December 29, 2008

No Greater Love

The last girls' Bible study session took an unexpected God-turn. We were talking about commitment, which led to a discussion on love and marriage (which appears to be the final destination for practically any discussion with teenage girls). I shared the story of my not-so-great college years with them. Afterwards, one of the girls came up to me and told me that when I talk about R and our life together, it seems like a movie.

I was surprised, because I'd just spent our time together trying to convince the girls that real-life love is not a Nicholas Sparks book (my girls are enamored with "The Notebook", while my idea of romance is coming home to find clean clothes and dishes!). Love's not all butterflies and candlelight and roses. The world tries to sell us a bag of lies that love is a feeling, a Hallmark card or jewelry store commercial. Everyone wants the love that's found in the movies, not the love of the everyday, steadfast variety. I thought I'd made myself clear to the girls, but this comment made me wonder.

As I was driving home after Bible study, the Lord reminded me of these verses. I decided then to choose them for Memory Monday:

My command is this: love one another each other as I have loved you. No greater love has any no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
~ John 15:12-13

I've always thought that Jesus was predicting his death for us, and telling us that we should be willing to die for those we love. Yet laying down our lives is much more practical than's a giving of ourselves, letting go of our rights and putting another's needs and desires ahead of our own. You see, every day for the past 15 years, R has laid down his life for me. He has exemplified this passage.

Oh, that I would do the same!

I won't find perfect love til I get to Heaven. In the meanwhile, my Jesus has given me a glimpse of what it's going to be like. I can honestly say it isn't "The Notebook".

It's much, much more.

For next 2009 theme verses:

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
~Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP)

December 22, 2008

Double Vision

(This is an annual re-run.)

To understand what my Savior means to me
You must look beyond Calvary.
No, I do not deny the impact of the Cross,
For it was there my Beloved paid the cost
Of my sin; my shame and guilt He did bear
So that I could look at my life and see Him here:

In the hug of a child, so precious and dear;
When she says say “I love you”, it’s His voice I hear.
In the love of a friend who holds my hand tight,
I can hear Him whisper, “My child, I’m here. Everything’s alright.”
When I was ready, He made me a wife
To a husband who ministers to me each day of my life.
So many other blessings I can’t begin to count.
I’m afraid if I do, I’ll leave something out.

But it’s this about my Jesus that I most truly love:
That He left His glorious home up above
To come to this world. My heart can’t comprehend
How He could leave His Father for this place of sin.
Born among animals. He died amidst thieves,
Ridiculed and mocked. Oh! Soul can’t you see
That my Jesus left Heaven that night long ago
Because He knew that years later I would be needing Him so!

I ask you to put the manger beside the Cross.
See them together, and realize God’s loss.
How it must have hurt to send His Son away,
Yet He did so, even knowing there would come a day
He would see Jesus again, but covered in blood,
So that all of His children could say “JESUS IS LORD!”
And reconcile with Him in our Heavenly home;
This is the reason Jesus left His Throne.

Don’t focus on one and lose sight of the other.
To know the whole story, you must put them together;
The manger of hay and Calvary’s tree
Unite with the message: MY JESUS LOVES ME.

(*photo credit:

Memory Monday - December 22nd

Are you joining me for Memory Monday yet? I encourage you to try it. Hiding God's Word in my heart these past few weeks has been a tremendous blessing. Click on the button to find out more.

Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- Psalm 73:25-26

Hey! I didn't do too badly!

Like everyone else, I'm short on time this week and blogging is taking a back seat. I'm going to memorize John 14:12-13:

My command is this: Love each other and I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

When I come back next week, I'll let you know why I chose these verses!

I pray that all of you will have a Merry and Blessed CHRISTmas.

December 17, 2008

More Than I Ever Imagined

After I wrote about visiting my college town, my good buddy Jill & I got to chatting (okay, emailing) about our college years. I told her that, although I love visiting C'ville, I really don't have many good memories of that time in my life.

I've shared a glimpse of those years in my testimony. When I look back now, I see a girl trapped by her own need for love and acceptance...a need which ruined many relationships in my life, both friendships and romances. I see a girl who was desperate and lost, and who felt utterly hopeless that life would bring any sort of love and happiness her way.

But Jesus.

He has poured out His blessings on me abundantly...held nothing back. I am a woman whose life is overflowing with the love of others. A fantastic husband, a great daughter, phenomenal youth girls, dear friends and beautiful children regularly love on me. More than that, my sweet, sweet Jesus is constantly showing me how much He cares for me.

If, during my high school and college years, you'd told me that my life would be so rich and full, I would've insisted that you were talking to the wrong gal. I never, in a million years, would have imagined that I'd be in this place...and I am completely undone.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21

December 16, 2008

Lost in the Memories

Last week, R and I participated in one of my favorite traditions, Christmas Communion Away. Deacons visit shut-ins from our church family and have a mini-Christmas service. Family members are encouraged to take part in this special time, and it's always a blessing.

This year, we went to visit a widow I know but haven't seen in quite some time. Mrs. Mary's husband sang in the choir with us. Such a sweet couple. He died several years ago and Mrs. Mary is now in a nursing home. When we got there, R's Deacon partner had already arrived. Mrs. Mary greeted us warmly, and they told us they were chatting about her husband. When I asked her how long he'd been gone, she said he'd been working in Pennsylvania for about 6 months now, but she gets letters and phone calls from him nearly every day.

My heart started to break right there in the hallway.

Mrs. Mary went on and on about how she's having to do things she's never had to do before...writing checks and paying bills. We talked about how he's taking good care of her, how he loved singing in our choir and misses it, and how his co-workers look after her. I could hardly contain the tears.

During our service, Mrs. Mary read the Scriptures aloud, sang and prayed. For those brief moments, she seemed quite lucid. When we were through, I spotted a photograph taken on their wedding day and a plaque commemorating their 50th anniversary. Mrs. Mary spent more than half a century caring for the love of her life. She's still doing it. She told me she knows he isn't eating right on the road and she wants to go back with him so she can cook him decent meals. She misses him terribly, and wants him home soon.

She doesn't realize he already is.

What first struck me as terribly sad now seems like a gift. After you've been married that long, how do you get through the day without your spouse? How do you get out of bed, knowing you're not going to see your beloved again in this world? How do you make yourself content with that? Perhaps the Lord knew that Mrs. Mary wouldn't be able to face life without the man who'd taken such good care of her for so long. Maybe He knew that every day her heart would shatter under the weight of such heavy grief, so He's allowed her to escape the burden and pain. Instead of living out her life without her mate, Mrs. Mary is lost in the memories of a lifetime of love.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
~Song of Solomon 8:6

December 15, 2008

Memory Monday - Dec. 15th

Is it Memory Monday again already? Last week zoomed by in a flurry of activity. I did have time to hide God's Word in my heart, though (typing from memory):

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
~1 Thess. 1:3

I got it right! What a powerful verse, and one that I pray may be said of me one day. I want everything I do to be a product of, prompted by, and inspired by God. Only then will I have victory.

