Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Word for the New Year

Camy here.

Every year, I pray and ask God to give me a Word for the year.

A word or phrase that He wants me to keep in mind for the entire year. A word or phrase that will impact and guide my walk with Him, a word or phrase to remind me when I start to stray.

This past year, that word was “fear.” God wanted me to learn to truly fear Him—as God, as Lord Almighty, as Sovereign Lord, as a God who never changes, who has everything under His control.

This was such a great word for me this year. The concept of fearing God, of healthy, reverent respect, applied to so many aspects of my life—discipline, love, faithfulness, patience. It was a nice kick in the pants to remember to revere God, to spur me to obey Him.

I’m not sure yet what the coming year’s word will be. I’m just praying and trying to listen to Him to tell me what He’d like me to work on in my spiritual life.

How about you? Why not pray for a word for this year? Spend some quality time praying to Him, maybe reading a few passages in the Bible. Listen to your heart, listen to the passages you read, and try to hear that still, small voice that will whisper your word to you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What if you were that friend?

Who was the first one Jamie Lynn Spears turned to when she found out she was pregnant? Not her mom. Not her sister. She turned to a friend.

So as a teen what can YOU do when a pregnant friend comes to you for advice?

Remain calm and loving. Your friend most likely feels alone, frightened and extremely sensitive about her pregnancy. The most important thing you can offer is your continued friendship.

Show God's love and forgiveness. Your friend may have been looking for love by giving herself intimately to a guy. Now she might feel ashamed and unworthy of love at all. Point her to God, who loves her unconditionally.

Celebrate life. Your friend may consider this baby a "mistake"—a barrier between her and "normal" life. She needs you to lovingly remind her that no matter how the baby was conceived, he or she is a gift from God.

Be available to share … and to listen. Your friend has big decisions to make, and although you can't make those decisions for her, you can be available to help her consider her options. Share information you've discovered on fetal development and on the physical and emotional trauma of abortion. Most of all, be willing to listen to your friend's deepest concerns.

Find help. Your friend is most likely in need of more answers than you can give. Visit a local crisis pregnancy center with your friend, or call CareNet for help at 1-800-395-HELP. Encourage her to tell her parents and to seek the counsel of a pastor or youth pastor.

Partner with her to make better decisions in the future. My Life, Unscripted (Thomas Nelson) is a book for teen girls and encourages teens to script their lives instead of being caught up in the drama and emotions of the moment. Read it together. Talk about the importance of making good choices.

Also, be sure to remind your friend of another pregnant teen that most likely had to face a lot of gossip and questions. Mary, Jesus' mother brought the Savior of the world into the world, sacrificing her own reputation in the process. Every child is a treasure and every life is precious!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some Seasonal Questions to Ponder


Holidays like Christmas cause many of us to pause and reflect. Being one who thinks a bit too much sometimes I thought I’d pass some of my less serious Christmas ponderings your way.
Such as . . .

1) Why is it that when I am looking for a box of plain old peppermint candy canes all I can find are pina colada, cherry, or cinnamon? Yesterday I needed candy canes for a recipe and found a shelf displaying every flavor imaginable EXCEPT peppermint. In fact, the only peppermint candy available in the store was a gigantic $3 bag of Starlight mints. I passed them up and decided to “borrow” some from our Christmas tree and replace them with the strawberry ones that my husband bought by accident. I couldn’t justify buying $3 worth of mints that I planned to smash to bits.

Which brings me to Part 2: why do I insist on replacing candy canes that I take from the tree? Nobody eats them! It feels too much like eating ornaments. After the tree comes down nobody is in the mood for sucking on candy canes because it’s no longer Christmas. Still I can’t bring myself to toss them with the wrapping paper and squashed boxes. That’s wasting and what about all those starving children who never get candy canes and would love to have ours? So instead of wasting right away I put them in the snack cupboard to be ignored until next year when I can toss them without guilt because “those candy canes are a year old!” It makes no sense.

Okay, on to deeper questions:

2) How did the song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” even become a hit? I’m trying to picture the record producer who discovered that particular performer. Did he find him singing away in a club and say, “Man, you’re talented. That voice—it’s amazing. And those lyrics! What a powerful story they tell. You’re gonna be a star.” What happened there?

3) Why is it that I never tire of torturing my husband and oldest son with the following tree-decorating tradition?
As soon as I hang our silver bell ornament I give it a jingle and announce to my teenage son, “Listen, Christian, an angel just got his wings.” I get eye rolls and groans every time. Nathan thinks it’s hilarious but he’s five. It won’t last long. Yet I must do it. It’s not Christmas until I’ve jingled the bell and said that ridiculous line that is so biblically false. Why not something a bit more . . . I don’t know . . . a bit more Christian like telling the story of the candy cane as we hang them or sharing the spiritual significance of tree garland (certainly there is one)?

4) Why are Russian tea cakes always on our menu when we aren’t Russian? One of these days my kids will want to know and I won’t have an answer. Maybe it’s the festive snowball appearance or the fact that they require five ingredients and very little effort but look like I slaved away to make something that looked so seasonally appropriate. All I know is I’m not allowed at my parents’ family gathering without them.

5) Where did the little drummer boy come in? Did he arrive with the shepherd or the wise men?

6) I know the story behind Santa but what warped individual thought up reindeer and elves? Scarier still, how is it that, at some point most of us fell for it as kids? And why is it that we all wanted such a creepy story to be true? Seriously, if I even saw a fat guy peering through my window so he could see me while sleeping, and certainly if I saw him diving down my chimney, I’d call the police, presents or no presents.

7) Why does someone always get sick at Christmas? I’m currently recovering from a kidney infection, my son from a second bout with strep throat and my husband from that lovely cold/cough combo. I’m relieved in a way because it means we’ll be healthy for the big day. But if nobody had been to the doctor with something by now I’d be worried about what awaited us next week. If we have a healthy Christmas season I thank God but I also dread what the New Year will bring. I must admit that when Christmas rolls around I think, oh boy, what illness will it be this year? But why can’t everyone get sick on Groundhogs’ Day instead?

8) Finally, why is it that no matter how hard I try, no matter how determined I am to do otherwise, I always lose perspective at some point. On December 1 I vow to enjoy the season and remember Who it is about. By mid-month I am stressed out, up to my eyeballs in lists, behind on the shopping that I’d planned to do less of, and yes, secretly wondering what I’ll get. Perspective returns on Christmas Eve when I attend the evening candlelight service. I walk away wishing I’d paid more attention to Jesus before that night . . . taken more time to reflect and remember why He came. Now that I’m aware of it I’m trying to make a daily discipline of focusing on Christ at some point. Still, I could do more of it.

So what are your Christmas questions, funny or serious? I’d love to hear them.

Who thought up those fruit flavored candy canes anyway?

Merry Christmas!
Jeanette

(cross posted on my blog)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Christmas Elf in Us All



My actual day to blog was the 16th, but I was having fun being a Christmas elf Sunday and Monday, so I didn't sit down to blog.
My three college students who assist me helped design t-shirts. We ordered a grand amount, and Sunday we packaged up enough to give to our church's youth group. Then the next day we took t-shirts to the staff at WaterBrook.
I got to thinking about how much fun it was to design the shirts, sort them, and pass them out. It truly is more blessed to give than receive.
We are created in the image of God. The little bit of joy we get when we give a good gift is a reflection of what God feels when He gives to us. Do you doubt God loves to give us life, and not only that but, abundant life? Don't! You feel it too. Our joy is a HIS! HIS joy is ours.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Meet at McDonald's



This past Sunday my Sunday school girls and I went to McDonald's during Sunday school. What is it about getting together for a meal that's so special? I figured, it's almost Christmas. Let's just do it. Celebrate.

