May 29, 2009

Sweet 16

The Family Man is one of my favorite sappy movies. Sure, it practically drips saccharin in some scenes, but beyond all the sweetness it's a story of true love and commitment. Tea Leoni's character, Kate, has faced life's surprises and disappointments and finds herself far from where she'd planned. Still, she tells her husband Jack that, through it all, "I choose us."

16 years ago today, I was a young know-it-all bride. Sure of myself. Sure of my man and his love for me. Sure that life would take us wherever we wanted to go.

Older and wiser, I've realized that I don't know it all, and that even the surest human love can be shaken and doubted. Life hasn't always taken us where we'd expected to go. I've also learned that marriage is a lot more difficult than I ever dreamed it would be.

Still, I choose us.

Through times of plenty and times of want...I choose us.

Through the agony of infertility and the despair of a miscarriage...I choose us.

Through the birth of our beautiful daughter and the trenches of parenthood...I choose us.

Through family drama and heartache...I choose us.

Through a cancer diagnosis and the death of loved ones...I choose us.

Through surgeries and illnesses...I choose us.

Through sin, confession, and forgiveness...I choose us.

Sitting in our favorite restaurant, the bleachers, a roller coaster, or on the church pew...I choose us.

Getting lost in Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, or anywhere in between...I choose us.

From the heights of the Eiffel Tower to the depths of the caves in Champagne, on the streets of New York, Boston and Annapolis...I choose us.

Atop a mountain of laundry and under a stack of bills...I choose us.

Whether in a tiny apartment or in the home we've built together...I choose us.

During mission trips to Texas, Mississippi, New Jersey, and soon to be Peru...I choose us.

Even though it's not how I pictured it 16 years ago...I still choose us.

Our wedding invitation began with the words of Shakespeare: My love hath in't a bond, whereof the world takes note. That day, I was certain that our bond would be noteworthy...that our marriage would be a testimony to perfect love. And it is. Not mine. Not R's. God's.

A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. - Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NASB)

May 27, 2009

Seeking Him Week 3: Let's Be Honest

Friends, it's been a whirlwind here lately! I'll come back tonight with my own post, but I didn't want to keep you hanging any longer.

So...are you ready to be honest? Mr. Linky's not working these days, but leave a comment and let us know when you've written your post.

May 26, 2009

Seeking Him Together - Week 3 Discussion Questions

Hello, gang. Sorry I'm late to the party this week. We were out of town for part of the holiday weekend, and got back later than we'd originally planned. I'm posting the discussion questions now, and will post a linky up late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

So...let's talk honesty. Out of respect for what some people feel comfortable with sharing on their blog, I'm only going to ask a couple of general questions and leave room for you to be as specific as you'd like. Amber asked some great, tough questions on the Facebook group...and you may feel more comfortable sharing there.

~What part of this study or what Scripture has been most helpful to you thus far in understanding what revival means in your life? Why?

~What can we do to create greater freedom in the Body of Christ to be honest with each other?

If there's something more you'd like to share with us this week, please do!

May 22, 2009

Around the House: May

I am:

~So ready for school to end, but not quite ready for CJ to be in middle school.

~Enjoying softball season with R and CJ. They both play. I'm happy to just cheer them on.

~Overjoyed that Kris won American Idol! He was one of my picks from the first week of the Top 13 (I hadn't seen him til then).

~Excited that R and I will be teaching youth Sunday School next year.

~Wearing my silver ring, and praying for CJ and all my girls to remain pure.

~Thrilled with my anniversary present. It came a week early, and I couldn't wait to start using it!

~Celebrating 16 years of marriage next week. It hasn't all been candlelight and roses but, apart from Jesus, it's been the greatest blessing of my life.

~Convicted by the Seeking Him Bible Study. Tough, but good.

~Thankful for godly friends, both near and far.

~Looking forward to a 3-day weekend filled with softball, yard work, and a quick trip to the beach.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

May 20, 2009

Nothing But Trouble

It's hard to put my finger on the reason I like PJ Sugar as much as I do. It could be her "take me as I am" attitude, her spunk and tenacity, or her quick wit. She's just an imperfect gal trying to find her way back to living for Jesus.

Whatever the reason, I quickly took to Susan May Warren's latest heroine. PJ makes her debut in Warren's newest release, Nothing but Trouble.

Ten years after fleeing her hometown in Minnesota (under scandalous circumstances), PJ returns at her sister's plea. The engine on her old VW bug has barely cooled before one of her high school teachers is murdered. Worse yet, her best friend's husband is charged with the crime. Although PJ has just met him, her gut instinct tells her that Jack didn't do it. Can she convince her old flame and current cop, Boone, that Jack is innocent? One thing's for sure, PJ's quest for truth has everyone in an uproar.