This week, I'm moving back to Psalms.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:25-26

Stop by and visit Joanne to see how everyone else did, and to join us.

December 12, 2008

The Santa Clause

This post by His Girl and this one over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, and the comments on both, made me realize that I may be in the minority of Christians who "Santa" (I'm using it as a verb because, as you know if you participate in this tradition, it's hard work).

I have friends who Santa and friends who don't, and respect the choices they've made. I love Santa. I loved him as a child, and I still do as an adult. I think he's great fun and a magical part of childhood.

Do I believe some people worship Santa more than they worship Jesus? Without a doubt.

Do I believe that if there were no Santa, the world would celebrate Christmas for the holy-day it is? Not really.

Before CJ was born, R and I discussed whether Santa should be a part of our Christmas traditions. Both of us enjoyed Santa as children. Neither of us were disappointed to find out the truth. We agreed that when CJ asked the question, we'd answer honestly. I guess you could call it The Santa Clause.

We also decided that Santa is most definitely not the center of our celebration. We have more nativity scenes than Santas. We have family Advent readings and an Advent wreath. We've never put an emphasis on Santa...asked CJ what she wants Santa to bring, stood in line to have a picture taken, or told her she better watch out because Santa is coming to town. When CJ wakes on Christmas morning, she comes to our room to read Luke's account of Jesus' birth before we look at the presents. We sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

We don't balance Santa and Jesus...we don't even try.

We enjoy the fantasy of Santa. We cling to the reality of Jesus.

Santa brings to gifts, but we give others to those in need because Jesus commands it.

We have Santa in our home for a few weeks. We have Jesus every day of the year.

Engaging Father Christmas

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)


Robin Jones Gunn

Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i.

She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown.

As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives.

Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.


Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE

December 10, 2008

Around the House: December

I'm thanking God for:

~His provision
~the wonderful group of Godly young women He has brought into my life
~a church family that loves me, my man & my girl
~Christ come to earth
~my 18th Christmas with R.

I'm thinking:

~if the angels in Heaven sound much better than Josh Groban singing Ave Maria, I probably won't be able to contain myself!

~I wish I knew what God is up to around here

~I should write the final two posts in The Balancing Act series...but I'm not very balanced right now.

~candy canes should be a year-round treat, and so should the Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark squares

I'm planning:

~a cookie-decorating, ornament-exchanging Christmas party for CJ's friends on Saturday

~an upcoming dinner for my boss & his Christmas present to them each year

I'm enjoying:

~morning quiet time by the Christmas tree (sorta' like Joanne)
~my Netflix subscription. Blair, Jo, Natalie & Tootie are due in the mail today
~family Advent readings

I'm hoping:

~to start the gift wrapping this weekend (while drinking eggnog & watching a sappy holiday movie, of course!)

~to finish reading this before I have to return it to the library Monday

~for more snow, but Virginia weather is often screwy. Temps are spiking 30° 2 days this week.

I'm anticipating:

~going to one of our church shut-ins tonight, while R administers communion. Christmas Communion away is one of the highlights of the year for our family.

~the Deacon banquet Thursday night, catered by our pastors. Not only can these men preach the Word, they both can cook like you wouldn't believe.

~my birthday present. It's not til March, but I'm so excited because Elizabeth George is coming to our state convention's annual women's conference that weekend. A Woman After God's Own Heart radically changed my life and was the catalyst for the Pursuit of Peace & Simplicity.

I'm praying:

~to trust Him more fully
~for His continued protection & provision
~to get out of the way & let Him work
~for clarity on a few things
~to see beyond all the twinkling lights, pretty paper and, yes, even the sappy holiday turn my eyes upon Jesus & look full in His wonderful face during this season.

December 9, 2008

An Altogether Lovely Evening

Spending time in my college town ranks high on the list of things I enjoy. It's such a beautiful town. I was born for the mountains, I think (though I'm certain Virginia's mountains pale in comparison to others).

Saturday, I took CJ & one of her friends to C'ville for a girls' basketball game. It was blustery and cold...a perfect day for snow. I was hopeful. We passed the morning and early afternoon with no precipitation. But my dreams came true after the game. As we walked out of the arena, CJ noticed a few fine flakes. I was giddy.

If your daddy loved me, he'd move me back up here! I cried.

To which my sensitive daughter replied, He does love you, so shut up.

(*Note...normally she would never get away with that! In this instance, her response was classic, fitting, and rather funny.)

The snow continued while we shopped just off grounds (campus at other colleges) and ate dinner at a wonderful deli. I promised the girls we'd stop by Starbucks for dessert before heading home. Still warm from the creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich, snow falling as we walked past the shops, I was struck by how much that moment felt like a Hallmark holiday movie. I could almost hear Burl Ives crooning "Silver Bells". It was perfect.

An early Christmas gift from my God, who cares for this lover of all things sappy & holiday!
I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."
~Psalm 16:2 (NIV)

December 8, 2008

Memory Monday

It's time for Memory Monday again. I've been slack in posting, but I have memorized a couple of verses.

This past week was Romans 15:13 (typing from memory)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you might be filled with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Well, I was close! See:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This verse has been a lifeline for me. I don't know many people who couldn't use some hope right now.

This coming week, I'm going to work on memorizing 1 Thess. 1:3, because it lays out three things I desperately need to exercise in my life: faith, love & endurance.

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

What about you? Are you up for joining us for Memory Monday? If so, visit Joanne and tell us about it!

December 4, 2008

10-Year Old Theology

My family is trying to be more diligent in reading the Bible after dinner. Each night, one of us picks a verse we'd like to share and then we spend a couple of minutes discussing what it means to us. Before we started our Advent readings, I was spending a lot of time in Psalm 16. This Psalm has captivated my attention. It's jam-packed with things I need to remember. One night last week, I chose Verse 2 for our reading.

I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing."

I shared that we're never blessed apart from God's doing. CJ had a slightly different take (I'm paraphrasing): since everything we have is from God, everything we have is good (brings Romans 8:28 to mind).

She's right.

In the midst of the uncertainties of life, I have to continually remind myself that it's all from God...and it's all good. Everywhere I turn, He's telling me to trust. From the songs in my head (I kid you not, either "Still I Will Trust Him" & "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" is constantly running through my brain) to the devotions in my email...He keeps saying TRUST ME.

May it be so, Lord. May it be so!

