Tag: Friendship

eight twenty eight: a story of unconditional love

Wow. Have you heard the story of Ian and Larissa Murphy? These two demonstrate unconditional love in marriage.  When Ian’s brain was damaged in a life-altering automobile accident, his then-girlfriend, Larissa, didn’t give up. Watch their update here:

If you are interested to read their book or learn more about their story, visit their website here.

Taking a “Heart Shower”

What is the first thing you do to get ready for your shower? Well, you need to take off all your clothes. Ok, before you think I’m a crazy Californian wanting to talk about getting naked during a short devotional message, just bear with me. We’re actually going to talk about taking a spiritual shower. I felt so grateful to be asked to share this message a couple of months ago at a Ladies Luncheon at my church. The community here in Arkansas has welcomed my husband and me with such warmth and we’re glad to be here.

Regardless of where you are and at what life stage you are in right now, I hope this brief devotional refreshes and challenges you. Every time you take a shower, you can be reminded that our heart needs a good wash too!

Key Points to Remember:

  • Open yourself to God. (Get naked)

Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

  • Be cleansed. (Take a shower)

Psalm 51:10-12

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your

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salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

  • Train your heart. (Get dressed)

Proverbs 3:3-6

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.“

At home:

  • Read the whole chapter to soak in the full context of the verses above. Savor the words by reading them out loud, memorizing a verse or passage that caught your attention, or writing them out in your journal.
  • Take a spiritual shower. For those of you who have put your trust in Christ, go through these steps in prayer, letting the Holy Spirit highlight areas that aren’t right and need cleansing. Let Him teach you ways that you can train your heart to willingly submit to Him.
  • For those of you haven’t taken that first step of faith in Jesus: taking a spiritual “heart shower” is a great place to start.

Celebrating the women who are Beautiful Bricklayers

My favorite thing about being involved with this ministry is simply getting to know some phenomenal women (who are actually featured in this short clip).

One particular friend, Laura Vencill, is one that blesses me on a regular basis.  This ministry actually started in my home when we were both single, yearning to learn what it means to love the Lord with our whole hearts and seeking to prepare on purpose for marriage.  We finished with a prayer get-together with one other girl and the three of us looked up at each other and knew God started something special through that prayer time.  Beautiful Bricklayers was conceived.

Over the past three years, Laura has been a faithful cheerleader of my writing, speaking, and development as a person. I’ve learned a lot about true friendship from this sweet sister in Christ and it’s with joy that I present to you another video you can share with your friends when you are trying to explain a little better what is at the core of this ministry.

You’re always welcome to contact us here with any prayer requests, questions, or anything else you’d like to share with us.  We’d love to hear from you.

November Spotlight: Dani Taylor

daniAre you grateful for your dear friends? Don’t you appreciate those who stand by you to cheer you on to carry out a vision that seems daunting?  Well, I sure am grateful for this very special woman we are featuring this month!  Dani Taylor served behind the scenes for over a year and a half with the leadership team.  She hosted events in her home, spent hours at meetings, donated goods, woke up early to meet with me at a coffee shop before she headed off to work (many times!), and prayed over this ministry.  So much of what Beautiful Bricklayers is today has been directly impacted by Dani’s dedication and service.

Here’s a little glimpse into the lovely heart of this very precious sister in Christ, Dani Taylor:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 27 and I LOVE Bricklayers!  I’m really close with my family and I love spending time with them; they are a super funny group of people and I love laughing with them.  I’m really into healthy living – home remedies, cooking, working out, conscious living, etc.  I love the ocean and all the animals in it!

This month’s theme is “Gratitude” and you are a person with a very thankful heart.  Would you share some of the ways you have been intentional to foster thankfulness in your life?

I think one way that I try to foster thankfulness is by constantly acknowledging all that the Lord has done for me and the ways in which he has blessed my life.  If I have a hard day at work, the first thing I do when I get in the car to drive home is list things I am I am thankful for.   I never want to do it – it’s so much easier to let the bitterness fester and to claim that I had a bad day at work and get sympathy from others (which I still do, no one is perfect :-).  But, I find that as soon as I start listing what I’m thankful for, everything comes into perspective and my heart is filled with gratitude and praise and then that doesn’t leave any room for bitterness, anger, discontentment, or envy!

Dani with family
Picture perfect with her family!

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in trying to maintain contentment?

