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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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why I Want to Go to She Speaks

Last June I had the incredible pleasure of being able to attend my first She Speaks Conference. It was a life changing event for me. God touched my heart and spoke to me in a mighty way.

June 2008 marks Proverbs 31 Ministry’s 8th She Speaks Conference. This year they again have an exciting array of speakers that will concentrate on writing, speaking, women’s ministry and also a track for the next generation. Be sure to check out this link:
http://www.shespeaksconference.com/

Lysa TerKeurst is offering a free scholarship to attend this year’s conference. You can find the information on her blog: http://lysaterkeurst.blogspot.com/2008/01/win-scholarship-to-she-speaks-2008.html

So why is it that I would like to win the scholarship to attend She Speaks? Actually there are multiple reasons. I first became aware of Proverbs 31 Ministry about five years ago when God was doing some radical changes in my heart. I came across one of Lysa TerKeurst’s books that focused on the Proverbs 31 Bible passage. Since then it has become my favorite portion of scripture.

Over the past few years I have developed a tremendous passion for this ministry. I was overjoyed when I discovered that I could actually volunteer for their organization. With living in Pennsylvania I am limited on what I am able to do. I pray that someday I will be able to do much more.

I have been excited and praying about attending She Speaks again this year. My desire was to drive down a day early so I could volunteer my services to help wherever was needed. Financially there is no way we can afford to pay for the conference. I looked at our budget and know that without a miracle of some sort, I will not be able to attend.

My passion is writing although I do lead ladies Bible studies as well. This year I had planned to attend seminars on writing and speaking. Even though I am a rather shy person, I feel that sometime in my future, God may have me speak. YIKES! :) I am also excited that they are offering sessions on blogging this year. I am rather new to this endeavor and would love to learn how I can make my blog far-reaching to touch many lives for Christ. I want to learn more about how I can be a better writer, blogger and potential speaker. I feel I can do this by going to She Speaks.

My final reason for desiring to attend is that I would love to meet the bloggy friends I have made, particularly various ones of the P31 speaker team. Last night I was discouraged when I reviewed our finances and knew there was no hope of going. This morning I prayed, “I give up Lord. You know how much I want to attend, but I give it to you.” Later I turned on my computer and saw Lysa’s blog about this contest. I also had a sweet comment on Zoe Elmore’s blog telling me not to give up hoping in regards to attending. So here I am with my hands open to God and releasing it to Him. If I am able to attend I know it will be a miracle and a special gift from my Daddy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Kernel of a Dream

We all have hopes and dreams buried deep within our hearts. Years ago I had the hope and desire to have children. After two years of trying to get pregnant, experiencing a miscarriage, I finally was pregnant with our first son. A few years later our second son arrived on the scene.

As I think back over my 42 years of life, I realize that I have had many dreams. Some were just a child's fantasy, others have rooted deep into my heart and still are awaiting fruition. Often times there are things that come along that try to discourage or dissuade me from those kernels of hope. I have learned that if my dreams are ones that come from the Lord, they remain as long as I am seeking His will.

What hopes and dreams do you have?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ouch!

It has been a week of ups and downs. Ever have a week like that? Actually it seems that this month has been that way as well. It has been a week with a lot of emotions - good and not so good. As I talked to one of our sons this week about something that he had done wrong, the Lord pinpricked my heart as well and showed me an area where I too had sinned. OUCH! I look back on it now and can shake my head and say, "What was I thinking?" But at the time it seemed like and okay choice to make. In light of my own sin, I found that I am more sympathetic to my son. Not that either of us were right. Both of us are in the process of seeking restitution.

I find that as I grow in my spiritual relationship with the Lord, He makes me more sensitive to things. I am quicker to see when I do things wrong, and seek to make things right. I am more aware of the Holy Spirit and His promptings in my life. Obviously I don't always get things right-far from it in fact. But I have my eyes focused more intensely on the goal of being more like Jesus. I pray He continues to prick and prod my heart into the right direction. May I learn to be more like Him each and every day.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Box of Goodness

This morning on my way home from taking my son to work, I stopped off at a friend's house because she had something for our family. I was surprised when she pulled out a huge box of oranges. I had an overwhelming feeling of God's goodness and provision for me. He cares about the intimate details of my life, even the desires that I may not express to anyone. Sometimes it isn't even a formal prayer, but just a fleeting thought. Yet He still hears those too and knows.

I have been graced with oranges and other blessings along the way. It makes me realize too, the importance of following God's promptings. Perhaps it's something small like: calling someone, dropping them a note of encouragement, a kind word, or secretly giving money to help someone in need. I know of many times when our family has been blessed by someone's generosity in following those "God prompts." There have been times as well when I have followed God's leading and have helped someone out. A lot of times it is just in a small way, like a note of encouragement.

