Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year - New Goals

I am not one for New Year's Resolutions.  But I do appreciate and need goals in my life.  Last January when I made out a list of goals for for 2011, I honestly thought they would stretch me and push me, but that they were still very doable.  

I had great intentions, after all I believe the buzz word on many blogs was "Be Intentional".  I thought I had that.  They were good goals.  I had some specific goals concerning my marriage and children.  I wanted to spend more time in the Word, memorize more scripture, read more, exercise more - and so on.  

Each of my goals were clearly defined.  For example, I wanted to memorize one scripture per week.    Because it would be of my own choosing, I didn't see any reason why that could not be done.  Well, that and several others fell far short of what I saw as the victory finish line.

I did read more books, so that was a plus.  Although many of the specific goals were unmet, there were other areas that didn't make the list, but were greatly improved.   And I learned something about setting goals in my life and what being intentional means for me. 

If I don't have a specific reason attached to my goal, I will fail.  I want to be in better shape, but doesn't everyone this time of year?   However, the reason I want to be in better shape is to be healthy for my family and so that I have all the energy and strength I need to play with my grandchildren.   

When I set the goal and have a very specific reason with it and then break it down into doable chunks, I have a much better chance of achieving it. 

Some things also need to go.   Just adding a long list of "want to-dos" in my life, without removing some other "don't-need-to-dos", I will probably fail again.    For example, I do not need to stand in front of the TV mindlessly watching the Today Show before work.    Instead, I could be going over my memory verses. 

While that might be a small something, I realize there are bigger areas or more undisciplined areas in my life that need some sifting and sorting. 

I'm still praying about my goals for 2012 and wanting to make sure that God is very much in the midst of them.   And I'm very excited to see where He leads me. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Reading Goals from 2011

Last January, I made a long list of goals for myself for 2011.     One of those goals was to read and finish a variety of books.  I have a terrible habit of starting a book or reading several at the same time and never finishing any of them.

So part of my goal was to actually finish a handful of books that I started years ago!  I can honestly say I did that.  

I also wanted to read some books that have been on our shelves for awhile that I just never could commit to reading.   One of them, I started and decided that it was a waste of time in this season of my life.  Maybe next year.    

Another book, Cost of Discipleship,  - well I'm still on Chapter 2.   I have owned it for so long and I am determined to make it a priority to complete it before the end of January 2012.

Some of these books were on the list I wanted to read, some were given as gifts and some were just for the pure joy of reading.  I also have a handful that are only half-way done.   Here's what made the finish line:

A Message from God, Retha McPherson

Total Money Makeover, Dave Ramsey

Just Give Me Jesus, Anne Graham Lotz
Intercessory Prayer, Dutch Sheets

Organized Simplicity, Tsh Oxenrider

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Jimmy, Robert Whitlow

Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas

A Gift from The Sea, Anne Lindbergh

Eat that Frog, Brian Tracy 

Quitter, Jon Acuff

Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Her Mother's Hope, Francine Rivers (I still have 3 days to finish it) 

I do not necessarily endorse all of these books, nor their authors.      But I read them and therefore, they are on here.   My goal for next year is 24 books.    What did you read last year?   

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Operation Christmas Child -Looking Back and Looking Ahead

For several years, I have wanted to participate in Operation Christmas Child and prepare shoe boxes of gifts for children.  Lack of planning on my part resulted in zero boxes completed until this year.    There are three different age groups for boys and for girls and so I thought it would be fun to do six boxes total.  One for each category.

I had been gathering items since August when quality school supplies are dirt cheap.   Along the way, I also picked up full-size toothpastes, toothbrushes and soap for free.    After speaking with a friend who is heavily involved in Operation Christmas Child and learning that some children never have a toothbrush and others may share one toothbrush between fifteen or more children, I knew I would be putting extras in each box.

Then a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I headed out on a Saturday evening to finish grabbing the other items that would go in the boxes.  I had some thoughts of what I wanted to get, but I also prayed that God would lead me to specific items for each box.    I wanted the boxes to be special and personal for the child receiving it.

That night, I finished packing the shoe boxes (well, actually they were plastic storage boxes I purchased for.74 each at Krogers).   Printed off the mailing labels, signed up to receive a notification of what country our box was sent to and sealed them up to take to the drop-off center.

So far we have received a notice of at least one box going to Zimbabwe and one box going to Mali.   Only God could have made that possible.  I have always had a special place in my heart for Zimbabwe and hope to visit there someday.    My husband has regular interaction with a church that sends hospital supplies to Mali.

I mention this ministry now because it is a great time of year to get toys on sale or other items marked down for clearance.   Their website has a very easy to follow list of instructions and ideas for what can and cannot go in each shoe box.

Personally, I am going to make a list of the items that I plan on putting in next year's boxes so that I can have it with me when I am out shopping.   Some items I may not get until after I have prayed specifically for each child, but other items will be pretty standard for our boxes and I can grab those throughout the year.

Shoe boxes can be filled fairly inexpensively and will bring immeasurable joy to the child who receives it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Sound of Christmas Dinner

A little over 24 hours ago, I had the distinct privilege of sitting down for Christmas dinner with the people I love most.   My mother continued the decades long tradition of making the Christmas ham, which my brother declared that everyone must eat or they don't get to open presents.    There were bowls full of stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad and so much more.   An endless feast if you will, where the bowls seem to fill as fast as a spoonful is removed.  

