Archive: September, 2010

First Grade Fruit, Kelli Zaniel


It’s parents night at my girls’ school. I enter the corner room at the top of the stairs. The walls are splashed with pale purple and bright yellow. I find my daughter’s desk and scoot into the little seat. My adult feet knock the tiny footstool underneath her desk. I realize she needs this because her first grader feet don’t quite touch the floor. Flashbacks of my own school days suddenly dance across my mind. I detect a familiar aroma–that “back to school” smell. The smell that always made me feel anxious. The young teacher dashes into the room and welcomes all seven parents.

The teacher nervously holds up the report card our child will be given in a few months. She carefully opens the card. “One side of the card is for academic grades,” she points. The other side will show how well your child exhibits the nine fruits of the Spirit,” she explains. I begin breaking out into a cold sweat as I reposition my over-sized body in the tiny chair. “Wow, Fruits of the Spirit,” I think. I rub my palms across my jeans hoping the clamminess will disappear before someone notices.

“That’s tough,” I say to myself. The fruits of the Spirit are hard to possess for the average adult Christian, let alone a first grader. We need the intercession of the Holy Spirit on that one! Thank goodness the Spirit isn’t just hanging around on your local street corner waiting for the chance to perform a miracle or two. The Spirit lives among us and dwells within us causing growth and transformation in our lives. When the Spirit interrupts us and transforms us, it’s noticeable to those around us. This change in character is called a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul was a list-maker. He provides a list of all nine fruits in Galatians 5:22. The list is meant as a contrast to the list of the ‘deeds of the flesh’ found in 5:19-20. He lists the following nine fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.

Are these fruits vibrant in your life? Are they noticeable to others? Like my first grader, if you are graded on how well you exhibit these fruits today, how will you do? Will you make the grade?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Galatians 5:22 (NLT).

My Goliath: Part 2, by Heidi Avery

My Goliath: Fear of man

From the time that I am a little girl I wildly seek the approval of people. I carefully gather specks of evidence that I am good, that I am worthy and that I am acceptable. Man’s view of me is my survival. The first 30 years of my life I am defined solely by what the world says about me. This is who I am long before I know Whose I am.

That letter is my own personal kryptonite. It weakens my white-knuckled grip on how others see me. It leaves me vulnerable before man. I did this to myself. God allowed it. But, I hear Him. He pursues me. I listen as He breathes life altering truth into my tattered heart…

You are mine.

Trust in Me.

I am your survival.

I define you.

He wants me to see this fear of man for what it is: sin. It distracts me and keeps me from Him. He wants me to know that I can’t have both. That He has better plans for me if I would just let it go. The letter? Let it go. This fear that consumes me to the core? Let it go.

I am like David. Small. Weak. Unprotected. A sling and some stones for a weapon. I pray God’s name. Stare into the eyes of my massive giant. Aim. Fire. Down he goes. Only he gets back up; puffing and roaring he comes at me again. I cry out, “Lord, how am I to mortify this enemy?” I am reminded that besetting sins don’t die. I must unceasingly sling stones. I can not rest; even when he’s been down awhile I can never quit. But, with God I will not grow weary because with each stone tossed the giant wanes, I am strengthened and He is glorified.

Some giants, like Paul’s thorn are there for a divine purpose and will always exist. We must see it as a blessed indication that we desperately need God. If we will adorn this reminder as a neatly tied bow around our pinky finger it is controlled, if not it is a boulder chained to our ankle and it controls us.

This is what the LORD says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8

My Goliath: Part 1, by Heidi Avery

I am not perfect. Far from it. My mistakes are many and most generally spring from a negative “feeling” that I blindly follow down a dark alley. Ever do that?
I recall a friend who hurt me. I collect her offenses over time, mulling them over and recounting them. I am a non-conflict kind of girl, but this friends repeated infractions have me provoked. Angered. Wronged. Injured to the point of feeling justified.

Warranted I sit at my computer and in seconds my fingers race effortlessly across the keys spelling out my list of transgressions against her. The words hinge themselves together perfect fit after perfect fit. A letter is produced; it is raw, truthful and laced with bits of harshness. In a moment of false empowerment I highlight my letter, right click, copy, paste into an email addressed to my friend and send.

Almost instantly the anger and justification that allowed me to write the letter vanishes washed away down a wide fast moving stream of aching regret. Guilt and worry envelope me and I sink under the rushing waters. My blood accelerates at record speed through my body, instinctively pooling into my chest and ears leaving them hot and crimson red.

My mind spins. I am dizzied at my thoughts. I did not pray. I did not seek godly council. I did not think. I wrote and I sent. Like a trapped and wounded animal I sit racked with fear.

