Friday, May 30, 2014

What I Learned About Grace in May

Instead of my typical Friday Randomness post, I am joining Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky again for her end of the month post where she invites other writers to come along and share what they learned the past month.

I learned many wonderful things throughout the month of May, such as:

  1) I love to paint (with a glass of wine in hand, of course)
  2) Speaking in front of my church becomes easier with practice
  3) To-do lists work
  4) Hiring a lawn service was a very wise decision
  5) I am addicted PicMonkey (pay for the full version . . . it’s worth it)
  6) Meeting writing friends in real life will never get old (I met three in May)
  7) Rearranging furniture can really open up a room
  8) The Life Application Study Bible is a wonderful study tool
  9) Encouraging one another makes my heart sing
10) I am beyond ready for my husband to come home

But as I made my list, God spoke to me on the word “Grace.”

My last post from the love dare series spoke to how love is not irritable. Two reasons for being irritable are stress and selfishness. My eyes have been opened recently to the expectations I place on myself which lead to stress, which leads to being irritable. When I look at my expectations it has much to do with selfishness. The writers of The Love Dare book are rather wise I'm discovering.

Through my discoveries, God taught me a thing or two (or eight) in May on choosing to give myself grace.

1) Grace to know it’s okay if I do not meet my goal of reading through the Bible this year. He cares more about my desire to know Him better and spend time with Him. He loves how my mornings currently begin with the Seeds of Spring reading plan through YouVersion, time in a devotional, or searching out verses speaking to me through my love dare series to better understand God’s kind of love. My goal to read through the Bible is just that: my goal and not necessarily His.

2) Grace to know it’s okay if I do not write out His graces every day in my gratitude journal. It’s even okay if I go several weeks without writing them down. He knows my heart. He knows not a day goes by when I'm not grateful for who He is and for how He has transformed this heart of mine. Gratitude can be shown in many more ways than through a list.

3) Grace to know it’s okay if I am not a perfect wife, mom, daughter, sister or friend. Perfection will never be found this side of heaven. He cares about my willingness to allow His light to shine through the cracks as He refines me to become more and more like Him.

4) Grace to know it’s okay if I am sad over the decline in readers of my blog as long as I do let the numbers define my worth. My worth has already been found in Him. He cares about my willingness to obey the call to write and He will bless me for my yes. I need to trust Him with who does or does not read the words He places on my heart to share.

5) Grace to remember He never asked me to be superwoman. I cannot be all things to everyone. I need to first and foremost be His.

6) Grace to know He doesn’t call the equipped; he equips those He calls. He will give me everything I need to encourage a group of military wives these next six weeks through the (in)couragers community groups. While I do not experience all the same challenges as a spouse of a reservist, He cares most about my heart to encourage them.

7) Grace to remember “He is always good and I am always loved” (Ann Voskamp).

8) I choose to give myself grace because His grace is enough and in admitting my weaknesses, I affirm God's strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

“For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” ~ John 1:16

Wishing you grace upon grace.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three Word Wednesday: Love isn't irritable

For the most part I thought I covered how love is not irritable in my last post. Rude and irritable basically go hand in hand, don’t they? In Dare #5 the writers of The Love Dare even start the chapter by saying, “Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude.”

I’m all in on this love dare challenge so I press on.

The writers suggest there are two reasons that contribute becoming irritable: stress and selfishness. There is that selfishness again. I get the feeling I’m not alone in the struggle with selfishness. I would say it would be selfish of me to ignore the obvious point being made throughout The Love Dare book on how love is not selfish.

I do appreciate what the writers shared on the matter of selfishness: “When you’re irritable, the heart of the problem is primarily a problem of the heart.” Thankfully Jesus specializes in heart transplants.

“When love enters your heart, it calms you down and inspires you to quit focusing on yourself” (p. 27). Jesus is love. I need to let Him into my heart. “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

The first part of Dare #6 targets how stress can cause irritability. “Stress weighs you down, drains your energy, weakens your health, and invites you to be cranky” (p. 26). The dare asks you to make a list of areas where you need to add margin to your schedule. The military devotional for this dare acknowledges adding margin may be difficult for a spouse going through a deployment; however it does suggest evaluating what you are doing with the down time you have.

I would be lying if I told you I have little down time with my husband deployed and a house to maintain on my own. I simply do not make good use of the time I have. This leaves me easily irritated.

My favorite thing to do with the warmer temperatures now here is to go for a long walk today. On those walks is when I most connect with God. He brought the verse from Luke 12:34 to mind when out walking on Memorial Day: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

Truth be told, I still treasure the opinions of others over God’s. I seek the approval of others when I have already been pre-approved by God. In her book Love Idol, Jennifer Dukes Lee writes, “To be pre-approved means this: We love from our approval, not for our approval.” I love to write and all that comes with being a blogger, but too often my priorities are out of order. I place blogging before God because I feel more is required of me for you to keep on returning. By doing this I’ve actually placed myself at the center of my relationships instead of God. Enter selfishness once again.

