In the Silence of the Heart You Speak

As I walked out to my car after a long day of teaching, I saw a sight that changed my life for the next two years. It was a February evening in 2017 and I one of my students at the time, my sweet and very tall Bella, was shooting hoops on my school’s playground with her older brother and two boys who were bad news. Bella had joined my class earlier in the year when she, her dad and brother moved to our district to live with their grandpa; her second school that year. Soon after her move Bella told me that her mom had died. As I put the pieces of the story together, I learned that her mom died when Bella was young, most likely from a drug overdose. Although her story was not unusual in my school, it still broke my heart. She had grabbed a hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go. As the February wind blew my hair into my face, I cried out to God, “I wish there was a way I could be involved in her life after this school year!” This precious girl needed a mother in her life, and although I knew I could never fill that void, I desperately wanted to teach her about my Jesus who could start healing that wound and bring restoration to her broken world.

In that silence, Christ spoke: “Autumn, you’re leading SMM next year.” And for one of the first times in my life, I simply replied, “Yes, Lord.”

A friend of mine had started up an SMM club as an after-school girl’s ministry at our public elementary school the previous year, and was praying for a replacement because the Lord was moving her to another country. For months, I had prayed about whether I should take her place leading SMM or if I should serve in a ministry at my local church. This was my answer. I wanted to share the gospel with my students, but because I was not legally allowed to during the instructional day, I knew that it would be out of place in the general classroom setting. Through SMM, I would be able to share the gospel with my students after school, and God could give me the opportunity to share Him with Bella.

Fast forward two years. At our end of the year SMM party this spring, I was able to snag a picture with Bella and another former student before they raced off to chat with their friends. Little did I know in that silent moment in February of 2017 what God would do through SMM. There are numerous stories of God working in girls’ lives, of salvation decisions, and of discipleship happening between older women and these elementary-aged girls, all at my public elementary school. God has been so gracious in the fruit he has brought from this ministry, and not because of anything that I or any of the leaders have done. He simply worked when I chose to still my heart to listen and then willingly follow.

SMM--Sisters Mentoring with a Mission--is an organization whose focus has been discipleship of young girls for over 100 years. Although it has been a church-based ministry for many years, some clubs are starting to branch out into an after-school setting at public schools in order to reach girls who might not otherwise hear the gospel. If you are interested in starting up a club in a local elementary school near you, please contact Nicole Miller at or visit SMM’s website at

Teach them to give!

As we enter the holiday season many of us think of the things we can offer those in need. How can I give of the things I have to someone who is needy? While this is a great thing to do, it is also vital that we put ourselves in others shoes and think about the feeling of not being able to buy a present for a child or not being able to purchase a special meal for the holidays. What does it feel like to have to receive rather than give? As I consider this, I wonder how we can facilitate an atmosphere of giving even for those who have little. Jesus commended the woman who gave her last few coins when others had given a large amount. How can we teach the girls we work with to look at themselves as having something to give no matter what it is?

Here are a few suggestions:
1. Empower girls to give: Give the girls an opportunity to think through the things they are able to do and ways that can be used as a gift. Your group could carol at a local nursing home, host a babysitting night so parents can Christmas shop, decorate cookies to give away, write special cards for other children. Encourage them to really think about how God gifted them and use that to serve others.

2. Focus on missions: There are many ways to encourage those on the mission field. Consider inviting a missionary or former missionary to come and talk about their experience. Have them share about the ways that they could give to the people they were ministering to. For example, have them talk about teaching the gospel, going to an orphanage and giving hugs, a work project. Tell the missionary you not only want to hear about the mission field but you also want your girls to be encouraged to think of ways to begin ministering right now.

3. Go to a local organization and serve as a group: Find a local resale shop, food pantry, soup kitchen or similar organization and schedule a time to serve as a team.

It could change the way your girls think about the holidays if you give them a chance to give back!


His Plans, Not Mine

Have you ever spent a significant amount of time planning for an event? You prepare every detail: the time, place, people, supplies, and everything in between. Then you wait in anticipation for the event to happen, the excitement building as the day gets closer and closer. Finally, the day arrives. Everything is ready. And the event doesn’t go in any way as you planned.

