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Laura Williams

Creator of Vines & Branches by Laura Williams

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“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:4-5

The Perfect Gardener

I am a terrible gardener. I love the idea of growing beautiful flowers in our yard and fresh herbs on our patio, but anytime I attempt it, it pretty much always ends in tragedy. Plant tragedy. Flowers eaten by bugs because I didn’t use the right spray. Herbs that turn into flower bushes because I didn’t cut them back in time—or at all. And inevitably, the sad, forgotten potted plant that has wilted and died because of neglect. This is what I do. Every. Time.

But God. God is the only truly PERFECT gardener. In the spiritual sense yes, but also in a very literal sense as well! God created the plants we see, he created the IDEA of vines, branches, trees, leaves, fruit, flowers—He created the plants that cover our world because they reflect HIS nature! 

God is a perfect gardener. His design is so immaculate, so detailed that we are only just beginning to truly understand all the beauty hidden inside what is visible to the naked eye. Even at the tiniest molecular level, under the strongest microscope, plants are wonderfully and intentionally designed with a system and structure to allow them to thrive. And we are designed with that same wonderful intentionality—not by chance, not merely hoping that we’d be able to make it. No, we were designed to live lives fully and abundantly as we abide in our Savior.

Common Creation

I think it is so amazing that Jesus chose to use a vine and its branches as the picture of how our relationship with Him was designed to be. He used arguably the most common creation in our world, living plants, as the picture of how we are to abide in Christ. This is something that I really love about Jesus. The way He teaches us about His nature and His love for us in such natural ways. Plants are everywhere! Everywhere we go, there are thousands upon thousands of sweet reminders in the grass, the trees, the branches above us. God uses the simple everyday parts of our world to show us such amazing things about who He is.

I think about God creating all the plants in the beginning, and I imagine His joy creating the first vines—knowing full well the imagery that was contained in such a common plant. The wonderful entangling of branches and leaves with the vines as they climbed up the first trees in the first garden ever made. He was creating picture after picture of His love for us. Picture after picture in His creation that showed His nature, His glory, and His goodness!

Then, years later, Jesus explained the vine and the branches to the disciples for the first time. He opened their eyes to what had been plainly seen but never truly understood until He opened their eyes! In the verses in John 15, Jesus showed, in a new way, how much we need to be drawing from Him. Our spiritual health, the fruit we are producing, and the growth we need is all completely reliant on HIM as our source. We are the branches drawing all we need from the Vine, Jesus. And His creation is a constant and beautiful reminder of this.

The Gardener’s Desire

We can clearly see God’s design for us to be intimately connected to Him in this passage. Isn’t it wonderful that God created us in a way that REQUIRES us to come to Him, to be dependent on Him? He knows how desperately we need Him, and He offers Himself as our strength, and gives us His Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we accept that things are the way they are simply because we do not know any different. But Jesus could have done things differently—He chose to create you and me because that was what He wanted to do! And He created us specifically in a way that causes us to thrive and grow when we are closest to Him. God designed us in this way because it PLEASES Him. HE wants to be near to US! WE need Him, yes! The branches cannot live without the vine. And yet, HE desires to be close to US. He wants us to be near to Him! 

We know that God’s nature is in us: just as we desire intimacy, love, relationship—these things come from HIM! God desires that we would abide closely in Him and spend time with Him. Knowing this has radically changed the way I view my time with Him. 

As a mom, I always want to spend real time with my kids—I want them to tell me about their day, to laugh with them, and to help them when they’re struggling. But when THEY express a desire for time with ME? That’s when I drop everything. If I know one of my children is waiting for me somewhere—I hurry to get there! 

Knowing that my Savior stands at the door of my heart, longing to come in and make His home with me! This changes my whole attitude toward intimacy. It isn’t my need for Him ONLY (though my need is inexpressibly great), it is HIS desire to abide with me that humbles my spirit and causes me to rush to meet Him.

So, Jesus gave us this picture: a vine and its branches. He is the vine, and we are the branches. May we remember what a good gardener He is, and may we see this wonderful picture in the common world around us. And I pray that we are drawn to closer intimacy with Christ as we remember how greatly He loves us. May we never forget all He has done to make it possible for us to come boldly to Him, welcome Him into our lives and hearts, and abide in His love.

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Knowing Jesus by Laura Williams

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I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus. I grew up knowing and loving Him. By the time I was an adult, I knew that following Jesus was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I married a man who wanted to serve in ministry, and this has been the course of our lives together. Throughout the ups and downs of marriage, children, finances, family…our hope is in Jesus and His goodness. He is our anchor. 

Please understand that things have not been perfect. There have still been times when I’ve doubted. Times when I’ve chosen my own path over the one He laid out for me. I am far from perfect. No matter how long you may have been a Christian, we are so prone to wander. But I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit who continually works to convict, teach, and comfort us in this process. And He has kept us close to Him as we’ve earnestly spent our lives getting to know and trust Him.

