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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Praying it forward...

Now that Christmas is past, I am starting to think about goals and "resolutions" for the new year. It's time for the end of year evaluation. What did I accomplish this year? Did I finish what I started? What do I want to do in the coming year? What does He have for me to do?

Glancing at the little calendar that shows how often I blogged in December, I noticed only 4 blogs for the entire month so far! I've been blogging for over a year and started out strong with 4-5 blogs per week. But like so many things, I started with good intentions and fizzled out somewhere along the way this year.

Oh, I could give a lot of excuses (er, I mean "reasons"?) why I let the blogs slide - my family moved in and we had 11 people in the house for 4 months; my husband took a new job necessitating a move of our own; my mom became ill and passed away necessitating four 3-day trips in a one month period to take care of things for her.

Yes, it was a year full of major stressful events. These stressors not only affected my blogs, but my spiritual life as well. In some ways I am stronger because I have seen and felt the Lord's presence with me. I've had to lean hard on Him.

In other ways, I have struggled. I am a person who needs a daily routine and when those routines were interrupted or preempted, I found myself struggling to get things done. My daily devotional life suffered, my writing suffered and even the accomplishing the routine household things suffered.

Because the events of this past year were unusual and very stressful, I'm not going to beat myself up emotionally for failing to accomplish some of my goals like daily blogging, finishing my novels or promoting my book more; especially since I believe I learned a lot of other things God intended me to learn - about the importance of relationships.

It does make me think and pray more about what needs to happen in 2008. Lord, what do You want me to accomplish in the new year? What do You want to accomplish in me?

I will work hard on strengthening my prayer and quiet time routines because every other routine hinges on that. I still believe He has called me to write and will set goals toward that end like daily blogging and structured writing times to complete the projects in process.

And I will try to be open to those "surprise" lessons God brings across my path - those unexpected (sometimes stressful) challenges He springs on me that interrupt my routines but are designed to teach me the eternal lessons He views as extremely important.

So, Lord, have your way. Direct my goals and path for 2008. It promises to be a very interesting year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas!


Christian Glitter by www.christianglitter.com

To all my wonderful friends - May God fill you with His presence this season and through all the coming year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Decorations...On a Shoestring Budget

I don't claim to be a great decorator, but several people commented on my Christmas decorations this year so I thought I'd show some of them (besides, my daughter in Florida wants to see them... Hi Lis!)



Since we just moved 3 1/2 months ago, I don't have curtains in the dining room yet. They clash with my wallpaper so I have to paint the walls first. With everything going on, I just haven't had a chance to paint, so I had to do SOMETHING to camouflage it - Solution: a card hanging window treatment. Easy and the price is right! Just loop ribbons over the curtain rods and staple my Christmas cards to the ribbons. Voila! I will probably have to add a few more ribbons before Christmas...



Oh dear! My Christmas tablecloth got a large bleach spot on it which ate a nasty hole in the middle. So I had to use a different tablecloth which wasn't Christmassy. Solution: I put a strip of 8 inch wide glittery Christmas ribbon which made a wonderful table runner down the middle and used some of my crystal glassware to hold ornaments and candles.



Working at a flower shop for several years had its advantages. I purchased several containers for floral arrangements - like these two Thomas Kinkaide houses and the metallic church. But I had never done anything with them. This year, I needed more table centerpieces so I decided to make up the church. Wouldn't you know it - I didn't have many artificial Christmas greens to use. Oh well - Regular ferns and ivy mixed with a few sprigs of artificial pine and red and white flowers worked just as well, don't you think?




Like about a million other people, I enjoy snowmen. I never really set out to collect them, but have acquired quite a few over the years.

There's really nothing special about the last two pictures - just a traditional (fake) tree and my Christmas village but I included them because I want to brag on my DH. This year he put up the tree from start to finish so I figured he deserved to have icicles on the tree if he wanted them. Several years ago he made a topper for our entertainment center and drilled holes in it so I could display my collection of Christmas houses. It really looks great and has become a traditional decoration, complete with a little train which the grandkids love. Way to go, Dan!







Anyway, thanks for stopping by my "virtual tour" of Christmas decorations on a shoestring budget LOL! Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Pleasure of Puddle-Jumping



My grandson is a "puddle-jumper."

There's nothing he likes better in this whole world than finding a nice puddle to stomp through. It doesn't matteer that he gets soaked with chilly water up to his knees. It doesn't matter if the water is muddy or clear. It's still water!

I think if he had been a little Israelite boy when they crossed the Red Sea, he would have jumped in before the water receeded completely or before the Lord had a chance to dry off the path and run through the puddles to the other side...

Thanks Lord, for the simple pleasures of life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Taste of heaven on earth...



In "Other" Words



"Be such a person and live such a life,
That if every person,
Was a person like you, and every life a life like yours,
This Earth would be God's Paradise."
~Phillips Brooks~


Wow! What an ideal to strive for - perfection. I honestly doubt I'll ever make it in this life.

Take Friday for instance. We were having our annual Open House Christmas Party at the parsonage. We've only been at Gospel Tabernacle for three and a half months so this was the first time we had a party like this here, though it has been a tradition for our family for many years in whatever community we happened to live at the time.

We wanted the congregation members to feel welcome to visit us in our home, so I baked cookies, decorated and cleaned house, beginning a week before the event so it wouldn't be too stressful on the day of the party.

Even though I tried to do a little at a time, on the day of the party I still had a major emotional melt down. "I'm never going to do this again. I hate parties!" (I ranted like a woman in labor...LOL!)

Yet when the party started and our guests began to arrive, I realized how much I loved having them in my house. I thoroughly enjoyed being the hostess and circulating among my friends. I remarked to my husband later that we need to do this more often. (I said that after the birth of our first son too and we ended up having two more children... Uh-oh!)

At the party someone asked me if I'd had a melt down preparing for the party and I had to admit my flaws to them. But it made me realize once again that I'm not the only one who gets stressed out.

The world is already filled with others just like me - flawed human beings who are saved by the grace of God, struggling to live for Him and to grow in Him each day. I need to be ready to hug, love, support and pray for them whenever the Lord brings them across my path.

I may never be perfect and there may never be paradise on this earth until the Lord returns and perfects us. But if I strive to care for others the way He did; if I strive to understand that they are flawed like me and love them unconditionally, I might just be able to make a difference. I will get to experience a taste of His heaven on earth.

Have a blessed holiday season and may your life touch someone in need today!


***


If you'd like to join us today , simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit Lori at "All You Have To Give" to leave your URL and read her thoughts on the quote along with the other participants. Check out what the others have written and leave them a comment as well!



Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Memory Mites




I just found out that In Other Words has a new home site. Amy's "In Pursuit of Proverbs 31" site will be the new In Other Words home so be sure to check it out! As usual, a different blogger will host the IOW blog each week as we share our thoughts on the quote of the week.


This week's quote is:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on." ~ Mark 12:41-44 ~


Funny, how we look at things so differently than the Lord. My mother was a quiet woman. I never really knew about how she felt about things because her generation along with her conservative Mennonite background taught her to keep her inner thoughts to herself. She NEVER showed her discontentment, flaws or neediness. Really, she never allowed others to see any part of her inner self.

I remember commenting to her one time about the wonder of God's creation that one infinitesimal sperm out of thousands of possibilities fertilized the one egg that made me and God knew it would happen - He knew all about me before I was ever even conceived. I was sooooo impressed at the largeness of the God I had come to love.

Of course, that comment coming from a 16 year old embarrassed my conservative mom to death! She blushed furiously and abruptly changed the subject. At the time I felt hurt by her reaction because I had so many questions about life that I needed her to answer, but she closed herself to me.

According to my daughters and some other young women I know, my mom would have been considered "relationally poor" because of her handicapped ability to share the inner workings of her heart. It always bothered me because I wanted - needed to know more of her heart. I wanted to hear her say how proud she was of my accomplishments. I craved the compliments - "You are special. You did well. Etc." After I grew up, I wanted her to be my best friend, sharing the child rearing process and advice with me, but she remained closed.

