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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Challenge for 2015...I PRAY You'll Join Me In It



This year, I'm choosing to focus on something different than most resolutions focus on.

This year, I want to learn how to talk to my Father better, how to intercede on others' behalves better, and grow and/or heal my relationships and my community.

The Challenge for 2015 is a Prayer Challenge!

Praying is hard for me. I am NOT what you would call a Prayer Warrior.

In fact, I have "shiny dime" syndrome often when I am praying, especially if I am not praying out loud. 

This year, God has placed on my heart to accomplish many things in one fell swoop: praying for others, keeping daily, consistent communication open with God, and serve others. 

I so hope you'll join me in this. Imagine how beautiful it will be in Heaven as the Lord listens to His children flooding the Throne Room with prayers of Intercession! Imagine how moved He will be to hear our voices as we bring our brothers and sisters before Him. 

Imagine how our relationship with the Father will grow as we carve out specific, planned, consistent time with Him every single day!

Oh, I am SO excited!

Without further adieu:

I outlined the way this prayer challenge will work on Deliberate Women today.
Please join me by clicking HERE.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16

Want to focus on your marriage with prayer? Check out Darlene Schacht (Time-Warp Wife) at her new blog Today's Marriage Prayer.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Let's Stop...And Then Let's Do



And we back away.

We cover our eyes and turn a cold shoulder.  

We allow ourselves to be moved by smooth talkers and the "learned."

We take someone else's perspective of the scriptures as gospel and infallible.

We fill our calendar with busy work about the Kingdom in place of work in the Kingdom. 

We get bogged down in theological discussions.

We cripple ourselves and allow others to cripple us so that we say nothing, do nothing, write nothing,

We spend more time questioning and doubting God than we do talking to Him.

So fearful are we of saying the wrong thing, we grow mute. 

We spend so much time dissecting the scriptures that we lose sight of what God is saying to us through them.

We do things our way and hold so fast to our truths that we miss The Truth

Let's stop doubting and start listening. 

Let's spend time daily reading and speaking to God about His Word and then listening for His voice to answer our questions. 

Let's spend more time seeking who Jesus is than we do asking others who they think He is. 

Let's put our questions and concerns to the Lord and allow The Holy Spirit to work in us without preconceived notions of what that will look like. 

Let's believe...really believe...that God can do all that He says He can.

Let's allow our faith to be made plain by our words and actions together, in unison.

Let's stop being blinded and deafened by the noise and distraction in this world. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Join me for the 2015 Challenge which will be launched Wednesday, December 31, 2014. Click HERE to subscribe to these posts so you don't miss a thing!




Sunday, December 28, 2014

Are You Up To The Challenge?

We're quickly approaching 2015.

I am looking forward to it.

Don't get me wrong, I had an AMAZING 2014. 

God used me in ways that I had only dreamed of. 

He brought people in my life and altered relationships in ways that I never would have guessed, but I'm oh-so-happy He did. 

I was part of a women's conference that changed women. As in changed them

I have watched women do complete 180s because God has His hand on their lives. 

It's the stuff that dreams are made of, really. 

But I am really looking forward to the next year. 

I love FRESH pages on my calendar!

And this year, I am ALL IN. 

Are you?

What does that mean?

It means no more playing. It means living what I say.

It means being intentional with my words and my actions. 

It means being a FOLLOWER of Jesus and not just a FAN.

And to kick start this, I am going to issue a challenge to myself and to all of you. 

Do you ever feel like this world is out of control? Do you ever feel like it's hopeless?

It isn't. 

And you and I have a part to play. 

Are you ready to hear the challenge? 

Good! 

I will be back here this Wednesday, New Year's Eve to let you know what it is!

I am also issuing this challenge the ladies of Deliberate Women and to our readers. 

This is the stuff that can change the world, my friends.

Let's do it together.  


Monday, December 8, 2014

God Fulfills The Dreams He Gives You

I very clearly remember watching my first Beth Moore Bible Study video. It was well over 10 years ago and I was captivated instantly. I was a young adult, still an infant in my faith, and not a regular reader of the Bible. I listened as she spoke of God in such an intimate way and heard the wisdom of the scriptures as she applied Biblical Truths from even the Old Testament to today and made it all relevant to my life. I was hooked.

I wanted what she had: an intimate relationship with God, knowledge of the Bible, and the ability to share that information with other women in a way that they understood. 

I remember saying to my husband, "I want to be a women's speaker like she is."

I knew I wanted it, but I had several things going against me already. Lucky for me, God isn't hindered by man's short-comings. The past 15 years or so have been nothing short of amazing as God has taken the desire I had (which He firmly planted there to begin with) and has taken me on an amazing journey to where I am today. And He's not done yet!

Join me at Ungrind today as I share about how God fulfills the dreams that He places on our heart. Join me by clicking HERE.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Should You Be Labeled "Christian"?