Among the food, there is another delight.   I stumbled upon it this past Easter.   With great anticipation, it is something I came expecting to indulge in during the Christmas dinner.   I was not disappointed. 

After the food is initially passed around the table, the conversations continue while everyone partakes of the provisions offered them.  And then it appears, if you silence your thoughts and your words, you will hear it.   

So that is what I did.  I didn't concentrate on the words of conversations or even what was on my plate.  Instead, I allowed the cadence of sentences, the soft crumple of napkins, the rhythm of breathing, the subtle thud of bowls being placed back on the table, the clanking of silverware upon a plate to form one of the most beautiful serenades you can imagine.    With the familiar smells of home-cooked foods from my childhood as the backdrop, there before me was a melody as sweet as one performed by any orchestra.   

You know how your heart swells up with joy when you hear beautiful music.  That is what happens in that moment for me.  The sounds of the voices of my parents, my spouse, my children and other extended family all coming together in that one brief moment before children become restless and the dessert is passed.   It is there that the sound of Christmas dinner is at its finest.      It is there that blessings from God come to life in a new and personal way and I am forever grateful for that holiday music. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

What's the Price?

For the last few years, I have been diligently working on saving money and buying ahead with the use of coupons and sales.  It has been a blessing and a discipline in my life.   Not only have we saved a great deal of money, but we have been able to bless others.    

In the last year, as I have read comments posted on some of the websites/blogs I regularly visit to find good deals, I have seen an increase in people complaining that they aren't getting just about everything for free.   As a result of people abusing the system, the stores have also started tightening the restrictions and regulations associated with coupons and other sales.     Ultimately, someone has to pay.  Either the consumer pays or the company pays.  When both sides play fair and act respectfully, both sides can come out with a pretty good win-win situation.    When one side (the consumer in this case) starts demanding all of their 'rights' and taking on an attitude of entitlement, both sides quickly lose.  Additionally, those with the attitude of entitlement cause harm to everyone else in the long run.

There are many arguments to be made about companies, greed, abuse of systems, etc.   This is not the forum for such discussions, but rather a place to stop and reflect on our own attitudes.  I confess that there have been times in my life when I had the entitlement attitude and I am embarrassed to think of how I acted.   Truth is - I'm not entitled to anything, but I am called to be thankful for everything.

In every area of our lives, there is a price to pay when we start believing that we are to get everything for nothing.    Such an attitude is like gangrene in any community, church, relationship or business.   It spreads and it is ugly and eventually it kills what once was healthy and growing.    

Perhaps we would be wise to consider the words of Paul in the New Testament:  1 Timothy 6:6-8  "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that."   

May we keep our priorities in order and our eyes on Jesus.  May our hearts and attitudes be a reflection of who Jesus called us to be in all situations.   He paid the price for our sins and we certainly weren't entitled to that!

"Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Weekend Getaway

Ahhh, the sound of waves gently crashing against the shore.  The birds singing in the distance.  The cool breeze gently blowing in the windows.  Life is good.   But wait . . . I'm in Ohio and it is three a.m. and there isn't a beach with gently crashing waves anywhere near here.    So what could that sound be?

It is the sound of the alarm clock on the nature setting going off two hours before I have to get up.   It is the same sound I hear soon after there are little feet running down the hallway to Nana and Papa's bedroom.   A little Simon spent some time with us this weekend and as I was cleaning yesterday I apparently bumped the alarm to the "on" position and it came on playing Simon's favorite tune on the alarm clock. At least it was the gentler of the two he usually picks.   When he pushes the other button the cd player will crank out some worship music and he and I will dance to "I'm Trading My Sorrows" or "Yes Lord,  Yes Lord, yes, yes, Lord - Amen".  

We never seem to get past the first two songs, because by then his attentions have turned to something else in the house and off we go.   Or maybe it's because at 19 months he really doesn't have a lot of sorrows to trade and so he can quickly move right along. 

I've been working on rearranging my time lately so that it better reflects my priorities. 

After all, it will be all too soon until shoes like this fit his feet.  

And who knows what paths he will take in life. 

I just want to make sure I don't miss a moment of it.  Thank you Jesus for the gift of this little boy - yes, yes Lord- Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Overcoming Disappointment & Other Life Stuff

Ever felt disappointed?   If you said 'no', then perhaps you might want to check your pulse.   I think it is human to be disappointed sometimes.  Discouragement just might be Disappointment's cousin and Frustration would be their best friend.   Some of these ugly relatives have tried to move into my house lately.  They aren't welcome, no matter how many times they let themselves in the front door or park their bags at the back door.

Maybe you can relate to one of these statements: 

"Honey, the washer sounds a little funny."

"Come here and take a look at this, the computer screen says 'critical error'."

"I'm sorry, your washer isn't repairable"

"Hey - why won't the air conditioning turn on?  The furnace isn't coming on either". 

"Looks like something ate through the wires in your truck  (cha-ching)"

"While we were fixing the wires, did you know you needed to have __________ fixed also?" 

"What's that noise every time you shift when you're driving the car?"

