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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, June 25, 2008

A Sense of Belonging

Have you ever struggled with your friendships as a woman and wondering where you fit in? This thought has been heavy on my heart the past week or so. I have been praying and asking God about this very thing. Perhaps I just have been missing my friend that moved to Georgia, but I think it might be more than that. I have many women that I talk to when I am at church, but I really don't have anyone that I am very close to - no confidante. Someone that you can call up and spontaneously do something together.

Most all of my life I have felt like I lived on the fringes. Never one to be in the popular crowd. I have always been shy and quiet, even still to this day. In the majority of friendships I have had through the years I have been more of a listener than a talker. But lately I have been desiring a sense of belonging.

I happen to be a volunteer with Proverbs 31 Ministry in North Carolina. There isn't a whole lot that I can do since I live far away in PA. But I look at these women that are in ministry together and I see that sense of belonging and friendship, and that is something that I desire too. I desire for women to see the need to be counter-cultural and to be excited about their faith in Jesus. Part of me wishes that I lived in North Carolina so I could have more contact with these ladies. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one in my church that has convictions like I do. (No, I'm not saying that I am a perfect person - I am far from it). But I see a lot of people that there every day life doesn't match their Sunday life.

But then I struggle with desiring that sense of belonging. I know women friendships are important, but I can't lose sight that my true worth and value come from the Lord. Only in Him can I find true sense of worth. I pray that I will be able to find that balance and also find a new friend that happens to feel the way I do about spiritual things.

How about you? Do you happen to struggle with this or am I the only one?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Where Do You Go For Strength?

Are you weary and heavy laden? Are you battered and worn by life's tumult? Ever feel like you don't have the strength to go any further? Then look to Jesus! He gives you strength when you feel that you can't go one step more. He can give you what you need for each moment if you look to Him and rely on Him.

I'm praising God today for the strength and encouragement He gives no matter what we face. He answers prayers!

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew ll:28 May you rest in His love today!

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Bit of Sunshine

Today is an overcast day here in PA. We have had a fairly cool week with temperatures only in the 70's until today. As I am writing this I can hear the rumbling of thunder in the background. Most of the morning was sunny and around 80 degrees.

A few minutes ago I happened to look out at one of our bird feeders and saw a flash of yellow. It was a male goldfinch! Beautiful! We haven't seen them around for a couple months now. They were prevalent in the winter months when their coats were a dull tan. But with the beginning of Spring they went into hiding - perhaps to build their nests and raise babies.

When I saw the flash of yellow, it caused me to smile. It made me think of sunshine in the midst of a gray and overcast afternoon. I also thought about how we can be a bit of sunshine and light in someones day. We can be a beam of encouragement. Look around and see who needs a kind word and be sure to say it today!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Are You Grateful For Where God Has You?

Last week/weekend my sons were away for some leadership training in preparation for serving at a local Christian camp. Yesterday was the first day that they would be serving for most of the rest of the summer. My youngest son was exceptionally excited because this is his first year to be following his brother's footsteps and be helping at the camp. He was eagerly anticipating his first time in the cabin as a junior counselor.

I dropped him off in the early afternoon with some friends so he could get there in time for the staff meeting. My oldest son was arriving later because he had some doctor/orthodontist appointments to go to on the way to camp. As my oldest son and I pulled up at camp, my youngest son sought me out. He was disappointed and frustrated. He was to be serving in a cabin, but somehow it got changed and he was now going to be kitchen crew for the week. Needless to say he wasn't happy about it and was trying to see if he could get it changed.

As I drove away from the camp, I thought of the things that I should have told him. Things like, "No matter what job or situation we are put in, we still need to have a servant's heart." I pray that he will learn that this week and that his heart will be in the right place.

I thought of this as I was walking this morning. Am I always grateful for where God has me or do I sometime bulk, and complain about it? When I am disappointed that I am unable to do something I really desired, do I keep going over and over about it in my mind or do I say, "Lord, I don't understand, but help me to be grateful even though it hurts."

Often we are put in situations that we really don't want to be in. But I think God often puts us into areas we don't like to see what kind of character we are going to have. Are we going to allow Him to help us grow? Or are we going to fuss and complain the whole time and not learn a thing? Hebrews 12: 11 tells us, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." How are you doing in your difficult situation today? Are you fighting it or resting in God?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Faithful Steps

Today has been a day of stepping out in faith and growing. I was doing my morning walk and just spending time with the Lord. I was surprised when He gave me two assignments for the day. One would involve a lot of writing of encouragement notes - 34 to be exact. So by the end of the afternoon my arm and hand were quite tired, but I felt a sense of accomplishment and that I had followed through on what God requested. I pray that they are a blessing.

