Being a Friend Through Difficult Times

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My best friend is going through one of the worst possible circumstances I’ve ever heard of.  This has happened before with another friend….a life altering circumstance that seems like a black hole of unending depth, sorrow, and muck.  How can you be a friend to someone in such turmoil?  Often times I feel completely helpless for her.  I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to help, and I don’t really even know how to pray.  It’s gut wrenching, my heart hurts (along with hers), and I truly can’t imagine the pain she must have to process minute by minute each day.  It’s the kind of thing that you think can’t get worse, but it does.  The kind of pain that comes in every direction and effects every part of her life.  She is a rock star, though, and is taking one day at a time, trusting the Lord, and trying to thrive through this.  I, on the other hand, feel like I’m failing as a friend, am not handling things well at all, and am sad a lot.  I can’t even really imagine how I’d handle all she’s going through if it were me.  I think I’d just curl up in a ball, cry all the time, and not be able to function.  Yes, I’d try to pray, and try to trust God, but I would be so hurt and angry, I don’t know how well I’d do anything.

I also have a lot of fear.  Because this has happened before, I know that it can devastate a friendship.  It can cause emotional distance because of the major life changes, it can even cause moves across many miles.  I don’t think either side desires the distance, really, but it can occur.  I think I am very cautious with friendships as it is.  I don’t allow myself to get too close to too many people because I’ve been hurt deeply before and, because I’m an introvert and many people don’t understand an introvert.  But, I do love my friends.  I try to be a good friend, and hope that I am.  I’m just very careful who I truly open myself up to.  But, once you’re in my inner circle, I love you.  I would do anything for you.  I hurt, empathize, sympathize, hold accountable, and hope you will feel comfortable enough to do the same for me.  Most do (if they come into that inner circle).  I open up a part of me that few know.  And, I trust that all will be held in confidence.

And, then there’s anger.  I get angry at the people who wrongly judge, who don’t understand what’s been happening, yet cast their opinions or views to my friend.  Christian people who can’t possibly understand what all has happened, who get ugly with and confront her.  People who really have no business doing so because they don’t know and don’t understand.  They think they are trying to help her, or hold her accountable to something that they feel is a standard set for believers, yet who rather should be supporting her, understanding her, believing she is doing the right things, and has been praying and seeking the Lord in and through it all.  This is hard enough for her, after all, she doesn’t need the extra condemnation.

And when these awful life circumstances occur, I get lost.  I don’t know what to do, or how to appropriately respond.  I pray, of course.  I don’t always know HOW to pray, but I do pray.  I try to help however help is needed.  In one of these circumstances, I didn’t know what to do, so I organized a group of ladies to go over to my friend’s home and clean it.  Really clean it.  A good amount of help showed up while the friend was not at home, and we really made a big difference, and I think that my friend greatly appreciated it.  It really wasn’t much, but it was something.  I didn’t have a clue what else I could do!  Another friend, I took a homemade basket of fruit to.  Still, so simple, but it was something that I could do, and that I knew she could use.  Other times I’ve thought of things that I thought would be helpful that my friend was nowhere near ready for, and I end up hurting her further.  Those are really difficult to take, as my intentions were certainly to help, not to hurt.  Being a friend in difficult times can be so hard.

These times are so hard.  You hear more and more unbelievably awful things happening these days.  I can’t help but believe that the end is near.  Jesus will be coming back soon.  I can’t wait until that day when there will be no more pain, hurt, sadness, and heartache.  We will truly be free.  Until that time, we must press on, seek His face, try to be the best person we can despite awful circumstances, and pray continually.

Has anything like this happened to you or someone you love?  What do you do?  How do you show your friendship? I’d love to hear.  Maybe it will help me to better know how to help when my friends are suffering.  That’s really all I want to do…..help.

In Christ,

Dena

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Teaching From Rest Book Review

Right before school started this year, I discovered this little gem of a book called Teaching From Rest:  A Homeschooler’s Guide to UNSHAKEABLE PEACE by Sarah Mackenzie.  It was a quick read, but wonderful!  I also used the Companion Guide to go along with it.