It is a glorious thing to know that your Father God makes no mistakes in directing or permitting that which crosses the path of your life. It is our glory to trust Him, no matter what.
~Joni Erickson Tada

December 2, 2008

The Balancing Act: Making a Routine Work for You

Well, I didn't plan to be gone for so long! Just as I planned to write about having a daily routine, mine nearly fell apart. A crazy-busy week with Southern Living at Home, followed by R's week of 3-11 shift, ministering to a couple of friends in need, and hosting Thanksgiving times like these, maintaining a routine is difficult. Yet there is something inside me that craves a routine and its dependability. It calms me.
Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.
~ from Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I admit, the idea of such a routine thrills me. I've tried several times over the years to have designated days for chores. When I failed, I shut down. Perhaps one of the most important lessons I've learned during the Year of Peace and Simplicity has been to let go of unrealistic expectations. I've stopped trying to micromanage my days, and discovered that a routine can be flexible and still be effective. Here's what routine usually looks like for me:

5:30 - 6:30 quiet time
6:30 - 6:45 quiet chore (usually folding laundry)
6:45 - 7:20 wake CJ; make her breakfast & lunch; hair assistance when needed ;-)
7:20 - 7:30 empty dishwasher while CJ waits for bus
7:30 - 8:15 make bed, get ready for work, and head out for the day
R's shift is the big variable here. Sometimes I get up later (so the quiet chore doesn't get done) and don't make the bed (hard to do with him still in it!). Like Joanne, my schedule isn't written down anywhere, but being intentional in using my time has many benefits.

~Dinner - either from the crockpot, or something quick & simple
~Homework & reading
~Clean Kitchen (usually while CJ sits at the bar during homework)
~Laundry, if necessary
~General Pickup
~"Free time" hour
~Start dishwasher & washing machine as needed
Again, this is how it GENERALLY works. I try to keep my weeknight commitments limited to one per week (aside from Wednesday night church). There are plenty of weeks when I have no other plans, but occasionally I have more than one. I'm blessed that R's schedule allows him to help. He frequently starts dinner. Most of the time, he's home to greet CJ after school and they have about an hour to unwind before I get home from work. I make an effort to come straight home from work, which means I often use my lunch hour to run errands.

I get off work early on Fridays, and use that time for grocery shopping and appointments. For the most part, cleaning and seasonal chores are reserved for Saturdays. I just don't have the time or energy during the week!

I'm a
control freak planner, so I keep my eye on the weeks...but I've found that my life works better when I focus my energy on the daily routines. Taking each day as it comes. Accomplishing what I can. Reminding myself that the world won't come to an end if something doesn't get checked off my list. I'm convinced it's what Jesus wants for my life, and for yours.
So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble.
~Matthew 6:34 (AMP)
Next up...restful Sundays.

November 18, 2008

The Balancing Act: Laundry

Another stumbling block in the search for balance has been laundry. If you have more than one child, you're probably thinking I have no right to complain about laundry for just three people...but it's my blog & I can complain if I want.

My problem wasn't the small number of people in my family. It was the large amount of clothing for said people. For example, if CJ fussed because she never seemed to have any socks or underwear clean, I'd just buy more socks and underwear. It seemed logical. Sadly, it never occurred to me that I should do laundry more was one of those things I just put off as long as I could. The more I kept buying, the easier procrastination became. My rationale was that, as long as we had clean clothes, there was no need to wash what was dirty. The piles of dirty clothes would get taller and taller.

Finally, when I had no other choice, I would start washing clothes. Because I had so much to do, I'd just wash and dry. Folding & putting away were not high on my priority list. Besides, I didn't have space to put it all. I was left with piles of clean clothes and piles of dirty clothes. I could always tell the difference...but I was the only one.

When I started purging last year, excess clothing was high on my list. I did ALL of the laundry, and looked at what we had. I got rid of a lot. A LOT. It's an ongoing process. When I swapped seasonal clothing this fall, I purged from both summer and winter clothing. I hope to do that with every season change. If it doesn't fit (or we just don't wear it), I take it to consignment. If we've worn it out, I throw it away.

Now, there are no piles of clean clothes. The piles of dirty clothes are smaller and easier to tackle. I'm more apt to stay on top of things because: (1) I know we don't have much to spare, and (2) putting away what we do have is much easier.

Some other practical tips I've picked up along the way:

~R and I have three clothes bins in our bedroom. We sort the clothes when we take them off. HUGE timesaver! CJ only has room for one hamper, but sorting her items isn't so bad.

~My washing machine has a timer. It's one of the greatest inventions ever. Many nights, I put a load in before I go to bed and set the timer so that it runs just before I get up. After my quiet time, I put the clothes in the dryer. I wait to fold them when I get home (these are non-wrinkle items!). I also throw in a load before I go to work, and set the time so that it runs just before I get home. They're ready to go in the dryer when I come in, and I try to fold them right after dinner. Often times, I fold laundry as morning "quiet chore". Still, I never have more than two loads to fold at a time.

~I use 2 empty baskets when folding. One for items to go to CJ's room/bathroom. Another for ours. Everyone's responsible for putting away their own clothing (well, most of the time).

~I keep a few hangers in the laundry room. When I know I'm not going to get to folding a load for a while, I can easily take out the shirts and pants that will wrinkle, and hang them up right away.

Taming the laundry monster wasn't as hard as I thought. Now that it's manageable, I don't mind doing laundry at all. I can fold clothes while I watch TV or CJ does her homework. Not having to search for clean clothing is yet another valuable ministry to my family, and has made our home more peaceful.

If you've got some good laundry tips, feel free to share in the comments. I'd love to read them.

Next time: finding a daily schedule you can live with.

November 15, 2008

The Balancing Act: Comfort Zones

Comfort zones. We all have them. Mine is a green sofa that we bought from a dear friend. She rues the day she let it out of her grasp, so I let her have visitation rights whenever she wants.

But more than that particular piece of heaven furniture, our living room/kitchen are the center of comfort in our home. This one open room is where we spend most of our time...reading, watching tv, reading, playing board games, and reading (well, some of us more than others). When this area of the house is messy, it affects all three of us in a negative way. It's tough to flop on a couch piled high with unfolded laundry, or do homework on a bar loaded with dirty dishes. In the old days, the coffee table and end tables served as nothing more than a place to hold things I didn't want to put away. Shoes, magazines, newspapers, you name could probably be found in our living room.

I've learned that taking a few minutes every night to concentrate on this area of our home pays big dividends. As long the living room/kitchen are clean, it doesn't matter what the rest of the house looks like...we function better as a family. We relax more, laugh more, enjoy each other more. When I have my morning quiet time, I'm more at ease because my surroundings are peaceful.

I admit, there are days when I'm just too tired to deal with it. Still, even when I skip a day, I'm surprised to find how quickly I can restore order. (Again, decluttering was the springboard!)

What room/rooms serves as your family's comfort zone? If you think about it, I bet there's one spot that says "home" to you more than another. Perhaps it's your bedroom, a playroom, or the kitchen. Ask your family what room they enjoy most when it's clean. Then concentrate on that room. Even if you don't have time to vacuum and dust often, keep it tidy (if you have small children, invest in inexpensive baskets for quick toy storage). 15 minutes a day is all it takes to make a noticeable difference in the life of your family. And aren't they worth it?