Nothing but Trouble was a delightful read. (For a sneak peak, check out the first chapter.) I'm already looking forward to the sequel, which is coming out in January.

Be sure to visit the Nothing But Trouble Blog Tour to find out who else is getting a Sugar fix, and go over here to enter a sweet contest.

Prayers for Peru - Update

Remember my prayer list for Peru? Well, the Lord has answered some & is keeping me on my toes with others. Here's an update:

~Revival in my own heart. I'm starting to feel refreshed and renewed, though admittedly not as much as I'd hoped. Could it possibly be that I need to humble myself, as Week #2 suggests? Yes, yes. A thousand times, yes! (Do you know that quote?)

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus... ~Acts 3:19-20 (ESV)

~God's provision. The answer on this one isn't coming as quickly as I'd like. Every time I think I have the last bit of money, some unexpected need (that can't be ignored or put off) arises and takes it. It's all-out war on the enemy's part. He's using every tactic in his nasty arsenal. But he is DEFEATED! I will NOT give in...and I will trust my Lord.

~Travel safety. Of course, this is constantly in my mind. I'm happy to report our layover in Columbia is less than an hour. Still, I've gotta confess I'm still a bit nervous about the whole thing.

~Child care for CJ. God has worked out the first week, with an unexpected opportunity for her to go to an affordable summer camp with friends. The rest of the time is still up in the air, but not for lack of people who want to help. I just want to make sure she's comfortable and at peace. She's not exactly thrilled about Mom being gone for 11 days.

~Testimony Preparation. God's been giving me bits of a new message. One that will probably translate better (literally and spiritually) than what I'd had in mind. Not how I'd planned it in some ways, yet amazingly so in others.

~Our Team. The enemy's attacking nearly every member of our team. The issues and degrees of seriousness vary, but they are all most certainly his handiwork. I know that God's will is going to prevail, but I'm praying that we are sensitive to what that is, exactly...rather than just assuming we know.

Just 33 days left! God's got a lot to do in that time. I'm so grateful He can.

May 19, 2009

Seeking Him Together - Week 2 Discussion

First of all, thanks to my lovely co-host, Amber, for being the hostess with the mostest today. Her discussion questions are here.

Week Two was all about that nasty sin, pride. Evidently, it's one of my favorite sins (at least, according to the quiz on Day 5. By the way, I'm thinking we can expect every Day 5 to be a real eye-opener...but maybe that's just me.)

So, back to pride. Ick. There's no other way to put it. This week was u.g.l.y.

When we are proud, we are driven to promote ourselves and to protect our reputation. (p. 25)

Oh. It's not self-preservation, as I've been prone to call it?

The way we respond to Him in moments of conviction reveals the true condition of our heart. (p. 27)

No defensiveness or excuses? Ahem.

I can't even tell you how much I learned this week. How I came face to face with such an undesirable, sinful part of myself. How, through it all, God loved on me and showed me AGAIN that He loves me too much to leave me where I am. Brokenness is a good thing.

So, now to Amber's questions:

1. How are worry & anxiety expressions of pride rather than humility? I never thought of worry & anxiety as expressions of pride before; however, now I realize that giving into those emotions means I'm putting myself ahead of God and not trusting in Him fully. Worry and anxiety are evidence of my belief that somehow I am in control and have to fix things. That's been an especially tough lesson for me lately, in parenting and in preparing for Peru.

2. How did God speak to you as you went through the list of "proud vs humble" people? He showed me how proud I truly am, through characteristics that I wouldn't have labeled as "pride" until now. No matter what I choose to call it, the bottom line is that I have been entirely proud and not at all humble.

3. If you feel comfortable, share one expression of pride you have been convicted of in this past week. Hmmm...there are so many. One glaring area is being unapproachable or defensive when criticized. I despise being the object of criticism. It's that people-pleasing part of my personality. And the fact that I don't like to be wrong. Instead of accepting criticism as a means to allow me to become more like Jesus, I clam up (or worse yet, start finding fault with my critic).

Not pleasant stuff here. But it's good. In fact, I can't wait to dive into Week 3, Honesty.

What about you...what did you learn this week? Leave your link with Amber (or join us on Facebook) and let us know.

May 18, 2009

Another Giveaway, and a Winner

I'm over at 5 Minutes for Mom today. Visit me over there, for your chance to win a great book.

And the winner of my last giveaway, Dear Mom, is Care-in!

Seeking Him Together, Week 2 Preview

Amber has the discussion questions ready for head on over and start thinking about them. We'll meet up at her place tomorrow to chat about how the Lord revealed Himself to us in Week 2.

Remember, it's not to late to join us!

