Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010

This past July I started this site as a place of spiritual encouragement & central hub for writing project details. How you've responded as readers blows me away!

In only 5 months, 147 of you became official followers via Networked Blogs or google. And, I've had 12,592 pageviews from people representing every state, Canada, Russia, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Japan, Serbia, Indonesia, South Africa and the list goes on.

The top 5 most popularly viewed posts were:

!!!BABY NEWS!!!

If You Don't Like the Mirror's Reflection, Remember This...

A Thanksgiving Top 10

When Life Gives You Lemons

The Problem With Living in a Shortsighted Culture

The top 5 posts most commented on were:

Teaching Purity to Our Daughters (AND a Pam Stenzel DVD Giveaway)

!!!BABY NEWS!!!

My Journey to Becoming an Author

Christian Moms Unite

Welcome to "Fill My Cup"

If you missed reading any of them, grab a cup of hot chocolate and read up! (We are homebound today due to a snow & ice blizzard. Can you tell by my beverage suggestion?!)

Thank you all for your support! You saw me get my first blog button and celebrated my first book release with me. In just 5 short months, each you have made me -a newbie blogger - feel incredibly welcomed and blessed!

I can't wait to see what 2011 will bring. :)

Have a safe New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A First

I never imagined that I would be signing a book with my name on the cover


Written with one of my favorite people


And endorsed by one of my favorite Christian artists.


It is an amazing feeling to see this dream come to fruition & I pray God continues to bless it.

Order yours now & it will ship today!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Giving Back at Christmas


How do we teach our kids this important lesson?

Jesus came down into the world as love. The mission at Christmas is not to fill our shopping carts with “things” to bring temporary happiness, but to celebrate the One who inspires us to live a Godly life and give back.

Each year at Christmas we aim to promote a global sense of ways to celebrate Christian giving and love. This year we filled an Operation Christmas Child box. While we’ve done this in the past, it felt particularly fitting this year because our three and five year old wanted to get a box and pick out the items for it.

They are into a princess phase in life. Gigi, God’s Little Princess by Sheila Walsh is a fixture series in our home that celebrates each girl as a daughter of the King. This year, they wanted to let a little girl in an unknown place know that she too was a princess, made by and special to the King.

So, we went to the store and they picked out all things princess to celebrate a young girl and bring her joy.

Although the gesture was simple in nature, it created for big, important conversation. They understood – long before getting to open gifts of their own – that they were picking one box that would bring a little girl extreme joy because she didn’t have a family able to purchase gifts. This put the ability to get packages themselves into some perspective and helped them realize how lucky they were, all the while celebrating the importance and joy found in giving.

Jesus is the reason for Christmas. We must keep this in focus as we go about asking “what do you want?” to our little ones. Gifts are great and fun and we love to do them, but we want them to know it isn’t just about us.

Our family aims to continue growing and celebrating Godly love at Christmas. How do you do this? I loved this advent giving calendar idea and there is so much more that we haven’t thought of – from the simple to the complex.

I’m thankful for a God who meets us as a baby, love us, and inspires us to grow and give out of love for Him. That is Christmas spirit poured out for all to see.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Christmas Food Favs: Birthday Cake for Jesus


Thus far, all my Friday Christmas food favs have given you goody and supper ideas. But, today is Christmas Eve and tonight and tomorrow Christians will raise their voices in singing "Joy to the World. The Lord is come." A birthday needs to be celebrated.


Today's food fav is about taking time away from the chaos that surrounds these days to focus with your entire family on the birth of our Savior and your relationship with Him.


So, get a box of cake mix, frosting, cake decorations, and some candles & head on over to my ModSquad post to find out how this week's food fav will protect special family time, create fun for the little ones, and most importantly, enhance your faith life this Christmas.


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Early Christmas Present

Oh. Yes. It. Is.

Today a delightful Fed-Ex man arrived at my door, and I have to admit, I was confused. All of my mail order packages have arrived so I had no idea what he held.

However, when I opened it up, THIS was inside.

Yes, a Christmas present come early.

For those of you who were wanting to order my book with Pam Stenzel, it is done early and if you order it now it will priority ship so that it in your hands by next week. For those of you with late Christmas gatherings, this will be perfect for those hard to buy for teens in your life. And, they will have plenty of time to read it before Valentine's Day!

Regal Press did an amazing job. The graphics are great, the wording holds powerful truth, and the gripping stories and questions from peers provide answers and uplift God's design for relationships.

Just wanted to let you know. You can have it sooner than you thought! :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moldable Clay

I’ve always known that I had two goals in my life’s work – to share Truth and to help others.

Initially I thought this was in medicine. But, as I become a wife and mother I felt God speak to me in a way I never had before. That wasn’t my path. I was called to something different. I simply needed to make myself moldable clay for the Potter.

My will was released and God’s will took hold.

By day I stayed at home with my children, able to see their every “first.” And, during nap time or night, my husband supported my goals to share Truth, help others, and creatively fill life missions I never imagined.

This is the cover of my new book (Regal Press) with Pam Stenzel.

Inside of these (now able to order) pages are the stories, questions, and encouraging words to help today’s teens and those who love them choose purity until marriage.

God used to two goals I always knew to be true in a way I never anticipated. He created a friendship with an amazing woman in Pam and creatively combined our talents to powerfully impact the future generation. He brought a Christian literary agent into my life for wonderful representation. And, He used a gift that I always considered a “hobby” to create income and change the face of tomorrow.

I can’t wait to see what God continues to do in my life and writing. I simply had to let go of human made agendas and be the soft clay He desires. If you haven’t “let go,” please do. God will create a life of fulfilling purpose that you could never craft yourself.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Christmas Food Favs: Southwestern Tortilla Cheese Soup

So far my Fri food favs have been sweets. But, we all go to Christmas dinners/parties where we need to bring something of substance. That was supposed to be the case for me last night until I found myself very sick in the doctor’s office yesterday diagnosed with walking pneumonia. For a pregnant asthmatic, that translated to go home, start your meds, drink lots of liquids, and stay in bed for a few days.

However, if I would have been able to go to my Bible Study Christmas dinner, I would have blessed them with Southwestern Tortilla Cheese Soup. It is low maintenance and very good.

 

To make it you will need:4 oz diced, cooked chicken breast
2 c. canned tomatoes with juice, chopped
2 c. chicken broth
½ c. salsa
1 tsp taco seasoning mix
½ cup diced onion
1 can Nacho Cheese Soup
½ lb Velveeta, cut up
1 can Chedder Cheese Soup
Tortilla chips (optional)

Instructions:Put all the ingredients EXCEPT the tortilla chips in the crockpot and allow it to cook approximately 5 hours stirring occasionally.

Or, you can make it in a pan by mixing the first 6 ingredients in a big pot and for 5 minutes on medium heat. Then add the last three ingredients, cooking until the cheese is melted.

Serve with tortilla chips on top as desired.

To be honest, I make this soup throughout the fall and winter months. It is just that good. And, it works great in bread bowls.

Since I was unable to take this to my party last night, I was greeted with this instead.


While my husband and 3yo were out getting a new humidifier and other items for me, my 5yo surprised me with food in bed. She doesn’t like seeing mommy sick. Melted. My. Heart.

I’m going to try and sleep now. Enjoy your soup!


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

“You Will Conceive & Give Birth To A…”

Okay so no angel appeared in the heavens foretelling the birth and gender of our newest child.

But, the “big” midway ultrasound we had today was pretty awe-inspiring and powerful, nonetheless.

When I saw this face, I couldn’t help but smile.

Because the baby was constantly on the move pictures were a challenge, but between that 3D image and this most adorable profile


We were touched. And, hearing that everything is normal was an answer to our prayers!

Speaking of prayer, check this out. It appears our peanut likes to pray too.