What do you do now?

This scenario describes the process of starting SMM at Lakeview Middle School. The whole idea was a bit of a whirlwind. My girls at Jefferson Elementary were getting ready to move on to middle school, but I wasn’t ready to stop teaching them. With the help of my mentor, Nicole, the two of us made plans to bring SMM to middle school.

The planning began. We needed to contact the school, obtain a classroom, think of activities to do, gather lessons to teach, the list went on and on. From January through August we worked and planned and prayed. Sometimes life got the best of us, and we would get distracted. But eventually the plans were set, and SMM at Lakeview was set to begin on November 1, 2016.

My heart was jittery with excitement when the day finally arrived. My roommates can attest to the fact that I was pacing in my room an hour before I left, praying that everything would go well. When Nicole and I got to the middle school, I nearly burst with excitement because I just wanted to see my girls.

We were led down to the cafeteria, set all our belongings down, and then waited. And we waited. Fifteen minutes after the final bell had gone by, and my heart slowly started to sink. Then from down the hallway one girl wandered over to our table. I recognized her from one year at Jefferson Elementary, and she sat down beside me. Another five minutes had gone by and I realized that this one girl was the only one who was going to show up that day.

My heart sank. After months of planning, preparing, and praying I felt like I had failed. As a senior in college, hoping that plans work out is currently a large part of my life. I was so nervous because I had never started a program like this in a new place, and then my hopes were let down because I thought none of my other girls would ever show up. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to lead a new ministry program.

These feelings of insecurity and discouragement did not last long. God came to my side instantly, and I was overwhelmed by His presence. And then a message was pressed so heavily on my heart that said, “Just wait. This is for a purpose. Trust me.” Those words resonated so deeply with me. For the rest of the time we were there that day, I put my whole heart into teaching and loving our one girl. She was talkative, energetic, and genuinely happy to be at SMM. Even though the day didn’t go in any way like I had planned, it was an incredible start to middle school SMM.

God has an interesting way of working with plans. I can try and plan all the big and little details of my life, but ultimately things are going to go according to His plans. Starting SMM at Lakeview has given me a new perspective on placing my trust in God. In order to teach these girls in the best way possible, I need to rely completely on God’s direction and guidance. After all, I am teaching them all about Him. Instead of getting discouraged, I felt humbled and encouraged to know that God had a purpose for my disheveled plans. And that’s how I want to live out my life, by trusting Him completely to lead me in serving these girls and teaching them about His love.

Things may not always go as I plan them (again, this is so encouraging to an almost college graduate). I must constantly remind myself that it’s not my plan that I’m living by, it’s God’s. Let this be a reminder and an encouragement that when things don’t go exactly as we planned, they are going exactly as He planned.

So, Nicole and I went back to Lakeview the next week. My heart was overflowing with happiness when, not only did our one girl show up, but so did all of the other girls whom I’ve previously taught. All of those girls continue to come on a weekly basis and have even started to bring new friends. Wow, when God says to trust Him, He truly provides. The girls are going through a bible study called Seamless, and each week they bring their books and endless amounts of energy, ready to learn more. Oh, they make my heart so happy. And now, as Nicole and I both continue on this journey, I’m staying tuned for what God has planned next. 

When Adulting Gets Hard

I want to be real. I don’t want to put on a fake mask. We all have down days and that is okay, at this moment I am frustrated and stressed. I'm fine, but I want to share my heart with you. I realize I am saying "Adulting" is hard and I am single and do not have children, so this title may frustrate people. But let’s be real, everybody struggles no matter what phase of life they are in and that is okay. Let’s not judge each other or even compare. My struggles are just that, my struggles, and your struggles are your struggles. God has given each of us a story and he works in our good days and our bad days. I acknowledge and realize that other people have different and more challenging situations. So lets drop the masks, and be real with one another.