"You know that noise that it made while it was shifting, it's not doing that anymore. The gearshift broke in two." 

"Bubba (yes that's his name) wants to know how much we want for the car" 

"M'am - it looks like mice ate through the wires in your air conditioning unit." 

"You need to come back next week for more tests" 

"We can't tell for sure from the tests. We will have to do surgery in 4 days." 

"Honey take a look at these spots on my back." 

"You have shingles." (which makes you contagious to your grandson, which means you can't see him for awhile) 

We have heard every single one of these and quite a few more in the last several months.  While none of them were life threatening and God provided the means to overcome all of them, frustration and disappointment have been nipping at my heels for awhile now. 

It would be so easy to sit here and think about the negative.  Because let's face it, the negative seems to come up in one way or another on a regular basis at certain seasons/times of life.   Sometimes it is like a slow drip, other times like a tsunami. 

These are just reminders of why it is so important to stay in the Word and to keep our eyes on Jesus.  If we don't, we are likely to find ourselves swimming in a cesspool of defeat and discouragement.  Sadly, discouragement is more contagious than the shingles and can be deadly to our faith if we aren't careful.  

In each one of those statements above, there was a blessing.  Albeit, I'm still trying to figure out the blessing of the shingles, but I'm sure it's there.*   If, however, we had taken a 'woe is me' attitude, we would have missed the blessings. 

In addition to the blessings directly related to each of those statements, we have seen God's hand at work in ways that make us speechless.   He is so faithful.   

I pray that you will keep your nose in the Word and your eyes fixed on the One who came to give us life and to give us life to the full. (John 10:10)   Don't miss the blessing in the midst of the mess.  

 ( *After I posted this and sat down, God reminded me they could have been much worse.  So there is the blessing.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

These Little Feet

Oh the sweetness!  These little feet belong to my grandson, Simon.   We have a little ritual when he comes to visit Nana.    I get out the ice cream and scoop some in a small bowl for the two of us.  It's vanilla, because his Mommy says he can't have chocolate yet.

We start out with me sitting on the kitchen floor and Simon standing up facing me.  I put the first spoonful in his little mouth.   He likes it.

By the 2nd or 3rd bite, Simon has turned himself around and wiggles himself backwards up into my lap.   If my legs aren't situated just right, he pushes them over so he can snuggle up real close.

We finish the bowl of ice cream in this position.  It is all I can do not to feed him more than he should have.   I don't want this to end.

Every time we sit like this and I look down at his little feet, I thank God for him.  I pray that he will want Nana to tell him about Jesus - sitting just like this.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Life is full of changes.  Sometimes a change seems good, then it seems bad and then you look back and realize it was God and it really was good.   Make sense?

This picture was taken almost 3 years ago from the back stoop at my grandma's house.That is grandma's clothesline against the backdrop of the sunrise over the field. Grandma never did own a dryer and maybe this view is why.   

We were living there in transition between houses when I took this picture.  We lived there for a year.  I think I spent most of my time wondering why God wasn't moving us sooner.  Sadly I spent way too much time complaining about it too.  As I look back, I truly wish I had enjoyed the view and the blessings more.   I was only seeing what I wanted to see and not what God wanted to show me. 

How often do we get caught up in the act of the change or the inconvenience of the moment and miss the blessing?    

A lot of things have changed in the last few months. Little did I know that God would show up so spectacularly and so miraculously in this time of personal transition in our lives.  Just like living at Grandma's house, it hasn't all been easy.  But I can say - it has all been good. 

Blessed be His name.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For the Love of the Journal

I have this love-hate relationship with my journal.  I love to look back and see where God has taken me on this journey.  I hate that I don't journal with regularity.   I used to wonder what the 'right' way was to journal.  After all, how could you or should you track prayer requests and answers?  And what about the details that should be included?   Should I just put in the big stuff or should I include things that really didn't seem so significant, but might be significant later.   So my life with the journal has been a bit of hit and miss.  

Journaling was probably never meant to be this difficult.   For goodness sake, it is a spiral bound notebook with lined paper.  It is mine to do with it as I please.  I'm not doing it for a grade or for a project for school.  No one sees it but me and God forbid anyone should see them after I die.    They probably wouldn't make any sense to anyone but me anyway.

Monday night after our prayer meeting at church, I wanted to come home and look for something in one of my old journals.   As I dug through them and found the one I wanted, I started reading bits and pieces of it.  At first I was truly on a search for what I was looking for.  But then it became more like a meandering journey of the mind through the past several years.    

As I kept reading and perusing the pages that constituted a good portion of my life with Christ, I found something very disturbing.   Don't get me wrong, there was lots of good stuff and things I am totally clueless as to why I would have written down at all.  But what disturbed me the most was my waning faith.

There I said it.  My faith was shrinking right there on the pages of my journal.   I kept reading it and wondered what happened to the woman that started the journaling to begin with.    If trials make you stronger and draw you closer to Jesus, then I should have been having large leaps of faith growth.  But that wasn't what was there.  

On the pages of the first journal I saw a "childlike, endless, God can do ANYTHING He wants" faith.  I saw a faith that believed in and expected miracles.  I trusted that if God said jump, well then, just jump and He will catch you.     But then this "oh I am more mature in my faith, don't want people to think I'm strange" woman showed up.     We share the same name, but I'm not nearly as fond of her.    This person I had become was too logical, played it too safe.

