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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 31, 2010

Resting in God's Presence

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:25-34

I have been thinking this morning about two comments I have heard from friends recently in regards to worrying. Both are under stressful situations and concerns. One frankly said, "I'm a worrier." The other is entering a new area in her life where she doesn't have any control. Both of them have the choice of what they will do. Will they choose to worry or trust God to take care of things that they can't control?

Don't get me wrong, I am no way judging them. I too have had many times when I also struggle with worrying. There are still instances where I fall back into that frame of mind, but yet I feel that these verses call us to a different life. As followers of Christ, how much impact would we make on the world if we were known for our unshakable faith and trust?

I too have undergone my own set of stresses and health issues. One thing I have learned through my time of spiritual retreat is the importance of relying fully on the Lord, to trust Him with every area of my life. When I am afraid or concerned about something, it may take a moment by moment prayer of "I ask You to intercede for me in this situation." I give it to the Lord and may take it back the next instant. I am learning to continually give it to the Lord. The more I get in the practice of releasing it, the easier it becomes to fully let go of it. I find that I begin to walk on the road of trust instead of worry.

I have found that the road to trust starts and continues on our knees, in prayer to God. So perhaps we should invest in a good set of knee pads! :) I pray that I will be known not as someone who always worries, but instead someone that fully trusts in God.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Charged Batteries

"And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:14-16

Have you ever thought of your life as if it were a charged battery? Did you ever go to use a flashlight that hadn't been used in a while and it didn't work? Perhaps you unscrewed the end to see what was the problem. Out poured a mess of corrosive batteries, covered in acid. What a mess!

As new believers in Christ, we start out with brand new batteries, just out of the package and ready for use. We have a lot to learn. Our light is burning brightly for all to see. I think of when my youngest son asked Jesus into his heart. He had such an excitement, even though he was only five years old at the time. Each person he met he asked unashamedly, "Do you know Jesus?" If they responded negatively, he would say, "Well, you should." He unabashedly shared his new-found faith.

Or perhaps your faith is like a used battery, that has been around for a while. You have been a Christian for quite some time. Your light still blazes a steady stream, but isn't quite as bright as it used to be. My oldest son has a flashlight with 2 million candlelight of power. It shines a brilliant blast of light, but as the batteries become more used, it doesn't shine quite as brightly. 

Then you have the corroded batteries, where you try to do things on your own strength. You don't plug into the source, and if any light shines, it's just a very dim beam - not strong enough to be of any value. You don't have time to read your Bible, pray, or attend church. Your life is too busy.

What is the status of your batteries today? Are they fully charged? Even if you have been a Christian for a long time, you still can have fully charged batteries that brightly spotlights the world around you. We become fully charged by completely relying on the Lord and His love for us. When we spend time with the Master, we can go forward and illuminate the path for others to see.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Link for My Writing Blog

For those of you interested in reading more of my musings, feel free to check out my writing blog. I changed the address to:

http://encouragingwordsforchristianwriters.blogspot.com

A Calling, Not a Job

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:1-3

I have been doing a bit of research on lighthouses lately. This morning I was previewing a video about lighthouses in New England. Other documentaries I previewed on this topic went through each lighthouse, one by one. This is what I anticipated this video to be like too. I was surprised to find that this one consisted of interviews with former lighthouse keepers and their families. It was quite fascinating.

One statement that a wife of a lighthouse keeper said has stuck with me. It was her job to work alongside her husband, in keeping up with the daily maintenance that was required. She commented, "We looked at it as a calling, not a job." This remark caused me to pause.

How often do we go about our days, going through the motions, just doing our job? When was the last time that we paused, and thought about it being our calling? How are you doing with following the call of God on your life? Are you being faithful?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

God's Faithfulness

"I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations." Psalm 89:1

It's been exactly a year to the day, since I had that fateful phone call that drastically changed our world. From my husband's voice, it was difficult to tell that he was the one that was injured. He experienced a very severe fracture of his pelvis while skiing in West Virginia with our two sons. He called from a hospital in Maryland, where he had been transported.

I was blessed to have a dear friend and her daughter drive me to the hospital to be with him. It was two days before we were able to transport him to Pennsylvania and straight to another hospital. We waited two more days before he had specialized surgery to repair the break. The surgery lasted over seven hours, longer than was anticipated. My husband developed complications from surgery and had extensive nerve damage in his right arm.

He had three months of not being able to put any weight on his left leg. I remember well the struggles I had lifting the wheelchair in and out of our van when I took him to doctor appointments and therapy. My husband is a bit bigger than I am. I had a difficult time pushing the wheelchair.

My dear husband is the sole bread winner of our family, and he needed to be out of work for at least three months. We didn't know how God would provide for our needs. While my husband was home, our stove died, we needed tires for our van, we needed groceries, our roof began to leak, and the list continued. Every time we had a need God met it.

Although it has been a long year of struggles and healing, God has remained faithful. This past Thursday my husband had his one year check up. I couldn't help but be reminiscent as we walked through the hospital. I saw where I sat for many hours awaiting word of how the surgery had gone. I remember how weak my normally big, strong husband was after this accident. We didn't know if he would even recover from the nerve damage that affected him. But through it all, we continued to trust God, that He would not give us more than we could handle.