I've been teaching high school girls on Sunday mornings for about 15 years. I had more show up yesterday than I've had all year--plus two new girls.

When we got back to church somebody said, "Did you still teach your lesson?"

Good question. We couldn't sit together at one big table so we lined up in lots of small ones. So, no. I didn't teach a prepared lesson. Instead, I went around to each person and said, "How can I pray for you this week?"

EVERYBODY had something coming up and asked for prayer.

One had a friend commit suicide this past Wednesday.

A few had parents going through a divorce.

Almost everybody has finals next week.

Maybe I did teach a lesson.

Love you much,

Julie
www.juliegarmon.com

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas complaints

This is Camy, complaining. Nothing goes the way I want it to during Christmas.

I hate traveling in general, but what’s worse is that I have to brave crowded airports during the busiest time of the year when I’d rather be home sleeping in.

I hate rude people at the mall, but I have to dive into the fray in order to get gifts for everybody on my list. And then I inevitably forget someone and have to go back to the mall for one or two more things.

And if I’m smart and actually buy something online, it ends up being shipped late unless I pay up the wazoo for faster shipping fees.

I try to fish for what my parents want, and once I get them something, I find they either already have it, just bought it, or don’t want it.

I light my aromatherapy candle to make myself calm down and de-stress, and I end up setting fire to my Kleenex box.

My dog has just shed hair all over the cardigan I’m knitting for my mother. And I just discovered I don’t have enough yarn and need to order one more ball and hope it arrives in time for me to finish the cardigan and mail it to her so she gets it before Christmas.

I have gained 10 pounds in the last two months and I don’t fit into my pants for Christmas dinner at my in-laws’.

And people are preaching platitudes to me about remembering the reason for the season? Calling me Martha when I should have a more Mary-like attitude? Mary never dealt with the Lady-Deathstrike-meets-Michael-Meyers cashier at Macys!

Yet if I stop my consumer-driven frenzy and don’t give anyone anything for Christmas, I’ll lose all my friends and Aunty Geraldine will send me a fruitcake doorstopper.

(Actually, Aunty Geraldine will probably still send me a fruitcake doorstopper, regardless of what I do or don’t do.)

We live in America. Let’s face it. It’s hard to get away from the gift-driven aspect of Christmas.

So let’s prioritize. My best friend Charlotte is totally not going to care if her gift is late, or even if it’s only a $2 pair of mittens from Walmart. Or a hand-knitted scarf. Or a hand-made card.

However, I need to find something decent for Cousin Angelica, so I’ll get her a gift card. Who cares if it’s impersonal? My mental well-being is at stake, here.

If mom gets upset her gift is late, I’ll be on her “ignore list” for only 6 months. I’ll get her something extra nice for her birthday.

If I whittle down my list this way, I actually have time to sit down with a cup of cocoa (heaped with marshmallows). I have time to take a few deep breaths, spend some quality time with Jesus, let Him speak to me about this past year, about what He’d like for me this next year.

And maybe He’ll give me an idea of what to get Aunty Geraldine.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's okay to start small

This is Curtis. He married my daughter three months ago. This is the living room of their cozy cottage. And this is their first Christmas tree.

I love this picture for many reasons, but I posted it simply to say it's okay to start small. Most of us are in a hurry to achieve our goals. We want big success (in school, relationships, sports or hobbies or even in our faith) and we want it now. But there are reasons why God didn't create us as full-grown, knowledgeable, talented adults. We have to grow and learn. Develop our skills. Study. Practice.

In His wisdom, God even chose for Jesus to start small. He came as an infant. He had to learn to walk and talk and feed Himself. He had to go to school and learn to read. He had to practice carpentry under Joseph's watchful eye. He even had to spend time in prayer to refresh His spirit.

If starting small was okay for Jesus, it's okay for us, too.

Maybe someday Curtis and Grace will have a big, fancy Christmas tree in a lavishly furnished home. But meanwhile, they're making the most of small beginnings. They're happy. And that, my friends, is huge.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What if she'd said NO?


Last weekend we put out a new nativity set that my Grandma purchased for us for our Christmas gift this year. It's a beautiful set, and I love that it's the centerpiece of my dining room. Of course, I had to pause as I was setting up beautiful Mary. In fact, it made me think, "What if she'd said no?"

This morning this thought came to me again as I was reading Called and Accountable by Henry and Norman Blackaby. Here is what they had to say:

"One of the most significant illustrations of hearing and responding to God is found in the life of Mary, Jesus' mother. God's eternal purpose was to bring a Savior into the world, and through that Savior to bring his His great salvation to every person. He found the one through whom He would choose to work--Mary, a quiet servant girl. An angel from God announced God's purpose through her. Then came her amazing and wonderful response: "'Behold a maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her" (Luke 1:38). And God did what He said He would do! Impossible to man, but possible with God (Luke 1:37)." p. 19

It made me stop to think about how willing I am to follow what God has asked me to do. Do I always respond like Mary. No. Are there things He's asked me to do that I haven't followed through with yet? Yes.

Often, I ask God to lead me to new places so I can reach new people, and sometimes I wonder if He's waiting. Waiting for me to finish the assignments He's giving me. Waiting for me to say yes to all He's already asked.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Our Christmas Switch-Up



I love Christmas, and it just grows more and more amazing each year.

About eight or so years ago, I realized that our children's Christmas morning expectations might be a little high. It was going to be one of those years when the budget wouldn’t come close to touching their want lists. Actually, because we’re in fulltime ministry, most years are like that. While my kids had friends who spent most of the morning and into the afternoon opening gifts, our gift-opening easily took way less than an hour.

My kids were catching on, so what to do?

We already had a morning routine that they insisted we stick to: waking up to Christmas music; opening stockings full of carefully chosen small gifts; chowing down a hardy breakfast that has to include home-baked cinnamon rolls; and the telling of the Christmas story in every way imaginable.

That year—whenever it was—I started praying about how we could use our time after we finished with the above traditions. God answered on Christmas morning by bringing to our attention the need of an elderly man in our community. He was sick, living alone, and holed up in a cold house.

Here came the switch-up. We’d already finished the stockings, breakfast, and story, but we hadn't opened gifts yet. We stopped, put together a meal of homemade tamales (something we rarely make, by the way), and we traveled the forty minutes to visit our sick friend. We stayed just long enough to build up a nice fire in his woodstove, pray for him, and get him set for his Christmas meal.

When we returned, it was already close to noon. Our children enjoyed opening their gifts, but it was no longer the main focus.

The next year we heard about a family who had lost their mother and grandmother early December. They were all pretty down, so we put together a basket of coffee, cocoa, and warm cinnamon rolls and delivered them Christmas morning

Now each year, during the entire season we are on the lookout for how God might want to use our Christmas morning trip. Sometimes we know right away and other times not until that day. Depending on who we’re visiting, we may call ahead or make it a surprise.

This has turned into one of the highlights of our Christmas.

I’d love to hear what you do during this season that has grown into a special tradition for you. Please share!

