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Friday, July 31, 2015

When You HEAR God Calling

My first post went live on November 25, 2009 and it had the interest-piqueing, adrenaline-pinching title of "Let's Try This Out." I wrote a tittilating post about the lyrics to a Casting Crowns song. I originally started the blog on MySpace to share what I was learning in my Bible reading. It was a means to hold myself accountable for being in the Word and also a way to publicly share my faith (which I was too ashamed to do for quite a while.)

And I had trouble sleeping that night as I envisioned how many people would read my thoughts and judge me based on them. (FYI, it had a GRAND TOTAL of 30 views, so I needn't have worried.)

From that point on, I wrote what was on my heart and shared my crazy life of being a stay-at-home mom of many (at the time of the first post I had 4 kids) and felt this overwhelming welcome from the Momy Blogger community. I encountered a whole new world. A world where women, like me, wrote and shared about their lives while simultaneously embracing me and all the messiness of mine. It was invigorating and addicting. 

Pretty soon, I had a modest following and plenty of "regulars" who would happen by the blog to check in and comment. (If you don't know, comments are a balm to a blogger's soul. It gets lonely feeling like we're talking to ourselves all the time.) And as my "followers" grew, my love of writing what God was doing in my life waned. Before long, I was sharing more of the funny, mundane of my everyday and less and less of God. I saw that my readers responded better to the humor, so I customized my posts to bring in more comments and more accolades. 

And then I just stopped writing for a while. I took 2 months off in 2011. It felt like longer, but I just double checked and sure enough, it wasn't longer. 

Looking back, I see that God was saying to me, "That's not what you're supposed to be doing. You're supposed to be sharing your love of Me with others. You're supposed to be following Me, not gaining followers of your own."

Of course, I didn't hear Him with my ears. This is more something He put on my heart, but it took me a while to hear it. In fact, it's taken me about 6 years, really, to fully HEAR Him.

So, today marks a new chapter in my writing. Very soon I will be changing my blog name to mandypagano.com and Suburban Stereotype will be a thing of the past. It's a fond part of my past, at that. Blogging is where I truly discovered my love of writing. It's where God helped me work out many issues where my flesh wrestled with my Spirit. And it's also where I got  to "meet" so many of you who struggled and labored to work out your salvation just like me. 

God has been working on me, feverishly, although patiently as well. I am HEARING Him and I am ready to move forward. That means no longer allowing myself the luxuary of being afraid to speak the Truth. It means no longer being lazy when it comes to sharing who He is with the world. And it means stepping out in faith to go where He is calling me. 

It's scary and exciting. 

At the same time, I am being called much deeper with my team at Deliberate Women. We have some HUGE plans in the works that will (Lord willing) revolutionaize women's ministry and help to reach a world of aching women who NEED to know about the love of Christ. 

The truth is, I don't want to be luke warm in anything, but I especially don't want to be luke warm when it comes to Jesus. 

So here goes...

Very soon, when you come to this site, you will be redirected to "Mandypagano.com". 

Buckle up. Roll up your sleeves. We've got an entire globe of women who need to know who Jesus is and how He can rescue and redeem them. 

Are you ready? 

Check out the Deliberate Women team by clicking HERE

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#BEMORE: A Review of Sandi Krakowski's New Amazing Book.

I "met" Sandi online about a year or so ago. Her Tweets intrigued me and kept me coming back for more. I didn't know who she was, but I knew I was drawn to her and the positive attitude she embodies. Even on social media I could feel her positivity. Also? She loves Jesus. So, not only are her words chalk-full of "feel good," they are also firmly rooted in Christ.

One night while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I replied to one of her Tweets, and to my surprise, she responded to me! If you don't know her, Sandi has over 1 million followers on her Facebook page alone. And she responded to me not only once, but twice! Her willingness to personally connect with her readers struck me. I became a regular follower of hers from that point on.

I was approached by The Fedd Agency, and asked to read and review her new book and I couldn't say "Yes!" fast enough. When I received her book, I was surprised by how small it was, but my oh my...it is JAM PACKED with wisdom that is separated into bite-size pieces. 

Reading #BEMORE made me get so excited! With every chapter I found myself reading out loud and racing to social media to share Sandi's thoughts. Suddenly, this "little book" was HUGE! Sandi breaks down her book into five different "Parts" and each part has "Secrets." The "Parts" are as follows:

Part I: Be More...Connected to God
Part II: Be More...In Tune With Yourself
Part III: Be More...Attentive to Your Relationships
Part IV: Be More...Engaged with Your Community
Part V: Be More...Mindful of Your World

Part I was enough to hook me. Honestly. When I read the following, I couldn't share it with my ministry team of Deliberate Women fast enough:
"The greatest trick the devil is pulling off in our lives today is convincing us that we don't matter and that God is no longer relevant. Stop being vulnerable to the devil. If we were more impressed with God than we are the other things of the world, the devil would have no power.  " Sandi Krakowski, #BEMORE, p 20.
As I'm reading, I'm surprised that what Sandi is saying pertains directly to me. It's powerful and Godly and relevant. I've shared several parts of her book with others including my husband because what she says is so needed in the world today. In a time when so many are seeking their value and worth in outside sources and searching for validation in temporal things, Sandi hits the nail on the head by driving  home who we are and whose we are. It's liberating and inspiring.

God has been taking me on a crazy, albeit relatively gentle journey the past decade or so. He's ramping things up of late, and Sandi's book came at the perfect time. She isn't afraid to speak boldly for Christ. She isn't scared of offending others by speaking Truth and she does so in such a way that the reader is encouraged, not discouraged.

Another thing I like about Sandi is that she is a woman who has teetered on the brink of utter calamity. Hers is not a past full of sunshine and roses or a silver spoon. Her past includes things like poverty and assault. She chose not to listen to others who would discount her pull to #BEMORE when they said she was merely going through a phase, but instead rose above and listened to the Heavenly Father to follow where He was leading her. And today, He has led her to several multi-million dollar businesses and a calling to encourage and inspire others. And that she has!

