Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Plugging into the power...

In Sunday School the past few weeks in my adult class, we've been talking about the Holy Spirit and His purpose. What He does in us and for us, etc. It's been enlightening - sometimes, even though you grow up "knowing" something in the church, it's good to refresh and get new insight into the topic. You can never learn everything there is about God! :)

We've been discussing the truth that in order to access the Holy Spirit's power in our life, we have to be available to it. That means with our hearts and not just with our heads. The Holy Spirit IS power to us. He is what prompts us to conviction, what whispers to us when we're about to cross a line. He also guides us and helps us make the right decisions. He gives us peace.

It's an awesome, awesome gift. So why don't Christian's use it????

We're lazy.

Ouch, but true. To have that power source at our fingertips, we have to do our part. Pray regularly. Read our Bible. Those sound like "church" answers but they're true. If we never go to church and learn more about Christ, never fellowship with other believers, never spend real time in prayer and real time searching our Bibles for direction and hiding God's Word in our hearts...we are powerless as Christians. And there's nothing the devil likes more than that!

So maybe today, take an extra few minutes to read your devotional book. Comb through the Psalms. Or pick a book and just start reading. Acts is a fantastic book about the early church and what happened after Jesus' death and resurrection with the disciples. Romans is also chockful of amazing advice and breakdown of salvation. Hebrews is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Just pick one and start reading and ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and a stronger connection to Him.

And if nothing I said so far makes any sense at all, and you don't understand what the Holy Spirit is, or even how to have a relationship with Jesus, then please email me. betsystamant@yahoo.com I'd be happy to answer privately any questions you have or show you how to come to Christ :)

Have a blessed Tuesday!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Where I should be Today

Right now, I should be at the Amtrak station waiting for a train, to meet a friend and spend the night at her house before heading to a small writer's conference. Tomorrow I should be serving on the prayer team at that conference, greeting conferees, and handing out goodie bags. I should be waiting to hear one of my other friends and fellow writers speak. Instead, I am home. My plan for the day consists of writing this blog post, working on three writing/editing projects, doing laundry, and other ordinary everyday tasks. Why the change of plans, you might be wondering? Plan A sound so much more fun.

Last Friday, less than twenty-four hours after paying for my train reservation and getting other details set in stone, my plan for this weekend completely unraveled.

I won't bore you with all the details. Thankfully, the circumstances that forced me to cancel didn't involve an injury, death, or illness. It was simply one of those situations where one complication after another hit in an alarmingly short period of time and left me thinking, this clearly isn't meant to be.  

At first I was bummed. Okay, I'm still a little bummed. I wanted so badly to spend time with that friend picking me up at the train station, welcome people to the conference and pray for them, and hear my other friend speak. Though I knew the situation was beyond my control, I felt like a flake for canceling, even as my friend insisted, "Do not feel bad. God is saying no and you're obeying Him. I'm proud of you for doing that." But when I replay the events in my mind, and how quickly I went from definitely going to definitely not, I know that I am where I should be today, even if it isn't where I want to be.

As I sit here feeling like I'm missing out, I know that I prayed for God to make it abundantly clear whether or not I should go to the conference. In fact, I put off paying for my reservation until the eleventh hour just to be sure. And the next morning, he made His answer clear. But He also allowed the ticket to be completely refundable and everyone involved to respond with kindness and understanding.

I have no idea why He altered my plans. Maybe my family needs me more than my friends do, or maybe I was cramming too much into one summer (I do have some deadlines coming up). While all my expenses were covered except the train ticket, perhaps even spending money on that wasn't wise right now. Did someone else need to hand out those goodie bags and pray with people? It's possible that the reason is so not-about-me that I will never know. 

So I am determined to trust God on this one, keeping in mind that His goal is never to mess with my plans just for the sake of reminding me who is in charge. He knows where we need to be and when. Sure, it would be nice to have a "Now I see why I needed to be home today" moment, but if not, I'm making up my mind to be content where I am.

Can you relate to this story? Has God altered your plans this week? As hard and disappointing as it is (and it really is okay to admit to God that you're disappointed), try to be content. Ask Him to help you accept His Plan B, whether you find out the reason behind it or not.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps" Proverbs 16:9.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Stress Point, by Sarah Francis Martin

There’s nothing like starting out on a 2,000 mile road trip, getting 200 miles in, and realizing there’s a gas-shortage that spans three states due to storms.

My boy and I… we’re not great planners.

Which results in a lot of stress. Which is why I need books like Sarah Martin’s Stress Point. And if you’re anything like me…

Sarah F. Martin
In Stress Point, my new friend (Really! Sarah lives in the same town as I do!) outlines different “stress points” young women face. Some stresses are self-inflicted, some are just a part of life in your twenties.

I particularly loved the self-image chapter, because Sarah so aptly describes her own walk through an eating disorder. She is so real. And self-image is definitely my biggest battle! You are going to relate to every word that comes out of her mouth. (Er… fingers!)

So if you find yourself overwhelmed by different life-stresses, this book might just be for you.

And it’s a two-fer! When you buy the book now, you can jump into the LIVE Stress Point study Sarah is also leading on her blog this summer.