What can you do today to reach out to someone in need? What is God prompting you to do?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Growing Up

Yesterday was a busy day. The morning started with homeschooling and dropping my 11th grade son off at the local university for his two college classes. I returned home to finish homeschooling with my younger son. Then it was back to the college to pick up older son.

Next I went with my husband for a doctor appointment. He had a severe infection towards the end of November that never has fully healed and has been causing him problems. The surgeon decided that it will be best to operate. So we set up the surgery, went for blood work, EKG, etc. This took up the rest of the afternoon.

We arrived home in time to pick up my mom and younger son so we could head out to see my oldest son's away swim meet. We went through the drive through on the way so we would have some food to tide us over. We arrived with about ten minutes to spare.

I saw a huge smile on my oldest son's face when he looked up into the bleachers and saw that we had arrived. I watched throughout the evening as he swam various events, talked to friends, encouraged other swimmers to do their best, etc. and it struck me how quickly he is growing up! I looked at his swimmer body and realized that it was no longer the body of a young boy, but that of a young man instead.

We arrived home shortly after 9PM. As I tucked my youngest son into bed for the evening, he wanted me to adjust the covers for him. I realized too how quickly the time is passing with him as well. He already is taller than I am, his hands are much bigger than mine and I am even starting to catch hints of his voice changing from time to time.

I realized that growing up is just part of the process. At times I want to hold onto them and somehow freeze time. But I know that I can not do that. I pray as they continue to grow and change that they always will have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Growing up makes me think of myself as well. I pray that I too will grow up into being more and more like my Heavenly Father. Right now I am studying about being a woman of moderation. I pray that in all areas of my life God helps me to "grow up" and be more like Him.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Digging Out of the Pit of Despair

“No one escapes the pit of despair,’ was the ominous warning in the movie The Princess Bride. Are there ever some days when you feel that you are in a pit? You may be high on the mountaintop for a short while and before you know it you are sinking into the quagmire. You wonder, “How did I get into this state? When did I exchange sparkles for mud?”

I have had my share of ups and downs over the past few weeks. All of my life I have had an interest in writing, but I have always played it pretty safe. I have had a few poems published when I was in high school as well as writing for my high school magazine and newspaper. I even did a little newspaper writing while in college.

My interests in various genres of writing have changed through the years. When I was in my early teens I wrote a mystery novel. I had great plans of it being a series, until I sent it off to a publisher and they were not interested. So I laid it aside and played it safe for a while.

In my early twenties I felt the urge again to do some writing. This time I wrote an inspirational romance novel and was working on the sequel. I got up my nerve and sent it off to a Christian publisher. Again I was faced with rejection, so I halted work on the sequel and put it away. We started having a family shortly after that, so all my time and energies were spent taking care of our boys.

Through the years I still continued to write various things – church, family and home school newsletters. I also enjoy the traditional way of writing - letters and notes of encouragement, but I always have felt that there was more that I am supposed to do when it comes to writing.

Almost two years ago I started writing Bible studies for women. I did not at the time even consider them for publication, but more so as a resource to use for a group I was teaching. I learned so much in the process that I knew that I could not stop with writing just one. The more I dig in God’s word, the more that I find that I want to share with others.

I was asked to teach my first study on Proverbs 31 a second time. I felt the need to expand it this time so I spent a lot more work revising it. This was difficult because at the time I was writing and leading two studies at once. I also was experiencing severe shoulder pain that made it extremely difficult to write. Eventually I ended up having shoulder surgery.

As I was in the midst of my revisions of the Proverbs 31 study my husband urged me to attend She Speaks (Proverbs 31 Ministry conference in North Carolina) and present it to a publisher. I was scared. I am a shy person and this was way out of my comfort zone. But I too felt that this was something that God called me to do, so I went.

I had a wonderful time and God really spoke to me while I was there. I had two editor appointments. The first one went okay, but they were not interested. I figured the second appointment would go pretty much the same. I was surprised when the editor expressed interest in taking it back to the publishing house. It has been six months and I still have not heard anything yet.

This January I made some major decisions when it comes to my writing. I have started reading more books about the craft. I know that it is something that God is calling me to work at doing. I felt He was calling me to branch out this year and work on submitting some articles as well. I contacted several magazines to find out there submission requirements. I set a goal of writing and sending out one article a month.

I was quite surprised when one of those magazine editors contacted me and wanted to know more about me and what my interests were with writing as well as my accomplishments. After correspondence back and forth we have come up with a possible article for me to write. Only one problem – I am panicking and have been thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

In the mean time I have been faced with two instances. My husband works at the local university and we had a dinner to attend a few days ago. I usually do not enjoy these events as much because I always feel inadequate and insecure. I sit at a table with other professional working women who ask, “What do you do?” Well this year I felt that I would have an answer. I was prepared to say, “I home school my two boys and I am a writer.” This was a huge step for me because I never have gotten to that stage where I said I am a writer. Of course, nobody asked what I do, so I did not have the opportunity to say anything. But in my heart I knew that I had achieved something I never had before – admitting that I am a writer.