Since we began our married life together, our life has certainly taken surprising turns—as I’m sure you can relate! Our lives always look so much different than what we expected. I NEVER imagined God calling us to leave our home in Washington to move all the way to South Florida and start a church! 

That was over 7 years ago now, but people still tell us how incredible that seems—how they could never take such a crazy step of faith. But I can honestly tell you that, at the time, it was not very difficult at all. And that is NOT because we were some kind of “super-Christians.” It’s just because we knew Jesus well enough to TRUST Him.

I want you to understand that when you KNOW Jesus—you TRUST Him. This is why our personal relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in our lives! Spending time in prayer, in the Bible—these are the things that bring closeness and trust in who He is! When you are allowing the Holy Spirit to wash you daily in His Word as you read it, the relationship you have with Christ becomes not only a part of your life—it becomes the foundation. 

It is very easy for me to forget this. I think it’s easy for all of us. We get comfortable in the routine of church, kids, work, school…and our relationship with Jesus begins to slip to the bottom of our priorities. We get busy! We go to church, hear the Bible taught to us, and we feel like we can make it a few days without spending time with Jesus ourselves. There’s just so much else we have to do!

When this happens, life can start to become much more difficult to navigate. We begin to lose hope, to see situations from a human perspective rather than through the hope and promises of Jesus! We become anxious. Short-tempered. Proud. Selfish. And before long, we’re questioning whether Jesus is good! Is He trustworthy? This is evidence that we have not been spending our time truly KNOWING Him for ourselves.

This is not a new struggle! There is a story about exactly this problem in the gospel of Luke:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  -Luke 10:38-42

We need to make our time with Jesus what is NEEDED just like Mary did. This takes effort. It takes faith! Like Martha, we allow ourselves to become worried and troubled—trying just to stay on top of all that needs to be done. But setting those things aside means truly believing that KNOWING Jesus is the most important thing. And when we do this, we enter into a relationship with Him that allows us to TRUST Him no matter what direction our lives may take.

We are going to be starting a Bible Study for the women at Redemption Church in September where we will be exploring intimacy with Jesus in the book, “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” I have been convicted and encouraged by this book, and I am excited to share it with other women who are wanting to slow down and know Jesus better for themselves too. 

I pray that as we continue in life and faith, that we better understand the importance of KNOWNG Jesus. Take time today to spend at His feet. Remember the goodness and faithfulness of our God, and allow His Spirit to work in your heart to desire more of Jesus in your life.

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What Does It Mean To "Serve The Body" by Laura Williams

As a believer in Jesus, His follower, and a child of God, I find myself wanting to know Jesus more deeply every day. I want to understand His heart. I want to see the people around me as He sees them. And I want to see God’s hand working in and through my life! If you are a lover of Jesus, you know what I’m talking about. We all want more. And as His child, I want to share with you one of the most wonderful lessons I have learned about knowing God more deeply and seeing Him working in and through me. 

It starts with understanding His Church, His Body.

If you are a new Christian, you may have heard someone refer to the people in the church as “the body.” We talk about ways to serve “the body” or bless “the body.” In fact, using this terminology so frequently may cause us to forget its significance even to those of us who have been a part of the church for a long time! Do you know why we use this term? Why don’t we just say “serve the church” or “bless one another?” 

I want to share what brought this to life for me and has radically changed why and how I serve.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 12, goes to great lengths discussing our relationships to one another as members of “one body.” The point being we are all different, valuable, necessary, and designed to work together! Romans 12 is a wonderful encouragement that no matter what gifts you have or do not have, God designed you to be a special part of the church you are in. You are designed to contribute, to give of yourself, to use your gifts, to love and suffer and live life as a part of a family. A body. You are not alone. And what you do or don’t do for others has a tremendous impact on other people.

We serve one another in so many ways. When we do, we see our relationships with each other grow deeper. The closest friends in my life even from many years ago are still those built during times serving with each other. It’s amazing the way Jesus uses our simplest times—like making coffee together before an event, planning a game night, or even time praying for each other’s needs—He uses each of these for OUR good! Just as Romans 8:28 says, He works ALL THINGS for the good of those who love Him. Even our simple or small acts of service wind up being a blessing to us.

And here is the greatest thing. 

As we serve the “body,” we are in fact serving the BODY OF JESUS. It is Jesus Himself we are serving! Can you grasp that along with me? When I serve those around me, I serve Jesus Himself. When I bring a meal to someone in need, I bless my savior. It is all worship to Him! Using the term “the body” has become so meaningful to me since I connected that term back to Jesus Himself. Maybe you’re thinking that this is obvious—well, for me, it changed my heart and my inward attitude toward serving.