The title for Day 8 of The Love Dare Day by Day devotional is: “Love is best when God is first." This day’s devotional states, “Let every breath be an opportunity to learn how to better love the God who first loved you." This truth reminds me of how I need to be rooted deep in His love.

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

For my roots to grow deeper into God’s love I need to be pursuing an intimate relationship with Him. I need to drink in His love daily and I do this by spending time in His word daily. Time with Him needs to be treasured above anything else.

And if I am rooted deep in His love then I am no longer fussing over the approval of others because I know I am already pre-approved by God.

“He created us to love Him, and something unexplainable beautiful happens when we direct all of who we are at delighting in all of who He is” (Day 8, The Love Dare Day by Day). That something beautiful may be freeing us to simply love our spouses and others.

Dare #1: Love is patient
Dare #2: Love is kind

Next week: Love believes the best

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

My original intention was to share only pictures with you today to encourage a moment of silence as we embrace this day of remembrance. But I then began to realize God had placed words on my heart to share.

As I write I continue to wait for my husband’s return home from serving in harm’s way. The last time we touched one another was Thanksgiving weekend. In two short months I will say good-bye to my oldest son when he departs for his first deployment. I would do just about anything to be able to hold my family close today.

Before becoming a military family I admittedly treated this day with gratitude for simply having a day off of work. Reflecting on those we've lost in service to our beautiful country now brings many tears.

My son taught me a lot on what it means to honor these heroes. His first two years in the military were spent spending countless hours attending to the meticulous details that came along with being a Ceremonial Guard for the United States Navy. This meant He honored our heroes as they were laid to rest.

Not everyone he honored had been killed in active duty but all had served their country. All at one point in their life stood ready to give their own life for another . . . for us.

To prepare for a funeral the guardsmen had to properly clean and press their uniforms. Shoes and any brass they wore were polished to perfection. They trained on the ceremonial aspects of a funeral until the point of being able to perform with their eyes closed. Numerous inspections took place to ensure they upheld to the honor they were giving.

For two years my son put aside his chosen career in the Navy to remember and honor our heroes. Becoming a Ceremonial Guard was not out of duty but a willingness to lay down his own desires for another. Five days a week he made his way to Arlington National Cemetery no matter the weather conditions to ensure these men and women received the honor they had earned.

Because he took his role as a guardsman seriously, he was asked to serve as part of the ceremonial detail as Astronaut Neil Armstrong was laid to rest at sea.

Photo credit

Photo credit

On Memorial Day the verse from John 15:13 is typically shared: "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend."

No one portrays this kind of love more than Christ.

I see the example Christ left for us and I see the faces of the men and women who also left us with a powerful example of a willingness to lay down their life for another. I see the faces of both my husband and son, and those serving alongside of them, who stand willing to leave loved ones behind to serve their country.

Today not only do we remember our fallen heroes; we honor their sacrifice. We need to honor their sacrifice, and willingness to sacrifice, today and every day with the same honor they were given as laid to rest.

I believe our heroes leave us with a message on how to do just that: Keep moving forward with a willingness to love one another with that same kind of love . . . a sacrificial kind of love . . . God’s kind of love. Because there is no greater love than to put aside our own desires to love another.

Let the sacrifice made by so many fuel our hearts to love one another. Love others by following His example.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of our fallen heroes. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Randomness (Vol. 24)

Scripture speaking to my heart

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

#JoyDare #1000Gifts

"We give thanks to God not because of how we feel but because of who He is." ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Favorite quote

"Even when our tears slip we know His hand never does. His creation says it all. He goes deep like the ocean. He stretches wide like the sky. He reaches out like the sun." ~ LysaTerKeurst #incourage

The Love Dare

Before my husband departed for his deployment I mentioned to my pastor one evening during a Bible study class that I was actually excited to see how God would grow our marriage during the time we would spend apart. Every part of me believes this love dare challenge was all part of God's plan. It has awakened my soul to seek Christ with a renewed passion and I'm falling deeper and deeper in love with my husband. It has God written all over it.

What am I reading?

I have so many unread books and spring is apparently the time for new releases which has made it hard to choose what to read next. My friend Kristin of 152 Insights to My Soul hosted a giveaway recently at her place and I ended up being the lucky winner of the book Chasing God by Angie Smith. After reading the introduction and a portion of the first chapter I've made my decision on what I'm reading next.