I can't help but give praise to the Lord for His faithfulness in our lives. Even though my husband still has some nerve issues with his right hand, it has been healing. Hard times has caused us to draw closer as a family and to the Lord. We have grown stronger in the process.

So on this day, one year later, I am thankful for where God has brought us this past year. I am thankful for all the people that helped and encouraged us in so many ways. God has truly blessed us!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reach Out and Touch Someone

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

I remember a number of years ago the television commercial for a phone company, whose slogan was "Reach Out and Touch Someone." I can't recall which company it was, things tend to fuzz in my gray matter from time to time. All right, perhaps more often then I care to admit! :) (Don't ask my husband of how often this is!!)The premise was the importance of communication and staying in touch.

This has been on my mind, since I have had the opportunity to meet with some friends over the past couple days. Yesterday I met with two dear friends, as well as some new ladies. We shared in a Bible study and prayer together. It was the first time I had been with these friends for a couple months. It was a delight to be with them again. I realized that during our time apart, God had changed us in different ways. I had the pleasure of witnessing their reaching out to other women and growing in this area.

This morning I met with a lady from our church that I have known as an acquaintance for a number of years now. We see each other on Sundays, but that's about it. She reached out to me a couple months ago, when I was experiencing a lot of health issues, by letting me know she was daily praying for me. Her words had a tremendous impact on me. She sent emails of encouragement. I think back now of how God used her simple act of obedience to draw our hearts.

Today was our first time to actually get together. We went for a short walk. I would have loved for it to be longer, but my heel is painful today. We then proceeded to a local restaurant to talk over coffee, tea and a bagel.

I was amazed to find out the amount of similarities that we shared. We connected on a deep level. We both were surprised when two hours had passed while we chatted. I truly believe that our friendship is like a rose - just beginning to bud and flourish. I'm excited to witness and be a part of the process.

Isn't that just like God to surprise us when we least expect it? I'm so thankful that this woman chose to reach out and touch my life. I believe that we both will be blessed because of her willingness to go outside her comfort zone. Her witness is an example to me of the importance of reaching out to others when God prompts. You never know when a friendship is waiting around the corner!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We Each Have a Story to Tell

"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. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:15-16

My husband had his one year check-up with the orthopedic surgeon this morning. The first comment the doctor expressed was appreciation for our family Christmas letter. He went on to tells us how much it had impacted him as a surgeon. Our letter detailed how my husband's ski accident and long recovery time had affected our family. For us, it chronicled the events that shaped us this past year. But for this doctor, it gave him a different view. It allowed him to see beyond the medical side (repair, recovery, etc.) and to see how the accident was just part of our story.

I have been pondering this since my husband's appointment. Even as we toured the simulation facilities at the hospital, my mind kept returning to this idea that we each have a story to tell. We each are unique individuals that God created. We each experience and are shaped like no other person from the things that we go through. As professing Christians, those around us are watching to see how we live out our story. Do we really walk what we say? Do we remain strong and faithful even in the midst of difficulties and struggles?

My son has a shirt that says to "Live Your Life Out Loud." We each are a walking story to the world around us. We need to live a life that is pleasing to God, and not necessarily to men. When was the last time you shared with others how Christ has changed your life? Have you shared 'your story' with someone recently? Perhaps it is time you did.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Keeper of the Light

The storm raged like a starving lion eager to devour anything in its path. The wind howled through the chimney. Waves crashed onto the shore. Lightning flashed, followed immediately by an ear-piercing clap of thunder, causing five-year-old Abigail Stevens to tremble and scurry into her mother's arms.

"I'm scared Mama."

Melissa Stevens smoothed her daughter's red hair, as she pulled her onto her lap. "There's nothing to fear my dear. God is with us. Remember what we memorized in Psalm 56:3 this morning?"

Abigail nodded as she recited, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee."

"That's right Abi. God doesn't want us to be afraid, but to trust in Him," Melissa said reassuringly.

"What about Papa and Andrew? Can God take care of them too?" Abigail asked, curling closer to her mother.


"Even though your brother and Papa are in the tower tending the light, God still sees them and cares," Melissa comforted.


"But why can't Papa be here with us?" Abigail asked in a small voice, ducking under her mother's arms, as a brilliant flash of light pierced the darkness.

"You know that Papa needs to be making sure the light is shining brightly. It's important for Andrew to start learning how to help Papa. On a stormy night like this one, we need to be able to warn ships about the hazards if they would happen to get closer to shore. Your Papa has a crucial job as lighthouse keeper," Melissa said.

"But, why can't I help too? I'm the same age as Andrew," Abi said with a frown on her face.

Melissa smiled at her. "You'll have your turn to learn too, dear one. God has called each of us to be a keeper of the light."

"I never knew how right you would be Mama," Abi murmured years later, as she lovingly placed wildflowers on the graves of her parents and twin brother. She wiped a tear from her cheek. "How am I ever going to manage the lighthouse on my own now?"



