The Journey of Motherhood

Hi Church family! I am touched to be asked to share with you my thoughts and experiences as a mother. If you are a mother or hope to one day be a mother, God bless you! This journey of motherhood is full of awesome surprises and abundant blessings. You have so much to look forward to. It’s also full of challenging days, sleepless nights and fervent prayers. But again: you have so much to look forward to! How do I know? Well, I’ve been doing this “mom thing” for almost 23 years. I’ve been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. I’ve had four full-term pregnancies and one miscarriage. I’ve mothered healthy children and a child with cancer. I’ve mothered strong-willed children and compliant ones (sometimes the same child in different seasons). I’ve been confident at times and completely bewildered at others. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I am SO BLESSED!

My husband (Jeff) and I have four “little ones” that are not so little anymore: Gabe is 22, Miller is 20, Cam is 18 and Jensen is 16.  As I’m moving into this different season of life, not only mothering our own kids but also others that God places in our path, I can truly see the way God has been faithful. I feel like I am living in the land of milk and honey. Like God’s richest blessings are being poured down on me. That may seem sappy: my perspective has no doubt changed as I have moved away from the sleepless nights of babies. 

Even after 22 years I don’t have all the answers. And frankly, I haven’t met any mothers who do have all the answers. We are all doing the best we can with what we have, and I truly believe God honors that. So, here are my thoughts from one mama to another. I pray that you receive them in the love and heartfelt humility with which I say them.

God thinks I’m great! Motherhood isn’t a hobby. It’s a calling. We are all imperfect moms with imperfect kids. But the truth is that we are the most PERFECTLY suited imperfect people because we were chosen by God! He picked us! He has such an amazing way of making the ordinary extraordinary! One of my favorite prayers that I’ve carried in my bible for a long time (until I spontaneously gave it away to a young mother) is this one from Lysa Terkeurst:

"As a mom, I want to be single-minded on the reality that if God entrusted these kids to me, I am the exact mom they need.  And as the rightful holder of that position, I will believe not only in God but I will also believe that I have what it takes to raise these kids right.  As long as I ask for God to help me each day, I can be the mom I need to be."

How comforting to know that the creator of the universe believes in me! God’s got my back!

This too shall pass. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes. I still do. Even as I’m writing this actually. Motherhood is exhausting and it’s happening RIGHT NOW. It’s an in the moment kind of job. It’s sick babies in the nighttime, school projects due tomorrow, 3 practices at 3 different fields and driving a minivan like a NASCAR driver. Life feels crazy at times! According to Jerry Seinfeld, parenting young children is like turning on a blender without the lid! Reminds me of the time we found the big brothers had covered the baby and the baby’s room in baby powder. I had to take a deep breath. Maybe two. Then I remembered that these moments don’t last forever, and this is actually pretty funny. So I took a pic of the snow-covered boys and powdered bedroom, had a good laugh and then tackled the cleanup job! It’s definitely true what they say about parenting...the days are long but the years are short.

I am covered by GRACE! The greatest blessing of all is that God’s grace and forgiveness covers our sins. As mothers we will make mistakes; we will be humbled and brought to our knees. We will come up short and  speak harshly, hurting the ones we love. But the good news is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Any feelings of guilt or inadequacy are not ours to carry: Jesus gave us victory! So let’s move forward accepting grace, believing Romans 8 that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And claiming this grace for our children too: knowing that God fills in the gaps where we fail.

My prayer is that we EMBRACE each season of motherhood, living in the FREEDOM Jesus died for and ENJOYING every moment with the BLESSINGS we’ve been given.

Happy, Happy Mother’s Day!

Jennie Hilliard 

Easter 2017

We had the best time celebrating Easter as a church family! Worship was joy-filled and powerful, featuring our first ever church choir. We heard an impacting Gospel message and several people responded with a desire to know Jesus as their Savior! After the service, we feasted on fried chicken and had egg hunts for both kids and adults. There really is nothing better than celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus as a church family and we are so thankful for all who joined us!  

Awaken Outreach Trip

For Mardi Gras break, we sent 80 students from our college ministry along with some of our church staff to Austin, Texas for their Awaken outreach trip. Our students had an incredible time and we are so thankful for all that God did in and through them! Each day there were sessions with passionate worship and time to seek God, as well as teachings on the Father Heart of God, the Holy Spirit, holiness, and making it for the long haul. The students encountered God powerfully as they responded to these teachings. They also had outreaches throughout Austin in various parks, low income neighborhoods, and on UT campus. On the outreaches, students had the opportunity to pray and share the Gospel with people and saw God do some amazing things! All in all, it was an incredible trip. The students are changed and excited to come back to Baton Rouge with fresh faith to see their own college campuses transformed by God. We hope you are encouraged by the photos and testimonies shared below. 

