All posts in “women”

Women’s Retreat: A Closer look

First Free Rockford’s Women’s Retreat, “Closer,” starts Friday evening, Oct. 25, and ends at noon Sunday, Oct. 27. The site is Fox Valley Christian Action’s Riverwoods Family Campus near St. Charles. Register here. Registration deadline is this Sunday, Oct. 13.

We spoke with retreat coordinator Brandy Pardee.

 

What has your own spiritual journey looked like over the past few years?

I got to a point where I had been doing all the things that were recommended for a Christian to follow Jesus. Good things. Serving regularly, attending church regularly, doing a Bible study. Heck, I had my Bible degree. I married a pastor. All those things. But at the end of the day, I didn’t see lasting and real transformation.

Over a period of time … I finally just said, I’m still angry. I’m still prideful. I still go on this cycle all the time, trying to repent or do better. I get caught up in my own pride and performance and ego. There has to be a different way. If I’m supposed to do all these things, and this is how they make me feel, I don’t really want to do them.

Brandy Pardee and her family.

I also saw a disconnect among Christians. What we were supposed to act like — deeply caring for and loving one another and actually walking it out — wasn’t happening. We’d go to church and I’d come home angry and sad. I felt worse, and more shallow and unseen.

So after my oldest son, Teigen, was born, and I was changing diapers and tired all the time, I just said, God, if you are really alive and active and if you are who you say you are, you either need to show yourself or I’m ready to peace out. This isn’t worth it anymore.

 

So what happened?

A big, defining verse for me then was in Luke Chapter 1, where it says of Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Ultimately I just started to filter everything through a new lens: If he really is this, then I either choose to live this way and believe it, or not. So we just continued to press into living what we felt like were the ways of Jesus. That led me to become part of a spiritual formation community. I went on four retreats over the course of a year. Ultimately the Lord showed himself. He is alive and active, and he began to take me to those deeper places to breathe life and security in me for just being loved. I realized I don’t have to serve or do another thing for the rest of my life in order for God to love me.

 

What were those retreats like?

Ladies from First Free recently gathered to pray for the women’s retreat and practice some spiritual disciplines together.

Authentic, transparent community and mentors. We could go deep and talk about what was really going on. The retreats were about new or deeper ways of looking at who God is and what it looks like to walk that out with the Spirit. And then embracing so much more of a contemplative posture: solitude, silence, stillness.

Some of it was just practice and encouragement from people to just sit and linger. I’d pray something like, I’m just going to sit here and I’m asking you to make me more aware of your love. And maybe that was my prayer for a whole week. Over time my eyes started to adjust. I could see it. He was just moving all of that great, true, biblical head stuff into my heart.

 

What’s your hope for this upcoming Women’s Retreat?

We want it to be a time where women can come and encounter the Lord, encounter others and just have space for the weekend to be exactly what they want or need it to be. Maybe it is just a great, soaking time through worship and being in the Word.

It’s so great to get away from normal routines, habits, pressures, expectations … what we know as familiar. That might feel a little uncomfortable or even a little shaky or risky, but I think it helps open us up to being aware of things that we’re not normally aware of — like the Lord’s voice or presence.

 

What might be transformational about the weekend?

Knowing that I am not only fully known, but also fully accepted and loved. If I were just fully known, that would feel really risky and produce shame or guilt or fear. But the fact that I am fully accepted, while being fully known, grounds me in that deep place of being rooted and grounded in his love.

It’s about embracing both of those and opening yourself to God’s truth and his presence. That’s very different than just trying to attain Bible knowledge or perform as a Christian. It has allowed me to be real with my shortcomings – my ego, my pride, all of those things that I am not proud of. But it’s also allowing me to come into his gentle tenderness where he meets me and ultimately says, I love you so much right now, where you are, but I’m not going to leave you right there. We’re going to keep walking that out.

 

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Register for the retreat here. If cost is prohibitive, scholarships are available!

Floral illustrations by Emily Anderson, 2019.

 

kids playing on the playground at First Free Rockford

Summer Gathering for Women

July Gathering

Join us Thursday, July 6th from 9:30am-12pm on the playgrounds at church with your kids and grand-kids! We will have coffee and breakfast for you. (If it rains we will move inside to the Tumble Room.)

RSVP

Please RSVP to Kendra Johnson at kendraj@firstfreerockford.org by July 5th to let us know if we can expect you!

Read a Good Book Lately?

Here on the First Free Women’s Blog, we’re interested in posting content that is encouraging, informative, thought-provoking, and Christ-honoring. Since First Free is blessed with a great library, bookstore, and Bible studies, not to mention our own Book Club, we know there are engaged readers here!

Have you recently read a Christian book [fiction or non-fiction] that brought you new insight or challenge? One that memorably transported you to another place or time? Maybe a study or devotional that helped you make a significant step in your spiritual walk?