On July 30 - August 1, 2010 speakers, writers and women's ministry leaders will descend upon Concord, North Carolina to attend this year's Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference. I would love to be one of the ones blessed to be there. Cecil Murphy is offering a full scholarship for one person. To learn more about the contest and conference, check out Lysa TerKeurst's blog, as well as Proverbs 31 Ministry.
http://lysaterkeurst.blogspot.com/2010/03/she-speaks-scholarship-contest.html
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http://www.shespeaksconference.com/

The competition is tight for this contest. Each woman expresses her desire to attend. Some cite the rough times encountered in 2009. Others convey their passions to speak, write, or lead women. I fit both of these categories. I have a calling and passion to be a writer and my family has undergone its share of difficulties too. This past year we experienced a debilitating ski injury, complications from surgery, months without work, a leaky roof, and I endured months of physical illness. While each of us is unique, every participant hopes to be the one picked for this scholarship.

After six weeks of spiritual renewal, God has reaffirmed His calling in my life to write. This passion has been a part of me since I was a very young girl. Until now, something else has always taken precedence. I prayed throughout the past couple months, seeking God's discernment. I was open to writing nonfiction, Bible studies, articles, fiction, or whatever He desires of me.
While vacationing in Georgia at the beginning of March, God surprised me with the idea of writing a fiction trilogy on lighthouse keepers. This era of history is fascinating, and often overlooked. I would love the opportunity to pitch my idea with a publisher this summer, and to step out in faith in my calling to write.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Is Your Walk?

"Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him." Deuteronomy 8:6

I really enjoy walking. I am not a runner, but I do enjoy a leisurely and even brisk stroll. I find it beneficial for my health as well as spiritual growth. Most times I walk, I also pray, experiencing two benefits.

Lately walking and being on my feet has been painful. For about a year and a half I have been experiencing heel pain. It first started in my left foot and now is experienced in both. Most days I do not have much relief from discomfort. It has come to the point where I may soon need to go to a doctor to discover what is occurring.

Even though I often experience pain, I haven't given up walking. I haven't been walking quite as much, or as far as I used to, but I still try.

I can't help but think about my husband's inability to walk for three months after his ski accident a year ago. He could have no weight bearing on his left leg due to his fractured pelvis.
It was a rough time for our family, since it meant over three months of being without our only source of income.

But yet we still chose to walk with our Lord - placing our lives in His hands, and trusting Him to take care of us. The future was shaky and uncertain, but we continued to trust and believe that He would provide for us. Times were hard - our stove died, we needed new tires for our van, our pantry was thinning, medical bills kept coming, and our roof was leaking. In the midst of the unknown we felt God's calling our son to participate in a short-term mission trip to China. We couldn't see from where the answers, money, and help would come.

God provided for each of our needs. We had a temporary patch put on the area that was leaking, and now almost a year later, a local church will soon be supplying a completely new roof. We have continued to walk and trust God for our needs.

I'm reminded that even when we may struggle physically with walking, we can always be active in our spiritual walk of following our Master. He has a path that is marked out for us; we need to just walk in it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Research and Catch Up Day

Mondays are usually my re-group day. It's the first day back after having time with my family over the weekend and traditionally entails homeschool and laundry. I try and catch up with things that have been put off over the past couple days. Today has been a mix of all of these things, along with trying to do some research about lighthouses.

I previewed a documentary video on various lighthouses this afternoon. I find that the more I see, read and learn about this time period in history, the more I am enthralled and inspired. Many ideas for what I feel God is calling me to write has been stirring in my brain. I juggle with trying to find time to get them on paper as well as dealing with the demands of daily life.

Then there also is the home school article that needs to be written this next week. It too demands my attention. Laundry is sitting in the dryer awaiting me, soon supper will need to be prepared and consumed. Today I feel like a juggler, trying to keep the balls spinning in the air and not dropping any to the ground.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Free

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36

Can you believe it - the first day of Spring already. It's been another beautiful day in PA, with temperatures in the low 70's. My guys and I had errands to run, and were gone for most of the day. While we were out and about, we stopped off at Rita's for free Italian ices. This only occurs on the first day of Spring. It isn't very often that you are able to get something for free. It was a real treat to have a special dessert today.

I have been thinking about things that are free. Many times we have the opportunity to be blessed by other people, but we have to be willing to accept what is given. We learned this morning that a local church has graciously offered to put a new roof on our house. They hope to have it completed by May. We were overwhelmed by their love and generosity of reaching out to us in this way.

We feel incredibly blessed and unworthy. As wonderful as it is to be receiving a new roof, which we drastically need, I can't help but think of the free gift that God has given us. He provided a way for us to live and be forgiven, through the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins. It is a gift of eternal life that He freely gives to us - all we have to do is accept it. My prayer for you is that you willing accept God's free gift.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength!

"The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song." Psalm 28:7

It is a beautiful sunny day in PA. In a short while, I'll drive to pick my son up from work. The afternoon will be busy with his working on his school work, and I need to do some home school planning during that time. For now, I am just relishing in the joy of being where God has me at this moment.

There are pressing things, as always - paying the steep deductible to get our van fixed from an accident, an expensive physical therapy bill, the cost of regular maintenance on our van, etc. Even though we are faced with some big expenses at the moment, I still cling to God's directing me to soon start taking a writing course. At this point, I'm not sure where the money is going to come from, but I trust God's direction and leading in my life.

I am excited about where He is leading me. He gives me joy each day, and that joy gives me strength. I relish in the love of God.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thirsty for God

I am reading a book by David Jeremiah entitled Signs of Life. He says, "as Christians we should be making people thirsty for God." I think it is important to examine our lives routinely to see how we are doing with this. Some questions to ask:

"Am I encouraging others in their Christian walk?"
"Is it evident to those I meet that I am a follower of Christ?"
"Is my speech honoring to God?"
"Are my deeds evident of my motivation as Christ's child?"