I wholeheartedly endorse Sandi's book #BEMORE and I encourage you to get a copy for yourself.

You can find Sandi Krakowski on Facebook HERE, Twitter HERE, and her website HERE.





*I received a copy of Sandi's book #BEMORE in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

For the Mom Crying as She Drives Away from Summer Camp

I watched as the group of boys played football, throwing it from one end of the yard to the other, yelling, hollering, and overall having a great time. My heart was in my throat as I watched two boys in particular...my oldest two sons.

My heart was silently shattering into a million tiny pieces as I watched them play, the two of them unaware that I had even pulled into the lot.

They were at sleep-away camp for the first time. At 9 and 10 years old, I wasn't confident they were old enough or ready to be away from home for an entire 5 days/6 nights. And, truthfully, I wasn't quite sure I was ready.

We went to registration with every intention of dropping off and picking up every day, right before breakfast, and right before bed. But as soon as the boys saw that their friend from church was going to stay the week, they immediately changed their minds and asked to stay too. 

I had already said my goodbyes, but with the understanding that I would be back to bring all the stuff we hadn't thought we'd need: sheets, pillow, change of clothes for the week, clean underwear, toothpaste, and shower soap that I'm not confident they'll even use...

But once I pulled back in and saw them playing, it started all over again for me,

It took them a while to notice me. Once they did, I expected them to run over to the van, but they didn't. They actually acted as if they hadn't seen me! I know this is all part of it--this growing up business that I haven't totally bought into, and it stung. 

I restrained myself enough not to call their names. I wanted to play the part of the cool mom, the one who waves happily and says, "have a great time!" and then makes plans to meet some friends for coffee. Truthfully, I'm not that mom. I don't know that I'll ever be or if I even want to be. 

The boys ran into their cabin with their new bunk-mates and I thought for a horrifying few moments that I wouldn't get to see them again before driving off, but then there they both were. I saw them come out onto their porch. And I have to tell you--in that moment, my whole being seized with such an intense and primal instinct. I said to myself, "They are mine. Those boys, those beautiful, sweet boys are my treasures. I am loaning them to you, world. Loaning. I want them back. You're so very lucky that I am generously loaning them to you..."

It was a quick thought, and it was immediately followed by the Lord pressing on my heart, "Just the way I am loaning them to you."

I know they aren't really mine. I also know that a week at sleep-away camp isn't tantamount to sending them off to war, like some moms have had to do. But man oh man, does it hurt. And I think it hurts so much because I realize this is just a glimpse of all the times I'm going to have to let them go as they get older, as they blossom into adults and go out into the world. 

My chief worry this week is that they'll be homesick and too embarrassed to tell anyone, that they'll skin their knee, or someone will be mean to them, but I realize that before I know it, I'll have greater worries. 

It's this time right now that I need to be putting Christ in front of them through my actions, the way I live my life, and by making sure they are in the Word. I need to be drinking in the moments that will be gone too fast. I need to hug a little longer, play games when I'd rather do something else and ignore the to-do list when they want my attention. 

This is a big deal for me, letting then stay at sleep-away camp. I didn't write The Anxious Mom eBook because I'm a calm, rational mom who enjoys her kids being away from her. I wrote it because I recognize the vast and gaping hole that should be my faith and Trust in God. 

Something I am realizing is that when you ask God to lead you on a journey toward being more Christ-like and to trust in Him, He will launch you on that journey. And with gusto! Instead of simply snapping His Divine fingers and granting me unwavering faith and trust or removing my fear and worry, He is instead placing me in situations and giving me opportunities to flex my trust muscle. I can either SAY I trust Him but still squirrel my kids away at home, or I can take a step in faith and allow myself to stand in that scary, terrifying place where I only have the Lord to hold onto for support. Instead of saying, "I trust You, Lord!" I can SHOW HIM that I do. 

I hate every single second of it.

And if one more person tells me to "let go" and stop worrying, violence may ensue. 

OF COURSE I know they're right. I know they are, those annoying individuals who wave their kids off to camp and college as if it isn't like losing a limb. {I'm only slightly serious about the "annoying" part...}

It doesn't make it any less hard. 

You're a mom who easily allows your kids to take chances, be independent and explore the world without you? That's fabulous! Kudos! I would like to be more comfortable doing the same. 

But please, please, don't poo poo a mom who is more apprehensive and less free to do so. 

Are you a mom who cried when dropping off her precious cargo at camp? Hear! Hear! I am with you in complete and full soilidarity! I feel you! I got you! I am metaphorically fist-bumping you right now. 

Let's do this together. Let's turn to the Lord and trust Him to care for what is His, K? 

But it doesn't mean we have to like it and it doesn't mean we won't cry bucket loads while we do...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Quiet Fight Between Women by Angie Tolpin - {A Review}

"The moment that we cannot see our sister the way God sees her and has created her, as a Daughter of the King, an important part of the Body of Christ with unique gifts, we have allowed the enemy to disable us as a team from fulfilling our greatest calling, to make disciples of Christ!" Angie Tolpin from a post taken from The Better Mom. (<--- This is just a glimpse into what Angie talks about in her new online course.)

Have you ever felt it?

The unspoken judgment, the sidelong glance, the whispers behind your back.

If you've ever compared yourself to another or felt less than, surely you have felt it: The quiet fight between women.

Angie Tolpin is passionate about this issue facing us in our churches today. Her heart bleeds onto the keyboard with every word she types when she talks about this insidious, yet common problem facing women. 

Why does this happen? How can we stop it? 


Angie Tolpin

Angie has taken much time to pray about, research, and flesh out an online course that leads us through identifying this issue and also knowing how to effectively deal with it. 