I read something once that has stayed with me. I forget who the author was, but their words are seared into my memory. The writer pointed out that Acts 11:26 notes that believers were first called "Christians" at Antioch. The premise, the writer pointed out, was that it was not a label coined by the Believers, but rather a label given to them by outsiders. 

The writer then went on to ask a very pointed question:

Would those looking in at your life label you as a Christian (a true follower of Christ)? 

Would your actions cause others to see that you live, act, and behave like Christ? 

Since that day, I have thought a lot about what that means. I want others to see Christ in me. I want them to see my life and heart reflect His in such a way that it's evident that I am following hard after Him. 

My sister shared something that she learned recently and it tied in so well with this thought. She was in a cemetery and came across a Latin phrase on a headstone. The English translation rolled around inside my head and wouldn't leave me alone. The phrase in English was: "Though silent, he speaks."

I wrote more about it at Ungrind.org today. Please join me (by clicking HERE) as I write about how we can speak even though we may never utter a word. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

What If We Looked Forward?


phós: light
φῶς, φωτός, τό
light, a source of light, radiance
5457 phṓs (a neuter noun) – properly, light (especially in terms of its results, what it manifests); in the NT, the manifestation of God's self-existent life; divine illumination to reveal and impart life, through Christ.

I am on fire. Inside,

God has been leading me in a new way for a while. It's felt strange at times, exhilarating in others, and even still, terrifying in most ways. 

He's been placing two words on my heart...what if?

What if...this life isn't all there is?

What if...I acted every day like my actions make a difference?

What if...I took Him seriously when He promises to bless me and not to harm me?

What if...I stepped outside of my comfort zone?

What if...I really trusted Him. 

What if...I did the hard thing and didn't look for the easy way out?

I love the idea of creating something new, something others can take part in and that will build community. 

I began blogging here almost 6 years ago and couldn't sleep the first night I hit "publish" on what was then a Bible study. I was terrified of what people would think. Today, I am astounded to say that I am "friends" with some of the most amazing women and some of the top-rated authors, writers, and bloggers in the Christian women genre. 

I started Deliberate Women in 2012 and it has grown to 7 women who love Jesus and pour our hearts into writing about Him and reaching out to other ladies. 

I began contributing to other blogs like Natalie Snapp (formerly Mommy on Fire), Time-Warp Wife, Ungrind, The Better Mom, Overcomer Outreach, MOB Society, and Unveiled Wife. And the number of people my words reached grew exponentially. 

Each time, I took a shaky step forward, certain that God was off His rocker to ask me to do these things. And each time, He blessed me. Each time I grew a little more brave. And each time I knew He held me in His hand. 

And now...God, as is so like Him...is asking me to step out again. 

And the funny thing about God is that He never lays out the full and total blueprint for me. It's not like he hands me the Master Plan and allows me to see years and years ahead so that everything makes sense. No. Instead, God really adheres to Psalm 119:105
"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."
He requires that I dig deep into His Word (the Bible) to "hear" Him and to see what He wants for me. Then, He shines just enough light on my path that my next step is illuminated.

It's rarely, if ever, a spot light illuminating the next mile. It's usually just enough guidance and light that I know where my foot will fall.

So I am stepping out now, one foot forward. I am excited to be a part of something that is going to be used in big ways...even if I don't know what that means or what it will look like.

I hesitate to link this without really knowing what it is or where it's going, so I will save that for the future. As God reveals one piece at a time, I will share it with all of you.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for being here. Thank you for coming back (if you have). And thank you for being a HUGE part of this community.

When you feel God leading...be bold. Be brave  and leap into what is sure to be an amazing journey tailor-made for you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What If We Were Brave?

God doesn't want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.
2 Timothy 1:7

Think about that.

What does it mean to be bold? Brave?

I think it means to do the hard stuff even when our knees are knocking, when our hearts threaten to beat right out of our chest, and when we know we will be met with opposition and criticism. 

I think it also means doing what we know is right, even when everything in us screams to run the other direction, to take the easy way out.

We can be considered brave in any number of pursuits, but only the ones that really matter are the ones I want to put my full effort into. 

Many things are called brave in our culture today. I've seen blatant sin called "brave" in the media and by our leadership.

What would a life of true bravery look like? What are examples of lives lived in true bravery?

We don't have to look very far in the Bible to find examples. One of the greatest is Paul. Paul who started life as Saul, the man who was so religiously devout that he hunted and condoned the murders of countless Jesus followers. 

One of the many things I love about Paul is that once he saw the light (literally on the road to Damascus in Acts 9), there was no hemming or hawing, no wishy-washy dipping in of the toe. There was no "finding himself" time or "last hurrah" before launching into ministry. Instead, he jumped in head-first with everything he had. And he had a LOT to lose. 

As a result of his dogged determination, he experienced no less of the following in his lifetime: He was flogged, lashed, shipwrecked, and stoned.