May 14, 2009

Daddy's Girl

During prayer time in worship last Sunday, CJ turned to R and prayed with him. He sweetly suggested that she pray with me since it was Mother's Day. (brownie points for him!) She did, and the little twinge of hurt I'd felt was quickly forgotten. I'm used to it. She's a bona fide, true blue Daddy's Girl. I love that about her.

Last week was the tough week of our shift rotation. R was working evenings, which meant that CJ only saw him in the mornings before school. The weekend was packed with the usually busyness that accompanies May, and Monday morning arrived without CJ spending a lot of time with her dad. This week, R's working day shift. Lucky him, he missed the Monday morning meltdown/yelling match. I was at my wit's end, ready to throw my hands in the air and just give her the house and leave (anyone else remember that episode of "The Cosby Show" when Cliff tells Claire that he realizes the kids have been battling them all these years because they wanted the house?).

The morning wrestling match and a long day at work exhausted me. After dinner, I sent R and CJ outside to play ball. I watched as R worked with her on her skills, gently teaching her the proper and better way to play. That 30 minutes of playing catch changed CJ's entire demeanor. She came in smiling and giggling. Having some quality, uninterrupted "Daddy time" made her world right again.

Time with my Abba does the same for me. A few minutes here or there may make me feel as though everything's okay. After all, I'm still seeing Him every day. I know He's there, and that He loves me. But I can't thrive without quality time...long talks and His gentle instruction on the proper and better way to live. When I spend that kind of time with Him, my perspective and attitude are changed. Meltdowns are less frequent. I smile and love more. The world around me knows that I, too, am a Daddy's Girl.

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.
- Psalm 27:4 (ESV)

May 12, 2009

Seeking Him Together - Week One

Are you ready to chat about Week One? I'll be honest, after Day 5, I was ready to call it quits. So much conviction! But I'm so grateful that the Lord didn't let go of me! As I met with Him through Seeking Him Together this week, I realized again how loving and merciful He is. And I was reminded of Day 3 of our study, and perhaps the most meaningful insight I gleaned this week. He loves you and knows that you cannot experience all He has for you in your present condition. (p. 9)

I am not only a creature of habit, but also of comfort. I like to be comfortable. Not too hot. Not too cold. Not too difficult. Not too easy. I like everything to be just so. (Yeah, I'm a little high maintenance.) Change disrupts my routine and my comfort, which I'm sure is the reason I'm often adverse to it. Yet revival requires change.

Revival. requires. change.

If I'm going to experience God's revival in my heart, I need to change:

~My thinking. Revival isn't just me coming back to God. He has begun drawing me back to Him. He has a work waiting for me in Peru, and it's not going to happen unless I am completely in love with Him and attuned to His voice. I didn't just decide to have revival in my life. God decided it for me. That truth slays me. I am not in this alone. I don't have to depend on my pitiful, sinful self to spark revival. (Glory, Hallelujah!) It's His work.

~My sense of security. Generally, I don't rely on things for security. I get that from people and how they view me. I need to feel special, praise-worthy, and loved. Which means I also find security in my accomplishments and abilities. I will knock myself out to please God most of all. I've struggled to accept that His love is unconditional, not based upon my performance. In doing so, I've been looking to myself for security, rather than to God. Perhaps the reason He's sending me to Peru is because I have no abilities for this trip. None. Nada. Zip. I will be totally dependent upon Him, like I've never been before.

~My approach to warfare. Lately, I've been feeling worn out by life. Getting through each day has been a struggle. I've been trying to win the battle on my own, and it's just not working. When I was in the midst of a big pity party yesterday, Amber helped pull me away from it by reminding me of Ephesians 6:12

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (ESV)

I need to stop wearing myself out in these battles, and let God handle it. My energy and time should be devoted to seeking Him, instead of fighting an enemy who's already defeated.

Whew! That's a lot to learn in one week. What about you? I can't wait to hear how He's been speaking to you this week. Leave a link to your post (not your blog) below. And for you ladies on Facebook, be sure to check in this week for more discussion.

Let me encourage you to read through the discussion section each week. GREAT, great insights in Week #1...I loved the points on what true revival will bring in your life.

May 11, 2009

Seeking Him Together: Week 1 Discussion Questions

I hope everyone had a good first week of study. Remember, there's still time to grab a book and join us.

Here are the questions we'll be discussing for Week #1.

~Before beginning this study, what did you think "revival" was? Has your view changed? How?

~What things do you tend to hold on to for security, even though they could easily be taken away?

~What does the idea that God initiates revival in His people tell you about Him? What does it tell you about yourself?

We'll be posting our responses tomorrow. Come back here to link your post. See you then!

May 8, 2009

Dear Mom & a Giveaway

Every mom knows how communicating with a teenage girl can be difficult, even impossible at times. One-word answers. Defensive conversations. Daily arguments. How typical for teens to put up such barriers. All the while, moms truly long to know what their daughters really think.