The other item wasn't quite so easy because it meant going outside of my comfort zone and reaching out in a way I never had before. I have been praying for a new friend since my dear friend moved to Georgia at the end of March, but so far I could see no potential woman on the horizon that God was leading me to - until today. So I reached out, and we'll see what happens. Part of me is scared of rejection. I think that is something that we all struggle with as women. We desire deep personal relationships with other women, but it isn't always easy reaching out and making ourselves vulnerable.

Haven't made a whole lot of progress in the area of the house since I last blogged concerning that. My guys got home late this afternoon and are trying to get laundry done before leaving tomorrow around 12:45 PM. Then the afternoon will be spent taking my oldest son for a doctor and orthodontist appointment before being dropped off at camp. So I will spend most, if not all of the afternoon traveling in the car! But I do plan to do some work on the house on Wednesday. I'll keep you updated.

Just wanted to encourage you to act when you get those promptings from the Holy Spirit. It helps if you can respond immediately. Each time we say "yes" to God, we are more likely to hear His voice the next time. How is your hearing lately?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Another Hot Day in PA

Well it looks like the heat and humidity is creeping back again. I am sweating as I write this. I know, more information than you needed to hear! :) As long as we are able to, we take a break from using the air conditioner whenever we can. The humidity is up today so it is much warmer in the house and there is very little breeze coming through the windows.

My legs are hurting at the moment. I went walking in the later afternoon earlier this week to meet my husband as he was walking home from work. He left later than I realized, so I ended up walking quite a bit. Needless to say I got the back of my legs burnt in the process. Since then I have been walking in the early morning before the sun is too intense, until today. I did get my walk in early, but when I stopped at a friend's house to drop off my son for the afternoon, I decided to walk around her neighborhood and look since they were having a bunch of yard sales. I didn't think about it being noon, and probably not a good time to walk. I feel it now! Ouch!

I have started the slow process of working in each room of our home, sorting through everything and getting rid of things we no longer need. Believe me it has been a very slow process. So far I have gotten the entrance hall completed. I just recently started work on the dining room. This week I was working on sorting through a huge dish cupboard that we got when we were stationed in Germany. It has lots of drawers and doors. I came up with a whole bag of things to throw away and an entire box of things to donate in some sort.

This morning there happened to be several yard sales in our neighborhood as well, which meant more traffic. So before I started walking I put the box out by the street and wrote free on it. Do you know that in less than an hour's time, someone had taken the entire box! What a weight of relief I felt. I managed to get rid of things that I no longer need and hopefully it blessed someone else.

As I was walking around near my friend's house I almost felt sick as I thought about all the extra "things" we have as Americans. Our lives are often so full of "stuff" to maintain and clean. We think it is something that we "have" to have so we purchase it, only to soon discover that it doesn't bring us satisfaction. Then we put it out for a yard sale and charge a small amount. Someone else buys it and the process begins again. I'm not saying that we need to sell all that we have and live the simple life. But the Lord showed me today how often I let "junk" rule my life instead of Him.

So next week as my boys head off to help at camp, you will find me diligently going through drawers, cupboards and shelves and getting rid of things I no longer need. I know it will be a freeing experience. I will let you know the process I am making.

I can't help but think of Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Do you have some throwing off to do this summer?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Please Join Me in Praying for She Speaks

Last year at this time my mom and I were eagerly anticipating traveling to She Speaks for the very first time. This is a conference that Proverbs 31 Ministry puts on each year for speakers, writers, women's ministry leaders as well as adolescent girls. This is an incredible weekend where God's Spirit is on the move. It is something that has touched my heart and life. Since then I am a volunteer for this organization even though I live far away in PA.

I really desired to attend again this year, but we just couldn't afford it financially this time. I was so disappointed and discouraged for a while. But I finally have accepted that it is not God's timing for me to go this year. But there are lots of women that will be attending - 500 to be exact. So will you pray for them as they are nervously anticipating going? I know that God wants to speak to their hearts in a special way. I feel privileged to be a prayer warrior for this conference. God knows that my heart will be with them all.

Also please be praying for the P31 speaker team as well as office personnel. They all have been experiencing a lot of spiritual attack - tornado damage, death of a grandmother, husband that had an accident and needs surgery, broken bones, poison ivy, etc... Just to name a few things. I know that Satan is trying his best to discourage these ladies before they travel next week. Please join with me in praying for their safety as well as their preparations. I pray too that hearts will be open to what the Lord wants to show them. Even though we can't all go, we can all be praying.