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How to Not Let “Happy Holidays” and Winter Concerts Ruin Christmas


Like most Christians it upsets me that so much politically correctness has seeped into the celebration of Christ’s birth. I remember how angry we all got when public schools changed Christmas break to winter break and had to represent every December holiday when it came time to decorate the classroom (Chanukah, Kwanza, Christmas—meaning Santa and the elves not Jesus—and a few took advantage by adding Wicca’s winter solstice celebration). Communities have “tree” lightings, winter concerts, and holiday craft fairs now. We can expect to find Kwanza cards in Wal-Mart and rarely hear a store clerk say “Merry Christmas” anymore. I could go on and on and in the process probably get pretty irate. But what good would that do?

This morning I received one more in a long string of e-mail “alerts” about another store that is apparently anti-Christmas because clerks are required to say “Happy Holidays” and the only reference to Christmas found in their catalog was a selection of pajamas. Suddenly, instead of feeling the need to fight for my rights to free speech and decoration choices, I wanted to send a rather snotty reply and say, “Enough! Someone needs to get a job if they have so much free time to count words in catalogs and tally store clerk greetings. Nobody is stopping US from saying Merry Christmas, displaying angels, and singing Christmas songs. Can we just enjoy the holiday? Excuse me, Christmas?!” I was very tempted to send a list of all the positive reminders of Christmas I have seen so far this season. Since I doubt they have time to read my rant, I’ll post my findings here instead. They are actually pretty cool.


1) Josh Groban’s newest CD Noel – I don’t know where he stands spiritually but his selection includes so many Christian Christmas carols that a Christian organization offers it as a free gift for donations over $25 and a Christian bookstore had it playing over their sound system when I went in to buy my son’s a . . . (in case they read this I better not say). I also heard it in Border’s last night. Josh sings the words “Christmas,” “Christ” and “Jesus” many times. I own the CD and have already played it to death (I’m a huge fan) so I can promise you that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has not been changed to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday.”


2) Whenever I venture into Wal-Mart (always for “the last time until after New Year and this time I mean it”) they are playing carols like “Away in a Manger” and “O Holy Night.” Okay, they are usually being sung by an entertainer whose lifestyle reflects anything but godly character, but still. They are singing about Christ not Frosty.


3) In a new shopping center in Reno they had a concert the weekend before Thanksgiving, gave away cider, and ended with fireworks and lighting of the CHRISTMAS TREE. A local high school choir sang and their repertoire included several Christian carols. The director admitted to getting chills during “Silent Night.” When Santa arrived he shouted “Merry Christmas” between “Ho Ho Ho”s.

There’s more but I want to give you a chance to share your own evidence that Christmas has not been completely replaced with generic holidays. What have you seen and heard in stores and other public arenas this Christmas season?

And by the way, when a store clerk says “Happy Holidays” I always reply with “Merry Christmas.” I feel like such a rebel.

Merry Christmas!!!
Jeanette

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tis the Season...For Holiday Forwards



It's that time of year again. Christmas carols. Tinsel. Jingle bells.
And Christmas emails.

I got this one last week and thought I'd share. Feel free to contribute your own or pass it on to others. Some of us are not afraid to halt some work or school day productivity to participate in some mindless emailing. Especially when it's in the name of Christmas!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Paper. Duh. If it’s too easy to get into, it’s no fun. I like to delay the big reveal.

2. Real tree or artificial? – Call me a Grinch, but I don’t do trees at all. If I had one though it would be a 1950s silver aluminum one like my grandma's.

3. When do you put up the tree? First of Never. I used to, but my cats just didn’t appreciate it as much as I wanted them to.

4. When do you take your tree down? I do put out some decorations. Sadly, last year they never made it back to the attic, so they’ve been in a spare bedroom FOR TWELVE MONTHS. And THIS is why I don’t decorate for Christmas! If I had a tree it would still be in a corner of the living room.

5. Do you like eggnog? Eggs are not meant to be sipped.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Probably my bike with the ribbon handle bars and daisy covered basket. Or my first CPK. That’s Cabbage Patch kid, if you’re down with that.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No, knowing how much dust it would collect at my house, I think that would probably be pretty sacreligious.

8. Hardest person to buy for? I dunno, but easiest person is myself. I’m usually out shopping like a maniac (and crying and downing Starbucks and Diet Dr. Pepper) on the 24th because I’ve spent the whole month shopping for myself cause everything is marked down so much. It’s a sickness!

9. Easiest person to buy for? See above. And my cats. They get free water bowl refills.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever got? A toss between the cat-related home décor items and one that I can't share online, but I sure wish I could. Oh, it was SO horrible! Like unrecognizable HORRIBLE. But funny...

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I totally prefer to get them in the mail. Oh...you meant how I send them. Um...no comment?

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Elf. I like White Christmas a lot too. And Christmas Vacation. And last year I discovered the old movie Christmas in Connecticut. I highly recommend it!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I usually start buying for myself (in bulk) the day after Thanksgiving.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, but nobody would take the kitty bath towels or the gift-which-shall-not-be-named.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Christmas breakfast

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Lights are a fire hazard, and I’m not allowed around them.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Do You Hear What I Hear. Also I love O Holy Night. And anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Just kidding.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel to two different locations. Both about 15 minutes away, both with populations less than 3k. Not glamorous, but at least nobody frisks at security checks. Well, maybe that one crazy uncle, but he's senile, so it doesn't count.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes. I can’t tell you who our Lt. governor is, but I can name the reindeer. And the members of N*Sync in case anyone ever needs that information.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? I dunno, but one time I took out my mom’s glass tree topper because I was compelled to climb a tree and sing into the shiny ornament. We had a great concert. Then right at the doorway in, I broke it. I will never forget that. It wasn’t pretty for me. I think the only reason you don’t hear me on the radio today is because of that moment.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both. And we still do stockings on Christmas morning. Even though my brother and I are old. And crabby. And probably didn't make anybody's "Nice" list. And every year Santa brings me chocolate covered raisins. Except for one random year he didn't. I never knew what I did that ticked him off so much.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Um...myself? Seriously, I get a little wired and weird at this time. I’m usually behind on shopping, I have a calendar full of events, and I’ve started some insane house-painting project. I shouldn’t be allowed in public shopping places during this time.

23.What does Christmas mean to you? It means we stop and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It's so easy to forget what it's really about. But this year, I'm really going to try and focus on that. And some fudge.

Okay, so copy and paste that and send it to 1,000 people you know or your whole year will be cursed, your hair will fall out, and the reindeer will tinkle down your chimney.

-Cross-posted from MY BLOG.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Have Celiac--Oh My Gosh


I was just diagnosed with Celiac--and I bet none of you have ever heard of it.

It means I shouldn't eat any wheat or gluten products. Meaning no more donuts, cookies, cakes, pies, bread, pasta, bagels, etc.

At first I was kinda in shock. I've spent so much time over the past four days reading labels and shopping. I found some gluten-free brownies and bread mixes, and also some nice-tasting breakfast bars.

I went to a church brunch and only had fruit, but it wasn't all that bad. The worst part is explaining, but if you go ahead and tell people, it seems they're really interested. And they care.

I wanted to go public with this in case it might help anybody else.

Life doesn't always go the way we want. Things happen that we don't like or understand.

My new attitude is this...I've decided to focus on WHAT I CAN HAVE TO EAT. Like, do you know how good fresh-squeezed orange juice is? I'd forgotten. I had some this morning. :-)

And I can't forget that God is "intimately acquainted with all my ways." So this is no shock to Him. He made me.