November 13, 2008

Who Says God isn't in the Public Schools?

CJ's writing assignment this week...

I am Thankful

I am thankful for God the most. The reason why I am thankful for Him the most is because he died on the cross to save our sins. I am also thankful for my parents because they take care of me and take me places and feed me. Another thing is my Church family. They love me and take care of me. One more reason is my house and clothes. My house is something to live under. My clothes keep me warm.


On a day when we found out about layoffs at R's job, I needed to read this! We are praising God that R still has a job, but 50 people are losing theirs next week. The Lord keeps telling me over & over to TRUST. That is my prayer.

Pretty appropriate that, before I even knew about this, I chose this verse for Memory Monday with Joanne:

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
~Psalm 16:5-6 (NIV)

November 12, 2008

The Balancing Act: Organization

Continuing my thoughts on balance...

The key to enjoying peace and simplicity in my home has been organization. I've had a love/hate relationship with organizing my home. I would start out with great plans and visions of grandeur. Being an all-or-nothing gal, I'd have an elaborate plan to get everything just so, only to find I couldn't keep up. So, I'd do the next best thing...and shut down. I justified my lack of organization by telling myself that I was doing the best that a woman with two jobs and a shift-working husband could do.

I was wrong, and God called my bluff.

Trying to find things, scrounging around for clean clothes to wear, and never having enough storage were wearing me down. I realized the need for change, and started reading books about simplifying. I got good ideas from several sources, and started to implement them. Some worked and some didn't. I finally determined to organize my home in a way that made sense for my family. These are a few of my favorite ideas. Maybe one will work for you, or lead you to finding something that will work for your family.

Plasticware - My containers threatened to overtake my largest cabinet. Putting the left-overs away was such a chore, because it took 5 minutes to find the matching lid. I pulled everything out and immediately threw away bowls with no lids (and vice versa). I looked at what was left, and kept ONE container of each size and shape for food storage. (I do have quite a few mini-bowls, because they work well for packing condiments, applesauce, etc. for lunch.) I put everything I kept in 2 inexpensive baskets on a shelf. One basket holds containers for leftovers, and the other holds the pieces we use to pack meals for school & work. Finding a container & matching lid takes 10 seconds. I don't spend much time stacking them either...the baskets do a great job of keeping everything in one place & hiding the mess!

Honestly, at first I worried that I would miss all those extra containers, but I haven't. In fact, I find we throw fewer leftovers away. When I had so many containers, it was easy to just store everything in the fridge. Some things would get shoved to the back, forgotten. Now, I realize when my available containers are getting low.

Paperwork - my primary nemesis! I tried organizing bills very specifically. It didn't work for me. I found a solution that I blogged about here. I don't keep up with it as much as I should...but even three months of filing only takes me an hour using this system.

Laundry - I could devote an entire post to how I tamed the laundry beast. In fact, I will later in this series. For now, I will just say that it started with a clothing purge. Getting rid of extra clothes has made it easier to keep up with the laundry, find the things I really love to wear, and store what we have.

Calendar - I cannot function without a calendar. I've tried several different things (but nothing as detailed as Joanne's!) before finding what works for my family. It's similar to what Joanne & Lisa use. I use the Palm program on my computer for our calendar (including R's work schedule), my "to do" list, and our menus. I print it out & put it on the side of our fridge, so we can check it throughout the week. There's always enough space to write in anything that pops up. We're color-coded on the computer & the Palm, but the colors don't show on the printout. I use different highlighters for each of us.

I like my Palm because I can set alarms for my tasks, which is great when I forget to check the calendar. The only tasks I put into the Palm are big things, like deadlines & due dates. For the day-to-day errands, I still use index cards. I don't have the time or energy to put every single thing into my Palm. Besides, I still like to check things off.

Finally, I can't say enough how important it is to establish a place for everything. Be sure everyone understands where items should be stored. I've saved a lot of time (and earned a lot of brownie points!) by being able to find things quickly and easily.

The bottom line is that the organization of your home should be practical for your family. Don't feel intimated by someone else's meticulous method! Consider your personality, as well as your family's. Be realistic. It may take a while to find what works, but don't give up. I promise you, it's worth the effort.

*Next up: making the most of your comfort zone

November 10, 2008

Balancing Act: Part 1

My friend Lisa & I think a lot alike. Seems whatever she blogs about has been on my heart for a while. A couple of weeks ago, she posted about her struggle to find balance. It's something I've been fighting for as long as I can remember. In fact, God and I have been conversing about it practically on a daily basis this past year.

When I began concentrating on finding peace and simplicity, I had a vision of what my life would be like at the end of the year. Through God's working, some of that vision has been realized. Other aspects are still in progress, and still others have been abandoned in favor of God's direction. A good example of the latter is my morning quiet time.

Last August, I was convicted about the time I spent (or didn't spend) with the Lord. I started getting up at 5:30 so that God and I could have an hour alone, then I'd spend 15 minutes folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen before starting to get ready for the day. This schedule worked well, except for the one week each month when R is on day shift. He gets up at 5:45, and my quiet time wasn't very quiet. I admit, I haven't been quiet as I've battled disappointment and frustration during those weeks. I was selfish with my time with God, and didn't want anyone to interrupt it.

Thankfully, the Lord broke through the legalism to show me that being a loving wife is just as important as spending time with Him. During the most recent week of day shift, I slept in 15 minutes and got up with R at 5:45. I spent time talking with him, getting his lunch ready, and even folding laundry before he left for work. My quiet time was cut in half, but my spirit was more settled. God reminded me that it isn't about the amount of time I spend with Him, but rather the quality of that time. What did it matter if I spent an hour with Him, if my heart wasn't right with Him? I freed myself from expectations that weren't realistic during the week of day shift. This slight change led me to an even bigger realization.

I am responsible for the peace and simplicity in my home.

R has a strenuous schedule. His shift swings from week to week. It's more difficult for him and CJ than it is for me. For him...trying to sleep at odd hours, spend time with us, and minister as he's called can be quite challenging given the constraints of his job. For CJ...sometimes not knowing if Daddy's coming or going, not seeing him as much as she'd like (she's a true Daddy's Girl), and trying to be quiet when he's sleeping are equally as challenging. I am the constant, but I must be flexible enough to do whatever it takes to keep R and CJ on an even keel. I must put my own agenda aside to listen to their needs (spoken and unspoken) and keep things running smoothly in our home. It won't be a haven for my family otherwise. Considering the world around us, we desperately need our home to be a place of peace, rest, and security. The place we long to be more than any other on earth.

This is my calling. My privilege. My work. I'm only sorry I didn't figure this out 15 years ago...or at least when CJ was born 10 years ago!

I hope that sharing more about how I'm finding balance in my life, I'll encourage others who find themselves in this same struggle. For the next few posts, I'll try to do just that.

