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Above All Else

December 05, 2018
By Suzanne Phillips ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder

Holidays… many thoughts.  As a mom the word “holiday” sets the wheels in motion doesn’t it?  All kinds of wheels!  The wheels of your car, the wheels on your stroller and most certainly the wheels in your mind. Frankly, the only wheels that seem to be missing as the holidays crank up are the wheels on the roller-skates that we feel we need in order to “get it all done.”   Now, I’ve mentioned I am a word girl so, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a little word study occupied a bit of my quiet time this morning.  Because this word “holiday” throws so many for such a loop a little research was in order.  Check this out! 

The word HOLIDAY comes from the root haligdaeg  or “holy day, consecrated (set apart), Sabbath” meaning both “religious festival” and, get this, “day of exemption from labor and recreation.”  Can you believe it?  Mamas, holidays originally meant a day of REST.  I’m pretty sure that means that Christmas, most especially Christmas, is not a season designed for roller-skates in the kitchen and your own personal meals on wheels but instead a time to rest and remember the gift of Christ and the holy day that ushered holiness into the presence of mankind. 

Proverbs 4:23 encourages us with this: Above ALL else guard your heart, for EVERYTHING you do flows from it.  Christmas is perhaps the most telling time to lean into these words and take a peek inside our hearts.  

The word, "guard", in this verse, means to watch over, guard from danger, observe, and be a blockade. In other words, the Lord wants us to not only look closely at our own heart but to be a blockade from those things that provoke our heart to be in danger or dangerous. (I’m guessing you all have a picture of yourself being dangerous? I do.)

One of the ways I “observe” my own heart is to watch what flows from it.  What is coming out of me? Am I encouraging and joyful or frustrated and short–tempered? These are indications of what is rattling around in my heart.  It is so easy to think  “the holidays make me so stressed.”  But here is what I have learned, if a holiday was the actual cause of stress, in other words stress always came with the holidays, then all people would be stressed during a holiday.  Do you see where this is going?  Holidays themselves don’t make people stressed, stress resides in some hearts and when the pressure of the holidays is applied that stress rises up and bubbles out like a fountain.  For others the holidays cause joy or fun.  For some sadness and loneliness.  Think of a bottle of water without a cap.  When you apply pressure what bubbles out?  Water.  Why?  Because that is what is inside the bottle.  An external circumstance always reveals an internal reality. 

So, if you are bubbling up joy and cheer in this holiday season perhaps you could offer a few tips to a friend who struggles with organization and is overwhelmed with her calendar.  Maybe you are bubbling up with loneliness and you haven’t shared your need with anyone.  Would you be willing to reach out and tell someone you feel alone?  Do you feel frustration and control nipping at your heels?  If so, would you choose to set aside a little time to look at all you are attempting to accomplish and have the courage to say “no” to a couple of good things for the sake of really enjoying the best things?

Above ALL else, above EVERYTHING else in our life, more than our families, friends, talents, property and possessions, guard your HEART because EVERYTHING else, life itself, flows from this place. The one who whispered this unchanging key to life, the one who came to bring us the very life that is available to flow from our heart is the Holy One we celebrate this season.  He didn’t “busy” Himself getting ready to see us and He doesn’t ask or need us to “busy” ourselves in order to rest and remember Him.  He simply followed the plan His Father had for HIM and in doing so those He loved were blessed!

Festivities and family traditions have been a part of “holy days” since the beginning of time and they are wonderful!  Jesus Himself celebrated, “holy days.”  Enjoy!  However, if and when the joy begins to slip away and drown in the “doing” beware. 

Let’s actually choose to allow what flows from our heart be an indicator between peace and striving, rest and stress, joy and obligation and calm and chaos. And, when the latter rises up let’s choose to let Jesus take the wheel!  When we hand the wheel over to Jesus He just might say take off your skates, park the car, unload the stroller and don’t over think it sweet one.  Curl up with a blanket, build a fire, flip on the Christmas lights and let Him share His vision for you and your family with you.  After all He came to give life and life abundant.

When we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart because He knows our heart even better than we do.  He has the perfect holiday designed for YOU and for YOUR family.  Man, the battle to not over – do is real!!  But how often do we over – do and then wish we had a do over?  Big blessings await as we guard our heart and let the those blessings flow from the One we love above all else.   

