Monday, June 29, 2009

Life is Good

On our road trip we saw so many unique, strange, and "questionable" bumper always amazes me what people choose to stick onto their vehicles. Sometimes I wonder if they realize that whatever message is stuck to their vehicle may be the only thing that others remember them by.

When you are on a longer road trip you usually spot vehicles that you have passed before along the way. You stop for a bathroom break, gas or food, get back onto the interstate and see vehicles that you had passed awhile ago. You can tell that you have passed them before because of some definable feature about their vehicle: bumper stickers, antlers in the back window, etc.

A close friend of mine had a sticker on the back of her vehicle supporting a member of congress for a very long time. It was how I recognized her vehicle in school pick up lines and around town. When they took it off, I had trouble recognizing her vehicle. It had become a part of how I recognized her.

My husband and I are not big bumper sticking kind of people. I suppose mostly it is because we don't like to deal with the eventual "scraping off" of them when they wear out. However, I believe that we all portray some kind of "message" by who we are, how we dress, and how we treat others.

One of our Mentor Moms at our MOPS group this year did a fabulous devotional on this subject. About how it is important to stop in front of mirrors occasionally and to check the message that your face is sending to those around you. The awesome thing is that if we realize that the message that we are sending is not what we want to be sending, we have the power to choose to change it. It may take some concentrated effort and prayer, but we are able to choose the messages that we are sending others. John 13:34 says, "...By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Our messages are meaningful and important. People send their messages in any way that they can. For some, their life's messages are plastered on the back of their vehicles.

Some of the bumper stickers that stood out to us this trip were: "Back off! I'm emotionally unstable," "It's better to have loved and lost than spent your whole life with the psycho," "People who love Jesus tip the pizza guy," and my favorite, "Life is good." Have you seen any interesting ones lately?

Many Blessings!


This is a re-post from a trip we took last summer. (I will let you know what interesting bumper stickers we saw this trip after we return!) Thank you so much to all who are praying for us as we travel!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just So You Know...

My family and I are going to be traveling off and on for most of July. My husband and I have decided that some relatively remote spots are needed at this point in our lives. We are ready to break away from:
the often insane traffic/commute that we deal with,

the combat shopping at the new Wegmans (grocery store - have you EVER heard of police having to direct traffic at a grocery store?!?),

the constant flurry of activities around us,

the phone calls and e-mails from work,

the difficulty of connecting with our children when they are being sweet or good just so they can finally play the computer, X-box, or Wii game that they have wanted to play since the moment that they woke up...

We're ready to break away from ALL of those things (and more); but we are also ready to:

slow down,

take our time exploring interesting places,

play games with our children that we know how to play better than they do,

learn some new games/things together with them,

talk late into the night around a campfire,

lie on our backs and star gaze listening to waves rolling in.

So although we will have internet access here and there during our adventures; my husband and I have made a bit of a pact that we will be minimal in our activity. We are choosing to be intentional about connecting as a family, relaxing, laughing, playing, and taking a vacation.

I have pre-scheduled a few posts - some new and some older- to post while we are traveling; but I will not have the opportunity to be leaving comments on many of your posts for awhile. I wanted to make sure that you knew that there hasn't been any loss of love on my part toward you; I'm just taking a bit of a break.

Please plan to join me on my 1-year "Blogiversary" on July 20th for a giveaway!!

As a friend recently pointed out to me anew; "we often have not because we ask not." So, I've decided to ask. Would you include us in your prayers for safe travels/adventures, strengthening of bonds between our family, and restoration of body and soul?

I would love to be praying for you as well. Please feel free to leave any prayer requests that you may have in the comment section below or you are welcome to e-mail me at

Many Blessings to each of you!


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20, 21

"he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:3

For my Titus 2 Tuesday ladies...If one of you (who participate regularly) would like to host while I am away; please e-mail me (or mention it in the comment section below). Otherwise we will resume with Titus 2 Tuesdays on July 21st!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Titus 2 Tuesday - We All Need Laughter!


What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)

Write your own "Titus 2 Post" (linking back here somewhere within the body of your post) and enter your link below!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17:22
When I think of my best friend from growing up, I remember laughter. Heather was such a gift to me from the day we met in the church nursery. I pray that we will one day be two little old ladies still cracking each other up!