We can look at any of the Disciples. All of the original 11 (not including Judas, who killed himself after betraying Jesus) met a miserable and horrific end. 

Our greatest example, Jesus, gave the ultimate sacrifice of His life, but also of having the Father turn away from Him...all for our benefit. 

So...how do we live a life of bravery?

Where I live, I don't foresee being stoned or hunted down and beheaded for my faith, although that reality is becoming more and more real as we see evil rising up and creeping ever closer.

In our culture, we tend to expect life to go smoothly, Major hindrances and obstacles aren't expected. Maybe small ones like traffic jams, spilled coffee as we're walking out the door, or a canceled babysitter on date night.

But what about the BIG ones like cancer, abuse, betrayal, death of a loved one, losing a child? 

Or even ridicule, contempt, and condemnation for speaking the Truth and defending the Word?

In those situations we tend to question God. Sometimes we ask "why us?" Even if we don't give a voice to our thoughts, we still argue silently with God about all we've done for Him and demand to know why He'd allow such things in our lives. 

Sometimes we try to live very "safe" so as to avoid the unpleasantness that often accompanies living on this planet. 

Like when we stay silent when we watch a friend careening off the tracks of life.

Or smile and nod and remind ourselves not to "judge" others when we see them making choices that grieve the Holy Spirit.

What about when we withdraw from loved ones when they are struggling in life?

Perhaps when we withhold forgiveness or reconciliation from a brother or sister who has "sinned big" and let us down. 

Maybe it's when we hold leaders in our church to impossible standards and cast them out without following Matthew 18 or Galatians 6:1 when they've been caught in sin.

What does bravery look like?
Could it mean taking a stand and speaking the truth in love, but with firmness?

Could it mean letting go of a hurt and forgiving even when everything in us wants vengeance?

Could it mean acknowledging that we all sin, even when we're leaders in the church, even when we "know better" and that restoration and reconciliation is offered to all...regardless of our sin?

Could it mean withholding bitterness and contention from someone, even when we've spoken the Truth in love to them and they choose a different way anyway?

Could it mean loving someone regardless of when they hold diametrically opposed views from our own?

Could it mean going against our cultural norm and what is considered "politically correct" when it flies in the face of God's Word?

Could it mean giving up certain things that aren't edifying and aren't serving to bring us closer to God, but drive us further away?

Could it mean actively digging into the Word so that we know what and who God is, rather than taking our pastor's/friend's/priest's/parents' word for it?

Could it mean making sweeping changes in our lives where needed even though we may be seen as "weird" or "fanatical"?

Could it mean hitting "publish" on a post that could be received as "judgmental," but doing it anyway because you feel called to do it?

Yes.

Those and a million different scenarios are brave. 

Regardless of the consequence, the backlash, or the pain, how are you going to be brave today? This week? 

What keeps you from being brave?

With God on my side I'm fearless, afraid of no one and nothing." Psalm 27:1

Stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort." 1 Corinthians 15:58

 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When You're In The Pit



Two weekends ago, I was part of an amazing, life-changing event called the What's Your Story? Women's Conference. I stood alongside 8 other ladies who shared their stories with an audience of over 100 women. It was moving, to say the least. 

As we listened, laughed, and-at times-wiped away tears, we were changed. Our hearts were softened, and the Holy Spirit moved in that sanctuary. 

One theme (of many) that stood out was that many of the speakers and attendees suffered from depression. As I listened to women bare their hearts about their experience with being in the pit, I remembered my own. I recalled lying on the floor, sobbing, unable to "pull it together" and not even being able to name what exactly was breaking me. 

I remember the helpless and hopeless feeling--the utter despair.

Today, I am over at Ungrind.org sharing about that despair and the hope that God is there and He will see you through. I hope you will join me there by clicking HERE.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

All Mixed Up, Turned Upside Down

"And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Have you experiences this? I have and it's very unsettling. To think something is good--of God even--only to realize that it's all a facade, evil dressed up as something good.

I don't know why I so often think bad or evil will jump out wearing a neon sign, alerting me in no uncertain terms that I should run the other direction.

But it doesn't.

In fact, it usually creeps in so innocently that I don't even notice

People don't always enter into an affair on a whim, whether physical or emotional. It often begins with a friendship, with sharing things in common, with enjoying one another's company.

People don't always begin a drug addiction with the intention of being an addict. It often begins with pain medicine for a medically valid condition.

Churches don't always divide in a day. It often begins with a group moving away from the Truth of the Bible with the intention of being more culturally relevant.

Leaders don't always go into leadership with the intention of having their subordinates worship them. It often progresses from admiration to idolatry.

What is good can so easily be warped and perverted into something evil.

It actually makes me angry. I've seen this happen. I've experienced this in different ways.