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I LOVE Homeschooling!  I do!  Even though I’ve been at it for 12 years, I still occasionally feel like I need a renewed spirit, a renewed focus, a change-up of some kind.  I am very confident in my curriculum choices, my methods, and in the way I like to teach and the way my children learn.  But, sometimes I feel like there’s still something more that I’m missing; things have become dull, or I am no longer looking forward to the year.  So, often times, I do more research.  I think maybe I need to change up curriculum, or make a different kind of schedule.  Those things may be needed, but I think deep down, what I’ve really been looking for is REST.  A state of rest.  Over this past summer, I was feeling those feelings again….that need for something different, a renewed focus or goal, a change-up of some sort, when I came across this little book called Teaching From Rest.  It peaked my interest, so I picked it up.  I didn’t read it for some time, though….that happens sometimes when I get a new book.  Finally, at the end of the summer, I decided to take some time and read this little gem.  On the first few pages, I realized that there was also an optional study guide that I could purchase and download.  So, I did that, and printed it out.  I love being able to take a book and make it more into a book study, with notes, and truly feel like I’m growing and changing, so this option seemed like a great plan!

The book is written in three parts.  Part One is: Whose “Well Done” Are You Working For?  Part Two is: Curriculum Is Not Something You Buy.  And, Part Three is: Be Who You Are!  Each of the parts are broken down even further so that you can read in sections, which is nice (especially if you are frequently interrupted).  If you get the Companion Guide, it has a place for you to take notes throughout the chapters, then some application questions following that with ample space to record answers and notes.

Part 2 was very applicable.  Sarah gave clear steps on how to teach from rest and obtain unshakeable peace.  Also in Part 2, she shows you how to break down your busy schedules to see how much time you have, and how much time you need, to homeschool.  We often plan our time around our homeschooling, but she suggests we plan our homeschooling around our lives, around the time we have left.  Sounds like a strange concept, huh?  It makes complete sense to me now, and I am grateful to have read her tips on this!  I did follow her advice, and did simplify our days somewhat, but I think this type of schedule will be a work in process for a while.  In fact, now that we are mid-year, I am going to go back to this book and re-evaluate our schedule, and this time I’m hoping to add in a tea time and a time for rest and reading mid-day (she explains this further in part 2).

The book goes right along with my Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, too!  But, I do believe that whether you use Charlotte Mason’s methods or not, you will still glean a lot of great information from this little book.

After we had been in our school year for a good chunk of time, I realized things weren’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped. So, partway through our year, I had to make some changes to curriculum and our schedule.  With just a few tweaks, things did improve, and now that we are at the beginning of a new semester I’m changing a few more things, and I believe things will improve immensely!

One of the things that I haven’t implemented that was suggested in this book was a Quiet Reading Hour.  (I briefly mentioned this above).  I really want to include a time for this beginning with the New Year!  I wish I had added it at the beginning of our school year.  We do read, we read a lot.  However, I don’t get that time to read for me.  And, implementing a Quiet Reading Hour would be great because then we’d all get to enjoy some free reading.  Just a time of reading for fun!  I think we could all use that!  I do have one that is not yet reading, so this could prove a bit difficult, but maybe I could give her some audio books to look through.  And, as long as each of us are in separate spaces and being quiet, it should work out just fine.

This book is truly a little gem that I will have to pick up each year, possibly several times a year, to reevaluate, to get inspired, to refocus.  It brings me back to my goals in homeschooling, a simpler way, a restful and joyful way, full of peace.  I would highly recommend it!  And, I would also recommend the Companion Journal.  Check them out here.

Wishing you a blessed and happy New Year!

Dena

Favorite Jesse Tree & Advent Resources

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The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean is such a wonderful resource for using during Advent and while working through the stories of the Jesse Tree.  It is written to grab the interest of children!  It is about a carpenter who is carving the Jesse Tree figures for the church.  A young boy comes asking questions each day, to which, the carpenter tells the stories behind each carving he is creating.  There are a couple of downfalls to the book, though.  One is that there are no Scripture passages to go along with the stories.  I was, however, able to locate the stories and link them to the Scriptures so that problem has been solved!  (I plan to send out a chart next year after Thanksgiving with the resources and Scripture passages I’ll be using, so keep an eye out for that next year!)  And, the other downfall is that the carvings don’t go along with other Jesse Tree ornaments or studies that I’ve also used.  So, I have ended up mixing and matching my favorite resources and making it work for our Jesse Tree.  In spite of these downfalls, I absolutely love this book and plan to use it each year!  It is so engaging and enjoyable to read and the stories come to life.  It is definitely a top pick for the advent season!

