I'm pretty new to regularly attending church as an adult. I know all about going for specific holidays like Easter and Christmas and I actually remember dreading some of those sermons while I was growing up. So, when you read this, please know that God changed my heart here, this is not my natural inclination. :)
On Sunday, we left early because we knew it was going to be crowded and we were right. There were so many people that as we sang the first 15 or so minutes away, the church staff had to add more and more chairs. It was incredible. As my husband and I stood there singing songs that are now familiar to both of us, I got overwhelmed....
There were hundreds of people there.
Hundreds of people standing and worshipping our King.
People lifting their voices to sing His praises.
Tears started streaming down my face. Is this what heaven is like? Is this what it would be like if we all praised God? Is this what it means to stand in His presence?
He was definitely there with us. You could see it on the worship band's faces. You could hear it in the joyful noise we were making. And for one of the first times I ever remember, I truly prayed that each and every person there would REALLY know Jesus. Not just know OF him, but KNOW him.
For those of you who have been following me for years, you know that my relationship with Jesus is a fairly new thing. I've always known of him and believed in him, but it wasn't until about 2 years ago that I let him in to start changing my heart. You can read more of my story here: http://www.natalieeskewfitness.com/blog/a-day-to-remember
I want you to see the difference when I talk about showing up to church to worship on a Sunday and really showing up each and every day and surrendering to Jesus. I want you to KNOW him. I pray for every hurting person, every confused, scared, overwhelmed, underwhelmed person that you will seek him and find him. I pray that you will open up your bible and just start reading. Just like our pastor said "You encounter the living God through the written word of God". You don't have to know what to read or what it means, just open up your bible and sit there with God. Open up your bible and ask Him for his help in understanding. Tell Him your doubts, your fears, your insecurities. Then show up again tomorrow. Show up for 5 minutes a day for a week, then try for another week. Even if nothing is happening. Even if you don't get it. Show up. I don't know how long it took me, but it took awhile for me to even start understanding. I'm still learning. I'm still having God open my eyes. I still get stumped, confused, scared, but every time I show up and read His word He gives me peace. So, I pray for you as you read this. I pray that even if you know him that you will surrender ALL of your heart and life to him. I pray that we can share His love for us to every single person we see. I pray that you see my heart and that I really truly want you to KNOW God and find peace in Him. Find joy and a love that is so faithful that you never doubt your worth. There is nothing you have done or can do that will make him stop loving you. That's a relationship I want to show up for, don't you?
If you would like recommendations on bible studies and books I recommend: http://www.natalieeskewfitness.com/blog/bible-study-and-book-favorites
About 6 months ago, my husband lost his job. The very next week, we found out we had been blessed with this little lady currently 31 weeks in the womb. We were at a loss at how to process this blessing of a child next to what seemed to be a curse. You see, this was the 4th time he lost his job and it was only 10 months after the last. How in the world are we going to provide for this baby? How are we going to keep a roof over our heads? WHY do we keep going through this?
I honestly asked God to help me see His plan and to help me trust in His faithfulness because really, I couldn't see it. I know He provides, we've seen it time and time again, yet I couldn't see how He could possibly do so this time. I remember the prayer vividly because I don't know if I've ever spoken so boldly to God before. "I know you provide, but I just don't see how this time. Please show me."
That same day I spoke to a wonderful friend and mentor. As I explained my personal battle with this war we've been fighting for 3 or so years, she simply said "God has something for you." You see, I even recognize that God is working furiously in me. He has pruned me via friendships, jobs, cities, circumstances, etc. He has pruned me dramatically. He has been chasing after my heart and soul so incredibly that I swear you can see it and witness it on a minute to minute basis. It's truly incredible, humbling and sometimes, downright scary. I am NOT the girl I was 2 years ago, definitely 3-4 years ago. I have seen God work time and time again in our family's lives, yet it's still hard to trust when the struggle is all to real.
Last week in the current bible study I'm doing, All Things New, Kelly Minter spoke of these words her dad said over her in a season of struggle, "God has something for you." It just really, truly humbled me. We may struggle; His word guarantees it. We may not see the way out; He is all seeing. We may not understand the struggle; His comfort always matches our struggle. We may not get why we hurt so very bad, BUT God loves us immeasurably more than we can even understand.