"On the last day of the outreach at UT-Austin, I felt like God placed a word on my heart that I was going to meet a Muslim person that day and share the Gospel with him. I patiently waited throughout the day as we walked around campus and at one point God highlighted a guy sitting by himself. Upon introducing ourselves and beginning conversation, I found out that he was a Muslim man from Pakistan. During our conversation, when I asked if I could pray for him, he initially declined. I felt prompted to not give up on him, so I began to share my testimony and he in turn shared his story, opening up with me about his life. After talking for about an hour, I was getting ready to leave, when he said, 'Wait up, can you pray for me? You have made me feel so loved, and no one has done that for me before.' I was in awe of the faithfulness and love God displayed in me and in that guy's heart. God showed me that even when it doesn't seem like someone is open, He can soften hearts and open doors."

"One of the days, we did an outreach at a middle school. While there, we met a girl who was a refugee from another country, living in a nearby apartment complex. She shared with us that she had extreme leg and back pain, due to one of her legs being shorter than the other. She had been experiencing pain since the age of 10, so much so that she couldn't walk, run, or jump without pain. We prayed for her full healing and when we opened our eyes, her leg had grown to be the exact same size as the other! She jumped, ran around, and we praised Jesus!"

"One of our favorite outreaches was the carnival we did after attending Antioch Austin for church on Sunday. We had pizza, bounce houses, games, popcorn, and candy. A ton of people came out, had fun, and had the opportunity to hear the gospel. After sharing the gospel with everyone gathered, we asked if anyone wanted to give their life to Jesus and multiple kids and parents raised their hands to respond!"

"While we were doing an outreach at a park, I felt God leading me to talk to a young guy who was playing soccer with his brother. I introduced myself and we had some small talk, then I asked him if I could pray for him. He asked for prayer about school and his struggle with anxiety. After we prayed, I asked if he had a relationship with Jesus. He responded that he went to church, and from there I explained to him more about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus beyond attending church. I shared my testimony and the gospel with him and asked if this was something he desired. He said that he felt overwhelmed by his own sin and didn't think he was strong enough to say no to sin and live a life for God. I explained to him that the love of God empowers us to live for Jesus and that the gospel is about how much Jesus has done for us and how much he loves us. When I asked again if he wanted to follow Jesus, he replied, 'Yes!' We prayed together and he gave his life to Jesus! We then talked more about spending time with God and listening to his voice. When I was leaving, he said "Thank you, I've never felt so happy." 

We love that our college students chose to give up their break in order to bless and serve the city of Austin with the love of Jesus! It has been so powerful to hear and see the work God has and is doing in their hearts because of our time together. Thank you for praying for our trip! Please continue to believe with us that the work God began will continue as we get back to normal life in Baton Rouge. We are believing to see miracles and salvations in our city! 

 

 

Images thanks to Courtney Tate

Health of the House

Each spring, we take time to pause and reflect on what God has done, is doing, and how He wants us to move forward as a church. Overall, the word that God put on the hearts of our staff in the fall still ring true for what we believe God is calling us to in this season: to strengthen church health. This means that we are more focused on moving forward in the right way rather than on moving forward quickly, in other words: direction is more important than speed. We feel called to focus on a few things well as a church, so that our foundation can hold all that God has in store for us. 

One of the illustrations Donny used on Sunday as he addressed this topic, is that our church is a battleship not a cruise ship. Like a battleship, we believe that we are called to function with a clear vision and mission, a purpose moving forward. Those of us onboard aren't evaluating things based on our personal preferences, but instead are concerned with our assignments, making sure we are ready and equipped to serve and fulfill the things we are called to. We want to partner with God to see every member of our church equipped in the way that God is calling us to minister to people in our daily lives. As we seek to become equipped to fulfill what God has called us to, it's important to remember that we are a people of the presence of God. He calls us out to live together, revealing to the whole world who God is and what He is about. The presence of Jesus among us calls us out as a spiritual family to execute God's plan. As we each do our part, we will be able to walk in the fullness that Christ has for us. 

You may remember participating in a church-wide survey in the fall that was aimed at helping us see our strengths and weaknesses as a church so that we can move forward in the purposes of God in a healthy way. We learned from the survey that 80% of people who consider Antioch to be their home church attend Lifegroup on a monthly basis! It's so encouraging to know that most of our church is walking in consistent, Biblical fellowship with each other. If you would like to get involved in a Lifegroup, you can find one that works with your schedule here

The survey also helped us see that we need to grow in clear communication with our church body. One way we are aiming to do this is through a monthly church newsletter which outlines what is happening in church life. If you would like to sign up to receive the newsletter, you can do so here

Additionally, our hope is to grow in the areas of generational and racial diversity. We feel strongly that Antioch is called to be a church for the whole city of Baton Rouge. Not a suburb church for the upper middle class and not an inner city church only for the poor, but a church for the whole city that is multi-generational and multi-racial! 

Overall, we are excited and hopeful as we move forward as a church. We encourage you to join us in believing God and partnering with Him to see His plans and purposes fulfilled in and through us.