     "Stop running like mad because you don't 
know the music; lay in the wild grass while the 
stars dance instead.
      Forget what they've told you about me and
stop thinking it's something you have to perform.
You could spend your entire life doing that and
never know any more of Me at all. You'll miss
the point, miss the beauty, and miss the sky I
painted above for you.
      It's a beautiful night to realize what it's
really like to be loved.
      Stop chasing the song, child, and let Me
teach you to sing." ~ Angie Smith, Chasing God

A few of my favorite blog reads from the past few weeks

"This is the petition I breathe, the Psalmist's heart-cry that courses through my veins whenever these fingers hit the keyboard in this online space." ~ A Blogger's Prayer, by Linda of Creekside Ministries

"Choosing joy through little things, will teach you to choose joy in the big things. The life-changing, I-don’t-know-how-to-survive-this things." ~ How to Learn Acceptance With Joy, by Natasha Metzler

"The more grace we show ourselves, the more grace we’ll be able to show others." ~ Learning to Love Yourself Just As God Made You, by Emily Wierenga via The Better Mom

A few of my favorite blog reads on marriage

5 Qualities of a Kind Wife, by Courtney of Women Living Well

5 Tips For Keeping a Marriage Strong, by Jeanne Tekenaka

Sharita of 7 Days Time is doing a wonderful series on Building a Christ-Like Marriage which I recommend catching up on.

Online friends become INRL friends

I'm incredibly grateful for the many opportunities I've had recently to meet writing friends in real life. Last weekend I met Cindee Snider Re of Breathe Deeply for lunch and we had a beautiful afternoon together. I simply adore her and love that we live close enough to meet again . . . hopefully soon.

A blog makeover

A blog makeover is in the works. The process will most likely move at a slow pace but I've decided to be okay with this. I would love your thoughts on a new tag line I'm considering: Scattering seeds of His love

Yes/No? I've received a couple yeses so far but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Memorial Day Weekend

I plan to post on Monday as there is a message on my heart to share but I am praying for the right words to come. Until then, may we all stop this weekend to remember and honor the brave heroes who laid down their lives for you and me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Three Word Wednesday: Love isn't rude

Dare #5: Ask your spouse, by email or phone (or letter) to name three things you do which cause him or her to be uncomfortable or irritated.

My gut reaction to this dare did not include asking my husband to name three things I do which irritate him. Our recent conversations have made my heart smile big so I hesitated to go in this direction.

If we are spending time in God’s Word, most likely we've felt a nudge on areas in our lives where we need to allow God to do renovations. I know I could easily name off three ways I irritate my husband at times without input from him.

I’m all in on this Love Dare Challenge so against my judgment I sent an email to my husband. He had no interest in naming off a list. I must say his response was music to my ears. “My thoughts of you on a daily or hourly basis are not of past nuisances or annoyances.” He went on to say, “If I was home maybe I would be willing to have this discussion because I could hold you at the end of the night.” I love this man of mine.

I’m not disagreeing on the value of having this discussion. I do have a different opinion on whether or not the approach should be different for military couples going through a deployment.

Without a list from my husband of ways I irritate him, I relied on how the Holy Spirit has convicted me on the matter of love not being rude.

The writers of The Love Dare stated, “There are two main reasons why people are rude: ignorance and self-centeredness. Earlier in the chapter they wrote, “For the most part, the etiquette you use at home is much different than the kind you employ with friends, or even with total strangers.” I loved how a writing friend referred to this when leaving a comment on my last post. She said, “Isn't it odd how everyone else, even complete strangers, gets our most thoughtful side ... and our spouses and family get the leftovers?”

Scary true, isn't it? I know my husband and children have received my leftovers. I can be ignorant at times and we've already discussed my selfish tendencies.

I've had the verses from James 3:9-18 on my mind and I wonder how often my words are unpleasing to God.

“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.” ~ James 3:9

This husband of mine was created in the image of God just like me. He should be treated the same way I want to be treated . . . with love.

My words may not always be harsh but I know there are often times when both ignorance and self-centeredness reside in them. Like when my husband gives advice and all I want from him is to listen. This usually leaves me irritated and unwilling to listen even if his advice is good. I may not love all the things my husband says or does but as my beautiful friend Shelly said to me, “The beauty of love is that it loves in spite of those things.”

And If I want him to stop doing the things that bother me, I need to first look inward and stop doing the things I know bother him. In the The Love Dare, Day by Day: A Year of Devotions for Couples, Day 130 is titled: “Love deals with self first.” It says, “No one makes a mess of their marriage all by themselves, but if healing is to occur, it should always start with ‘me.’”

“Why do you look at the speck in your brothers’ eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye.” ~ Matthew 7:3

If my words are unpleasing to my husband they are also unpleasing to God. I need to allow the Holy Spirit to do those renovations.

