Lewis PWOC Retreat Audio

{I recently taught at a Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) retreat on the topic of biblical HOPE. This post contains the audio of those messages.}

Here you go ladies! Let me know if there are any issues downloading. I love that Google Drive is FREE, but sometimes it requires a few clicks to finally get the audio going.

It was an absolute JOY being you all! Seriously, what a privilege! I loved hearing your stories and was blown away by testimony after testimony of God’s faithfulness in the midst of your ever-changing lives. As a girl who has lived in the same city her whole life , I am in awe of your courage, tenacity, and resilience. Know that you are forever ingrained in my heart and that you will be prayed for often! HOPE IN GOD sweet sisters. He’s got you.

“For this reason, since the day I heard about you, I have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And I pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Col. 1:9-12

Session 1: Anchored by Hope

Session 2: Abounding with Hope

Session 3: Hope when it’s Hard

A Harvest of Joy from the Hardest of Days

landon_fussySeptember was a landmark month for me.  On September 1st, after a nearly two year break, I stood in front of a group of women, opened my Bible, and taught again.

I’ve started a lot of Bible studies, but this one has been the sweetest by far. The mad rush to keep my boys alive AND get my lesson done in time, a dining room table perpetually covered with notes and commentaries and coffee cups, the sheer exhaustion of 4:30 a.m. study sessions – it’s all been so very satisfying. I’m just really, truly grateful. More so than I’ve ever been. I seem to have stumbled upon a wellspring of joy-in-ministry unlike anything I’ve known before. Teaching Bible study has always made me happy, but this time I’m simply overwhelmed in the best way imaginable.

I keep asking myself why it’s so different. If anything, I expected this one to be the hardest. I expected to lack enthusiasm, creativity, and desire.  I thought for sure the struggle of the last couple years would cast an unwelcomed shadow on my sincere attempt to “correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Don’t get me wrong, not once did I doubt that God would be faithful to do His part in transforming hearts through the power of His word. I just figured that instead of working through me, He’d have to work around me this time.

Trials come in all different shapes and sizes. Sometimes the bottom completely falls out: a spouse loses a job, a loved one is diagnosed with late-stage cancer, a rebellious child begins to self-destruct, a husband cheats, a beloved family home goes into foreclosure. . . these are “big” trials. They are the kind we can’t image being able to endure until that moment when we find ourselves smack in the middle of one and realize that God’s grace really is sufficient.

But more often than not, the trials we face aren’t the bottom-falling-out “big” kind. They are the never-letting-up “little” kind. By themselves, these kinds of trials aren’t all that hard to deal with. But have you ever noticed that they rarely ever happen by themselves?

IMG_0242About a year and a half ago my sweet Landon was born. The birth of a child automatically brings about a whole slew of seemingly never-letting-up “small” trials: sleep deprivation, crazy hormone fluctuations, nursing challenges, body image issues, and the paralyzing stress of a perpetually unfinished “to do” list. And that’s if you have a perfectly healthy, happy baby. God didn’t see fit to give us one of those.

I’ve spent a year and a half trying to keep a generally unhappy, sickly child from driving us all crazy. After tubes, an adenoidectomy (which did nothing), a bronchoscopy (he has an artery compressing his trachea and surgery scheduled in November, but that’s  another story), and a sedated MRI of his chest and sinuses doctors finally concluded that our incredibly adorable “Mr. Grumpy Pants” has basically had a sinus infection for most of his life. Some kids take a daily vitamin. Ours takes a daily dose of penicillin.

Turns out spending several months consoling a child who rarely feels good can be pretty depressing. It can make you feel isolated and lonely and sad. It can make you feel trapped and suffocated by your own life. It can make you wonder if you’re cut out for this while painfully exposing your most profound insecurities as a mother. “Why am I the only mom who isn’t loving this?” Comparison. Perceived failure. Guilt. Frustration. Anger. Depression. All woven in and out of this incredibly blessed life that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the whole world.

landon_fussy_2In many ways life shrinks when a baby comes along, and even more so if that baby is harder than average. I wish I could say that I embraced the “shrinking” with acceptance and joy. That’s not quite how it went down. But I’m getting there. And I’m realizing once again that it’s in the shrinking that we experience the most growth. If I want Jesus to increase in my life, I have to decrease. (Jn. 3:30) There’s simply no other way. I’m not so sure “decreasing” is something we can do all by ourselves no matter how much we think we want it. In my experience, pride inevitably wins out. But God graciously fights for our whole hearts, for our complete surrender, for our sincere self-giving. He graciously labors for our humility. That’s what motherhood has been for me – a knock-down-drag-out with my incredibly selfish heart. And we wonder why it’s so hard…

Needless to say, right now my life is not the ideal “setting” for a Bible teacher to do her thing. BUT….I’m finding out that it’s the perfect setting for God to do His. Turns out those little trials, all strung together and woven throughout my everyday life in the last year or so have forever altered the fabric of my heart. This thing we call “motherhood” – with all of its small, everyday “never-letting-up” challenges – has proven to be the most profound and sacred pathway to an ever deepening dependence on the Lord. It’s ruined me . . . in the best way imaginable.