This one is very hard, I feel like this is an area where I often feel a lot of spiritual attack: staying close to the Lord and believing his Word is what keeps my head above the water.   It’s so easy to listen to the world’s lies and think, for example, that I should be married by now and have achieved a certain level at work.  I find social media really stirs up discontentment in me, so I try my best to stay away from it.  The moment I remember that I am not in control and that the Lord is in charge of my life, I can relax and give everything over to him.  It’s funny because it’s so hard to let go of control, but as soon as I do it, I can relax and know that I am fully taken care of and looked after.  He can take care of me far better than I could ever take care of myself! 

Do you have a passage in Scripture that has served as an anchor to your soul to keep you grounded during particularly difficult seasons in your life?

Yes! I memorized Psalm 42:11 (NLT) which says: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God.” This has been such an encouraging verse for me.  It allows me to acknowledge my feelings of sadness and discouragement but to remember that my hope is in the Lord and I should praise Him through every season of life! 
Dani with Grandpa
Dani loves her Grandpa!

In your singleness, what has the Lord been teaching you that you would like to share with other women?

To wait on Him and to use this season of life when I have extra time and devote it to the Lord – to spending time with Him, reading the Word, and memorizing scriptures.  Life is only going to get more busy and hectic from here on out and I want to know that my life is (and always will be) rooted in the Lord and His truth.

How have you been able to “rejoice with those who rejoice” when you yourself would love to have that same kind of rejoicing in your own life?

This is the one area that I feel the Lord has given me His strength.  I so badly want for my friends to be in relationships and I feel such joy and happiness for them when this happens!  It also gives me hope, if it can happen for them, it can certainly happen for me!  It’s also a way that I can see the Lord answering the prayers that I’ve prayed for my friends and their future husbands.  I think it has also helped that both my sisters have been in serious relationships for the past few years; to see them so happy makes me realize I would never want to deprive anyone of that joy!

What advice or words of wisdom do you have to share with other Beautiful Bricklayers as they navigate singleness and dating relationships?

Trust in the Lord and know that He is good! Draw near to Him and let Him take care of the rest!Dani with RH girls
***Would you like to nominate a girlfriend of yours to be interviewed for the Beautiful Bricklayers monthly spotlight?  
Please email us at: beautifulbricklayers@gmail.com with the girl’s name and reason why you think she should be featured on our blog.*** 

October Spotlight: Amanda Pinedo

Many of you follow us on our Facebook Page and, this month, we wanted to give you a peak into the life of our main contributor to that Page.  She is indeed a Beautiful Bricklayers herself: Amanda Pinedo.Amanda Pinedo headshot

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 24 and living in Huntington Beach, where I am finishing up my Masters in Social Work at USC. I have a passion for helping people and am so excited to be able to finally start my career as a medical social worker soon!  I am a pretty simple girl who loves good music, warm drinks, and good conversation with friends.  God has really blessed my life even with its ups and downs, and I am so thankful for his patience and love for me.

Being that this month’s theme is “Falling in Love” how did you first fall in love with Jesus?

Growing up attending Christian school since I was 5 years old made it easy to learn about Jesus and accept Him into my heart at a very young age.  However, when I was in high school, I finally began to understand what loving Jesus really looked like.  It was then that I was baptized and really tried to learn how to be a better follower of Him.  My undergrad at Vanguard University also really blessed me with an environment to be poured into and challenged in my faith.  It was at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa that God really stole my heart.  Because of my upbringing and experiences of instability and chaos growing up, it has been a process for me to learn how God could love someone like me and to understand that someone could take care of me.  Falling in love with Jesus is something I believe we never stop doing and knowing that He loves us through it all, is something I believe is the perfect model of what kind of love God wants for us.

You are currently in a dating relationship.  Would you share more about how you met and what made you want to start dating your boyfriend?

Even though it sounds cliche, Max and I met at a mutual friends wedding when we first noticed one another across the room. However, it was not until almost half a year later that we met at Rock Harbor after Max had returned from Ireland where he was helping to start a church.  The “dating” phase of our relationship was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.  I had been use to guys leading relationships in a very quick pace or not leading the relationship at all.

The way that Max led our relationship was nerve-racking but so refreshing to experience.  He prayerfully spent time asking God about our next steps, he took the time to really get to know me, and when the time was right expressed his intentions for moving our relationship forward.  His love for God, his passion for others, and his character are some of the biggest reasons I found for wanting to open my heart to him.  I honestly did not think guys like him existed.  I always figured that I would have to settle in my love life, but God had more for his daughter: a love bigger than I could imagine.  Max is pretty funny too… always a plus. 🙂

What are some helpful boundaries, physical and emotional, that you two have established for a healthy, God-honoring relationship?