Angie's course--The Quiet Fight Between Women is an eight unit course that includes bite-sized videos of Angie (who understands that fitting in a study can be challenging given the busy-ness of our lives), thought-provoking questions, downloadable journal pages, and a Facebook group where we can really dig in and discuss what we are learning. 

A neat feature that I haven't seen used very often with online courses is a text accountability/encouragement feature that Angie uses as you complete different sections of the course. It was nice to know that my activity in the course was noticed. Even though I was taking the course by myself, I never felt alone.  

Angie has poured her heart into this course and into uniting women so that we can place our focus where it should be: On serving the Lord with our individual gifts and for His glory. Each unit is immersed in scripture and Biblically based. Angie has truly sought out the wisdom of the Lord to address this issue. 

This course is ideal for individuals because it's set at your own pace and has an open-ended course date. It's also great for small groups because the journal pages, discussion questions, and video sessions are provided for you.

If you are looking for a study to lead your small group through, this is it. It's meaty, it's Truth-filled, and it has the potential to change lives.

Find Angie on Facebook HERE.
Find Angie on Twitter HERE

Thursday, June 18, 2015

God Calm My Anxious Heart: Blog Series with Mandy & Friends- LOOKING FOR WRITERS!


How does God bring peace to you in moments of anxiety? What truths do you hold on to when you feel worried or fearful?
“I’m an anxious Mom who is overcoming worry and fear.  I’m clinging to God to calm my anxious heart.  I turn into a Momma Bear when I fret over my children and my roar is not a pretty sight.  I’m dedicated to change and become a Momma Bear that stands in confidence for myself and my children.  In the next several weeks I will be sharing more about this with you all.”  Lisa
But for now I would like to invite you to write with us.
We would love to hear your story.
We all struggle with feeling anxious. Some have panic attacks. For many, anxiety requires professional help. There is social anxiety, phobia, obsessive and compulsive behaviors that are all related to anxiety.
Anxiety can keep us from living in the freedom of peace and joy. It can hold us back from being all God calls us to be. It can isolate and lead to loneliness.
Starting In August of 2015 three bloggers will come together to host stories from writers who are willing to share their battle with anxiety.
We are looking for stories where writers focus on the goodness of God.
We need writers who are willing to be honest about their struggle and desire to encourage others to find hope in God.
If you have a story to share please email lisadesign@comcast.net for more information. Please let us know if you are planning to join us by June 25th.
We are asking all writers to submit their final posts to be published by July 20th.
After I receive your email Lisa will send you detailed information in regards to our series.
We ask that all submissions be less than 800 words on attached Word Document. Please don’t send us older blogs. Include bio with a picture and links to connect with you. Share something about your website and blog. Include any publish work you have done.
Please Note
This is a volunteer writing opportunity. Writing must be about YOU, YOUR STORY, Testimony, and relationship with God. Our Focus is to Glorify God and Jesus Christ.
Please don’t preach, leave advice, or lecture.
We will post one story a week on three Blogs. And we ask that every writer provide a preview on their blog sending their readers to us.
After July the 20th we will send you a schedule with the day your post will be published.
Tentatively the plan is to Post either on Mondays or Tuesdays.
End of July through the beginning of August we will be announcing series to our readers. Please consider helping us make announcements.
Blog Series Hosts
Angel from Vision 61 – http://www.vision61.com/
Angel has provided a safe place on her Website for people to share their testimonies. You will find stories about Overcoming Addictions, Depression, Brokenness and God’s amazing Grace.
Lisa Brown at Me Too Moments For Moms Moms living together in communityhttps://communitymoms.wordpress.com/
Lisa talks about everything on her blog.
And then there's me:
Mandy from Suburban Stereotype – http://www.suburbanstereotype.com
You probably know I have an eBook – called The Anxious Mom and it’s my journey through scripture to learn how to deal with the fear and anxiety about my kids. It’s a FREE download. http://bit.ly/1CJeWa1
We will be sharing this eBook with our readers throughout the series and your contributions to help promote would be appreciated.
We look forward to your email with contact information – remember we need to know by June 25th if you are writing something for our series. And mark on your calendars July 20th for submission. Email Lisalisadesign@comcast.net
~Mandy

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Destroy the Idols and Fortify The Walls: Taking stock of our lives

I have been following a reading plan for reading through the Bible in a year in chronological order. It's been awesome and tedious and challenging. 

Today, a passage of scripture hit me so hard, I interrupted myself to write about it. 

Read in 2 Chronicles 14 about King Asa. Solomon is dead, his son Jeroboam had been defeated in battle for not heeding the wise advice of the elders, Judah was victorious as the Lord delivered them from King Jeroboam and thusly, Abijah was placed on the throne, and then his son Asa succeeded Abijah. 

Here's where it gets really good... 

Asa set to work destroying the foreign altars that had been built by the kings preceding him. He tore down the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles. These were all altars dedicated to false gods and where sacrifices were offered to them. 

Asa didn't stop there, however...

He then built up the fortified cities of Judah. He built large walls and added towers and gates. These verses spoke volumes to my heart:

"'Let us build up these towns,' he said to Judah, 'and put walls around them, with towers, gates, and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.' So they built and prospered."
And I thought...this could be applied to our minds as well. What if...

What if we tore down our idols and removed anything that isn't glorifying to God?

What if we destroyed all things in our life that didn't honor the Lord?

This could be music we listen to, movies and television shows we watch, books we read, friends we keep, relationships we invest in, philosophies we adhere to, schools of thought we entertain, people we allow to speak into our lives, clothing we wear, things we buy, pursuits we chase after...anything that we put above God and anything that is not glorifying to Him.

And then...after we've torn down our "high places" and destroyed our idols, what if we intentionally fortified what we still have and add to it with what is of God?