Father, thank you for the opportunity to come to You and be still.  Thank You for the good plans that You have for us and for our familes.  Thank You for sending your Son, our gift, the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace.  Father, help us to sit at the feet of Jesus and receive His peace as we hear Him say this is the way walk in it. And, Father help us to have the courage to follow YOUR plans and to realize they are specifically designed for our personal good.  Thank You for loving us so well and for the abundant life You invite us to receive each day.   In Jesus Name we pray, Amen


Tags: holidays

Learning about Leadership: Charlotte Ellard

December 04, 2018
By LCA Faculty and Staff

This week’s staff spotlight is on Charlotte Ellard. As the Director of L.I.F.E. Guidance, Charlotte shepherds our students’ hearts and helps guide and direct them to become prepared for L.I.F.E.!  Charlotte is the mother of 12 children, the youngest of whom, Avery, is a sophomore at LCA.  Charlotte enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren and also serves in the admissions department at Berry College.  Learn more about this seasoned mama of many below:


Your Name

Charlotte Ellard


Grade/Class You Teach or Job Title

LIFE Guidance Director


Where did you grow up? 

Orangeburg, SC


Where do you currently live? 

Downtown Roswell


What is your favorite candy? 

Snickers or Peanut M&M's


What's your pizza topping of choice? 

Mushrooms and anchovies---yes, anchovies =)


What's your Starbuck's order? 

Green Tea with or without the works. =)


What is your favorite Bible verse? Why? 

Ephesians 3:20 tells us Jesus is able to do above and beyond what we could hope or imagine. Jesus consistently directs my life in a very different direction than I would have chosen, and He is sweet to open my eyes to often see specifically why His plan is so much better than mine. I am not in the habit of intentionally taking the emotionally painful path, and yet I am so incredibly grateful for the tough times. He has brought me into a much more intimate relationship with Him than I would have known without the difficulties. The tandem verse for me with Eph. 3:20 is Job 13:15: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust/wait for Him". In the midst of my husband's chemo treatments and reeling from my father's death (on the heels of my mother's death months earlier), Job 13:15 became an incredible comfort in a crazy way. I learned that uncanny peace that comes from knowing that no matter what comes my way, He is working out a better way than I, in my finite ability to dream, can imagine. Therefore, I can trust and loudly praise Him in the midst of what seems like hopelessness.


What is your favorite part of being a part of the LCA community?

The brotherhood of believers at LCA is so encouraging...real people, real relationships with Jesus, real support, real love.


What is God currently teaching you? 

Where do I start?! The lesson from Joshua 9 to pray about the details and seeking Jesus's counsel even when it seems the facts/plans all line up neatly is most prevalently on my heart right now.


If you could share anything to encourage other LCA staff or LCA families, what would you say? 

It is so sweet that we are only asked to trust Him one day at a time. We count the cost and plan for tomorrow, but we don't have to see how we emotionally make it through the next year, or month, or even week. "Take no thought for tomorrow, for today has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34.


Please use this space to share any interesting story, fact, or thing you would like to share about your life. 

I thought I would be a foreign missionary, but have never lived more than 6 weeks out of the USA. However, I have twelve children that have lived in at least 9 different countries. Currently I only have one family out of the country (Kenya).



The Sacred Significance of Believing

November 29, 2018
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder

Last Saturday, I was walking through a store and saw a pillow with the word, “Believe”, beaded on it.  It caught my eye for two reasons.  That morning, I had just read Romans 15:13 and the word, “believing” was in it. I had spent the morning researching the word in order to further understand the verse.  The second reason the pillow caught my eye was that my friend LOVES that word!  I stood in the aisle for five minutes debating whether or not I should buy it for her and then decided it was too garish for her taste! 


I went about my business that day and as I closed out the day with deleting the hundreds of black Friday emails from my inbox, one caught my eye.  It was an ad for a new book titled, “Believe” and said, “What you believe drives everything!”  I took a screenshot of the email as the Lord had my attention. 


The next day we gathered for family dinner, which followed with a little respite on my parents’ living room floor.  I awakened a while later as they were watching a Christmas movie.  When I opened my eyes, I heard a little girl proclaim, “I am a believer!  I am”. The camera zoomed in on a big book with gold shimmery letters that said, “True Believers”.  I instantly pulled out of the Sunday slumber and thought, “Ok, Lord!  I am paying attention!” 