Since the beginning of our relationship, Max and I have communicated our intentions for the physical boundaries we wanted to stay strong in and the beautiful things we wanted to look forward to in a potential marriage one day.  We knew that although kissing is fun, we had to be careful that we did not fall into the slippery slope of passion.  We also knew that sleeping in the same bed overnight would be another boundary we would never want to compromise in our relationship.  And although these boundaries have been hard and many friends and family have not understood them, we continue to believe in our hearts that it’s what God wants for us in our relationship.  Emotionally, we have continued to have open communication with our past experiences in relationships and have had discussions with each other about our families and upbringings.  So much of your past will follow you into your present and future.  We knew that if we didn’t stay honest, we couldn’t move forward and build a relationship with a strong spiritual and emotional foundation.

When friends or acquaintances think you are being “too strict” what do you tell them?  Do you have any stories to share?

A lot of our friends have not understood our physical boundaries at times, especially when we have planned trips with other couples.  I honestly think we have even been left out of trips because of friends not wanting to have to plan around the boundaries we have. However, we never compromised our intentions and even with family have had to make conscious decisions to stay true to what we believe.

How has dating helped you to grow as a woman and in your relationship with God and others?

Dating Max has honestly pushed me to newer levels in my relationship with God.  I had dated guys before Max that never pushed me to be a better woman of God.  They were Christian but they weren’t walking with God the way I believe He calls us to be.  I have grown in so many ways in dating Max and seeing His love for God makes me want to love him and God more in so many ways.  God’s Word states that His two most important commandments are to love God and to love one another, and in my relationship with Max I have felt we are able to experience those commandments together.  Through reading our Bibles daily, praying together, doing a devotional together, serving together, tithing together, and more, God has pushed my heart for Him to a whole new level.

If you could list out a few practical tips to help the Beautiful Bricklayers community in their pre-dating and dating seasons, what would you share?

If I could give any advice to those praying for Mr. Bricklayer, there are a few things I would encourage:
1) Never settle for a man that is not in LOVE with God
2) Seek God in your love life always, be patient, and trust that He wants the best for you
3) Be open in your communication with a potential partner (Be honest with who you are and what you need in a partner)
4) Take the time to do some inner work in you before you start dating. If you don’t know God and yourself and love God and yourself, how can you love someone else.

three things to share

We have three things to share with you today: an invitation to a party, a resource for you, and a little announcement about what’s going on in Cristina’s life out in Arkansas.

So here it is:

FIRST THING: You’re invited to enjoy food and a friendly, feminine gathering tonight:

6:30pm at 2700 Amalfi, Newport Beach, CA

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92660.

Please RSVP on the Facebook Event Page or simply come.

You are welcome to bring a friend… all women are welcome!

SECOND THING: Have you started following Cristina’s Bricklayers Pinterest Board yet? Take a peak!

THIRD (and last) THING for today:

Cristina Alexandroni, has been selected by million-copy best-selling author Shannon Ethridge to participate in an online mentorship program called B.L.A.S.T.: Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers.

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Alexandroni’s ultimate goal is to, through Beautiful Bricklayers, bless women who want to proactively prepare for marriage and purposefully draw near to Jesus. She yearns to effectively communicate biblically based principles and practical insights into building a foundation for those two most important relationships. Alexandroni loves to speak to youth groups and at women’s gatherings.

Unlike typical writer’s conferences, B.L.A.S.T. stretches over a 12-month period, providing students focused time to implement what they learn and truly hone their craft. Ethridge explains, “It’s not just lectures. It’s a laboratory. Students like Cristina will be creating videos, critiquing others’ work, and learning to gain the respect of potential publishers and editors.”With two decades of speaking experience and 20 successful books in both the Christian and mainstream markets, Ethridge says, “It’s a delight to coach aspiring writers and speakers. These valuable hands-on learning experiences can make a BIG difference as they pursue their publishing and speaking dreams.”

We wish Cristina the best as she begins the program! For more information about the B.L.A.S.T. mentorship program, go to www.blastmentoring.com.

September Spotlight: Erin Sheehy

Here’s our second month of putting you, Beautiful Bricklayers, in the spotlight.  Enjoy the wisdom and encouragement from this month’s interview with Erin Sheehy: a gorgeous, fun-loving, hard-working Daughter of the King of kings!

Erin Sheehy being silly

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am 30 years old, a Californian native, and the oldest of 5 kids.  After studying at Wheaton College (IL), I taught in Honduras for 2 years before moving back to CA.  Currently, this is my 9th year of teaching 7th grade English.  During my free time, I love being with my Young Life high school kids, spending time with my family, and working out.

Since this month’s theme is health, how do you stay so healthy in mind, body, and spirit?