I want to pray these same words over you today. God has something for you, and it's good. So please, trust Him. Hang on to His every word. Stop looking at the world. Stop striving to be more, do more, figure it out. God has something for you. Love you!
I don't remember the date of when I got saved. I vaguely remember being at a middle school youth group event at Germantown Baptist and praying the words, "God, I believe you sent Jesus Christ here to die for my sins and that in his death, I can be saved." But like most people, I didn't take a next step. Sure, I prayed some, went to a handful of events, special occasion church services, read some devotions, and many many times attempted to follow a bible reading plan. I still believed. I never doubted, BUT I hadn't let God have the priority spot in my life.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Mark 12:30 ESV
In college, I had a personal experience that rocked my faith. It wasn't that I doubted God, I just couldn't understand how He could possibly forgive me for so many sins. I used to gloss over this experience because I didn't want to examine it, but now I recognize that the enemy used my shame and guilt to drag me further and further from the Lord.
After moving to GA and meeting my future husband, he and I followed my acting dream out to California. We moved in together before we were married. We didn't attend a church, and we definitely got a little caught up in the earthly "treasures". But, as God is so faithful, He kept placing desires in our hearts to live a more fulfilling life.
In March 2013, my husband lost his job, 5 weeks before our wedding. We consider this the start of God seriously wooing us. Yes, I said "wooing". :) God took away the job that provided very well for us. With that, He took away the expensive clothes, the pricey dinners, and nights out drinking with friends. He didn't bless us with another form of employment for months. We lived on unemployment and my brand new personal training career. When we were offered a job, it was HALF of what we needed to stay afloat.
A few months later in January 2014, we decided that we wanted to try to get pregnant. This was only a handful of months after the above job started. Tim found a "better" job and while we were still incredibly strapped with some unexpected expenses, we thought things were looking good. We were dissatisfied and every single month we cried as the hopes for a baby didn't come true.
Fast forward to May 2014, I was running a successful personal training business, booked an acting job, had a new agent, and for all intents and purposes we should have been happy. We weren't. We decided that this life in CA was over and we would move back to GA. A handful of weeks later, Tim was let go from his job, again. We packed up our pup and moved across the country.
Here is where our testimony gets interesting. Each month as we tried and failed to conceive, I started pursuing God. I started reading His word, because nothing else made sense. I spent less and less time going out with friends and more and more times being quiet at home. I started listening to Christian music. I started praying for understanding. Once we got to GA, I knew life had to be different. We couldn't just keep doing what was obviously NOT working. Yet, as all of us do, we think we know best and we inevitably fall into the same temptations and traps.
God saved me from going down the rabbit hole by blessing us with our pregnancy with Calista, 11 months after we started trying. However, due to circumstances, it left me out of work and us financially strapped AGAIN.
In December 2014, I joined my first ever bible study at Johnson Ferry Baptist. I actually didn't have a wonderful experience in this mini study and decided I would give it one more shot in January. I fell in love, but don't let me fool you, I was so so so so so scared and intimidated. I had dreamed of a room full of young moms, just like me. God gave me a room full of women who could be my mom or grandmother. Those women became the best type of mentors cheering me on as I truly studied the Bible for the very first time. They let me verbalize my confusion and stumbling understandings. They celebrated when I connected the dots and praised me for bringing new light to Scriptures they knew by heart. So, I stuck around for another study.
Calista was born June 2015 and one week later my bible study leader went to heaven. That woman encouraged me until the day she died. She showed me what a woman in the word looks like. What a life lived for Jesus could be. She showed me a love that I wanted, a love that I knew I wanted to show and teach my children. Her life told me that I was right where I needed to be.
And one day, I woke up and realized God had my whole heart. I realized that I seek Him, I need Him, and I love Him. I mess up all the time and sure don't have a perfect track record of quiet times, completed bible study homework, or even of going to church. But, it was like all of a sudden, which wasn't so sudden really, I knew His way was better than my way.
In November 2015, Tim lost his job and I still wasn't working. With help from family and friends, we made it through. In March 2016, he was let go from a different job and rehired within 3 days. During those 3 days, I was prompted to ask about teaching a fitness class at Johnson Ferry and hired on the spot. Are y'all seeing God's work here? I sure do.