Only one or two journals before that I was asking God to interrupt my life.  To draw me so close to Him that I wouldn't question what He asked of me.  I prayed for a dangerous, give it all to Jesus kind of faith.  

Sometimes it is painful to look back, but sometimes it's absolutely necessary if we ever want to move forward as God intended.    I am so incredibly thankful for my journal and for God allowing me to see the truth in it.   If people think I'm strange then that is fine with me, because I would rather be strange and full of faith than 'normal' and faithless.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's the Small Things

Sometimes it is easy in our world of abundance to forget just how blessed we are.  I fall trap to that way of  thinking more often than I like to admit.    

Sponsoring a child from Compassion this year makes me stop and look at life differently.   When I take the time to prepare a small package of very simple items for him, it fills my heart with overflowing joy.  Praying over the items brings me back to reality.  It really is more of a blessing to give than to receive.    

Christ calls us to care for the poor and to preach the good news to the nations.  That doesn't mean that we have to go to another country to fulfill His calling for us.    We can share the good news of Jesus Christ and help to care for the poor right from our own home.   A little time and a little sacrifice is all it takes.   

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Secret of Making Your Marriage Work

"Always give more than you get" was what my mother told me over 25 years ago at my bridal shower.    My mother had been married a long time and that advice has served me well.     Sadly, I can't say that I always followed it.  But by the grace of God and an amazing husband, our marriage has survived all these years.

My thoughts lately have been a lot about marriage and what really does make it work.   We have seen way too many marriages end in divorce in the last year or so, while others are barely hanging on by a thread even as I write this.

Then I got an email this week from a friend who wanted me to call another woman about the difficulties that woman was experiencing in her marriage. I knew a bit about the situation they were going through and wasn't sure what advice I could give her that would truly help if she wasn't willing to do some hard work and see it through.

Here is the one thing I have learned over the last 25+ years, you really do have to be willing to give more than you get - or at least more than you think you are getting.    If there was such a thing as 'elbow-grease' in marriage, you need that!   Hard work and sacrifice and patience and prayer and love that goes beyond words.

Over the last several years, my husband and I have met with and talked to numerous people who are going through difficult times in their marriage.   Sadly, the one thing we saw repeatedly was people who wanted their marriage to work, no matter how bad it had gotten, but they weren't willing to do the hard work to see it through.   If just wanting your marriage to work was all it took, there wouldn't be a need for divorce attorneys.

There hasn't been a fix-all answer that I could ever give to anyone whose marriage was struggling.  But this much I know, you have to be willing to sacrifice and put your spouse first, and in even greater amounts during difficult seasons.

Our marriage has seen a wide-range of trials, testings and blessings.  We have survived difficult times when we weren't followers of Jesus Christ.  We have survived difficult times when we were following Jesus with all of our hearts. We have seen lean seasons and seasons of plenty.  We have walked through busy years of children and adjusted to the empty nest years.    We have had difficult times that we share publicly and we have private trials that aren't always meant to be shared.

I say these things, because I want you to understand that it wasn't just because of one particular thing or lack of something that made it work.   My husband and I have learned to press on and hold on and to give and bend and fight fair.   We pray for each.  We try to put each other first and yet I fail too often at this.   We have learned to close our mouths and keep our negative words to ourselves when our flesh wanted to just say what it was thinking. We have forgiven 7 x 7 and then a thousand more on top of that.  

Although God graciously sustained our marriage even when we weren't living for Him, I can't help but direct troubled marriages back to the Bible to be your guide.  Are you personally living as the husband or wife that God called you to be?    When you look in the mirror do you see the husband/wife that God intended you to be or something that looks more like a version that has been modified by the world's standards?

Sadly there are times when you can do all the right things and the hard work and pray and sacrifice and a spouse will still choose to leave or will continue an abusive or addictive lifestyle that is unhealthy for you to remain in.   The fallen world in which we live is still a reality today as much as it was in biblical times.

But there is hope if you are still married, even if the problems seem too much.   As my mother said "always give more than you get".  You might just be surprised at what you get in return.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Unlimited Potential

Turning points in our lives can cause us to revert and focus on weaknesses or they can catapult us into new possibilities.  There are many places we can land in between those points, but I am praying that the turning points in my life will catapult me straight into the middle of God's plan and purposes for my life.  

Several events lately have caused me to pause and to begin reevaluating my own relationship with the Lord and how to use my gifts.  For that matter, I am even having more discussions with God about what gifts and talents He gave me versus the ones I want or the ones I think I have and don't.   That will be another post perhaps.

Anyway, if I look at things through my own limited understanding, I will find myself . . . limited.    If, however, I sit up and take note of how I see God working in miraculous ways, I find that the limits are the fences and walls I have built in my own thinking.

A couple months ago, I wrote about sponsoring a child through Compassion.  Within just a few short days after that, God saw fit for me to meet a man from Rwanda personally.   The man walked straight into my office at work.  I love the way God does things.