I obsess. I lose sleep. What does she think of me? I panic at the thought of her sharing my letter with others and when I hear that she does I drop into the miry pit. I deserve to be there. Satan is there, he jabs at me with this burning knife, singeing the worn flesh of my heart over and over. I question my place in the Kingdom.

I cry out, asking God to forgive me. He shows me the obvious, my lack of grace, mercy and kindness. I know I am wrong. I seek her forgiveness and she eventually forgives, but things are never the same.

Months pass. I can’t seem to evade it; I am deeply wounded now by my own careless actions. I continue to ask God… “What? What is it that I am to learn here?” I take an introspective look back and find God in His great loving kindness sweetly revealing His purpose in this trial for me. Beneath the veil lies my giant.

Stop by tomorrow to read My Goliath: Part 2 to get a glimpse of my giant and how God helps me overcome…

You Are A Princess With Purpose, By Kelli Zaniel


In a jealous rage the wicked step-sisters pull, rip, and tear at Cinderella’s dress. Their burst of anger slashes not only Cinderella’s dress but her fairytale dreams too. My dream is that Cinderella would pick up her cute mop and sudsy bucket and smack the step-sisters upside the head for a little attitude adjustment. With tattered clothes and a bruised heart, a frazzled Cinderella runs away.
Big, beautiful tears pour from Cinderella’s eyes as she dashes to the garden. In real life, we don’t have a garden ruffled with sweet smelling flowers and fairy godmothers to retreat to when we get upset.
When I cry my face welts up, splotchy red bumps spread across my neck, and my eyes bulge and swell with each passing tear. When Cinderella cries, we don’t see one love handle rolling over her skirt as she collapses in the garden. We don’t see bright red splotchy bumps on her creamy, un-blemished skin either. Nor would we even suspect an eyelash emergency from the sticky mixture of Cover Girl mascara and bubbling tears.

As I read this happily ever after story to my daughter, I feel like Cinderella in this moment. Frightened. Maimed. Alone.

Just like the step-sisters belittle Cinderella by forcefully jerking away her dress and beads, the world can do this to us in the same way. We live in a world full of mean, ugly step-sisters who are waiting to steal our horse-drawn carriage and ride off into the sunset with our man.

Some days, our emotions are yanked from side to side. Our self-respect ripped to shreds. Wrong choices kick us in the knees leaving behind a crippled woman. Bad relationships bruise and wound our hearts for what seems like forever.

Dreams we thought would come true, don’t. Princes who were suppose to gallop across the meadow and whisk us off into the sunset, seem to have misplaced our address.

This is not what God intends. He wants the fairy-tale for us. We don’t live in a fairy-tale world like Cinderella does, but we can experience the truest of fairytales as we fall in love with the One who first loved us–Jesus.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT).

Even though we may look like a wreck with our ordinary brown shoes, shredded dresses, and smudged Cover-Girl make-up, God sees the sparkling treasure underneath. He loves us in spite of our messy, worn, torn lives. He sees the diamond in the rough. He wants to pluck us out and polish us off. Remember, He loves using unlikely people to glorify himself.

He doesn’t care if we look like Cinderella, walk like her or even sing like her. He has big plans for us. To Him we will always be a story book princess. A princess with a very special purpose!

Praying God’s Heart, By Kelli Zaniel

T.V., radio, newspaper and internet constantly seduce us with their ungodly charm. As we work,

pick up kids,

sort laundry, or
check out at Target,

we are constantly inundated with a wealth of worldly wisdom.

We try and look the other way but the world is constantly wooing us with its overindulgent antics. Screaming, “It’s all about you,” all day long. I don’t know about you, but by 5:00 p.m. it’s hard to remember it’s all about God. Some days, it’s all about the messes on the floor, gum stuck in someone’s hair, purple nail polish stains, or a stopped up toilet that won’t be fixed without a $90 an hour plumber.

If we aren’t careful, these worldly “things” may limit our view of God. They may wedge themselves in between our relationship with Jesus. Our perspectives may become distorted and misguided. Time alone with God may seem artificial because of our lack of surrender to Him. If we make it all about us during the day, we will probably make it all about us when we pray too. All too often our prayers are focused around the desires of our hearts and not God’s.

There is no better way to refine our supplications and intercessions than by going to God’s Word first. Praying God’s heart through scripture is a great way to surrender to his will without interjecting so much of our own. This way we can kneel at the feet of an Almighty God and pray with a godly perspective instead of a worldly one.