I started teaching fitness to worship music in June 2016. I started looking for more opportunities to train and make $, but I kept feeling God telling me to surrender to this season of motherhood. In July, we started trying for baby #2. In the middle of our 2nd month of trying, the flood happened to our friends and family in Baton Rouge. We felt called to do something about it and low and behold, 22,000 views on a Facebook video later, God provided not only the funds, but a 22 foot Uhaul truck for the victims. The Monday we left to drive the truck to Louisiana, Tim was let go from his job. The very next Monday, we found out God had blessed us with our 2nd baby.
Ok, so this is where you wonder why we have more faith now than ever, right?! God had just shown that through Him, miracles can happen. Provision can happen. His will be done. I remember praying very specifically and genuinely, "God, I know you provide, but I honestly don't see how this is providing. Please show me. Please help me see what I am missing." We were mentally and emotionally exhausted. We were out of options to pay bills. We had maxed out the credit cards from previous job losses. We had wiped out our entire savings already. We had nothing and nowhere to pull ourselves out of this. But do you know, God provided. Between the generosity of Johnson Ferry Baptist's Pastoral Care Ministry and wonderful friends, family, and perfect strangers, we made it through 3 months of not being able to pay rent. That baby is now 25 weeks in my belly and she will be here right around my birthday. But best of all, oh yes, best of all...
My sweet husband, he started praying again. He started telling me that God would provide. He started having faith again. He was the one who asked if we could start going to church on Sundays, since God provided him with a new job where he doesn't have to work that day for the first time in a decade. My husband made his way back to God too. And today, January 22, 2017, we let the world know that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and we will follow Him wherever He leads us.
Now, I don't know where this journey ends and we still are in a financial bind, but I do know that God provides. I do know that God has plans to give us the best portion. I know that His plans are bigger and better than anything we can come up with. I mean, we've tried to make our lives work and we failed. We know that God forgives us for what we've done in the past or will do in the future, but most importantly in being in His word, we are reminded constantly of His faithfulness to His people. We see His blessings even in hard times. Sure we could be upset about the last 4 years of financial struggles, or we could look at it this way...
Without these struggles, we wouldn't know God. We wouldn't know His forgiveness, love and grace and we sure wouldn't know to simply see every single blessing He's given us. We have 2 daughters. We have a cute little rental house and we have friends and family that encourage and help us. We are blessed and as hard days inevitably come, I will keep my hope in Jesus.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Romans 15:13 ESV
I love to read. I still use the library to find fiction books to read for fun. I average 3 or more novels a week.... I don't really watch tv lol. As much as I love fiction, I try to read a book a month that I've deemed "smart people" books. Silly name, but that's what I call them. I used to read books on leadership, social media, business, etc, but as my faith has grown and my heart has changed, I find there is no greater leader than our God. That's not to say that books like Start by Jon Acuff, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, or Push by Chalene Johnson aren't valuable, they are. Read them if you haven't. ;) However, I'm in a season where my heart just wants Jesus. I need to be daily reminded of his love for me and that my hope is in Him, not myself.
I went through my books and bible studies and wanted to share a quick list of studies that have changed me. There are a lot of good books out there, but these are the ones that have left me seeking God and allowing Him to work in me to change my heart.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26
As some of you know, I'm fairly new to this whole consistently reading the Bible thing. I started my first ever bible study 2 years ago. My consistency with reading, my understanding of what I was learning, that took a little time. I want to encourage you that there is no right way to read the Bible. There is no prescribed plan that works better than others. I encourage you to do just what I did and commit to showing up. Commit to opening your bible for 10 minutes. Commit to reading and praying. Your prayer can be "God, I don't understand what I'm supposed to get out of this. Please help." Seriously, it's okay to not know. Don't let that fear or insecurity keep you away from the one who can give you reassurance and security. I also encourage you to find a study or a group or a friend that you can chat with each week. I know that having mentors helped my growth immensely.
"What Love Is" by Kelly Minter. It focused on 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John.
"Armor of God" by Priscilla Shirer. This study changed me immensely and focused on Ephesians.