In the book of James we are commanded to rejoice in the various trials we face because they test our faith and in doing so produce the invaluable qualities of endurance and spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4). While I would have loved to spend the last couple of years enjoying a happy baby, writing blog posts, and pouring God’s Word into the lives of women, I am fully aware that not a single millisecond of this stuck-at-home-with-a-fussy-kid season has been a waste. James 1:4 is coming alive right before my very eyes . . . on the canvas of my own heart! The somber grey hues of this challenging season have only served to enhance the stunning brilliance of His grace. As any artist knows, depth cannot be achieved without some darkness.

From a ministry standpoint, nothing has really changed. I’m teaching at the same church to a lot of the same women. This study isn’t any different. But I am.

That’s why it’s sweeter. That’s why it’s so much more fun. Through this incredibly challenging season of motherhood, God has shrunk my pride and in turn enlarged my capacity for joy. He’s fought hard for that which I didn’t even know I was missing. I’m confident He’s doing the same thing for you!

So today let’s choose to thank God for the bitter-sweet providence of faith refined in those really hard seasons of motherhood. We may be overworked, overwhelmed, overtired, or just plain OVER IT.  But because He is good and gracious and oh-so-faithful, the hardest of days can and will produce a harvest of joy. “Oh Lord . . . we wait in expectation” (Ps. 5:3).

A New Reason to Run

My friend recently gave me a shirt that says, “I run so I can eat.” She knows me so well!  I’ve never quite understood why anyone would endure the horrors of running for any reason other than indulging in guilt-free calories . . . with extra cheese . . . and a side of fries. Oh yeah, and make it a regular Coke. And can I add a milkshake?

Well, on December 1st I started training for the Gasparilla Half Marathon taking place in Tampa this February. But this time I’m not running to eat. I’m running for freedom.

Did you know that approximately 35.8 million men, women, and children worldwide have been trafficked into a life of modern-day slavery (source: http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/findings/)? My home state of Florida is considered third in the nation in sex trafficking, labor trafficking and domestic servitude. What I didn’t realize until recently is that my own city (including the greater Tampa Bay area) is a top destination nationwide for traffickers.  What breaks my heart the most are the stories of young women who are lured and then trapped into a life of prostitution with no hope of escape. On no less than four different occasions I have sat down and tried to watch a relatively “mild” documentary on sex-trafficking. The stories the women tell are so disturbing that I’ve never been able to get all the way through it. Those stories haunt me. Those stories literally happen every day….right where we live.

Thankfully, there are individuals and organizations that work tirelessly to end the horrors of modern day slavery. And that’s where the whole half-marathon idea started for me….

For a few years now my local Christian radio station, the Joy FM, has been coordinating a group called “Team Freedom” to run for the purpose of raising money and awareness for Hope for Justice. Hope for Justice is a not-for-profit organization that exists to end human trafficking and slavery in our generation. Every year as I’ve listened to the station promote “Team Freedom” I’ve thought to myself, “I should do that.” Well, this is the year I am finally burdened enough to actually do it!

Team_Freedom_Bayshore

Got to run with some of the team Saturday!

My goal is to raise $2000.00 by January 15th. There’s only a few days left and I’m just a little over halfway there. I really need your help! A donation of ANY amount would be a huge blessing and serve as the perfect motivation  for me to keep on track with training and finish strong. More than that, it would enable Hope for Justice to continue to bring hope, healing, and FREEDOM to countless men, women, and children throughout the world who are trapped in a life of modern day slavery.

Before you decided whether or not to give, would you take a few minutes and watch this video? It explains what Hope for Justice is, how they operate, and the mission they work tirelessly to fulfill. (If you are reading this via email, you will need to click here to see the video or view this post on the blog.)

If you feel led to make a donation, you can do it here: www.classy.org/aprilesweers

If you kept on reading this even after you realized that I’m raising money, you are so very sweet. Thank you so much!

The next post will probably be a picture of me looking half-dead and REALLY happy that I survived 13.1 miles. 😉 And then someday soon, Lord willing, I’ll get back to blogging!

teamfreedom

No Matter How Small, He Cares….

And [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God…” Exodus 34:6

Of all the truths we “marinated” in at my church’s women’s retreat last month, the reality of God’s compassion continues to be a precious well-spring of encouragement to my heart. I’ve been wanting to write about it for weeks, but since my days of sitting in Starbucks and blogging my little heart out have been temporarily suspended by an ADORABLE eight month old, I thought a short video clip might do…

 

“Because He is a God of compassion He is absolutely incapable of seeing the conflict and struggle and pain in your heart and remaining unmoved.”

No matter how small, He cares. He really, truly cares.

Wow. Just wow.

Radiant Retreat Videos

Last weekend I had the privilege of teaching an amazing group of women at my church’s women’s retreat. There is no way these videos can adequately capture what took place in the hotel conference room that quickly became holy ground as God’s Spirit swept through and dazzled us with the stunning brilliance of our radiant God. But I am so excited that my little Flip video camera was able to capture the teaching so that whether you were able to attend the retreat or not, you can be dazzled as well. One advantage you have over those of us who heard these messages live is that you get to watch them  in your pajamas with a giant cup of coffee. We’re a little jealous. 😉

Listening Guide (if you want to take notes as you listen)

Session 1 – “God:The Source of Radiant Living”

Session 2 – “The Holy Spirit: The Sustainer of Radiant Living”

Session 3 – “Our World: The Purpose of Radiant Living”

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