I first became aware of the ministry of Proverbs 31 about five years ago. I was so excited because it meets women where they are and encourages them to do better in their spiritual walk. They are not afraid to be counter cultural in a world that has different ideas about the worth of a woman and the role she is called to do. Last year when I attended She Speaks it was like a breath of fresh air to my spirit. I felt like I was coming home while I was there. I felt like I finally found a group of women that understand me and the way that I think and feel.

I also want to encourage you to step out in faith for next year and attend if at all possible. I just talked to my husband this afternoon about the possibility of me going next year. I know it will be a tight year financially because we need to save for a missions trip to China for my husband and youngest son. But I pray that somehow God provides the funds so that I will be able to travel to North Carolina for this conference.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

From the Midst of the Fog

I don't know if it has been the week of high temperatures and humidity that has put my brain in a fog, or what. Perhaps I was out in the sun for a little too long yesterday when I was hanging my laundry outside to dry. Which it baked quite quickly by the way.

This week has found me rising earlier than normal. My youngest son has been participating in a day camp and he needs to be at the area middle school shortly after 7 AM. Neither he or myself are very early risers. I didn't have any trouble getting up this morning at 5:30 AM and was amazed at how much I had accomplished before lunch, but the afternoons are what get to me.... my mind begins to fuzz and blurr.

I think it doesn't help that I have so many things that I am trying to keep straight - doctor appointments that need to be made, correspondence and phone calls that need returned and then there always is the HOUSE. I have so much cleaning I desire to get accomplished, but have not gotten very far. Perhaps I will do much better when both my guys are away to camp and I am forced to actually do something.

I looked at the calendar and realized that it is only Tuesday. It feels like it should be at least Thursday by now. Have you ever had one of those weeks? I don't know if it's one of those mid life things where the brain is getting a little fuzzy or if I can blame it on the heat. Maybe I need to go eat some chocolate. :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Happy Father's Day Honey!

No, I haven't lost it. I realize that Father's Day isn't for another week or so, but we happen to be celebrating it today. When Father's Day is on the calendar, my two boys will be away at camp for training, so we decided that we would celebrate it today.

I'm including a photo from our trip to Florida a few months ago. This is me and my dear husband in Downtown Disney. Over twenty years ago we spent our honeymoon in Florida at Disney World. This riverboat behind us, was then called the Empress Lilly and was one of the most expensive places that you could eat. We had a package deal that included all of our meals. We could eat anywhere except for the cheap fast food type places.

Over twenty years ago I married the love of my life and my best friend. He has been with me through so many things through the years. I am proud that he served our country through serving in the military. Even though it was hard at times being so far away from friends and family, I am honored by your commitment to the USA. You encouraged me as a new bride when we had our first Thanksgiving together and we sat down to all of the food hot and ready except for the turkey which was still rare inside due to a gas stove that didn't bake properly. You often crouched by the tub with me at our first apartment that had no kitchen, so we had to do dishes in the bath tub. You were there when I got off the plane on Thanksgiving Day and arrived in Germany. You were able to come home from maneuvers when I experienced a miscarriage. You were there when we went home on emergency leave to visit my Dad in the hospital.

The following Thanksgiving Day you welcomed me home again to Germany after I had been back to the states to visit my Dad, knowing it would be the last time I would see him on this earth. I think of your support and strength and comfort when Dad died and I was unable to go home for the funeral because I was six months pregnant. I think of the joy we experienced when our first son was born in Germany. You were busy being the rear commander while the rest of the unit was serving in Dessert Storm. I still remember seeing the flowers and marveling at their beauty as we took our newborn home.

Then we experienced a move back to the US when we stepped out in faith, got out of the military with no job and no place to live. You persevered until you found a job in the area we wanted to live, and found our first home as well. Soon afterwards our second son arrived on the scene. You have always been supportive of me through the years and I am truly thankful. Thanks for all the times when you dealt with the boys getting sick because my stomach couldn't handle it.

Thank you too love, for all the times that you have made time for being there for the boys even when your schedule was already full. I have seen through the years how you have actively been involved with Cub Scouts and now Boy Scouts. You were there when they started swimming and have spent years coaching and officiating, so that you could be active in the things they were doing.

I praise you for being the spiritual leader in our home. We started doing devotions with the boys when they were babies and have continued through the years. You have been there to talk with and play with them. You took them away for a weekend to give them "the talk". You have made a point that they are respectful to me as well as others. You have been faithful in supporting us so I could stay home and teach the boy even though you are in a job that frustrates you.