In the study notes of the Life Application Study Bible it includes for James 3:12-18, “Careful, winsome speech and wise, loving words are the seeds of peace.” If I want to scatter seeds of peace shouldn't I start with my spouse?

Even after twenty-four years of marriage, I’m discovering my love needs to mature. “Maturity puts others before yourself, both in thought and in deed (Love Dare Day by Day, Day 61).” For a maturing love I will keep seeking wisdom from God’s Word.

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” ~ James 3:17-18 (MSG)

God’s kind of love . . . real love . . . takes work. We do the required work because that is what love does.

What love discoveries did I make this past week? It's worth the work.

Dare #1: Love is patient
Dare #2: Love is kind

Next week: Love is not irritable

Monday, May 19, 2014

Be encouraged through an online community

I began my writing journey in January 2011. At the time my husband was way from home completing his training to become a soldier.  My oldest son would soon leave to begin his training to become a sailor. We were introduced to military life with what felt like one big pendulum swing: a civilian family one moment, a military family the next.

Writing became an outlet for processing the emotions that came along with this new journey. It provided both comfort and healing; especially on the days when my heart ached to have my family together again.

Those earlier writing days were under a different blog name. I’m embarrassed by the writing but bad or good, God used it to draw me closer to Him. The whitespace originated with chronicles of becoming a military family, but morphed into something so much more. A transformation took place in both my heart and my life. The kind of transformation only God can do.

In January 2013 I got brave and launched a new blog site: Simply Beth. With shaking hands, and at times lots of doubt, I threw myself into what many call the blogosphere. Never did I imagine the community I’d find there. The online world I discovered taught me what it meant to encourage one another.

People I had never met in real life came along side of me to encourage me in the twists and turns of life. When my husband and I were preparing for his first deployment online friends prayed for us. Throughout the deployment they have been a continual source of support . . . similar to Aaron and Hur when they held up Moses’ hands in Exodus 17.

“When Moses became too tired to hold his hands up any longer, Aaron and Hur took a stone and sat him down on it. Then both men stood beside Moses, one on each side, holding his hands up and keeping them steady until sunset.” ~ Exodus 17:12

God planted a desire in my heart to hold up the hands of others. Take what you received and give the same to those in need.

I discovered (in)couragers online community groups: “Groups of like-minded women doing life together in small online communities.”

My first experience with a community group came as a participant of a writing group. A small group of approximately thirty writers, at various stages of their writing journey, came together for six weeks to be encouraged and to encourage. These women gave me the courage to step out in faith with my own writing. Many of them I remain friends with online. One of those ladies actually reached out when she launched a new website called Outside the City Gate and asked me to be a part of the Facebook team.

When the next (in)courage session came along my husband’s deployment loomed. I needed to be encouraged so I joined the group for Military Wives. And the next session I figured the best way to survive the deployment required me to take the focus off of myself and encourage others spouses through the challenges military life can bring.

For six weeks we spent time getting to know one another. We prayed for each other, celebrated big and little milestones in our lives with virtual confetti, read from a devotional written by another military wife, Kristen Strong, and counted the ways God blessed us in the everyday mundane moments. I came to encourage these ladies but ended the session encouraged by them.

I’m more than halfway through my husband’s deployment and ready to co-lead this group of amazingly brave and strong women for another six weeks. This time my dear writing friend, Karin of Sunrise With A Six Pack, will be my co-leader. I could not be happier to have her by my side.

I received an email from my younger sister recently. She is going through a new and challenging journey with her baby girl and found encouragement through an online community. In her email she wrote, “I finally understand the support you have found through online community.”

Friends, you do not need to be a writer. No matter what your passion or season in life may be, there is an (in)couragers community group for you. There are over 70 groups to choose from. I invite you to join me and many other women by registering today for the encouragement our hearts all need. You will be blessed. I promise.

Head over to (in)courage to review the list of community groups, select a group, register and then meet your encouragers.

If you are a military wife looking for encouragement, please join Karin and me. You can register for our group here.

“Friendship is born at that moment when person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” ~ C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 16, 2014

Love is thoughtful

Dare #4: By email or telephone, if possible ask your spouse the question, “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you?” As we think loving thoughts we are spurred on to loving actions.

When I first read the chapter for Day 4 in The Love Dare I thought I've got this covered. I’m always thinking of my husband and I tell him frequently how much I love him and miss him. Almost every conversation begins with the question, “How are you doing?” I ask him often if he needs anything. Dare completed. Check!

God had a different opinion and kept me right where He wanted me . . . on Dare #4. I needed to be more intentional with my thoughtfulness.