Think of a hot summer day when you have been working outside for a few hours. You take a break and relax in the shade, drinking an iced cold glass of tea, lemonade or water - something that refreshes and quenches the thirst. This is how we should be to the people we meet - a cool drink in a dry and thirsty land.

How are you doing with making people thirsty for God?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Contentment

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:11-12

I finally had the opportunity to do a little housecleaning today. There still is a lot that needs to be accomplished. I ran the vacuum, cleared off the dining room table (except for one pile) and also swept the kitchen floor. Piles are still waiting to be gone through, counters cleared, bathrooms cleaned, dusting, etc. I don't know how it always happens, but it can be many months after Christmas, and I still find tree needles that have been hiding somewhere. I vacuumed some needles today, and they still had that fresh pine scent.

I am in the process of trying to get better organized here at home, so I have time to work on the things that God has called me to do. I desperately want to figure this out soon, so I can get on to the business of researching and writing. I also am trying to finish reading two books that will soon be due at the library (and won't renew), as well as work through one that I need to blog a book review. Then there is the home school article that needs to be written and submitted by April 1st.

Then there also are the daily chores - Homeschool, cooking meals, laundry, taking care of bills, dishes, etc. Also throw in two birthdays in the past several days, teaching a Bible study, and I'm not sure what else! Isn't it something, how we can get so caught up in the things that are pressing, that we get stressed by them?

I have been striving towards not being stressed by my 'to do' list. Some days I am successful and do great with keeping things in proper perspective, other times...not so great. Today would probably classify as in between. I was thankful that I was finally able to get some things accomplished, but it just never seems that I move fast enough. I have high hopes and motivation, but something seems to happen between the planning and the execution. Perhaps I could chalk it up to 'getting older.' I don't know what else to call it! :)

My mind goes back to the scripture written above - the importance of learning to be content no matter what situation we face. I pray that God continues to drill this into my heart, until it becomes a natural reaction and response in all that I say and do. I pray that Philippians 3:13b-14 will be characteristic of my life. "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Honey!!!

What an incredibly blessed woman I am to be married to my beloved husband. Today is his 44th birthday. Here is a poem to celebrate him.

My Beloved One
Smiles and laughter,
Joy and tears,
Hard times and good
Treasured time with you.

Newly married,
Army life,
Moving and moving some more.
Tour of duty in Germany.

Joy of expecting,
Sorrow from loss.
Uncertain joy,
When expecting again.

First boy to join the fold.
Learning as new parents,
Enjoying each day,
Three years later another dear one.

Trials and tribulation,
Ups and downs,
Smoke damage,
and ski accidents.

Through all we have faced,
You are always there beside me.
Holding my hand
And lifting me up.

My best friend and lover,
The one I hold dear.
Hope your day is a special one,
Happy Birthday my dear!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shining Like Stars

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Philippians 2:12-18

I remember a summer night last year when our family was away for the weekend. We were in a secluded setting, with very little light from the surrounding community. It was a beautiful starry night. We were amazed at the amount of stars that we could see that evening. Where we live there is a lot of light pollution, so we are unable to see all the stars. Even though we can’t see them, they still are present in the sky.

The stars shone exceptionally bright that evening, or at least it seemed so to us as we lay on a blanket observing them. We had the privilege of viewing several shooting stars as well. It was a night that I still remember.

The portion of scripture written above is subtitled in my Bible as, “Shining as Stars.” It tells us how we can be set apart and different from the world around us. One of the first things that I noticed as I read it was obedience. The believers were being praised for their following what was commanded, whether or not someone was watching them or not.

They were encouraged not to complain, argue or grumble. Sometimes it is so easy to fall into this trap. We say, “I’m tired,” “I wish so and so didn’t do such and such,” “I wish it would stop raining,” etc. Our list of complaints is often endless. This is something we often hear in our everyday lives.

If we are different from the world, as believers, then we should be the ones who are being grateful, encouraging and making a point to get along with others. When we choose to do this, we too can “shine like stars in the universe.” This theme has been on my heart recently. It is an area where I am trying to improve and be different. Have I succeeded? No, I’m still far from that example. But I can’t help but remember that even a very dim light can be seen from far away. So in the process of learning to be that bright star, I pray that God uses me, even when I am just a dim light. I desire to learn and grow to be the bright light that He desires for me to be!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Joshua!

It seems hard to believe that nineteen years ago at this time in Heidelberg, Germany I was in labor with our first child. I remember as my husband and I headed to the hospital. We weren't sure if I was in labor or not. I continued to have back pains every 20 minutes or so. This was not how our childbirth class described it. We called the doctor, and they recommended coming, just in case.

I was not due for three more days. The hospital was an hour away. My husband and I decided to stop by the PX for film for our Polaroid camera, just in case I actually was in labor. We took our time getting to the hospital. When we finally did arrive, I was pretty far dilated. Within a few hours afterward, our nine pound son entered the world.

It was a cold day when my son arrived. I also remember, three days later when we headed back home to Heilbronn. Spring had sprung while I was in the hospital. I recall remarking to my husband about all of the flowers that were opened, and how beautiful it was. I'm afraid it was a quiet and unusual birthday for my husband that year (March 16).