That evening, as I was preparing for reentry into the atmosphere of real life after a weeklong break, my heart was heavy.  I had walked side by side with a few people praying with and for them for very difficult things…things that just needed breakthrough! I sat in bed pondering the many needs around me, needs I couldn’t address or meet and my eyes began to leak.  Markel came in just at that moment.  I boohoo’d my heart out and ended with, “Markel, everything just feels like too much!  My heart is so heavy and I don’t know what to do.”  He was so sweet to reply with this: “That’s the beauty of it, Kimberly. You don’t need to “DO” anything, but simply believe that the Father knows and has all of these things covered.  Your discernment is not for you to carry or fix things, but rather so that you can intercede.”  To be honest, I didn’t want to pray or extend my belief because in the moment, it felt like a continual hope deferred.  Markel closed the night in prayer and the next morning, the Lord showed up yet again with a word about “believe”.


I rewrote Romans 15:13 in my journal that morning and then dug into the word, “believe” again.  I discovered some fascinating things. 

  • It comes from the Greek root word for faith
  • It is either used of persuading oneself or of the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord – it depends on the context
  • It means to expect or hope with confidence
  • It means to credit upon the grounds of authority or testimony of another without complete demonstration
  • The commentary said, “When we believe upon the authority of another, we always put confidence in his veracity”

My One Year Bible for that day landed me in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They were brought before for the king because they refused to bow down to the idol he created.  They said, “We do not need to defend ourselves.  If we are thrown into the fire, the God Whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us.  But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you that we will never serve your gods nor will we worship your idols.”  I mean talk about belief in action!  The passage says that the king was SO enraged that his face became distorted!  Ha! He bound the men and threw them into a fire that was seven times hotter than normal!  But then he looked into the fire and suddenly saw four men unbound walking around in the fire!  I know most of you know this story but it is SO worth repeating!  The king called the men out only to discover that:

  • Fire had not touched them
  • Not a single hair was singed
  • Their clothing was not scorched

They believed that the God in whom they served would save them!  They trusted in Him SO much that they said, “Even if He doesn’t save us…”  Y’all remember in the bullets above that said belief is either the persuading of oneself or the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord?  I mean this is a picture of believing God so wholeheartedly, taking Him at His Word with such reckless abandon, that they were willing to be bound and thrown into the fire.  I cannot say that my belief is that strong!  Oh Lord help me in my unbelief! 


The day that I am writing this post my One Year Bible now has me in Daniel 6, the passage where Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den all because he chose to worship the One True God.  The next day when the king had the stone removed he was astonished to find that the mouths of the lions had been closed and that not one scratch was found on Daniel!  When you read verse 23, it tells you why:  “…for {Daniel} believed in his God.”  I mean come on!  Yet another passage about belief!


As we launch into the remaining three weeks of first semester I am praying that we as a community would become an, “Even-If-Kinda-People”; that like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel, we would boldly believe in our God who is steadfast, sure and worthy of our trust!  That like the Roman centurion who took Jesus at His Word simply because the grounds of authority, we would believe and put our confidence in the veracity of the One True God. 


Even if we do not have a complete picture of an answer to prayer, even if we do not see a way out of the fire before us, we would remember the testimony of the One who orchestrated our salvation through His death on the cross!  Because He died for us even while we were still sinners, we can expect and hope with confidence!  Father God, do not let this season pass without our ability to see and experience the sacred significance of an unwavering belief that is founded alone in Your persuasion.  Holy Spirit, do not let us be persuaded by the circumstances we face, but let us choose instead to face the Father and recall his past faithfulness so that we might stand firm in expectation of his faithfulness to come!  Jesus, Emmanuel, let your tangible Presence persuade us to believe in You, to place our full confidence in the veracity of Who You are and what You’ve done!


Tangible Tools

Prophesy Your Promise by Bryan & Katie Torwalt => worship song


Learning about Leadership: Manuelita Otero

November 28, 2018
By LCA Faculty and Staff

This week’s staff spotlight is on Manuelita Otero. As the Director of Admissions, Manuelita shepherds our new and current familes.  She also serves in many behind-the-scenes ways such as supplies, facilities,  business office and any other need that comes her way. Manuelita is a helper at heart and begins and ends each day with the purest kind of joy and positivity that can only come from Jesus.  She is the mother of Nikka, who uses her passion for fashion as a business owner.  Andrei is Manuelita’s son who attends Georgia State and plays on their tennis team. Some more fascinating facts about Manuelita are that she has written two books, she is co-owner of My Closet Etc. with her daugher, and she is the co-founder of her ministry called, “Happily Imperfect”.  Learn some more about the gem we have in Manuelta below:


Your Name

Manuelita Otero

Grade/Class You Teach or Job Title

Director of Admissions

Where did you grow up? 

Colombia and Atlanta

Where do you currently live? 