But as I greeted people at her recent funeral, I began to see a whole different side of my mom. I saw a woman whose unassuming life had touched others in so many different ways - by her quiet charity, her thoughtful deeds.

One by one, they came and told me things about her I never knew - how she ministered to this one and gave to another. My heart swelled as I realized how pleasing her life must have been to God. Even though she lacked the relational skills to talk about what was in her heart, she showed it to others and in turn, the Lord was showing it to me.

Mom was very much like Mark's widow who put two mites in the offering. She gave all of her heart that she was able to give - though it never felt like enough - but Christ took it and used it to bless others and me through her life.
Lord, thank you for sharing these "mites" from my mother;s heart. Help me to give all that I am and have to You to touch others.

***


If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Beloved Mama" to leave a comment and a link to your blog site. We're looking forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Finally...Wedding Pictures!

It has been a whirlwind weekend including 2 funerals and the wedding, but I am home now and as promised - here are a few pictures from the wedding.




"Come On and Kiss de Girl" - To the music of the Little Mermaid, Tara and Justin share their commitment kiss. You can see a little of the dresses for the bridesmaids - she had 6 and her mom made every one of the girls dresses, including the bride's gown. They did all the decorating too - I really like the arch in the background at the church.




Here is a closeup of the happy couple.




My hubby's mom and dad were able to attend the wedding - Tara is their 4th grandchild to get married. Our 3 children are older hand have been married for5, 10 and 11 years already. (Now I am starting to feel old...LOL)

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's a Weekend Wedding!

There has never been a Thanksgiving wedding in our family to date, but this year there will be. Rather than tramping the highways and byways shopping on this holiday weekend, well be participating in our nieces wedding.

The wedding is turning out to be a real family affair - her mom made all the gowns - yep! - from bridesmaids to wedding gowns. The bride and her sister are doing all the decorating for the reception hall and as is their family tradition, they really go all out.

I made the invitations and am doing the programs and my son is doing the pictures. One of the brides aunts on her mom's side is doing the reception dinner - a full course turkey dinner. The bride even made her own cake and will have it professionally decorated by a friend who works in a bakery.

Tara has been planning her wedding for as long as I can remember - collecting wedding paraphernalia whenever it was on sale - buying silk Calla lilies and everything - long before she met her future husband. She has always known what she wanted and worked toward that end even though she didn't know when it would happen.

What a neat reminder to us as Christians. We should be constantly aware that someday our "Groom" will come for us and we should be storing up our treasures in heaven awaiting that day while we go about our daily lives here.

God bless you Tara and Justin as you tie the knot tomorrow. May God's hand rest on all you do for Him.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A God-Smile for you!



My sister-in-law sent me this wonderful God-smile that made my day so I wanted to share it with you.

Happy Thanksgiving


(Photographer unknown)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Walking It Off...



In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"The purpose of Christianity is not to avoid difficulty, but to produce a character adequate to meet it when it comes. It does not make life easy; rather it tries to make us great enough for life."

~ James L. Christensen ~


Forty years is a long time to wander in the wilderness. Yet God kept His people there for a reason. If they had entered into the Promised Land too soon, they would never have lost the slave mentality Egypt had bred into them for over 400 years.

Think about being a slave for a moment. Your life is totally controlled from the time you wake in the morning until you go to bed at night. Even if you don't like it, you must do as you are told or suffer harsh consequences, maybe even death. The things you are commanded to do may be dangerous, distasteful or frightening, but you have no choice, no will of your own. There is never time to put yourself first - to rest if you are tired or to "veg" if you are emotionally or mentally drained.

A bitterness settles in your heart. When you have time to think about it and if you have the energy left, you may feel anger and resentment toward your captors. You may begin to desire revenge or you may just give in to the hopelessness of your situation.

It's little wonder then, that God had to lead Israel around in the wilderness for 40 years to give them time to hear His voice. They needed to hear the words - "I love you. I will take care of you." They needed to see God's faithfulness as He stood by His Words by providing manna, preventing their clothes from wearing out, giving warmth by night, protection from the scorching desert sun in the day and victory over their enemies during the wilderness skirmishes.

God was building character and faith in His people, making them "great enough for life."

We all have our wilderness wanderings. For me it was a four year period where I was actively going through an emotional healing process to free me from the slavery of the "abuse" mentality. Through that time, I sensed His presence with me as I never have before and I knew He was saying to me, "I love you. I will take care of you."

Looking back, I can see how even though I struggled against the difficulties of the wilderness, it was necessary. He was working to make me "great enough for life." I still have my struggles and times when life isn't easy, but God has given me what I need to meet the difficulties - as well as the wisdom to know how to help others as they meet their trials.

It isn't so much my Christian faith that makes me "great enough for life." Rather it is the Christ I walk and talk with everyday Who has done it in me by His grace.

***

If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit Allison at "Simple Christian Living" to read her take
on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.



Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's here!





It's finally here! Today is the birthday of a brand new e-zine called 4Him2U filled with lots of inspirational reading including columnns, devotionals and articles both fiction and nonfiction. Constance, the editor, several writing friends and I have worked hard to birth this dream.

I will have a regular column appearing in this e-zine called "Patches of Grace" which is located on the Quilts and Quills page.

Please stop by and check us out - sign up on the subscription page to receive updates on new articles and issues and leave a comment on the Mail page!

We'd love to hear your reaction!
Thanks for your support.

Bonnie Winters

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mother-In-Law Love




In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:



"Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible--terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved."

~ Hannah Hurnard ~




Dan and I have been married for 34 years, but I can still remember the words his mother said to me when I met her for the very first time.

We left Bible College for Christmas break, but after a few days, Dan called and asked if I would like to visit his home. He drove 4 hours to my house and 4 hours back to take me to meet his parents. We had just started dating, but were head over heels "in like" with each other.

Because it was a long trip, I bunked overnight with his younger sister who immediately wanted to know if I was going to marry her brother. I replied that I liked him a lot and might marry him if and when he asked me.

Never confide in an 11 year old! She must have gone straight to her mother with the juicy news. When Mom got me alone, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, "We don't believe in divorce!"

Ouch! I wanted to run the entire 200 miles back to my house and forget I ever knew Dan at that point because I was certain his mother hated me. I just knew I would never be good enough for her son.

Many years later as we launched our own children into the adult world, I understood my mother-in-law's heart. Her marriage had gone through some very rough places and she loved her son enough to want to spare him from those rough spots. In her loving but determined way, she came across as seeking a "perfect" wife for him.

As I watched my children choose their mates, I experienced that same kind of love - I wanted the very best for my kids too. I wasn't at all sure their lives would turn out happy with the mates they chose, but thankfully, they have so far.

God's heart is like that as well - He has chosen the church to be a bride for His Son, Jesus. We are to be a helpmeet for Him and to bring forth spiritual children in His image. But He has high expectations for His Son's bride - nothing short of perfection and to put it bluntly, we'll never measure up.

Of course, He doesn't leave us floundering to achieve this perfection on our own - we are totally incapable of doing it by ourselves. So He molds us and works with us day by day, week after week, to make us into the women He wants us to be - the women He created us to be.

He loves us so much, He will never stop until the bride is exactly right, a perfect gift for His Son; a helpmeet that complements His needs to the fullest. Though it hurts to be pushed and pulled, poked and prodded into shape, I am thankful for His "terrible" and determined love for it is that love which will ultimately make us partners with Christ, at long last one with the One who loves us.


***



We'd love to have you join us today. Simply blog about the quote on your site and then leave your URL link below along with the other participants.



Please leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you!

***


Don't forget to check Christian Women Online on Friday, November 16th to preview next week's quote and the host location.






__________________________

Alzheimer's through God's eyes

All the staff at the rehab center loved her - even though she could not carry on an intelligent conversation with them or care for herself. Though her face was sunken, pale and wrinkled, the speech therapist insisted she must have been a beauty queen at one time because of the shape of her face and the youth it still held at 77 years of age.

Other staff members agreed, her gentle nature touched a chord in them. Her smile could light up a room, though in her advanced stage of Alzheimer's, it was a rare occurrence now.