On a recent phone conversation with my husband I did not simply ask him how he was doing. I went deeper. For the first time I asked him to share with me how he felt about his deployment. I know being away from home is hard on him too. I’m not the service member but I assume they want to feel as though their mission serves a purpose. Did he feel good about why he was there?

And then . . . I listened and learned from him.

I thought of a book that sat on my shelf; a book by Paul E. Miller called Love Walked Among Us.  It’s another one of those books I've started but need to finish. I flipped ahead to Chapter 6: The Golden Rule. Paul Miller shares Mark 10:47-52 as an example and then wrote, “Asking questions slows us down and puts us in the other people’s worlds, hearing their words, their expressions, and their desires. We become the learner rather than the expert.”

Taking the time to ask my husband questions and then listening to him helps me to better understand the world he currently lives in (on the other end of the world) and the needs he may have so I can act on those needs. It’s a thoughtful expression of how much he matters to me.

Intentionally listening to my husband reminded me of why I started this love dare series. I had been slow to listen to him but quick to speak, and quick to get angry. I let my own desires get in the way of showing love to my husband.

The writers of The Love Dare refer to a destructive pattern of “ready, shoot, aim.” To explain this they wrote, “You speak harshly now and determine later if you should have said it. But the thoughtful nature of love teaches you to engage your mind before engaging your lips. Love thinks before speaking. It filters words through a grid of truth and kindness.”

“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” ~ James 1:19

Thoughtfulness requires us to talk less and listen more. When we do, this communicates to our spouse that their viewpoints and ideas matter to us. We may not always agree with our spouse but just as we want to feel our own opinions and ideas matter, we need to do for them what we want them to do for us (Luke 6:31).

Remember, love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). Love honors others (our spouses) above ourselves (Romans 12:10).

Paul Miller writes in Chapter 11 of his book, “When we say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to God, our love is pure.” He’s telling us God’s kind of love is not consumed with our own desires.

He goes on to share how the secret to love is a hunger for conversation with God and a hunger for Words from God. For our love to be pure we need God’s help. For His help we turn to prayer and Scripture.

The point I’m trying to make is the one I've mentioned in each post of this series. This love dare journey is all about Him. It’s about knowing Him better and what it means to follow Him. God is love. Without His help I will never learn how to love my husband with His kind of love. I need to say “yes” to God and “no” to self.

Putting my husband’s needs before my own is about surrendering to God’s will. It’s about letting God shape my life. Who better to hand over control to?

What love discoveries did I make this past week?

We were created to live a life of love (Ephesians 5:1). Without it, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2b). I'm also convinced love is contagious! I received the sweetest Mother's Day message from my husband: “I wish I could come home if only for a minute and hold you in my arms and tell you just how special you are. Happy Mothers Day.” There were only a few tears when I woke to those words.

Thank you once again for following along on this journey. I'm always grateful for when you share how you were encouraged in the comments.

Dare #1: Love is patient
Dare #2: Love is kind

Next week: Love is not rude

Monday, May 12, 2014

Friday Randomness {on a Monday} (Vol. 23)

I do realize I'm sharing Friday Randomness on a Monday but I'm off schedule with posts and decided why not. 

May your day and week be blessed and joy-filled. I wish you grace upon grace.

Scripture speaking to my heart

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." ~ Hebrews 4:16

A few of my favorite blog reads

"All I want them to see is Jesus.  A layed down lover who is nothing in herself, but was offered grace freely....The breath of God living in me out of mercy so undeserved." ~ When You Just Need to Slip Through Cracks of Grace by Jen of Rich Faith Rising

"When I choose to trust God’s plan to be the best plan in the midst of the change, my spirit knows peace." ~ Seasons: The Changing of Seasons, by Jeanne Tekanaka

"I want you to like me. I want the women who attend this weekend to like me too. I want them to like Winsome. But I'm seeing how like gets in the way of love." ~ Like . . Love's Worst Enemy, by Kim Hyland of Winsome Women

"How do we forgive ourselves when who we are turns out to be less than whom we can accept?" ~ When You Don’t Know How To Forgive Yourself, by Karin of Sunrise With A Six Pack

"YOU ROCK!! That is what I would say to you if you were standing in front of me." A Shout-Out to all of my Fellow Military Spouses, by Jana of Jana's Three Dresses // Military Spouse Appreciation Day has passed by Jana said so well what I wanted to say to all military spouses.

(in)Courage Community Groups

"Do you ache for companionship, or to have a friendship with another woman who encourages you? Does you heart call for a group of friends to sit with you on the bench as your toes play with the grass beneath you feet?" ~ Are You Looking For Encouragement? by Diane Bradley // I'm joining Diane and many others in encouraging you to consider being a part of one of the community groups offered through (in)Courage. There is a group for nearly every stage of life and various interests. There is surely a group for you. I'm excited to be co-leading the Military Wives community group for the upcoming session.