I was so overjoyed when my favorite magazine was having a contest with the winner being published in a future issue. I was so excited. I had a piece that God had just given to me a couple weeks before that, so I entered. Well I did not win. So I found myself sinking in to that pit of despair. My thoughts went along the lines of, “Yeah, you thought you were a writer, what did you know? You will never get published. Only your friends and family say you are good at writing, but obviously nobody else thinks that way.” I knew that Satan was doing his best to discourage me and pull me down and bury me in the pit of despair.

Well I really do not know if I have what it takes to be a writer. I knew this morning that I had a choice – a choice to praise the Lord or to despair. I was reminded of the words of Isaiah in chapter 61, verse 3, “and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” I choose to have the garment of praise. I know that He has called me to write. I do not know what that will look like, but I know that I can trust Him. I ask for more of God in my life and less of me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Everyday Blessings

The Lord surprised me recently with some special blessings. I love to eat oranges; however they have been very expensive so I had not purchased any. I desired some for Christmas, but did not feel I could buy more than four. Just days before the holiday, oranges went on sale at the local grocery store. If you bought a five pound bag you received an additional bag free. I was overjoyed. What a blessing.

A day or two after acquiring my ten pounds of oranges, I visited with a friend and we exchanged gifts. As I was leaving she gave me another five pound bag of this delicious fruit. God's threefold blessing overwhelmed me. He cared about my desire for oranges and even multiplied it.

On Christmas Eve my husband, two sons and I celebrated with a traditional family meal. As we enjoyed snacks I realized that I had forgotten to purchase one of my personal favorites - peanut brittle. Funds were tight so I cut back on some of the extras. Christmas morning I opened a gift from a lady that faithfully attends a Bible study I lead. Much to my surprise in a basket of various goodies, there was a small bag of peanut brittle. I felt touched by God's special blessings and knew He loved me.

Several days after Christmas we visited my in-laws and exchanged gifts. I smiled when my husband opened a gift from them that had a book in it. I had recently told God that I really would like to have this same book. I could not help but share with my husband and sons how God had blessed me. This was beginning to be a wonderful adventure and I could not wait to see what other great things God was going to bring into my life.

I had several weeks in December when it was very evident that God was with me and cared about the little things in my life. Then January hit and I was overwhelmed when we had more bills to pay than money in our bank account. I begged the Lord to intervene. I prayed one of those prayers that go like this: "Lord, I know that we are not always the best stewards of what you have given us, but could you please intervene in this situation? Don't you care about us?" Of course I knew He did, I just did not feel it at the moment. I knew He loved me, but I saw no possible way that this situation would work.

As my husband and I started setting up for what bills we could pay, the Lord suddenly reminded me of something that I had forgotten. During the month of January my husband would have four high school swim meets to officiate and would be paid. The amount received would more than cover what was needed. Oh me of little faith.

How easy it is to believe when I see, not so simple when the way is veiled. God's love for me had not changed over the weeks. I felt loved and cared for in a special way when God surprised me with unexpected blessings. When situations happened that caused stress and worry it did not mean that His love for me had diminished.

The more I think about blessing from God, I realize that they are not few and far between. Every day I have glimpses of God's goodness and love. I just need to learn to recognize them. These blessings can be observed in the playful antics of a puppy, the blush of a newlywed, the smile on a baby's face, the cheerful obedience of a child, or the abundance of oranges.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Acts of Random Kindness

My family and I enjoyed watching the video "Evan Almighty" last evening. I was quite pleased and surprised with the message that this movie portrayed. Evan is a new politician that wants to change the world. God shows Evan the importance of performing acts of random kindness (ARK).

I thought about this as I drove my 11th grade son to his two college classes, which are just starting today. Performing acts of random kindness are quite simple. It could be: letting a car into traffic, allowing a pedestrian to safely cross the street, putting bird food out in the winter time, surprising your spouse with his special drink and dropping it off at his office, giving a word of encouragement to a bloggy friend.... The possibilities are endless. When we perform these random acts of kindness we show Jesus' love to those that we touch and meet. What act of kindness can you do for someone today? You may be surprised by the joy that follows if you make this a pattern for your life.

Monday, January 14, 2008

When You Pray

I was reading my Bible over the weekend and was struck by this phrase in Matthew that said, "when you pray." It didn't say, if you pray, but when. It not only was mentioned once, but three times. The Lord reminded me of the importance of having an attitude of prayer throughout each day. It is something that should be characteristic of my life as a Christian. I want to be known as a woman of prayer and devotion to God.