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Another favorite is found at this blog:  1+1+1=1  There, you can find an e-book on the Jesse Tree, and printable ornaments to go along with the devotions each day.  This goes fairly well with The Jesse Tree book, but I will warn you that this ebook devotional covers 31 days, rather than just the 25 that most do.  I just used the ones that went best along with The Jesse Tree book and weeded out the rest.  I do love that lots of Scripture is used, but the devotions are rather short and colorful.  The ornaments are also colorful!  I like that all you have to do is print, cut, and laminate!  If you like to have a calendar to go along with your advent season, you can make one up and place the ornaments in each slot and work through them once a day.  We did this one year, but because of the way I made my calendar out of paper envelopes, they easily tore and it was more of a pain that it was good, so this past year we ditched the calendar, and just keep the ornaments in a safe place without it.

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Then, this year I found out about Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.  It is a family devotional that has beautiful artwork throughout.  The stories are kind of flowery, but it does include wonderful thoughts about God’s love for us, and that love is weaved through each story/devotional.  I was also able to print out some ornaments that go right along with the book that I colored and shrunk down to fit our Jesse Tree.  This could be a great activity for kids, or a crafty one for the adults.  It did seem to take forever to color all of the ornaments, though, as they are each very intricate.  I’ve heard about all sorts of ornaments that go along with this that others have made that you can purchase from etsy or on the web, so if you’re not crafty, you could opt to do that.  Below is a sample of what one of the ornaments looks like.

I am still researching about the Jesse Tree as this is only the second year I’ve learned about it.  I hope to add to  my list of favorites each year we do it, and the more I learn about what all is available.

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Another favorite resource for the Advent season is The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel.  This is such a fun book!  It has stories, activities, traditions to create, crafts, recipes, etc. throughout!  We have several favorites that we’ve made traditions through this book.  One of our favorites, that my kids beg for each year, is the red and green candied popcorn!  Lots of great things!  The best part about this book is that I was able to get it personally signed by Lisa Whelchel!  The only book signing I’ve ever been able to be a part of!  She’s a lovely lady!

Then, last, but not least, is the Christmas Angel.  I began hearing a lot about The Elf on the Shelf a few years ago and was very intrigued by it, however, not long after, I heard of The Christmas Angel.  I liked the idea behind the angel so much better.  The focus wasn’t mischief and laughter, but love and service.  The Christmas Angel is a way to give back, to show my children that Christmas isn’t just about getting, but giving.  It shows them the joy in giving, and gives them a heart of service.  The idea is that the Angel leaves messages of service ideas each day for them to do.  The website even has several calendars of ideas if you struggle to come up with ideas on your own.  I found the ideas very helpful in jump starting ideas of my own.  I highly recommend using this Christmas Angel, or finding another way to serve during the Christmas season.  Taking the focus off of oneself, and shining the light of Jesus to others!  Isn’t that really a HUGE part of the season?  I think so!  It’s a representation of the greatest gift of all, the gift of Jesus coming to the earth and walking among us, to live an example before us, and then ultimately to die for our sins, so that someday we could live with Him for eternity.  Even if those we touch get a glimpse of this, how wonderful and powerful it would be!

I hope this gives you a start to some of our favorite resources for the Christmas season.  May the Lord use them in the same ways He’s used them in our family!  I would also LOVE to hear what resources you’ve used and enjoyed so that I can add to my favorites!  Please share in the comments!

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

Dena

Christmas Memory Making

This Christmas, I am planning on incorporating The Jesse Tree, Unwrapping the Greatest GiftThe Christmas Angel, and The ADVENTures of Christmas all into our Christmas season.