It's bad enough to launch into a sin or a sinful lifestyle when you know that's what you're doing. But to be engaged in something that's sinful without fully realizing that's what it is enrages me.

Too often I've seen relationships begin as something so good--even God ordained-- only to morph into something outside of God's will. It's so gradual, so insidious, that you almost don't see it coming. Almost.

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

This scripture very clearly tells us that God will always provide a way out for us. We always have the option of recognizing and fleeing from what isn't good.

The Holy Spirit--some call it your conscience--is very good at raising a red flag when something is outside of God's will. If we listen and pay attention, we will sense the warnings.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The Holy Spirit will sense when something is out of line and will ring a little bell (figuratively speaking). If we are focused and in God's Word daily, we will learn to recognize that bell. If we are seeking His wisdom and guidance, what starts out as a small dinner bell will turn into a resounding gong that we can't miss.

We will see what is happening and be able to turn from it.

Let's not let Satan take something intended for good, something meant to be healthy and right and good and turn it into something perverse and wrong.

Run hard after the Father. Run away from the one who would deceive you.

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
Submitting to God is always the goal, but sometimes it's hard. It's especially hard when what you're entrenched in feels good. Sometimes, even after we've discovered that we are involved in or heading toward sin, we don't want to turn away. Or, at least, it's very difficult.

That's when we fall on our knees and beg for the strength to do so.

And once we allow God to take over and turn away from the relationship or activity that is ensnaring us, we will be blessed and more fulfilled than we ever would have been had we continued down the path we were on.

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known" (Deuteronomy 11:27)

Let's be attentive to His prompting. Let's not ignore when we hear the dinner bell so that we won't miss the opportunity to be obedient and faithful. 

I pray today that we will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and watchful of the red flags raised. Guard every word, every thought and every relationship to make sure Christ truly is at the center of it and that we aren't unwittingly veering off track. 


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Saturday, September 27, 2014

What's Your Story? Women's Conference

Every step you take in life, every experience - good or bad - it all tells your story. More importantly…it tells the story of Jesus and His redeeming grace. Everyone has a story. What’s your story?

Through struggles and failures, successes and triumphs, every bit of your life makes up who you are. And every bit of who you are tells the story of how God is working in your life.

Everyone’s story is different. Whether yours is quiet and uneventful or tumultuous and bumpy, God is in every part of it. Every struggle you’ve had was an opportunity for God to show His strength.

All of us have the opportunity to minister to others by sharing our stories. Ministry doesn’t always include a pulpit and seminary. Sometimes, meeting someone’s need and offering encouragement is as simple as sharing our story. It’s simple, but it isn’t always easy.

October 10th & 11th in Belle Vernon, PA (just South of Pittsburgh) women will gather to listen to 7 amazing women share their stories. We will listen, worship, pray, and enjoy one another’s company.

Natalie Snapp (Author of Heart Sisters, due out February 2015, and owner of NatalieSnapp.com) is the keynote speaker. She will be sharing how to find glory in your own story and discussing some of the reasons we choose not to share.

Mia Koehne (of Mia Koehne Music) is a recording artist and speaker who has opened for Casting Crowns and toured with Francesca Battistelli, Lindsay McCaul, and MIKESCHAIR. Mia’s story is touching and presents God’s glory in such a way that it’s evident how God can work all things together for good.

5 other women will also share their stories. Some struggle with addiction, depression and thoughts of suicide, while others have lived a relatively quiet life with few hurdles. All have a heart for Jesus and have seen God work through them and their stories.

Registration for this conference includes entrance to both days, light refreshments on Friday and Saturday and a boxed lunch on Saturday.

Come as you are. All women are welcome. You will not be asked to speak or to share your story. We look forward to spending time with you!

Registration information is HERE.
Find us on Facebook HERE.
Email HERE for more information. 
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Introducing Overcomer Outreach

Dear friends, I would like to introduce you to a much needed blog in our community, Overcomer Outreach. You may recognize the founder, Janelle Nehrenz from Comfy in the Kitchen where she shares about meal ministry. Quite often she has been known to say that it isn't so much the delicious recipes that make her ministry special, it's the meaning behind them that matter most...well, this is the meaning. Comforting the hurting. 

I am humbled and blessed to be a part of this amazing new ministry! 