These four steps will help us focus on God and the desires of His heart when we pray:
1. Read a section of Psalms. Read Psalm 119 which expresses David passion for God’s Word. Lord, I pray that you will renew my passion for your Word;
2. Read a praise. I like Psalm 145 because it sings praises to God for His mercy, grace and unfailing love for me;
3. Read a Proverb to dust off the worldly junk that has stuck to us throughout the day. I choose these verses based upon things I struggle with (ex. Prov. 29; 27:16);
4. Pray Accordingly Sister! Now that you have aligned your heart with God’s, pray with confidence and passion. We can ask the Lord boldly (Heb. 4:12) for our desires and requests (Matt 7:7-8), knowing that if we ask according to His will, He hears us and answers us (1John 5:14-15).

There’s Just Something About That Name, Kelli Zaniel

“Dope!” My two year old roars as she intently climbs the stairs. She meets her sister in the hallway and they disappear into the bedroom. I hear the word “dope” jingling through the air several more times but no clue of its meaning. Seemingly, they know what it means. I shrug my shoulders and chalk it up to the jibber jabberings of a two year old.

The next day we sit together on the couch flipping through old scrap books. The over-excited squeals of my two year old interrupt our drive down memory lane. Her dimply pint-sized finger points out her sister, Sammy Hope, in the picture. “Dope,” she exclaims with a big grin. I realize that “dope” translates into Sammy Hope.

I ask Sammy Hope about the new name. She says, “That’s Scarlett’s special name for me…I think I’m the only one who understands it.”

Isn’t it amazing to think that God has a special name for us too? A name only He will know and we will recognize. It will sound like jibber jabber to the average person; but to us and God, the meaning will be crystal clear. The book of Revelation tells us when the baby blue sky zips open and Jesus charges through it on his beaming white horse, we will be assigned a new heavenly name. Ever thought about what yours might be?

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it,” (Rev. 2:17, NIV).

SURRENDER, by Heidi Avery

When I consider my life as a Christian it all comes down to one primary goal… living in complete abandon to Christ. Sometimes it’s difficult. For example, giving up in-my-face feelings for His hard facts is challenging. Feelings of the flesh are like a quick moving cancer eating up all logic, reason and truth with in its reach. They cause me to assume, to justify, to consider my rights and to ingest cupfuls of anger and bitterness. They are a very real threat and should be treated as such.

The thing I need to remember when my feelings have imprisoned me is that my escape resides in the facts and the facts are found in the truth. And, inside the truth is the key to my self- made prison.

The key? SURRENDER

My surrendering determines not only how sold out I am for Jesus, but also my love for Him. That’s big. That’s really big for all of us girls. I have questioned why God made us such sensitive souls and all I can conclude is that He did it so we would continually draw near to Him. I desperately need Him to sort out my unruly feelings, to calm me in the midst of them, to direct me away from them and to especially guard my heart from them. My emotions require vigilant micro-management and that has me surrendering to Him nearly every moment. Its work, but it’s worth it because it’s a place where I can find His best for me.

Surrendering is essential. It’s radiation therapy for feelings run awry. It’s a conscious practice of breathing out untruth and breathing in the sweetness of Jesus…

When I am gripped with fear and it begins to pull me under… Lord, I surrender.
When I am angry and raging like loud thunder… Lord, I surrender.

When I am weak and my faith begins to waver… Lord, I surrender.

When I am filled with envy that alters my behavior… Lord, I surrender.

When I taste the bitterness seeping in, trying to take over… Lord, I surrender.

When I am full with pride thinking I deserve better… Lord, I surrender.
When I am consumed with myself and dwelling on my failure… Lord, I surrender.

When I doubt I am your treasure… Lord, I surrender.

These soft whispers of surrender allow my world to come to a quiet hush, slowing it down to a steady halt. My muddled up mind clears for just long enough to experience God supernaturally syncing up my feelings with His facts. I am empowered. I have spiritual clarity. My flesh is silenced. I am free to follow Him.
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.

Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.

Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.
Psalm 119:33-35 NIV

"ENcourage One Another," Kelli Zaniel

Potty training 101–day two. Pull-ups, panties, laundry, messes, flushes…it’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it! Two days after bidding farewell to Disney princess diapers, success is on the horizon. Cheers, high fives and giggles to go around. What a sense of accomplishment for a 2 year old!
While in the kitchen making copycat Chik-fil-A sandwiches, I hear high pitch shrills coming from the bathroom. As I turn the corner to peek inside, I see the potty trainer hopping off her throne of achievement with a big smile. Arms high in the air– it’s as if she has just landed the perfect Olympic dismount. She squeals, “I did it!” Her two sister audience claps and cheers their baby sister onto glory.
This is what God intends for us. He wants us to cheer each other on, not tear each other down. There are people out there who will take every opportunity to rip us apart. Sometimes, one sarcastic word or one little smirk sends us spiraling into a whirlwind of insecurity and self-doubt. We need to strive to make our Christian sisters feel like they are princesses in a not so fairy tale world.
Life is tough. Motherhood is even tougher. It will be so much easier to be the godly woman, wife and mother God designed us to be when we have our Christian sisters cheering us on, don’t you think?
Power Verses:
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness, (Hebrews 3:13);