Here's the beautiful part of what I learned about this man.   I don't know exactly how he became a believer in Jesus Christ, but he did.   He read his bible.   And he took God's instructions personally.    The bible told him he was to go and reach and teach the world for Jesus Christ.  He thought to himself that he would be unable to teach the world about Jesus because he did not know English and so many others did.  So he taught himself English.  

He also went from teaching a handful of people in an untraditional style of church to leading a church of over a thousand.  I forget the exact figure but it was as a lot!   No marketing.  No advertising.   No formal education in the Word.  Just preaching and teaching.     Right there in the middle of Rwanda.

He is here because his country now has certain requirements that he must meet.   I have no doubt that he will do that in record time so that he can get back to preaching the Word and leading people to Jesus.

What would happen in our lives if we began to take God's words of promise and instruction a little more literally?   God said it and so I must do it.  God promised it and so I must expect it.   God forbade it and so I can't do it.

Our potential and power is unlimited when we remember where both come from.  May the turning points in my life cause me to tear down the walls of limitation with the truth of God's word and to wait with expectation for the unleashing of his power and provision in my life to do what he called me and created me to do.

I pray there is also a part 2 to this story.   I couldn't help but wonder about the timing of meeting this man.  So I very boldly printed off what little information I had about the child we were sponsoring and asked the man how close he lived to the boy's village.  Turns out he lives only a couple hours away from there.  Perhaps someday God will use this man to show my husband and I to the village where Mucyo lives.  You just never know.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Your Spouse First

Two very different conversations that took place in the last 24 hours really have me thinking about marriage and how we treat our spouse.   In the one conversation, a person basically stated they were nice to people who weren't family.  The indication was clear that you can treat family like dirt, as long as you are nice to strangers.   This was in the presence of their spouse.    The second conversation was one relayed to me that concerned a couple where at least one of the spouses vacations without the other.  

Here's the deal.   The person you are married to - where exactly do they rate on your list of priorities and time?   Do you put them before yourself and others?

I remember several years ago, probably 9 or so by now, when my husband and I were having a very rare night of dinner alone at home without the kids.   It always seemed like we rarely had time to talk when the kids weren't there or something wasn't going on.   However, on this particular night, it seemed like within 5 minutes we had covered what we needed to talk about.  And in my own mind, at least, there was this very eerie feeling that I didn't really know my spouse.  And what would happen to us when the kids moved out?

We had just finished moving into the home we had built. We had full-time jobs.  We didn't have financial problems.  We had been married a long time.  We had two teenagers.   But our marriage seemed to be held together by stuff as opposed to substance.

That night was my wake-up call.  Although things are very different now, I still remember it as though it was yesterday because I never want to feel that way again.

I often hear people say that you and your spouse should go out on a date regularly.  I believe this is especially true when you have little people at home.   But when it is just the two of you there, I suggest you take time to talk.    You can catch up on what is going on in your lives and other things.   But then, take time to talk without the TV, the movies, the dinner guests, or other distractions.    

Without a doubt, I believe that your spouse is to be your first ministry.   Before the church, before the children, before anyone else.  Do you minister to your spouse?      I'm not talking about doing ministry together, which is a great thing.  I'm talking about ministering to them in ways that show you love them and that they matter to you.

At the end of my days, can I say that I loved my husband well?  Will he say that I loved him well?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Have You Prayed for Your Husband Today?

Okay, if you are a man reading this - Have you prayed for your wife today?

Seriously, have you prayed for your husband or wife today?   Years ago when our marriage was still far from God and my husband was not yet a believer, the one thing that God taught me was to pray for my husband.  Trust me - it was all God.  I just prayed.

I firmly believe in the power of prayer, but I had no idea even where to begin or what to pray.  I had no real understanding of the Word and the power of praying scripture.  I just prayed from my heart and usually it was at least three times a day.

I got up early in the morning, set my timer for 30 minutes, and just poured my heart out to the Lord.   Then again on my lunch break I would read the Word, pull out a book I purchased that gave me some direction and pray through the written prayers in it.  

On my way home from work, I prayed.  I prayed for time.  I prayed that God would do a miracle.   I prayed for help in how to answer my husband and how to treat him.  I prayed God would help me with the housework so that our home would be inviting.  I just prayed.   No magic sentences or right order of words, just a pure heart that wanted God to work in my marriage.

Truthfully, I wanted God to fix my husband so that our marriage could be fixed.   But what happened was that while God did do a mighty work in my husband's life, he worked on me first.     If God had actually answered my prayers in the order I wanted, I would never have been the wife my husband needed.  I was too spiritually immature.

Sometimes I thought God wasn't moving fast enough.   As I look back, God moved really fast.    

One of the most encouraging things my husband said to me during those early months was when he told me that he could tell I was praying for him.  I didn't have a clue and I asked him how he knew.   His reply wasn't so much that he could tell when I was, but rather he could tell when I wasn't!!

Marriages can be extremely messy and I don't know any that don't have problems from time to time.  So whether your marriage is at the top of its game or on the last rung of the ladder of hope - pray.

God designed marriage.  He hears you when you cry out to him with a sincere heart.   If things are going well, pray for your spouse.   If things stink, pray for your spouse.   There isn't a thing that you can't take before the Lord.  He already sees and knows exactly what is going on.

