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"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." Matthew 5:14-15

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bible Study Buddies

I have been leading a ladies Bible study for a couple of years now. Last night we all met at our local Chinese restaurant to celebrate our time together and to say farewell to our friend who is moving to Georgia in two days. In the photo I'm the one on the left, next is Becky, Penny and Barb.

I couldn't help but do some reflecting as we met all together for our last time. We come from different churches and denominations, but we have one common theme - a love for our Lord Jesus.

God called me out of my comfort zone to start writing and teaching various studies for ladies. It has been a real growth experience for me. I also realize how much God has changed me, as well as these three women. When we began I was very nervous each time before I spoke. The other three ladies were nervous about praying out loud. I smile as I realize how much God has changed each of us. I am no longer nervous when I lead our little group, and they have started praying out loud together. They even surprised me that they each prayed at the study I missed when we traveled to Florida. I'm so proud of you girls!

As I look at this photo, I realize the importance of fellowship with other believers. I know that we have this as we attend church services, but I also feel that we need times of digging deeper in God's word. A time to search out those "pearls" that He has for you. If you aren't involved in a ladies Bible study, I highly encourage you to take a step of faith and do so. You may feel that you can't spare the time. I can tell you from experience that it will be time well spent. There have been many times when I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed and didn't feel that I could spare the time to work on my study, let alone attend it(even though I often was the leader!). But I can tell you that every time I have been blessed by the time I spent digging in God's word and sharing with these women. My life is forever changed because of the time we have shared.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Do You Say Goodbye?

"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel." Proverbs 27:9

Monday was a difficult day for me. This week my dear friend is packing up to move to Georgia on Friday. My heart has been heavy as I have been anticipating this fateful day. Yesterday my friend took me and my sons out for lunch. Afterwards we walked around my neighborhood, shared our lives and prayed together. It was bittersweet for me because I knew that this will be the last time to exercise and pray like this. For almost a year now, we have been meeting about once a week for this way of staying in shape physically and spiritually. It has been such a joy to have a pray partner as well as someone to encourage me to stay healthy.

When she left I came into the house and cried. My sons each gave me a big hug. I couldn't help but ask God why. Why does it seem that whenever I get a close girlfriend, something happens and they end up going away. It makes me wonder, "What's wrong with me?" It isn't easy for me to open up to others and it seems like each time I do I end up getting hurt. I don't have the answer to that question, but I do know that God loves me and cares about how I feel.

Tonight I will see my friend again as well as two other dear ladies as we meet for dinner and our final Bible study together. I know it will be another bittersweet moment. We have been doing studies together for about a year and a half.

But in the midst of a difficult week I have had some encouragement as well. My boys have been sensitive to my hurts and have been quick to hug me. My sweet husband knew I was struggling and took me out for dinner so we could just talk together. (This was a sacrifice with our funds being so tight - it will mean cutting back some more on our grocery bill). We decided to head to Virginia for the weekend to visit my in-laws. This will give me a break from emotions, as well as something to look forward to as well. I praise God for the encouragement He gives when He know we need it. I also found out that I had won a blogging contest.

When Friday comes I know that I will shed tears as I hug my friend one last time (at least for quite a while), but I have the hope that even if we never see each other again on this earth, we will see each other in Heaven.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Completely Sold Out

My thoughts have been on Jesus' last days on earth. Today I was struck by the fact that for several years, Jesus' disciples followed Him with reckless abandon. They knew that He was going to change the world and they were happy to be a part of it. They had an unconditional love for this man and they were willing to follow Him to the very ends of the earth.

Then He died. He suffered and died in a hideous way. He was mocked and ridiculed. I'm sure that even though Jesus told His disciples what was going to happen, they still had no clue of what He really meant. They could not fully understand it.

So here it was, after three years of radically following this man that said He was the son of God, and all of a sudden He was dead. Can you imagine their disillusionment and discouragement when Jesus died on that cross? I imagine they spent the rest of Friday and all of Saturday, hiding out and commiserating together. They were wondering what they would do now. They did not know where to turn.

What they did not know is that Sunday was coming. The stone would be rolled away and Jesus would rise from the grave and come back to life!

Happy Easter! HE IS RISEN!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Faith in the Wind

"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down." Mathew 14: 25-32.

These verses have been on my mind the past day or so. We arrived home from Florida late Friday evening. Saturday morning I was up very early to take my boys to meet the bus that was taking them to a missions conference for the day. I had been awake for a couple hours, so when I arrived back home I crawled back in bed.

Several hours later my husband and I started unpacking. Well, I should say that I started unpacking, he started working on our other car. We noticed just before we left that it was starting to sound like it was having muffler problems. I guess because we had a lot of rain while we were gone, the problem got worse and now is in need of attention. My husband did what he was hoping was a temporary fix, but unfortunately it did not hold.