Today, I can't help but be reminded of the joy that came into our lives nineteen years ago. This is our first birthday to not be with our son, since he is away at college in Florida. We praise God for you son. Happy Birthday!! We love you and miss you!

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Greatest Encourager!!

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself." Ephesians 5:25-28

When I arrived home on Tuesday afternoon, sitting on my bed was an adorable stuffed monkey with a big red heart that says 'I Love You,' along with a welcome home greeting card from my dear husband. My husband and I have been married for over twenty-two years and he continues to be my very best friend. I praise God for him and treasure our time together.

My beloved husband knows that I enjoy getting gifts from him. He also realizes that I have a weakness for monkeys. I'm not sure why, but most of the stuffed animals (and the real ones too), just happen to have cute faces, in my opinion. Although his gift wasn't something that I needed, he chose to show his love for me, by purchasing something to welcome me back home after being away for nine days. Whenever I see that monkey now, I smile and think about my wonderful man.

As meaningful as the gift and card were to me, even more so is the support and encouragement my husband gives me each day. He willingly permitted me to take these past six weeks to take a break from a lot of the workings of our household, so that I could concentrate more on the Lord. He stepped in with taking care of homeschooling our son, while I was away visiting my friend in Georgia. He knew the importance of me having this time, and did whatever he could to make that happen.

All of these things have shown me how much he loves and cares for me. I think uppermost though, has been his continual support and encouragement in my endeavors. When I arrived back home, we spent one evening talking and reconnecting together. I shared how God spoke to me on this trip, and also throughout the month.

The direction that God is leading me to follow is one that I have felt during most of my growing up years. I also experienced it early in our marriage as well. The desire and inspiration has always been a part of who I am and how God designed me. Not many people understand it. My husband has always been my biggest cheerleader - encouraging me that I could do what God is calling me to do and to succeed. He has told me that I am talented and have a gift. My discoverings came as no surprise to him.

Today I am feeling blessed by having a husband that loves, supports and encourages me. As much as it difficult for me to imagine, my heavenly Father loves me even more. My husband's sacrificial and unconditional love is but a dim example of the outpouring of love that God has for me. How blessed we are!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sowing Seeds

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

I have been thinking about this verse. It is rich with attributes that are to characterize our Christian walk. Some you may find easier to harvest in your life than others. "I'll take two cups of joy, but hold the patience. I'm not ready for that one yet!"

A few years ago, I wrote a Bible study on this passage of scripture. I remember encouraging the reader to sow these 'seeds' and to cultivate them in their spiritual garden (their heart). In order to sow seeds, you need to first prepare the soil. When you ask Jesus into your heart, this starts the cultivating process. It gives Him permission to work on your 'plot of land.'

Picture if you will, two kinds of gardens. One is gorgeous. It has a variety of fruits and vegetables. The plants are vibrant green, and the produce is a multitude of colors. There is not a weed in sight. The ground is a rich, dark brown soil. Proper spacing is between each plant, so it has plenty of room for growth. Now contrast this, with a cramped garden space that is overrun with weeds. It is nearly impossible to see the produce plants, because of the weeds choking them. What produce there is, is minuscule and malnourished.

What makes the difference between the two gardens? They both were planted in the same soil, and both gardeners used identical plants. What makes the difference is what the gardener did to cultivate his garden, and what he continues to do as the produce grows. A good gardener will cultivate. One gardener daily continues to work on his land, while the other decides to sit back and take life easy and just wait for the results.

Today I have been focusing on faithfulness. In just a few weeks, it will mark the year anniversary of my husband's skiing accident that radically changed our lives in so many ways. I hadn't realized until today, that it had been that long since I had sorted through our receipts. They have been piling up in our kitchen. Not a week has gone by, that I haven't thought, "I need to get to those receipts."

Before I returned home from Georgia, that was one of the things on my 'to do' list. Today I'm home alone, and felt it was time to finally approach this task. Surprisingly it took a shorter amount of time than I anticipated. Isn't that how things often are? We put off doing something, and dread thinking about it, but when we jump in and finally take care of it, it takes shorter time than we thought.

I am working at being faithful in several areas - I need to address the pile of mail on my dining room table, I need to prepare for leading a ladies Bible study next week, correct school work for my son from when I was gone, and various other paperwork. Now I would love to just sit down and read a good book, or start researching for my writing project, but today I know that God has called me to be faithful in taking care of these other areas. The beauty of it is that, when they are accomplished, I won't feel weighted down by these 'things' that have been demanding my attention. I then will be free to pursue the things that I feel God is calling me to start.

I guess you could say that I am tending my garden today. I'm breaking up the soil, so the plants can grow healthy and strong.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Getting Back to Normal?

Is there such a thing as normal? If it is, that is what I am in the process of achieving today! Yesterday was a long day of traveling. I was awake by 5 AM, even though I saw almost every hour on the clock throughout the night. I arrived home around 4 PM yesterday afternoon. There was just enough time for me to unpack and relax for a few minutes before heading to my son's swim banquet. It was almost 10 PM by the time we returned home, and by then I was exhausted.