For the Jesse Tree, we will be reading a devotional story each day, along with Scripture, from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift then adding an ornament to our Jesse Christmas Tree.  We will also read The Jesse Tree each day.  The Jesse Tree is a living book with a story about an older man who is carving ornaments in a church.  A young boy has lots of questions about what he’s carving and why, and the story of the Jesse Tree and the story of Jesus is wound into it.  It doesn’t have Scriptures, though, that is why I have added Unwrapping the Greatest Gift to go along with it.

The Christmas Angel will be visiting us daily with fun service projects we can do, and family activities.

And, I’m pulling several things from The ADVENTure of Christmas.  Fun things to do as a family, with teachable moments about the traditions of our Christmas season.

I’m hoping to make Christ the central part of our Christmas this year.  We’ve done each of these in part in the past, and each were so much fun.  I think combining them will add a new dimension of fun, focus, and service to our season.

Below is a calendar of our December and what I plan to do each day.  Take what you like and use as you wish!

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Have a wonderful Christmas season!

In Christ,

Dena

Stuck Bible Study Review

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Stuck.  How many of us feel stuck in some way?  This Bible Study by Jennie Allen was another video study with 8 sessions.  It covered the topics:  stuck, broken, mad, discontent, scared, overwhelmed, sad, and unstuck.  This was a simple and quick study to complete each week.  Often times I could complete the entire week’s study in one day.  (But, I like to study for an hour a day, so if you study for less time than that, you could spread it out over several days).  At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought of the study.  I didn’t quite understand what “stuck” meant.  But, as I went on through the study, it became more clear.  This is a women’s study, and so many of the things discussed were issues that we deal with in our personal lives.  It was a lot about being real.  Not putting on a front with others, but being vulnerable and showing who you really are.  That’s tough for many women, so it would take some getting “unstuck” for the vulnerability to take place.  I did this in a group, and so we were able to let some of our walls down with one another and share some of our realness.

My favorite week was the topic mad (week 2).  God really spoke to me that week.  I struggle a lot with anger.  The passage for this week was James 1:19-27.  I did not remember ever reading James 1:26 before (though I know I have).  It says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”  WOW!  I know when I get angry, I have a really hard time keeping a tight reign on my tongue.  I say things I regret, a lot!  My voice becomes loud, discouraging, nagging, and hurtful.  I hurt those I love the most.  And, worst of all, my faith becomes worthless!  That is not how I desire to be.  I learned that I had to die to what I felt my rights were….things like being understood, the right to move quickly, a good reputation, my family’s approval, my right to have respect, obedience, and happiness.  When we die to our rights, we find freedom.  We get “unstuck.”  That’s what this study is all about.  Each of us have our own “stuck” places.  We each struggle with some kind of sin.  We each can let some walls down, and become real with these struggles.  We all struggle, and we know we all struggle, so why is it so hard to be real about those struggles?

The study is laid out as follows:  At the beginning of each session, there is a short reading on the topic for the week (usually just a couple of pages).  It’s kind of an introduction to the week.  Then, comes several pages of the Scripture to study with questions, charts, and space for responses.  At the end of each study week is a who are you, Lord? what do you want from me? response page.  Following that are four projects to be completed each week.  The projects include titles such as:  discover, measure, imagine, respond, compare, list, consider, act, answer, identity, question, and commit.  They include charts, drawings, and different types of application.  Then, to close out the week, there are a couple pages entitled wrapping up.

Though I was unsure of the study to begin with, it ended up being a really great study that I enjoyed very much.  It helped me get past some “stuck” places, and to learn ways to work through those places if they come up again in my life (which, they probably will, because sin is sin, and we all do it)!  It also showed me the importance of being real.  People need to see that we are real in this world….that we’re not perfect, that we’re approachable and we care because more often than not, we are struggling in the same ways that other people are.  And, if we’re real, we can help one another, be an encouragement, and an accountability partner during those “stuck” times.  You can find this study here.  I hope you will take a look for yourselves.  Find your “stuck” places and get “unstuck” by dying to self and allowing Christ to live through you!