What if we built walls (or drew boundaries) around what is Holy? What if we protected with everything we have, the landscape that is from God?

What if we immersed ourselves in His Word and paid honor to Him through our words, thoughts, and actions? What if we focused our energy and talents onto Him and His pursuits? What if we protected ourselves and held sacred that which is of Him? And that which He places before us?

I believe that like in Asa's time in 2 Chronicles 14, we will build and prosper.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." Psalm 127:1
This doesn't mean to start hacking away at everything. But it does mean to take careful inventory of what we are allowing inside our minds and into our lives. It means weighing it against the Scripture to see what is glorifying and pleasing  to God.

And the hard part is cutting out and destroying what shouldn't be there.

When we invite the Lord in on this task, He will reveal to us what needs to go and what should stay. Judah was victorious in the battle because they sought the Lord and did what was good and right in His eyes (verse 2). It wasn't until after the idols were destroyed that they were able to build up the walls that protected them and gave them peace.

I'm asking myself what idols need to go in my life. Some are more obvious than others. Some sneakily hide behind things that are deemed as "good" but may not be of God.

This will look different for everyone. It's a private conversation that needs to take place between yourself and the Lord. And it may not be a one-time thing. This may be a process that we have to keep repeating throughout our lives as we seek Him and get to know Him better.

The Lord is faithful. If we are earnestly seeking Him,we will find Him.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)


Monday, June 8, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 4



So, this is it, friends! We've arrived at the last week of this study of Jonah! Let's dive right in...

{Find Chapter 1's Discussion HERE.
Find Chapter 2's Discussion HERE.
Find Chapter 3's Discussion HERE.}

Chapter 3 ended with the people of Nineveh repenting and mourning for their wrong-doing and violence. And Jonah leaped for joy because all his hard work paid off, right?

Uh....no 

In fact, Jonah was TICKED.

Chapter 4 opens like this:
"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry." (Verse 1)
His prayer that follows in verses 2-3 is raw and angry. I can see the spit flying as each word tears from his mouth. I feel the hot, angry tears on my own cheeks as they stream down his face. I feel the rage, the bitterness that he must have felt.
"He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? This is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'"
And there it is: The REAL reason Jonah fled in the beginning. Was he afraid? Maybe. But the center of his disobedience lie in God's grace! At first glance, it makes me shake my head. I mean, really?

But then...when I sit back and really think about it...it doesn't seem so strange.

In place of the Ninevites, we have already discussed ISIS and how the two groups parallel one another closely. We discussed how it would be understandable for anyone to be hesitant to go toe-to-toe with them. And we can probably even understand how Jonah would be angry with the Lord for forgiving them--for giving them a second chance.

The following is a section taken from www.muumc.org and it offers a grisly account of exactly who the Ninevites were:

The Assyrian Empire, at its greatest under Ashurbanipal, reached from Egypt to southeastern Turkey to Iran, including all the fertile river valleys of the Nile, the Jordan, and the Tigris and Euphrates. This was the largest empire yet seen in the world; and it got there using a new military weapon: terror. The Assyrian army was notorious for its brutality, and the Assyrians themselves made sure their enemies knew about their reputation. Their powerful bows, battering rams, and archers on horseback were also effective; but mutilation of prisoners, resettlement of whole populations, and a general rejoicing in butchery were what their victims told others about. Assyrian kings bragged in stone about their atrocities.
The Lachish murals from Sennacherib’s throne room are as detailed as the evening news. We see the huge ramp the Assyrians built against the walls, and we see the battering rams on it pounding at the wooden gates. The defenders on the wall above sling stones and throw burning torches at the rams to try to burn them. Captured Judeans are brought to the king on his throne nearby. Other prisoners are being skinned alive, stabbed, beheaded, impaled on poles, their hands or feet or tongues chopped off, and their eyes put out. The barefoot and malnourished survivors leave the city with all they still own slung over their shoulders. They will probably be marched to Nineveh on foot. Some may be drafted into the Assyrian army to conquer other lands. 
But let's go a little deeper, kay?

Instead of ISIS or Al Qaeda--groups it's understandable to be angry and abhorrent about--let's put a less militant, yet perhaps in some ways,  harder-to-forgive face on these Ninevites.

What if God sent you to preach to the friend who betrayed you...

The spouse who cheated...

The parent who abandoned you...

The murderer....

The liar...

The pedophile...

All the sudden, it isn't so easy.

When you read the above examples, did your knee-jerk response kick in? Did you want to slam your fist down and call me ridiculous? Did anger rise up in you at the thought of God forgiving the man who cheated on you and broke your heart? The friend who lied to you and slanders you behind your back? The person who took advantage of your innocence as a child?

Then you know exactly how Jonah felt.

He moved past angry and landed solidly at indignant.

God asked Jonah:
"'Have you any right to be angry?'"
Jonah did again what had become his knee-jerk response: He ran away from the Lord. He "went out and sat down at a place east of the city" (verse 5).

Jonah made a shelter and sat in its shade. Verse 5 says that he waited to see what would happen to the city.

I never want to place in the Scriptures anything that isn't there, but I wonder if while Jonah sat there, he hoped to see it explode in a huge plume of smoke. Did his thoughts dance with visions of  horrible fates for the Ninevites? Was he counting on the Lord to come to His senses and finally smite the Ninevites once and for all? Was he recounting all the ways the Ninevites had failed and all the reasons they didn't deserve grace and mercy?

The Lord sent a vine to grow up over Jonah and ease his discomfort. Verse 6 tells us that Jonah was very happy about the vine.

At dawn, the Lord provided a worm to eat the vine so that it withered. Then the Lord sent a scorching east wind and the sun blazed. Jonah said that it would be better for him to die.

God asked Jonah if he had a right to be angry about the vine.