Love,
Julie

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Designing T-shirts

I had a t-shirt designing party this afternoon. I had two friends over. One can sketch about anything you ask her to and the other is a computer graphics wiz. So what did I do to contribute to the t-shirt designing party. I was the "Idea Man." In this case, ideal gal.
We were designing t-shirts to promote the books I write. Here are some of the sayings we came up with for the t-shirts.
Poke the magic dragon, and puff will be your name.
Dragons can't help being flighty.
Look wise, say nothing, and eat only those who annoy you.
"Wear pink. It confuses the enemy." -- Lady Allerion
When you're a dragon, trouble comes naturally.

We the t-shirts on Zazzle.com . I am so excited. I've written books. Now, I've written t-shirts!

PS: We got carried away. It was more fun than a home shopping party. We made hats and mugs and bags as well as t-shirts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prayer warriors

(Camy here.)

Got any prayer warriors?

Even if you don’t have any problems in your life (or you don’t think you have problems), prayer warriors are a must.

Numero uno) They keep you accountable. Newsflash—you’re the last person who thinks you’re backsliding. Trust me on this, I speak from experience.

You don’t want to be stuck in a ditch before you realize that hey, I haven’t been listening to God lately and maybe I should do something about it.

People who pray regularly for you—like once a month or once every two weeks—can sense when things aren’t well between you and God. And it’s healthy when you’re sharing a prayer request and realizing there are some things maybe you aren’t comfortable sharing, or maybe are a bit ashamed of.

Two) They encourage us. If something does happen in our lives, it tends to hit us like a pickup truck into the passenger side door—sudden, hard, and out of nowhere.

If you have a group of prayer warriors who meet regularly, then you can call an emergency meeting and get some prayer ASAP. You won’t believe how much it helps to have people pray for you as soon as something goes on.

Setting up your prayer group:

Pick people who don’t have loose lips. You want to entrust your deepest secrets and worry someone else will hear about it.

Ask first, and don’t get your panties in a wad if they say no. Not everyone has the time or the inclination to join a prayer group.

Pick a time and place to meet regularly. Preferably the same place, or a rotation of set places. Pick a time most people can meet most of the time, and don’t reschedule too often if a few people can’t meet. Meet at the set time with whoever’s free.

Finally—pray! Pray often. Pray sincerely. Pray for good life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful


The turkey is in the oven, and in a few hours the family and friends will arrive. All 35 of them! Most of them are my husband John's family--parents, brothers, a sister, and all their spouses and kids. Also coming are friends who are far from their family and their four kids. Oh, yes, and my own family, my husband, my three kids, and Kayleigh--one of the teenage moms I've adopted as my own and her husband Nate and three kids.

This morning I was thinking back ... back to the Thanksgiving not too many years ago when I was a pregnant teen. I'd dropped out of school, my boyfriend had dropped me, my high school friends went on with the own lives, and I felt so very alone.

Yet, it was during that pregnancy that I made a decision--to give my life to Christ. To let Him fix up what I've screwed up.

Fast forward to today--a beautiful family, friends, a home to welcome them into ... these are wonderful things to be thankful for.

But mostly I'm thankful for Jesus. For being forgiven of my sins, for hope in eternity in heaven, in peace today ... and tomorrow ... because He lives inside me.

It was the best decision I every made--a decision I'm thankful for every day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's the Difference?



So here I am bushwhacking my way toward a deadline. Well, it seems that way. You should see my house right now, in its neglected state. No, never mind—you should not see it. And if you do show up at my door, you enter at your own risk. No guarantee you’ll find me.

But I am here, and right now I’m pondering the topic of Internet use gone wild. One guy I talked to recently admitted he was completely pulled in—he would say “addicted”—to MySpace, WoW, and porn.

He told me, “You reach a certain point after a while—and it doesn’t take much—where boom! your conscience is seared and you convince yourself that what you’re doing is OK. Your innocence is drained. You can do it, and do it, and do it all day long.”

That's intense!

In trying to overcome his Internet obsessions, he said an "accountability partner" wouldn’t work for him unless that person was willing to sit next to him every time he got online—which would be a lot. Otherwise, alone he could go online and do whatever he wanted, and then it wouldn’t bother him one bit to have to confess it.

Here’s the thing that got me: He said, though an accountability partner wouldn’t work for him, a godly mentor would—someone who could pour God into his life.

After we talked some more, I realized he saw the "accountability partner" as someone who checked up on him, kept him on track with what he was supposed to do—even if he couldn't, or wouldn't, honestly aspire to their standards.

On the other hand, to him, the "mentor" would be the person who took the time to be in relationship with him and to help spur him toward being in relationship with God.

In his mind, the mentor relationship is the one that would make a difference--the one that would lead to God transforming him deeply and impacting his online choices.

Sure changes up my thinking about friendship, accountability, and mentoring. Still thinking about this one. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/

Monday, November 19, 2007

Contaminated


As a writer I rely on and check e-mail daily. It’s not unusual for me to check it three or four times in one day, especially when communicating with one of my editors about a writing assignment.

Most people would skip to the inbox and ignore the junk or “bulk” folder knowing that most of the contents are garbage anyway. I’ve found lately that I check that folder BECAUSE I know it contains garbage. I’ve been receiving a lot of really yucky stuff lately and I want it gone! Just knowing it’s there makes me feel contaminated. I can’t check off those messages and click “Delete All” fast enough.

Thinking about this new pattern of mine triggered a question. Is it possible that I’m allowing other things to sneak in and contaminate my mind and heart as well—books, movies, television show choices, and even my own words that simply aren’t as in-your-face obvious as e-mails about . . . I won’t even say it . . . bleck! Suddenly I feel a bit convicted to pay closer attention to what I allow into my mind. After all, our minds are powerful and not easily erased.

What about you? What offends you to the point of making you feel contaminated when you see or hear it? Or maybe you aren’t easily offended and wonder if that’s such a good thing? Ask God to reveal the things that have the power to muck up your mind? What lovely and glorifying things can you replace all that with?

I’d love to hear what you come up with.

Jeanette

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Straight UP!

I have seen FIVE stars this week. Five! Cinco! Before I get into last Saturday's super star sighting, let me show you who I saw today. The pictures are of course awful! She was right in front of me and my camera would NOT cooperate!


Okay, if you close your left eye and squint with the right, you will clearly see that you are looking at none other than Miss Paula Abdul. For real. She was at my high school for a dance conference and showed our girls some moves. I was not invited, which hurts my tender feelings, so along with two other teachers, had to sneak in a back door. And bust out a window. And clip a wire on the security system. And dress in camo. But we got in. When Jennifer Jones smells celebrity, you cannot keep her away!

Here she is again.

"Come on, Jen. Get down here and shake your groove thang...before security escorts you out." And I'm all like, "No, no, Paula. I don't want to show you up. We both know how sensitive you are."

Not only is she sensitive (please reference every episode ever aired of American Idol if you don't believe me), but she's also extremely short! And I don't mean maybe. Check out this photo of Paula standing next to our athletic director...

She's like, "Am I in the land of the giants? Please don't eat me!" Paula is what you call teeny tiny.

And now...drum roll please...
Saturday morning, I was at the Wal-Mart home offices at 6:35 a.m., when normally I am pillow deep in sleepy time, and ...well, BEHOLD!!!

On your left you have Denzel Washington, known for fine movies such as The Hurricane, in which he totally got the Oscar shaft. Then in the middle you have OPRAH WINFREY!!!!! Can you even believe it??? And on your far right you have Wal-Mart CEO, Lee Scott. There was also a famous producer there named Harvey Weinstein, who has produced every movie ever made apparently, but I didn't really know him. But IMDb.com says he used to weigh 300 pounds, so I don't know if he's very successful movie-wise, but apparently he has enjoyed some Jenny Craig success.