As they shared their feelings for my mother, I stood amazed. Grief over her wasted condition had clouded my eyes to God's ability to shine through the life of one of His children, even though she was nearing her final breath.

He spoke to my heart as I listened to the staff's comments - "I will bring glory to Myself - even through this terrible devastating disease because I am God."

Alzheimer's - the disease that steals a person's memory, life and dignity by inches - even this terrible disease cannot prevent God's Spirit from shining through the life of His child.

To me, it was a powerful reminder that we are all ministers for Him - no matter what our physical, mental or emotional condition. His Spirit will always shine through our lives and touch others if we develop an attitude of openness and servanthood for Him.

My mother knew that. Growing up in the Mennonite heritage, she knew what it meant to care for and serve others. Though she worked full time to help Dad provide for my brother and I, she made sure we were well cared for and loved. Later, she faithfully cared for others in nursing homes, through their singing and volunteer ministry. She has never ceased to minister for Him in one way or another. And she instilled the same philosophy of servanthood in my heart as well.

For those who say, "I am too old, what can I do to serve the Lord?" I have an answer now.

He doesn't measure our worth or our service by what we can DO for Him. He measures it in who we ARE for Him. As long as we allow Him to shine through us in everything we do or in every stage of our lives, He will continue to use us for His honor and glory. All we have to do is BE the person He created us to be.

Thank you Jesus - Amen!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

His Love Colors My Life





In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"In our lives the darkest times, the days that are bleak and black, add depth to every other experience. Like the dark bits of color in a mosaic, they add the contrast and shadows that give beauty to the whole, but they are just a small part of the big picture."

~ Amy Grant~
Mosaic: Pieces of My Life so Far



For the past two weeks, God has been using the darker colors of sorrow and grief to bring beauty to my personal mosaic, so today’s quote is so apropos to my situation.

My aging mother is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. Over the last two weeks, her health has deteriorated so much that we are being forced to make some difficult decisions including separating my parents. Dad wants to continue on at the Assisted Living facility while mom now needs more skilled nursing care. She is not eating and is refusing medication so we must decide whether to continue rehab or call in Hospice.

In the midst of all the difficulties of the last two weeks, I took time out to attend our denomination’s Women’s Conference. Though I was hurting and exhausted, I decided to go since I had already paid for it.

During the worship time, He lightened the muted colors of my sadness with the brilliance of His presence as He comforted, lifted, and encouraged. The dark colors of my grief were interspersed with shining reminders of my mother’s faith and memories of happier days, as well as gilt-edged reminders of what awaits her when her suffering ends.

Coming home from the conference, I realized though the dark colors are still a part of my mosaic right now, the oppressive heaviness of their muted tones is gone. They are only a part of the whole picture creating the necessary contrast to bring out the true beauty of His face.

When I look around and see those who don't know Him, I weep. This world is blinded to the knowledge of the beauty of His Light that comforts, lifts and encourages. Their suffering must be oppressive indeed. So in the midst of my sorrow, Lord, I stop and pray for those around me who don't know Your Light. May You be a beacon shining into their darkness, turning their hearts toward You.


***

If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "extravagant grace" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Pumpkin hugs





It's the little things the Lord does that helps me to know He will handle the bigger things in my life.

Well, actually, these blessings aren't so little - the pumpkins weigh over 10 pounds each. I'm not sure what they are called - I only know them as Amish-grown long-neck pumpkins. Ever since I tasted pies made with them 30 years ago, I look for them each fall, hoping to purchase a few. The neck of these pumpkins is solid - only the bulb on the end contains seeds. They are much easier to prepare than the traditional round orange pumpkins.

I found one a few weeks ago, which made my mouth water for more, but alas, there were none to be had here in our new home town. While traveling this week I spied a whole bin of them at a roadside stand, but because of time constraints and heavy hearts we weren't able to stop.

It was just a little thing - but God knew my heart. Saturday, some friends and I stopped at a farmer's market near Hershey, PA. I was so excited to see whole pallets of these pumpkins. They ranged in price from $4 to $10 for the really huge ones, so I picked out two in the $5 range. I would have purchased more, but my funds were low at the time.

When I reached the register, the woman totaled my purchase. "That will be $2."

Two dollars total? She went on to explain that it was the last day for the market to be open for this fall season so everything was marked down. I went back and picked out one more, glad for the opportunity to fill my freezer with the prelude to pie.

Not only did God supply my wants, He supplied them at a bargain price!

It was the end of a long emotionally draining week filled with hours of travel, waiting rooms and difficult family decisions. The pumpkins were truly a gift from God just to let me know He cared. His concern for the little things in my life bolstered my faith that He will take care of the big things. And He has.

With each bite of pie made from these blessings, I will remember to be thankful for His love and provision in all the areas of life. Thank you Lord for pumpkin hugs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hand crafted cards

Everyone has been asking me to post pictures of the hand made note cards that I have been selling so here are some pictures Enjoy!




Ladybug "Believe" card



Gold leaf Thank You card.



An apple a day Get Well Soon card



Lavender Happy Birthday card.



Fruit Jar "Faith" card



Little chick Happy Birthday card.



Apples of encouragement card



Short note card



Fruit Jar Love and Hope Cards.




Custom Calla Lily wedding invitations

Friday, October 19, 2007

Seeing Red...

Red
"Red is the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with energy, war, danger, strength, power, determination as well as passion, desire, and love." www.colorwheelpro.com

The color red evokes strong emotions. It also causes very real physical reactions like increasing respiration and raising blood pressure. Because this color is found on many national flags, it tends to promote feelings of loyalty, courage and passion for one's country.

During the height of the Vietnam era, it was the yellow ribbons, worn on the shirt collar, tied around the tree and everywhere else that showed our support. Yellow was an attention getter - a cry of honor and loyalty meant to evoke desires for a happier time when the war would end and our troops would be home with us again.

Examining the psychology of color, it's no wonder that the latest campaign to show support for our troops is by asking people to wear red on Fridays. Red is a stronger color, denoting passion and courage as our troops fight against the danger we feel from the threats of terrorism.

Since 9-11, many of us as Americans have felt a rising up of passion and love for our country. We support the work of our troops overseas and appreciate their fight for our freedom because we realize we are no longer oceans apart from the conflict. Terrorism can happen here at home if we let down our guard. So I plan on wearing red on Fridays, as a show of support for our troops who are sacrificing so much to protect us.

But I will also wear it as a reminder of the sacrifice of one life as He waged a war against our ultimate emeny - sin and death. Without the spilling of Jesus' blood, there would be no freedom at all for us - no freedom from the chains of guilt, shame, anxiety, fear or the hurt we perpetrate on each other.

Red represents His determined, passionate and powerful war against sin to rescue humanity from its self-destructive nature. Thank You, Lord, for shedding Your blood so I might live. Help me honor You with passionate, powerful service as I walk in the freedom You have purchased. Amen!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bubble Gum Sunday

An object lesson will always get a child's (or adult's) attention quicker than a lecture so to teach my children's church class about tithing, I used this object lesson:

Each child had the opportunity to "earn" 10 pennies by learning their memory verse. They had to be able to say it in front of the group.

Once everyone had their pennies, I taught them about giving one tenth to God - out of their 10 pennies they should give 1 to God. I passed the offering plate so those who wanted to put God first could place one of their pennies in the basket. About half of them did and two boys put all 10 of theirs in.

Since I knew some of the children would keep all their pennies, I wanted to show them how God feels about our willingness to give. I brought out bags of bubble gum, telling the children they were 10 cents each. Of course, those who kept all ten of their pennies were able to "buy" a bag with no problem.

"It's not fair!" Those who gave one of their pennies to God sat there frowning and a little peeved with me for collecting an offering before showing them the gum. The ones who kept all ten pennies were gloating while filling their mouths with gum. (Yes - they stuck all five pieces in their mouths at once!)

After the children with 10 cents finished "buying" their gum, I told those with only 9 cents to line up. Then I shared how God will provide for us by allowing our 9 pennies to stretch just as far as our 10 pennies - I offered them the opportunity to buy a bag of gum "on sale" for 9 cents. Then before they sat down, I shared how we can't out give God. Because they gave one penny to Him, He wanted to give them a blessing - a bonus piece of gum which the children with 10 cents did not receive.