Jonah stuck to his guns. He replied that he did have a right and he was so angry he could just die. And the Lord responded with:

"'You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?'"
It's at this point that we turn the page of our Bible, awaiting the rest of the conversation and Jonah's reaction. But turning the page leads us into the book of Micah.

Say what??

THAT'S HOW IT ENDS???

One might think the rest of this book are lost somewhere and that the story is unfinished, but if we take a minute to let it all sink in, I think we will understand the purpose of the Lord including this book in His Holy Word.

Is there someone in your life who has wronged you? Who has committed such atrocities that you can't fathom how you can forgive them, let alone how God could forgive them?

Are you so angry and eaten with bitterness that you would rather die than forgive...or know that God has forgiven?

The Lord showed Jonah--and us, by extension--that no one is beyond the Lord's abounding grace and mercy. No one.

We easily place caveats on His grace and forgiveness, but His love knows no bounds. His grace covers any and all sins. His forgiveness is offered freely to all.

Because He created us all. He tends to us all.

He cares about us all.

And our limited, convoluted, human thinking and logic often dictates to our wounded and bruised hearts just who is worthy of forgiveness and who isn't.

But God says it all in verse 11.
"'Should I not be concerned about...'"
Jonah is a book much deeper than I originally understood it to be. Long gone are the sweet nursery rhyme, Sunday school thoughts I once had about Jonah and the "big whale."

Instead, I have a mirror held to my face and I'm asking myself if I really believe God will and wants to forgive anyone. Everyone.

When the Lord calls (and He will!) will I be obedient to step forward and tell others about Him? Will I pre-qualify those He calls me to based on my own scale of justice? Or will I step forward and simply obey?

As we close out this study, please take some time to journal on the last page of your FREE Downloadable PDF Study Guide. Really think about--and pray about--any emotions you noticed while doing this study, reading the book of Jonah, and particularly during this last chapter when we're called to recognize God's sovereignty.

Ask yourselves these questions:


  1. Have you ever been angry with God for sparing someone(s) you feel should be punished? If so, why?
  2. Do you struggle with feeling God's mercy for your enemies is unfair? If yes, why do you think that is?
  3. Has the Lord ever provided a "vine" for you? If so, describe it.

I can't thank you enough for going along on this study with me. There is nothing that will grow us better than being in the Word and actively studying it, pondering it, and praying for the Holy Spirit's wisdom to help us understand it. 

As we finish, I'd like to pray for us all:

Dear Heavenly Father,

We thank you for Your Word, We praise You for Your sovereignty. We also thank you for Your grace. We are so undeserving. Please gently remind us of that as we hold out forgiveness from others or hope that You will do so. Please give us hearts of love and not condemnation. Please give us feet that are obedient to go wherever You call us, without fear or reservation. We thank you for Jesus, who provided us with the payment for our sins, that we could never pay. It's in His precious name that we pray, amen. 


Monday, June 1, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 3


Suburban Stereotype, Jonah, Bible Study, Obedience
Do you believe we're more than half-way done with this study?!
If you're just joining us, please start at Week 1 by clicking HERE.

Then move on to Week 2 by clicking HERE.

And then come back and join us here!

So far, we've read about Jonah running away from the Lord's call on his life to go preach to the Ninevites. He was afraid, so he hopped a ship to Tarshish. Once a storm kicked up and scared everyone on board the ship, the crew threw Jonah overboard and the storm stopped. 

Jonah thought he was a goner, but God sent a large fish to swallow him. While inside the fish, Jonah prayed a gut-wrenching prayer asking the Lord to forgive him and committed to fulfill what God called him to do. 

The fish spit Jonah up on the shore of Nineveh and that's where we pick up today...

Verse 1:

"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.'"
I love the way chapter three describes Nineveh:

"Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days." 

Jonah wasted no time in getting to work:

"On the first day, Jonah started into the city."

The chapter goes on to tell us that Jonah was bold as he proclaimed "'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.'"

A striking statement, slipped ever-so-nonchalantly in at verse 5 is short and sweet, but packs quite a punch! The first part of that verse reads:

"The Ninevites believed God."

Just like that! Lickety Split!

At first reading, we might ask ourselves, "What was all the fuss? Why was Jonah so worried to preach in Nineveh? That was cake!"

In fact, as we read, we see the king himself  "rose from his throne, took off his royal clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in dust."

He then went on to issue a proclamation that every man and beast would also be covered in sackcloth and would fast from food and drink. He told everyone to urgently call on God in the hopes that the Lord would have mercy on them.

"'Do not let any man or beast, herd, or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.'" Jonah 3:7b-9
It would be easy to skip over the end of verse 8, the part about giving up their "evil ways and violence."

The commentary in my Quest Study Bible explains that the Ninevites were "international terrorists  who fueled the Assyrian war machine." It doesn't take much for our thoughts to jump to a similar group of people in our current-day culture: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc.

Given everything happening in our current generation (beheadings of Christians, massacre of children, the systematic slaughter of entire villages, and the ongoing bold assertion that they will not stop until they have full dominance), it doesn't take much to understand why Jonah may have been terrified to go into that environment to preach about God.

But then...we see them (seemingly) quickly repent and call on the name of the Lord.

Wha???

My Bible adds this to say about why the Ninevites listened so easily:

"Jonah may have looked peculiar, perhaps bearing the acidic effects of three days inside the digestive system of a large fish. Whatever captured their attention, Jonah's news of coming judgment was more important to them than who he was or where he came from."
Also? I think Jonah was worried so much about his own skin and angry that God would even consider forgiving such egregious acts of violence and blasphemy that that's why he refused to go at first.

But...mostly...I think he neglected to consider that when God calls us to something, God provides a way and paves the path. He softens the hearts of those He's sending us to and has His ultimate goal in the end: Repentance, not destruction.

Verse 10 rounds out this short chpater like this:
"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."
This was an entire city...and a large one, at that.