I stay healthy in my mind and spirit by spending time alone with Jesus.  I love to make a bowl of oatmeal with a scoop of natural peanut butter and to have a cup of strong coffee while I read the Word in the morning before work.  I prefer to turn off the radio of my car and to pray instead.  As far as staying healthy and fit physically, I start my day with push ups and I always try to work out for at least 30 minutes daily even if it is late at night after work.  Consistency is key for me.  I love to spin on a bike at the gym or hike but my favorite workout is walking.  In fact, this is where I do my best praying.  I put my cell phone up to my ear, so people don’t think I am talking to myself as I pray out loud while I walk at the beach.

Why are you so intentional about being a healthy person?  Who taught you the most about what it means to be healthy?

It is important to me to stay healthy because my body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and I want to be strong in order to better serve Him. It is also a stress relief for me to workout.  I just feel better.

My parents had a great impact on my choices about prioritizing working out.  I realized that my parents made time to invest in healthy living and that it should be a part of my life too.

Erin Sheehy siblingsRegarding men: what are some key qualities/attributes that you would like to see in the man you would marry?  Do you ever dream of what he would be like?

I pray that the man I marry will be one who loves Christ.  I also love having people over and showing hospitality, so I would love it if that were a part of his life.  Since I work with kids, I would love it if he enjoyed youth. Finally, since taking care of my health is important, I would value it if a man took care of his physical health too.

Do you ever struggle in your singleness?  What do you do when you are feeling down or aching in your heart?

Yes, there are times when I struggle with singleness.  I liken it to a roller coaster. Some days I struggle and am scared about the next “twist and turn,” but other days, I enjoy the ride and smile at the future.  When I feel down, I tell myself about the goodness and faithfulness of God.  I also tell myself to “Do the next thing.”  This was a mantra of Elizabeth Elliot, and I want to be one who is not full of self pity but one who redeems the time and opportunities I have now in front of me!  Finally, I think of Proverbs 31:25 “She can laugh at the days to come.”  I know God is in charge and He is taking care of me for my good and for His glory!

If you had to share one of the biggest blessings of living a life of purity in singleness, what would you share?

The greatest blessing of living a life of purity while single is that it is pleasing to the LORD.  HE is the audience of One that I live to please, and I want my actions and conduct to bring Him glory.

Do you have a Scripture passage that has been like an anchor of truth for you?

Psalms 37:3-7 has been my favorite passage to turn to throughout the years as a foundation of Truth to anchor my heart to. 

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” 

August Spotlight: Audrey Milburn

381192_10101081760100915_1537262551_nSince we are a community of women, we want to put you, Bricklayers, in the spotlight. Every month we will interview a Bricklayer (either married, single, engaged, or dating) so you can share wisdom and encouragement with one another. This month we interviewed Audrey Milburn: a lovely, radiant woman of God! We hope you enjoy this glimpse into her life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Uganda for 17 years and then worked in Rwanda for a few years, which is where I met my husband. He was out there doing Business As Mission and I was developing children’s ministries in Rwanda. I’ve been married for 2 ½ years and have lived in the U.S. for a little more than that (I came to the States to marry David). I currently am a counselor at a Christian counseling center called CIFT and just recently graduated with my Masters in Marriage & Family Therapy. Other than my passion for families, I enjoy reading Sci-Fi books, swimming, interacting with any type of animal, playing tennis, watching Star Trek, and eating fondue.

How did you start dating your husband?

I met David in Rwanda one summer while driving him and another missionary to a missionary conference. I led worship that year, and as I stood up front, I

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found myself drawn to this man who worshiped God with such authenticity and pursuit – just like David in the Bible. We spoke a few times during this one-week conference, spent two days talking after that, and then he left to come back to America. We corresponded by email and Skype for about 6 months until he flew me to California so I could meet his family, and we began dating. That began 2 years of long-distance dating, using email, Skype, letters, and phone as our modes of communication.

Being that you are no longer in the season of singleness, but now married, what would you do differently in your single years and what would you do the same?

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I would have memorized Scripture more and been on my knees more, praying for the man who would eventually come into my life. I also would have journaled more and recorded my spiritual and emotional journey with God. What I would keep the same: stay intentional with my girlfriends in singlehood, let the Lord- not the world- define relationships, and develop disciplines in my life (time for God, exercise, ministry, friends, sleep, etc.).

How did your girlfriends support you in singleness and now in marriage? How do you stay intentional in your friendships?