Inspired blogger

I'm always inspired by what my friend June shares at her place and simply wanted to share her with you. I have also been truly blessed from the encouragement and prayers she has sent my way outside of our blogs. She has touched my heart deeply. You can visit June here.

The Love Dare Challenge

If you've missed it, I'm blogging my way through The Love Dare book. You can catch up on the first three dares here: Love is patient, Love is kind and Love is not selfish.

I'm going to allow myself to be vulnerable and share what is on my heart. The views on my last post were down significantly which has me second guessing continuing with this series. After time in prayer, God reminded me of how this has nothing to do with the number of people who read a post. He has placed this love dare challenge on my heart because my message is and will always be that choosing love, God's kind of love, leads to transformation. It changes lives. God's kind of love always wins.

My marriage was not in a bad place but this challenge is doing something incredibly beautiful to my relationship with my husband even though he is on the other side of the world. It is also doing a transformation in my own heart that was truly needed.

So this series will continue and I pray God uses it to lead others to the transformation only He can give.

Online friends become INRL friends

I had the opportunity to meet two online friends this past week. Last Sunday I met my friend Kristin Taylor and her family at Navy Pier while they were visiting Chicago. We had a wonderful afternoon together, which included a ride on the ferris wheel.

On Saturday I spent three hours at Panera getting to know my friend Ceil Ryan of Surrounded by the Spirit. She noticed through my blog that I live nearby and reached out asking if we could connect in real life. I'm so glad she did. We had a fabulous afternoon together and I'm pretty sure we could have talked for three more hours.

She gave me this lovely rose for Mother's Day too.

In honor of Mother's Day

I had a quiet Mother's Day. It began with a beautiful gift from my son and his girlfriend. We had breakfast together and then took our two dogs for a walk before I headed to church. My oldest son is currently at sea so I did not anticipate hearing from him. Early afternoon I did get a message from him saying, "HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MOM!!! I wish I could be home to celebrate with you."

The rest of the day was spent writing and ended with a late dinner celebration. My son and his girlfriend take such good care of me. They also gave my rose a few friends. So sweet!

In honor of Mother's Day (even though the day is over) I also thought I'd share a picture of the day I became a mom. We were rather young at the time.

And my forever favorite picture of me and my boys.

Being a mom . . . oh, what joy. Thank you, God, for the precious gift of being a mom to my two boys. It's a title I will never give up.

Two of my favorite Mother's Day posts:
Dandelions and Weeds in Crystal, by Amy Breitmann
To The Mom Whose Children Are Grown, by Duane Scott

Finding joy in a deployment #JoyDare #1000gifts

I continue to count His gifts . . . His graces . . . but since it has been several weeks since I've shared them here I've decided not to continue to list them in a post.

But I will leave you with this from the lovely Ann Voskamp:

"God is always good and I am always loved. Everything is eucharisteo.
 Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Love is not selfish

Before moving on to Dare #3, God spoke to me on another aspect related to how love is kind (Dare #2). Not only do I need to show thoughtful actions towards my husband, I need to be mindful of how I speak about him to others.

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” ~ Ephesians. 4:29

If I’m doing the Love Dare Challenge to become more and more like Christ, than I need to love and care for my husband as Christ loves me. If I’m tearing down my husband with my words, Christ is not reflected in me.

Again, this challenge is about Jesus. It’s about knowing Him better and learning what it means to follow Him. The Apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 3:14 we are to “put on love.” In Colossians 3:12 he describes putting on love as clothing ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

When Paul describes what we are to cloth ourselves with, we see how God’s kind of love is "directed outward towards others, not inward toward ourselves. God’s kind of love is utterly unselfish" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Life Application Study Bible).

In Dare #3 the writers of The Love Dare wrote, “Almost every sinful action can be traced back to a selfish motive.” It’s not surprising they address how love is not selfish early on in the book then. The Excellent or Praiseworthy: 40 Days of the Deployment Dare suggests reading this chapter more than once. They say it’s that important.

On page 11 of the book there is a convicting bottom-line statement: "you either make decisions out of love for others, or love for yourself." Since love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5) I'd say it’s time to rid myself of selfishness.

Love Dare #3: Along with refraining from any negative comments, buy your spouse something that says, “I was thinking of you today.”

To let my husband know I am thinking of him I send him care packages!

I have not been overly creative with what has gone in the previous care packages so I wanted to make this one extra special. His unit has received plenty of care package love so the needs are limited. I’m grateful for the love they have received but challenged over what to send.

My husband did make a recent request for a box of screws. What a strange and not exciting request.

Imagine my delight when I came across his favorite chips while walking up and down the aisles of Target. I seriously did the happy dance because these chips are hard to find. I threw six of them in my cart, in addition to a bag of pistachios (another favorite of his), with a big smile on my face.

