August 26, 2008

Desert Wanderings

The recurring theme in my life the last 15 months has been the desert. It started last summer when I attended a Going Beyond conference. Priscilla Shirer's message centered around the desert. God used that weekend to open my eyes to the bondage I was in. It was time to break away and head for the Promised Land. I started cutting some things out of my life in order to make room for God. My relationship with God became more intimate as I began to trust in Him more fully.

Soon I began to see that although I'd gotten rid of some junk in my life, there was much more that needed to go. The pursuit of peace and simplicity began. I said goodbye to the comforts of slavery. Yes, there's a certain sense of security that comes from being in captivity. I was able to blame my captors rather than examine my heart. I trudged along, no expectations of me and no hopes of my own to be dashed. As God pried my hands from the things that I had been desperately clinging on to, I moved further (farther?) into the desert. Suddenly, there was nothing but me and God.

I liked it. So much, I decided to wander around a bit. I got complacent. I proclaimed that I wanted to get to my Promised Land, but I wasn't sure about giving up the familiar. Why have milk and honey, when I had manna straight from Heaven? Not to mention that the route to the Promised Land is taking me away from ministries I had hoped for and to others that were most definitely not in my plan.

This summer, I've been studying No Other Gods by Kelly Minter. The last week was tremendously powerful. I was astonished to read God's personal message to me:

...if we dwell on all we've left behind, we will be tempted to return.

...whatever God is urging you to clear away cannot begin to be compared to what He ultimately wants to bring to you.

...After forty years of desert wanderings, the Israelites were ready to go. Sometimes it takes that long to get so sick of doing life our way for us to become open for change.

40 years of desert wanderings. 40 years of me, living life like I want (I celebrated my 40th birthday earlier this year). Mistaking manna for milk and honey. Being content with the dry, dusty land, not realizing the cool, lush land waiting for me.

Not what I signed up for. Not where I planned to go. Yet somehow more than I could've ever asked for or imagined.

"Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
~Isaiah 55:1-2, 8-9

What's On Your Nightstand - August Edition

What's On Your Nightstand

It's time once again to reveal what's on our nightstands for 5 Minutes for Books.

~Pride and Prejudice, which I'm reading for the Classics Bookclub. It's been a while since I last read it. I'm falling in love all over again!

~The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill. I just have a review copy, but the story of this mother/daughter journey looks interesting and funny so far.

~The Bride Bargain by Kelly Eileen Hake. An historical romance set in the American Plains in the late 19th century.

~Sydney Clair's Season of Change: A Friendship Story (The Girls 'n Grace Collection). A Christian "American Girl"-type series. I'm giving it a whirl before passing it along to CJ.

Click on over to see what others are reading.

August 25, 2008

Anyone Else

need to read this today?

Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
~Isaiah 43:18-19 (AMP)

August 23, 2008

Just For Today

It's recently come to my attention that all of the areas of struggle in my life come down to one thing: self-control. If I had more of it, my life wouldn't be nearly as messy. I've got a strategy to get things cleaned up, but it's a little overwhelming. For example, thinking about funding my trip to Peru is too much to handle all at once. Losing weight...same thing. My brain just doesn't want to go there.

It's wonderful to have goals, and I have set some. I just have to keep reminding myself I can't get there in a day, and I don't have to.

Easier said than done. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of gal.

The Lord recently reminded me of Matthew 6:34:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If I'm going to successfully lose weight, save money for Peru, finish the decluttering and other various projects, I have to focus on today. Yesterday is done, and tomorrow isn't here. I need only exercise self-control today.

You see, if I stop and think about sacrificing say, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or the newest Vera Bradley, for the next 6 months (or longer), I'll just want them all the more. When I realize I just have to give them up for today, I can do that (well, usually). When I slip, I think about it today only. By tomorrow, it will be yesterday & I won't be able to do a thing about it. I can let my mistakes go & move on, rather than rehashing them over and over while telling myself I'm nothing more than a failure.

Think about it. The "Just for Today" approach will work with, money, relationships, housework, time with God. It will help me live victoriously through Him, rather than becoming so easily frustrated & discouraged about things I can't control. I believe frustration & discouragement are two of the enemy's most powerful weapons against believers, and I'm tired of letting him win.