In the midst of trying to fix the car, my husband went to go out our side garage door. When he opened it, the frame fell completely off. We knew it was getting in bad shape, but...

Sunday morning found us oversleeping. The alarm got set for PM instead of AM. I could blame it on having to change all of the clocks that were still on old time instead of daylight savings and being bleary eyed when I actually set the alarm. Sigh. We managed to still all get ready in time to leave early for church since my oldest son was ushering that morning. We were just heading out the door when my husband could not find his wallet and keys. After about five minutes of searching, to no avail, I got the idea that I could drive us.

Yesterday I started having seeds of doubt about a major decision we made while we were on vacation. On Saturday my husband and I had prayed together because we knew that after having a wonderful time away, we now were experiencing trials and temptations or spiritual attack. It was easy to be encouraging to my husband when it was issues that he dealt with, not so easy when I experienced it as well.

So here I am thinking about when Peter was in the water with Jesus. He became afraid, doubting and overwhelmed. Jesus simply reached out His hand and grasped hold of Peter. But it was not until they were actually back in the boat that the wind calmed down.

I want to hold on to what it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

I included a photo of our family at Epcot Center as a reminder to me of the great times we had on our vacation together. It also refreshes my memory of the spiritual truths that we learned on our trip. I know that no matter what we face, I can trust Jesus.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Our Road Trip to Florida

Travel Diary – Day One (March 5)

We had a long day of travel on Wednesday. It took us about 17 hours to drive to Florida. We were all pretty exhausted by the time we arrived. We were surprised to learn that we crossed over into a different time zone, so it wasn’t as late as we thought. What a blessing. We were all in bed shortly after 10 PM. I think we all fell asleep immediately. Not bad considering we all was in the same room.

Travel Diary – Day Two (March 6)

Thursday morning found us getting up, showering, eating breakfast and preparing to visit Pensacola Christian College. My 11th grade son was excited about the opportunity to stay in the dorm to see what college life is like. Even though he has been taking some college classes at home, he just travels the couple miles to the University for his classes, and then back home again. So this was a new experience for him.

We were able to attend Chapel services, and then the three of us headed back to the Campus House (motel only open to PCC visitors) while my oldest son stayed on campus to take in classes, dorm life, etc. We met back with him for a tour of the campus.

Travel Diary – Day Three (March 7)

This morning the three of us awoke and decided to do a little touring before meeting up with our older son, in the afternoon. It was a beautiful, warm day with temperatures in the 70’s. (We hear PA is to receive snow this weekend). We traveled further down Pensacola to the Naval Base and were able to see the Gulf of Mexico. We walked on the beach with white sand, and collected sea shells. We also were able to see a lighthouse, Aviation Museum and Fort. We had a lot of fun touring around before hurrying back to the campus.

We met up with our oldest son at 3 PM. He told us about his opportunity to attend several classes, attend another Chapel service, and most importantly pray about the college. He really feels that this is where God is calling him to attend college. My husband and I have been feeling the same thing as well. So we stepped out in faith and filled out the enrollment paperwork this afternoon. We received a sizable discount, by filling it out before leaving.

This was a real step of faith for us. Even though the college is only $6500 a year for room, board and tuition, it still is way out of our price range. Our son has a potential of getting an Academic Scholarship that will cover a small portion of the cost, but there still is a lot that it won’t cover, and we can not afford. But we still feel that God is calling us to step out and trust Him, even when we can’t see the future.

God has often done that to us through the years of our marriage – to trust and follow Him, even when the way doesn’t seem to make sense. It has not always been easy, but we never have regretted walking in faith.

I got a lump in my throat this afternoon when I saw my son in this college setting and realized that it is only a short time before he leaves the nest and starts out on his own. I realize how quickly the years have flown. Sometimes I want to somehow catch hold of them and hang on to them before they slip through my fingers. I pray that he will always desire to follow the Lord and will have a rich relationship with his Heavenly Father.

Travel Diary – Day Four (March 8)

Today we picked our oldest son up from Pensacola Christian College. We again spent most of the day in travel. We traversed from Pensacola to Kissimmee, which is south of Orlando. While we drove we had some great discussions about how do you know God’s will, and how do you know when He is speaking to you. Both of our sons asked questions, particularly our youngest son. We were able to talk to our older son about his decision to go to Pensacola (in the future) and how he knew whether or not it was something God was calling him to do or not.

Through our years of marriage we have made several trips across country. My in-laws used to live in Kansas, and almost every year we drove to visit them. Some of our fondest memories have been during this time in the car, when we had some quality discussions together.

Four years ago, all of my husband’s immediate family traveled to Florida to vacation together at Disney World. We all had a fun time, but our most memorable vacation was two years ago when we vacationed in North Pennsylvania and saw the PA Little Grand Canyon. We stayed in a mobile home that we rented for very cheaply. We did day trips and then each night we would come back to supper that had cooked in the crock pot all day. We spent the evenings playing games and just talking.