On Saturday morning, before tackling anything of my own personal liking (such as a mani/pedi) I ventured off to Home Depot for screws, because that is what love does, and then to the post office.

After sending off the care package I spent more time on how love is not selfish because I agree it’s that important.

I went back to the corresponding notes for 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 in the Life Application Study Bible: “Thus the more we become like Christ, the more we will show love to others." For Philippians 2:3 it states, "Considering others’ interests as more important than our own links us with Christ, who was a true example of humility."

I'm seeing a clear picture of how God does not want us to cloth ourselves with selfishness. He's pretty strong on the point. We are to love and honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10).

My desire is for my husband to see Christ in me. Instead of him potentially thinking he has a selfish wife, I’d rather him describe me like the writers describe an unselfish person: "willing to set aside their own jealousy and demands to lose themselves in the joy of loving, serving and giving to another."

I’m grateful for the example Christ has given me of how to show real love to my husband. And I’m grateful for the grace of the Holy Spirit when I fall short.

What love discoveries did I make this past week?

God emphasizes loving others as very important; naming it as the Second Commandment of the Ten He gives to us. While our motivation for loving others should not be about what we gain, we are immensely blessed when we choose to love. In the past three weeks, the phone and Facetime conversations I've shared with my husband have beautifully reflected the results of choosing love. Let's just say, I've been wearing one-mighty-big-smile.


Before moving on to Dare #4, I decided my husband needed another care package filled with love. Oh, what fun I had with this one.

Dare #1: Love is patient
Dare #2: Love is kind

Next week: Love is thoughtful

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Three Word Wednesday: Faith ~ Life ~ Community {Guest Post}

***The next post in The Love Dare series will be on Friday.***

I fell in love with Circles of Faith the day I stumbled upon their website. The Co-Founders, Elise Daly Parker and Kimberly Amici, have created a beautiful community which is why I want to share them with you. Last month you had the opportunity to meet Kimberly and today Elise gives us a closer look at her dream come true.


Dreams can sometimes take an awfully long time to come true, right? So it is with my dream, which has resulted in Circles of Faith – Where FAITH, LIFE, and COMMUNITY Intersect.


On Mondays - Circles of Faith is a place for people to Inspire one another.

I was traveling around New Jersey, my home state, and many other Northeastern states to share the ministry of Moms In Prayer International. It was an exciting time. I loved meeting moms who were tenderhearted, yet fiercely determined to protect, care for, love, and pray their kids through the many stages of growing up.

As we shared the power of praying, many women through tears of praise and thanksgiving would also tell their inspiring stories of answered prayer. Together we were strengthened, renewed, refreshed, empowered. The impact of sharing our FAITH stories is life-changing.

My burning passion to share our FAITH through stories started then as an ember. 20 years later, it continues to grow, fueled by mounting evidence that Jesus is alive in these stories. I believe everyone has a grand story of faith, marked by many moments of God winks and whispers. Everyone’s story matters—to others, ourselves, to God, and often a combination of all three.


On Wednesdays – Circles of Faith is a place for people to Equip one another.

I've been blessed to travel the journey of LIFE with many fellow sisters-in-Christ. We do LIFE together. LIFE can be hard, wonderful, full, empty, lovely, and chaotic. We need the gifts, skills, talents, know-how, fellowship of one another. You may have the answer to my burning questions like:
40-50% of all US marriages end in divorce – How do we stay married?
My family isn't what I pictured – How can I create a Mission Statement?
We have terrible eating habits – How can I fill my home with nutritious options?
I’m lonely…off-track…angry…my relationships are off – Help!


On Fridays – Circles of Faith is a place to Connect over music, books, ministry, and events.

Sharing our FAITH and LIFE together leads to COMMUNITY. Through Circles of Faith, I have met women I never would have met without the World Wide Web. (Beth is one of them!) And this year I've been extravagantly blessed to meet many of my online friends in person. That has sparked an effort on the part of CoFounder Kimberly Amici and me to seek opportunities to build in-person Christian community. We've just started a monthly Bloggers MeetUp and we've got plans in the works to host a retreat.

We also now have an excellent, pertinent, informative COMMUNITY calendar that’s coordinated by our dedicated Director of Communications, Joy Kay. New Jersey, which is our own backyard, is a great place to start this effort, but we have a bigger vision. We’d like to see our Christian events calendar populated with happenings all over the US. (If you want to get the word out in your state…contact us.)

And we build COMMUNITY by highlighting resources - music, books, ministries, conferences, retreats. We now have a monthly First Friday Book Faves LinkUp, an In Your Words feature where contributors chat about traditions, how we spend time with God, trends, and more to come.