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3:13-15 HCSB

November 8, 2008

November 6, 2008

Around the House: November

Updated to add the most important thing! In Bible study Wednesday night, 3 of my girls announced they'd accepted Christ at a weekend youth event! Praise the Lord!

I've been absent from the blogosphere longer than I anticipated. I have several posts swimming around in my head, but they haven't made it to my fingers yet. Perhaps this weekend, though the next few weeks are going to be incredibly busy (busier than I want to be!).

~Cooler temps have finally arrived! The leaves are beautiful, and I'm in love with Autumn all over again. There's nothing quite coming home from work, listening to Yo-Yo Ma and greeted by a canopy of blazing orange, scarlet and yellow trees as I drive through my neighborhood. It's one of the highlights of my day.

~Mexican Chicken Soup and homemade bread will be waiting when CJ& I get home tonight. Yumm-o!

~R is traveling out of town to a college football game tonight. After CJ & I study for her FOUR tests tomorrow & she gets into bed, I'll pour some hot tea and settle in with a good book. Perhaps even watch a bit of the game on TV.

~Our most recent Netflix shipment arrived yesterday. On the agenda for this weekend: this movie and this one. I can't wait!

~We turned in our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child last night. I always wish we could do 763 shoeboxes...but 2 is our limit. Shopping for the items with CJ is such a treat. It's amazing to think that for under $50, we can fill and mail 2 shoeboxes that will touch the lives of 2 very needy and appreciative children.

~CJ was so excited to see the Samaritan's Purse Christmas Catalog in our mailbox last week! For less than $15, she's providing a week of milk for one child, a Jesus Loves Me lamb for another, and Bible story books for 25 others.

~God is teaching me more and more about trust. Leaning on Him for the book fast...not a problem. Leaning on Him in some bigger areas of life...not so easy. I think 2009 may have to be the Year of Trust and Obedience!

~As the Year of Peace and Simplicity winds down, I am still astounded by what God's done. The pursuit isn't over, and probably won't be this side of Heaven. In some ways, I haven't gotten as much done as I'd hoped. In others, I never dreamed I'd get this far. I'll be sure to post a year-end recap with more details.

~I took Monday off, so R and I spent the day finishing the initial attic purge. There is still much to deliver to consignment and the ministry store. I will have that done by mid-December. I started organizing everything into areas. The big project will be weeding through the paperwork, pictures, and drawings, etc. that CJ's brought home. I'll probably find I can get rid of more things along the way, so I kept several empty boxes for just that purpose.

~Finally, if you're like me, memorizing the Word hasn't been a priority. It should be. My friend Joanne at The Simple Wife has announced this

No more excuses! I'm going to do this. Wanna' join me? Click on the button to find out more.

November 5, 2008

October 30, 2008

You'll Find Me...

Over here today.

I haven't intended to take a bloggy just sort of happened. Trying to get some things in order and put some thoughts together. God's been speaking some good stuff, and I hope to share it soon.

In the meantime, don't forget to fall back this weekend. An extra hour of sleep & breakfast at church...the best day of the year!

October 24, 2008

Today's Thoughts

I'm asking:

~Am I ever going to write a blog post with substance again?

~Does my man know how much I love & appreciate him?

~How will CJ do on her reading test today? (We didn't study much because she was feeling bad last night)

~What's happened to the maid at my house? She's been pretty slack lately ;-)

I'm thinking:

~If preteen attitude/drama is just a precursor to teen attitude/drama, it may take a prescription for both me & CJ to survive.

~Buying a book for CJ is not breaking my commitment!

~I seriously love Cary Grant...they just don't make 'em like they used to ;-)

~This was a good read.

~If it wasn't Friday, I'd be pretty depressed right about now.

I'm reminding myself:

~Rewards for obedience don't always come in tangible ways, or even here on earth.

~His mercies are new every day.

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. - 2 Chron. 16:9 (NIV)

The Lord God has given Me the tongue of a disciple and of one who is taught, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He wakens Me morning by morning, He wakens My ear to hear as a disciple [as one who is taught]. - Isaiah 50:4 (AMP)

October 20, 2008

Weekend Recap

~Grocery shopping
~Cleaning house
~Jewelry party
~Extremely sore throat...painful!
~Football game...overtime win, baby!
~Aches & stuffy head...sent R & CJ to church without me
~My own personal Sunday School time
~Completed a God-task...not as difficult as I'd anticipated
~Lunch...loving whoever invented the crock pot!
~More football and nap on the sofa
~Puzzle with CJ
~Board game with CJ
~Three book reviews
~More reading
~Death of smoke detector battery...a 4:00 a.m. wakeup call
~No electricity
~No more sleep
~Back to work...sigh.

October 17, 2008

A Beautiful Fall

I haven't had the chance to read this book yet...but I'll be sure to let you know about it when I do!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Beautiful Fall

David C. Cook (October 2008)


Chris Coppernoll


Chris Coppernoll is the founder of Soul2Soul Ministries, with his interviews with Christian artists airing weekly on 650 radio outlets in thirty countries. He has conducted hundreds of interviews on faith issues with personalities such as Amy Grant, Max Lucado, Michael W. Smith, and Kathie Lee Gifford. He also serves as a Deacon at The People’s Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and is currently working toward a Masters in Ministry Leadership degree through Rockbridge Seminary.

His "Inspirations" column is published monthly in the mid Michigan newspaper, The Jackson Citizen Patriot.

Chris Coppernoll is the author of four other books including Soul2Soul, Secrets of a Faith Well Lived, and God's Calling. Providence, his first novel, is his fourth book.


High-powered Boston attorney Emma Madison is celebrating her latest courtroom victory when she gets a call from a number she doesn't recognize. Area code 803 home. Juneberry, South Carolina eight hundred miles, twelve years, and a lifetime away from Boston. Emma's father has had a serious heart attack. Emma rushes to his bedside, and a weekend trip threatens to become an extended stay. She has to work fast to arrange the affairs of his small-town law practice so she can return to her life and career in Boston.

And then Michael Evans shows up. They'd shared hopes, dreams, and a passionate love as young college students during a long-ago summer. But Emma walked away from Michael and from Juneberry to finish college and start a new life. Michael has never forgotten her.

Enveloped in the warmth of family and small-town life and discovering that she still cares for Michael Emma knows she'll have to make a choice between the career she's worked so hard to build and the love she left behind.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Beautiful Fall, go HERE

The Shape of Mercy

I vaguely remember studying about the Salem witch trials in school. I was intrigued by The Shape of Mercy: A Novel, the story of a modern-day college student who agrees to transcribe the diary of a young woman who was accused of being a witch in Salem.

It's a haunting, riveting I'll share more about at 5 Minutes for Books in the near future. In the meanwhile, here's some info to whet your appetite.

