November 30, 2009

The Thankful List

Leah over at South Breeze Farm hosts the Giving Thanks Challenge each year. I think this is the first year I've made it all the way through. Sad, but true. But this year, in this season, I am reminded that being thankful changes my perspective...and that's a very good thing.

Hard to believe it's already over. As I was reading through my list this morning, it didn't seem like I'd taken the time to be grateful for 30 things. But I did. And you can read them in the sidebar...the spiritual and not-so-spiritual alike. There's so much more to be thankful for, too!

I finished reading Philippians this morning. I didn't realize how many wonderful nuggets of wisdom & truth are jammed into Chapter 4 alone. I think I could read it and sill learn something. This particular passage has become my prayer.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7, ESV)

Thanksgiving may be over, but giving thanks should never end.

November 24, 2009

What's On My Nightstand: November

What's On Your Nightstand

I don't do much reading in December because I'm usually camped out in front of the TV overdosing on Fa La La La Lifetime, ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas, and Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas. Every once in a while, I'll forego the sappy holiday movie in favor of a sappy holiday book.

This year, I'm making a few exceptions. My December reading goals are:

~Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin. Just waiting on my library to process it. I'm looking forward to reading this book more than any I've read in a long time.

~Learning to Live Financially Free: Hard-Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Marriage & Your Money by Curt & Mary Beth Whalen. I've already read and reviewed this one, but it's taking on a whole new meaning these days.

~Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom by Walter Wangerin, at the recommendation of my good friend Joanne. This will be my morning devotion reading.

~Home for the Holidays: The Forgetful Bride\When Christmas Comes ( didn't think I'd include at least one sappy holiday book?!)

So, what about you? Do you read in December? If you want to play along, head on over to 5 Minutes for Books and link up.

November 23, 2009

Treading Water

No "gifts" post today. Because, to be quite honest, our current state has felt nothing like a gift lately. In fact, it's felt like quite the opposite.

A lie, brought to me courtesy of the prince of 'em.

Weekends are the toughest. During the week, I'm too occupied with my job, housework & homework to care about much else. Saturdays bring time to think and worry, inevitably leaving me utterly defeated. I have no interest in leaving the house, seeing anyone, or doing anything. I sink to the lowest point I can imagine. Just in time for God to scoop me up on Sunday and remind me that He's got this under control.

I've been thinking a lot about water. God keeps bringing the Israelites' journey to the Red Sea to my attention. I wonder, have I jumped into the sea too early? Do I think I can navigate this obstacle on my own? Am I trying to move ahead before without giving God time to perform the miracle?

I've never been a strong swimmer. I can tread water, but I don't like it. It's tiring and it gets you nowhere. I'd rather just walk on across. Since I can't do that right now, I've got to exercise a little lot of patience and faith.

The Israelites only had to wait overnight for their deliverance. I'm sure it felt like much longer, considering the entire Egyptian army was on their heels. It was probably the longest night of their lives. Yet when God acted, there was no doubt about Who had delivered them. They went into the midst of the sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:22, ESV), and started marching toward their freedom.

2008 was the Year of Peace and Simplicity.
2009 is the Year of Trust and Obedience.

And now...
2010 will be the Year of Faith and Freedom.

Come along with me & let's see what my Jesus will do!

November 19, 2009

The Swiss Courier Blog Tour

With everything going on these days, I've haven't been as focused on some of my commitments as I should be. Case in point...I haven't had time to read The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey.

Based on the reviews of other bloggers (see the full tour here), I'm thinking this book should be at the top of my stack. WWII fiction has recently earned a place in my heart, and The Swiss Courier promises not to disappoint.

From the publisher:

Gabi Mueller, a young Swiss-American woman working for American spy interests in Switzerland during the latter days of World War II, accepts a do-or-die mission: safely courier a German physicist working on the Nazi atomic bomb to Switzerland.

Following the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944, the Gestapo conducted a merciless roundup of suspected enemies of Third Reich. While doing background checks of those involved in government work, it's discovered that Joseph Engel, a German physicist born in 1918, is actually a Jew. He was adopted as an infant by a Christian family after his parents died in the Great Flu epidemic that killed millions in 1918. The young Engel, who is part of the team developing an atomic bomb for the Nazis, is unaware of the intense danger he is in. A plant in the Gestapo's office tips off a church pastor in Heidelberg, who, in turn, orchestrates his escape, working in coordination with the OSS (the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA run by OSS head Allen Dulles) based in Switzerland. A young Swiss-American working for the OSS, Gabi Mueller, must safely spirit the physicist and his knowledge into Switzerland before the Gestapo can capture him.