The three celebs were there to talk about their new movie, The Debaters. Oprah was a co-producer and Denzel directs and stars. You can Google it if you want the skinny on it, but the trailer was good!

But I was like FIFTEEN feet away from Lady O. Not even kidding.
Well, there are more pics and joyous moments from this event, but they will have to wait until next Monday. No, please don't email me and beg me to share before then because I won't, I tell you. But if I do run into my sixth celebrity for the week, I'll be sure and post that. Especially if they are shorter than Paula. Because that would just be freakishly weird.

Any of you guys had any celeb sightings? I'd love to hear them!

Cross posted from HERE.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Fear Monster

If I had to say the ONE thing in my life that's caused me the most trouble, it's FEAR.
Lately, I've had some scary things happen. Well, for as long as I can remember, I've had scary things happen. But recently, some of the scary stuff has been with my health, and some with things family members are going through. I had some medical tests done last week. I just had to blog about this because it was soooooooooooooo huge for me.
A couple of weeks ago I told God, "I'm sick and tired of being afraid. I want to change. For good. Please help me." And He is!
Right before being put to sleep this Wednesday, I started to have some scary thoughts try to sneak back in. Then I started to pray. It was a simple prayer--so simple a two-year-old could pray it. In my mind I said, Help me, Jesus. Help me, Jesus. I said it over and over. And guess what? The scary thoughts left me alone!
One of my daughters has been going through a hard time. She's trying to start over in life. She called me very upset close to midnight last night. The scary feelings came to me. The What If Monster.
I thought, now you won't be able to go to sleep. Guess what I did? I said, "We don't have to live in fear. There's another way. The Bible tells us that perfect LOVE casts out all fear. It tells us to cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us." Then I told her to ask God to help her. And I went straight to sleep. :-)
Day-by-day I'm finally, oh finally, beginning to change. I don't have to be the Scared Lady anymore. There's another way to live. To get to this new place, I think I had to go through some scary things. I had to get desperate and ready to be different. I had to get tired of doing life my way.
I had to tell you this Saturday morning that if your past includes gigantic fear like mine, with God's help (and sometimes this means talking to other people about it and being open) there's hope.
Moment-by-moment now I'm saying, "Help me, Jesus."
And He comes to me. He runs to me. He's never too busy. Actually, I'm thinking He's been here the whole time but like a gentleman, He's been waiting on me to say, "Help."
Love to you all. Especially anybody who understands this fear post.
Julie

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sick and Enjoying it!

We have strep throat, plain colds, and an allergy assault upon the house.
What do you do when you are ill?
Laughter? Here's a site I enjoy. http://www.cybersalt.org/go.php?id=community I subscribe to the newsletters and get wonderful things like: Today's CleanPun - "Pedestrians"
"A pedestrian is a person who should be seen and not hurt."


A Good Book? How about this one?
VANISHED by Kathryn Mackel

A terrorist's bomb. A rogue experiment. An impenetrable mist.

And no one is coming to help.

After a bomb explodes in a working-class neighborhood of Barcester, Massachusetts, Police sergeant Jason Logan fights to keep order and assist the injured while desperately waiting for aid to arrive. Is the mist from the bomb preventing ambulances and fire trucks from coming in? Or has something far more dire occurred?

As the hours tick by, Logan tracks the terrorist mastermind-whom he learns is not done wreaking havoc. Cut off from modern medical resources, nurse-practitioner Kaya de los Santos treats the injured and soothes the fearful, unaware that her teenaged son Ben is on the run from both the cops and the terrorist.

The vanished begin a battle for survival against enemies they've always known-and forces they've never even imagined.

To read a full chapter of this spine tingling novel go to ChapterAWeek or order it online at Amazon.com



A cup of tea!


I hope everyone in your house is healthy. If not, enjoy the time to indulge in something delightful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bare

The other day, God told me to get nekkid.

Just kidding. Well, sort of.

I’m doing this book called Enjoy the Silence, which is teaching a Bible study practice called lectio divina. It’s a practice that monks often use, and it’s been a good book so far. I’ve been hearing God more in my quiet times.

The other day the passage was Exodus 3:1-6:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.

So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush,
“Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are stand-
ing is holy ground.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (TNIV)


What struck me was verse five, when God tells Moses to take off his sandals. He didn’t want him to have anything manmade on him, nothing crafted by man’s hands, because the ground was holy.

Holy ground required just bare skin. Just himself.

That’s when I really felt naked. God wants me bare before Him. None of the stuff I’ve made for myself, none of the attitudes and accomplishments that make up the things around me. Just me. The girl I really am.

My life is not pretty, but He wants me bare when I come before Him. He really wants to see just me.

This, I think, is true prayer—when I’m completely, utterly, only myself before God. This is when He can speak to me, because both He and I can see me for who I really am.

The next time you pray, be bold. Be bare. Be nekkid.

Just don’t post pictures. ;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who Are You?

Do you know who you are? I mean do you really? I thought I knew exactly who I was when I went to the post office to mail a series of packages today, but when it came time to pay the women behind the counter would not let me use my own credit card to pay. About a year ago my credit card number was stolen, so now I don't sign the back of my credit cards--I simply write "Please ask to see I.D." on the back.

So even though I could produce photo identification, and several other cards bearing my name the post office wouldn't allow me to use my credit card to pay for my packages because they said my card was not valid since it was not signed. It was insanely ridiculous. They treated me like a thief for using my own credit card because I had taken precautions that would prevent a real thief from using it!

As a stood in the post office trying to prove my identity, and my right to use my card, I couldn't help but think of the messages the world sends us as Christians. Sometimes these messages even come from other Christians.

"You're not as special as you think you are," they sneer at us when we claim we are daughters of the King of Kings. "You don't act any differently than me, so why are you going to heaven if I'm not?" Their questions jab at us over and over again. "A real Christian wouldn't behave like that," they claim when we have a bad day. The list goes on and on.

So, do you know who you are? Even though I couldn't use my credit card I didn't walk out of the post office doubting who I was. I know I am Shannon Primicerio no matter what anyone says. But are you as confident in your place in God's family?

Galatians 3:26 says, "For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus."

You are a daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Live like it--no matter who tells you otherwise!

Where have you been?

I can see that look on your face! Where have you been, Suzie Eller?

Let's talk about it. : ) Two months ago my house sold. We packed up all our belongings, found a temporary home for our horses, and moved about an hour away to beautiful Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
All good news so far.
I live in a new house, close to the university, and I love it. More good news.
But what I don't love is that for the last several weeks I've lived in a cyberless world. My home is just a half block from telephone service, Internet service, cable, dish, etc. Because it's a new development area, we have had to wait until the entire neighborhood was hooked up.
That didn't happen until this past week!
I've been driving to the university and snagging wireless just to stay on top of my writing assignments, and to check e-mail, but I couldn't talk to you!
So, I'm back. I'm on dial-up, which is el stinko, but it's better than living in a technological black hole.
But I'm still so happy to be exactly where I am. I'm content. Why? Because I know that God is guiding me one step at a time, and I trust that. The small inconvenience is nothing. But the fact that He guides me; that I can talk to Him every day; that He is my heart and source of life, that's such an amazing gift.
I've missed you. I really have!
And I'm excited that in my absence some really cool authors have joined GGGL.
Tell me what you've been doing this past two months. I want to hear from you. : ) What is God doing in your life? What are your challenges? Does it ever feel like you are in a black hole? Do you want us to pray with you?
Let's talk. . .
Suzie Eller
Real Teen Faith

Monday, November 12, 2007

Holding Hands

It's officially holiday time and I LOVE it!