Writing Team

These beautiful women are beyond brave, and full of sincerity, God's love, grace and compassion. 
A special thank you to Mary Davis from Everyday Spirit for her beautiful and encouraging images. 
The Mission of Overcomer Outreach: 

Here you will find a group of authors with compassionate hearts seeking to encourage you through the strength of God. This amazing group of women is comprised of Licensed Professional Counselors, Marriage and Family Therapists, Christian Life Coaches, Business Owners, Published Authors, Professional Speakers, Professional Bloggers, Bible Study Leaders, Pastor’s Wives, Moms, and Wives…
 Many of us have been through some of the trials you may be bearing, which is why 2 Corinthians 1:4 is a verse we continue to cling to when we think of why we’re here. Don't, for one second think, "this is a group of perfect Christians", because there is no such thing. We are Christians because we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ , humbled and fully knowing we need a Savior.
Again, many of us have been right there in your shoes...believe it or not.
Yes, your shoes...
We pray to speak to the woman who has had an abortion, affairs, drug addiction (you fill in the blank) and our prayer is to use God’s word and truth to give her freedom. We pray for her to finally be released from bondage, from the lies she tells herself, and from the condemnation of the enemy that she is not worthy to go forward in her walk with the Lord and in her ministry.
We pray to speak to the oppressed, ill, victimized, tormented, abused, and bullied…we want to share God’s truth and love with you... and encourage you. We want to walk beside you to let you know...

You will get through this…

 A message from Janelle

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Founder of Overcomer Outreach and Comfy in the Kitchen, Janelle is a Christian, a wife and mother of 3 children. She is currently in her second year at Malone University obtaining a M.A. in Clinical Counseling. She has a deep love for Christ, meal ministry, and for helping the hurting. 

Lord I pray that I will never become too proud to forget the pain I've felt. Use me as a means to help others and to point them to you...I fully believe that without your strength, I would be spent. Yet, you've given me a platform and a voice of compassion... and for that, I will forever praise your name.

During the most difficult time of my life, my presence met early mornings in my white rocking chair on the porch. Sipping coffee with my blanket on my lap, not meant for warmth but comfort...I would lay down my troubles, needs, and praises down on a sheet of paper. I would pray with a sincerity only deeply burdened souls understand, then read, then pray again. It was the only moment in my day, at the time, when I didn't feel weight on my chest, when my heart wouldn't race, when my hands didn't tremble, when irrational thoughts wouldn't cloud my judgement and when my thoughts were focused on just God.

Often times I would remind myself of the verse, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." {Matthew 6:23}  I would pray that God could give me this seemingly supernatural power. I feared the next hour just as much as tomorrow just as much as next year. So, I started taking life in very small increments. Just enough, for a person going through trauma would be able to swallow....

"People feel this way", I would think to myself.

"I never knew people felt this kind of pain."

God might not have taken me to that awful place, but because I was there...I'm making a promise to use that experience to help others. Some have been there and can't seem to find a healthy new way of life, while others are currently there ...in that desolate place that my flesh would rather not recall. The thorn in my side. Do you have one? 

I'm going to change my mind from feeling broken, tormented and victimized to feeling blessed to know those feelings.

I'm going to be an Overcomer.

Not only that, I'm going to live my life encouraging others be the same.

What the enemy wanted to destroy, I will allow God to use for his good. 
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. ~1 John 5:4

Love to you,
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You can find Overcomer Outreach on the following social media channels: FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest
Because we believe there is healing in the words "me too", our authors have joyfully set up Facebook forums for individual struggles, these groups are *closed, meaning people can see that you are a part of the group, however they cannot see the conversations unless they are in the group. We welcome you with open arms to the following groups.
Janelle Nehrenz will be involved in all groups, she has gratefully accepted the help of her authors to lead specific areas of compassion meaningful to them. Although she has not gone through each trial, she is empathetic to all of them. 
Overcomer Outreach on...

Adoption, Foster Care & Orphan Care Leader: Erica Elm
Infertility Leader: Shon Murray
Marriage Leader: Sonya Schroeder
Finding Joy Leader: Emanda Rosen
Fear Leader: Mandy Pagano
Homeschooling Leader: Mrs Jeanette Wood
Cancer Leader: Debby Derby
Positive Thinking and Encouragement Leader: Sarah Beals
Freedom from Bondage: Walking in Grace and Truth Leader: Gina Smith

Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, we have one *secret* group on Abortion. This means that no one can see that you are a part of this group on your FB account. To be a part of this forum, you must friend Kelly K Writes and she must add you. Overcomer Outreach is pro-life, however our prayer is to help release those having gone through with abortion from condemnation, so that they can be free again through Christ. 
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Have To Get Through The Messy To Find The Beautiful

I was 20 years old. I sat in the small, nondescript office clutching my purse in my lap. I listened to the attorney sitting at the desk across from me, but most of what he said didn't make sense. I waited for months until the final divorce decree came in the mail. I read every word. My eyes filled with tears that spilled down my cheeks when I read the line: This marriage has been forever and irretrievably broken. 

The divorce hadn't been a surprise. Obviously, I knew it was coming. I was already living my life like a single person, anyway, clueless to the gravity of what I had just gone through.

It was that one sentence...forever and irretrievably broken.
I was broken. I was barely out of my teens and already had a failed marriage under my belt.

Fast forward several years to another nondescript office, listening again to someone tell me things I only half understood. What I did understand? That I was about to sign a document that would end a 4-year marriage and veritably wipe away 8 years of memories. To put it in the words of my now second ex-husband, we were "undoing everything we took years to do." 

