that I have always had the gift of helping people, and I enjoyed helping with various outreaches that ranged from making and serving kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to building as outhouse for a family.  Oddly enough, my favorite thing to do was construction work, and I actually took the skills that I learned and turned it into a business later on in my life. Currently, I am a house flipper. I buy a house, fix it up, then sell it. I am so grateful to God that He has given me a job where I can have the flexibility to do short term mission trips."
     "When I was 20 years old, I felt called to go to Africa, and began to pray about going. The following year, I stepped out and went. That first overseas trip stretched me in areas where I was not comfortable, such as teaching children and dealing with a culture that was foreign to me, but I loved the whole experience. God really does place us in ministries where we can use both our strengths and weaknesses. For me, I love the travel and working as a team, and I don't mind hard work or going without the comforts most of us are used to, yet sometimes I struggle when it comes to teaching a Bible study or even sharing the Gospel with someone. However, I know that it is though my weakness, that Gods strength becomes evident. The most important thing, is that I am obedient and available to be used by Him. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is so simple, but the idea is so powerful."
    "Because I knew that I loved doing missions so much, and God provided me with the means to pursue that ministry, I decided to take advantage of every opportunity for as long as God allows. Since then, I have been blessed to go back to Africa several times and have also traveled to Haiti and the Philippines multiple times. Each trip is unique, and every country is unique, but for me, it is amazing to worship with other believers, knowing that we serve the same God, even if we don't speak the same language. It blows my mind to think that some day we will be together in heaven with no barriers such as language or culture."
     "I don't really know what God holds for my future, but I know that He is using this time to prepare me for whatever it is. Whether God wants me to continue working and just do short term missions, or He calls me to get married and do missions full time, I want to remain faithful to His great commission. The way I see it,  He chose His final words before leaving the earth to give His disciples
the great commission, so it must be important. And I am blessed to be one of the few to actually go out in the world and make disciples."
     "I realize that not everyone is called to be a missionary overseas, but as believers, our goal should be to see the great commission fulfilled. Anyone can be involved in missions through prayer, encouragement, or financial support. One important thing to remember is that missionaries are just the tip of the spear, but the encouragement and support from others is necessary for any missionary to be effective."
     "My goal in sharing my story is to get believers more involved in missions, because there are many needs in the ministry. Prayer groups for mission trips are often deficient. In addition, there is always a need for financial support for both long and short term missionaries. And of course, there is the opportunity to serve in the mission field, whether it is at home or abroad. I would encourage anyone who has the desire to participate in a missions trip to just take the first steps: pray, attend an interest meeting, and talk to someone who has already done a trip. It truly is an amazing experience. I find that I am not only able to bless others, but I always end up being blessed myself." 
     If you are interested in being a part of the missions team, follow Rebecca's advice and take those first steps. Obedience to God always brings blessings.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Teresa Ellis

Teresa and I met through a mutual friend about five years ago. Although she seems quiet at first, don't be fooled. This lady is a powerful, strong, and wise woman of God! She is a great example of putting your family first, but always makes time to bless others as well with her gift of encouragement. I went to an exercise class she and her best friend Danya were running last summer, and it was there that I realized what an encourager she really is. Teresa has the ability to not only encourage, but to push you out of your comfort zone. She helps you to find a strength you didn't know you actually had. A strength and power that only comes from complete dependence on God. And all the while, she gives God the glory!
     Teresa grew up in Fontana, with five brothers, one of whom is her twin, and one sister. Although her father went to church with the family on special occasions, it was her mother who took the children on a regular basis. When she was in High School, she remembers reading through the book of Revelation and being so scared that she didn't open the Bible up again for many years.
     Her husband was saved before she was and would often read the Bible to their family. On July 26, 2001, he took them to a "Somebody loves you" crusade and it was there that she realized she was in need of a Savior. That day, she gave her life to the Lord.
     When I asked Teresa who her biggest encourager's are, she said one is her husband who always encourages her to do what is right, to run to God always and to keep her eyes on Jesus and not her circumstances. She says that her other big encourager is her youngest daughter Kayla who often leaves her little notes and pictures with scriptures where she will find them. If Teresa is having a bad day, Kayla prays for her, and if she is having difficulty with exercising, Kayla reminds her that she will do better tomorrow.
     Teresa has a passion for running that began when she was struggling with her weight and lack of energy. She had a friend who was willing to go with her and found that to be a great encouragement. It was in the midst of training for a half marathon, that running became something far more valuable than simply a way to become physically fit, it became a "Platform for prayer and worship." A place she "Longed to be at, where I can just talk to God, where I could enjoy His beauty and where I can work out my problems talking to Him." It was also at this time when she began to see parallels in running with her spiritual life.  Running her first 5k was such a huge encouragement, that she decided to continue and has been running ever since.
     She takes very seriously the mission field of her family, and holds dear the ministry of serving them. Always there for them, encouraging them in their activities, helping when they need it, and being their biggest cheerleader. She enjoys every minute they spend together. Staying on top of her schedule and learning not to over commit helps her to do the things she needs to do and is called to do, with a joyful heart. As she always says, "Family first."
     I asked Teresa what some of her favorite verses were and she said Philippians 1:6;
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  "I am thankful and grateful that God is not finished with me, nor will He give up on me despite my shortcomings. My Savior is a finisher and I need to be as well". She also loves Philippians 4:8, Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. She says that she struggles often with not being a positive person and because her mind tends to wander, this verse reminds her where her thoughts need to be.
      When asked how she would encourage someone with a similar gift, she says, " I would encourage others to look beyond themselves, their situation, or their circumstances, and look to serve those around them. To look past their friends and acquaintances and look for opportunities to do things for others, compliment others, or simply smile and say hello. God always gives us opportunities to serve Him, we just need to not be so consumed with ourselves that we miss the opportunity."
      I hope and pray that each one of you who reads this, has a Teresa in your life. Someone who will encourage you to do your best, to push you when you need it, and to lift you up. Life certainly is sweeter with the gift of encouragement delivered through a true friend. God laid heavy upon my heart  the need to encourage women to use their gifts to bless others and to bring Him glory, just as Teresa does with her life. May He richly bless you today as you minister to others in His name.