This morning my son and I slept in, and decided to have our schedule be a little different than normal. He needs to lead his guy's small group that he is involved in at our church this evening, and needed time to prepare for that. We will double up on school work probably on Friday, since he will be working tomorrow. This will allow me time tomorrow, to check on his progress with his lessons while I was gone.

The day has been somewhat leisurely. I did go grocery shopping at two different places and have almost finished two loads of laundry. I think I have trudged through the emails that came in while I was in Georgia, or at least the ones that needed immediate attention. I still have a few that are awaiting my reply. All in due time! :) I have yet to address the stacks of mail awaiting my perusal. I'm sure they won't go anywhere!

I did also manage to spend some time on the computer requesting library books to start researching my next writing project. Hopefully some of them will come in, before we leave on Friday evening for traveling to Virginia to visit my in-laws. (It will be our eldest son's 19th birthday on Saturday - his first time not to be home, so we opted to go away so we don't miss him as much!) I am anxious to get started with the research. I also plan to make this the topic of my next column for Home School Enrichment magazine.

It is a joy to be back home again, even though I had a wonderful time being away. I enjoyed my first good night's sleep since before I left. It may take me a few days to recover from being on vacation! Hopefully my sleep pattern isn't adversely affected while we are away this weekend! :) I guess such is the hazard when you are a creature of habit! At any rate, I feel blessed to be home again with my loved ones. I am grateful.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reflections

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." Psalm 119:18

In some ways it seems hard to believe that it already has been six weeks since I started my spiritual retreat. I find myself not ready for it to be over. It has been a time that I will look back and cherish for many reasons. I can't help but think back and be amazed at how far God has brought me. There are many things He taught me through the process.

I am extremely grateful for this time. I praise God for a loving, supportive, and understanding husband. I appreciate my son's willingness to adjust to doing homeschool a little differently while I have been away from home. A visit with my dear friend in Georgia was exactly what I needed to complete my spiritual retreat.

Going through this time of separation has been beneficial spiritually, physically and emotionally. God has restored in me the desire to write again. It's been a long time since I have had this burning flame smoldering inside. For now the fire is banked, until I return home and am able to stir the embers to glow brightly. But I have a vision of things to come and I am excited. I remember from my youth the excitement of the flaming torch burning within, for all to see. It creates passion, and a keener view and understanding.

A change of direction is in order when I return home tomorrow. Some of the things I have concentrated on during these six weeks, I will begin to incorporate into my daily schedule. Because of the stress from this past year, I had gotten away from reading very often. This is one change I will make - more time to read. It was encouraging to have specific topics of reading in which to concentrate. Throughout this time I've had several books 'in process'. I found one or two on a particular topic I wanted to learn about, and also one that was just pleasure reading. It's likely that I will typically have three books I'm reading - one on spiritual truths, one on writing and also a fiction piece. Of course I will continue to faithfully read my Bible too.

It's been a joy to work through two separate Bible studies in February. I plan to continue to work on this as well. I love the opportunity to dig in God's Word and learn. It's a pleasure to go through a Bible study with other ladies, but I have also found that I enjoy working on my own too. There are a few on my bookshelf at home that are just waiting for me.

With the things that God has shown me this month, I also need to build into my schedule more time to write. I have been doing better about faithfully blogging and have even started a separate blog. If possible, I will continue to do this, but I also know that I need time to concentrate on my creative writing too. Once I actually begin this process, I'll be absorbed in research, planning characters and plotting.

One thing I have discovered while visiting my friend, is the importance of always having pen and paper available. Now that won't sound significant or earth shattering to most of you...perhaps only to me! :) Since I have been here I have carried a tablet and pen in my purse at all times. I have pages of notes from this past week - some are blog ideas, a note to my husband, future book ideas, notes I took from reading a writing magazine, or a quote from a book I was reading. I also have a recipe from my friend of how to make butter cream and peanut butter icing! Yum! Yum! :)

Also in my notebook are book titles that I eventually want to read, a style of poem I want to try and write, video titles that my husband and I will enjoy watching, as well as my 'to do' list for when I return home. One page has some websites to check out as well. Then there are important things like various foods and tea that my friend had that I want to look for when I go grocery shopping. :) As a writer, I want to make a point of always having tools of the trade with me for when the inspiration hits.

Above all else that I have learned, is the reminder to keep my heart, mind and eyes open to what God has for me. I desire to eagerly follow and serve Him in all aspects of my life. Every day my prayer is to see, hear and know Jesus in a deeper way, so I can inspire and encourage others.

I praise God for this month that I was able to step back from the world and its many demands. Even though I am reticent to leave this time in my life, I know that I need to move on to what God has for me in the next step of this adventure. I know I won't be disappointed.


*** On a personal note, I would appreciate your prayers on Tuesday morning as I have tight flight connections in Atlanta. I can't wait to get home and see my guys!! :) ***

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Getting Beyond Surface Level

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17b-19

Last Sunday my husband and I saw a real short video clip that mentioned that a lot of Christians struggle with getting beyond surface level. I have been pondering this all week long. I wonder if part of this is a by-product of our society?

Our lives revolve around the "me" mentality. We focus on the things that we need to get done for the day. I think often our lifestyle revolves around this. We perhaps take time for church and devotions each day, but how often are our thoughts and actions revolving around the Lord and His teachings? Do we ever go deeper than surface level with other people?