And oh it hurt. It hurt so bad. 

This time I swore it would be different. This time, I promised myself that I would go the long haul, I would see it through, I would honor my marriage vows of "till death do us part." 

But there I sat...like a scene from the movie Groundhog's Day...signing away my marriage. 
Irretrievably broken.  

I knew marriage was hard. I mean, I'd learned at least that much from the first marriage. But, I had no idea that even when you go into it realizing it's hard and knowing you'll have to give until you feel like you have nothing more left to give, it would feel at times like you're running a marathon with cinder blocks chained to your feet.

I had the desire, but not the tools or the know-how when it came to navigating marriage. I had no idea that marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ's love for the church. I was clueless to the fact that marriage goes far beyond joint bank accounts, picking out China, and dinner parties. 

It's work. And it's sometimes the hardest, gut-wrenching, most arduous work one will ever do. 
And God has to be at the center of it.

Many of you have heard me talk about Darlene Schacht from Time-Warp Wife before. She's this adorable Canadian woman whom I came to love when I stumbled across her blog a couple of years ago. I was smitten by her posts on marriage and impressed by her and her husband's longevity, but I was absolutely bowled over when I read the story of how her husband confronted her about an affair she'd had. 

I knew that feeling in the pit of the stomach and the heat rush that climbs up your face when you're "caught." I remember like yesterday confessing an affair of my own. I remember the humiliation, the regret, and the devastation of admitting that I had broken my marriage vows and betrayed my husband. I also remember another time of being on the receiving end of the news that I had been cheated on. I can instantly recall the deep sense of betrayal and hurt. Words can't express the pain or the depth of the wound. 

But as I sat reading this woman's testimony, wiping away tears and nodding my head, I knew she was telling me something different than I'd heard before and she was speaking from a vantage point that rang true to me and was one I understood well.

Only, she was victorious. Her marriage was succeeding and thriving despite the affair, despite the marital struggles. I wanted that. I was hungry for that. I needed to know her secret.

I've reviewed another of Darlene's books before (The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife). It was an amazing book. I loved it. I cried my way through it and learned so much about being a wife who supports and loves. Darlene's new book Messy Beautiful Love is out today. I am honored to be among those who received an advanced copy in exchange for writing a review. 

The easy part is reading and reviewing this book. The hard part? That's where I put into practice all the Godly, sound advice Darlene offers. One of the things I love about her is that she is a woman who speaks from the heart. She is real and honest and raw. She doesn't mince words when it comes to giving the truth, yet I never feel offended. 

Even when she speaks of some hard topics like "Give Up Your Right to Be Right," I never feel like Darlene is speaking down to me, but rather like she has her arm around my shoulder while we sit next to each other on the sofa with a hot mug of tea in our hands. 

I'm going on a decade of marriage with my third husband. We don't have it all figured out yet, but we have many things in our corner now, that neither of us had before. 

When I at down to read Darlene's book Messy Beautiful Love, I felt like I was peeking into her life. I love the way she begins most chapters with an anecdote or personal story. I feel a kinship with her. I laugh, I cry, and I feel like she gets me.

How can this be when I have met this lovely woman only once in person? How can I possibly feel like she's written a book entirely for me? I think it's because she has gone beyond the expected and conventional role of the Christian author. Refreshingly, she is more concerned with living a life that honors Christ than she is with procuring a following or selling books. Darlene is easily one of the most gracious people I've ever met. 

Is she perfect? Nope. And she's not afraid to tell you that. So you don't find yourself half-way through reading the book and wanting to throw it across the room, exasperated at yet another marriage book that tells you how the author has it all figured out and you're a mess. (I've been there.)

So, today I am telling you to RUN and order yourself a copy of Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht. This woman is the real deal. She's been there. She's stumbled. She's gotten back up and she's sharing the wisdom she's learned from God throughout her trials. 

You can order the book by clicking HERE

Click HERE to read an interview with Darlene on Deliberate Women.



I was sent an advanced copy of Darlene Schacht's book Messy Beautiful Love in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% genuine and completely my own. 

Here's YOUR chance to win a copy of this amazing book! Enter today for your chance to win! Must be 18 or older to enter. All entrants must reside in the US or Canada only. Winner will be notified via email and will have 24 hours to respond. If winner does not respond within 24 hours, another name will be selected using Rafflecopter. No purchase necessary. Contest ends Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 11:59 P.M. 

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

When The Sin Is Just Too Big To Forgive

Forgiveness.

It's a weighty topic and can become quite controversial when we get into "degrees" of sin.

Often we can forgive without a second thought when the sin is "minor."

But what about when the sin is really "BIG"? Or what about when it's someone close to you. A friend? Your spouse? A pillar of the church?