Lauren Durough is a college student who finds herself on the road to self-discovery as she is hired by octogenarian Abigail Boyles to transcribe the journals of Mercy Hayworth, a seventeenth-century victim of the Massachusetts witch trials. Almost immediately, Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived and died four centuries ago. The strength of her affinity with Mercy forces Lauren to take a startling new look at her own life, including her relationships with Abigail, her college roommate, and a young man named Raul. But on the way to the truth, will Lauren find herself playing the helpless defendant or the misguided judge? Can she break free from her own perceptions and see who she really is?

To find out more about the author, Susan Meissner, visit her website.

October 16, 2008

Love Starts with Elle

I'm a sucker for a good love story. Especially a good love story that involves a handsome widow raising his young daughter. Gets me every time. And, if the aforesaid story happens to take place in the South...well, it's practically a foregone conclusion that I'll love it.

That's why I jumped at the chance to read Love Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck. I've read one of Hauck's previous books, Georgia on Her Mind, and I shared that experience here. Hauck doesn't just write a good love story...she delves deeper into the characters and their struggles with life and faith.

From the back cover:

Elle's living the dream-but is it her dream or his?

Elle loves life in Beaufort, South Carolina-lazy summer days on the sand bar, coastal bonfires, and dinners with friends sharing a lifetime of memories. And she's found her niche as the owner of a successful art gallery too. Life is good.

Then the dynamic pastor of her small town church sweeps her off her feet. She's never known a man like Jeremiah-one who breathes in confidence and exhales all doubt. When he proposes in the setting sunlight, Elle hands him her heart on a silver platter.

But Jeremiah's just accepted a large pastorate in a different state. If she's serious about their relationship, Elle will take "the call," too, leaving behind the people and place she loves so dearly. Elle's friendship with her new tenant, widower Heath McCord, and his young daughter make things even more complicated.

Is love transferrable across the miles? And can you take it with you when you go?

I don't want to give too much away about Elle, except to say I read it in one night. Oh, and I think the title is very clever ("Elle" = "L"). But you can check out what others are saying about this great read. And you can enter to win your own copy of the book by visiting Rachel Hauck's blog tour post.

Happy Reading!

October 14, 2008

Is There a Point to All of This?

~In response to Lisa's comment about our Sunday dinners on the china, I must confess that I put the china in the dishwasher. As I told Lisa, I'd much rather have china that shows a little wear and tear than having it sit in the china cabinet, pristine but unused. It's something small that sets Sundays apart, makes me feel special, and reminds me of my childhood (I have my mom's china, as well as our wedding china).

~I've just started Can We Talk: Soul-Stirring Conversations with God by Priscilla Shirer. She calls it an un-Bible study. It's just reading Scriptures and talking to God about it. Really digging into the Word. It's fantabulous, and I highly recommend it.

~The first week of the study is about the tongue. OUCH! I've been convicted of how much I complain. I'm trying to stop it. Something happened yesterday that nearly sent me over the edge. I promised God I wouldn't mention it to anyone. Oh, it was HARD. There were times I nearly made by tongue bleed for biting it. By God's strength alone, I kept my commitment. God has shown me today that He's got it under control. If I'd followed my standard mode of operation, I would've told so many people about it...whining about how unfortunate I was (when, in reality, that's not altogether true...or even slightly true). Complaining would have served no purpose, except to make others think, Well, Melissa's at it again. I sure wish she'd stop being so negative all the time. I'm glad I didn't put that poison out there for others to have to deal with!

~I've created an Amazon store. It's in the sidebar. Just sharing some of my favorite things with you...because I'm nice like that.

~I'm still woefully behind in reading, but am working to catch up. I've got a couple of reviews coming later in the week.

~Last week, I was lamenting (okay...complaining) that this was going to be such a busy week. I had scheduled myself to be away from home three weeknights in a row. I knew I'd made a mistake and overextended myself. An unfortunate turn of events has given me a night back. While I'm truly sorry about the circumstances, I am grateful that I'm able to be home tonight.

~CJ & I worked in the attic this weekend. We're getting there! The fall clothes are sorted & ready to take to consignment this week. We have 3 plastic bins, 2 boxes, and several bags to sort through...and we're done with the initial purge! Then we'll start organizing what's left. I'm sure I'll get rid of even more things along the way. I can't wait to post the before & after pics. I know this has taken a long time, but no climate control makes this task a seasonal one...not to mention the fact that my Saturdays are usually devoted to homekeeping rather than "extra" jobs.

~Praying friends, both far and near, are one of life's greatest blessings. I've asked Alyce, Alana, Joanne, and Lisa to pray for me about some stuff. Ugly stuff. The kinds of stuff you can only share with true friends. And not one of them judged me or made me feel guilty...they've just loved on me, and I'm so thankful. (I'd be even more thankful if Alyce would love on me through her spiritual gift of baking. I'm just sayin'.)

I guess that's about it for now. Happy Tuesday, everyone.

October 12, 2008

Ministry Redefined

It's Sunday night. The house is quiet, and I finally have time to try to put the words together to explain what I've been learning these days.

I've made no secret of my desire to have a big ministry for God. In fact, I've blogged about that very struggle here and here, as well as here. Despite my best efforts, it just didn't happen. I even hoped to develop a big ministry through blogging. My husband reads my blog, and the comments, and tells me that I'm having a big impact on the lives of other women, but I haven't believed him. I've been looking at the numbers...thinking that since I rarely have more than 5 comments on any given post, my blogging is irrelevant. I've been discouraged.

Last month, I decided to approach blogging differently. In that time, God has completely redefined my view of ministry. Keri Wyatt Kent sums it up perfectly in Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life

If we say we value people more than stuff, then we can begin to trust God enough to let go of our addiction to stuff and live the value of loving people.
When God called me away from teaching and into the care and youth ministries, He reminded me that people grow when they are nurtured and cared for. One point He keeps bringing up to me again and again is that I need to love others. In order to do that, I have to get over my own need for love and adoration.

Even if I have a large readership, an overflowing inbox of email, and offers of trips would be futile I'm not making an impact for Christ in my own backyard. Blogging is a great hobby. I've gotten more in touch with what God's revealing to me, learned from many insightful and wise women, and formed some true friendships. Still, no amount of comments on a post can stir my soul in the way a text from one of the girls in my Bible study group does.

Praying with 20+ girls each week, hugging them, talking to them about what's going on in their lives, texting with them throughout the's all so much more than I ever could have imagined. What was out of my comfort zone has turned into the most fun I've ever had with Jesus. Investing my life in others allows me freedom from my addictions...the need for love, praise and feeling important. When I give those very things to others, God returns it to me in such abundance that I am nearly overwhelmed by it all.

Here's what I'm learning, friends: Living where He wants me is, hands down, the best thing I've ever done in my life.

October 9, 2008

9 on the 9th

I'm going to join Angela @ All that Naz, and play 9 on the 9th.