I think of an average Sunday morning in a church in America. We typically in passing say, "Hi, how are you?" We ask, but don't expect to hear anything other than "fine." If by chance someone goes into a deeper explanation we may be caught off guard. It seems even at church we often have an agenda.

I can't help but feel that God desires more of us. In Psalms it says that "Deep calls to deep." Perhaps all it would take is for us to change - to desire more in our Christian walk and to expect more from others as well - a deeper level of understanding. In the process of learning and desiring to go deeper, we also encourage and inspire others as well. If more of our conversations revolved around what God is doing in our lives and how He has changed us, instead of the weather or local news, maybe it would make a difference. Isn't it worth a try?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Waiting

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5

I've been thinking about waiting today. We probably spend a fair amount of our life waiting for things - a doctor appointment, a traffic light, for a meal to cook, the mailman to come, a holiday, etc. I'm sure you can come up with your own list of things that cause you to wait. Some of us do better with waiting than others do.

Psalms 37:3a encourages, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." There are times that we pray, beseeching the Lord for guidance and He answers quickly. Other times it may take a while, before we sense His leading in our life.

Patience isn't always something that comes easy to me. If you asked my husband, he would readily agree that he is more patient than I am, in most situations. But I love what it says in Isaiah 40:31, "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." (ESV)

This is such a vivid picture in my mind - giving my concerns to the Lord - waiting and trusting Him to provide the answers. As I wait, He gives me strength. Then when the answer comes and I know it is from Him, I find myself soaring like the eagles. Where I once was weary with the unknown, I now am strengthened and encouraged.

I feel this is the vision that God desires for us to have. We bring our burdens and concerns and lay them at His feet. He knows when the timing is right to answer us. Until then, we trust in Him. He knows what is best for us, because He can see our future.

For over a month I have been praying for a specific answer from the Lord. He had shown me towards the end of January of the need to pursue the area that He has gifted me. I heard His calling and answered. I then was awaiting further, specific instructions. Up until yesterday, I had no answer, but continued to trust God that He would answer when the time was right.

Then my friend and I spent a leisurely day sight seeing and walking along the beach. We also climbed a lighthouse. When we arrived at the top, I realized how afraid of heights I really am. My friend bravely walked around the outer walkway at the the top. I clung to the wall and crept along it. I was glad when we started the descent to the bottom.

But in those few moments at the top, when I put my eyes on the horizon instead of thinking of plummeting to the earth below, something happened. In those minutes, God answered my prayers from this past month. He gave me the direction I desired.

Even though I was scared of the height, I also felt myself soaring like on the wings of an eagle. I sensed a new freedom. It had been a very long time since I had direction in this area. I was reminded of the passion that God gave me in my youth. He has stirred it again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Keeper of the Light

"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. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16

Today my friend and I did a little site seeing. We traveled about an hour away to visit the Tybee Island Light Station. The weather was a little warmer today - about 50 degrees. It was sunny and we had a slight breeze. It was a gorgeous day to go exploring, and walk on the beach.

This was my first time to actually go inside a lighthouse. We climbed the 178 steps to the top of the 154 foot tall building. I mentioned before that I am not crazy about heights. I had to tell myself not to panic, as we got to the top of the steps and stepped out onto the catwalk. I hugged the wall as the wind whipped around each corner.

I did fine when I looked at the horizon, but not so much when I looked down. I think my friend would have liked to walk around on the outside for a little bit longer than we did, but was sensitive to the scared look on my face. I was ready to go inside, to the somewhat security of the circular iron rails and steps.

It was an interesting experience. This lighthouse was utilized from 1773 to 1948. There was a separate house for the headkeeper. Each day he would climb these steps, to make sure the light was working adequately.

As we were absorbing all of the history of the area, my mind was whirling with story ideas. What would it have been like to be a wife of lighthouse keeper? How would it have been during a fierce storm or hurricane? My mind ran through a gambit of ideas and possible plots. What an exciting adventure it must have been for these keepers of the light.

But then, isn't that something that we should also be doing as Christians? The verse above says that we are the light of the world. We need to make sure that the windows are clean and the light is glowing brightly for all to witness. Are others able to readily see Jesus in my life? Is there anything that I am doing that is hampering that view? I pray that I will be reminded of my job as 'keeper of the light.'

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Writing for the Lord

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23-24

These verses are one of my husband's favorite. Sometimes his job can be quite stressful, and he uses this scripture as a reminder of where his focus needs to be. I too was reminded of these verses today, as I was reading a book from my friend's bookshelf.

I came across this quote in Charles Stanley's book entitled, A Touch of His Joy. "A cellist who practices each day is freer to perform in concert than the person who dreams of the stage, but never prepares." It made me think.

Lately I have been feeling God's prompting to be writing. So I have faithfully been writing something, almost every day for the past few weeks. Surprisingly that through this act of obedience, I find myself eager each day to get words down on paper (or computer). The process of writing has become easier, the more that I practice it. If the day continues into late afternoon and I haven't had the opportunity to write, I find my mind whirling and my fingers itching to record what has been stirring in my brain.

But isn't this how it should be when we are faithfully following the Lord? When He gives us an assignment, at first it may be hard. We have to think hard, or we may forget the path we are to traveling. However the more that we follow and serve in an area, the easier it should become...more like second nature.