Now the ones who kept all ten pennies were starting to feel sorry that they hadn't given one of their pennies to Jesus. One boy even began looking for the offering plate to put one of his pennies in so he could have extra gum. This was a teaching moment because I could tell them that God wants us to give without expecting anything in return.

By this time the two boys who gave all ten cents to God were wiggling up a storm in the back of the room. "What about us? We gave it all to God?"

I invited them up to the front and rewarded them with a bag of gum, plus 10 extra pieces, one for each penny them gave to God.

You really can't out give God. He's proven that in my own life so many times. Perhaps when these boys and girls grow up, they'll remember the lesson of God and the bubble gum and give freely of what they have to Him.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Good things come in shoe boxes!

It's time to fill Chrismas shoe boxes again!

Each year we participate in Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child project. I love shopping for the small items which will fill the shoe box for some child on the other side of the world.

Beginning in August when the school supplies are on sale, I fill up on crayons, glue sticks, scissors, pencils, erasers, paper and such for the boxes. As the time appriaches to finish, I buy other things like toothbrishes, toothpaste, wash cloths, soap, shampoo samples and other hygiene items and at least one toy or two.

It becomes a puzzle to fit all those items into a plastic shoe box that will close without having to sit on the lid :) But then they are finished and lined up across the front of the church to be dedicated in November and sent to the Graham organization for distribution.

What a fun and painless way to spread the Good News of Jesus! By purchasing only an item or two at a time, I soom have more than enough to fill a box. The children receiving the boxes hear the Gospel message of Jesus as they are being distributed. And the amazing testimonies that come back about those boxes! It thrills my heart to be able to give to the Lord.

Father, help me find other ways to give to You - not onlythrough finances, but through giving of myself to others. Help me to see others as You see them and to pray always.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Handmade card update...

Just an update on Friday's blog -

I went into the new cafe/gift shop on Saturday to speak with the owner about selling my handmade cards. Though the owner had expressed interest in seeing the cards to my friend, it was up to me to follow through.

I still battle with a lack of self confidence in many areas of my life and almost changed my mind about going in. After finding a parking spot about a block away, I sat in the car for several moments and prayed, "Lord if this is really You, grant me favor with the owner."

Selling the cards was important to me - a way to give back to the Lord by donating the profits to missions. Since I no longer work outside the home except for my writing, I don't have a lot of income right now.

"Your cards are not good enough quality to sell in a classy shop like this," the enemy whispered from his perch on my shoulder. I almost believed him as I walked into the upscale coffee shop filled with antiques and fancy gifts.

I looked around, gawking at everything. "I'd better at least buy a cup of coffee while I'm here," I told myself, clutching my bag of handmade cards closer.

There were other customers behind me in the line and my unease grew. I didn't want to bother anyone - the owner seemed busy waiting on tables leaving her mother to wait on the line of people ordering coffee and pastries.

My nerve failed as I paid for my cup of coffee. But as I put creamer in my hazelnut special of the day, I felt the Spirit's nudge. "What have you got to lose? You prayed for favor - try Me!"

Since I was still standing near the register, the owner's mom asked if there was something else I needed so I told her why I was there. She brightened up and said, "Yes my daughter's interested. She'll be with you soon."

"Soon" turned into twenty minutes as I stood apart from the register with a smile pasted on my face to cover up my nervousness. But when it was my turn again, the owner put me at ease right away.

"I'll take 10 of each of these," she said, pointing to 9 different styles of cards. My heart jumped into my mouth as she asked to see holiday cards in another week.

Feeling like God had blessed me already, I decided to press things a little farther and showed her my novel, Daughter of Lot. Since I am pretty much on my own to market it, I try to take every opportunity I can to promote it, though it is hard for me.

Her response overwhelmed me as the owner got very excited. I'll take 15 copies she said, indicating the faith based items she sold in her store were good sellers. It certainly was more than I had hoped for.

How many times I have missed God's blessings because of my own insecurities! But I am learning to trust and listen to the Spirit's nudging. His blessings are worth the momentary discomfort as He stretches and renovates me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Scarlet Threads

I love to watch the way God weaves together the details of my life!

This particular color of thread began several years ago at a women's ministry luncheon, I viewed a video clip of a ministry which "redeemed" girls and young women from their slavery in the Far Eastern brothels. Many had been kidnapped or worse - sold by their families out of desperation to survive - and ended up as sex slaves in the city barrios and brothels. This ministry "purchased" the girls and then gave them their freedom, health care and an education so they would no longer be in danger of becoming slaves again.

That clip inspired the novel I am currently working on, but God didn't stop there.

Last year, I met a missionary wife who visits India several times each year, teaching the young women rescued from the brothels how to make jewelry. Her ministry to these women has become so successful, their jewelry making business now provides a support base for the work of the Indian ministry.

Meeting this young missionary wife motivated my decision to share a portion of the profit from my novel when it is published with a ministry of this type. But God didn't stop there.

Earlier this year I was approached by a young man to write copy for a new website. I am not a professional copy writer and had never advertised myself that way, but I agreed to do the work. His newly created non-profit organization dealt with ending child slavery world- wide. After completing the work, he sent me a copy of David Batstone's book, Not For Sale.

As I read through that book, I wept for the plight of those in bondage, especially the children who are forced to work in brothels. My heart broke again for them and I prayed, "It's not enough to promise a portion of the profit from a book that hasn't even been published yet. What can I do NOW, Lord?"

As though waiting for me to voice that question, He answered right away. "What do you have in your hands?"

"I make handmade greeting cards, Lord, but it's only a hobby. You'd have to find a market for them."

Within a few hours of voicing that prayer, my husband told me one of the local gift shops had been asking about my handmade cards. I hadn't even been in the store yet - they had "heard" about my cards from a friend of our family.

How amazing our God is - He weaves the most intricate patterns into our lives and provides direction for us to use our talents and abilities in the most effective way for Him. I look forward to seeing where this thread leads in the future and how it will look when completed! Our God is an awesome God.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

One of those mountaintop days




In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"We are not built for the mountains and the dawns and aesthetic affinities, those are for moments of inspiration, that is all. We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we
have to prove our mettle."
~ Oswald Chamber~


I'm VERY late in posting today, probably because I'm experiencing one of Oswald Chambers' mountaintop experiences; one of those moments of inspiration!

In case you were wondering, I'm involved in a week-long online writer's conference. It's a time of "getting away from it all" to learn, relax and to be inspired to follow the call to write God has placed on my life.

What an appropriate quote Laurel picked for today. You see, I can learn everything the presenters have to offer. I can sit and soak up their enthusiasm, causing my passion for writing God's message to flare to new heights. But unless I come back down to the valley and PRACTICE what I've learned, it does me (or anyone else) no good at all.

It's in the valley - the mundane day to day hours of sitting at the computer and actually pounding out the stories, struggling to find the right words, that the craft in me is honed. It is in the valley the message will have the most impact.

God is gracious to give us those mountain top experiences to refresh our weary hearts and strengthen us for the battles ahead. But He never meant us to remain there. He always places us where we will do the most good, where we can continue to grow and mature into the people (or writers) He intends us to be.

I plan to get the most out of this week that I can, but next week I will be ready to get back to the work of writing and sharing God's word with my newly learned skills.

See you then!

*****

If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Laurel Wreath" to read her take on the quote and to leave your blog address along with the other participants.



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Monday, October 8, 2007

Muse News

This is a big week for me as I attend a "Virtual Writing Conference."

In my early years of writing, I was privileged to attend several good conferences - the Montrose Christian Writer's Conference in northeastern PA and the Greater Philadelphia Writer's Conference, along with scores of one day workshops in various locations. But this is my first ever online conference. How neat to be able to sit in my recliner and prop my feet up while getting in on the chats and forums.

I felt like a kid in a candy shop as I ogled the workshop offerings several weeks ago. What to choose? There were sooooo many great looking sweets. I know I probably overindulged, choosing close to 40 different classes, but the good thing is that I'll take lots of notes and have time afterward to digest it all.