One of the greatest answers, aside from salvation for my husband, was when God answered my prayer that my husband would have godly friends in his life.  I wanted my husband to have godly men who would speak into his life and that he could hang out with.  God answered.  

Do you pray for his friendships, for his job, for his health, for strength to resist whatever temptations he may face?  Do you ask God to bless your husband in specific ways?     I can't encourage you enough to pray for your spouse.    Don't wait until tomorrow - start now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Child!

I have been waiting three months to be able to write those words.    For some time now, I have had a deep desire to sponsor a child through Compassion International.    Kenny and I had talked about it and agreed over two months ago that we believed God was leading us to this commitment.   Then somehow life got in the way and we never sat down together to choose the child God would lay on our hearts.

Well today was the day. His name is Mucyo Done and he lives in Rwanda.   He is 5 years old and although we have never met him, he won our hearts over with nothing more than a picture.    Reading his story only confirmed what we felt in our hearts.   My feet may never hit the ground in Rwanda, but my prayers and support can impact someone who walks on it every day.  

As if God laying it strongly on my heart wasn't enough, this video just made the commitment and desire stronger.

Thank you Lord for opportunities that are beyond our understanding.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great Cake to make for those you love

Many years ago I got this cake recipe from our local newspaper. I have no idea who the original person was that shared it. All I know is I have never had one single piece of this cake go to waste. We don't really celebrate Valentine's Day at our house, but my husband and I are going to dinner at our friends' house tomorrow night with several other couples. I am making this cake to take for dessert. But it would make a great cake for a Valentine's celebration or really just make it because it is chocolate and yummy.

Since I am always looking for new recipes that are tried and true through the years, I thought maybe someone else might be too. So here it is:

Double Fudge Sheet Cake

2-layer chocolate cake mix (prepare according to package directions)
2/3 c. shortening
1/2 c. butter (softened, but not melted)
1 14 oz. can Eagle Brand milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 16 oz. can DUNCAN HINES* chocolate frosting

Prepare the cake mix. Bake in greased 11 x 16" jellyroll pan at 350 degrees for 15-20 min. Do not over bake. Cool.

Beat the shortening, butter, milk and vanilla together until fluffy. About 10-15 min. ( If you make this cake in high humidity or in the middle of summer, I suggest cooling your can of milk in the fridge first. If the filling still seems to want to separate while you are mixing it, stick the bowl in the fridge for 15-30 min. and then start beating it again. It should not separate.) Spread over cake. Chill until firm.

Soften the frosting in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir. You can pour it directly out of the frosting can, but I like to take a spoon and drizzle it over the cake to make sure I don't have big globs. Yes - use the whole can.

IMPORTANT: You can use a different brand than Duncan Hines, but the consistency in the frosting is so much better with the Duncan Hines. Go generic and sale on everything else if you want, but don't skimp on the frosting. I have 3 cans of another name brand chocolate frosting in my cupboards, but stopped this morning to buy Duncan Hines and it wasn't on sale either!

Keep the cake refrigerated. Serve generously to those you love.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oh So Happy

Life has been . . . hmmm - Interesting would be the right word to describe our life over the last several months. Some details I have already shared on here and others are just too personal. But in the midst of it all, God has been there and has been gracious and oh so very faithful to His Word and to watch over us.

This weekend was one of the most enjoyable and peaceful I have had in many months. Saturday was our grandson Simon's first birthday. WOW. What an absolutely amazing blessing his birthday party was. I will post pictures later :). But beyond the cake, the gifts, and the pictures was the blessing of having Simon's other grandpa and grandma at our house for this event. I am so extremely grateful that God has blessed Simon with grandparents who love and adore that little boy, but are also followers of Jesus Christ. Most of Simon's aunts and uncles were here and his great-grandparents. If you know anything about our family, this is no small feat and nothing but a miracle!

As the birthday party was taking place our 20-year old deep freezer had died and our food was slowly thawing. Oddly enough, I wasn't freaking out with worry as everyone was gathered in the living room celebrating that little boy. And God was so sweet to me in all of it, because although the food was not frozen solid, it wasn't spoiled and thawed completely, so we were able to salvage all of it. After the party ended, we headed off to our local Lowe's (which I dearly love) and purchased a new freezer. Brought it home, plugged it in and then our old freezer had decided to give us its very last best effort by kicking on enough to get us through the night while the other freezer cooled in preparation. To truly appreciate this, you must know that it is only the peace of Jesus Christ that did not cause me to panic, worry and stress for those 24-hours until the food was transferred from the old to the new.

Words will never be able to describe my joy from being in church this morning. While we dearly love our church and the people there, the last few years have been difficult during transitions. The church has been in transition and honestly so have we. I don't know if the church has understood the transition it is in any more than I understand the transition God has had my husband and I in. But whatever the case may be, today was one of the sweetest moments I have had there in a very long time. I can't explain it, I just know that my heart overflowed with absolute joy as I left there today. Not just an emotional in-the-moment kind of joy, but a deep inside me joy. The kind that penetrates the depths of your soul. I left happy. A spirit-filled happy.