Every morning before I get out of bed I reach for my Bible to do devotions. Years of consistently doing this has made it a habit that is easy to continue. I don't need to worry about finding time to be with the Lord, because it is already programmed into my day.

Another example is faithfully tithing. This is something my husband and I have done regularly all twenty-two years of our married life. I don't have to think twice about writing that check each week to go into the offering plate at church.

I believe that God desires for us to learn faithful habits. Many should be the same for us as Christians, but there will be some that are specific for you and your situation. For me, it is being consistent with my writing. It has been a joy to be back in this process again.

Sweet Fellowship

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

It's a rainy, cool day in Georgia - actually a little cooler than I anticipated. My friend that I am visiting and I had a leisurely morning. We sat, talked, drank hot tea and chatted some more. We haven't seen each other since the beginning of September, so it's been a pleasure to reconnect again.

I first met my friend about four and a half years ago. She was new to the area and was going to facilitate a Bible study at our church. Another friend asked if I would arrive early to help set up chairs or whatever needed to be readied for the meeting that evening.

This was a stretch for me, since I am more of an introvert. I remember that evening stepping outside my comfort zone to help this woman. Little did I realize that God would use this act of obedience to draw our hearts together.

Through various Bible studies we grew closer to each other. Eventually we started meeting together once a week to walk and pray together. As our hearts were joined through our time with the Lord, a special bond was created.

It was a sad day for both of us, when she and her husband left Pennsylvania to move back to Georgia. It took me a while to get back into the habit of walking regularly after she left. I just didn't have the heart at first to walk alone. I missed our times of fellowship and prayer.

It's been over two years since my friend has moved to a different state. We regularly keep in touch each week through phone calls. We try and make a point of praying with each other on the phone once a week. We have continued to remain close, I feel, largely because of this time of prayer. It has a way of drawing hearts together like nothing else.

Even though we only see each other once or twice a year now, we continue to be close. Our time together today, was as if we had never been apart. We fell back into step of talking about people we know. But it also went deeper than that as well. We talked about spiritual things and our shared passion for our Lord.

Our time together has been sweet. I praise God for the blessing of Christian fellowship. Numerous places in the Bible, it encourages us to get together with others who are like minded in our faith. I talked recently on a blog posting about not being a lone ranger Christian.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." When we get together with other Christians we share a common bond - belief in Jesus Christ. It is important that we share both our struggles and triumphs. Through sharing our difficulties we allow others the opportunity to pray for and encourage us. Also as we share our joys, it can be a way of lifting others.

I recently have gone through a series of struggles. At times I felt overwhelmed with the various situations I was facing. But my Georgia friend was one of the ones that faithfully prayed for me and encouraged me each week. I praise God for her. She is a real blessing in my life.

What a joy it has been today to have face to face communication together. Even this evening when her husband returned home from work, we had some stimulating spiritual conversations. It made me realize how much my heart longs for this deeper communion with other Christians. Our society today becomes so distracted by many things, that we tend to lose sight of the purpose that God has for us. He desires for us to go deeper.

Fix Your Eyes on the Goal!

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13a-14

I'm not a thrill seeker - never have been and doubtful that I ever will be either. My excitement for the day was hurtling down a runway and taking off on two separate flights, to reach my final destination - Savannah - to visit my friend.

My first plane I was on, the runway is parallel to a river. So when we took off, we spent several minutes over the water. Visions of crashing and drowning flashed through my mind. Unlike my husband and two sons, I am not a swimmer.

I was glad when we were beyond the river and I rested a little more easily. There before me lay a miniature world. It reminded me of my oldest son's model railroad layout. Snow covered the landscape as far as the eye could see.

As we continued to ascend we passed through a thick layer of clouds. When we leveled off, all that was visible was a cottony blanket of clouds below and blue sky and sun above.

When I arrived at the airport this morning, the skies were overcast and gray. Who knew that just above waiting to be seen, was the sun and blue skies. Despite my uncomfortableness with water and heights, there is a beauty up here in the skies that is hard to describe.

I almost laughed as I listened to the airline stewardess explain the safety procedures as we departed. I remember as a young girl envisioning the exciting world as an airline stewardess. At the time I had never even flown. My biggest concern then, was whether or not I could pursue a career in this, since I wore (and still wear) glasses. Somewhere I had heard at the time that being visually impaired could be a deterrent.

Some people really enjoy flying. I know when my youngest son flew to China this past summer, he loved the flying aspect. I never am too excited about the way my ears pop. I don't enjoy the feeling of my stomach dropping out and being left behind somewhere.

Despite my trepidation, I still have taken to the skies. I have a goal in sight - a desire to be reacquainted with my dear friend in Georgia - so we can spend the week visiting together. At this point of my writing I can't see the goal, but I trust (God willing) that I will arrive safely in Savannah later this afternoon.

This makes me think of my spiritual walk as well. Often God will give us a vision of the path He desires for us to follow. Recently He has reaffirmed His call and desire for me to be faithfully writing and also seeking publication. Now I could just write and then put it in a drawer, but God has called me to go beyond that. I need to write and submit and work towards being a better writer. I trust that someday I will get a book published, even though I can't see that happening YET. I still fix my eyes on the goal and work towards that. In the process, I pray that God uses me and changes me into the Christian writer He desires for me to be.