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers…(Ephesians 4:29;3); and

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching, (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Kickball Madness, Kelli Zaniel


I am in 6th grade at Pine Mountain Middle School. I am the girl who grew 3 feet last year and is now taller than everyone. No matter what I do, my red cotton shorts with white piping look as if they are pulled way too high. Boys don’t like me because I am taller than them. I may not be the most popular girl in school but my wings and corkscrew curls are forever perfectly in place.
The sweltering Georgia heat makes me sweat in places I won’t mention. Kids squeal with excitement as they rush out to the covered play area for recess. The kickball gods strut their stuff as we line up like a cattle call. “Let’s pick teams,” they shout.
My right fist positions on my 6th grader hip as my size 8 shoe taps with anticipation. The most popular girl in school parades around us, waiving her chunky, pink sidewalk chalk over her flippy blonde hair. “Time for team pickin,’” she announces with authority. She kneels down and draws one powdery line across the sizzling black asphalt. Teams are selected. Each team stands on either side of the thick pink line.
A long time ago, Moses drew a line in the sand and picked teams too. Only Moses didn’t have pink sidewalk chalk in a covered play area. He had a staff that he pushed into the sand instead. He chiseled a line from one end of the camp to the other. The people had to choose whether they were on God’s side or not.
While Moses and God have their Ten Commandment meeting on the mountain, the Israelites become restless. The people toss their jewelry into the burning flames. The melted gold shapes into the image of a calf. The gold plated calf becomes their focus of praise. Moses returns to find the people prancing around the things they themselves created. In anger, Moses smashes the tablets cracking them into a million pieces. Forty days worth of work shattered in an instant–I’d be a little mad too.

Moses saw that Aaron had let the people get completely out of control, much to the amusement of their enemies.[b] 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the LORD’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him,” Exodus 32:26 (New Living Translation).
At this moment Moses draws a line in the sand. He instructs the people to pick a side. Three thousand people boldly take a step against God over the sandy windblown line. They are wiped out and destroyed. The people standing alongside Moses on the opposite side receive God’s blessing.

Sometimes we finish a kickball match with clean clothes and perfect hair. However, sometimes the kickball smacks the side of our leg resulting in a round, red welt tattooed across our extremity for the rest of the day.

We may get beat up; we may even limp a little; wounds may turn into scars; but as long as we are on the right side of the pink chalky line, we know we are always on a winning team!

Vulnerable into Invincible, Kelli Zaniel

Vulnerability creeps up in the middle of the night and taps me awake. It crosses its fingers hoping I will roll over and obsess about it. It’s egotistical. It interrupts my sleep. It twists God’s Truth into Satan’s deceptive midnight trap.
As my top teeth vibrate across my bottom lip to form the word, I know where this is leading. The ugly word bounces off my tongue and leaps into wide open spaces. It’s on the loose. It’s free to seek and destroy. I peek over at the clock. The neon time, 4:00 a.m., illuminates the room. My insecurities grab hold and tightly squeeze me. I can’t get back to sleep — vulnerable wins tonight.
Webster’s dictionary defines vulnerable as without adequate protection: open to physical or emotional harm. Vulnerability is a harsh reality. We all experience it. When we are vulnerable we feel
Susceptible,
Persuadable,
Defenseless, and
Exposed.
Satan loves bringing us to such a point of weakness. It’s a place he can weasel his way into our weak spot and take advantage of us. I hear it’s his favorite weapon of choice against Christian women. It maims us. It causes us to second guess ourselves and sometimes God. It causes us to revisit past mistakes and wrong choices.
For me, it causes pity party moments where I allow my mind to re-experience shameful events that have already been forgiven. When I do this, my sin becomes the main story while God’s redemption is merely a footnote.
The Bible says we are to be the opposite of vulnerable. God made us in His image. God’s no wimp and neither are we! He doesn’t give us a spirit of timidity and fear. He gives us His spirit which enables us to be brave and precocious women of God.
When Jesus faced the devil’s lies and temptations, he could have curled up on the ground in a vulnerable mess. Instead, Jesus countered with the truth of God’s Word. The spoken Word of God is like a living, powerful sword in our mouths (Hebrews 4:12), and if Jesus depended upon it to face challenges in life, so can we. Meditate on the verses below to help change your vulnerable into invincible!
Lets girl up sweet sisters and start our day being brave and courageous with a pinch of sass–just the way our Designer intended!

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you,”
(Deuteronomy31:6).

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong,”
(1 Corinthians 16:13).

Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name,” (Ps. 91:14)

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