If so, we’d like you to consider writing a 1-2 paragraph summary or review and submitting it to us for possible posting on our blog. All submissions are appreciated, all will be subject to minor editing, and we cannot guarantee that all will be posted within a certain time frame, but we value your voice.  We reserve the right to determine which reviews will and won’t be posted to our blog. All book summary or review content that is posted will include the name of the reviewer who submitted it.  Book Club titles are welcome as well.

Please send any submissions to Kathy Holliday; electronic files may be attached to an e-mail and sent to kateye7hollidays@comcast.net. Hard copy [paper] files may be sent to Kathy’s attention at First Free Church, 2223 N. Mulford Rd., Rockford, IL 61107.

We look forward to hearing from you!

“Small Steps of Faithfulness”

By Kathy Holliday

There are big characteristics of Christlikeness that can only be incorporated into our lives through small, deliberate, painstaking steps.

It’s easy to spout off lofty ideals that are spoken and then seem to evaporate into thin air, leaving no trace. It’s something entirely different to intentionally and consistently yield to the Holy Spirit so that He can conform us more closely to Christ.  Talk is cheap. Change is costly.

What do I mean?

Take for example my frequent but quickly forgotten prayers that the Lord would help me become more like Him. I often pray this during Sunday worship service.  A few times I’ve even written it down.  And then Monday comes; errands, emails, chores, calls…without thinking about it, I catch myself chasing after the urgent-but-unimportant.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit prompts me when I do Bible study homework or as, sleepy-eyed, I skim through a bedtime devotional reading.  But by then the day is over, and my progress is negligible or non-existent. And those feelings of hopelessness creep around the edges of my mind.

Can such patterns lead to feelings of futility? Of course.  This is one of Satan’s go-to, tried and true weapons.  But Jesus knows this, and He knows us.  There are times when it’s better to chip away at the “big rocks” in our lives, rather than mount a full-court press that may leave us battered, bruised and more discouraged than before.

In the parable of the talents, the master praised the servant who had been “faithful in small matters” [Matthew 25:51, NASB], knowing that small steps can lead to large progress.

So where does this leave me, in my desire for discernable progress in Christlikeness?

To start, I can begin by doing things I already know to do, but don’t; say for instance, adjusting my to-do list to prioritize tasks that foster the orderliness in our home that brings a smile to my husband’s face.  One more online game of Spider Solitaire or picking up, wiping down, and feeling the satisfaction of preferring what pleases the Lord, and my husband, over my own unconsidered tendency to waste time? Knowing myself as I do, I’m starting to remember to ask Him to help me to really desire what He desires, and then act on it. That feels better than any timewaster I can come up with.

When I move out of the way and am mindful to yield to the Lord, He is faithful to “order my steps” [Psalm 119:133 KJV] so that I make progress toward what pleases Him, and find that doing so brings peace and fulfillment. He is faithful always. That faithfulness brings spiritual progress in my life, step by sure step, to proceed on the path to Christlikeness.

“Is There a Recipe for That?!?!?”

Whether you’re in the first season of motherhood, or find yourself snuggling grandchildren, the question of how best to discipline children has never had an easy answer.  Disciplining children is both necessary AND patience-draining—not to mention a daily work-in-progress. With that in mind, we were intrigued when we came across a recent online post entitled “The Recipe for How to Discipline Kids”!

Following is the opening to this post, found on www.iMOM.com, a popular and trustworthy blog that addresses real life concerns from a Christian perspective.  The link to the entire article is found just after this excerpt.

By Nancy Jergins

While I was in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, I started thumbing through a magazine that gives tips for getting the most out of recipes. In one article, a photo showed two stacks of pancakes. One stack was inches taller than the other, even though both stacks had the same number of pancakes. The caption said that the shorter stack had been over mixed, and that had made the pancakes less fluffy.

Don’t ask me why, but it made me think about how that applied to raising children, and the best recipe for how to discipline kids. Specifically, it got me thinking about how we sometimes over mix, or over discipline our children. We have good intentions and want our children to be their best, but we over mix—too much scolding, too many rules, and too many consequences. Pretty soon, our kids, like the flat pancakes, aren’t able to reach their potential.

Click this link to read this article in its entirety: CLICK HERE

Time’s Not Up!

By Kendra Johnson

Here I am, at that stage of life. You know, when your kids are grown and they have children of their own. Whether they are local or live in another state, there is sometimes a strange feeling when we are together.

When changing a diaper, reassembling a dropped Lego Ninja character, or playing Monopoly with a determined-to-win grandson, I sometimes find myself just sitting back and watching. Sometimes I feel like I’m on the outside looking in, seeing them through the eyes of a mom who has “been there, done that.”

I enjoy watching them grow, reliving in memory when my own boys were little and I experienced those same moments of joy and — to be honest– frustration that all parents of young children have felt. Spending time with my grandsons is such a blessing, and I love it! Proverbs 17:6 says it all: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” I love my boys, and their boys!

End of story? Do I now just “relax” and “watch”? Not at all. In 1 Chronicles some people of each of the tribes were given responsibilities related to the Temple and how it functioned. It seems they were given their specific tasks according to their abilities and experience. When we look at 1 Chronicles 9:31 we read, “Mattithiah was entrusted with baking the offering bread”; in chapter 9, verse 26 the four principal gatekeepers “were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God”, and chapter 15, verse 22 says, “Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.”