The Vinings area

What is your favorite candy? 

I love cake with coffee

What's your pizza topping of choice? 

I like pineapple with ham

What's your Starbuck's order? 

I don't really know. When I go to coffee shops I just order black coffee :) Keeping it simple

What is your favorite Bible verse? Why? 

"Jesus wept." John 11:35 It helped me understand that Jesus gets me. He feels just like I do. I also love Habakkuk 2:3 "For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." God has used this verse for many years now to teach me to wait on Him, on His perfect timing. He knows we are going to be frustrated because we feel things take "too long", but He reassures us and lovingly reminds us that it will happen at the appointed time, His time.

What is your favorite part of being a part of the LCA community?

Don't ask me for only one favorite thing. :) I love everything about being part of the LCA community, and I really mean it. Being here is a blessing that I simply cannot fully explain.

What is God currently teaching you? 

He is always reminding me that He is faithful, that no matter how difficult things may seem, He is working behind the scenes, and I just need to do my part (be obedient to what He tells me to do) and He will do His. He is always reminding me to enjoy the journey, to share His love, to hold on to His hand and enjoy the trip. I couldn't ask for a better travel companion. Life with God is such an exciting adventure.

If you could share anything to encourage other LCA staff or LCA families, what would you say? 

God is faithful. We already know it, but sometimes during difficulties we need to be reminded time and time again. God can do such amazing things in our lives and the lives of those around us if we are willing to take our pain and offer it to Him as a joyful sacrifice, only He can transform it and give it back to us as a blessing.


The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

November 15, 2018
By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children.  Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined?…God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness.  No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it is painful!  But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:7,10,11


Sometimes it’s just flat out hard to be thankful…do you ever feel that way?  There are days when the stresses and pressures of life feel like just too much for this girl to handle and all I want to do is press a virtual reset button by going to bed with the hope of starting the next day fresh and new!  If I am honest, I can often feel this way when I am in the middle of a “Divine Discipline”.  I want to be angry at God or I can let the impatient yuck inside my heart ooze out on the people I love the most.   Usually, however, a while after the difficult middle moments of when I am awaiting a miracle of God (or He is waiting for me to receive a new revelation about a flesh pattern that needs to change), I can look back at His divine discipline with new eyes of gratitude.  


The other day the six of us went to dinner with another family.  They have a little girl who is so very precious.  Markel is like a marshmallow when it comes to little girls…every time we are with a girl I am reminded and ever thankful for God’s sovereign choice to give us all boys because that pink bundle of joy would have had Markel wrapped around her dainty, little pinky!)   Anyway, this sweet-nothing-but-pink-sunshine wasn’t so sunshiny throughout dinner.  She didn’t want to sit still so she fussed throughout the dinner as her parents tried to distract, cajole and woo her into a winsome demeanor.  


When we left that evening, I rode home with my youngest, and he said, “Wow, mom.  I love that little girl but boy did she fuss a lot!  Was I like that when I was her age?”  I replied with a chuckle and said, “All of you boys had your moments, however, that was not an option.  I mean you could fuss but swift and loving correction would follow.  I remember one time in particular when your brother tested the boundaries of what was acceptable…I felt like a yo-yo with discipline and correction, however I loved him SO much, that I wanted to teach him what it meant to follow quickly, quietly, completely and joyfully.  You see when ya’ll were little, Dad and I knew that our job was to prepare your hearts to follow – for a season this was practiced through following us, but it was all in preparation to train your eyes, ears and hearts to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading so that when He said, “This is the way, Isaiah walk in it, you would have already formed the habit and heart-stance to follow Him quickly, quietly, completely and with thankful heart of joy.”  Isaiah said, “Wow…I remember the days of swift discipline.  I didn’t like it so much in the moment, but thank you for sticking with it, Mom!”  He was quiet for a moment and then said, “Whenever I have kids, will you just tell me and my wife how to train them?”  I am smiling now as I think about this brief convo we had in the car ride home…


Isn’t that how it is for all of us?  In the moments of divine discipline, our hearts hurt and we wonder why we are enduring this hard thing? And yet what if in the moment, not years later, but in the very moment of what feels like divine discipline, we choose to thank the Lord for His sovereign hand that orchestrates all that unfolds in our lives?  I mean He’s either worthy of our trust or not, right?  He’s either the blessed and only Sovereign of all things or He’s not (1 Tim 6:15).  What would happen if we stopped long enough to find a way to praise or thank Him?  Even if it’s just, “Thank you Father that this circumstance is beyond my ability to see.  I thank you that I can choose to look beyond the visible circumstances of the moment and fix my eyes on The One Who is Invisible.  (Heb 11:27) Every time I have chosen to practice this discipline of gratitude, its like a light of peace and joy infiltrate my heart and mind.  Even though I am still residing in the middle moment of discipline, my perspective is enlightened as I choose to entrust the burdens I am facing to my Father who already knows all about them and has a plan to redeem them for my good and His glory!