Well, that or suck its thumb. Either way, we are blessed and thankful for this perfect gift from above.

And as for the gender, well, unlike the story we hear in advent this is going to be God’s special surprise. We’ll find out in the delivery room. :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Christmas Food Favs: (Easiest Ever) Gluten Free PB Chocolate Star Cookies



Easiest Ever cannot be exaggerated.

My college roommate and I have had a Christmas goody making day tradition since the year we graduated. And, this recipe is one that has held strong since year one. It’s a keeper.

So, if you are getting ready for family gatherings or parties and want cookies for your platter, this is the one to make.

You will need:1 cup skippy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 chocolate stars
a little sugar in a small bowl

*Note: You can use chocolate kisses in place of the stars. My friend’s hubby likes stars better and sometimes the smallest of gestures speaks loudly of love. Use whatever your family likes best! :)

Instructions:In a mixing bowl, cream peanut butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until blended. Roll into 1¼ inch balls. Then, roll the balls in the sugar in the small bowl and place them two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until tops are slightly cracked. Immediately press one star into the center of each cookie. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans or wire racks.

Simple enough right? I mean, you don’t even need flour! You can make it by yourself, with friends, or even with your little ones.

One batch makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Have fun making this second Christmas Friday food fav!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What Pregnancy Taught Me This Advent Season

Ever have a day where things don’t go quite as planned?

Today was one of those days.

By nature I am a very type A, planning, dead-line loving kind of girl. (That is probably why writing works so well. I got a book deadline and, as is typical for me, turned it in before it was due.) So, it makes complete sense that I was very planned for Sunday morning church. My husband was supposed to be the reader so I had my alarm set with plenty of time for all of us to get ready.

I got myself up and started getting ready thinking that my husband was doing the same. But, he was still in a deep slumber as were our (typically early rising) girls. With the clock ticking, I awoke everybody and rushed to get us out the door. We had service to do, right?

However, once everyone was to the car, my all day long sickness kicked in and there was no way we could leave.

I’m now 18 weeks pregnant, gaining the unique experience of a lived pregnancy in advent. Advent means “traveling toward,” and I’m finding huge lesson in this for me.

While Christians around the world travel closer in great expectation to the date we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are also living that out in our day to day lives. We wonder if it is a boy or a girl. We dream about the unique gifts God will give this child. We anticipate transitioning in family size and how this child will change our lives.

And we pray this poorly named “morning sickness” will pass. :)

Once we arrived to church, my husband had missed the reading. I felt crushed. I had a plan in place to help in the sharing of God’s work and I failed. The loss of control stung.

As I sat in the church pew pondering the words “traveling towards” new revelation took place. You see, advent isn’t just about traveling towards the celebration of the birth of a baby in a stable. Advent also signifies traveling towards submission. Christ came in the form of a baby to enter into a lived relationship. His presence on earth and the Bible stories that speak of it are a powerful display of God’s nurturing love, His amazing teaching, and the Lord’s total control in the midst of life’s chaos.

When Christ walked earthly terrain, He had people to help in the advancing of the kingdom, but it didn’t fail if they did. God doesn’t need help doing His job. He is fully capable of accomplishing His purposes on His own in His own ways.

So I felt God saying relax. I love you and appreciate your heart. Don’t take more on than necessary. You will not find peace this Advent taking over my work or busying yourself till the day the world finds me in a lowly manger. You will find true peace when you live out the relationship I came to form with you. Rest in me and submit my child.

The pastor showed grace, my husband demonstrated mercy, and the church didn’t even notice. All was well and the tiny life within me kicked and danced through it all.

So, as we await the birth of this baby growing within me, his or her health influence has already deepened my understanding of this church year I’ve celebrated many times over. We are traveling towards a life-transforming relationship that allows us to let go of self and find peace.

“I AM” came for my heart and when I focus on that everything else falls into perspective.

Listen to who He is friends-

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"— which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23

And

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

May peace, blessing, and relationship be yours this Advent season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Christmas Food Favs: Crunchy Peanut Butter Balls

It's been a big week in the writing world. Book #1 is available for pre-order. The proposal for book #2 is in. And, there is another fun project in the works, but you will hear more about that when it is available!

Now I've decided to relax a bit and enjoy some holiday cooking. The ornaments are out and the dining room center piece is changed. I'm in the mood for some fun.



Since I heard from so many of you that you enjoyed the pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars, I thought I'd make a Friday Christmas Food Favs series until Christmas, sharing some of my favorite Christmas goodies. Perhaps it will help as you consider what to bring to holiday gatherings.

Today we'll start with CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER BALLS.

What you will need:
1 cup of skippy peanut butter
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
1 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
chocolate almond bark

What to do:

In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and marshmallows creme; add cereal and stir until well coated. In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate almond bark.

Roll cereal mixture into 1 inch balls; dip in chocolate (until completely covered). Place on a waxed paper-lined pan. Refrigerate until set.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Note: I've had "flops" with different peanut butter brands so I'd stick with the Skippy.

I hope you enjoy these almost as much as you enjoy our new book! You can store them in the fridge or freezer. When I go to gatherings, these are always the first to disappear from my platter.

Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pre-Order “Nobody Told Me” Today!

Pinch me I must be dreaming.

After many months of hard work Pam Stenzel and I are excited to announce that as of today you can pre-order your copy of our book “Nobody Told Me.”


“Who is this book for?” you ask.

Any girl or boy in your life 12 and up, parents of preteens and up, youth directors and pastors, crisis pregnancy centers, your bookstore, etc.

We took years of stories and questions submitted by teens about God’s design for sex, media influence, peer pressure, abuse, pregnancy, STDs, emotional heartache, recycled virginity, and choosing abstinence until marriage to create a fun, and most importantly, empowering book to educate and encourage all dealing with sexual temptation in this day and age.

Not only that, but we communicated with teens the way that they like to communicate! Using a Facebook-like writing approach, we meet teens (and all who love them) where they are at and provide them with answers to today’s tough questions.

The best part is that this book is applicable to everyone regardless of the choices they have made to date. For those who have abstained, this book will offer a window into the heart of their peers, provide answers to difficult questions they might still have, strengthen them to stand strong until marriage, and offer them suggestions for how to live that out. If a young person has made mistakes, they will hear stories of young people struggling right along with them, but laced within the message is clarity where there was confusion, hope where there was pain, and practical steps to redeeming their future.

Can you tell I’m excited?! And, it isn’t just Pam and I.

Josh McDowell (author of Why True Love Waits”) said, “This book will provide every teen a sense of understanding and empowerment through Christ to make wise decisions. No home, school or church should be without it.”

And,

Rebecca St. James (popular Christian recording artist) wrote, “This book is relevant, powerful, and packed with truths that all young people need to hear.”

So, make sure to get your copy pre-ordered today! And, pass the word along. I’ve added a link on the sidebar for anyone to easily get to the ordering site. There is also a Facebook page for the book so be sure to join that as well.

This would make a great gift for the special people in your life that you pray will make wise choices and live out God’s best!
Pre-orders will ship January 2011.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Faces of Facebook

Today I posted on Mod Squad about The Faces of Facebook. How do we ensure our children's safety when people can pretend to be anyone? At what age is it safe? What does what we post say about us? And, how are teen/tween girls choices on social medial linked to purity and relationships? Get the information you need to ensure everyone's protection in your home! To read, please visit

You can find Mod Squad online or you can "like" Mod Squad on Facebook so don't miss out on the great information about parenting girls.

I will be posting the last Friday of each month! Also, what questions do you have about talking to/raising your girls in purity? I want to keep a list for future posts!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this day when you will all gather around tables filled with loved ones, I wanted to share with you this must-see beauitful video. May we give thanks to the Author of all our blessings.





Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Thanksgiving Top 10

Every Monday this month I’ve chosen to write a post on various aspects of Thanksgivings. So far I’ve addressed point of perspective, slowing down, dealing with life’s lemons, and now….a Thanksgiving top 10.

Much has changed in my life over the past year. Some of it is easy to be thankful for – we are expecting a baby, our oldest started school and is flourishing, we’ve created many precious memories with family and friends, and my book with Pam Stenzel was purchased by Regal and will be released January, 2011.

Oppositely, there have been struggles. Our friends’ eight year old boy went to heaven. I’ve had morning, correction, all day long sickness even into my second trimester, reducing my patience with the kids and productivity in the home, and the list goes on.

Without question, I’m sure you can relate. Part of the ebb and flow of life is that circumstances we like AND circumstances we don’t are certain to be part of our story.

This raises the question, therefore, how will we choose to respond?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be certain that God’s truth guides me and not my wayward human emotions. So, I’ve created a Thanksgiving top 10 of biblical truth to inspire in ALL life situations.

1) “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 We are never alone.

2) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 God works ALL for our benefit.

3) “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2 NO situation can destroy us.

4) “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness” Malachi 3:3 God will remove the impurities within us.

5) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 When we mess up and repent, God COMPLETELY forgives.

6) “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9 God is CLOSE to His people, offering a steadfast comfort in the midst of any earthly circumstance.

7) “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 God uses ALL His people (of all ages) to set an example and spread the gospel.

8) “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11 The Author of joy celebrates with us.

9) “ I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved”. Psalm 16:8 God is AHEAD of every circumstance we face, providing confidence.

10) “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” Proverbs 16:33 GOD is in control!

Knowing that the Bible is full of good news from a God that is with us, for us, and loving us, how can we help but cultivate Thanksgiving in our lives? He is trustworthy, friends, and He has all your days and circumstances (both good and bad from our perspective) ordained to make you as refined as gold – a crowning beauty in His hand.

May we celebrate with thanksgiving this Thanksgiving week and always.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Over the course of this month, I’ve written on various aspects of Thanksgiving.

And, since the Thanksgiving meal is one I look forward to year round, I decided to take some moments from writing projects to slow down and share with you one of my very favorite Thanksgiving desserts –

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars!



Here is what you will need:

For the Graham Cracker Crust:
1 ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

For the Filling:
2 (8oz) softened cream cheese packages
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
6oz semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons butter
1 ¼ cup dairy sour cream
¼ cup sugar
Grated fresh nutmeg

Instructions:

1) Lightly grease 9x13 pan and set aside. For crust, in a large bowl mix crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and mix thoroughly. Press evenly in pan. Set aside.
2) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For filling, in large bowl beat together the cream cheese and 1 1/3 cup sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating at a low speed after each additional until just combined. Stir in pumpkin, spice, vanilla, and salt. Pour 1 ¼ cup of filling in medium bowl. Set both bowls aside.
3) In a small saucepan over very low heat melt the chocolate chips and butter, stirring frequently until smooth. Stir melted chocolate into the 1 ¼ c reserved filling. Carefully spread chocolate mixture evenly over the crust. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Slowly and carefully, pour remaining pumpkin filling over baked chocolate layer, spread evenly.
4) Bake for 40-45 minutes or until mixture is slightly puffed around edges and just set in center. Remove from oven, cool 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine sour cream and ¼ cup sugar. Cover and let stand at room temp until pan cools.
5) Spread sour cream mixture over bars. Cool. Refrigerate several hours or overnight before cutting.
6) Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg before serving.

If you like cheesecake, chocolate, and Thanksgiving, this is the dessert for you! And, your house will smell heavenly for hours after baking.

ENJOY!

Now I’m back to writing. There is lots to work on and LOTS of exciting news to share in the near future. I’ll keep you posted…literally. :)

Shared at Pintastic Monday

Monday, November 15, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

Literally.

Many of you have asked how my pregnancy is going, wanting to share in the journey. However, God revealed something to me in the last week that extends beyond pregnancy and I wanted to pass my life lesson along.

During the 14th week, the baby compares in size to a lemon. Inside of that tiny little “lemon” a lot has happened. My baby’s heart is beating, has brain waves, loaded tooth sockets, complete vocal cords, fingerprints, controlled muscle movements, and might even be sucking his or her thumb.

I am growing right along with the baby. I’m currently in what I affectionately refer to as the “torpedo” stage. I don’t look pregnant, but I definitely look “thick.” People at the gym have got to be thinking this isn’t working for you, honey because I’m there five days a week and gaining in girth. :) Needless to say, I’ve pulled out a few pairs of maternity pants and started wearing some early maternity shirts.

All very cool and worthy of admiration for God’s INCREDIBLE handiwork.

Not so cool was the other “lemon” placed in my path. No, it’s not twins! Rather, because of a combination of issues, I started experiencing some breathing issues. For a few days I tried to manage the symptoms naturally, but it continued to escalate.

Within a few days, I knew that I was in trouble. I’d slept 6.5 hours out of 48 (not great for a pregnant mom with two busy toddlers!) Unable to breathe, I tried some pregnancy safe over the counter meds with no relief and then placed a call into my pulmonologist and OB.

Both of my physicians are prolife, pro-pregnancy doctors so I knew that they would do what was best and safe for both me and baby, but I dreaded hearing “the plan.”

In a short amount of time I heard the words I feared might be true. “He is going to put you on….”

Every single one of us (I imagine) has faced medical issues or a particular situation in life where there is one thing we most want to avoid. Well, for me, that is a specific medication. I despise its side effects and, since I haven’t had to take it in years, I hoped not to ever have to again. But, here I was feeling like I’d run a mile after only a few steps and I knew I needed to trust their wisdom and submit.

The words of Philippians 4:6 rushed to mind- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

In EVERYTHING.

Sometimes that is a big pill to swallow. Quite frankly it is less fun than the pill I wanted to avoid. But, trusting God’s Word to be true, I bowed my head and prayed. Lord, I thank you for doctors who love You and their dedication to keeping me and this baby safe. Jesus, you know that I do not want to take this medication for a multitude of reasons, but please let it bring a blessing….and the necessary relief that I am looking for and need. I thank you for this pregnancy. I thank you for your promise to work all things together for good. And, I thank you that I can try this. The devil is working to distract me from your goodness right now. Help keep my mind steadfast so that I can focus on truth. I know You have a plan.

Immediately, I felt better. Even though my symptoms hadn’t yet resolved, acknowledging that Satan had a grip on my mind and I was allowing him to spin it into every worst possible scenario helped me better zoom in on the One who really does have control. God’s truth about having this child’s life ordained before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16) and that I need not fear because He is with me (Isaiah 41:10) set my sights ABOVE and I praised Him for His careful provision.

Thankfully, within a few hours of starting the medication, I was able to breathe slow and normal again. When I crawled into bed, I slept without struggle. And, very quickly, God made clear to me that sometimes the things we resist are exactly the tools He uses to deliver us from our earthly struggle.

I know that I am blessed. His answer came quickly and that is not always the case. But, my prayer for you is that as you experience life’s difficulties you will not place limitations on God based on your own personal preferences. He can see what we cannot. He can bring goodness, healing, and restoration from places we least expect it.

Thanks abounds.

On a fun note, I am now in my 15th week and we’re just back from a doctor’s appointment where we saw our little peanut on ultrasound again. I’m feeling fetal movement and our “lemon” is no longer. Our little guy or gal is now the size of a naval orange. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Praise Turkeys

In a couple weeks we will begin gathering around extended tables filled with beloved family and friends for Thanksgiving. As we prepare for these celebrations, it is important that we as mothers take time to have meaningful conversations with our daughters.

Since we live in a culture that screams value comes from prominence, social standing, and fading worldly qualities, Thanksgiving affords us a unique opportunity to celebrate with our children who they are in Christ. After all, their friendships, dating choices, and purity decisions come from this starting place.