So, I started a Daily Goals Notebook with Matthew 6:34 written inside the front cover. During my quiet time each morning, I will pray about what the Lord wants me to accomplish that day and write it down. I know that He won't give me more than I can do. He will show me what's needed. It's His agenda rather than my own. From the household chores I tackle to the ministry opportunities I accept, I'm giving it all to Him. The things I want to do, and even the things I think should do, don't get done until I've finished what's on the list. Self-control.

I'm praying I can keep this up. That my life will be vastly different when I leave for Peru. And that I'll be able to look back and see how I got day at a time.

August 21, 2008

Don't Hate Me

But I've got some serious alone time in the next few days! Oh, happy day! I do have a couple of Southern Living at Home shows, but I will also have some major, uninterrupted time by myself.

What will I be doing?

It's a good life.

August 20, 2008

Further Thoughts on Be Last

Can be found over here.

Have I mentioned how much I love being a part of the 5 Minutes for Books team?

So Long, Summer

We're quickly approaching my favorite time of year. I seriously love the BER months.

September is full of promise. A new school year. Bouquets of sharpened pencils. New shoes. New teachers. This year, a freshly built school. Schedules resume. Corn fields are cut and cooler nights descend.

October is glorious. Scarlet leaves proclaim God's splendor. Pumpkins and mums flank entryways. Bonfires light the night and scorch my marshmallows to the perfect shade of black. Sunday afternoons curled on my favorite sofa with a mug of hot chocolate, watching football and napping. Peanuts are dug and the days grow shorter. My girl celebrates another year of life.

November speaks of gratitude. The last of the leaves show off before falling to the ground. Pumpkin pies and sweet potato casserole. We join family and friends to give thanks for health, God's provision, and each other. Harvest moons illuminate the skies. Sweaters become a wardrobe staple. The air is crisp, filled with the scent of burning leaves.

December is abuzz with excitement. Parties and pageants. Get-togethers and gifts. Trees are trimmed. Coming home to twinkling lights and a steaming bowl of soup. The Christmas Story. God come to earth. It's a Wonderful Life and Auld Lang Syne.

Summer's coming to a close. Along with it, the last of the amusement park trips, cookouts, and days of anything goes. Two more weeks. Then my love affair with Autumn starts all over again.

August 17, 2008


The mission team that went to Peru gave a full presentation tonight.

We've heard testimonies throughout the summer during worship and Vacation Bible School. Our VBS offering this year was designated to help the New Life Children's Home. God provided enough money to bring 8 orphans into the home for a year, and build a new school. Over $18,000 in 5 days. Sometimes I'm ashamed that I forget exactly how big my God is!

Still, there is much to be done.

In the capital city of Lima, there are approximately 14 million people (those registered with the census). There are approximately 600,000 abandoned children under the age of 18. 250,000 of those are elementary school age or younger. When they are found, they are placed in holding tanks, where 3-4 babies share a crib. The children have no name, and no birth date. New Life Children's Home brings children in, gives them a name, a birth date, and a the love of a Christian staff. The Home cannot function without the financial support of others. Our church is committed to making people aware of the great work to be done. For more information on New Life Children's Home, you can click here to watch a short video.

Listening to what God did through our team of 20 confirmed to me that I am to be a part of next year's team. In 12 days, God used this team to save over 1,000 souls. The impact this trip has had on the team, and on our church family, has been enormous. I cannot wait to be a part of God's work there next summer. I know June 2009 isn't exactly the near future, but I'm looking for some bloggy friends who will commit to pray with me as I prepare for this trip. If He tugs at your heart, please let me know so that I may share prayer needs with you via email.

August 15, 2008

I Must Be On The Right Track

Because the enemy is pulling out the big guns. He's using every tactic he can think of to discourage, but I'm determined not to let him have victory.

What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?] He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?
~Romans 8:31-32 (AMP)

August 14, 2008

I'm Still Going

It's been a while since I've posted about my pursuit of peace & simplicity this year. I've spent a lot of time focused on the simplicity part of this journey. It was easy to see the physical changes taking place. The soul and spirit transformations have been a little tougher to put my finger on, but they are there nonetheless.