In Christ,

Dena

Autumn and Thankfulness

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I love autumn!  The changing of the seasons,  the new scents, the cooler weather, the colors, the new beginnings and better routines.  I love to light candles, decorate, and make goodies that include pumpkin and spices!  It’s a time to reflect on all we can be thankful for; a time of thanksgiving and praise; a time for abundance from harvest, to look back on the first Thanksgiving, and remember how our country began.  Simple beginnings with Indians, like Squanto, helping the newcomers to this land to survive, to be able to spread the gospel of Jesus.  May we strive to be a light like Squanto was so long ago.  May we help our neighbors, help them grow, walk along side them and teach them how to survive a world of chaos.  It’s so easy to see the ugliness of our world.  We need to be the light in this dark place.  We need to be encouraging words, a smiling face, to have a twinkle in the eye, the hope that draws people to Jesus.  May this season be a time of refreshment and renewal.  May we be hospitable and invite others to share in a time of thanksgiving, encouragement, and renewal with us.  May we see the goodness of Jesus together.  May we see His beauty in the changing seasons of creation around us.  May we breathe deeply, find rest and peace, and be that rest and peace that others need to find.

Last year, I did a daily Scripture Writing Plan from the blog Sweet Blessings.  She even has blank pages that you can write the Scripture onto, and it just makes it look so nice and festive!  Last year the verses focused on Gratitude for November, and then I continued with the December plan.  I would encourage you to use this plan or another like it to help get you in a mindset of Thankfulness.  It certainly kept me focused last year, and I plan to do it again this year.

I hope and pray that you will find gratitude in your heart this autumn, that you will take joy in the beauty before you, the smells, the opportunities, and the abundance the Lord grants each of us.  I pray also, that you will spread thankfulness to those you’re around.  I pray that joy will overflow from you onto others that may feel without hope.  We are so blessed!  May we be a blessing to others!

In Christ,

Dena

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The Armor of God Bible Study Review

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The Study, The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer, has been one of the best Bible Studies I’ve done recently!  It was a video series that had a workbook.  It contained six weeks of study.  Each week contained five study days, and the days were approximately 5-6 pages in length.  Not a skimpy study at all!  And, very deep.  The focus was on Ephesians 6:10-19.  Priscilla goes deep with this familiar passage, so it is not just another study on the Armor of God.  I loved the depth of it.  If you saw the movie, The War Room, the study goes right along with that movie (awesome movie that I’d HIGHLY recommend, if you haven’t seen it).  The weekly studies were entitled:  (I’ll also include the daily titles to give you a better idea of what all was covered).

Week 1:  Sizing Up the Enemy

  • Wrestling Match
  • Undisguised
  • Lazy Days
  • Bait Selection
  • Strategy Session

Week 2:  The Belt of Truth

  • Strengthening Your Core
  • Truth Check-Up
  • The Hanger
  • Walk This Way
  • Strategy Session

Week 3:  The Breastplate of Righteousness

  • The Heart of the Matter
  • The Clean Sweep
  • Perfect Makes Practice
  • Pickles and Ice Cream
  • Strategy Session

Week 4:  The Shoes of Peace

  • My Father’s Shoes
  • Digging In
  • The Hole in My Heart
  • Go Shoes
  • Strategy Session

Week 5:  The Shield of Faith

  • Real Faith
  • On Fire
  • In Good Faith
  • A Firm Foundation
  • Strategy Session

Week 6:  The Helmet of Salvation.

  • So Great a Salvation
  • The Inheritance
  • The Benefits Package
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Strategy Session

There was also an ending video on The Sword of the Spirit.

At the end of each day there was an applicable section in the workbook called Actionable Intel…. (this term is “used in a military context to describe information decoded and gathered about an opponent that can be used to secure victory against them in future battles.” – pg. 15 of the workbook).  You are encouraged at the end of each day’s study to gather spiritual information that can be used to win spiritual battles against the evil one.  It was a great way to apply what had been learned.  Then, at the end of each week, you probably noticed a Strategy Session.  The Strategy Session is where you take what you’ve studied the whole week, and write out prayers on prayer cards included in the back of the workbook.  I often used more than one each week.  Prayer is a HUGE part of this study.  It helped me to make prayer a higher priority in my life.  At the back of the workbook, there is also a Leader Guide that has discussion starters and tips for each week.