Teresa Salazar

     When interviewing Teresa for this article, she proudly told me that she is one of the few people here in the High Desert who was born and raised in Victorville. She went on to tell me that she teaches for the very same school district that she attended when she was a child. This has afforded her the opportunity to give back to her community in a powerful and meaningful way. She works full time as a special education teacher, and says that she is "Honored to have the privilege of working with my students and their parents."
     Teresa's job as a teacher is how I came to know her. All three of my children attended the school she teaches at. She is truly interested in each student and their parents. This interest enables her to remember facts about each one, which makes them feel loved. Although her job is in itself  a ministry, today I want to focus on her other ministry, leading worship.
     "Music has always been a huge part of my life," she recently told me. As a child, she could be found most Saturdays in her room, singing into her hairbrush. As an adolescent, she was involved in chorus and marching band, and was the lone female saxophone player in a sea of boys, and sang in an ensemble choir in High School called the Emeraldaires. Preferring to sing alto, her choir director Mr. Howard Potter insisted that she was to sing first soprano. She was not pleased. Her choice was to sing along with Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Bonnie Raitt. However, she was informed by Mr. Potter that he did not need another alto, and if she didn't want to sing soprano, there was no need for her in the choir because he did not tolerate divas. Since his offer was one she could not refuse, she accepted. Thankfully she did, because she now has a four-octave range.
     In her senior year of High School, Teresa came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. But it took several years before she had a "Full grasp of the nature of my salvation." In her late twenties, she began to understand true grace, and "the need to develop an intimate relationship with the Savior. When I first started leading worship, I had the same attitude toward it as performance choir, so I didn't really get it.  It took time to understand the purpose of worship, and the personal responsibility involved."
     Indeed, this truly is a heavy responsibility. To lead worshipers into the presence of God, and to help them to prepare their hearts to receive His word, is not a thing to be taken lightly. She shared with me that is all too easy to take the admiration of musical gifts personally, instead of turning them toward God. But sitting with her for even a few minutes will bring you to the realization that she does indeed, give God the glory He deserves. Teresa has a humble spirit. Quickly praising God for His gifts, and His provision.
     I asked her how she manages to balance her career, with her family life, and her ministry, and she admitted that her teaching job is a ministry in every way, but it can become all consuming, if she lets it. She tells me she is "Careful to try and balance my time. I spend a few hours each day after school to prepare my lessons and do my paper work before coming home, because it is important to me to be here fully  for my family and not off somewhere grading papers. My commitment to the worship team at church requires a commitment from my entire family because it takes me away from them for several hours each Sunday. They are incredibly supportive because they understand that it is a calling from the Lord, so we plan ahead and make the best use of our time. The Lord has shown me that the main focus is always on relationships, so if I am managing my time, then I am purposefully investing in my relationships with others."
     Teresa leaves us on this note, "I would encourage anyone with the gift for music, to take the calling seriously, but to take yourself worth a grain of salt!!!Too often, musicians get sucked up into the fame and fortune of performance and make it about themselves, and I've seen far too many of us destroyed by the very talent that was given to be a blessing. When we use it for our own glory, the enemy can sell us every counterfeit he can think of to keep us from lifting our voices in the praise of our Savior-it's like nails on a chalkboard to him, and he will do anything to stop it! But when we see it for the gift it is, thank the Lord for the privilege, and hold it loosely, He can move mountains in the lives of others, because it's all about Him!!!"