Looking over my choices, there are many workshops on book marketing - probably since that's where I am right now, trying to promote my first novel and getting insight on what I need to do better the next time around. Then there's the standard fare of How To's for the various types of writing I do. And just for the fun of it, I threw in a class or two on things like poetry and writing for kids - things I don't do often, but sounded interesting.

So if you think of me this week, pray for me! There's a lot to absorb and since I'm home doing the classes on my computer, there's a lot of distractions. Oops, my Sister-in-law is calling... What is that dog barking at now?...I really need to fold that huge pile of laundry...

Oh well, back to work!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Oreo - 0; Skunk - 50!

In the first 4 years of his life, Oreo never encountered a skunk.

We lived in a semi-wooded area, our nearest neighbors over a hundred yards away on any side. He was free to roam whenever he went outside, but being a Australian Shepherd mix he preferred to stay close to home especially if we were outside. Occasionally he chased a deer into the woods behind the house, returning when they ran too far away. It surprises me he never had the misfortune to meet a skunk there.

But all of that changed when we moved to the edge of town where we live now. Oreo's free roaming days are over because our neighbors are a lot closer and there is even a small but busy gas station across the street. We also have a neighborhood skunk who makes his rounds every few nights.

Once in a while, Dan will let Oreo run at night before bed; after the gas station closes and our neighbors' lights are out. But last night he didn't realize Mr. Skunk was afoot. Usually his reputation precedes him so we are more careful about Oreo.

Being the joyful, gregarious small critter chaser he is, Oreo took off around the side of the house and startled Mr. Skunk who delivered a parting shot before waddling away. Poor Oreo...he got his first ever tomato bath followed by a lather of shampoo with Pine-Sol and had to spend the night in his kennel rather than with us.

At least he wasn't too smelly and the tomatoes did work. But he definitely won't be roaming free at night anymore for awhile...

Like we try to keep Oreo out of trouble in his new surroundings, God tries to keep us as Christians from becoming entangled in sin again through His Spirit and through our conscience. But because we have a free will, we are free to sniff after sin and sometimes, it catches us. If we confess it, He is faithful to forgive us, but we might have to deal with its after effects, like Oreo's tomato and Pine Sol bath to get the stench of it off afterward!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Where have all the hamsters gone?

"Hey Mommy!" My daughter called to me excitedly. "The hamsters have babies!"

Hmmm. They weren't there the night before so apparently we ended up buying a pregnant girl hamster at the store to replace one that died. Sigh! Just what I needed - more hamsters to take care of.

Throughout the day, the kids ogled their little mama through the plastic cage. I even caught them trying to reach in several times and scolded them. "Leave the poor mamma alone!"

Mamma hamster made a little nest in the far corner of the cage and covered her babies up with shavings just so we couldn't see them. She was fun to watch. But she must have had her fill of ogling eyes because the next morning when we came downstairs and peeked into her cage, THE BABIES WERE GONE!

Just to be sure, I removed her from the cage and cleaned the whole thing thoroughly. No babies. I wondered about it and talked to a few friends about it until I learned the awful truth...Hamsters will eat their young if they feel there is danger lurking around. That momma ATE her babies! EWWWWW, GROSS!

It still makes me sick to think about it. But what makes me even sicker is the fact that Christians tend to "eat" other Christians. We "roast" our preachers and youth pastors for Sunday lunch. We criticize and complain about everything at church that doesn't go the way we think it should. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the dear older saints say they want to minister to the young people, but they can't come to church with tattoos, piercings and black lipstick or nail polish.

Father, help us to open our hearts to one another in love. When one person hurts may others gather around in support. Help us not to pit one against another, but to learn to work together to bring glory to Your name and to further Your kingdom! Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The attack of the killer glue stick...



I'm up to my eyeballs in card stock and glue as I work without ceasing on my niece's wedding invitations.

At first they were going to get married next summer which would have given me lots of time to make 180 invitations. The design Tara picked out was relatively simple - a tri-fold card which opens in the middle of the front. Inside is a vellum insert with all the information on it. On the outside is an embossed calla lily with the scripture from I Corinthians 13:13, matted with a pastel piece of card stock (see photo).

Now they've moved up the wedding date to Thanksgiving weekend so I have to work at warp speed to get them all done. So far I have 50 completed.

In the meantime, I also have another order for 25 party invitations to finish, housekeeping to do, tomatoes to freeze, applesauce to make, children's ministry on Wednesday evening and Sunday morning to prepare for and a host of other mundane things to do.

I learned a long time ago to pace myself and not to take on too much, but every so often the earth shifts through no fault of my own and all of a sudden everything is happening at once. Those are the days I've learned to call on God for His strength and help to do what needs to be done for that day.

I make a list of the day's chores and prioritize them, then pray over them that God will help me to do what is necessary and give me strength to do it. What doesn't get done will just have to wait for tomorrow.

Sometimes it leads to extra gray hair and some minor (?) frustrations, but as long as I start my day by taking time to nurture my relationship with God, I can get through it with His help.

So for today I will do battle with my glue stick and let any unnecessary things go til tomorrow with a clear conscience, knowing God will help me to eventually get it all done.Then I'll stop and regroup, giving up any unnecessary activities so I don't shift into "Martha" mode again.

When I become disgruntled inside, everyone around me feels it. But when God and His presence fill me, that's what spills out. God, please let your spirit spill out from me today!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

From Somber To Sunny...



In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:



"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in HIS wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, by the light of His glory and grace."

~ Helen Limmel ~


She was a slim young woman with her hair pulled severely back into a tight bun. Her clothes were typical for the early 1900s time period - a dark colored dress with long sleeves and high neckline, the hem just touching the tops of her high black shoes.

What struck me most in this photo of my grandmother was her somber face. I knew her as a vibrant woman full of energy and fun, her face often wrinkling with laugh lines. But here she was, staring back at me so seriously. It just didn't seem to fit her personality.

Religious art from that same time period reflects a similar lack of joy - pictures of Christ staring at me with such a somber soulful expression, it makes me cringe. You see, I need to walk and talk with a God Who smiles.

I don't want to feel like He is upset with me or that I am lacking something in His presence whenever I look at some artist's perception of Him. All my dad had to do was give me "that look" of disapproval and I would turn into a spineless jellyfish, simpering and trying to do whatever he wanted. I DON'T NEED to envision my friend Jesus like that!

Some of my favorite pictures of Him are the more recent ones with the children. His hair is windblown and he is laughing with them, hugging them and smiling at them. When I look full into His wonderful face in prayer or worship. this is how I see Him - joyful, vibrant and loving. What comfort that image of Him brings to my care-worn soul.

When I see Him smiling, I smile back - not only at Him, but at everyone I meet. It's like the joy cannot be contained inside and has to spill out through a smile, a chuckle or a song. The pain of life's difficulties seems to fade away in the light of His glorious, gracious smile and I can rest in His presence, knowing I am loved.

For more thoughts on Walking with a God who smiles, check out my blog on Thursday, September 27, 2007.

**********

If you would like to join us today, visit I Will Take it Lord, All You Have To Give to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.





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Monday, October 1, 2007

Blue,blue my room is blue...

Wow! It's REALLY blue. But so far, everyone who has seen our newly painted Sunday School classroom likes it.

We got off to a late start - after planning to start around 8 am, we spent the morning cleaning up the room. The room had been used for storage as well as Sunday School, so all that extra stuff had to go! Then we wiped down the windows and the wall where it was the worst with black dust streaks. I'm not sure when it was painted last but the white swirl-textured plaster walls were grungy.

We set up the sewing machine and took a break to go buy the paint and pick up Sarah who would be sewing the new curtains for us. When we got back an hour later, we had to figure out how the sewing machine worked and finally we started to paint about 11:30.

Uh-oh. Why was the color so dark? As Brooke started to do the edging so I could follow along with the roller, the paint looked darker than I thought it should so I mentioned it to her. We then realized the wrong color had been mixed at the paint store. That meant another break to return the paint and get the proper color. Boy were we thankful the manager replaced it at no cost to us. Whew!