You can visit Tricia Goyer at and Mike Yorkey at

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to read this release.

November 17, 2009

The Gift of Praise

Confession: this is an edited, older post. But it's a much-needed reminder for me!

When I was a young girl (back before the days of cable & VCRs), "The Wizard of Oz" would come on television once a year. From the time I saw the first commercial announcing its pending arrival, I could hardly wait for that night to come. Every year, I'd sit patiently through the "boring" (black & white) part, eagerly anticipating the appearance of The Lollipop Guild, The Lullaby League, and, of course, Glenda the Good Witch. I just loved when Dorothy met Scarecrow and invited him to come along on her journey to the Emerald City. I was enthralled by the bright Yellow Brick Road and those snazzy ruby slippers. My fascination was soon lost. When the trees started talking, I headed for the door. Talking inanimate objects are just plain spooky, if you ask me!

When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, the crowd went wild. They waved palm branches and shouted praises to God for all the miracles they'd witnessed during Jesus' ministry. The Gospel of Luke says "the whole crowd" of disciples was giving joyful praise. Some Pharisees in the crowd told Jesus to rebuke them. His response... "I tell you, " he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19:40)

As a girl who doesn't like talking trees, I'm not crazy about the idea of talking stones, either! So, how do I keep them from crying out? I praise God! He wants to know we appreciate Him, and that we recognize His gifts to us and let others know about it. Through our praise, we are teaching others about Him. We're also reminding ourselves of His goodness.

I haven't praised God enough because I haven't looked for Him enough. It's easy to find Him in the big things. Still, sometimes I have a hard time realizing He's in the daily, mundane things of life. Wouldn't you think our BIG God hiding in the every day is kinda' like an elephant trying to hide behind a telephone pole? He's sticking out all over the place! All I need to do is open my eyes and look.

I don't need to just praying more fervently. I must also praise more fervently too. He is completely worth it. Besides, I don't want to be responsible for any talking stones. Do you?

November 16, 2009

The Gift of Prayer

Is anyone tired of this gifts series yet? I hope not, because God has been pouring them on me. Not that everything's hunky-dory around here (forgive me, my Southern roots are showing!) There are days of pain and doubt and fear. Days of arguments and misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Days of wishing we were walking through anything but this.

I'm not a super Christian. Sometimes I wonder if by sharing these gifts I'm painting myself in that light. The truth is, I'm not even a particularly strong person. So please accept my apologies if I've led you to believe otherwise during these past few weeks. I'm praying that anything good you've seen here has been a testimony to Jesus and His all sufficient grace. Believe me when I tell you that it is NOTHING I'm doing.

But you can also believe me when I tell you that, even in the middle of circumstances I can.not.stand, God is good. He is faithful. He is loving and kind. He is the source of my strength. He is worthy of praise no matter what's going on in my life. Sometimes the knowledge that the Almighty Creator of the universe loves sinful ole' me and wants to spend time with me...well, that blows me away. One of the many things I've learned recently is that prayer isn't something I'm entitled to. It's a gift. Being able to voice my hopes and doubts to God, knowing that He is listening carefully, is a privilege.

Almost immediately after we found out about R's job, I knew the Lord was telling me to find prayer partners. I have friends across the country who've agreed to let me email them my requests so they can pray very specifically as R & I feel the Lord is leading. I have a mentor from my church whom I call regularly. (When I thanked her again this morning, she told me she was enjoying this.) What a blessing each and every one of them has been to me! I can honestly say I feel their prayers throughout each day. In the times I feel lowest, I remember that I have advocates pleading my case before our Father, even when all I can do is cry out, "Oh, God, please!"

Despite what the world would like us to believe, prayer is not a crutch. It's a blessing that binds us to the heart of God and brings the body of Christ closer together. It's the strategy that brings sure defeat to our enemy. It's the tonic that soothes my weary soul.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.
~James 5:13 (ESV)

November 13, 2009

If You Came to My House Today

Kellie @ La Vida Dulce is hosting a carnival, and I thought I'd join the fun. So, here goes:

If you came to my house today...