Because my girls like crafts, I sat them down in the kitchen and traced their precious little hands on brown construction paper.
To learn more about how to finish this fun, faith-based Thanksgiving craft and facilitate the conversation with your children, please go to http://modsquadblog.com/2010/11/gratitude-praise-turkey/. Also note, there is instruction for this meaningful conversation if your children are "too old" for Praise Turkeys!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Transforming Chaos into Solitude

Last week I reflected upon our point of perspective for this Thanksgiving season. As I’ve continued to ponder Thanksgiving, I felt it appropriate to challenge myself and all of you to transform this season from one of chaos to one of solitude.

This has been a week of both extremes for me. I’m not going to lie. With a 45% off GAP coupon, I made my way to the mall last weekend to start a little Christmas shopping. I found some awesome, mega money saving deals, but I was also taken aback by the already packed, crazy, difficult-to-move state of the mall. In the first weekend of November! Then, as I got home I made phone calls about holiday plans, began considering game options for a preschool party, worked on a season project for the CPC I volunteer with, etc. and this is all on top of my routine writing projects and homemaking.

In the midst of the craziness, I also had moments of quietness. Our three year old started battling a cold and I stopped activity to rock her for an hour and a half, simply reflecting on the blessing it is to hold her. You see, I spent much time in prayer this week for friends. Our church dedicated Sunday to the people who had gone before us this past year, and, sadly, that includes an amazing 20 year old boy that I babysat and taught Sunday School too as well as my friend’s only child, a precious 8 year old son. With no TV or radio or noise, I aligned myself with the Savior and poured out my heart to Him so that He could fill me up.

As I sat before Him, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) crept into my heart and wrapped itself around my soul. Be still. I am God.

While the Thanksgiving/Christmas season that we have already started preparing for is a blessed time, it cannot be if we are operating in our own strength – and this is the beauty of Christ inviting us to commune with Him and rejoice in who He is.

It is only if we get away from the loud voices and “stuff” of this world that we will find peace. Our families, our celebrations, and our day- to-day routines are all gifts given to us by an All-knowing God who says be still and come to me. When we do, He can not only show us how to order our day and when to spend energy on what (reducing stress), but we can learn more about who He is and who we are because we belong to Him. It is in this solitude that we come to fully rely on Him and rest in His plan for our lives.

Like you, I am not perfect and I will need to re-remind myself of this moment to moment, but it is my heart’s desire that you will join me in intentionally being still this Thanksgiving/Christmas season so that His wisdom poured out in that time of solitude will leave you happier, healthier, and stronger in faith.

For those visiting from the Raising Homemakers site, also know that I have a great crunchy peanut butter balls recipe that I posted yesterday. SO GOOD! It is the first in my Friday Christmas Food Favs series.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reason to Celebrate

Last night my little princesses got all dressed up
And came home with enough candy to put them into a sugar induced coma.

They were overwhelmed with excitement from the evening and when they awoke this morning they were still bubbling over with joy. Wanting the excitement to continue, it came as no surprise that the first question out of Grace’s mouth was, “What is our next holiday?”

“Thanksgiving,” I answered.

“What is that?”

“It is time where we gather with family and friends and give thanks and praise to God for the many blessings God’s given us.”

Yes, today we turned the calendar page to November and we are marked by a new season – that of Thanksgiving.

Each of us enters this season with a different perspective. For some of us, this has been a year filled with happiness. For others of us, tragedy has pressed upon our hearts, leaving one with questions about how to be thankful in the midst of pain. And, for some, the year has been a delicate dance of happiness and tragedy, playing out in its own unique song.

But, today I am reminded that Thanksgiving doesn’t start with us. It is not from our perspective that hope springs forward. Rather, it starts and ends with the Maker of the heaven and earth. God, who thoughtfully molded you and I into being.

Scripture reminds us, “For the Lord your God is among you, He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17

Our Lord, who pressed the stars into place, is not a distant God. To the contrary, He sees your every move. When you laugh with joy, He takes delight in you. When life has you on your knees, He strokes your hair and calms your trembling heart. And, 24 HOURS A DAY, whether you are awake or asleep, He sings a joyful song over you because He loves you and cherishes every detail about you.

If we choose to look at Thanksgiving from this perspective, we cannot help but be thankful this month and always. The God of the universe assures us that He is nearby, walking through it all with us, and so wild crazy about us that He’s belting out joyful tunes. And, considering He’s God, I bet it sounds pretty good. :)

I pray that you would enter this month steadfast in His Word and holding to His promises. If we start from His perspective, we cannot help but feel hope eternal and add a little bounce into our step. And that, my friends, is reason to celebrate.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Catching Up With the Trends

Did you think I meant me?

Oh no, my friends, I’m pregnant, remember?! The good news is that I can still fit in two pairs of my own jeans thanks to the marvelous invention of added stretch. However, at some point very soon, I’m going to have to get out the maternity jeans in the name of doing less laundry. :)

So, what do I mean?

I mean on my blog.

This week I am honored to be the Featured Friend on Seeds of Faith. Their goal is to network Christian women and really offer daily ministry into the hearts ladies overextended by everyday living. When you visit their site, you will find a daily message and Bible verse. Pretty great, right?! They are also on twitter and Facebook and on Wednesday’s they do an iFellowship link up to get to know other Christian bloggers, tweeters, and facebookers.

So, Stephanie helped bring me up-to-date in the blogging world by designing my blog a button. Check it out in the upper right corner. Didn’t she do a great job?! If you desire, you can copy the code below and add my button to your blog. I’ve always wanted one of these trendy blog features but not been tech savvy enough to do it so I praise God for Stephanie’s gift!

In the name of keeping the look fresh, I’ve also changed the twitter application so my tweets are still with you but in the lower left hand corner.

I don’t know about you, but in my life this has been a week filled with newness. My morning correction all day long sickness seems to have started to dissipate. Praise God! You will see my writing with ModSquad more regularly. In fact, my bio went up today. And, I’ve started a new & different writing project with Pam that might interest those of you in CPCs, medical offices, Christian schools, etc. But, more on that later. :)

For now, I am so clearly hearing Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new…”

May God bless you all this weekend!

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Journey to Becoming an Author

People have often asked me if I’ve always planned to be a writer.

And the answer is no.

From the time that you are in middle school, people are asking you your plans for life. Your high school course work is geared towards a “track” that will give you the best opportunity to get into the college you want with the program you plan to major in. Ironically, before we are even able to vote, there is a societal expectation to know what we will do with our lives.

I was a good student, and I thought medicine was my calling. I envisioned myself as a career woman by day and wife/mother by night. And, I was confident that was “me.”

When I got into college, I was enamored by the science but I was drawn towards psychology and religion courses even more. I loved the study of relationships and the profound impact of faith lived out in the world. Even more, I found myself preferring to write a 20 page paper to a test any day.

I changed to the religion/psychology double major, thinking that it would make me a more holistic, well-rounded physician to my patients.

After graduation, I was enticed by a biomedical ethics masters degree. This would combine my love of medicine with making right choices in the human experience. And, it provided LOTS of opportunity to write. I loved every second of it.

Once I completed my course work and signed up for the MCAT, I was married and we’d had our first child. And, God was working on my heart. I wrestled with who I really was. After being home with our daughter, I didn’t want to miss out on experiencing every “first.” The person that I believed myself to be in my growing up years versus the person I actually WAS in my adult years was two different people.

At that same time, I began work with Pam Stenzel. I was writing with her from home and cherishing the balance it offered. Over time, responsibilities grew to writing curriculum to asking me to co-author a book.

Suddenly, my love of writing was manifesting itself into a career that provided the opportunity to combine my desire to stay home with my joy of penning words. It was perfect.