9 Bible verses written on index cards and mounted on my desk:

1. Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6 (AMP)

2. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. - Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

3. One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. - Psalm 27:4-5 (NIV)

4. Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. - Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)

5. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:13-14 (NIV)

6. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. - James 1:2-4 (NIV)

7. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. - Colossians 3: 5, 8, 12, 14 (NIV)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. - James 3:17 (NIV)

9. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. - Colossians 3:22-24

October 6, 2008

Just What I Needed

After my recent rant in my last post, I promise this one will be more upbeat. God is so incredibly good! He has poured Himself out on me until I am overflowing with His love and grace.

~On our 3-hour ride home from a football game Saturday night, my man and I kept each other company by discussing what God's doing in our lives and in the lives of the youth of our church. We kicked around ideas to help him build relationships with the young men in his class, and how I can minister to the young ladies in mine. Talking about the Lord for nearly the entire time was so special. R even told me last night how much fun it was. I agree. There's no one I'd rather "talk Jesus" with than my wonderful husband.

~I may have mentioned the girls' Bible study a time or twenty. Yesterday I got hugs from many of the girls...several who specifically sought me out for just that purpose. God keeps speaking to me through this group of young women, as well as the adults in their lives. I can't believe He would allow me this privilege, and I honestly do count it one. I am so humbled that He chose me for this service, and indescribably grateful that I listened to His call.

~Not only did I get hugs from my girls yesterday. Jesus loved on me through a 2-year old who ran at me with top speed so he could hug my neck for dear life, a precious 3-year old girl who makes me smile every time I think of her, and older members of my church family who are some of the finest Christians I know. He knew I'd been feeling downcast, and just rained down His love on me. It was overwhelming.

~We enjoyed the Sabbath. A nap, homemade baked potato soup, board games, and football. It was a wonderfully relaxing day that recharged my batteries. I wrote notes to my care group, and even drafted a couple of book reviews that will be coming to 5 Minutes for Books in the near future.

There is still laundry to be folded, emails to write, dishes to be washed, and paperwork to tackle. Yet I can face it now with a peace and joy that only my Jesus can give.

Praying His peace on you today, dear friends.

Peace I leave with you; My [own] peace I now give and bequeath to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]
~John 14:27 (AMP)

October 4, 2008

In Need of a Sabbath

It's October 4th. Wow. September is a blur, and that usually doesn't happen for me until later in the Fall. Yet here I am, wondering where the last few weeks have gone.

School started, and CJ has done so well. She's exceeded our expectations, and is having a wonderful year (until yesterday, which she proclaimed to be the!) The difference between 4th grade and 5th grade is HUGE. She's getting herself ready without much prodding, reading without my nagging, and being way more responsible than I ever imagined. She's also branching out socially. Making new friends and going to "middle school madness" at our local YMCA. She will be 10 on Tuesday. I am not ready for this.

God is blowing my socks off in the youth Bible study. More than 20 girls each week...laughing, sharing struggles & triumphs, and GETTIN' INTO THE WORD. It has been so much fun, and blessed me more than I ever thought possible. Why didn't I get involved with the youth before now?

Yet with all the good going on, I've been under a cloud of apathy. I just can't seem to get motivated. The house is clean & decorated for fall (though I am coveting Jill's turkey platter), but beyond that...nothing.

~I've read a little, but it's been so long since I've given Jennifer a review for 5 Minutes for Books, she probably thinks I've slipped into the Atlantic Ocean.

~I'm not focusing on work as I should be.

~I haven't done anything to minister to my Sunday School care group.

~I've not responded to the sweet comments on my blog lately, and I feel like a heel about that.

~The attic still isn't finished.

I'll stop there, lest my ranting slides into a full-blown pity party. Late this week, I had the A-HA moment...when I finally figured out why I couldn't seem to care less about life around me. I haven't had a true Sabbath in several weeks. We've had commitments other than church. Good things, but they've taken away my day of rest...a day my soul needs just as much as my body.

For much of my married life, Sunday was "church and errand" day. Since I work outside the home, I spent most of Saturday was cleaning (when I was surrounded by clutter, it took much longer to clean the house), which gave me no choice but to grocery shop and run other errands on Sunday. I never realized what I was doing to myself and my family by not setting Sunday apart as a day of rest and restoration. Upon Joanne's advice, I became intentional about making Sunday the Sabbath. No chores, errands or obligations. Just worship, rest, dinner on the china, and family time.

I've let circumstances dictate my Sabbath for the past few weeks, and I'm taking it back. I need it back. Regardless of what doesn't get done today, I am not doing it tomorrow. I repeat, I. am. not. doing. it. tomorrow.

It's not just my act of worship to God, it's His gift to me.

October 2, 2008

Snarky Girls, Mean Girls, and Otherwise

I have a habit of making up words. Or so my husband tells me. I guess that's true, considering I introduced him to the word "blucky" early on in our relationship. (I think it was a combination of bloated & yucky...and it was the perfect description for how I felt some days.)

Earlier in the week I complained that someone had made a snarky comment in an email, and he accused me of making up another word. I informed him that Tim Gunn had used the word just last week on Project Runway. (aside: Melissa is so thankful that Suede is gone. Melissa thinks that talking about yourself in the third person is just plain weird!) Since R doesn't share my affection for Tim Gunn, he wasn't persuaded that snarky actually is a word.

I'm not one to let my man think he's right when he's most definitely wrong...and I'm sure he appreciates that I love him that much (hi, honey!). So, I went to Merriam-Webster Online and looked up "snarky".

snarky \ˈsnär-kē\
Function: adjective
Date: 1906
1 : crotchety , snappish 2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

I didn't make it up, but I misusing in this instance. The comment in the email wasn't snarky. It was just plain mean. And I was furious. I practically had to tie my fingers together to keep from retaliating. I prayed and griped, griped and prayed. With all the strength Jesus gave me and with my hubby's sound advice, I was able to consider the source and put it behind me.

In the girls' Bible Study last week, we discussed Hannah's troubles with a mean girl, Peninnah (see 1 Samuel 1). The Scripture is silent about Hannah's response to Peninnah, but that silence speaks volumes. Are we, too, to be silent when faced with mean girls? As the girls shared their thoughts and experiences, we talked about seeing beyond the mean girl exterior and praying for those who intentionally hurt us. Easy for me to say, since I haven't been part of the teen scene for more than 20 years. I didn't expect I'd be the victim of meanness. I think God wants me to practice what I preach.

He drove it home in my quiet time.
If we are focused on Christ, if he is the treasure of our hearts, we will arrange our lives around that singular focus. We will desire to see him more clearly. And he tells us how to sharpen that focus: love others. Love others.
~Keri Wyatt Kent, Breathe

Love others....those who are lost, those who are mean, and even those who are snarky. In doing so, we will see more of Him.

May it be so, sweet Jesus!

P.S. - "Snarky...since 1906" is a catch phrase that R thought up. Sounds like great a blog tagline!