Does it surprise you that God would forgive them, these people who were so terrible? People who were violent and murderous?

Does it give you hope that if God could forgive them, surely He can forgive you?

Does it inspire you to pray urgently for these groups: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the like?

Have you ever felt God call you into the crosshairs?

Ask yourself these questions as we close out Chapter 3:

(Download your FREE PDF Study Guide HERE.)


  1. Have you ever found yourself with a second chance to listen to God's calling on your life? Are you in that place now? Write about it.
  2. When seeing how the Ninevites responded to what Jonah was preaching, were you surprised? If so, why?

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 2

Suburban Stereotype, Jonah, The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away


Last week we discussed that God called Jonah to go preach to the Ninevites because the Ninevites' "wickedness has come up before [God]" (Jonah 1:2).

We also discussed how Jonah jumped a ship and took the FIRST ticket out of town--to the farthest point on the map from the destination God wanted him to take.

In fact, if you're just joining us, please refer to THIS POST to get caught up.

Chapter Two opens with Jonah in the middle of a gut-wrenching prayer from inside the belly of the whale. {I find that poetic.}

Look at verse 3:
"You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me, all your waves and breakers swept over me."
First of all, if we recall, it wasn't God who "hurled" Jonah into the deep. It was due to his own disobedience and the fact that he was endangering innocent people's lives that he was thrown into the ocean--at his own suggestion, I might add.

But aside from that...as you were reading his heart-felt, pleading words to the Lord, did any of it resonate with you? Did it ring a bell? Have you ever found yourself in a mess, "drowning" as your mistakes and LIFE piled on top of you, like waves in the ocean? Have you ever gasped for breath and begged God to save you? Has life ever pulled you under like seaweed wrapped around your head (v 5)?

I have.

Whether it's of our own doing or a path we traveled down inadvertently, but later regretted, the desperation is overwhelming.

The desperation in Jonah's prayer is palpable.

And then verse 7 cuts to the chase:

"When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple."

When the going gets tough and we realize the folly of our ways, that's when we tend to cling to God. No matter how we may fight Him tooth and nail, when we find ourselves in over our heads, we know who we can turn to: The Only One who has the power to save us.

At this point of the book of Jonah, his prayer comes after being tossed about in the ocean and then swallowed by a fish. This prayer is when he realizes he's safe from the immediate threat of the ocean, but not quite free from harm. He has no idea what's happening at this point, but he has some time to catch his breath and think things through.

Do you know that place? Are you there now?

Are you on the right path, but still not quite sure how things are going to shake out?

Jonah found himself in the dark and relying completely on God's grace to rescue him. He knew God meant business. Jonah had two options: Commit to God's calling to go preach to the Ninevites or lose his life.

Verse 9 shows a new mindset within Jonah:
"But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good, Salvation comes from the Lord."
And there we have it: Jonah had vowed to the Lord and was trying to renege. Obviously, the Lord doesn't take kindly to renegging. {As an aside, feel free to check out a devotional I wrote today on Deliberate Women about being fully committed HERE.}

Also...and this is a sidenote but my mind was BLOWN by this so maybe yours will be as well:

Look at verse 9 closely. See this portion:
"Salvation comes from the Lord." 
"Salvation" in the original Greek meant this:  יְשׁוּעָה yeshuw`ah

Do you see what I see? Yeshua!

Yeshua = Jesus! (You can read an article HERE that talks about how yeshua = Joshua = Jesus.)

How amazing that 750+ years before Jesus was even born, Jonah NAMED Him as our Salvation! Praise God! His Word never ceases to amaze me!

And just as Jonah acknowledged the crux of our entire relationship with the Lord:
"And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry ground."
That's where chapter 2 leaves us. Jonah did some soul searching and came to the conclusion that God, and God alone, can save him. He realized that he should have honored his vow to the Lord all along.

So let's take a moment to ask ourselves some questions:


  1. Have you ever found yourself in the pit and prayed to the Lord from the very depths of your soul?
  2. Has God ever used extraordinary measures to reach you? If yes, did you recognize it as God at the time?
  3. Have you ever found yourself in a place where you were out of the pit, but not yet where you needed to be?

Feel free to write down any thoughts that came to mind in the "Notes" section of your FREE PDF download, which you can find HERE.

Let me know what you're learning! Feel free to comment here or on my Facebook page! Too shy to comment? Please email me HERE. I would LOVE to know how God is speaking to you through the book of  Jonah.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

When You're 18 and You Suffer a Miscarriage...All Alone.

This is a post in the Grieving Well With Jesus Series at Community Moms. This is my story...

Suburban Stereotype, Miscarriage, Teen Pregnancy

I imagine a girl. 

I picture strawberry blonde curls bouncing off small, rounded shoulders and a dimpled smile that lights up a room.

I envision a smattering of freckles dancing across cheeks the color of buttercream.

Sadly, all I have is my imagination. I never had the opportunity to hold my baby or to breathe in deeply the sweet scent of a child. I miscarried at 12 weeks.

The summer I turned eighteen I found out I was pregnant. I had just graduated from high school and was preparing to leave for college at the end of August. My future was wide open and I had lofty plans.

Not part of my plans? A baby.

I was a child myself and had no idea how I would be a mother. I vacillated between terrified and in shock. It all felt surreal.

Once the miscarriage began, see the rest of the story HERE

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away, Jonah Week 1



We sang songs as kids about it.

Bible scholars and critics alone have argued over whether it was a literal whale or simply a metaphor for a greater truth.

Sunday school classes talk about it with great fanfare and flourishes.

But have we ever really read and contemplated what the book of Jonah is all about?

The book of Jonah in the Bible opens with a bang:
"The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.'" Jonah 1:1-2
The Lord was direct with what He wanted Jonah to do and why. 