"Seamless" by Angie Smith. 7 weeks through the entire bible! Great study for people new to the Bible so that you can see God's faithfulness and how the entire bible is about Jesus.
Hosea by Jenn Rothschild. My first time reading an Old Testament book and it focuses on God's redeeming love for all of us.
"Famous in Heaven and at Home" by Michelle Myers. Every woman needs to read this! I go back to it over and over because it's focus on God's character and calling on our lives helps keep life simple. 31 day study with space to write going through Proverbs 31.
"The Best Yes" by Lysa Terkeurst. As women we often spread ourselves to thin. Every time you say yes to something, you are also saying no to something else. This book helps us find The Best Yes.
"Fervent" by Priscilla Shirer. There is an enemy who attacks us and details us. Each chapter focuses on specific areas such as your passion, focus, identity and you craft detailed prayer strategies. This book is helping me be intentional about prayer.
I hope to add more books and bible studies to this list soon, but I hope this helps. If you have specific questions or a favorite study or book you recommend, let's hear it. Comment or send me a message.
You know that feeling, the one that has you searching, striving, trying so hard? I know that feeling well. I moved across the country searching for fulfillment. I've strived to fit in and be noticed by the world. I've tried so hard to find happiness, the ever elusive happiness. My heart hurts for that past version of me. It really does. When I think of how hard I tried and never felt good enough or how many times I thought I found the answer to only find that it wasn't even close, it breaks my heart. Because this me, I see Jesus. Y'all, He is it. Following Him, seeking Him, that's all you have to do to find it. No amount of chasing a dream, no presidential election, no outfit or hairdo can save you. No one has the power to save you but the one true King. He is the King of all kings and when we choose Him and when we know Him, we know that it's all going to be okay.
His plans may look differently than how we want them to, but know this and hear me, He knows what is best for us and He does use everything for His good. I pray that you turn to Jesus to save you tonight, tomorrow and every day after. I pray that you know that you don't have to search and strive and fight so hard to be accepted or loved.
"Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you." Isaiah 43:4
The Bible used to intimidate me. I would open it up and start reading and feel like I wasn't smart enough or didn't understand what was happening. I was expecting to read it and have all my problems fixed and be told exactly what to do. Honestly, I read it like it was a horoscope and wanted it to just explain my life to me. I tried so many different "read the Bible in a year" or random devotions, but none of them stuck. So inevitably, I stopped reading the Bible. I just didn't get it. I did this for YEARS. Then someone mentioned that we should read the Bible to learn about God's character, not our own. It took me awhile to understand. If we approach the Bible as a way to learn about God, to get to know Him, to read His story, everything changes. We begin to see the beautiful story He's woven since the beginning of time. We get to see his constancy, His faithfulness, His love. It's pretty awesome.
I didn't really know how to start so about 2 years ago, I joined a bible study at Johnson Ferry Baptist here in Atlanta. I'll be honest and just say that I was terrified. I didn't feel comfortable and knowledgeable enough to go and talk to others about it, but I just knew that I had to th something other than what wasn't working. I picked one titled "What Love Is" by Kelly Minter. It focused on 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John. I had for sure never read those. It had assignments for 5 days each week and then we met once a week, went over the homework and watched a short video. I stayed pretty quiet those first weeks. I listened, did my homework, was confused, kept trying, and slowly but surely I started understanding what John was saying about Jesus. I started to get a picture of who He is. I loved it so much!
I also was truly blessed by the women in the group. I had imagined a bunch of 20s-30s mom's. I thought it would be great since I was just into my 2nd trimester with the baby that would be Calista. Instead, God gave me women who could be my mentors. Women who had already walked through parenting and were now grandparents and I could write a whole blog on how much they blessed me. God knows what we need even when we don't. :) I tell you this because I want to encourage you to keep going where He is calling you, even when it's scary, doesn't look at all like what you expected, and doesn't make sense to you now.
After that I did another study and another and another. As of now, I've done...
Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
Seamless by Angie Smith
Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin
Hosea by Jenn Rothschild
When God's Spirit Moves by Jim Cymbala
Ive also read numerous devotions and articles and have fallen in love with all things Bible. Some of my faves are...