It is a real blessing to me when we have times like today when we can just talk and have some good quality conversation with our boys about what it means to follow Jesus, and what it takes. What a blessing.

Travel Diary – Day Five (March 9)

We woke up early and all of us were tired. We lost two hours of sleep because not only was it daylight savings, but also we had just come from the Central time zone. YAWN! We were up early because we were invited to a free breakfast if we would come listen to a presentation to buy a time share. We said yes because of the breakfast.

It was easy to say no to their sales pitch because we have no money to put down and no money we can afford to pay each month. Because we sat through the pitch, we received a $100 VISA gift card. What a blessing.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, napping, doing a church service together, and walking around the compound area where we are staying, watching a movie and generally just having a good time hanging out together as a family. I made one of those complete meals in a box. It was wonderful to have some real food. While we stayed in Pensacola we had a continental breakfast included with our stay (Danishes and juice), peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and then cup of ramen soup for supper because all you needed to do was add hot water. The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we left there. Our oldest son had stayed in the dorm and had eaten food there.

Travel Diary – Day Six (March 10)

We slept in and ate a late breakfast. I started doing some laundry loads. We ate lunch and then decided to go visit Downtown Disney (it’s free). We had fun just walking around and taking in the sights and the shops. Our sons were given some early birthday money so they could do some shopping while we are on vacation. My youngest son decided to spend some of his money in the Lego store.

On our way home we stopped at the local Wal-Mart to pick up some extra groceries that we needed. We used our gift card, so it didn’t cost us anything. Praise God. We saw Florida shirts with Mickey Mouse on them for only $5 so my husband decided we should each get one as a souvenir since we won’t be able to buy anything when we go to Disney World for the day on Wednesday. We also got a Mickey Mouse key chain for under $2 that we will turn into a Christmas ornament. Most times we vacation we try and get a Christmas ornament as a souvenir. I honestly had a hard time spending the money on souvenirs when I know how much gas for this trip is costing us, but I followed my husband’s wishes and we each picked out a shirt.
We picked up two pizzas at Wal-Mart and came back to our time share to heat them. They tasted wonderful. We all were starving. We did like our traditional family nights at home – pizza and movie night.

Travel Diary – Day Seven (March 11)

Today was another relaxing day. After breakfast my husband and two sons headed to the pool and hot tub for a couple hours. I spent a leisurely morning and finished reading a book that I started on this trip.

We spent the afternoon playing games and just hanging out together. I made a birthday cake for my oldest son. We only have a few more days in Florida so we decided to make his cake early so we have time to enjoy it before we leave. We also had his birthday meal since we will be packing up on the actual day.

We called it an early night since tomorrow we plan to spend the day at the Disney theme parks.

Travel Diary – Day Eight (March 12)

We awoke early so we could head to the Disney theme parks. Four years ago we were here and still had one day left on our four day pass. We had called in advance and the tickets were still supposed to be good.

We arrived at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) and praise God the tickets still worked. My guys had several things they wanted to see and do while we were there. We took in two shows and then hopped to Animal Kingdom. They did a roller coaster ride and I sat and journaled while I waited for them. Next we were off on a safari and trail hike. After completing that we hopped to Epcot. The guys took in a ride or two while I sat and rested and snacked. We had brought along all of our own food for while we were at Disney. We met up again and toured the countries of the world section. By then it was about 9 PM and we did our final hop to Magic Kingdom so we could see the fireworks. We were exhausted but still had to travel back to Hollywood Studios to pick up our car. We took the ferry boat and then caught a bus. By the time we arrived back at the time share it was just shortly before midnight. I was able to wish my oldest son happy birthday as he headed to bed just a minute after midnight.

Travel Diary – Day Eight (March 13)

My husband and I slept in until close to 9 AM. We got up and got ready and started packing things up as much as possible. Finally at 10:30 AM we woke the boys. They still were exhausted. We had a birthday breakfast of pancakes and eggs and continued to pack. After a quick lunch we headed out to the Orlando area. On our way there we picked up some grapefruit and honey tangerines. All of the groceries and souvenirs were covered under the $100 gift card we received. Praise God.

My son loves model railroading and had learned of a hobby shop that was about a half hour away. He wanted to spend his seventeenth birthday looking around at the shop. He found several things to purchase and had fun browsing.

We returned to the time share and the guys loaded up our van while I made a birthday supper. We played a game or two and then headed to bed early since we had to leave in the wee hours the next day.