Shortly thereafter, I signed with Books and Such literary agency. My book with Pam will be released this coming January, and I have a wonderful literary agent, Wendy Lawton, who encourages and inspires me to set new goals and believe in future projects. I feel richly blessed.

As I look back on the “growing up” years of my life, I’m so thankful for the delayed approach to medical school. I didn’t get out of school and apply right away. For some reason, I felt called to take the “in between” medical ethics step first. During that wait, I had time to really listen to God and let Him reveal who I truly was to me before I forged ahead with a plan that was mine and not of Him. And, I gained insight into topics that could be interesting for future book writing!

God has plans for us that we cannot always know. If you feel like your life has taken odd twists and turns, creating a delay in some plan, take heart knowing that God often uses those delays to provide for your very best. During those seasons, our faith matures and we can better utilize the gifts and talents He has uniquely bestowed upon each of us.

Today I see God’s plan for me to write and co-author this first book, and I could never have dreamed that for myself. It feels too good to be true. But, it is the life God had carved out for me (using the gifts He gave)….I just needed the delay to recognize it and for the timing to be right to achieve it. This career is "me." It is in this career that I can truly flourish and be happy.

So, for those who have asked, that is how I began my writing career, and I pray God blesses it for many years to come. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

!!!BABY NEWS!!!

It has been a while since my last post, but for good reason

And I think you will agree. :)

A short while back we started praying about God’s desire for our family size. Feeling very blessed with the two children we have (particularly after struggling to get pregnant with our first), we were content with where we were and yet we wondered if God wanted us to expand.


He answered QUICKLY. We hear you, Lord. Message received!

The girls are excited. Correction The girls are VERY excited. Hannah tells me, “I love our baby” approximately every three seconds and even has a diaper set out for when it arrives. Grace brought us a cross that she wants to give the baby when it is here. Every day they are bringing me rattles and asking me when it will be ready to “fall out.” (If only life were that easy, right ladies?)



I couldn’t be more thrilled with the news but I’m feeling ah well, let’s just say that I’m bonding with soda crackers and am thankful for zofran.

By the way, has the inventor of zofran won some kind of lifetime achievement award yet because he or she certainly has my vote! :)

It seems to be getting better and since I’m in my 11th week it will hopefully be gone soon. Who knows, maybe just a few days.

My husband, Charlie, is amazing. The guy has wanted to shout it from the rooftops since the day we found out (which ironically enough was Labor Day) and yet he honored my request keep quiet until we had our 9 week ultrasound.



Isn’t she or he cute? Seeing a strong heartbeat and little arms and legs kicking around at us never ceases to bring tears to my eyes. Life truly is a miracle.

In the meantime, Charlie has been awesome at getting home from work and helping me with the housework that didn’t get done during the day. He takes the girls to the park or plays games so I can relax. He’s just a great dad, and I praise God daily that God gave me the perfect man in my high school sweetheart. I wanted a guy who loved the Lord and cherished family. I got both. Did I mention that he is amazing?!

So, I haven’t been meaning to neglect all of you, but as my body has been using energy to help grow a new life I’ve been taking lots of naps (during times I may have written for this blog) and used my healthy time to spend with my family, friends, and writing for our book project and ministry needs.

Our family would appreciate your prayers as we anticipate the gift of this new life! The due date is May 5, 2011.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness

She was my doctor’s nurse. Her smile was infectious and her passion for life powerful. When she wasn’t working she was mom to three children, ranging from middle school to newly married. Life was great until a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis threatened to steal her joy. Little did the cancer know, it was dealing with the wrong person. Her fighter spirit helped her sail through a double mastectomy, chemo, and radiation while her faith kept her focused on the One who shines HOPE through every situation faced. "K" won.

Prior to having children I started a new position in the newborn nursery. She helped train me into my role. It was in that same nursery that she received a phone call that she had breast cancer. Life changed. Throughout her journey with surgery, chemo, and radiation she became a community voice about the difficulties in facing cancer head on and the lessons she learned in the process. "M" won.

Despite having no risk factors, my friend went for an ultrasound only to discover that a double mastectomy would follow in short order. The aggressive treatment would rid her of the particulars her body faced and free her of chemo and radiation needs as well as future risks. At home, her husband and three children (in middle and high school) helped her through the slow recovery. Through it all, her spirit wasn’t broken and she drew closer to friends in new ways. "Y" won.

Recently, my 34 year old neighbor was doing a self exam and found a lump. This breast cancer diagnosis hit me the hardest. Not only was it a reminder that the “very young” are not exempt from this form of cancer, but it was another young mother with young children facing an unknown future. After her double mastectomy, she and her husband walked hand in hand through the neighborhood helping this beautiful woman (who previously ran, biked, and walked miles each week) regain strength and health. As her hair fell out, she was not deterred. She’d put on her hat and walk. And, this past Wednesday, she finished her final chemo treatment with her husband and two small cheering her on. "A" won.

These are snapshots of just a few women I know who have valiantly fought breast cancer. However, one in eight women in our country will be impacted by this diagnosis.

October is breast cancer awareness month and, in honor of it, I thought it fitting to take a moment to share one of the most powerful sketches I’ve ever seen on the fight by Women of Faith’s Nicole Johnson. For those of you who have lost loved ones to this illness, my heart goes out to you. And, for those who are fighting or know someone who is, may you be empowered by the video.



My prayers are with you all.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

On Monday, Amy shared this message of intentional parenting and Scripture time with our daughters. The need to be intentional – to carve space out of our day and purposefully foster faith growth in our children – extends to all areas of life.

Last time I was with you, I shared time frames for age appropriate discussion about sex. But, there are many aspects to choosing purity beyond getting “the talk.” And, having a well-rounded Christian base for decision-making increases our girls’ likelihood of abstaining until marriage.

This week marks a new opportunity because the new fall TV schedule is in full swing.

For many years it has been believed that the media impacts sexual choices. However, nay sayers have disagreed, claiming that the messages in music, movies, and our television shows are not reality. They argue that they are “not real life” and to a certain degree they are right.

Often times it isn’t real life, but they forget that our children of immature faith, and, therefore, they cannot correctly decipher right from wrong. They will process what they hear and see to be normal and “okay.”

This is a problem in a world where popular culture frequently sends messages contrary to the message of God.

And it’s being noticed. In an August 30, 2010 policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said this, “New evidence points to the media adolescents use frequently (television, music, movies, magazines, and the Internet) as important factors in the initiation of sexual intercourse.” It goes on to say, “There is a major disconnect between what mainstream media portray — casual sex and sexuality with no consequences — and what children and teenagers need.”

What do we as parents do with this?

To find out, please visit ModSquad where you can read the rest of my post http://modsquadblog.com/2010/09/oh-be-careful-little-eyes-what-you-see/

Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning to Love the Detours

Currently I’m in the thick of finalizing details for our annual Women of Faith trip. It is one of my favorite weekends of the year and if you have not been you should check when they will be in a city near you because it is that good. FOR REAL.

As I get into the final stages of planning, I always find myself reflecting on past years experiences. The weekend is always filled with laughter, sometimes tears, and everyone leaves knowing each other better than they did before.

This morning I found myself laughing about a trip years ago. To try and better route us to a shopping destination on the way, we were taking a different route than we typically do. Since this was the pre everyone having a cell phone with mapquest, pre garmin days, we were relying on verbal directions from a friend.

Let's just say we clearly didn’t get the directions right. Signs we were watching for weren’t appearing and our final destination appeared to be growing in distance rather than shrinking. Uh oh.

The driver started to laugh. “I’m sure she said it would be off this road. Where in the world are we?”

Laughter is not always my immediate response when I’m broken from a path that I want to be on. In fact, it would likely rank on the lower end of the list of my responses. But, my friend has a bubbly, infectious laugh that sent us all into crazy laughter.