Yesterday at church services my pastor spoke on prayer. What was especially meaningful was that he didn't just speak about it, but had us actually do something about it. He set up four stations throughout our church sanctuary and had us get up and move to each station to pray. Prayer for ourselves, prayer for our community of believers, prayer for our leaders, and prayer for the lost.

So what is characteristic of your prayer life? If or When?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Heart Tune-Up

In my Bible reading this morning I came across the phrase, "a heart in tune with God." What does it take to have a heart that is in tune with my Heavenly Father? It takes dying to self and the desires that I have. It means putting others first, choosing to be a servant. Sometimes it means choosing to love someone that I am having a struggle with. It requires me to be digging in God's Word to find those "pearls" that He has for me. It takes having an active relationship with the Lord. It takes seeking God's will above my own.

At times I find that I need to go to God and ask Him for a heart tune-up. I need to humble myself and allow Him to remove all the dirt, grime, and sin that has taken root in my heart. Only He can clean and purify it and make it spotless again.

My prayer for today is that God performs a mighty cleaning job in my heart so that I can have my heart in tune with Him. More of you Lord and less of me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Seize the Opportunity

A little over a year and a half ago, I became friends with a woman that had just moved into the area from Georgia. We got to know each other and found that we had a lot in common. We have attended church and various Bible studies together. She watched my boys so my husband and I could go away for our 20th anniversary. For quite a while now we also have been walking once a week for exercise. We catch up with each other with what has gone on in our lives the past week, share prayer requests and pray together. Our time together has been sweet and precious.

Due to various circumstances it is looking likely that she and her husband will be moving back to Georgia in the very near future. This saddens my heart. I realize how precious the time is that we have with people. We never know how long or short our time will be together. I feel that God is telling me the importance of making the most of every opportunity.

Perhaps there is something that you have been dragging your heels about doing, or you haven't let someone you love know how much you appreciate them. Don't let the day go by without doing the things that you feel God is calling you to do. Be faithful to His desires for your life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Snow Drop Promises

We have lived in our home for almost fifteen years. A previous owner must have planted a tiny white flower called Snow Drops. They are one of our first harbingers of spring. Now I happen to love winter and snow, but I am always amazed that we can have several inches of snow blanketing the ground and still have the snow drops push through and raise their faces to greet the day.

Today was a warm day, in the 60's which isn't typical for Pennsylvania in January. I decided to see if the snow drops were starting to make an appearance yet. Sure enough, they have already grown at least four inches and will soon have their sweet faces showing.

These flowers reminded me of the promises we have in Jesus. Snow drops promise that spring will soon be coming - sometimes it takes several months before that happens, but it always comes. We have the promise with Jesus that He will always be faithful to us, and that we can always depend upon Him. He will never let us down! Praise God!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Goals

My thoughts continue to linger on the importance of making goals. I am reminded of Proverbs 29:18 which says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." I believe that God desires for us to have a vision, to make plans, and to look to the future. The most important thing to remember is that above all else, we seek His will and desires for our life.

I am currently reading Knit Together by Debbie Macomber. She says, "By focusing on our goals, we stay centered on what's important and are better able to sort out the distractions that try to slow us down. When we establish goals, we impact our whole future."

This year I feel that God is calling me to focus on my writing and step out in faith in areas concerning that. It's a scary thing. I hate rejection. But I am finding that in order to reach out and believe, I need to set my sights on what I can't see and trust that God will somehow bring the things about that are in His will for my life. The door won't open if I am not at least knocking and asking if I should enter.

What new areas in your life is God asking you to step out in faith and believe?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2008 Goals

I have been thinking and praying for several days now about what goals I should have for the New Year. I would have liked to have posted these yesterday, but we were visiting with family. Today would have been my Dad's birthday, so it's a good day as well. :) I figured that by actually posting them on my blog I will be more intentional about keeping/working on them.

Spiritual
  • It's not about me - Develop and practice servanthood on a consistant basis.
  • Digging deeper in God's word daily.
  • Develop a deeper, fuller prayer time.

Marriage

  • Monthly date night.
  • Read through couple's devotional.
  • Intentional intimacy.

Family

  • Quality family times.
  • Game nights.
  • Family vacation.

Physical

  • Consistantly walk and exercise.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Lose ten pounds.

Ministry

  • Write ladies Bible studies.
  • Lead ladies Bible studies.
  • Encouragement letters.

Writing

  • Read at least three books on writing.
  • Write and send off an article per month.
  • Continue blogging.

Recreational

  • Take more family videos.
  • Take educational/family trips.
  • Exercise together as a family.

Financial

  • Sort through receipts.
  • Develop a budget.
  • Be diligent with our finances.

Home

  • Work on decorating master bedroom.
  • Work on office area.
  • Clean out/organize attic.

Well this is what I came up with for 2008. Leave a comment about what areas you plan to work on this year. Happy New Year!