Some of the best experiences I had were in Bible Study groups or small groups

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with women. These were places where we could share struggles, fears, prayer requests, and praises, and really lift each other up. This also solidified in me the desire to wait for God’s best and to not water down the standards I knew God wanted for me in a husband. Some of my favorite single times were in working out with a friend at the gym and talking about life, disappointments, and relationships. Now, in the U.S., friendships take a lot more intentionality, especially since I’m married. Friendships now take more courage and purpose in seeking out people at church, Life Group, or social circles that I desire to get to know better. I cut back an hour or two of work, or a workout, or an extra hour of sleep to be intentional in friendship.

When do you feel closest to God (activity, place, interaction, etc)?

I feel closest to God when I’m serving others (I’m an extrovert, by the way) or when I’m spending time with Him in nature. I also have had some of the most intimate moments with God while driving my car and talking (or crying) to him out loud. So turn off those radios, roll up your windows, and pour out your hearts to God while you’re on your way somewhere!

What has your friendship with God taught you how to be a friend to the girls and the special man in your life?

The most important thing: I can’t just talk – I need to listen a lot! Being an extrovert and having a naturally outgoing personality, I can talk to God or my husband or a friend for hours. But the challenge, and the key to a healthy vibrant relationship with anyone, is to be still and listen. My ability to listen and then empathize has grown one hundred fold since being married (and also pursuing counseling)! My advice to each of you is to practice this now – to listen and wait upon God, and interact with what He might be telling you. My friendship with God has also taught me how to be selfless in a way I never understood until I entered marriage! God is stretching me so much in these past years to seek the benefit of others over my own, to love others in the way they need to be loved, and to forgive like never before!

What would you say to your sisters in Christ who are experiencing heart ache and longing for marriage?

I would remind you that marriage is not the end goal – there is more beyond. The things that will last are what will exist without or beyond marriage: your relationship with Jesus, your love for and serving others, and your unique God-given gifts. You think your quest for purity ends on the wedding night? By no means! I’m learning what it means to be a pure married woman, in my thought life, in my interactions with men, in my speech, and so much more!

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Also, I would tell you this: that man that you’ve asked God about, that man that you believe God would want you to marry, that man you’ve dreamed about – he does exist! Don’t give in or give up when someone second-best comes along. I found this illustration of a guava tree when I was single and in the middle of Africa. In this picture, there were all these ripe guavas within arm’s reach of me on the lower branches, and all I had to do was pluck one and eat it. But these lower-branch guavas were rotten or pocked by hail, or pecked by birds, or infested with ants. But through the trees, way on the highest branches, a dangerous climb upward, I spotted some beautiful, sweet, perfect guavas. I wanted one of those! But was I willing to take the climb, be patient, get leaves in my hair, and pursue the better one? I sure was! Does that make sense? So don’t lower your standards. Don’t talk yourself down or doubt your prayer life or your heart’s cry. That man exists.

DIY friendly stationery

Snail mail is somewhat of a lost art. Thankfully, we can revive the joys of sending and receiving a handwritten letter for a very affordable price. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE getting personalized mail when I open the mailbox.

Consider spending a few minutes to share a few encouraging words with a friend. In this post, I share what my husband and I do to make fun, personal stationery for every occasion.

Step 1: Make or buy custom word banners (Thanks, Happy Birthday, Congrats, etc.)

Step 2: Bring them with you on a trip or simply in front of whatever backdrop you prefer.

Step 3: Have someone take your picture or set up your camera to self-timer.

Step 4:

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Print your pictures (ideally in 4×3 inch size and we print about 25 of each banner)

Step 5: Buy panel cards (we got ours in assorted colors at Target), photo adhesive, and colored paper.

Step 6: Cut colored paper to desired size and shape, adhere photo to paper, and paper to panel card.

Step 7: Write your note, stamp, address, and send it with love!

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

PS Yes, you are seeing braces on my lower teeth in the video. In the next couple of months look for the full set!

wisdom to heed

The Bible is not silent when it comes to this month’s theme of friendship.  Proverbs, especially, drips wisdom and offers many helpful words of instruction to us.  This sermon is one I listen to and recommend over and over again.  See if you might be able to identify some application to your own life.  Once you sit in on this one, you will probably want to listen to the whole Proverbs series.

You can listen or watch it:

Friendship (Proverbs, 2009) by Mark Driscoll

Questions for consideration:

  1. How is Jesus a real friend to you?
  2. How can you be a better friend? To whom?
  3. Whom (if anyone) would you consider a good friend to you? Why?
  4. In light of our study, what is changing your thinking regarding friendship with whom do you need to no longer be friends, and whom do you need to pursue more intentionally?
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