Today, I'm over at Ungrind talking about Sin, Restoration and The Church

I hope you'll join me there.
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Monday, September 1, 2014

Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht of Time-Warp Wife-Pre-Order it Now!

3 marriages and 2 divorces have taught me a bunch. Mostly, they've taught me that marriage is hard work

I stumbled upon Darlene Schacht's blog Time-Warp Wife almost 2 years ago. 

I was captivated as I read her testimony. If you have read any of my past book reviews (like The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife) you know that I became enamored with Darlene because her testimony so closely reflected my own. 

I was blown away by how candid she was in talking about her infidelity and the way she and her husband Michael worked together to own and address the weakness in their marriage--and to fall on their knees before God and allow Him to restore it. 

Where Darlene and I wildly diverged was in that last part--falling on our knees and allowing God to restore the marriage. 

Now, almost 10 years into my third marriage, God has been working on both of us to allow Him to be the center of it all. Reading Darlene's books further reinforces that God is and should be the 3rd person in our marriage. 

Her new book Messy Beautiful Love is releasing September 16, 2014, and I am so excited to be a part of the Launch Team! I was drawn in by the title alone. Oh how I am familiar with the Messy part of love, but with God's help and by reading books like Darlene's, I am learning more about the Beautiful part. Darlene continues to drive it home how women need to run after God, and in so doing, we will also be loving and honoring our husbands. She speaks from experience and that translates beautifully.
 
Now is your opportunity to pre-order her book, and along with it, Thomas Nelson Publishers are including a whole bunch of goodies for you (+$50 in FREEBIES!!)


Once you've placed your order, email MessyBeautifulLove@gmail.com. By giving them your receipt/order confirmation number along with the number of books you purchased, you qualify for these awesome extras (which will be emailed to you!) It may take a little time to receive your freebies, but rest assured, they will be coming!
 
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sometimes You Just Celebrate

Sometimes I am drowning in laundry. Like...drowning.

Many days I can't lay anything made of paper on the counters for fear it will stick and be ripped to shreds.

Often I step over errant toys and rogue Legos.

I kid you not...there is usually fur on the fan blades in every room. And mildew in crevices in the bathrooms. And unknown substances that I pretend I don't see.

I always spy things that need done, and often feel like I do nothing.

But yesterday? Yesterday I must have been vicariously nesting for some preggo friends because I was a freak when it came to cleaning. I mean, I scrubbed areas of the bathrooms that I never even knew existed before. 

My tub (which I LOVE to soak in) is actually shining! (Related: I am totally grossed out that I used to soak in it in its previous condition.)

The shower?

Who knew it's actually white and not beige??

The kids' bathroom? That horrid smell I couldn't quite place? Yeah...I placed it. Who knew the trajectory of a little boy's urine can miss the pot completely and instead travel to the left, around the corner and find its way into the tiniest of cracks behind the toilet? That or they are hanging from the ceiling when they pee and now that I think of it, that isn't so far-fetched....

That funky odor that wafted from the fridge every time we opened it, nearly knocking you to your knees? Um, yeah, that would be water that was trapped beneath the crisper drawers. (Did you know that can happen? More importantly, did you know that when that happens, it freezes and smells like you're hiding a dead carcass in there??)

So, on this otherwise ordinary Wednesday I scrubbed and cleaned and wiped until things were sparkly clean. Who cares that it was only 2 rooms and the fridge. I'm celebrating!

So what that you don't have an immaculate home!

Who cares that your living room today looks more like a scene from "Hoarders" than it does a page out of Better Homes & Gardens. 

You wiped down the kitchen table? Own it!

You swept and mopped the floors? You hang a banner and break out the bubbly!

You, like me, braved your Hazmat suit and cleaned areas you will never, ever speak of again? Girl, you go ahead and put up a billboard on Main Street.

I'm cheering you on!

Some days I have it together. In fact, sometimes there are a string of days that I feel like I've got a handle on it. And then other times...I squeal with delight over the tiniest of things:

  • Scraping the nasty, congealed toothpaste off the toothbrush.

  • Wiping down the toilet in the main bathroom (Seriously, were these kids raised by wolves?)

  • Finally wiping the 10,000 hand and nose prints off the patio doors.

  • Getting a shower 2 days in a row.

So today...I am giving you permission, lady, to own it too.

Sure, sure, we all agree that we want bathed kids and clean underwear and a house that doesn't humiliate us when company drops by, but we also realize the reality of the situation is that every day isn't like that. Some days it's all we can do to piece together a meal that passes for healthy and wipe up the 7th glass of spilled milk before it hardens into a smelly, flaky crust and we lose our stuff on the kids, the husband, the dog and random-neighbor-kids-who-don't-live-here-but-it-sure-seems-like-they-do....

But I digress.

My point, friends, and I do have one, is that sometimes we just need to celebrate the little things. 

We won't always have a spotless living room. We won't always prepare a fabulous meal or scrub the floor tile to perfection. Sometimes we won't accomplish a freaking thing in the day. 