Famous in Heaven and at Home by Michelle Myers
The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst
.You see though, I needed help approaching God's word. I needed others to remind me that this is about Him and my fears and insecurities approaching Him are the enemy keeping me away from God. The Bible has taught me that I don't need to be smart enough or good enough or worthy enough. God want me. He calls me chosen. He removes my shame, my insecurities, my fears. He redeems me. All I have to do is show up, believe, and ask for forgiveness. Just like that, I am His. Sounds amazing, doesn't it?
Now, 2 years into studying I still miss days or don't do my homework, but I have learned so much about God and He has shown me so much about my life through His goodness. I am never going to be a Bible expert. I will never know it all, but I can continue to earnestly seek Him through His word and prayer. I'm so grateful I found an approach that worked for me and I want to encourage you to keep trying to find one that works for you. I'd love to chat with you more about it if you have questions, so send me a message or an email, email@example.com.
Let me tell you a little story... 😘 A long time ago, I struggled with anxiety and depression. My doctor recommended working out to help with my seratonin levels. Years of ups and downs in weight, consistency, knee surgery, and carb addiction (it's a real thing right!?!) and I still struggled to find time to take care of myself. What I really kept saying is that I wasn't a priority. About 5 years ago, my husband and I were living in Los Angeles and I was really low, like the kind of low that you just know something HAS to change. So, I became a certified personal trainer. Then, I got ambitious and wanted to help everyone, so I also became a Beachbody coach. Stay with me here. God had other plans. Little did I know that God would seriously change my heart. I started noticing that He was chasing after me HARD. He tore down my walls. He made me stop living for the world's definition of success, but to live for the only thing that matters... His glory. He used my darkest moments and made them a ministry. A ministry where I get to love on people. Maybe I'm not the most successful coach or personal trainer by the world's standards, but I do know that God uses me to LOVE on people and love on them hard. All those years ago, I never would have imagined serving His kingdom over my dreams and my goals, and I'm so grateful God chased me down and reminded me that I'm HIS. I don't know where you are in your journey tonight, but I do know this. It's never too late to seek Him, to make a change, and to grow in faith and strength. If you want, I'll love on you right beside God. It would be my honor. And if you feel like loving on people right beside me and God, well, why don't you join my ministry that serves others through fitness. It's brought more to my life than I could ever imagine. God, strong Christ-centered women, my health, overcoming of anxiety and depression, and a faith that is bigger than I could have ever imagined. Send me a message and let me know how I can pray for you. Thanks for staying with me the whole long post. You deserve a prize! 🙌🏻😘
I'm going to be really real... Sometimes being a mom is just not enough for me. I have a brain that needs to be used in ways other than speaking toddler. God blessed me with talents and skills that need another outlet. He placed in my heart a yearning for community, hard work, and love. He calls me to serve more people than just my family. Don't get me wrong, my priorities are straight. I serve God first and foremost. I serve my husband second and then my child(ren). After that, I've found that God really wants me to love on people. So much so, that he's taken my need to be the best mom I can be and turned it into a way for me to be healthy, to lead others to Him, and to encourage others to do the same. In trusting His plan for my life, He asked me to take a very uncomfortable leap 3 years ago. He brought me to a "job" that required me to find my purpose and it took a while; it really did.
I am a Beachbody coach because God has called me to serve here. Usually this is the point where people stop reading. I know I would have 7 years ago. I thought network marketing was a scam, for 4 years, so I get it, but please keep reading. I learned that BB is the real deal and cares more about people than it does money. But this isn't about BB; this is about how God has changed my heart and shown me my purpose.
My purpose is to lead others to Him and prepare them to be ready when He calls them to follow. If everything is ultimately for His glory, then I want to be willing and obedient to follow Him wherever He's called me.