I look forward to this time of year the rest of the 10 months. It's getting dark earlier, it's colder, the trees are changing colors and loosing leaves, it's the perfect time of year for cider or hot chocolate or coffee and I can wear my coat and scarf without getting weird looks from people.

I love when I snuggle down under the covers late at night. My toes are freezing cold, I'm pulling my Bible over and getting warm and cozy reading God's word. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, I can't help think about this: how many, many, many times I take for granted the written word of God and my relationship with Him.

Especially in this season of my life. I'm 22, I'm not married, and I'm making decisions today that will affect the rest of my life. Relationship decisions, career decisions, where my money goes decisions. Kinda scary, right? But also tons of fun as I learn to squeeze my eyes shut and just trust the Hand that holds mine.

Isaiah 41 is becoming a favorite chapter and it says this: "For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, 'do not fear, I will help you.'"

I love that. He's got our hand tucked right there in His. And just like it says in Romans 8, nothing can separate us from that.


Friday, November 09, 2007

A Rose of Sharon

My 8 year old daughter just finished up the show she has been in for the last two weeks. She played an orphan in the CYT production of "Annie". It was a lot of fun and a lot of work for us all. These kids (and their parents) work for weeks to put on an amazing show but it is an exhausting effort.

At the end of it all we always have a party and at that party they give out an award to the guy and girl from the cast that exhibits the most Christ-like behavior - it's called the Rose of Sharon award. Every kid gets a vote (and some of the adults as well).

It all got me thinking about who I would give this kind of award to in my real life. If you had to cast a vote right now, who in your life would you say exhibits the most "Christ-likeness"?

And on the flip side - do you think your behavior would get you any votes from your friends?

Actually, for me, there are days I think I exhibit some good qualities. Kindness, gentleness, even patience on a good day. But then I have what I'll call my "other days". Days where I am grumpy and impatient and well, not so gentle to be around. Some of it depends on whether I've had my coffee but I seriously doubt Jesus would accept that excuse from me - ever. I'm well aware that the Scriptures remind us to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. To put to death the old man, and the "bad stuff". But I do fail sometimes.

The thing is, we'll never attain perfection. At least not this side of heaven. But I think we can strive to show the character of Christ as much as we can, striving for better while having grace with our shortcomings.

So if you're game, here's the question: If you were giving a Rose of Sharon award, who would you give it to, and why?

Me? Mine would go to my husband. He is an absolute saint because even with all my quirks, he loves me still.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stand Out


I’m still spinning, even since my last post. I’m looking forward to slowing down for the holidays. Yes, compared to the rest of this year, the busyness of the holidays will feel like slow-mo.

So just one thought from me this time:

Stand out.

How?

Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant.

Matthew 23:11 The Message

Hmmm . . . Just when I think I've got that one down, I realize I don't. I've got some more "stepping down" to do.

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/

Monday, November 05, 2007

We Still Had Fun!

Last week my parents came to town to celebrate my oldest son’s birthday. We had a great time shopping for a super cool gift from Grandma and Grandpa, hanging out in their hotel room, and playing at a local pumpkin patch. All of our plans for their visit fell into place beautifully, right down to the whether.

Then Dad got bit by a dog.

No, you didn’t read that incorrectly. We were all getting ready to go out to dinner and Dad ventured down to the lobby. A vicious Scottish terrier took advantage of his owner being entranced with a call on her cell phone, snapped his leash, lunged toward Dad, and bit him on the leg. Thankfully Dad wasn’t seriously hurt, just REALLY mad. But he did have to report the bite, go to the ER to have it checked, get a tetanus shot since he hadn’t had one in decades (not fun), and fill a prescription, which pretty much blew our dinner plans.

Of course we were disappointed but you know what? We still had a fun night. We ate ribs and chicken wings from the deli, watched a silly movie, talked about what should happen to dogs that bite and why animals should not be allowed in hotels, and called both my sisters so Dad could retell his dramatic story. I expected Christian to feel jilted but he didn’t seem to mind. It gave him time to play the game he’d bought with some birthday money. Nathan had another chance to color with Grandma and sucker her into a few more rounds of Mancala (he is totally addicted to the game). Dad kept apologizing for putting a damper on the evening but we assured him, “Actually, it’s kind of nice to hang out. Besides, it’s not your fault. It’s that horrible dog’s fault!” Of course, part of our good attitude probably had to do with the knowledge that things could have been far worse! We were more concerned with him then dinner.

This reminded all of us that we never really know what a casual stroll out the door will bring. Plans can change in a split second. I can’t say that I always respond as I did last week. I can remember plenty of times when I pouted over an unforeseen illness, car trouble, or other inconvenience that kept me from doing what I’d been looking forward to. But life is much more enjoyable when I respond as we all did to Dad’s surprise attack—to thank God that it wasn’t a tragedy, find a plan B, and have a good time anyway.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Positivity and Junk Like That


I struggle with negativity. (Can a sister get an amen?)

A friend of mine (who does not struggle with negativity, though I still like her...) told me about these bracelets that people at work were wearing. Apparently on Oprah this pastor told about his campaign for a "Complaint Free World" and his mission to make the world a more positive place. The idea is that you wear this bracelet and every time you gossip or say something negative, you switch the bracelet to the other wrist. Soon you will be switching the bracelet less and less!

I tried this.
I didn't get the cool pink bracelet, but instead used a ponytail holder (because I'm negative and cheap). And every time I would say something unnecessarily snarky, the bracelet would have to move to my other wrist. Guess what...it worked.

Now I'm not totally cured (not even close), but it did work in that it has really made me think before I speak (this is a new concept for me). I have taken some time off from the bracelet, but during the weeks I wore it, I would genuinely stop and think, "Is this comment WORTH moving the bracelet?" See, the same friend who told me about it in the first place, was now my accountability and would ask for frequent progress reports. It became like a game--and I didn't want to lose.

But life got busy, and I soon forgot my bracelet in the early morning rush.
And you know what? I easily slipped back into my old ways.
This bracelet isn't magical. But it did make me more aware and more prayerful about the things that I think and say.

I dare YOU to try it. Grab a cool bracelet, a ponytail holder, a rubber band, something, and take the bracelet challenge. I'm going back to it. Come on--join me. Let's all be stinkin' positive together.
: )

Friday, November 02, 2007

Ding! Dong! The Book is Done!





Which old book? The Dragon Book! Ding! Dong! The Dragon Book is done!
I finished Wednesday morning and meant to send it in by 9:00 AM. But, I kept tweaking, changing a word here, deleting a word there, adding just a little piece here, and deleting a line there. I finally sent it in with a plea to my editor. "Take this away from me." She emailed back that it was in loving hands, and I was to go out to lunch, see a movie, and take a nap.
I have been dancing and singing ever since.
DragonLight won't hit bookstores until July 17th, and there will be a final edit, but basically this baby is done. Now I can see spiritual truth in peanut butter. It's a gift and a curse, as Monk would say.
When I went to bed that night with a book I've been wanting to read, I realized I had just done a mini-play of how God deals with things we take to Him in prayer.
Dear Lord, I've done my best. I tried to cover all the basis. It's too much. Please take this away from me.
He sends a comforting message. My cares are in His hands, go enjoy the life He has prepared.
God is good.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Set apart

Do you live your life as a woman consecrated to God?

And I don’t mean the nuns who become “brides of Christ.” I’m taking about normal Plain Jane who goes to school and fights with her siblings and does her homework and IMs too much.