You ladies that have been on a girls road trip get what I mean.

Well, of course we didn’t have a regular paper map because that would be way to convenient or responsible so we were just downright lost. I got on my cell phone and called my husband. After giving him the names of some street signs we were seeing he started to laugh saying, “I don’t know what you ladies were thinking but you are heading away from the Cities.”

Awesome.

While we awaited “re-direction” from my husband, Carol said, “I was once told by a Biblical counselor that when we get off track God uses that to protect us from something.”

Wisdom that extends beyond the roadway.

How often are we broken away from the path we think we want in life? Quite frankly, probably more than we care to admit. Sometimes we bring these divergences on through our own choices. We set up to-do lists and time schedules that are impossible to meet, or at least not the timing that God has for us. We aggressively pursue a career without listening for God’s voice and hit road block after road block. And, the list goes on.

I vividly recall my college years when I thought I was supposed to start a family young and be done by 30. Since I married my high school sweetheart immediately after college, I still believed that to be the case…and then when we waited years before Grace joined us I placed unnecessary concern on age. Being done at thirty suddenly looked unlikely. A broken path.

Other times we have no say. Dreams are suddenly broken through life events completely outside of our control. Losses range along the scale from other people’s choices impacting us to a loved one's death, and things can never be the same. I was just 20 when my father left my presence to join Jesus on the streets paved of gold.

But, along the way, God has protected me from things I could not see. Would I have been blessed with Grace and Hannah if things would have gone according to my schedule? I don’t know. Would I have had the opportunity to understand and minister to those experiencing loss if I hadn't walked through it? Doubtful.

I would never choose to be off the path that I think I’m supposed to be on, but I’ve learned along the way that my agenda is meaningless. After all, Proverbs 16:33 says, “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” And as He does, He draws near and reveals presence, protection, and hope in the path He has set for us.

I don’t know where you are at today, but I felt God calling me to remind all of you that if you feel broken in some area of life, you are going to be okay. God hasn’t forgotten about you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In one way or another, His plans are to give you hope and a future filled with promise (Jeremiah 29:11).

Trusting in this promise, it is my prayer that you will join me in learning to love the detours.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Encouraging Those Who Encourage Us

When she enters the room, God’s presence follows. When she speaks, wisdom flows from her lips. When you share, God’s peace is evident. When life is challenging, she always stands on Biblical boundaries. And, when laughing together, joy overflows.

Do you have a person like this in your life? In mine, her name is Carol.

During my sophomore year of college, I felt called into crisis pregnancy counseling volunteer ministry. After filling out my application, I met with Carol who went on to interview and train me.

Little did I know at the time that God would use that prompting to bring a beautiful mentor and amazing friend into my life.

From the moment I began volunteering, I couldn’t wait to see Carol. She was sure to have a perky smile and fun story that would produce an infectious laugh.

Shortly thereafter, we started a Bible Study group together, inviting further faith-filled discussion and growth.

Because of that connection, our lives were woven tighter together. When my father died in college, Carol was at the door. When I suffered a miscarriage in our first pregnancy, it was Carol who offered a mum to always remember that precious life.

Laughter has filled life’s great moments. Car rides, rooming together for conferences, and common day experiences have created ample moments to giggle about life’s odd and surprising moments. Tears have flowed down our cheeks and our abdominal muscles have hurt from such intense laughter.

Everyday conversations flow. She calls. She texts. She visits. Despite her extremely busy life, she always has time for friendship and there is nothing that is awkward to discuss- No event or emotion too small to be important in the realm of God to pray over.

Carol has a way of always making you feel important. When you are with her you always feel heard. If you walk into a conversation feeling empty you always leave feeling fulfilled. And, if you begin time together happy you leave bursting with joy.

The reason?

She lives for God. Her every breath is focused on Him and her sole mission is to live out His love and purpose. I can only imagine how many lives she has touched and how many disciples of all nations she has inspired.

Who is this person for you?

As a whole we are great at telling people that we care about them when times are tough or that we appreciate them when thanks for an act or gift are in order, but what about sharing a grateful heart for simply being who they are?

It is easy to skip over these moments or to assume that they know how we feel, but the truth is expressing our thankfulness for their presence in our lives NOW is critical. None of us are guaranteed a “next opportunity,” so act now.

TODAY I challenge you to share your thanks for someone special in your life. I started with a Dayspring card and a little personal message. And, even though there will never be words enough for the love I have of Carol’s friendship, it is a great start.

Have your person in mind? I’d love to hear about them. And, happy writing!

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reward from the Lord

On my dining room table sits a lacy, shiny Tinkerbell book bag, and every time I glance at it my heart skips a beat. How did we get here already?

The evening was spent labeling school supplies all the while praying for her happiness and success as she enters this new phase of life. Folded on her chair is an adorable outfit “Nama” got her for her first day. How did we get here already?

My whole life I have wanted to be a mother. While I was in school I enjoyed academic success and always envisioned myself being the business type by day and then happily picking up my child(ren) for family time the remainder of the evening.

Then I had Grace.

She didn’t come in our timing. After years of praying, God blessed us with a perfect baby girl. We knew it was by God’s “Grace” that we were parents and in adoration for His entrusting her to us we named her out of worshipful love.

Although I was done with my pre-med course work when she arrived, I was signed up for the MCAT and the once certain girl of being the working mom began to question. After spending months home with Grace, I no longer felt passionate about the high power career. True bliss was right before me in a tiny pink bundle. God was calling me to be a stay at home mother.

When my MCAT scores arrived, I heard God speak in what truly felt like an audible voice saying, “It doesn’t matter how you did. It isn’t for you.”

Overcome with immeasurable peace, I knew before opening the package that I wouldn’t go. Many couldn’t understand it. Why pay all that money if you aren’t going to go? Why let those brains go to “waste?” To them it made no sense.

But to me (and the people who knew me) it made PERFECT sense. This life isn’t about following what we believe to be the goal, but about seeking His voice and living out His goal for us. When we do this, bliss follows.

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

I have invested my working energy everyday into being a mother to Grace (and Hannah). I’ve considered myself fortunate to be home with her, to teach her lessons, to provide her with fun experiences, to help her feel safe and secure, to reinforce that God made a princess in her, and to begin the education process.

But, tomorrow she will put that back pack on and start the next phase. We will give her a huge hug and kiss and wish her well as she enters a classroom that we felt was the right place for her. And, when I do it, I will praise God once more for His voice that constantly seeks us out and guides our life.

Because He spoke…LOUDLY…I have had the best four years of my life. Bliss, and a different me (in a multitude of ways), than I would have ever predicted for my life.

I can't wait to hear all about her (2.5 hour) day and continue on this path God has so richly blessed me with.

Listen for God’s voice and trust that when you serve Him (and not the world) reward from the Lord is sure to follow.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Parents Matter DVD Winner...& a Parent's Thank You

“Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” Psalm 119:35

Over this past week it has been my joy to share with you the importance of talking to our children about purity. While more posts are sure to come on the topic, taking time to really jump start conversation and pray about these discussions so that we can honor God in how we raise our children and what we teach them has brought me much joy. The words of the Psalmist are always true. When we walk in God’s Word and follow his commands, delight follows in the long-term.

To further help you as parents, I was blessed to give away one copy of “Parents Matter: Raising Kids with Integrity” by my dear friend and co-author, Pam Stenzel. Her anointed speaking and Godly teaching has inspired thousands around the globe.

One parent wrote this-
Pam, I just wanted to tell you how much my wife and I enjoyed hearing your message this evening. It was the second time in our lives we had ever heard about abstinence, but never with such insight and passion. Thanks for having the courage to stand up to all who want to live in a world of self-indulgence and impurity, and for reminding us all that God has a moral compass for us to follow and it’s in the Bible. We will never be the same on this issue, and our children will hopefully someday thank us for it. May God continue to bless your efforts.