You can also WIN a copy of the book Sarah gave to me! Just leave a reply to this post and I will randomly choose one winner (announced August 4th) to receive the grand prize!! (Thanks for providing this, Sarah!)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Classic...or OLD?

A lot of times, the word "Classic" is used to fancy up something that's just flat out old.

"Classic Car" - uh, no, it's old, has no AC or floor mats, has stains on the ceiling and something slimy in the glove compartment. OLD.

"Classic movies" - a.k.a. out of style and boring. OLD.

"Classic novels" - otherwise known as hard to read and confusing. OLD.

But here's where I challenge you to back up a minute ;) 

Driving a car without AC (especially in the south, in the summer) is pretty much unacceptable no matter how truly clasic the vehicle. ;) And sometimes, classic movies just make you squint in black and white despite the gems out there that really are worth watching (Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, anything with John Wayne, etc.)

But I beg you to give some classic books a try before you blow them off as OLD. Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. Charlotte Bronte.

For example - I had NO idea how downright hilarious Pride and Prejudice was as a novel. I'd seen the movies, both versions, growing up and loved them but when I actually sat down to read the novel...I was totally caught off guard. The girls' father is so stinkin' funny, he has the best one-liners and dry wit/sarcasm that makes me think back to Jane's time and how unique her story was to her day and age. She's a true literary heroine!

This summer, as you're combing through the best seller lists on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and trying to figure out which story to purchase or download for your Kindle or Nook, consider a classic. Sure, they have big words sometimes and are written in a different style that's not always a page-turner, but they've lingered through the ages for a reason. They're quality novels, and I think everyone should read Pride and Prejudice or Emma or Great Expectations or Jane Eyre at some point in their life.

And don't forget to spend some time this summer in the Ultimate Classic Novel - the Bible :)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

"Read the Sign."

I spotted the woman while running errands. She sat under a large shade tree, holding a sign that I couldn’t read but knew was a plea for cash. The closer I got to my first stop—the bank—the closer I got to the sadly-obese woman. That’s when I noticed her sunburned face and started to feel sorry for her. How long had she been sitting out there in the heat? How did she get to the place where she had to spend her evenings holding a sign in a busy parking lot instead of relaxing at home after a day of work? Should I give her something? Sure, I couldn’t help noting her strategic location, but how could I judge her when I’d never been reduced to begging? I knew better than to give a homeless person money, but what about some food? I remembered the Manna Bags that friends from church started keeping in their cars a few years ago. Many of them had told stories of handing the bags of snacks and toiletries to people asking for money. “I’ve never had anyone turn one away.” “They are always appreciative.” Because I don’t drive, I’ve never been able to keep Manna Bags handy but always wished I could. My next stop was the Dollar Store. Why not pick something up for her there? I could choose items that my sons liked in case the woman was gone by the time I returned. Buying the bottled water and granola bars felt great. My paced picked up as I walked back to the tree beside the bank. My heart raced with anxiety as I approached this total stranger. “Excuse me,” I said. I held out a bottle of water and two bars. “Here you go.” Instead of taking my gift, the woman waved it away. “No thank you. Seriously, what I need is what the sign says—two dollars minimum.” Not exactly the response I expected. “I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I don’t have any cash to give you, but . . . um . . . I hope you get what you need.” What happened to they are always appreciative? Why would I, who had wished for so long to help a needy person, be the one to offer water and a granola bar to the woman with a $2-cash minimum? My parting words to her replayed in my mind: I hope you get what you need? What did she need, really (besides the obvious: a job and Jesus)? What if she truly did need water and food? And who wouldn’t at least see a bottle of water as provision? Maybe I had held out exactly what her body craved but she was too focused on her desire for money to recognize it? How many times had I done the same thing to God, I wondered—waved away what I needed, possibly even the answer to my prayers, because it wasn’t what I wanted. How many times had a pointed to my own version of hand-printed cardboard and basically told my creator, “Read the sign. This is what I want. Keep your Dollar Store substitutes.” Maybe I’d just received a small taste of how my ungrateful responses have grieved God. As I walked home, I prayed that the woman sitting under the tree would get what she needed—what she really needed. Since then, I’ve continued to pray that I would receive each blessing that comes my way with gratitude, even if it doesn’t look like what I wrote on my cardboard sign.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Worth it...

I spent some time uploading our pictures from vacation and found this one that my oldest daughter snagged in a moment before we posed.

I adore this man. We've been married just over seventeen years. We have three beautiful daughters and way too many pets.

Can I just take a moment to say that waiting for God's guy for you? - it. is. totally. worth. it.

You don't want second best. And only God knows what is best for you.

I spent far too much time in high school and college stressing and fretting and wondering if someone could or would ever love me. All of those were wasted moments because God knew all along who was right for me. And He knew exactly how to cross our paths and bring us together.

Trust Him. Even when it seems dark and hard and you're fumbling. Trust Him.

Praying for you tonight,


Sarah Anne Sumpolec is the author of the Becoming Beka series and has a brand new YA novel coming out next spring!! Stay tuned for more info. In the meantime you can find her at her website.