Best-selling author Melody Carlson, whose books for women, teens, and children have sold more than three million copies, bridges this chasm with trusted insight. She speaks frankly in the voice of the teen daughters she’s written for and she tells it like it is: struggles with identity, guys, friendship, and even parents—it’s all here. The straight-talk to moms covers such things as “I need you, but you can’t make me admit it,” “I’m not as confident as I appear,” and “I have friends. I need a mother.”

Instead of focusing on outward behaviors, Dear Mom looks at a young woman’s heart and reveals to moms:

· how to talk to teens so they hear,

· how to connect despite the differences of perspective or years and experiences,

· and how strengthen the bond every mom and daughter ultimately wants.

The lively chapters in Dear Mom can be dipped into topically or used as a read-through tool by moms and daughters alike to understand what motivates or deflates, troubles or inspires—and just in time for Mother’s Day and all the Mother’s Days ahead.

You can purchase the book here. Thanks to the kind folks at WaterBrook Press, I have a copy to giveaway. If you'd like to win (U.S. Residents only), leave me a comment sharing your favorite "mom" memory (either your own mother, or yourself). I'll close comments on Tuesday, and draw a winner on Wednesday.

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

May 5, 2009

Why I'm Seeking Him

I bought the book several years ago at a Nancy Leigh DeMoss conference. I fully intended to do the study that summer, but busyness/lazyness/selfishness/hard-heartedness took over. I tucked the book away and promptly forgot all about it.

As I've been preparing my heart for Peru, I've realized that my passion for God has waned. I've seen Him do great things already for this upcoming journey, and I'm beginning to see the traces of our future path together. He's there. He's amazing. He's faithful. So why don't I love Him more? In asking myself this question (over and over again), I remembered the Seeking Him workbook hidden away, and decided it was time to truly start seeking Him and allowing Him to revive my heart. I can't spread the Word of Life in Peru if I'm not living and breathing it myself.

I can't say enough how much I'm looking forward to this journey! I jumped right into Week 1 this morning (sorry I couldn't wait!) And, wouldn't you know it...God immediately spoke to my heart through a passage of Scripture in Day 1, which was my theme verse last year.

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)

I'm listening, Lord. I'm listening.

Seeking Him Together: Introduction

It's finally here! Time for the Seeking Him Together Introduction. Hopefully Amber and I aren't making this too difficult by splitting the duties this week. We really don't want this study to be a burden, but rather a huge, God-sized blessing.

Here's how we'll work for the intro:

~Write your own blog post telling us why you've chosen to join us. We're so glad you are, and we'd love to know how the Lord drew you to this study.

~Go to Amber's and link your post. If you're not a blogger, you can leave a comment on Amber's post or the Facebook group (see below).

~Start Week 1 of the study.

Easy, peasy!

Come back here on Monday, May 11th for Week 1 discussion questions. Then on Tuesday, May 12th, we'll meet here to link our responses. For the most part, Amber and I will alternate hosting the discussion (we'll make sure we remind you).

Remember there's a Facebook group. If you're on Facebook and not a member of the group, click on the link and request membership. We've kept the group closed for privacy. When you request membership, please send a message to tell us what your "blog handle" is so we know who you are. You do not have to participate in the Facebook group AND blog. You can do either or both, whatever you're comfortable with. We simply ask that you be an active participant, however you choose to participate. I can tell you from personal experience, accountability is a great thing! We are among sisters in Christ, so don't be afraid to speak up.

My prayer for this group is that the Holy Spirit will use our time together to spark revival, literally from coast to coast.

Now, shoo! Get on over to Amber's and tell us about yourself!

May 1, 2009

Enduring Justice Blog Tour

It's been a while since I stayed up past midnight for anything, let alone to finish a book. But Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace sucked me right in. This book reminds me a lot of Dee Henderson's O'Malley series (I'm a huge fan).

Enduring Justice is book three in the Defenders of Hope series, but stands alone well.

A painful past
Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her memories.

A racially-motivated killer
As a Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. Difficult cases and broken relationships have plagued his entire year. But when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.

A life-altering choice
A racist’s well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. The dividing line between the two is the choice to heal. But when the attack turns personal, is justice enough?

If you'd like to read an excerpt, click here.

I haven't read a suspense book in quite some time. I enjoyed getting back into the genre. I'd like to get the first two books in the series and get the back stories on some of the characters. You have a chance to win the entire Defenders of Hope series. Just sign up for Amy’s Dark Chocolate Suspense Newsletter and then leave a comment on this blog tour post . It’s chock full of insider info on the writing world, a thought-provoking devotion, and easy but yummy recipes. If you already subscribe to the newsletter, just leave a comment saying so on the blog tour post! The winner will be chosen at random on 5/8/09. Two runners up will also be chosen to win a copy of Enduring Justice.