I thoroughly enjoyed the study, and would highly recommend it to anyone desiring to win battles against satan, to gain further insight into his evil plans, to become more prepared for his attacks, to realize when he’s attacking and how, and to gain a richer prayer life.  It also helped me see the power I have in Christ to win these battles.

Click here to find out more or to order a copy for yourself!

In Christ,

Dena

Balance….it’s not what you think

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Balance.  We all need it.  It seems we are all searching for ways to get there, too.  It’s no easy task to live a balanced life these days!  The definition of balance is a means of judging or deciding and/or mental and emotional steadiness.  I’ve often asked myself, how do I balance it all?  With four kids ranging in age from 18 down to 3, it’s hard keeping up with all the activities, chores, homeschooling, Sunday School teaching, co-op preparations, a new Sunday night program I’m starting in August, husband pleasing, menu planning, grocery shopping, meal prep, etc., etc., etc.  That doesn’t even include the schedule or my times alone with the Lord.  I often feel frazzled, and it’s no wonder.  Busyness is taking over our culture.  If we aren’t busy, we question if we’re doing enough.

I seem to feel more “balanced” when I have a To-Do List.  I can’t seem to function without one.  Routines are also key.  Doing the same things every day in the exact same order. They don’t have to be a certain time, as long as they are in the same order. If I don’t have a To-Do List or follow my routines, I get nothing productive done.  I also have to set alarms on my phone for everything, or I’d forget.  Things like gymnastics, story time at the library, when to pick my kids up from events, trash day, etc.  Is this normal?  Or, am I just frazzled?  LOL!

I always thought that balance in life meant figuring out how to make everything in my day work out smoothly, without stress. It was something that I had to schedule correctly, work through, or make happen. I even thought that praying for a more balanced life was a good thing, and it is. But, I think balance is not exactly what I’ve been thinking it is.  I recently wrote this post about resources I have used to help me have a clean and organized home.  One of those resources that I’m reading through currently is a book called Unstuffed. It deals with our stuff/belongings, our mind, our schedules, and our spirits.  And, I’m finding out that balance really has nothing to do with what “I” do. I can’t do anything to become more balanced. I can only find rest. Rest is what keeps me balanced. Why did it take me SO LONG to realize this? I mean, it’s clearly laid out in the creation account of Genesis. God did all his work in six days, and on the seventh He rested. He didn’t need to rest, He was just giving us an example to follow. Yet, in this day and age, we don’t see that NEED for rest. We feel like we have to go 100 miles a minute, and keep pushing through to get just one more thing done.  I think it’s also making sure that after we get a full day of rest once a week, that we focus on four areas to keep us from that frazzled state.

  1. Spiritual – Remain steadfast in God’s Word and in a healthy prayer life.  Keep sin at bay by asking for forgiveness often and repenting or turning from the sin.  Forgive others as the Lord has forgiven you.  Be thankful in all circumstances and for all things.  We are truly blessed.  Serve others in love.
  2. Physical – Eat healthy foods and get active.  Whether that means walking or a full on workout.  Exercise is great for your body, but it’s also great for your mood.  Give it a try and see for yourself.  I enjoy water aerobics when the weather is nice, Pilates for strength training, yoga for stretching and relaxation, and I’m checking into T-Tapp which is something I’ve just learned about.
  3. Mental – Feed your mind.  Never stop learning.  I always have books on hand to read, and now we have blogs, and articles all over the internet.  Learn something new.  Keep your mind active.  Fill it with good things, and stay away from negative things that can cause a negative attitude or mindset.
  4. Emotional – Be a friend.  Stay positive.  Think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely.  Laugh a lot!  Do things that make you happy.  I’ve recently discovered that I enjoy doing art.  It brings me joy.  Make it a point to be in contact with people who encourage you, challenge you, and lift you up.

So, I believe to have a balanced life, we must REST.  It’s the key.  What are some ways you try to remain balanced?  Do you think REST is important?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  I am planning to continue studying up on this.  I recently ordered the Bible Study called Living a Life of Balance (Women of Faith Series).  Can’t wait to get started on it and see what it says about having a balanced life!