A parent is inspired and a ripple effect forms – they share their new knowledge with their friends, they have new conversations and boundaries with their children, and their deepened faith inspires their kids to draw nearer to a Lord who they can trust wants the best for them.

And, the lucky winner to experience that through this giveaway is Ashley Ann.

Ashley, may you be blessed. Pam, thank you for providing this giveaway with purpose. And, to the rest of you, thank you for entering and caring about this important subject. If you did not win this time but would like to own a copy of this or any other of Pam's products, be sure to check out her complete online store.

I look forward to most posts about this with you all...particularly as our book gets nearer to it's release date! :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Angel in Human Skin

Not too long ago, my husband I took on a major project – repainting the majority of our upper level. When we moved into our home, we used flat paint. At the time, it was nice. It went on in one coat and made life easy. But, two kids later, it was looking terrible. Anytime they touched it it scratched and when I’d try to clean it it chipped. Needless to say, it NEEDED updating.

After looking through the newest paint colors, I couldn’t wait to get started. In the midst of my excitement, I was working out with my neighbor at the gym and telling her all about the colors we picked, the new shower curtain I’d purchased, and the funky frames I found for the wall.

When the “big day” came to work on the project, we dressed in our paint clothes and welcomed my mom over to help. Soon after we started painting, however, I found myself annoyed. I thought my two and four year old would be fine watching or playing downstairs, but it turns out they wanted to “help.” Unfortunately, their idea of “help” translated to annoyance for us. I constantly found myself saying, “Please move back” and “Don’t you want to do a puzzle?” but nothing was as fun to them as the paint.

As I found myself trying to balance parenting with productivity, I was severely slowed down. And, I was bummed. Bummed that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be for my children and bummed that I couldn’t be who I wanted to be in helping my mom and husband.

Then the doorbell rang. There stood my neighbor (that just days earlier I’d shared my excitement with). I hadn’t talked to her so she had no idea what was going on or how I was feeling, but she anticipated that it could be a struggle and asked to take my two children for the day. Thank you, Lord. An angel in human skin.

Excited about the unplanned play date, my two kids joined her three in their mini-van. During that day, she fed all five kids (7 and under) lunch, took them to a puppet show at the library, and gave them space for fun. During that time, we finished the entire paint project.

Gratefulness overwhelmed me. My neighbor looked around and sensed a need. And, I, in the midst of a frustrating moment, saw a powerful display of faith that forever impacted me.

Colossians 3:12 reads, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

My neighbor took on a house full of children – going out of her way – to help me reach a goal. Gratitude filled my heart and tears of thanks streamed down my cheek.

Because of her, the outlook of my day changed. And, beyond that, it has caused me to more frequently ask God how He wants to use me to help others every day.

As you start this new week, I’d encourage you to open your eyes and see the visible displays of God’s presence in the midst of your tasks and even frustrations. When you do, gratefulness will transform your perspective and inspire gratitude that promotes further joy in the kingdom of God.

**note- This Wednesday ends your opportunity to win the Pam Stenzel “Parents Matter: Raising Kids with Integrity” DVD. People around the world share gratitude for her expertise. If you would be grateful, please be sure to visit here. I'll be posting the winner this Thursday!**

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Teaching Purity to Our Daughters (AND a Pam Stenzel DVD Giveaway)

“Why do brides wear white?”

After saying nightly prayers and setting out dresses for a wedding the following day, I was surprised to hear Grace thinking through the details.

“White is the color of innocence,” we explained. “It means that they listened to God in their choices.”

A child appropriate answer for an adult subject: S-E-X.

Despite being one of the smallest words in the English language, it unearths massive power. The decisions that our daughters make about sex before they walk the aisle will affect them physically, emotionally, and spiritually before they say “I do” and after.

So, how do we as mothers empower them to make right choices?

To finish reading my post, please visit ModSquad at http://modsquadblog.com/2010/08/the-bride-wore-white/


AND THE GIVEAWAY!

Internationally known abstinence speaker, Pam Stenzel, is a mother of three and speaks to over half a million teens worldwide per year. She knows the issues that today's young people face and the questions parents have. In her new faith-based Parents Matter: Raising Kids with Integrity DVD, Stenzel educates parents on up-to-date consequences to premarital sex, and empowers parents with useful suggestions to open up lines of communication and teach healthy dating. Providing you with the tools that you need to confidently build character and discuss sexuality with your daughters and sons, this DVD is a must-have for all parents. Since I write with Pam, I told her about my ModSquad post and she graciously provided one copy of Parents Matter for me to give away to a lucky winner!


All that you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post about why you would like to win. The giveaway will remain open for entries until Wednesday, Sept 1 at 10pm CST. I will use random.org to select the winning comment number. Then, be sure to follow the blog to know if you are the winner, which will be announced Thursday, Sept 2. Also, please leave some indentifying info for me to follow up with you - email or a twitter name.


One person is going to be blessed beyond measure by the great speaking and incredible teaching Pam offers. Will it be you?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Problem With Living in a Shortsighted Culture

I’m listening to a duet right now that I can’t say I enjoy. It is the coughing duet of my children.

This week has not been what I planned. As a stay at home mom, I envisioned lots of fun activities before our oldest starts preschool and we become more limited by a schedule. My list included play dates, the library, visiting the new rhino exhibit and baby giraffe at the zoo, going to the park, and normal weekday trips to the gym.

However, on Monday we found ourselves in the doctor’s office with our older one. Diagnosed with a bad sinus infection, we continued with eye drops and added oral antibiotics. I figured the inflammation and wretched cough would soon be gone and we’d return to the fun I had planned. But, that very same day our wee one started coughing. Unlike the older one’s cough, hers was dry and barky, reducing her to tears around the clock. So, for the first time ever, we had both children in the pediatrician’s office in the same week. And, we added another oral antibiotic and steroid to our medicine shelf.

Needless to say, the fun I had planned for the week didn’t happen. In fact, we are still homebound yet today. Although the older one is healthy, the younger one’s cough remains fairly persistent. She needs a little more time.

Interruptions in our plans happen all the time. And, when they do, our human tendency is to focus on what we are missing. In my case, it was the joy I anticipated my children would feel on our field trips, the sleep I'm lacking at night, the time taken from writing, and the daily trips to the gym.

But Scripture reminds to look elsewhere.

Psalm 121:1-3 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber.”

The problem with living in a shortsighted culture is that as we miss the big picture. As we focus on the circumstance immediately before us that we didn’t wish for, the Enemy allows disappointment to fill in our hearts and taint the Truth.

And the Truth is this. We serve an alert God who is not surprised by any of the events that we experience AND He promises to work all of it for good (Romans 8:28). God sees the distant future and, no matter what we face – from the littlest of infections to life-altering scenarios – He has plans to prosper us (Jeremiah 29:11).

So if you are in need of a little encouragement at the start of this new week, fix your eyes on the Heavens. Open your Bible and read His promises made special for you. As you do, a new peace will permeate your soul. And, you might even recognize new blessing. After all, I have gotten to rock my normally busy two year old much of the morning. :)

He is longsighted. We are not. Strive to keep your focus on Him because, if you do, tranquility is sure to follow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Which GPS Do You Use?

Recently my husband got a new phone. While I’m typically not a “techy” person, I was immediately impressed with this particular phone because it had a built in GPS. Gone would be the need for MapQuest or the good old-fashioned paper map. With this GPS, we could safely trust that we had all we need to stay on track.

We felt empowered.

Shortly thereafter we retreated home from a nice family weekend in Northern Minnesota. Although we had no clue where we were at, we felt safe with our phone GPS nestled into the front cup holder. Following its direction, we made our way from the gravel roads the cabin sat on through the forest of trees back towards civilization.