Being called to serve in this arena means I focus on my health, because as my coach, Michelle Myers, so aptly asked, "Wouldn't it be tragic if God called us to do something, but we were not in the physical condition to accomplish it?" If you've heard my story before, I suffer from anxiety and depression. Through consistent physical activity, I've been able to remain off of medication for over a decade. Fitness is more than just the physical aspects; some days, it's my sanity. But let's not forget about how being strong and healthy benefits my life as a mom. Chasing a toddler is exhausting. Standing up off the floor with a screeching child is no easy feat. Being able to toss her in the air, swing her around until she's squealing with joy... those are some of my most precious moments, and I would NEVER trade those just so I didn't have to workout. You feel me? :)
It also has required me to set aside my own insecurities and fears and boldly seek fellowship, friendship, and community with others. As a mom, it's easy to get caught up in all of the needs of others and forget about my needs. It can also feel extremely lonely and isolating. I need to replenish, fill up my love tank so to speak. Stepping out of my comfort zone to make new friends, join a bible study, go on a play date, talk to that mom I always see at the park, those things have enriched my life immensely. God has blessed me with friendships and testimonies that I would not have had otherwise. Being a coach prompted me to do these things and that reason alone makes this journey worth it.
Each day, I spend time with God and commit to read/listen to something that makes me better. My life has changed. God draws me closer. I find fulfillment. I struggle less with loneliness. I am secure in the knowledge that what I'm doing matters for eternity, not today. I've learned leadership skills, forgiveness, how to say yes to the right things, gratitude, and so many more things over the years. We should never stop learning and if it wasn't for this vital behavior of coaching, I most likely would not be where I am today.
So, hear me out... God has called you to be free in Him. He calls you perfect and loved and chosen. He wants to use you to lead others to Him. Your area of influence may be small, but it doesn't change how valuable you are to it. You may feel like God is calling you to be a little bold. He may be calling you to serve others by helping them lead well-rounded, healthy lives. He may want you to be so passionate about Him that you can't help share His word. He may be asking you to take better care of this body he blessed you with. If any of what I've said resonates with you, I ask that you pray about it. Maybe joining my team could be a blessing to you and your family. Maybe God wants to use you in this community of like-minded women. Maybe you need this as much as I did and just don't realize it yet. Pray about it. Send me a message and ask me questions. Pray about it some more. But please, don't let your fears stop you from following Him like they did me for 4 years. Let's stop listening to that voice that tells us to be small and quiet. Let's be bold and live with and on purpose.
I would love to hear how God is calling you to be bold. Send me an email or message, firstname.lastname@example.org
"The heart of meekness is simply harnessing the Lord's power under His control." Hayley Morgan from the book Wild and Free.
I want to share a little bit about how God is teaching me about surrendering my need to control my life. Back when we started trying to get pregnant with Calista, I didn't spend that much time with Him. I randomly prayed, sometimes read the YouVersion Bible app, and sort of walked like a Jesus follower... Key words: randomly, sometimes, sort of. We tried ovulation test strips, we tracked, we counted, we struggled. There were tears, silences, fights, and hurts. It only took us 11 months to get pregnant and I know for some that is a very SHORT amount of time. God's plan for us was to have a child, but first He wanted to draw us closer.
He used this journey of becoming pregnant to change our hearts. He removed us from our surroundings in Los Angeles and moved us back to the south where we had to form new relationships that honored Him. He led me to my first ever bible study at Johnson Ferry Baptist and have been going now for 2 years. He pruned us. He took away, so that He could give us more. I fought tooth and nail. I wanted to control this journey. I just knew if we could do all the right things our life would be perfect. I was so wrong. Only in surrendering to Him does my life make sense. Only in His hands will my life be perfect. He is strong. He is powerful. His ways are perfect and true. I will never be all of that alone, but with Him I can be. So I'm going to go on and be "meek" and surrender my control and my life to the one who knows and loves me best. I will forever be grateful to my Father who knew just what I needed and for blessing us with this little lady.
It's been one of those days... Overslept. Totally based a decision on the wrong information. My fault too. Calista knocked the blender off the counter and it's shattered. Ordered my treat coffee and forgot to say "iced". All small things. No. Big. Deal. Yet, doubts started to creep on. Belief that I wasn't good enough or that I was a failure. So dumb to even read what I'm typing, but here's the thing... That's the devil telling me I'm not enough, when God tells me I am. That's the enemy sending arrows to tear down my walls so that I will stop doing kingdom work. And guess what? Newsflash: He doesn't win. God does. So, it's been one of those days where I know that God loves me. He tells me I'm beloved. He tells me I'm forgiven and enough. He is faithful and He is true and I am good. 🙌🏻
Here's my FB Live video about it.