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The Temptation of Pride

I am a long time follower of Jesus.  My relationship with the Lord began when I was a child, and I learned to study God’s Word as a teenager.  I’ve had lots of ups and downs in studying God’s Word through many different periods of my life.  I think all Christians do.  However, I’ve recently discovered that sometimes long time Christians who’ve read parts of the Bible over and over again can become numb to the words.  So, in considering this, I asked myself: “Why is this?”  We become numb to it, or feel like we aren’t getting anything out of it, even though the study time began with prayer and we’re reading our Bibles daily.  Surely I’m not the only one that feels this way.  We are so busy in this day and age.  Myself included!  Sometimes I think we are so busy that we just can’t slow our minds down enough to ingest what the Lord is wanting to tell us.  So, in our rushed minds, we also rush through our study of the Bible and feel nothing.  We just have a common routine of being able to check our study off our daily to do list.  Does this mean we shouldn’t have this daily routine, especially if we feel we never get anything out of it?  Absolutely not!  Good habits are sometimes difficult to maintain, so making it a priority to even open the Word is important.  But, I think when we feel we aren’t getting anything out of it, we are really just forgetting to open our hearts and minds, and to slow the pace within us.

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I know this has been me, more often than I’d like to admit.  Often times I have my To-Do List that is always considerably longer than I’m even capable of completing in a day’s time lingering in my mind, and I feel like I have to hurry and get things done, including my time with the Lord.  This is the ‘Martha’ in me, and not the ‘Mary’.  (See Luke 10:38-42)  I’m more worried about what gets accomplished than I am about hearing from the Lord, and growing in His Word.  God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 55:10-11, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  So, if God’s Word is true, and I believe it is 100%, then we are meant to receive something from the Lord EACH and EVERY time we open His Word.  So, why do so many people NOT feel like they do?

I know this has been me, because when I really, truly, deeply within myself am hungering for growth, the Lord shows me something new; something that’s been there all along, mind you, but I was too rushed to see it and soak it in.  I’ve also read the same passages over and over again, reading the words like I read a story, and not really thinking much about what I’m reading.  So, I come away ‘knowing’ the story, but not really the message behind the story.  One such story that I know I’ve missed messages in, or didn’t understand the complete message was the story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32.  I always thought the whole story was about the son that took his share of his inheritance, squandered it in wild living, and then came to his senses and returned to his father, who was waiting for him with open arms. I also always felt the older brother had reason to be upset!  So, I tended to side with him.  However, in really studying the passage, I came to realize that passage has a lot to say about the older brother.  In fact, nearly half of the story is about the older brother.  And, I realized that the older brother really had a heart problem.  He felt he’d done no wrong, and didn’t understand why his ‘naughty’ brother was getting all the attention.  The Lord showed me that the older brother was in fact wrong.  He had a prideful heart!  He felt as though he was better than his brother.  But, Jesus takes us as we are…..good, bad, and ugly.  Another story that I had read multiple times was the story of Mary and Martha (mentioned above).  I felt Martha’s pain!  I couldn’t understand why the Lord rubuked her when all she wanted was some help.  But again, it was a heart problem.  Mary had chosen relationships over regular duties.  Martha was probably worried about cleaning the house, and preparing a meal.  But, Jesus wants our hearts much more than our service.  How did I miss these messages for so many years?  I believe that it’s a prideful heart that causes us not to hear from the Lord.  We think….I’m doing the right thing, I’m spending time in His Word and in prayer.  But, deep down we think we’ve heard all of this before, that what we’re reading is boring or doesn’t apply to our exact situation.  So we try to go at this life on our own figuring we can take care of whatever we happen to be going through on our own.

Thank You, Lord, for putting up with my pride.  Create in me a clean heart and a humble spirit.  I want to feel what Hebrews 4:12 says:  “For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

May we all slow our pace, get rid of our pride, and really desire to grow in His Word, and in better relationship with Him.

The Meaning Behind Strings to Wings

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I have wanted to write for a very long time.  I started writing when I was a teen, but it was just in personal journals that I began with:  “Dear Imagination”.  Now I see that and think it is rather funny.  But, it was during those times of writing in my journals and studying God’s Word those many years ago, that I felt like writing was something I could do.  I enjoyed writing.  It made me smile, released whatever feelings I may have been having, and it just felt right.