Verse three tells us Jonah's response, and while it isn't what God wants, it's probably how most of us would respond if we're totally honest with ourselves.
"But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish." 
Tarshish, the commentary in my Bible tells me, was the absolute farthest point, and the complete opposite direction, from Nineveh,

Jonah was on the run!

I found myself wondering at this point, "Why was he disobeying God? What would make him run away...literally?"  

{If you want a sneak peek about why, glance at Jonah 4:2...but then come right back!}

So, Jonah jumped on a ship and set sail. The sailing wasn't so smooth, though. It wasn't long before the ship was tossed upon the waves. The crew was terrified and began throwing cargo over the side in an effort to keep the ship from sinking. In their panic, the crew discovered Jonah, below deck...sound asleep.


The crew demanded to know who he was and what he did to land them all in the center of a violent storm.

I find a few things interesting here:

1. Jonah is "in a deep sleep" even though the ship and crew around him are being violently tossed about. {Are you kidding me? He was able to close his eyes to God's directive and close his eyes to the chaos all around him-that he caused-mind you.}

AND

2. Verse 10 gives a little nugget of info in that Jonah was open with the crew about being on the run from God. {Not only was he directly disobeying an order from God, but he made no attempt to hide it.}

What the crew didn't understand was that Jonah was on the run from THE God...the Hebrew God "the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land" (verse 11).

As the sea continued raging, getting worse as time went on, the crew begged Jonah to tell them how to make the storm stop. Jonah told them to "throw [him] into the sea."

Don't you think it's intriguing that the crew members didn't want to do that? Even though they feared for their own lives, they didn't want to harm Jonah...even though he'd suggested that very thing!

Side note: Sometimes I'm astounded by the level of compassion shown by those who don't have a relationship with Christ. While they didn't follow God's ways, they still had a code of conduct that precluded them from harming an innocent man. In the end, however, their code of conduct came second to their desire for self-preservation.

Instead, the men of the ship did their best to right the ship without harming Jonah. When it became clear that the storm wasn't going away and they weren't going to wrestle control, they begrudgingly did as Jonah had suggested:
"Then they cried to the Lord, 'O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man's life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord have done as you pleased.' Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm." Jonah 1:14-15
I just had a light bulb moment as I realized that even though Jonah knew what was going to calm the storm, and he knew he was endangering every life on board the ship because of his disobedience to God, he wasn't willing to throw himself overboard. He required the men to do the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively. Whether he was being belligerent or was too terrified to act on what he knew was right isn't spelled out in the scriptures.

How many times have I known darn well I was disobeying, knew what needed to be done, knew I was dragging others down with me, knew I was being a horrible testimony in that moment, and still wasn't willing to change my ways? I've been so deep into my sin and so blatant in my disobedience that I was on a crash course that I couldn't or didn't want to veer off of.

Yes. That's fresh conviction you smell.

Those men believed they were sentencing Jonah to a death sentence by throwing him overboard. They regretted doing it, and actually begged the Lord not to hold them accountable.

But God had other plans.

"But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three nights." Jonah 1:17

Ask we think about chapter one, let's ask ourselves these questions (also found in the FREE PDF Download you can get HERE.)

1.What does the description of Nineveh make you think of in our modern-day culture?

2. Have you ever run away from God's calling? Literally or figuratively? Did it work?

3. Like those on the ship with Jonah, have you ever considered that running away from the Lord could affect others?





Thursday, May 14, 2015

FREE Jonah Study starts Monday!

I am SO excited! The first EVER Bible study hosted on my blog! Woo Hoo!

Who's bringing cake? Who's bringing chips & salsa? Who's bringing the raspberry iced tea?

Have you downloaded your FREE study Guide yet?

Have you subscribed to the blog so you don't miss a post? 

{Would you like a pre-printed and bound study guide mailed to you? Email me HERE. It's $5.}

Here's a little video to get started. Can't WAIT to see you all Monday (May 18, 2015)!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Study of Jonah {The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away} is beginning Monday, May 18!

One week from today, the Great Pursuit Bible Study is beginning!

I have a PDF study guide/journal that you are welcome to download and print for FREE or you cab order one from me already printed and bound for $5. 

Bear in mind...this study guide is very simple. It's geared toward helping you think through things a little deeper and get some thoughts about the book of Jonah down on paper as the Lord brings them to mind. 

Sign up HERE so you don't miss a post in the Bible Study Series! 

The link to download a PDF copy is HERE.

Join me as we look at the book of Jonah and how surprisingly relevant it is to our culture today. 

This study is suited for you if:

  • God's ever called you to do something you were afraid to do
  • God's ever called you to do something you disagreed with
  • You ever tried to run away from God
  • You felt embittered toward people 
  • You were resentful for God's forgiveness of others who you dislike



Friday, May 8, 2015

New FREE Online Study Beginning May18th!

Jonah, Bible Study, The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away


Today's headlines are horrifying. There is war and terror all across the globe. Men, women, and children are being slaughtered and many because of their Christian faith.

News reports of entire villages being assaulted, women and children being kidnapped and taken into slavery, and innocent babies being mercilessly murdered fill our screens and litter our newsfeed. 

It's enough to make you want to close your eyes, turn off the television, and retreat to a quiet corner to try and forget it all. 

The bitterness and rage I feel when hearing about these atrocities is, at times, overwhelming. I'm desperate to do something in some way. I've often wished our nation would initiate a military response and wipe these butchers off the map, rid the earth of them. 

There is a consensus among us that someone should do something. But it's such a volatile, frightening situation that knowing how to act is very tricky. 

Imagine now that God speaks to you and lays on your heart to go to the Middle East and preach about Him to ISIS or Boko Haram

How would you feel? Terrified? Resentful? Angry? Incredulous?

Then you'd know exactly how Jonah felt when God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was a huge city whose inhabitants were notorious for their ungodly acts. According to the commentary in The Quest Study Bible, the Ninevites were "International terrorists who fueled the Assyrian war machine." 