This is what God told the Israelites:

“So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Keep all my decrees by putting them into practice, for I am the LORD who makes you holy.” (Lev. 20:7-8, NLT)

The Israelites were to follow God’s laws (that good old Ten Commandments stuff) and not be like their pagan neighbors who were doing all kinds of nasty sexual things and slaughtering their children. (Yeah, I’m thinking they weren’t a great role model.)

God told His people to set themselves apart from those pagan guys. We are His people too, so this verse applies to us.

Note the verse doesn’t say, “follow My decrees and that’ll make you holy.” Obeying God doesn’t make you a good Christian.

On the flip side, not obeying God doesn’t automatically make you the scum of the earth.

God says to us, “Follow My decrees because I’ve made you holy.”

I want you to hear what this verse is saying:

God

makes

you

holy.

There’s a song we sing at youth group called “Uncommon Love.” I love the chorus:

Forgetting all I’ve said
Forgiving where I’ve been
You offer Your uncommon love.


God is holy enough and loving enough and forgiving enough to make you holy. You are a woman of God, set apart by Him to be His. He has made you holy.

So act like it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Practicing Presence


I've been thinking lately about the concept of "practicing presence" or living in the moment. It means being interruptible--setting my agenda aside for someone else, putting others' needs ahead of my own, truly listening when someone speaks instead of thinking about what I might say next. Responding with compassion and not judgment.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend, and she told me about some struggles her fifteen-year-old daughter is having with mean friends. Her words reminded me of a statistic I once read that singled out teen girls as the cruelest, most conniving, most unforgiving people on the planet.

I know that's not true of all teen girls, but the nice ones have to live in the same world with the mean ones. And sometimes they're the favorite targets.

High school provides lots of opportunities for mean teens to practice their art. Competition flourishes in academics, social relationships, sports, fashion, clubs and activities. Who has the best figure? the best clothes? the best-looking boyfriend? It's a never-ending comparison game with no winner.

In the middle of all that craziness, it's hard to silence critical voices and be still enough to hear God. And yet He's there all the time, saying He loves you and created you the way you are for His glory.

After I left my friend's house I wondered what a different place high school would be if everyone practiced presence. If they considered others as more important than themselves. If they really listened, not to judge, but to offer a compassionate response. If they stopped comparing themselves to others and started letting God shape them into the image of Christ.

I realize not all teens are mature or spiritual enough to make those kinds of choices. But I know some are. It's not easy to walk against the current. And it makes all kinds of ripples. The nice thing about ripples is they spread out. They can reach far corners we don't even see. And they cause change.

Are you brave enough to practice presence and be a ripple maker? If that's what you want to do, let us know. We'll pray for you and cheer you on.

Love,
Jeanne

Monday, October 22, 2007

For Cat Lovers

Re-connecting ...

Tricia Goyer here ...

I'm going through a whole new season of my life ... and it's one of reconnecting. This year I've met FOUR 1/2 sisters I hadn't met before. (FUN!) But I also have been trying to reconnect with people who mean a lot to me, but I haven't talked to in a while.

I've called up cousins I hadn't talked to in ages. I've reconnect with friends from high school, one from the cheerleading squad and another who was in some of my classes.

The other day I also decided to call a friend out of the blue. Jamie was the first teen mom I mentored. She is an awesome person and I was even there when her daughter was born! Margo is five now, but they both still have a special place in my heart.

Anyway, I called Jamie and we're having lunch tomorrow. It was so great to talk to her, and it has reminded me NOT to get so busy with "stuff" that I forget to reach out to the people I care about.

So, how about you?! Is there anyone you can reconnect with? Someone that's a positive influence in your life? Someone you've missed being around?

Do it today!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

None of Your Business

I'm writing from the National Youth Workers Convention in San Diego and came here right off of my son's wedding in Northern California. Where am I now? I'm spinning to say the least!

I might add to this later in an edit; for now I'll begin by sharing a little of what I've experienced so far. David Crowder was amazing last night, but I got pulled in and reflective when Phil Visher began to talk honest and real about the crash of his company. Vischer is the creator behind Veggie Tales. I'll make his amazing but too-long-for-this-blog story short.

And I didn't take notes, so this is definitely a paraphrase.

As Veggie Tales grew bigger and bigger, so did Phil's ideas. Just as he greatly expanded his company and staff, sales stalled . . . then VT took a nose dive.

His message last night was about how, instead of getting too wrapped up in what you're doing six months, one year, five years from now, focus on listening to God. Sometimes we've got it all figured out, and we're planning all the great things we're going to accomplish. Phil said "I don't know what I'm doing five years from now. It's none of my business."

Did that surprise you? It's none of your business what you're doing five years from now?

It's great to have goals and dreams you're reaching for, but if you're not listening to God, where are they going to take you?

Slow down.

Listen to God . . . a lot.

Make where you are five years from now God's business.

More later . . .

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lessons from the Mystery Trees


Last week we decided to plant a couple of fruit trees in our backyard. When we got to the store we noticed a large cluster of trees marked, “Shade,” “Flowering,” or “Fruit.” No specifics were given beyond that so we called a salesman over to help us.

“What kind of fruit trees are these?” We asked, hunting for a perhaps hidden label.

He rolled his eyes. “Can you believe those guys? They sent us a bunch of unlabeled trees. All I know is that they are either apple or pear because that’s all we get this time of year.” He pointed to the leaves. “From the look of the leaves I’d guess these are apple trees.”

Since we like both apples and pears we bought two figuring we’d either have two of the same or one of each. So in a couple of years we’ll know. Maybe we’ll end up with a combination of the two. I’ve seen stranger things at our local Farmer’s Market. What would you call those—papples? For now we call what we have the mystery trees.

As I planted them Jesus’ words, “for the tree is known by its fruit,” kept running through my head. I wouldn’t know what kind of jam to plan on making until the tree started to produce apples or pears. Later I looked the verse up, expecting to see some kind of connection to believers versus non-believers—one of those “you’ll know who belongs to Me by the fruit of his or her life.” Instead I got a rather jolting surprise. The fruit that Jesus referred to was our words!

“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matthew 12:34b-35).

So today I’m hyper-sensitive to what my words reveal about my heart. Do they reflect Christ’s heart of love and encouragement or the world’s sarcasm and negativity? I’m told that I have a pretty quick sense of humor so I’m sad to say that I’m often guilty of spouting off words that don’t reflect Who I belong to. I do don’t it intentionally; usually it’s just an attempt to sound cute and clever. Today I plan to be more careful with my words.

What about you? What do your words say about your heart?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OCD/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


I've been told I have OCD by a professional counselor. I sorta knew it already. :-)
I get obsessive about certain things and everything. Maybe it's part of being a writer. My husband tells me I think too much. I admit it. I think ALL THE TIME.
I often wonder how people don't think constantly. My husband doesn't. If we're riding down the road, I'll say, "What are you thinking about." He'll say, "Nothing." The thing about it is, I believe him. He says his mind is blank quite often.
I wonder if other people play weird mental games like I do. My personal thought-life doesn't seem weird to me.
As people are talking--especially if I'm in a class or listening to a sermon, I'll type the words I hear by slightly moving my fingers.
I count my steps a lot--always up to the number six, over and over again.
If I'm annoyed at somebody, I replay the whole reason in my mind tons of times, like how could she have said that to me.
Sometimes I analyze things I've said--why did i say that? What are they thinking of me now?
I wonder. What if I start to use my obsessive thinking only for good things?
Can I do it for just today? Can I use my creative thoughtlife for the following:
To pray.
To think of positive outcomes for problems.
To jot down story ideas.
To say thanks to God for simple things like good coffee and for huge things like my family.
Maybe I could even start saying thank you for bad things.
Maybe my OCD might just be a BLESSING.
Phil. 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is ANY EXCELLENCE and if ANYTHING IS WORTHY OF PRAISE, let your mind DWELL on these things." NAS
Love,
Julie

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Time Wasters

You know what? Wasting time is not always such a bad thing. I'm going to give you two links (last time I tried to embed an image, it was a total flop.) so you can see what I look at when I allow myself to waste time..