Travel Diary – Day Eight (March 14)

After about three hours of sleep we arose so we could start our long drive home. We arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina around 11:45 AM. I was so excited that we were able to stop and visit the Proverbs 31 Ministry office. I would have loved to attend their She Speaks conference this summer but there is no possible way we can afford it, so this was the next best thing for me.
I was greeted so warmly by the P31 ladies. I was so blessed by getting to meet them, tour the office, talk a little and pray for them. Now as I pray for the ministry it is so much easier for me to picture it in my mind. They surprised me with a sweet card and a book. Thanks ladies. I truly felt treasured and special. I carried that joy with me the remaining eight and a half hours it took before we arrived home. (And after)

It was a wonderful trip for all of us. We weren’t ready to come home yet, but praise the Lord for all the good times we experienced. What a blessing!

P.S. Thanks Renee for teaching me how to post photos on my blog, and thanks Melissa for being willing to let us use your blog for the lesson! :)

Seventeen Years of Motherhood

I had wanted to post this on March 13th, but we were in Florida and I was unable to have web access, so here it is a few days later.

It seems hard to believe that it has been seventeen years since I became a mother. I still marvel when I look at my two sons and wonder where the time has gone.

This photo was taken while we were on our vacation to Florida, just days ago. While we were there we were checking out a potential college for my son. I realize I only have a little over a year and he will be off to college already. I pray that I will continue to be faithful in my calling to motherhood and not grow weary in the home stretch.

Visiting Proverbs 31 Ministry

I am back home now after a ten day vacation to Florida. I plan to blog all about our trip as soon as I get some free time today, in the midst of laundry and unpacking, doing school, etc.

I finally learned how to upload photos to my blog, thanks to Melissa and Renee. You can read about it at Melissa's blog entry "My New Friend".

On our long road trip home, we stopped off in North Carolina so I could see Proverbs 31 Ministry. It was such a blessing to me. Here is a picture of me, Renee Swope, Melissa Taylor and Teri Bucholtz.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Life on the Edge

I have been thinking about life on the edge today. For many years of our marriage (almost twenty) I have not been overly concerned about finances. We had a very loose budget. Sure there were some times when things were tight, but God always provided for our needs.

God continues to provide for our needs. We now are at a situation in our lives when money is extremely tight. We are now on a strict budget. God had been changing my heart tremendously in the area of our finances. I now actually desire to be on a budget and to be like Jesus said in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) - to be that faithful steward of the money He has given us. Throughout our marriage we have done reasonably well with this, but I also know that there are some areas that I need to improve.

We have had to cut back and have no purchasing of "extras". I even have tried to cut back on our grocery bill as much as I possibly can. Our vacation food will consist of odds and ends that I can scrounge out of the cupboard, as well as a few extras that I purchase at the grocery store before we leave.

So what is "life on the edge"? Lately it is living paycheck to paycheck and not always knowing if we will have enough money to pay the bills for the month. It is faithfully tithing even when we don't know if we will have enough money to pay our bills. It is stepping out in faith to go on a trip that will be a little costly. We feel that God is calling us to Florida to check out a potential college for our son to attend in a little over a year. We have part of our stay covered through a time share that was given us. We will have the expense of three nights we are staying at the college, as well as the gas for the trip. We have one day left on a Disney pass that is supposed to still be good. The rest of the time will be spent doing free things, or just hanging out as a family. We plan to take along games to play together. We do not plan to eat out at all while we are gone - can't afford to. We do have a $20 gift card to Chick Fil A that we might use. We will get to see the Fort Walton Beach area where my husband spent several years as a kid.

Life on the edge is a scary position to be in. Part of me wants to question God of why things are so rough now that my heart is finally changed and desiring to do what is right. I do find though that I am in prayer much more often and am really trying to give it to Him and not to worry. I sure would appreciate your prayers. I guess sometimes it takes us being on the edge to take that leap of faith and trust that God is going to catch us.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Catching Up with Life

Here it is Saturday already. The week has been a blur with two funerals as well as the busyness of life - taking my son to swim practices, work, college classes, etc. I also had Ladies Bible study, a P31 Gather & Grow group as well as a District swim meet for my oldest son yesterday and today. I get tired just thinking about it.

In a few days we will be leaving and driving 15 1/2 hours for a college visit to Pensacola Christian College for my 11th grade son. We then will travel to the Orlando area for about a week to just relax as a family. We have been blessed in that God provided a time share for us, free of charge. Our only expenses will be for gas and the housing for the couple days we spend at the college. We plan to take most of our food with us, and purchase very little in Florida. We have not taken a vacation for a couple years, so it will be nice to have a break.

Now I'm in the midst of list making - trying to remember all that needs done before we leave, all that needs to be packed, as well as figuring out a menu while we are in Florida so I know what food to purchase before we go. Also while we are gone my oldest son will be turning seventeen. So I have to figure out how we will make the day special for him. We will no sooner return from Florida and then my husband will have his birthday as well.

I don't have anything really spiritual to share right now. I am weary, but rest in the fact that God gives me what I need for each day. I just need to go to Him for daily strength. I could use some right now. :)