I have seen you take leadership in our church through teaching men's bible studies, a couple's bible study, being a church elder, and serving on various committees. I have seen how you have taken the role at church as Council president even when you didn't feel adequate.

You have supported me in all of my endeavors. You encourage me with my writing and have taught me many new things. You are patient even when I am losing it or forget to respect you. You have been willing to sacrifice at times in order to encourage me. Thanks honey.

There are so many reasons that I love, respect and want to honor you this Father's Day. You have been a terrific husband and father through all these years. Thank you for all that you do for us honey. We love you!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Stepping Away from Procrastination

Have you ever had something that you knew you should be working on, but just couldn't force yourself to do it? I have had two areas in my life lately where I have been delaying to start. A big one was in regularly exercising. Ever since my dear friend and walking partner moved away I have had a hard time convincing myself to walk without her. I know part has been depression. I miss my friend. I'm out of shape and know I need to exercise, but it seems like too much effort sometimes.

Almost two weeks ago we were away for the weekend and I had the opportunity to talk with my husband about some of my feelings. We have made a pact to exercise together, five days a week for 30 minutes each day. We only have had a couple times since then when we weren't able to walk together, so we did it separately. Today was one of those days. He had a meeting to go to this evening, and our plans to walk this afternoon fell through, so.... Here I sit at my computer, hot and sweaty, but happy that I forced myself to get out and walk for thirty minutes.

I still am out of shape and get out of breath from time to time, but I can honestly say that I have been enjoying exercising. No, I'm not some fitness freak - far from it. But I have found that I enjoy walking, because I am getting time alone to talk and share about my day with my husband. As we walk and talk I find that thirty minutes has passed by before I know it. My muscles still are tired and sore the next day, but each day gets a little bit better.

My other area of procrastination has been my writing. Almost two months ago I started asking for Christian women to let me know what their top ten things are that they struggle with. I was hoping for 500 responses. I think I am at 222. Sure would like to get to 250. I plan to write a book that addresses these issues.

I have had several people ask me how the writing of the book was going. Well, to be completely honest, I printed off all of the responses and they have sat on my desk. I suddenly felt that the task was overwhelming. How can I be qualified to write about the top ten struggles. What do I have to say? I took my eyes off the important fact that it was God that gave me this idea in the first place, and that He called me to write about it.

On Sunday at church, one of the ladies asked how the writing was going. My response was "Slow." I didn't tell her that I hadn't even started yet because I was scared of failure. So this week I have stepped out on faith and have begun the task of compiling all of the responses. As I come across helpful information I have been writing it down and keeping it in a file. I even wrote a sentence or two of my own! :) So if you have not yet written your top ten struggles, please comment below or take the poll in my sidebar.

Is there anything that you have been putting off doing? Why not decide today is the day to start.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Motivation

Saturday was a kick back day for our family. We had nowhere that we needed to go and absolutely nothing on the schedule that had to be accomplished. My husband and I did work through setting up some bills. I was on a roll and decided to work on recording all our finance exchanges for the month. I usually do it weekly, but had gotten behind this month. After working on that I looked at where we are with our tithing, and wrote checks to the organizations that we support. As I was looking for an envelope, I noticed that my drawer where I hold these was overflowing. So I ended up cleaning out that drawer and slimming it down to just a few things that we need to keep.

Before I knew it, it was about time to start cooking supper. I got sidetracked by some dishes that needed put away first. I had a dish drain full of plastic drinking bottles. So I decided to go through the cupboard that has all of the bottles in it. However it was overflowing, and they would not all fit. First on the list was matching bottles with lids. Next I threw away the ones that were in bad shape. I kept slimming down until they actually all fit in the cupboard now.

As I reflected at the end of the day I marveled at the motivation I had to get just a few small areas clean. I felt great when I thought back at all that I had accomplished. So I have set up a schedule for the next eight weeks of various rooms in my home that need to be thoroughly cleaned and de-junked. I am tired of having my life ruled by the things in our home. I plan to be getting rid of a lot of "stuff" over the next two months. Today we will be dropping off our old bedroom furniture at the local thrift store. I also have boxes of clothes waiting for donation as well.

I find that with the more that I clean and organize, the more motivated I am to get things clean in my home. The more things I let go of, the more free I feel. I look forward to the end of July when I plan to not only have a clean, organized home, but also a calm, quiet spirit. I pray that as I get rid of 'things' in my house, that God also gets rid of 'things' in my heart. Some of those old sin patterns that are hard to break. Make me clean and whole and new in my heart as I work on the things in my home.