I hate being an adult sometimes. Lately I have seen my friends go through some losses and I have just been trudging through the fun life that is adulthood. I cannot help but remember that when I was a kid I could not wait to grow up. I wanted to be able to stay up late and play games with my friends and family. I wanted to be able to go to bed whenever I wanted. I wanted to watch whatever I wanted on TV, listen to whatever music I wanted to and do whatever I wanted. It was going to be so fun! When I was in Junior High and High school I could not wait for those freedoms. I was going to get married young and have lots of babies. I was going to go to Africa and build an orphanage. Then I went to college. I went to Romania.Yet,  even when I was in college I wanted so badly to graduate and build my career. I was going to be independent and  do anything I wanted.

Then I did. I grew up. I lived on my own. I had/have a big girl job. However, sometimes, I want so badly to go back to Kindergarten where all I had to worry about was the Letter of the week, what was for snack, learn how to tie my show, count to 100, and coloring in the lines. I want to go back to Junior high (I might be crazy for saying this) where my biggest worry was whether or not that boy liked me or whether or not my friends liked me that week. Then in High school  my biggest worries were grades, swim team, still boys (I'm shaking my head as I write this), and what College I was going to go to. Then in college I had all this time with friends and a great opportunities.

I'm not going to lie to you. I had a lot of loss in my life through these years, so the those weren’t really the only things I was concerned with. I have always had anxiety so I was stressed and worried. It seems now, that I would love to tell my younger self "Enjoy where you are. Don’t worry about the small stuff. It does not matter. Enjoy how pretty much everything is provided for you. Your mom cooks your food. You never go hungry. You have a bed. You have two parents who love you and love each other. You have a house. You have friends and a huge extended family. You have tons of people who love and care about you.  God will never fail you. He is always there for you. Don’t rush. Being an adult is so overrated. You become responsible for figuring out where the next meal will come from and putting a roof over your head and providing a bed for yourself. It is overrated. Think about all your blessings."

As I was talking to friends the other night, we discussed that Jesus is truly the only thing that matters. Whether I know Jesus, whether they know Jesus, whether my other friends and family know Jesus.  I think maybe someday I will look back on this time and what I was stressing about and I'll want to tell my 29 year old self "You have it so easy.... " So, I am going to focus on my blessings. I have never gone hungry, I have a roof over my head, two parents who love me and love each other. I have a sister and extended family members that love and support me.  The sun was shining and today was beautiful.  I have a job. I have a car. I have friends that know me and love me despite my flaws. Wouldn't you know, just like that, my stress and frustrations seem small. There are single moms and dads who are not sure how they will feed their children or if there children will come home tonight. There are people battling through cancer and other illnesses. There are people fighting through severe mental illnesses and a lot of people who just lost everything in a hurricane. There are people who don’t know where there next meal will come from. There are people in war torn countries that have know clue if they or their family will live to see tomorrow, and I just take all I have for granted.

What if we lived like we believe Jesus is all that truly matters? I don’t know if I have tomorrow or if you have tomorrow. What if we all really lived like that? We talk about it a lot. We say we need to live like there is no tomorrow. But what if we all really lived our lives like today might be the last? I bet we would love deeper. I bet we would not worry about the small things and trust God more. Everything we have on this earth is God’s anyway right? It’s not ours. We are not promised tomorrow. We don’t know what will happen. Our houses could burn down. Our country could become war torn. Or we could get another day and live it to serve God fully.  I am convinced that I need to quit worrying about every little detail of my life because God knows what is going to happen. He knows how many hairs are on my head, if I will get married, and if I will have kids. He loves and cares so deeply for me.

So here is my challenge to myself and to you! Let’s live like we don’t know what will happen tomorrow! Let’s trust God with everything we have! It’s not ours anyway. Let’s count our blessings. Tell the people you love that you love and appreciate them.  Be content in your current situation in life because it can and will change. Don’t take the important things for granted. Remember the only thing that really matters is Jesus!

This Blog Post has been adapted from Emily Zimmerman's Blog, Emily is a Social Worker in Danville, Illinois. She is passionate about women being real, vulnerable and willing to share their story for in order to point others to Christ. Emily is part of the SMM, Sister's Mentoring With a Mission planning team.