But on those days when you feel like you're running in mud, find one thing...just one..and sound the trumpet. Take out an ad in the paper. Call up a friend and brag a little. 

Last night I stepped over clean laundry that still needed put away to soak in that newly, glistening tub. I relished how the flames from the candles flickered off the now-magnificently clean surround. 

Sure, there was plenty that I didn't get done, but I made a point to acknowledge the things that I did

And instead of the usual self-deprecating list of "failures" from my day, I went ahead and gave myself a nod for the things I did well. And today, I woke up a new person. Is it life-changing? I'm not sure. But I do know that I got out of bed this morning ready to see what more I can accomplish.

Try it. 

Feel free to comment with something you got done that you're celebrating today!



Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Laid-Back Method of Home Schooling & a CASH Giveaway!

I don't often blog about the way we home school, but I think with it being Back-To-School time for most of us, it may be nice for those who are interested to see the very laid-back approach we take. 
Our oldest started kindergarten in the fall of 2010. His brother started kindergarten the year after.
 
We chose traditional public schooling for them until our oldest was in 2nd grade. My heart had always felt pulled to Home School, but it was a foreign concept to my husband, so we spent 2 1/2 years talking about it until he felt comfortable pulling them out of school and educating them at home. 

I scoured website after website, I joined countless Home Schooling Facebook groups, and I messaged many of my homeschooling friends to ask for their insight. 

What I got was a LOT of (good!) information. And overload and an overwhelmed, sinking feeling that this was going to be too much for me. 

And then I took a step back, a deep breath, and I told myself that in our state (Pennsylvania), children are not required to begin school until the age of 8, so since our oldest was not yet 8, we had some wiggle room should we decided to send them back to school. 

I checked into some of the popular curriculum (like A Beka, My Father's World, Sonlight, and Timberdoodle), but the price was not cost-effective for our family. 

I stumbled across some Brain Quest workbooks in Target one day, and fell in love with the colorful pages and the variety of subjects. 


The cover said that it contained a "whole year of curriculum-based exercises and activities," but we quickly discovered that if you do each subject concurrently, you run out of curriculum way before a school year is over. 

So...I Googled some more workbooks and I discovered Scholastic has some really great workbooks and they are in line with State Standards. 


These workbooks are awesome! The back also details what workbooks/subjects are available for each grade. It makes my job very easy. 

For Spelling, I added these workbooks last year. They are wonderful! They provide a spelling list for each week, activities for each day of the week to reinforce the words, and a test for the last day of the week. We photocopy these pages so that we can reuse the workbooks each year. That helps cut down on expenses. 



In addition to these workbooks, I like to supplement with things from our children's Bible and from websites that offer free downloads. There are a TON of websites...many websites offer entire curriculum for FREE! (Check out My Joy-Filled Life for many!)

Our routine has changed up a bit over the past 2 years and as we find our groove. This year (school starts for us at the end of August/beginning of September) I'd like to have the 3 oldest children (grades 1, 3 &4) start their day by reading a section of their children's Bible (pre-determined) and write in their journal about what they've read. I'd also like to start working with them on memorizing age-appropriate verses. 

The rest of our day is handled by when the littler ones are in nap. Since our youngest two are 2 & 3 years old, it's much easier to wait until they are in nap to do lessons. Since we have 4 in school this year, that may need to be tweaked a bit. We shall see...

We usually start at the page where we left off in each workbook and do 1 page per day. We do Social Studies and Science/health about once or twice a week and that is in conjunction with  "teaching moments" as we are "living life". We have lots of conversations about Math and Science just in our everyday activities. We also like to go to local places such as the Children's Museum, the Science Center and local farms. 

I'm not sure how long we will Home School. We are taking it one year at a time. Our state requires that our children test in grades 3, 5, 8 and high school (ACT or SAT). So far, our oldest is the only who has reached the mandatory testing age and he did very well. That bolstered my confidence enough to continue on. This year, our second oldest tests and we will evaluate where we are going with him for next year based on that. It has been a tremendous blessing to home school. I am able to be present for those "a-ha!" moments and to address issues and correct on-the-spot as necessary. 

I was very nervous in the beginning, but as we have been feeling our way through, I have gained confidence. The sense of accomplishment is second to none! Our oldest daughter finished kindergarten last year and she is now reading! She went from not reading at all at the beginning of the year last year to reading everything in sight! That is an amazing feeling knowing that I was instrumental in that!

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me: mandypmommyof4 {at} yahoo {dot} com. 

Homeschooling is not for everyone, but it is definitely working out well for us. If it's your desire  to home school, but you're on the fence or have concerns, I'd love to chat with you further!


Also...

****ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE!! ONE LUCKY WINNER WILL WIN A HUGE CASH GIVEAWAY!******

(You must have a Paypal account to be awarded.)





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