What would you do? Would you run away? Would you refuse God? Would you allow fear and intimidation to take over?

Join me as we begin the study: The Great Pursuit: When God Won't Let Us Get Away on May 18, 2015. A study of the book of Jonah.

Jonah is a small book of the Bible with only 4 chapters.

I will provide a PDF study guide that you can download and print for free OR you may purchase one from me that is already printed and bound for a small fee. 

Come along as we discuss what it's like to feel God calling us to something that feels too big or that we don't agree with. 

Watch the extraordinary lengths the Lord will go to to reach His people. 

Subscribe HERE for further details, info on how to get a study guide, and so that you don't miss a post in the study.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Psalm 119:11





Friday, May 1, 2015

Dear Mom of Littles Who's Ready To Give Up


Mother's Day is right around the corner and I've gotten together with a group of bloggers to bring you a giveaway and blog hop that we are hoping will bless your socks off!
We not only hope to bless several moms with some pretty awesome giveaway prizes, but we also hope to bless many more moms through the Letters to Moms Blog Hop (that you can find at the end of this post), where each participating blogger is writing a 'Dear Mom' letter. These letters will be anything from a letter to our own moms, a letter to ourselves, a letter to a mother figure, or a generalized letter to a group of moms, such as weary moms, hopeless moms, expecting moms, single moms....... Maybe one of these letters will speak to you!

So please, hop around to the many other bloggers below, and of course enter to win the giveaway too - there will be 4 winners with the total prize value over $1000!
 
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Dear Mom Who's Ready to Give Up,

I recognize you. In fact, I know you very well: The slumped shoulders, the weary sigh, the posture that says you can't possibly do it for another moment. "It" being carry it all. 

This mothering business is tough work. On our best days, we are pushed, pulled, prodded, poked, asked, and demanded of more than feels humanly possible. On our worst days, every moment that ticks by feels like an eternity, like we won't make it through. 

Those days that start wrong and end even worse seem to be more frequent. Those teachable moments slip through our fingers as we snap when we don't want to, don't listen when we should, and feel like we've failed. Again.

The laundry piles up. The dinner burns on the stove. The calendar is too full.

Emotions rise. Frustration peaks. The tears fall. 

We wonder if we're cut out for this. Are we really the best for our children? Are we ruining them?

And just as we're about to give up, give in, throw in the towel...that moment. 

It's in the middle of the messy house, dirty dishes, missed deadlines, and burned dinner that we see clearly. 

When we're down to the last drop of strength and resolve. When we believe we've failed this time. 

We look at our child and see the unadulterated love in his eyes. We watch her eyes light up at the sight of us as they raise their arms in the air and call out, "Hold me!"

Finally, it all makes sense. We realize it's not the spotless house, the folded laundry, the gourmet dinner, the impeccable timeliness or anything else that really counts. 

It's them: our children. 

They look past the fluff and see us. They stare right into our souls and love us for who we are, not what we do. 

And we remember that the Lord made us the mom of these precious treasures. He entrusted us with these jewels and our time with them is short.

God gently reminds us that we aren't perfect, only He is. He whispers in our ear that He loves us and He is enough. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. 

As we reach down and allow those little arms to wrap around our necks, all that other stuff that seemed so important now suddenly pales in comparison. You see, in their eyes--at least for now--we are perfect. 

So we lay down our expectations, our self-diagnosed failures and we simply focus on them. 

Please hear me, mama. Raise your chin, square your shoulders, and look me in the eye. 

YOU...you are important. No...scratch that. You are irreplaceable. In his eyes, you are the sun and the moon, In her mind, you are her hero. 

His greatest joy is your presence. Her greatest fear is that you won't be there. 

You will stumble and fall and screw up aplenty--to be sure--but you'll get back up and brush yourself off. 

Because, mom...you don't give up. You can't give up. There's too much at stake. And that little guy is holding out his arms, waiting for you



And now for the giveaway!

Mother's Day Giveaway Pin Blank

The prizes will be as follows -

Prize 1 - Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer 
Prize 2 - Slow Cooker 
Prize 3 - Keurig Coffee Maker 
Prize 4 - ALL 3 of the prizes above
Each winner will also win a digital copy of I'd Rather Be Your Mommy by Stacy Farrell

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Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Slide the City Pittsburgh

April 16, 2015 –Pittsburgh will get a slippery makeover when the Slide the City Tour brings the 1,000 foot slip and slide to South Park June 6th, 2015. Turning hills into water-sliding thrills is the goal of the event, which was created in an effort to get people outside, having fun, and connecting with their community.
Slide The City Pittsburgh: Saturday June 6th, 2015
Location: South Park – Allegheny County
Registration Opens: April 22nd, 2015 10am Eastern Time
To Register: Go to http://www.slidethecity.com/events/pittsburgh/
Participants in Slide the City will ride inflatables down a 1,000-ft. slip and slide. This one-of-a-kind experience will help people “slide into summer.” The first event of its kind, Slide the City has seen massive growth since it started in 2014. This original concept went viral when the video was released, and this year promises to be bigger, better, and wetter. “This will be one of the highlights of your year,” said Slide The City Founder, T.R. Gourley “Get ready for the slide of your life!”
Pittsburgh has shown great enthusiasm for the event with over 17,000 people signing up to be notified once registration was opened and hundreds more joining the waitlist daily.
Each rider can purchase a one ride pass, three ride pass, or all-day pass. With over 150 events in the US and Canada, and more than 20 international locations beginning with Japan and Australia as early as March, water slide enthusiasts are sure to find a Slide the City event nearby.
All are welcome to slide into fun. Visit www.slidethecity.com for more information about Slide the City dates and locations or checkout what fans have to share on Facebook at www.facebook.com/slidethecity.

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