My husband is on the phone with a dear friend right now. I hear the faint voices through the door as they talk about what God is doing and sharing scriptures that God laid on their respective hearts. I can hear the dryer quietly running through the laundry room door, my vanilla wood-wick candle is lit and you can hear the faint sound of the wick burning. The Starbucks has been brewed and the coffee pot is full. It is dark out and the house is relatively quiet.

God has been so good to me. No matter how difficult things have been, God was good and faithful through it all. And that is enough to make me Oh So Happy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Will I Ever Learn?!

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9 NIV

This is the verse I am currently memorizing. In fact I just wrote it from memory. It's in my head, but clearly hasn't soaked all the way through.

Does God ever lay something on your heart that you don't quite understand and then you go seeking confirmation and direction and input from man? I tend to suffer from the "need-to-know-all-the-details-now" disease on a regular basis. But guess what - if God laid the word or thought in my heart then He is the only one with all the details. Not man.

I wholeheartedly believe that God can and does give others words of affirmation and confirmation to something He has stirred within us. It has happened for me personally and can be of great benefit when kept in proper perspective.

But sometimes God lays something on our hearts or in our thoughts that is from Him and will be fully revealed by Him alone. If I don't understand it, well maybe it is because "His thoughts are higher than my thoughts".

This happened to me in the last 24 hours. God laid something so heavily on my heart that I knew it was from Him. But it didn't make a bit of sense. As I searched the scriptures, I still wasn't finding clarity. Read the commentary - no flashing lights there either. No billboards with explanations on the way home. No angels appearing before me. Nothing.

So I started looking for answers from people I know. Got nothing there either. Do you think that maybe God was not just speaking to me, but teaching me a lesson as well about the verse I am memorizing?

God doesn't always make sense this side of heaven. That's why they call it faith! It didn't make sense that Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead when Lazarus had been dead for several days. It doesn't make sense that Gideon would go into battle with only 300 men. The list could go on and on. God's ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

Sometimes He gives us a word or places something in our heart that makes absolutely no sense and then we are just to wait and seek Him for answers, clarity and direction.

So I find myself asking for forgiveness for not trusting him. My lack of faith, my reliance upon self and my lack of patience all played a part in my not trusting God to lead me in this.

I am praying that God will still speak to me in this and allow me to learn from my lesson. The scriptures tell us that if we ask for wisdom, we will receive it. But we must have faith.

Perhaps God is reminding me to "Be still and know that I am God", Psalm 46:10a. I need to trust Him more. Talk less, listen more. I am thankful that His thoughts and ways are higher than mine or any mans. I want and need to know that my God is so much more than I could ever imagine. He is more powerful than I understand and more gracious than I could ever fathom.

So I wait - after all He is worth waiting for.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fighting Back

I have managed to crawl off the couch, take a shower, eat two pieces of toast and stay upright. It's a good day. 24-hours ago my husband and I had each assumed our positions on either a couch or love seat and stayed there for the day. The flu bug had hit our house. I felt it coming on earlier that morning and so I took the proactive approach of making sure the bathrooms were well stocked with toilet paper and that there were extra liners for the trash cans. The 7-Up was in the fridge getting cold and we had enough medicine that neither of us should have to head out to the drugstore. I have vivid memories of how horrible this junk hit us just one year ago and I was not about to find myself unprepared this time. Thank God it wasn't half as bad as the last round.

While the flu is something that seems to be going around and hitting lots of people (like my daughter, son-in-law and grandson), our turn with it just seemed to come at a point that I wasn't spiritually or mentally prepared for it. When I am sick, my mind tends to have irrational thoughts and I worry more than usual and then I believe it adds to my feeling sick.

Earlier this week, I had already let all kinds of doubts and worries distract me. Our truck decided to just stop running. Thinking that it was just an old-dead battery, we headed to Wal-mart to get a new one. Praise God that my husband had saved the warranty/receipt from the last one and we were able to get a $30 credit toward the new one. However, that wasn't the only issue and so we had to have it towed to the garage to get fixed. Tow bills stink. But I am so thankful for the mechanics who were able to check it out and fix it for under $200 within about 24 hours from the time we had it towed there.

All of this came at a time when I felt like a blanket of doubt and worry were going to swallow me whole. If you ask me what I am worrying about or doubting, I don't even always have words for it. It is just a tactic that the enemy loves to use with me. Many times when I say what I am worried about out loud to my husband, it just sounds well . . .dumb. I worry about dumb stuff that I shouldn't worry about at all and have absolutely no basis for worrying about.

As I rolled over this morning to make a phone call to the doctor for another matter, I decided to first check one of the blogs I follow. I was having a small pity party about the fact that it seemed like either my husband or I have had something physically wrong for three months! We are healthy, we are active and this was clearly becoming a distraction in my spiritual life. Interestingly enough, her post was similar in nature to how I was feeling. A certain amount of sickness and other problems are to be expected in this life. But sometimes it is more than that. Sometimes it is a series of spiritual attacks.

So I decided to fight back on all levels today. I did the practical things like wash all the blankets that were now germ infested, took a shower, took some medicine, called the doctor, ate some toast and had something to drink to re-hydrate myself. I shut off the television. I turned on a praise and worship cd in the basement where we have our bible studies and another one in our bedroom. I grabbed my scripture memory cards and started to say them out loud.