...well, you'd have to come after 2:00 to catch me home. Then you'd find seen me on one sofa trying to snooze away my headache while CJ curls up on the other and watches Food Network. Alas, R is already at work!

The house is in decent shape, because I worked like crazy last night to put things back in order. Well, as much order as you can have when you still don't have a master bathroom and closet. (Yes, it's been 4 1/2 months!) But, I'm a firm believer that a Cinnamon Chai Woodwick Candle and a little Bing Crosby cover a multitude of sins.

I'd put the kettle on for tea (Madagascar Vanilla Red is my current fave) and we'd sit back and enjoy each other's company. I'd share how God answered our first prayer today, in a way only He could. I'd ask what good book you've been reading, and share the four that I'm in the middle of (see my sidebar).

CJ would ask you to play cards or finish the puzzle we started. We'd spend the rest of our time together enjoying my girl's infectious giggles, and planning your next visit.

Sadly, it's time for you to go. But I'm so glad you stopped by! Come again soon!

November 11, 2009

The Gift of Teamwork

You know what I've noticed in the past few weeks? My little family of three is becoming more united. It's an "Us (and God) against the world" sort of feeling.

I like it.

Our goal is to get to the other side of this valley in a manner that gives glory to our King. Any successful team (my favorite included) knows that to accomplish your goal, you must:

Work together. I can't be off on my own making plans without telling R. Likewise, he and I have to let CJ in on the game plan (as much as we feel she needs to know and can handle, at least). No secrets or hidden agendas.

Play your position. Each of us has a specific task. Right now, R's working as much as he can. That means we don't see him a lot. CJ and I have to accept that these extended work hours are temporary, and will ultimately prove to be a blessing when the job is gone. We've told her that her job is to: (a) realize we're cutting back wherever we can; (b) trust God to take care of us; (c) trust us to follow God's leading; and (d) PRAY. My job is to keep the home fires burning and lighten R's load in every way that I possibly can.

Endure. Believe me, this isn't a walk in the park! Do I have faith in God? Of course! Do I trust Him? Without a doubt! Do I still have down days? You betcha'. But Scripture commands us to lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12-13, ESV) If we want to find healing, we've got to keep moving even when we don't feel like it.

Encourage your teammates. When those down days come, we find ways to motivate each other by sharing what God's revealing to us. Mercifully R and I haven't been "down" at the same time, and we've been able to remind each other of the Source of our hope.

Work hard and play hard. Since we haven't had much family time together in recent weeks, we take advantage of every opportunity to have fun together. As soon as homework and housework are done, we play a game. I make every effort to make our time away from R special, so that CJ will look back on this season as one of joy.

Achieving the goal won't be easy. Nothing of value is. But we will press on.

We're going to be a humble group. We're going to be a grounded group. We're going to be a selfless group.

We don't live in our fears, we live in our hopes.

~Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

November 9, 2009

The Gift of Order

Another gift that God has given me during this time is the gift of order. After I quit wallowing, I saw that He was giving me a list of things to pray over. I'm sure the list will be long by the time it's all said and done, but for now it consists of just two things. I knew I was hearing Him right when I told R that we need to be doing this in steps, and he replied, "Yes, and right now we need to pray about _____ & _________." (exactly what I was going to tell him!)

Having a plan makes all the difference. Praying in such a practical manner keeps me focused and gives me peace. I like knowing that God has a plan of attack. He's the general, and we're soldiers. Our job is to carry out His orders. Every.single.time. I veer away from the list and start praying for something else, I end up depressed, confused, and angry. That's not what He wants for me at all.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
~1 Cor. 14:33 (ESV)
I admit I've taken this verse out of context, but I think it applies because it speaks to the character of God. He doesn't like confusion. He wants us to have peace and order. What a comfort that is to me at a time when my life could be topsy-turvy!

And the gifts, they keep on coming...

November 6, 2009

Friday's Fave Five

I've read a lot of good stuff this week. Here are 5 of my favorites (in no particular order):

1. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. ~ Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV)

2. Encouraging emails from friends who are praying for us.

3. RT @kirkfranklin: Soldiers: God will never show up & do the supernatural as long as He is an option and not the solution. (Can I get an AMEN?)

4. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. ~ Romans 15:13 (ESV)

5. This post is such a worthwhile read. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite.

The very first descriptive trait of the virtuous wife deals with the heart of her husband. She is a SAFE PLACE for his heart.

Amplified Bible 11The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil.

The Hebrew word for heart is leb, meaning inner man, heart, understanding, mind, will, and so forth. This is our husband’s inner place where he holds his hopes and fears, dreams and worries, desires and burdens. The Hebrew word for trust is batach, meaning to trust in, have confidence in, be secure with, to feel safe with, to be careless with. When you put them together, the excellent wife is a safe place for her husband to let down his guard and be honest about his inner burdens and struggles. He can be careless in what he reveals of himself because he has confidence in his security with his wife.
~Wendy Alsup

What's been your favorite this week? Leave me a comment to let me know. And be sure to drop by Susanne's place. You'll be glad you did!

November 5, 2009

The Gift of the Cloud

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way...
~Exodus 13:21 (ESV)

I've already established that I don't like surprises. Which makes this journey, already full of ups and downs (and we're just two weeks in), tougher than I thought it would be. I like to see ahead. I like to know what's going to happen. I like control. So, the fact that I have none, zilch, nada in our situation freaks me out just a little.

When I look too far ahead (at the job market, the finances, taxes on R's severance, etc.), I am consumed with doubt and fear. When I look down the road, knowing what's coming, I want God to answer already! I get impatient, frustrated, and whiny.

But God...He's protecting me with a pillar of cloud I can't see past. There are days when following the cloud is easy. Then there are days when the cloud doesn't move, and the wait feels excruciating. (Have I ever mentioned that I'm terrible at waiting?) Those are the days when all I can do is lean on Him and pray that I hear His voice. I do not want to make a move without Him.

Even though I can't see where we're going, I will follow the cloud every step of the way.

I will move ahead, bold and confident, taking every step in obedience.
While I'm waiting, I will serve You;
While I'm waiting, I will worship.
While I'm waiting, I will not faint.
I'll be running the race, Even while I wait
-"While I'm Waiting" by John Waller

November 4, 2009

Words Worth Pondering

Paul tells us three things that are God's will for each of us: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:16–18). We have there joy, gratitude, and constant prayer in every circumstance. They are always linked. Joy springs from gratitude and prayer.

The opposite is also true: pessimism and grumbling are linked to depression. It is perverse, then, that we so often disobey God in our outlook and attitudes. We choose to take a glass-half-empty outlook and complain about our lives, and the price we pay is our joy and peace. It just makes no sense. Rejoicing and giving thanks are how we say, "Not my will, God, but yours be done." Rejoicing and giving thanks is the essence of humility, and it is the way God connects our hearts to his good purposes in all things, big and small. That is God's will, and if we follow it, we will much more easily discern his will for the details of our lives.
-HT: Lydia Brownback (emphasis mine)

November 3, 2009

Classics Bookclub: The Inheritance

Classics Bookclub

This month's Classics Bookclub offered the opportunity to read anything by Louisa May Alcott. I chose The Inheritance because it was set in 19th Century England (my favorite, you know).

The Inheritance is Miss Alcott's first novel. She wrote it when she was just 17, but it wasn't found and published until after her death. It's the story of Edith Adelon, an orphan who's been raised by the wealthy Hamilton family as a companion for their daughter, Amy. Edith is sometimes treated as a member of the family, and sometimes as just a servant. She doesn't seem to fit in either world. Her beauty, grace, and sweetness earn her the respect and admiration of James Percy, and draw the ire of the Hamilton's cousin, Ida. As James seeks to protect Edith, they find themselves heading toward a relationship that society forbids.

I adore Little Women, and I really wanted to feel the same about The Inheritance. I like the idea of the story, and I think she created some interesting characters. But, this was Miss Alcott's first novel, and obviously so. It's a valiant first effort, but (for me) not as engaging as her best-known work. (Updated to add: I do applaud her for writing a novel at 17. I wouldn't/couldn't have tackled that! It wasn't terrible, and reading it allowed me to see how much she grew as a writer.)

Have you read any other Alcott? I'm anxious to see what other Bookclub participants have to say.