What is my responsibility now, as a grandma to 5 boys who will be changing into teenagers, then into men, before my eyes? I certainly did not do everything right when my boys were small, but that time as a mom has given me on-the-job experience. Even now, I sometimes find myself looking back, wondering what I could have done differently.

But, is our time up? Is our opportunity to encourage and guide gone? Can we share what we have learned without being a “you should be doing it this way” kind of person? Absolutely not… our time is not up! Whether you answer to Grandma, Mor Mor, Mapa, or GiGi, let’s commit to pray – then watch for how God can use us!

  • Pray for wisdom, then watch for opportunities to bring God’s Word into simple conversations with little ones, and remind them that God is with them and loves them. Be supportive of your adult children by reminding those little ones that God has given parents to them for a reason, and they need to obey them.
  • Be creative when you ask older grandchildren questions. Ask them what God is doing in their lives and what you can pray about for them. Continually spur them on to good works, as you challenge and encourage them to be loving to their friends at school, and to be bold when they see situations where someone needs a protector.

I am blessed to see my boys stepping up into their role as dad, and how they go above and beyond with the lives that God has entrusted to them.

They are a crown to my aging head that I gladly wear.

“This is Only a Test”

this is only a test

I recently faced a situation that challenged my faith.

I felt like God didn’t have my back. I felt disappointed. A friend or two – ok….maybe pretty much everyone who I complained to – mentioned that perhaps God was testing me to see what was really in my heart. Sort of like a Deuteronomy 8 thing: “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” [verse 3]

The words hit home.

Your test might not look anything like my test, but when it comes to God and His ways, the test never unfolds exactly how we think it should. Typically, God’s tests usually come when we’re smack dab stuck in the middle of the wilderness with no easy way out.

If you feel like you’re in the wilderness right now, maybe God is simply testing you. I’ve compiled 10 thoughts about the tests that we face, meant to strengthen our faith. How might God be testing you right now?

  • The test of your faith comes in your lack
  • The test of your joy comes with your loss
  • The test of your humility comes when you’re unjustly treated
  • The test of your surrender comes when you lose what you love the most
  • The test of your contentment comes when others get the one thing you want
  • The test of your endurance comes when you’re given the chance to quit
  • The test of your intimacy with God comes when you feel lonely
  • The test of your purity comes when you think no one will ever find out
  • The test of your love for money comes when you can get it bigger
  • The test of your generosity comes right after you’ve given more than you needed to
  • The test of your forgiveness comes when you’re wounded
  • The test of your faithfulness comes in the mundane

Get this: In every single test that Jesus faced He overcame it with the power of God’s word.

Your weapon to make it through any test has always been and will always be God’s word. Wield it often and wield it well and watch God walk you straight through your wilderness.


The followinglina blog post by Bible teacher and physician, Lina AbuJamra, appeared on her blog www.livingwithpower.org on Sept. 11, 2015.  Lina was the keynote speaker at the 2015 First Free Women’s Retreat.

Streamlining our Serve

Streamlining our Serve

By Kathy Holliday

Esteemed British statesman Winston Churchill once noted that “to improve is to change.” One of the best reasons for change is to optimize the way goals are accomplished, and that’s exactly why we’re excited to announce our new format for serving and communicating with you.

From the beginning, our goal for “The SPICE” has been to give you “a taste of what’s happening for women” at First Free and, more importantly, to provide a connection that helps feed relationships among us as we seek to grow in Christlikeness. With this in mind, we are transitioning from a monthly newsletter format to an online blog that you can access on your own mobile device [smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.] whenever and wherever you want!

What differences will I notice with this change in format?

“The SPICE” as you’ve known it will no longer appear in your e-mail inbox. Instead, the engaging content, features, announcements, etc. that you’re used to reading will be posted on our new Women’s Blog, found on the First Free Church website, twice a month or more, depending on the timeliness of the content.

How can I access the Women’s Blog?

It couldn’t be easier; simply enter www.firstfreerockford.org into your computer’s web browser, and you’ll be taken to the Home Page of the church website. In the upper right-hand corner click the Social Media icon The next screen will show a box entitled “CATEGORIES”; click on “Women”, and you’re there!

When will this change take effect?

Actually, the September 2015 issue that you’re reading now is the last “SPICE” edition to be published. Starting in October, you’ll be able to go to our website page [no longer titled “The SPICE”] anytime to see what’s new or to access previous content in our online archive. To help smooth the way, for October only, we’ll send a reminder e-mail containing a link that will take you directly to the First Free Women’s Blog.

Do I need to wait for a reminder email in order to read the new women’s blog?

No; the blog is available whenever you are.

Why is this change happening?

To more easily and effectively connect with those interested in First Free and, more importantly, to reach out and make Jesus known to others.

DOWNLOAD THE SEPTEMBER SPICE

For the month of September only you can still download the .pdf of The Spice.

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The Spice Sept. 2015