I remember one summer, after I came home from a Christian Youth Camp called Super Summer, I would sit in the quiet of my room for hours everyday, just listening to Christian music and spending time in prayer and Bible Study.  I loved that time in my life.  I grew so much Spiritually during that time and it was beautiful!  I even remember my mom, at one time, being concerned about me because I was spending so much time hanging out in my room.  But, to me, it was a place where I could meet with the Lord and be filled.

It was during that time, I began writing a devotional/journal/notebook that I called AGOGE, which is greek for Manner of Living.  At that time, I did everything with pen and paper, kind of like a sketch of what I hoped it would become.  We didn’t own a computer, this was the late 80’s or early 90’s and computers were just starting to become common place.  But, I did what I could with what I had.  I did own a pretty fancy typewriter that erased if you made a mistake, which was heaven to me after using one that you had to pull the paper completely out, white out your mistake, then try to realign your paper to type over where you made the mistake.  I was very grateful to have the typewriter that corrected mistakes!  (And, now I am extra thrilled to have a husband who owns a computer business!)

Anyway, I made the devotional/journal/notebook and once I had it typed how I wanted it, 3 hole punched, and put into a small notebook, I took it to my pastor to show him.  He was such an encouragement to me!  He told me that I had a gift and that I really ought to try to get the book published.  Well, I was a teenager!  I had no idea how to do that, but he gave me some information to check into and encouraged me to run with it.  He is also the one that helped me come up with the name AGOGE.  I am forever grateful, and to this day I think of him as the best pastor I’ve ever had.  (Not just because he encouraged my writing, but because he preached with conviction, he lived what he preached, he loved on our family, and he mentored many people into true disciples of Jesus Christ.)  He is retired now, but he is still very much active in ministry.  That’s the way it should be when you love Jesus!

I regret to say that I never did get AGOGE published.  I still have it tucked away in a file cabinet. But, I did happen to to make several copies of it and sold it for super cheap (probably the price of the notebook) to people who wanted a copy.  And, it did sell.  I was happy with that.

I tell you all of this as background.  Once I got married, and involved in Youth Ministry with my husband, my writing got put on the back burner.  I was living life.  I was newly married, learning ministry with my husband, and working.  My creativity played out in new ways then.  I LOVED to decorate homes, try out faux painting techniques, refinish things, and the like.  I also worked full-time, so I just had to fit in these creative activities when I had time.  And, then we began having children.  Well, with one child, the creativity continued into scrapbooking, along with the previous mentioned things.  But, once the second baby came, along with feeding issues and doctor visits, all came to an abrupt halt.  Once we got through the difficulties, more life happened and more struggles occured.  Maybe someday I can write about those bumps in my life, but those will be for other posts.  I am grateful now for the struggles and bumps, even as difficult as they were, because God used them to shape me into the person I am today, and He continues to work in my life growing me into the exact person He wants me to be.

Now we have 4 children, and have been married for 22 years.  My husband is still doing youth ministry, but I stay at home to homeschool my kiddos (one is about to graduate this year, and my youngest hasn’t even started school yet), and life has been super crazy.  However, I feel the Lord nudging me on to venture back into writing.  Except this time through blogging.  I’m excited and thrilled!

Remember how I mentioned above the struggles and bumps along the journey my life has taken me?  Well, it was through those difficult times that God gave me the thought of how my heart is on a string.  It is super fragile, but placed in His hands will be held and given wings to fly above whatever circumstances come my way.  And, in training and raising my children, I have the same goals for them.  That I will eventually help them to cut the ties at home and be able to fly on wings as eagles.  So, originally I came up with a super long blog post name.  It was….Hearts on Strings Getting Wings.  But, after speaking with a good friend who also blogs, she encouraged me to shorten it, as it was too long.  So, I came up with Strings to Wings.

We all are on a journey through this life, and all of us have fragile hearts.  Hopefully when the pressures of life come and the strings get worn or cut, we will have grown enough to not fall to the ground, but to fly above those circumstances, and soar.