  • Sharing FAITH stories that reform, inform and transform.
  • Pouring our gifts and knowledge into one another’s LIFE.
  • Building COMMUNITY that crosses over denominational, cultural, ethnic, and racial lines.
At Circles of Faith, we share Jesus…He is the UNITY in our COMMUNITY. He is where the people who gather through Circles Of Faith Intersect.

Come on over and check out Circles of Faith. Subscribe FREE, join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. And if you’re a writer, we welcome you to Guest Post and share your story of FAITH, LIFE, and/or COMMUNITY.

Co-Founders: Kimberly Amici and Elise Daly Parker


Elise Daly Parker is passionate about sharing stories that inspire, equip, and connect. She believes everyone has a story that matters! As a result, Elise is the CoFounder and Executive Editor of the community/contributor site, Circles of Faith, Where Faith, Life, and Community Intersect. Elise has been a writer and editor for over 30 years and is also a speaker and writing coach. Married for almost 30 years, Elise and her beloved husband Chris are navigating life in a “successful nest” (Chris says “empty nest” is too negative). They have four mostly grown daughters, one son-in-love, and a new grandbaby who has filled their lives with new joy. Elise serves as a Mentor Mom in a MOPs group, where she hopes 30+ years of parenting can help calm the choppy seas of marriage and motherhood for others. Join Elise on her blog Our Stories, God’s Glory,  Facebook, and Twitter. Get the full picture at

Thursday, May 1, 2014

10 Things I Learned in April

I enjoy my weekly Friday Randomness post because I can randomly decide to change things up. And today I choose to join Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky for her end of the month post where she invites other writers to come along and share what they learned the past month.

Original photo by friend Judd Johnson

1. A trip to San Diego to see my oldest son and his wife was precisely what I needed to refresh my heart as I approached the half-way point of my husband's deployment. I loved meeting their sweet new puppy too. I’m ready for grandchildren but will gladly cuddle up with Storm for now.

2. I enjoy shopping so much more at recycled designer apparel stores. I fell in love with My Sister's Closet while in San Diego. Who doesn't love walking out of a store with a few outfits, a cute purse and a pair of sexy shoes for under fifty dollars? The added bonus was shopping with these two lovely ladies:

My daughter-in-law on the left and writing friend Satin of My Heart, His Words on the right.

3. My son and his wife agreeing to join me for church makes my heart sing with joy. Oodles of joy!

4. My youngest son wins the hearts of his audience with the first strum of his classical guitar. He had his first guitar gig at an adorable Rock House/Coffee House/Wine Bar mid-April and I must say I have a very talented son. A live performance picture can be found here.

5. Winter does eventually come to an end. I survived our horribly long and cold one without a complete meltdown. PRAISE GOD! It’s still colder than I would prefer it to be for this time of the year but we are headed in the right direction. It’s warm enough for evening walks again which has a positive impact on my attitude.

6. I’m addicted to buying books (I shared addiction here) and April is apparently the time of the year for book launches. I really need to find more time to read. If you have not read Jennifer Dukes Lee’s new book Love Idol, head on over to Amazon and buy now. If you have an addiction like me and you are trying to refrain from buying another book, buy this one first. While you are at it, buy Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha too. The two are meant to be purchased as a pair.

7. God gives you grace just when you need it most. You can read here how He used friends to bless me when missing my husband desperately. We truly were not made to do life alone.

8. Deciding to read and blog my way through the Love Dare book during my husband’s deployment has taken my attention off of my strongholds and instead put my focus on chasing after God’s kind of love. As a result, those strongholds are beginning to lose their grip. My Lenten journey may not have ended as intended but God is good and He will give me victory over this mountain.

“For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!” ~ Deuteronomy 20:4

9. Saying yes to attending an (in)RL meet-up was a wise decision. Saying yes to God is always a wise decision. If God calls you to something, He will surely see you through it and bless you for your yes. This is exactly what God did for me. A big heart-felt thank you to my new friend Kay for her heart to host the meet-up at her church.

10. I love exploring options for a blog makeover. However, making a decision on the direction to take is hard. VERY HARD. I've learned to say thank you to my blog designer often so she does not lose patience with me. Creating a Pinterest board to explore options has also proven to be excellent advice received from a writing friend. Oh, you can follow me in Pinterest here if you would like. I’d love to follow you too.

And one more (so I guess that makes it Eleven Things Learned in April) because the month of April is over which means I am one month closer to having this gorgeous husband of mine back home.

Since this is what I normally do on Friday's, below are a few of my favorite blog reads from the past week:

There are always many more posts that moved me. It's so hard to choose just a few. Thank you for sharing your stories, friends. They do matter.

Blessings upon blessings.