However, as we drove, we realized that where the GPS placed our car did not match with the street signs. Apparently the system’s signal was not strong enough and we were officially lost.

Life can be like this too. We can feel as though our faith life isn’t strong enough to know which direction to take so we look to strong Christian friends to help us map out our course. They become our GPS in unknown territory, and, because we trust in them, we feel more confident.

But, even the most faithful of our friends and family are fallible. Despite their best intentions, they can lead us astray. And, in the midst of our clinging to them in an effort to feel more faith-filled or right in our decision making, we abandon the one true GPS that will NEVER disappoint – the Lord.

Philippians 4:13 reminds us, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

We serve a God that meets us where we are at, directs us without fail, and empowers us with everything we need to glorify Him as He created us to do. Through our Faith-Giver, we can trust that we truly have all we need to stay on track and prosper.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's Your Biggest Concern?

She’s in the room next to me coughing incessantly. It’s fairly safe to say we will be making a visit to the pediatrician’s office tomorrow.

As I sit outside of her room listening, my heart is breaking. I wish I could make the coughing stop. I wish that I could make the pain go away.

More so, I weep for the beauty in her heart.

Before praying tonight she said, “I’m scared something is wrong.”

“What, honey?” my husband asks.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to pray tomorrow.”

She is four.

Shock overcomes me. I’m. Afraid. I . Won’t. Be. Able. To. Pray. Tomorrow.

Her cough is so deep she’s shaking. Her eyes are a watery annoyance. She’s in pain. Sleep might prove difficult. And, being sick means that going to the playroom for a play date with her friends tomorrow is out of the question.

Yet her BIGGEST concern is that she will lose her voice and be unable to pray aloud to Jesus who “loves to hear our voice.”

I’m speechless.

How often when calamity of some kind enters my life is my first thought my ability to pray? As adults we worry about the details – if we can do the things we have planned, if we will meet financial ends, etc. – and the Person that offers peace and an answer all those questions is just one conversation away.

The words “And a little child will lead them” (from Isaiah 11:6) rise to the surface.

Our biggest concern is not in the details of our situation. Our first and most important concern should be talking with God about it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Choices: To Faint or To Leap in Life

When I was young, I had a vision problem. Each day I’d go to school and after a very short time I’d find myself headache ridden with a blurry world, so I’d shut my eyes and rub them, hoping the issue would go away.

After visiting a brilliant eye doctor, the problem was discovered, revealed to us, and we were provided a solution. With a new prescription in hand, my mother and I went to the store and selected frames so that I could better face the world.

As I entered adulthood, a new vision problem emerged – seeing the entire world around me.

I like to think that I am good at noticing the needs of people immediately in front of me. We volunteer in church. If there is a special cause that we feel passionate about, we donate as we able. And, I’m very involved in crisis pregnancy center ministry. When I see a need I respond.

But as a young adult who hadn’t travelled much, there was a lot that I couldn’t see. One weekend at Women of Faith changed that. Before me on the big arena screens were pictures of beautiful World Vision children, loved by the same God, but without the same access to safe water, medical care, education, and healthy food.

My heart broke. I knew these problems existed, but I’d never seen the faces or heard their stories firsthand before. On top of that, I was a new mother. My desire for these children to be healthy, succeed, and know the Lord as my own would intensified.

Because my husband and I make financial decisions together, I didn’t choose to sponsor a child while I was there. When I got home, I shared the story with him, and yet I also shared my concerns. After all, we’d made financial concessions when I opted to be a stay at home mother. Could we afford this? How big of a difference would it really make?

I wanted to and yet I became that stressed child from long ago that couldn’t see quite right. Immediately, I closed my eyes rubbing them, hoping the issue would just go away.

And in that moment we had a choice. We could be what Women of Faith contributor Jan Silvious refers to as a fainting goat and refuse to face the truth. Or, we could be leaping lambs that rejoice in the midst of duress because Christ is in the center of it, and with His guidance we CANNOT go wrong.

As we prayed, the Scripture “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Proverbs 14:31) came to our minds and we both felt confident that we were supposed to take the financial leap to sponsor.

Gathering around the computer, we looked up a child that shared the same birthday as our little girl. Big brown eyes, beautiful brown locks of hair, and a huge baby grin gazed back at us. Andrea was meant to be our child.

And what a blessing it has been. Through shared letters with her mother, we’ve learned more about her life and joys. We’ve been able to talk with our four year old about the differences in Andrea’s way of living (she farms and we do not) and similarities (they both like to play with siblings and draw pictures) and how we love the same God.

Since Andrea lives in an always warm climate she asked in last week’s letter about snow. You think this will awe her?!


Our lives were enriched because we chose to be the leaping lamb. In the face of an overwhelming earthly circumstance, we jumped with our arms outstretched at what God placed before us, trusting that He would provide.

I don’t know what you face today. But, I do know that life presents us with a series of circumstances and a multitude of choices every day. Some of them are brought upon us and some of them we choose. Some of them are distant and some of them are right before our eyes. Some feel “huge” and crush us from every side and others are seemingly “little” and insignificant but still affect the whole. Regardless, I pray that you will look to God so that you can face life with clear vision and jump for joy with His direction.

End note: August is National Water Quality Month and that is why I chose to focus on the World Vision decision. Thank you World Vision for the work you do to make water safer around the world.

Monday, August 9, 2010

If You Don't Like the Mirror's Reflection, Remember This...

She stands in front of the mirror slowly brushing her hair. With each new stroke her smile seems to grow. Although I stand at a distance, she catches me in her peripheral vision and happily professes, “I like my hair pretty, but even if I didn’t have it I’d still be pretty, mom, because I have a pretty smile and a pretty face.”

Aren’t you confident? I think to myself.

That is the way it should be. God immediately replies, piercing deep.

I am guilty.

The last time I studied myself that intensely in the mirror I was at Ann Taylor Loft. Between the great sale and my birthday coupon, everything seemed right for a sale. Quickly spotting a trendy yet simple enough for the everyday top, I removed one from the wall and headed for the dressing rooms.

Once I had it on, I turned around to face the mirror. Cue the negative self talk tape: This looked MUCH cuter on the hanger than it does on you. Perhaps melting a few more pounds through the midsection would help…and on and on.

This comes as no surprise. As soon as one enters peer culture, they are quickly tainted by our society’s standard for beauty (or cool in the case of the guys) – from having the right shoes, to correctly styling bangs, to choosing the right clothes, to having ripped muscles, to having the perfect waistline… whatever that is.

And, yet, these standards are transient (which I think we can all agree is a good thing. I mean, do we really want to revisit the days of feather bangs or pegged jeans?). Despite this, we tie emotional value into our ability to “measure up” to the people around us. A societal springboard for self-esteem becomes a changing unknown, leaving people chronically dissatisfied.

And then we read this, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I now that full well.” Psalm 139:14 Gulp.

Gone are the looks in the mirror. The way the shirt fits, having the perfect complexion, and making sure every hair in place is of no value. We are given a new frame of reference – the eye of our Creator.

God took great individual care in His craftsmanship of each us. When He knit us together in our mother’s womb, He made us PERFECT in His eyes. We were given the perfect hair type, body shape, and look to be who He wanted us to be. You and I, as different as we may look, could not be more beautiful.

Because my little girl is not old enough to have been emotionally skewed by society, she innocently trusts that she could not look better. And, every morning as I style her hair I say, “You are so beautiful, honey,” reinforcing that message. Of course she is confident.

And we all should be too.

You were not made for the world around you. You were made for God above, and He looks over you each morning just as I do my little girl saying YOU are beautiful.

So right now I pray that you would see the beauty that God sees in you. (For those that are parents, this is particularly critical because we pass our perception of beauty on to our children.)

And soak in this from Nichole Nordeman.



I cry every time I watch it.  True story.
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