Finally we began painting in earnest about 12:30. Brooke and I finished painting our Sunday School classroom on Saturday evening - with the help of a professional house painter from our church who felt sorry for us. We struggled all day until about 4:30 and felt great about finishing 2 walls, but were sad to have to quit without finishing.

Greg came over as we were getting ready to clean up and painted the remaining 2 walls in a half hour! HONEST! Thank you Greg!

Now all we have to do are the touch ups and finish sewing the pillows for the children to sit on in the story area. When all is said and done, I'll post a picture. Until then, just remember - it is really BLUE - almost the deep blue of the sky on a crisp fall day.

At least we haven't stirred up a church controversy on the choice of color...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Walking with a God Who Smiles

You will show me the way of life. Being with You is to be full of joy. In Your right hand there is happiness forever. (Psalm 16:11 New Life Version)

One of my favorite pictures of Jesus is one that depicts Him with the children. He’s seated on a large rock, holding several children while the others stand nearby – and He’s smiling at them.

Each Sunday as I was dismissed to go down to my Sunday School class, I passed this life-sized painting in the stairwell. I remember imagining myself on His lap, thinking how safe and comforting it would be to have Him as my friend. Oh, how I wanted to please Him – to see Him smile at me just the way He smiled at those children.

Thank God for a teacher who told me about His love. It was His love and the image of His smiling face that kept me through all the pain of childhood abuse.He opened His arms to me and I ran to Him where I could be safe and loved, in spite of the pain and shame of my life.

As an adult, I began to realize that I had lost sight of His loving smile. I tried to present a strong face to the world - that of a confident and capable woman, writer, pastor's wife and mother among other things. Yet, deep inside I was still a hurting little child, longing for my heavenly Father's smile and approval.

Even now, there are times when the clouds obscure His smile. When I feel alone and depressed, I work at imagining myself clambering onto His lap where I can bury my face in His wool cloak and cry out my hurts. When the tears dry, I can look into His face and see that same tender smile, like the sunshine emerging from the clouds on a rainy day..My heart is once again healed of its hurt and confusion in the light of His love.

Have you ever worshiped in abandon, like a child? Imagine yourself in a field of wild flowers, twirling for joy at being alive and laughing aloud at the wonder of His creation. Picture yourself taking Him by the hand to point out some amazing flower or small butterfly perched on the edge of a leaf. Oh the wonder, the love, the peace and joy of such moments. No wonder He said we need to become as little children.

Father God - Daddy - Help me to always walk with a God who smiles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Extreme Makeover - CE Edition!

It's Extreme Makeover - Christian Education Edition!

Ever since the Associate Pastor's wife and I get back from the Pastor's Wives Retreat last week, we've been plotting how to revitalize a classroom in our building that we share. She is going to be teaching the Junior High Youth group in that class beginning next month and I just started teaching the Bible story for the Wednesday evening children's program in the same room.

What color do you paint a classroom - especially one with a weird green carpet?

I decided to look up information on the psychology of color and found out that children love bright primary colors. But red stimulates a faster heartbeat and intense emotions. Definitely a "NO" for the room. (The boys in our class gave us a thumbs down for pink so that's out too).

Yellow is out too since babies tend to cry more in a yellow room and people tend to lose their tempers more often, even though yellow is a sunny, cheerful color.

While I loved purple as a kid, not everyone does. Since we also share the room with two other teachers on Sunday mornings, purple may not work.

That pretty much left shades of blue (peaceful), green (calming) and brown(earthy). So armed with our new found knowledge, we went shopping and brought home some paint chips. We chose an aqua blue for the walls because it looked better with the carpet and a mocha color for the trim in the room.

So far we found a wonderful brown area rug to put in one corner. We plan to make throw pillows of coordinating blue and green to sit on along with a great wooden bench that's already in the room. We're planning on coordinating blue and green curtains. I found some fun posters with hidden Bible pictures in them - you almost have to be cross eyed to see the real picture...

What fun! We plan to start work this weekend and continue whenever we can until it gets done.

Though we know we don't have to go overboard to make the room look like a page from Better Homes and Gardens, we do want the children to feel welcome and happy to be there. Any place that generates more pleasure than negative feelings will be a place where children will want to be. So we'll paint the walls with eye pleasing colors and ask God to color our hearts with love for these precious saints under construction.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Think BIG!



In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"If we could understand everything God does, then He'd have to be a small god--small enough to fit in our little minds."

~ Randy Alcorn ~



My youngest daughter was fifteen when she came to me and said, “Mom, I want a dog.”

Because of her low self esteem and some of the emotional problems she had already gone through in her young life, I thought it would be a good thing for her. “Sure. We can get a dog.”

“I want either a Saint Bernard or a Great Dane.”

Whoa! BIG dog. I was a bit nervous at that – after all, we lived in a parsonage even though it was large with lots of ground around it. Any pets we acquired needed to be reasonable so I said, “Those are big dogs and very expensive.(Duh!) We’ll have to pray about it. (Real spiritual.) If God wants you to have one, He will have to provide one for free.”

Whew! I thought I was off the hook. Surely God wouldn’t send us a dog like that. I figured this idea would just blow over and things could get back to normal. We’d wait awhile and then go to the shelter and get a nice little dog. So why were my eyes drawn to the pet column in our weekly paper?

There she was, a purebred Great Dane, free to a good home. I dialed the number and heaved a sigh of relief when the voice on the other end told me she was already gone. But wait – would I leave my number anyway?

Cammie was disappointed, but I assured her, we would still get a nice little dog. Before we had a chance to go to the shelter, the owner of the Great Dane called back and said Sadie was available again. The family that took her lived in an apartment and didn’t realize how BIG she was. Uh-oh.

We met the owner at a local ice cream stand. She explained that Sadie would follow us anywhere for ice cream. After the dog wolfed down a large vanilla cone, she squeezed into the back seat of the car between my daughters, smiling her Great Dane smile and drooling. Allissa shrank as far over to the door as possible to avoid an unwanted bath, while Cammie hugged and loved on her new pet.

In my mind, I never understood how such a BIG dog could be so gentle. Though she looked intimidating, she was as loving as they came. Because she was well trained, she walked easily on a leash. I felt a sense of security having her around as well as comfort in the months that followed when our family went through some difficult times.

When Cammie married several years later, she received a Chihuahua for a wedding gift. Seeing the two dogs together often made me smile as little Egggo gazed up at Sadie. I often wondered what the little one was thinking until I saw a poster of a Chihuahua sitting next to a Great Dane. In the bubble above the little dog’s head were the words, “Think BIG!”

While I never can fully understand why or how God does the things He does, I always try to remind myself to “Think Big.” Like the little dog, I worry and fret over problems. I try to solve them in my own might and usually fall flat on my face.

But when I remember there are no unsolvable problems, no hopeless situations for the God of the Universe, I can let go of my finite vision and futile attempts at making things right. He is BIG, strong and yet gentle as He wraps His loving arms around me and tells me “I AM in control.”


If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote at your blog site, then visit "Joy in the Morning" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.


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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Going through a thorny situation?



In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"They gave our Master a crown of thorns. Why do we hope for a crown of roses?"
~ Martin Luther ~



Over my years in ministry, I have met many people who cry out to the Lord at the least bit of trouble in their lives.

“Deliver me from this pain and suffering, Lord,” they cry, tears streaming down their faces. But when the Lord doesn’t deliver them, they become angry or fearful, believing that God really never loved them in the first place or that there is something wrong with their faith. Some slip away from the Lord. Others become rebellious, acting out like children.

Our first inclination is to want to be free from the pain in our lives. We squirm and struggle under God’s hand, forgetting or ignoring that He might be doing something deeper and more lasting than a “surface” miracle.

Dr. Richard Dobbins of Emerge Ministries in Akron, Ohio put it this way: “Until the pain of change hurts less than the pain of staying the same, people prefer to stay the same.”

Did you catch that? Most people don’t make lifestyle changes until after they have been diagnosed with diabetes or after a heart attack. It takes the pain and fear of the future to make us take hold of the here and now and make it the best we can.