Here's the update:

~Physical Clutter - not much going on. I've gone through the majority of the house & the attic. I plan to finish those up this fall. After pushing myself to the limit earlier in the year, I needed a break. Summer was the perfect time to relax a bit. I have found, though, that since I have cleared out so much clutter, I get antsy when things start to clutter up again. I'm much better about cleaning out as I go. Realistically, I may not finish everything in 2008, and I'm okay with that. It's going to be an ongoing process. I want to get to the point of just having to do maintenance instead of major projects, but I'm not going to work myself into a frenzy to get there.

~Temporal Clutter - I've been trying to spend my time more wisely. TV hasn't been a problem (until the Olympics!) Perhaps I'm reading more than I should, and I'm trying to strike a balance there that will keep everyone in the family happy. Then there's the whole not-overscheduling-myself thing! Although I still struggle with this a little, I'm giving myself permission to have white space on my calendar. It is freeing, indeed. I keep reminding myself that a full calendar doesn't translate into a full life. In fact, for me, it's quite the opposite.

~Relational Clutter - This has been a biggie lately, though I didn't see it that way at first. As I posted here, this summer I ran smack into my need for love and acceptance. I want people to like me. Not necessarily a bad thing, but being driven by it led me to serving God based upon the praise and expectations of others (or, more accurately, what I thought others were expecting of me). I wanted to use my gifts/talents to honor the Lord, but I was bent on teaching Sunday School because others have said I have the gift of teaching. I might argue that point, particularly in light of the whole speaking/serving revelation. You see, I'm a communications major. I've competed in and won speaking competitions. I should be able to speak well. I know that He called me into teaching several years ago, but it doesn't mean I'm to camp out there permanently. I was allowing my relationships with others to take precedence over my relationship with My Father. (Please hear me when I saw this was all MY doing...not anyone else's!) Once I stopped worrying what others would think and stopped fighting against God's leading, the peace that passes all understanding washed over me. I've been renewed and energized. The weight of frustration and depression has been lifted, and I can breathe again.

Clearing out the clutter - physical, temporal & relational - has led to peace. Beautiful, wonderful peace. Reading over my posts during this year, I see the threads of the Holy Spirit woven throughout. He's speaking peace over me, and it's the sweetest thing I've ever known.

I will listen [with expectancy] to what God the Lord will say, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints (those who are in right standing with Him)--but let them not turn again to [self-confident] folly.
~Psalm 85:8 (AMP)

August 13, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

In his book Be Last: Descending to Greatness, Jeremy Kingsley shares a true story from his speaking internship with a well-known evangelist. The gentleman assigned Kingsley to grunt work. Eventually, Kingsley was allowed to speak for one minute at conferences, just to introduce the evangelist. This speaking internship was a bust in Kingsley's eyes. When the men met to discuss how things were going, Kingsley was reluctant to share his frustration; instead, the evangelist broached the subject and explained his actions.

I knew you could speak. I didn't know if you could serve.

This story has struck a nerve with me. I've taught Sunday School for the past several years. The current year closes out in a couple of weeks, and I've been trying to discern where the Lord wants me next year. I shared part of my struggle here and here. I took a good, long look at myself and saw the problem. I've been speaking but I haven't been serving.

I was distraught. Wanting to serve Him and accepting my failures hasn't been easy. I wrestled with serving at all this upcoming year, but I know that's not what He wants. I knew He had something in store, but I didn't know what it could be.

R & I worked with the youth in
VBS last week. I'll tell you that I signed up for that gig because R is great with kids and the other classes were full. Even so, I felt an excitement I couldn't quite explain. I chalked it up to having a chance to work together (a rarity). On Monday night, I saw R with some of the youth guys, and I knew God was up to something. That same night, he told me he'd like to teach youth Sunday School, and felt he should start out with the younger guys. We mentioned this to no one.

On the way to
VBS Tuesday, I prayed that God would just make His will crystal clear to us. That night, our youth minister asked R to teach the young boys' Sunday School class. We knew God was prompting us to pay attention. Prayer later confirmed that this is to be R's place.

As for me, I'd started to sense that the mistakes of my past may allow me to minister to the youth girls. Tuesday night, a couple of girls came to talk to me after class. One girl shared her biggest battle against the enemy. It's the same as mine (one that I've just come to deal with this summer). She told her friend that I'm easy to talk to (words can't describe how shocked I was to hear that). Again, I felt God nudging me. I talked to our youth minister about possibly working with the girls, and
everything's fallen into place for me to teach a Bible study on Wednesday nights.