Earlier this month my husband and I had made some intentional decisions about exercise, caring for our souls and bodies and committing to give beyond where we have in the past. We set out some specific goals for the year for scripture memory, scripture reading, and other ministry opportunities. I truly believe that those goals and decisions will allow us to redeem the time in our days that the enemy loves to steal from us. I also believe that it will strengthen us spiritually as individuals and as a couple.

Sicknesses, broken down vehicles and a host of other things tend to get me off track. So today I am fighting back on the earthly seen level and on the spiritual unseen level. I am not going to allow the enemy to steal my peace, my joy or my time with the Lord. I am trusting in the Lord to strengthen me and to protect me and my family. I will do my part in prayer, in bible reading, and other spiritual disciplines. I will be a good steward of all that the Lord has blessed us with. But ultimately, every breath I take, every dime I have, everything I possess, belongs to the Lord and came from Him. He knows my needs and He will meet them.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Thank you Jesus!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Someone Lied

The little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and way-too-curly hair was very much loved by her family. So love wasn't what was missing. Plenty of food, a warm house, close family, church camp and Sunday school. Seems that life was complete. But somewhere in life the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and way-too-curly hair always felt that she needed to live up to Someone's expectations and that somehow she never did.

Someone made the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and way-too-curly hair feel like she wasn't pretty enough or smart enough or popular enough. Someone seemed to follow the little girl around and no matter how good she did in school or how many friends she had - Someone told her that wasn't enough.

So the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair decided that if Someone thought she should be more and do more and could live up to Someone's impossible expectations - well then, that is exactly what she would do! So little girl set off in life to please Someone.

Someone told her that if she acted a certain way the boys in school would like her. Someone lied. Someone told her that if she had more money and worked more hours that life would be perfect. Someone lied. Someone told her that looks, stuff and achievements determine your value in life. Someone lied.

Someone didn't bother to tell her that her true value and worth was determined by Jesus Christ. Someone should have. Someone always made her feel discontent. Someone should have pointed the way to true contentment in the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Someone didn't seem to be very interested in making sure that the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair was secure in who she was because God made her that way. Someone felt that if Someone could just keep the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair focused on Someone's unrealistic expectations, then she wouldn't have time to focus on The One and Only God who would set her free from the lies.

Someone seems to lie to lots of people - not just the little girl with the wire-rimmed glasses and the way-too-curly hair. So who do you listen to? Someone or The One?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Committing to Him

Today is January 1st. The day when many people will start their New Year's resolutions. Unless I am mistaken, it often seems that most people tend to make the same resolutions from year-to-year. Somehow in the middle of the year (or sooner), failing has become acceptable because January 1st will come around again and we get to start over.

I'm not one to make resolutions. This year I just want to finish something. Instead of starting a new bible study workbook, I'm going to work toward finishing one of the three I have started in previous years. Instead of starting over in Genesis in an effort to read through the Bible this year, I'm going to keep going right from where I left off last year and pray that I circle all the way through over the next 12 months. I truly just want to move forward and draw closer to God.

Paul tells us to keep on in the race. To press on and persevere. Don't quit. Although God's mercies are new and sufficient every single day, I don't think God wants us to keep going back to the starting block when we fall or get off track or get tired and just stop. Get up! If you can't get up, call out to God for help.

Just like people who make resolutions to eat healthier, exercise, etc., I need discipline in my life. Spiritual discipline. I become spiritual mush when fasting, prayer, bible study, memorization, worship, solitude and other disciplines are not a regular part of my life. Anxiety sits at the edge of my life waiting to take over when I am not grounded in the Word of God. I know this and I know that I can't rely on my own good intentions and actions to get me through.

In the last month God has also allowed a series of things to happen in our lives that have made me give up control (like I actually had it anyway!) and to rely on Him. In December I had great intentions of taking this blog in a new direction, but I confess I hadn't really prayed about it or sought God on His plan for it.

Then my husband became extremely busy at work and was working very long hours. The long and stressful hours started and his back went out. Our morning devotion/prayer time together was the first thing to go. There just wasn't time if he was going to get through the day. He wasn't sleeping, he was in pain and rest seemed more important than getting up early and spending 20 minutes in prayer together.

My husband's back gradually got better and within less than 24 hours a previous shoulder problem that I have suffered in the past came back. Preparing for Christmas and just sleeping through the night seemed to be huge mountains to overcome. Our morning prayer time still hadn't returned.

One trial after another then surfaced in our lives only days before Christmas. Trials which made me realize that perhaps this year our Christmas gifts would be under the tree in the store bags and that Christmas cookies would not be found in this house. I had to let go and refocus on what mattered and what was important. And I am thankful for God's timing in it all.

All this to say, that New Year's resolutions will come and go. Lord willing, our lives will be filled with joys and trials, with difficulties and blessings over the next twelve months. There will be days when I will wonder why I can't hear God speaking and days when I am overcome with the sheer joy of His presence in my life. Days of suffering and days of abundant blessing.

My desire is simply that each day of this year is one in which I draw closer to God. I want to seek Him more, spend more time together with Him, enjoy the practice of spiritual disciplines and seek to please Him. When my life is grounded in God and His Word, my life will change without a single resolution being made.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

May your year be filled with the presence of the Lord in every single day!

Grace to you,