Think about it. The pain we are going through might be the very catalyst God needs to use to make eternal changes in our lives. Without that pain, we might never be at the place spiritually to make the necessary changes in our hearts. Instead of taking us out of the pain, He changes our hearts and causes us to grow THROUGH the pain.

Sure it is easier to walk a rose strewn pathway, but I’ve noticed in my own life that when I walk the rosy path, I soon get so accustomed to smelling the wonderful fragrance of the flowers along the way. It takes a wake up call from God to remind me to breathe and smell the wondrous scent of His presence with me again.

Perhaps the lesson in this week’s quote is this: the pain Jesus endured each day here on earth (through the actions of others against Him and because of the sin all around Him) helped to keep Him focused on God and the great love He has for His creation. We will always accomplish more while wearing the thorns than wearing the roses, even though they hurt less…



If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your blog site, then visit “Sting My Heart" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The case of the crumbling cake

It was a miserable failure!

Last week, my mother in law remarked about how hungry she felt for something sweet like cake. She is allergic to wheat and yeast and I have been baking yeast-less bread with all kinds of different flours which taste pretty good.

"That's easy," I told her. "I have an applesauce cake recipe which is very good. I'll just substitute oat and white rice flour instead of the wheat flour and it'll be great."

NOT!

I bought the applesauce and raisins, then mixed up the batter. It tasted wonderful because apples and oats go well together. But when I baked it, it became a crumbly mess. It broke into five pieces when I took it out of the loaf pan. Then whenever I tried to slice it, each piece immediately crumbled. The crumbs were very tasty, but who wants to eat a plate of crumbs?

After doing some research, I realized that the oat and white rice flours need to be mixed with another sort of starch - like cornstarch, potato or tapioca starch to perform better. An extra egg white would have helped as well to serve as a binding agent.

"Well," I reasoned, "Why waste perfectly good and tasty cake crumbs?" So I bought a bag of apples and made an apple crisp, using the cake crumbs as topping. Yum!

I had to laugh at myself as God reminded me of the truth of the situation. When I try to take short cuts and to do things myself without God's help, it often results in a crumbly mess that falls apart (or I end up falling apart!)

I can only function when I add healthy doses of His Presence to my life. He holds me together and keeps me on track. And when I fail, He always brings good things out of my failures.

Thank You Lord, for being so patient with me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How much are you worth?



In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love."
~Henry Scougal ~

(The Life of God in the Soul of Man ), quoted by John Piper in The Pleasures of God



I was awed this week to find out I am worth over $45,000,000. Yup - me!

If our bodies were taken apart, the average human body would be worth a bundle based on cost estimates from insurance companies and hospitals. These prices were found in an August 2003 blurb by the Indiana University School of Medicine if you want to check it out.( http://soundmedicine.iu.edu/archive/2003/quiz/humanWorth.html )

Bone marrow: An average person has 1,000 grams which are valued at $23,000 per gram

DNA: worth about $9.7 million

Germ-fighting antibodies: worth $7.3 million

Body parts: A lung - $116,400
A Kidney - $91,000
A Heart - $57,000
A Fertile Woman's eggs (Based on the harvest of 4 per year for 8 years) - $224,000

If all this is true and our bodies are really that valuable, just take a moment to consider how valuable our souls must be to God that He would take one perfect body - that of His Son, Jesus - and sacrifice it to pay the price for one imperfect soul that has been tainted by sin. Then multiply it by the billions of souls who have ever lived on this earth. Astronomical!

"The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love."

How great is His Love!

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If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Laurel Wreath" to read her take on the quote and leave your blog URL along with the other participants. Don't forget to check out the other blogs and leave a comment for them as well. You will be blessed!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Why would anyone want to do that?




In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:


"Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched. Why would you really want to do that?"

~ Henri Nouwen ~




God has blessed me with many friends.

There are the acquaintances I know well enough to smile and nod a greeting to on the street. They may know a little about me – what I look like, what I like to wear, maybe even my testimony if they’ve ever heard me speak. Most of what they know is surface stuff or things they see on the outward part of me. They are friends, but not people to whom I would reveal the innermost parts of my being, simply because we haven’t developed a relationship yet.

Then there are my friends, those with whom I share parts of myself in an open and honest way – a genuine smile, a heart felt word of encouragement, allowing them to see some of my vulnerabilities. Mostly these are the members of my “extended” circle – like church family members, relatives and those with whom I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee and some good conversation. We share many things, occasionally even on a level below the surface, especially as I get to know them better and begin to develop a trusting relationship with them.

However, we all have that inner circle of friends – those “best friends” as we called them in our childhood days – to whom we confide our hidden flaws and faults. These are the friends who have proven themselves trustworthy – the ones we have spent time with and worked hard to develop a depth of relationship to the point where we can talk about anything and everything without fear of rejection.

For many people like me, the wounds of childhood make it difficult at best, if not impossible to allow anyone past the second stage of friendship. I feared becoming vulnerable to others who might see my hurts and fears and exploit them, hurting me again. Even though it was painful to lock away my innermost being – that pot-bellied, love-starved child with the big sad eyes who hurt so bad – it was preferable to feeling hurt and betrayal all over again. I just couldn’t take that chance.

Even though I met and accepted Jesus as my friend at an early age, I couldn’t trust Him enough to let Him into the center of my person. I was adept at praying for others and for the things I needed, but I refused to let Him become my “Best” Friend - to see the hurting child inside of me. For a long time, I wouldn’t even look at her myself. She simply didn’t exist as I went about my daily routine of doing for my family and others.

Christ and I shared a good friendship as He worked slowly and patiently to build a relationship of trust and love all around that imprisoned part of myself. I loved Him as a friend, but wouldn’t let Him close enough to really know His love. I wouldn’t allow Him to touch that sensitive part of my heart.

But Jesus is never content to remain on the outside looking in. He could see past all my stone walls, past all the chains and locks on my inner doors. He saw the needy vulnerable parts of myself, that hurting inner child, and He smiled at her. In her weakened state, she began to wail. Faintly at first, but hungrily determined – she was starved and desperate for the love in His eyes.

Between Christ’s gentle outward pressure and the insistent wailing from within, I knew I would either have to turn and run away or allow the intimacy of relationship prayer demanded. My old nature died the day I allowed Him to bread down the walls imprisoning the sin-emaciated part of myself that wounded, hurting child inside.

It wasn’t something I wanted to do. Rather, I needed to make that choice to allow Him in to feed and heal that malnourished part of myself. Sin brings death and eternal suffering. His healing touch brings life and eternal peace. It was time to truly know His peace in every part of my being.

Making the choice to trust Him to break down my inner walls meant praying Henri Nouwen’s kind of prayer – the kind that lets Him into the very core of my being to touch the parts of myself I would rather leave untouched. It requires developing an intimate relationship, far beyond the surface friendship I share with most people.

Why would I want to do that? Because the suffering, starving part of me demands it, craves it weeps for it. That hurting child inside wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than His unconditional love and acceptance!

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If you would like to join us today, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit "Fruit in Season" to read her take on the quote and to leave your link along with the other participants.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day?

A Christian comedian described Labor Day as the one day out of the year that they had to make their whole home and property shine - hence the holiday's name - LABOR Day...

It took him years to realize their family was working hard while other boys his age were chowing down on hot dogs and baiting fishing hooks. That was the day he and his dad had a loooooong talk.

Well, I'm not planning on working hard today - I only have to do a little cooking before we head out to Dan's mom's house for an end of summer picnic. Most of the boxes are gone and the house is pretty much in order so I think a day of relaxing from my labors is in order.

Hope you all have a safe and happy day too!

Bonnie

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taking off the armor...




In "Other" Words

This week's quote is:

"Under the banner of God, victory is always assured; but apart from it, defeat is a certainty. When the banner of God's rod was not held high, Amalek prevailed.
You can't do battle against the flesh under your own power."
~ Kay Arthur ~
Lord, I Want to Know




If I could have designed my own family banner as a young Christian, I would have pictured a knight standing on a hillside facing the enemy, resplendent in her polished armor, red plume on the helmet waving in the wind of adversity and a lance with bright blue streamers attached to it in one hand. In her other hand would be a sword, poised to strike as she stands ready to do battle to protect her territory.