September 28, 2008

The Week in Prayer

I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.
~Isaiah 5:1-2 (NIV)

God, you've done so much for me! You've saved me from the pit of hell, rescued me from my sin and a life of captivity. You've loved me more than I could ever imagine and blessed me beyond measure. I pray that when you look at my life, you don't see only bad fruit. I don't want my life to be something that looks good on the outside - has had every opportunity to be something beautiful because of the care you've taken - but yields only bad fruit. It doesn't matter what my life looks like on the outside if all I'm producing is poisonous and bitter.

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine,but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; their men of rank will die of hunger and their masses will be parched with thirst.
~Isaiah 5:8, 12-13

Lord, forgive me for being focused on the material until I don't see you or the needs of others around me. I've sought prosperity by the standards of this world, and look where it's gotten me. I've substituted things for a relationship with you, and for living my life for you. Forgive me for not having any regard for your deeds, and for not respecting the work of your hands.

When we are focused on Christ, when our eyes are solely on Him, we are able to notice Him everywhere. He's integrated into our lives.
~Keri Wyatt Kent, Breathe

Lord, I pray that I may keep my eyes on you and that I will notice you in my life every day.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
~Isaiah 5:21

Lord, I confess that I often rely on my own strength and wisdom. Forgive me for being so smug and self-confident that I put my faith in my own abilities, because I have none. I pray for a heart that will turn to you and you alone.

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.
~Isaiah 7:9

Lord, help me to stand firm in my be strong in you. The enemy wants to knock me down, but I praise you because you are greater than he. As I battle this world daily, give me strength to stand and to proclaim your name in all I say and do.


September 23, 2008

Narrowing My Focus

Monday I prayed for the Lord to narrow my focus to see only Him. Today's reading in Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life

We do not focus on Christ accidentally. We need to be intentional about it, or we will become scattered and distracted.
The recurring theme in my walk with God this past year has been that my supposed to be about Him.

Throughout the course of each day, many things clamor for my attention. Some good. Some not-so-good. My own sinful heart can't determine what's important and what's not. I have a difficult time looking past my own agenda to see God's. In the noisiness of my life, I can't hear what God's trying to say.

That's why it's become so important...crucial, really...for me to rise early and spend time with the Lord.

As my dear friend Joanne said so eloquently here

I don't want to face even one hour of my day without having first spent time with him. Time with Jesus makes all the difference. I know--because I've done it both ways and there's just no comparison.

Amen, sister!

I'd been finding excuses on and off all summer for getting up at 5:30. I trudged through my days, spinning my wheels and wondering why I wasn't getting anywhere despite my efforts. God has reminded me (yet again) that searching beyond Him is futile at best, and quite destructive at worst. Peace and simplicity aren't gained by accident. They are the reward of intentionally allowing Him to order my days from the moment I wake.

Very early the next morning, Jesus got up and went to a place where
he could be alone and pray.
~Mark 1:35 (CEV)

A Heartfelt Prayer

It's been a while since I shared my heart here on the blog. Not sure why, exactly, but trust's been for the best. Things here have been bleak lately. Stepping out on faith made me feel strong, courageous even. Then WHAM! ...broadsided by a full onslaught by the enemy.

I was okay at first. Saw it for what it was. Then a week of having a bad cold, coughing til my ribs hurt and sleeping very little all combined to bring me to the edge of despair. A second unexpected (and possibly large) expense within the past month...well, let's just say I fell headfirst into the pit. Sunday night, I told the Lord I was giving up on Peru.

Monday morning, He woke me early to give me a beautiful Word:

And the Lord will create over the whole site, over every dwelling place of Mount Zion and over her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory shall be a canopy (a defense of divine love and protection). And there shall be a pavilion for shade in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge and a shelter from storm and from rain.
~Isaiah 4:5-6 (AMP)

Lord, I need your presence today. Please be that cloud of smoke, and cloud my vision so that I don't see anything beyond you. Take my eyes off the circumstances that are weighing me down. Help me to see you clearly. I've spent too much time worrying about things outside of my relationship with you, and the ministries you've called me to here. Lord, narrow my focus on those things, so that all I see is you.

Lord, may your fire burn away all the junk in my heart. Protect me from evil, and shine for others in my life to see your glory.

Lord, I pray that your canopy of divine love and protection will stretch out over me and my home. Grant us shelter from the heat of the day, from all the pressures this world brings. God, this season is just a little rain...not a storm. But I'm tired and weary of standing here letting this rain drag me down. Give me enough sense to get out of the rain and take shelter in you today.

I'll be honest. My problems...those that I've created and those that have been forced upon me...haven't gone away. They won't overnight. But my attitude has changed. My soul feels lighter, and once again I have peace. Not by my doing, but by His.

As for going to Peru? You bet I am!

September 22, 2008

Sweet September Blog Tour

When I was growing up, I enjoyed spending time on my grandparents' farm. From under the warm covers on the sleeper sofa, I'd watch as Granddaddy ate his breakfast and headed out the door before sunrise. I'd anxiously wait for him to come home at lunch, hoping I'd get the chance to tag along for a while when he went back out in the afternoon.

The notion of living on a farm has always appealed to me (anyone reading this who knows me in real life is probably shaking their head in disbelief right about now). Perhaps it's because of my Granddaddy, I don't know. Whatever the reason, I jumped at the chance to read the Home to Heather Creek Series by Guideposts.

Sweet September - Home to Heather Creek is the second book in the series. Unfortunately, illness has kept me from reading the first book, Before the Dawn by Caroline Aarson, or even finishing Sweet September yet. But I've fallen in love with Heather Creek Farm, Charlotte & Bob Stevenson, and their family.

When I finish both books, I'll give a thorough review at 5 Minutes for Books. For now, I'll give you a taste of the book & a fun contest.

Harvest time at Heather Creek Farm is an exciting time, but the kids don't seem to be getting into the spirit. One day while he's wandering through the fields, Christopher stumbles across an old piece of metal buried in the ground. He doesn't know what it is, but he hides it in the shed.

That night, the garden by the house is uprooted. Who could have done such a thing? Charlotte is determined to find out, but is distracted when she gets news that Sam is failing school. The sullen teen is indifferent and won't study. He starts spending a lot of time with Pete. Though she loves her son dearly, Pete never finished high school, and Charlotte is afraid he'll encourage Sam to do the same. How can she help him get back on track?

A gripping story that examines the Stevenson family's history as well as its shaky future, Sweet September will bring you deeper into the loving community of Bedford and the deep ties of love that bind this broken family together. As they forge new connections, you'll be entertained, inspired, and reminded that God's grace can make all things new.

CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT: Leave a comment on Tricia's blog tour post sharing who your favorite family member is (think beyond hubby and kids) and why. You could win a William-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Harvest Loaf Pan & Quick Bread Set.

Good luck!