Colossians 1:18 says: “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”

Jesus Himself demonstrated this beautiful truth—that we are designed to worship God in everything we do! Singing songs of praise, yes! But also by living in a way that puts others before ourselves. Jesus said, “…the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many people.”

I want to be more like Jesus! I want to see His power at work in me. I want to worship Him in every way I can, and to see His Church as His Body. And I want to see how God will use all these things for my good and teach me more and more simple truths as I do.

Whether you are a brand new Christian or have known Jesus for many years, I want to encourage you to serve others with this understanding! Whether it is serving guests in your home, teaching children about Jesus, helping with set-up or tear-down on a Sunday, or simply reaching out of your comfort zone to start up a conversation to help someone else feel comfortable—God will show His power and His presence to you in those moments. 

If you are wanting to see more of God presence in YOUR life, see what happens when you begin to serve others as though you are serving Jesus Himself! 

“And whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Jesus Himself.” -Colossians 3:23-24

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Questions To Ask Your Spouse by Laura Williams

Being married is one of the most wonderful and challenging adventures that I think we get to experience during this lifetime. We get to share the most intimate parts of our personality, our secrets, our bodies, struggles, our weird senses of humor, our quirks and phobias…and all of these together create a bond that cannot compare to any other human relationship we will ever have. There is so much comfort in having a spouse who gets you. But this isn’t something that just “happens” once you say, “I do.” Marriage takes work. And sometimes, I’ve found, the longer you are married, the more work the “knowing each other” can be. 

There is a comfortableness that assumes you may already have told all your stories, shared your deepest fears and joys, and maybe you’ve simply run out of new things to say. But our entire lives are meant to be spent learning and growing and loving each other deeper than before. Daniel and I have made a habit of asking one another some of these questions from time to time just for the sake of learning something new about the other person, and let me tell you, there are still surprises. :) We are far from perfect, but we have begun to understand the value in becoming reacquainted with the person we married. We married very young, and many of our answers to these questions have changed over time. Maybe yours will too. 

Knowing that God created marriage, it makes sense that He wants to continue to grow and shape us into His image throughout our married life, regardless of which stage you may find yourself in. The more we are able to experience of each other, the more we seem to find new levels of intimacy and unity that we didn’t even know was there waiting for us. And the more beautiful the work of Jesus becomes as you see your spouse through His eyes. Just like newlyweds believe nothing can top the euphoria of new romance and passion, we find deeper intimacies waiting for us at each new bend in the road. So, take some time to ask your spouse these questions and to answer some yourself. Even if you think you know the answers, listen. 

1. Name one thing I do that makes you feel loved.
2. What could I do to cause you to feel more loved?
3. Name one thing I do that causes you to feel respected/honored.
4. What could I do to cause you to feel more respected/honored?
5. Name one thing I do that causes you to feel understood.
6. What could I do to cause you to feel more understood?
7. Name one thing I do that causes you to feel secure.
8. What could I do to cause you to feel more secure?
9. Name one way I serve you that brings you great joy.
10. Are there specific ways that I can serve that I am not already doing?
11. What attribute would you most like me to develop?
12. Name one attribute (or mannerism or idiosyncrasy) that you most like me to change?
13. What attribute would you like me to help you develop in yourself?
14. What achievement in my life would bring you the greatest joy?
15. What mutual goal would you like us to accomplish?
16. How is our sex life?
17. Is there anything I can do to make our sex life better?
18. How are we doing with our family budgeting and finances?
19. What is one thing we can do to improve our budgeting and finances?
20. Name one personal goal for your life that I can help you achieve this year.
21. Name something new we might do together that would bring joy to our marriage/family? 
22. How are our relationships with our extended family (parents, siblings, etc.)?  Name one thing I can do to improve one of these family relationships.
23. Name one way that God has blessed our marriage.
24. Name one way that we could make our marriage more Christ-like.
25. Name one sin that you continue to struggle with.
26. What could I do to help you with this struggle?
27. Name one sin you see that I continue to struggle with.
28. What would you encourage me to do to deal with struggle?
29. Is there some way that you can help me with this struggle?
30. What would indicate to you that I really desire to be more Christ-like?
31. How has your love for God grown?
32. How is your devotional time going? (Specifically Scripture study & prayer)
33. Is there another spiritual discipline that you would like to develop? (fasting, " scripture memorization, etc.)
34. What can I do to help your love for God grow?
35. Name one thing about our church that brings you great joy.
36. Name one thing that would increase your joy in church?
37. In ten years where do you hope to be spiritually?
38. In ten years where do you think I should be spiritually?
39. Name one way that my leadership/submission has strengthened our marriage. What could I do to lead/submit better in our marriage?
40. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our marriage? What would make our marriage a ten? 

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