Also during this time, R questioned why I stopped sending cards and encouraging others. As a Sunday School teacher, I had gotten away from that. Working in a more laid-back youth environment, I should have more time to devote to caring for others and supporting R in his new role.

Not speaking. Serving.

I can't begin to tell you how different this will be for us. Moreso for me than for R. I have no idea why God wants us to walk this path. I can only imagine that it's because He knows we'll have to fully lean on Him. (I certainly know that.) I'm thankful He's strong enough to handle it.

August 12, 2008

Children's Classics

Children's Classics

5 Minutes for Books
is hosting Children's Classics today. It's an opportunity to share about a childhood favorite. How do I pick just one? I finally decided on a book that I recently read with my daughter, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I was a child of the 70's, so naturally I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie. I know I read several of the books, but I don't recall ever reading the first book in this series. When CJ got hooked on the Little House show, I decided to buy her the book set and read along with her (she's not the bookworm her Mama is). I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Big Woods as much as I did. I think I didn't read it as a child because it takes place before the period covered by the TV show. As an adult, I liked learning about how Laura & her family lived before they moved to Plum Creek. I particularly enjoyed the simpler time (something near and dear to my heart these days) and the work ethic.

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

I could appreciate the book more as an adult. I enjoyed getting to know Ma, Pa, and Mary through Laura's eyes. The details she gives make it easy to picture their home and life in the Big Woods. I could almost hear the strains of Pa's fiddle, and wished I were there with them (though I'm not quite sure about the churning).

It was absolutely delightful to revisit this series. CJ & I will soon venture onto the next book, Little House on the Prairie. I can't think of a better way to spend Autumn!

If you're looking for other great children's reads, click on over to 5 Minutes for Books. You can even leave your own link.

August 8, 2008

Finding Stefanie Blog Tour

I liked Stefanie Noble from the moment I met her. This cowgirl is dedicated and hard-working. She quit college to return to the family ranch and nurse her broken heart. Then her father died, and she stepped up to run the ranch because her brothers couldn't. She's stronger than she thinks. She's also stubborn, and lonely.

I wasn't so fond of Lincoln Cash, a Hollywood pretty boy who's made a name for himself with his staggering good looks instead of his acting abilities. He's not as strong as he thinks. He's also stubborn and lonely.

You can imagine that the sparks fly when Stefanie and Lincoln realize they're neighbors. Actually, his house is on fire when the renew a brief acquaintance (both have fond memories of their first meeting). The pair quickly fall to fighting over Gideon, an 18-year old runaway, who is responsible for the fire. For Lincoln, Gideon is a reminder of his questionable past. For Stefanie, he is a reminder of a childhood dream, and a chance to make that dream come true.

Finding Stefanie is the third book in the Noble Legacy series by Susan May Warren. I haven't read the first two, Reclaiming Nick and Taming Rafe. Finding Stefanie stands on its own, but I enjoyed it so much that I requested my library purchase the others.

If you'd like to read an excerpt, click here. You can also click here to buy the book.

And if you'd like to win a $50 gift certificate to your local movie theater, Grab your magnifying glass and join me on a Fact-o-Find!

Answer these questions about the bloggers on the tour and be entered to win a $50 gift certificate to the movie theater of your choice! Email your answers to amy(at)susanmaywarren(dot)com.

Ready, get set, giddy-up!

1. Which blogger is adopting a girl from China ?

2. This word 'featherbunkle' is found on which blog?

3. Which blogger is supporting the 'Pickens Plan'?

4. Which blog is "The Cutest Blog on the Block"?

5. Which blogger is a S@HM and also a wife, daughter, sister, friend, nursery director, and woman that is just trying to keep it all together?