NO. 1 A bird dancing
This one lifts my soul. I started bopping with this cockatiel and enjoyed life for one minute and sixteen seconds with absolutely no guilt.

NO. 2 A lady dancing:
This one you could argue is not wasting time. Aren't you analyzing your mind? Getting a better understanding of yourself? Try watching the lady dancing with some one else. It isn't a trick. It isn't a trick. The other person watching will see something different than you.

So why don't I think these two activities are not bad things? Because I didn't spend time while I was supposed to do something else. For instance, if I was a heart surgeon and while I had someone's chest open in the OR, I decided to take a one minute and 16 second break to watch the bird dance, the person on the table would be justified in calling me to task for wasting time.

It's all relative, isn't it? Singing praise songs would be wasting time if God called you to blow up balloons at that moment for your grandmother's 100th birthday party.
Sometimes the choices are not so clear. And then . . . well, then some of us have the Holy Spirit to help us discern. I'm grateful for the HS's help. I might spend all my time watching ladies and birds dance.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Storms

In my high school girls Bible study, we talked about storms last night.

Storms as in: your grandpa dying, or your parents divorcing, or your boyfriend pressuring you into more intimacy, or your girlfriends seeming more shallow lately, or your parents demanding too much from you.

Storms aren’t exactly a party. Storms are often the place people lose their faith in God, because they don’t like that He allows the storms to come.

The thing is, God isn’t like your mother—he’s not standing over people, holding that wooden spoon, and as soon as they start doing something wrong, whack! he nails them.

God lets us—ALL of us—make our own decisions, whether good for us or bad for us, whether good for other people or bad for other people. He also holds life and death in his hands, because he can see the larger picture of it all.

So, all that to say, storms will come.

But you’re not alone.

God wouldn’t allow these things to happen, but let you flail on your own. Whether you feel his presence or not, he’s there. The fact you can’t feel God or hear his voice doesn’t suddenly negate the fact that HE IS THERE.

And not just himself, but also the people around you who want to help you. Reach out to family or friends, to your youth pastor or youth group. God put them there, in your life, for a reason.

Ask them to pray for you. Sometimes when a group of people pray, you can physically feel the power of that many hearts asking for the same thing from God.

Help and healing won’t happen overnight, but if you keep asking for prayer, keep talking to people, keep praying yourself—one day you wake up, and the storm has blown over.

So for now, just weather out the storm.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Top Ten List!

So, I was thinking about this the other day. I want to share with you something that means so much to me, I’ve even cataloged the reasons I love them so much. There’s depth there. Serious depth.

I’m speaking of my fuzzy blue slippers. Here they are:




Cute, huh? Yeah, they’re a little ratty, a little dirty maybe (all shoes are), but underneath the matted fuzz and the pieces of the bush that’s right outside my front door, there’s a slipper that warms my heart every time I slide my toes in.

Thus the list you are about to see:

TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE MY FUZZY BLUE SLIPPERS

10. Sometimes I have klutzy moments and spill something on my beautiful slippers. Which is horrible, but these slippers? They’re basically stain proof!
9. They have hard plastic on the bottom, so that means I don’t have to worry where I step. Worry-free slippers. What a way to go!
8. They’re the perfect shade of blue - not too dark, not too light. A calming color. They’d probably make my eyes pop if I held them next to my face, which I don’t because they’re shoes and...ick.
7. The fuzzy material is all the way around on the inside. My foot is encased in the blissful softness
6. Well. They’re fuzzy.
5. It’s so relaxing to pull my feet out of painful, boring, everyday shoes and slide into something warm and soft.
4. There is a base of memory foam in these slippers. I, and only I, can wear these. They are personalized.
3. Since there isn’t a back to them, they keep my feet a comfortable warm, but not hot.
2. They work well with any apparel I’m wearing: Jeans, Pajamas, Dresses, Swimsuits...
1. They’re sqooshy!

I hope that this week you'll join me in relaxing and remembering that we're not in control and you know what? That is totally and completely fine with me! Whatever is going on in our lives, let's leave it in the hands of Christ and focus on stuff we can change - like our shoes! ;)

Have a good week, everyone!

Erynn :)

Being strong and courageous


I'm starting a new book today.


That means I'm staring at a blinking cursor, my toes curled over the edge of the cliff that is four months of dedicated work. So what's the first thing I do?


Yep. I go to my Bible. Each of the books in the All About Us series is based on a verse that, for me, gives the book's title, encapsulates the heroine's struggle, and shows her where her power lies. For book three, that verse is Deuteronomy 31:6 ... "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."


The book's title? Be Strong and Curvaceous.


So okay, our heroine has image issues. She also needs to learn courage. So does her author, sitting at the keyboard looking at the blank page and knowing that the Lord will come through one more time and give me some killer words to put on it.


Okay. Deep breath.


Chapter One.


Love,

Shelley

Monday, October 08, 2007

Today ...



Today ... I choose to give God all my burdens.





"Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7




Today ... I choose to focus on what really matters.



"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions ... I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am you may be also." John 14:1-3





Today ... I will seek God for my education and ask for His help.



"Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3




Today ... I will read God Word and discover His way because I know His way will lead me to life, hope, peace, joy.



"Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Psalm 119:11





Today ... I will remember that happily-ever-after is NOT a thing of fairy tales.



"For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also early wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 3:20

Today ... I choose to praise!

"Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 106:1


Today ... I invite you to do the same!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Out of Life's Pathways

Writing. My days (and yes, sometimes nights) are filled with it right now as I'm counting down to the next deadline.

Every single blogger on this site knows what that's about.

So the personal stuff . . . hmmm. Like where do I get my inspiration for what I write about? Right out of life, as they say. For me that includes especially where I live.

For the past twenty-something years, my husband and I have been living in the foothills of the Sierras at a residential ministry for at-risk youth. Our house sits almost in the middle of the 80-acre property, and just about a five-minute walk from the main lodge—the hub of activity for this ministry.

The wooded pathways, grazing deer, and changing seasons stir up the devotional side of my writing. The teaching of the pastors, conversations with the staff, and Bible studies with the young women here challenge me to go deep in my personal study and spiritual walk. That naturally spills into what I write.

But the teen and young adult guys and girls that come to stay here—they have the most profound impact on my writing. Through their tears and pain and then their triumph over the most difficult of situations, I learn facets of God's character I'm not sure I would have learned anywhere else. Each life I see fight a broken past colors my writing with shades of confidence in a God who heals.

So writing for me has been (and still is) a growth process, not only in technique but even more so in its substance.

I think writing is like that . . . or anything else that becomes a part of our expression of service and worship in this life. It grows out of the connections we make and out of where and how we live.

The main thing is that it grows.

You have gifts and talents, things you do well, things you love to do. Ask God to show you how you can use all of it to serve others and serve him. Even if it's in small ways, begin . . . then let it grow.

Always here to pray for you.

Jan

http://www.choose2livefree.com/