That was the way I always pictured myself as a young person and a young Christian. Can you see the problem with that mental image? Right! I always pictured myself standing there ALONE, poised to fight for my Lord, rather than with Him.

In reality, I was fighting for my life – developing coping strategies to live with the damage from abuse and pain in my young life. I needed to portray an image of strength and control to myself and the world around me for if they saw my vulnerability, they might be able to hurt me again.

I didn’t even want Jesus to know of the hurting child behind the armor plating. Not only did the armor keep me from getting hurt again, but it held my frail heart together within its confines, It also kept out the healing love of Jesus that I desperately needed.

But He is never fooled by the shining armor and brave hillside stance. When I finally collapsed under the weight of my own protective armor, He was there, gently removing the helmet and protective metal, ministering to the hurting heart inside all the while.

Intimacy
by Bonnie Winters © 2000

Today You asked me for the key
To the secret place of my heart.
I stood before You naked and ashamed,
Desperately wanting to hide
The unclean thoughts, the secret fears,
My angers and jealousies,
All the things I know You hate.
Somehow, You might love me less
If you knew of this ugly darkness.
”I will do more good works for others,
I’ll be a better person, You’ll see.
Just don’t look inside my hidden heart.”

My child don’t you understand?
I already know your hurting heart.
By keeping y our fears and failures
Hidden from My loving view,
You only deprive yourself of the love
And mercy of My outstretched hand.
I want to open the old wounds,
And bathe them in forgiveness
Until they are wholly cleansed
And your heart is pure before Me,
For you are the work of My hands,
The beloved creation of My heart




If I were to design my family banner today, I think I would picture a woman in street clothes, standing on a hillside. In one hand she would hold the Word of God, her sword and shield. With her other hand, she would be holding tightly to His hand. No more armor, and definitely not ALONE. We are fighting together under His banner and we are winning!


If you would like to join us, simply blog about the quote on your blog site, then visit "Joy in the Morning" to read her take on the quote and leave your link along with the other participants.



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Monday, August 27, 2007

Elephant Burgers, Anyone?

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time!

Can you tell I feel a bit overwhelmed? Standing in my spare room filled from floor to ceiling boxes, I find myself wondering, "Where will I put everything?"

The temptation exists to just pull everything out of the boxes and stick it ANYWHERE just to rid my room of boxes. Then my sanity takes over and says, "If you put it where it belongs now, you won't have to move it around later."

So I'm taking my time, thinking hard about the contents of each box and trying to figure out where it fits into this new house puzzle. I have to admit, it's working pretty well. My office has never been this organized. It may take longer to unpack, but in the end, it will be less stressful later on and worth the time to do it right.

When I moved deeper into relationship with Christ, I brought an elephant-sized mound of stuff with me - past traumas, the results of poor choices, damaged ways of coping with things, plus a lot of good experiences, friendships and traits I thought were worth keeping or developing.

I am so thankful God is patient with me and helps me sort through all those things one life lesson at a time, helping me prayerfully consider where each thing belongs in relation to Him. He sees value in much of the junk and has spent time fixing it before placing it in its proper place. And He has tossed a lot of things I thought were worth keeping in my life.

Though it has taken a lifetime so far, He is helping me deal with my elephants one bite at a time, relieving tons of frustration and creating a beautiful space in my heart where I can spend time with Him.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thanks for being there!

Thanks to all my cyber friends for being patient with me during this "moving" experience!

I wish I had something profound to say this morning, but I'm still up to my elbows in boxes here in my office. I hope to get everything straightened around soon.

In the meantime, I appreciate all your prayers and messages of encouragement (now that I finally have my Internet working again.) I amazes me how dependent I've become on technology to feel "connected" to the outside world. LOL!

I just wanted to let you know I've missed blogging and reading yours too! Looking forward to "seeing" you all again on a regular basis starting next week.

Bonnie

Friday, August 17, 2007

Anything that can go wrong...

I've known it all along - good old Murphy even enjoys showing up for church dinners...

Today was the funeral for a dear saint of God, a long time church member and mother of our youth pastor, Cyndi. Of course, as a love gesture toward the family, we wanted to have a meal for the family following the commital service.

Those who normally plan and work in the kitchen at such meals were unable to do it this time - one had a spouse in the hospital, another had a medical appointment and couldn't be there. Of course, this being County Fair week, several church families had commitments to work in booths or exhibits at the fairgrounds. Others were working at their regular jobs which left me to make the phone calls asking for menu items.

Not that I mind, you understand, but I'm not real good at delegating and exactly how much ham DO you buy to feed 50 people?

I decided to fix scalloped potatoes, baked beans and coleslaw. I had most of the ingredients for those recipes. That's when old Murphy showed up with his book of outrageous laws. #467 clearly states that when you have packed all of your baking dishes in preparation for a family move next Tuesday, you will need them and you won't remember which box you put them in!

Okay - back to WalMart for some of those nice aluminum baking pans so I could do the potatoes. So far, so good. My coleslaw turned out fine, but that's because Murphy was busy sticking his fingers in the beans. I soaked them and found a wonderful recipe online (since my recipe books were packed too - law #468) But for some reason, they just wouldn't cook right and were still hard Friday morning.

Murphy laughingly pointed out law # 573 - unless I bought the canned baked beans and doctored them up, my beans were doomed to failure. This time I sent my husband to WalMart.

In the meantime, my daughter-in-law burned the sauce for her 2 large pans of mac and cheese (because my Teflon coated pan was packed - laws #466 and #351) and my potatoes didn't finish cooking until the dinner was halfway over (law #111). We planned for 50 people, but some of the family members didn't stay so there were only about 25 - I bought WAY TOO MUCH ham (law # 492)

Well, by that time, I'd had my fill of old Murphy but he didn't stick around at the church very long. Goodbye Murphy - Hello Jesus! The Lord sent him packing with his book of silly rules as He blessed the food and fellowship around the tables - His comfort was offered and love shared.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Walking In The Wilderness



In "Other" Words



This week's quote is:

"Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name..."
~ Matt Redman ~
Lyrics from "Blessed be Your Name"




Some of the most beloved novels I have read are the epic “journey” tales where the main character is faced with a challenge that they must meet, causing them to leave family and friends and set out on a long trip (Pilgrim’s Progress, Lord of the Rings, Hinds Feet on High Places, the Narnia chronicles, etc.).

Sometimes they are being chased along the way by an enemy, either seen or unseen. Other times they must fight the enemy within in order to move forward on their life’s chosen road. But invariably, the main character comes to a wilderness – a bleak, vast expanse desert-type experience which they must cross in order to continue their quest.

In the wilderness, the character often has a respite from the physical enemies he or she faces. The landscape may seem the same day after bleak, weary day. There is a sense of aloneness, like they have been forsaken by their mentors or their companions. Of all the times in the story, it is the time when they are most tempted to turn back and forget the whole thing.

But it is in the wilderness where internal conflict is at its peak. Here the character must battle their inner selves, to overcome doubts and fears. Here they must resolve the questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I doing this?” “Is it really worth it?”

Is it any wonder God, the great Author and Finisher of our faith, uses wilderness experiences to shape us in our life-long “journey tales?” In those bleak times when the landscape looks the same day after day, when we feel alone, even forsaken by God, we can discover the most beautiful touches of His Hand upon our lives.

When we take that second deeper look outside our woe-be-gone selves, we discover the amazing flowers that bloom in the desert, the variety and intricate creative design of the desert dwelling animals. We learn the intimacy of His Presence in a way we can never see Him amidst the chaos and busyness of our lives. Our personal wilderness experiences are truly used by God to enhance and strengthen our spiritual lives if we will learn to focus on Him.

Just as the characters in a journey tale will come out of their wilderness experiences strengthened and with renewed purpose for their quest, our wilderness experiences become God’s gift to us to strengthen and help us face the arduous road ahead

“Though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be your name…”

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If you would like to join us this week, simply blog about the quote on your site, then visit Iris (eph 2810) over at Sting My Heart to read her take on the quote and leave your URL along with the other participants.