I just read Hebrews 10:23 two days ago in my One Year Bible => its an encouragement with a promise, “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we have, FOR GOD CAN BE TRUSTED to keep his promise.” Without wavering!  What would it look like this Thanksgiving season if we chose to trust our Heavenly Father without wavering?  A few verses later, we are exhorted with this:  “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord no matter what happens…patient endurance is what you need right now so you will continue to do God’s will.  THEN you will receive all that He has promised…”  What would it look like if we entered this season with a heart rooted in God’s faithfulness.  So anchored in Who He is and in His faithfulness, that we are free to praise and thank Him like the lilies of the field regardless of what storms may come?  


I am praying for each of us in the LCA community this Thanksgiving season, that we might ask ourselves the question, What If?  What if God is Who He says He is?  What if we actually took Him at His Word? What if we as parents model for our children the choice to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God and let the fruit of our lips give pure thanks to His name even whilst we feel like a divine discipline is unfolding? (Hebrews 13:13).  Did you catch the word, “sacrifice”?  When things are hard, praise and thanksgiving can feel like a gut-wrenching sacrifice!  It is so easy to have a heart that screams, “I don’t’ want to thank You for...  I don’t want to trust You with this…”  


But what if we as a community choose to lay down a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving at the feet of the Father this Thanksgiving season?  What if like Isaiah, we thank Him for the discipline even while it is unfolding, praising Him for the harvest of the peaceful fruit of righteousness that will follow!  As I type this post, I have a visual of our heavenly Father looking down on our community with such eyes of adoration as we collectively gather together in each of our homes and share the goodness of God with each other, sacrificing words of praise and thanksgiving for all He has done, is doing and has yet to reveal in the days to come!  


p.s. Hebrews 12:7-13 is worth the read – the passage ends with an exhortation and a promise, telling us to take a new grip with our tired hands and to stand firm on our shaky legs, marking out a path for our feet SO THAT those who follow us [our children!], though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall, but will become strong!  Now that’s a powerful prod in my back to model praise and thanksgiving to my family!   


p.p.s.  I wanted to share one more thing that’s a little deeper…I realize that just encouraging the community to sacrifice a word of thanksgiving can seem so trite, especially if you are facing a deep, dark inexplicable valley that causes you to question the very goodness of God.  I have travelled through similar valleys on quite a few occasions of my life.  Some of the valleys I have traversed have been of my own doing and others have been a journey led by a seemingly invisible and distant God. I share this after-thought because it is not that – an after thought – in fact it is a fore thought.  After I read this post, my heart began to ache as I am aware that there are families within LCA that are in a hard place – a valley place.  When I have walked through the valley seasons in my life, whether they were due to my decision or were simply allowed by the Lord, I can look back with certainty and know this one thing to be true:  I would much rather pass through those dark seasons with a seemingly distant Savior and Redeemer than striving and fighting to get up and out to the other side.  We have Jesus Emmanuel, God With Us.  If there is only one thing to sacrificially thank our Father for this Thanksgiving season, it is this:  His Son died for us and provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him.  I don’t think I will ever fully understand death or loss or pain and suffering this side of heaven, but I have and will continue to cling to the hope of a Savior who is ever with us.  I am praying for the families who are hurting this holiday season.  Praying that Jesus, our Saviour, our Redeemer, our Ever Present Help in Time of Need will reveal Himself to you in a way that is tangible and real…real enough to allow a sacrifice of praise to fall from your lips…

Much love and many prayers for our sweet community,



Hills & Valleys by Tauren Wells

Recent Posts

12/5/18 - By Suzanne Phillips ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
12/4/18 - By LCA Faculty and Staff
11/29/18 - By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
11/28/18 - By LCA Faculty and Staff
11/15/18 - By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
11/8/18 - By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
11/7/18 - By LCA Faculty and Staff
11/1/18 - By LCA Faculty and Staff
10/31/18 - By Kimberly Oden ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder
10/23/18 - By Suzanne Phillips ~LCA Mama & Co-Founder

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