6. Which blogger is taking the Southern Reading Challenge?

7. Which blog asks 'How may we serve you'?

8. Which blogger refers to her son as 'super good big guy'?

9. Which blogger is a self-proclaimed 'Starbucks Addict'?

10. Which blogger is a big Trekkie?


Martha at Our Family’s Adventures

Trish at Books for Moms

Sunny at Life in the Estrogen Ocean


Deborah at A Cup of Joy

Julie at Waves of Grace

Camy at Camy’s Loft


Amy at Amy’s Random Thoughts

Gina at Portrait of a Writer

Lena a Christian Writer’s World


Leticia at My Daily Trek

Laura at Lighthouse Academy


Melissa at Breath of Life

Lori at Laurel Wreath’s

Ronie at Supernatural Craving

Erica at On the Right Path


Deborah at Books, Movies, and Chinese Food

Heather at Fresh Sweet Peas

Christy at Christy’s Book Blog

Beth at The Writing Road


Cee Cee at Book Splurge

Kate at A Simple Walk

Dineen at Kittens Come From Eggs


Joy at Five J's

Paula at Grace Reign

Rel at Relz Reviewz

Deena at A Peek At My Bookshelf

Patty at Girlfriends in God


Peg at Sips & Cups Cafeteria

Cara at Cara’s Musings

Pattie at Fresh Brewed Writer

Amy at My Friend Amy

AnnMarie at More Than Just A Mom


Janis at The Nearsighted Bookworm

Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood

Teresa at Joy In the Journey


Lynetta at Open Book

Betsy at Betsy Ann…Writer At Large

Susan at His Reading List


Tiffany at A Fiction Filled Life

Pamela at Pammer’s Ramblins

Lauren at Baseballs and Bows

Brittanie at A book Lover Forever

Good luck!

August 7, 2008

Around the House - August Edition

Tonight, I'm praising God for:

~providing $13,000+ to house orphans in Peru and another $5,000 for a Christian school there. All in 5 nights of VBS offering. He doubled our goal. Is there any doubt He is AMAZING?!

~the testimony of the Chapman family on Larry King Live. Again, AMAZING.

~a wonderful week of VBS. I was working out of my comfort zone, but it was so worth it!

~answers to prayer, and details worked out. I'll be sharing more when I can catch my breath.

Tomorrow, I'll be:

~starting to clean the house. I promise, it was so pretty Saturday evening. The past few days of work, VBS, and CJ's softball camp have left just enough time to mess up & no time to clean up.

~enjoying a night alone with R & CJ, hopefully with popcorn and a DVD.

The rest of the weekend, I'll be:

~running carpool for the last day of softball camp

~traveling for a family member's surprise birthday party

~preparing for and teaching Sunday School

~trying to rest before the start of another busy week.

August 6, 2008

A New Course?

I don't know if this post will make much sense. My poor brain, relaxed from vacation, has been forced into overdrive by my return to work and Vacation Bible School.

For several days after we returned from vacation, I was in the pit of anger and frustration (totally unrelated to VBS). I have talked whined & complained to God, my husband, my pastor, his wife, and my associate pastor about it...desperately seeking an answer. In my struggle to find where God wants me to serve, I finally accepted my failures and even my limitations. Oh, friends, it's not been pretty around here these past few days!

But God.

R and I have been hashing and re-hashing where we are, where we could go and where we should go from here. I wanted God to get busy and SPELL. IT. OUT. ALREADY.

Monday night, I watched R closely as he ministered. My heart was stirred, though I didn't mention it to him. Later, he said, "You know, I wish I could _____________." (exactly in line with my stirrings!)

Last night, someone approached him about participating in this very ministry!

Yesterday, I was thinking, "I wish I could _____________."

Last night, I discovered that if I will just step out of the way, God will take control and use me in this ministry I never thought of before. I'm trusting that He's already started.

We have seen God's hand start writing it on the wall.

I know this is cryptic. I am refraining from sharing details until everything's finalized. I will tell you that we're standing on the edge of something very different for us. We're so excited that we stayed up til nearly 1:00 this morning talking about it. My anger and frustration are gone, and have been replaced by peace. God is so good.

I'll be back to share more as soon as I'm able.

August 3, 2008

Back to Reality

The suitcases are unpacked and stored. The laundry's done and put away. Work resumes tomorrow. Reality is creeping up on me.

Vacation Bible School has started, so I'll be MIA this week. Looking forward to sharing with you again as soon as I can, but I couldn't wait to tell you about this:

Classics Bookclub

The first selection is my favorite book of all time and is going to be hosted by my friend Lisa. Join us, won't you?

August 2, 2008

Honey, I'm home!

Don't know when I'll get back to "real-time" posting. But you can find me here again today.

It's another riveting review.