I can't remember exactly how old we were, ( I think maybe 4?) but Heather and I were selected to sing, "Jesus Loves Me" during the Christmas Program at our church. Our older sisters were standing behind us; I believe we were kneeling down beside the manger where the song was meant to take place.

The music began, and we got the giggles. Not just little giggles; LOUD / CANNOT STOP kind of giggles. Our sisters, being older and all, knew how unacceptable that was - after all; it was a crucial part of the Christmas Program for the song to be sung! So they began to sing over us. (But we were holding the microphone...)

That was my first of MANY stories of us laughing together. I could quickly list a bunch of phrases like, "That's my own, personal flashlight!" or "Hunch!" But that would mean nothing to you all and I know your reading time is precious.

The bottom line: my childhood/adolescent years/college days/and life would not have been the same without her. She added the element of laughter to the darkest situations and allowed me to belly laugh, snort, and cry all at the same time.

She taught me the power of laughter in a person's life. (Among other things - you will meet her again down the road in other lights I am sure.)

This is actually a dual-purpose post today. I also wanted to introduce you to my blogging friend, Rachel. She is also a Godly friend of mine who understands the value of laughter. When I need a good chuckle, I can (almost) always just read through her comment section of her posts and read the friendly banter between her and her husband, Mr. Daddy.

Rachel hosts a meme on Tuesdays as well called, "True Story Tuesdays." If you are in need of some laughter, check it out! (I didn't want to just talk about laughter and not allow you to experience some!)

On a more serious note, she recently shared the loss of her niece with the blog world and in honor of her sister and her niece she is doing something special. If you would like to be a part of that, you can click here.

What have you learned from another wise woman? ALL of us can learn something from one another. Join in and then go read these posts!
**Please write your "Titus 2 Post" linking back to this post first and then enter your link below.**

Monday, June 22, 2009

Marital Moments Issue 35 - The Dance

There was a couple that lived across the hall from us when we lived in TX that my husband and I befriended. Both newly married, we had a lot in common and often had each other over for dinners. They invited us to a "Big Band" night with them once and we accepted.

They had ballroom danced together in college; we had never danced any kind of ballroom. I was hesitant, so our neighbor (the husband - with his wife's blessing) danced with me to show me how "easy" it was - and it truly was easy with him leading. It caught me off guard a bit how he led me around the floor firmly and confidently executing each move and yet, although firm; it was not forceful.

It was simple to follow his lead and as we glided across the floor, I actually thought I was a better ballroom dancer than I had originally imagined...until the song was over and I danced with my husband (who had also never danced that way and had no clue of how to lead the dance.)

I resisted my husband's attempt to lead at first because I thought he was "doing it wrong." Which only complicated our lack of coordination and left us less then joyful with one another. Our neighbor (who I'm quite sure noticed the tension building) instructed that I just needed to relax and follow. "Trust his lead." She said. "Even if he doesn't do it completely right; just let him lead."

I'm sure we weren't awesome; but we were able to feel like we were dancing gracefully when I stopped resisting and simply followed my husband's lead. The irony; he became more confident in his own lead as I submitted and as he showed more confidence; I respected his lead more. It was humbling and such a powerful lesson for me even then as I reflected on how it related to our relationship as husband and wife.

"Trust His lead. Even if he doesn't do it completely right; just let him lead."

Last week my friend, Daveda blogged about a portion of the "Because of Jesus" Conference that she attended and in it, she mentioned how one of the speakers shared an example similar to my above experience (You can read her entire post, It's Not About Me, here.)

All of these years, I have never made the correlation of my ballroom dance experience to my walk with the Lord. Reading Daveda's post, it hit me in such a beautiful new way. The best part? God DOES know how to lead and He will ALWAYS do it completely right.

Yet here I (often) am; the dance partner that has experienced a little success (most likely by His hand in moments when I was walking in humility and allowing Him to lead), resisting His turns and movements. Why? As my Dad often said, "It's normally three things that stop a Christian from living the life God has for them. Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life." Basically, we (I) get distracted by things that we want, desire, tell ourselves that we need, and we're worried about what other people are going to think about us. We take our eyes off of God and His perfect will and put them on ourselves. But as Daveda so beautifully put it, "It's not about me" (us).

I'm still contemplating the depths of the symbolism in both relationships. But I want to encourage you to dance today! With your spouse and with your Heavenly Father.

"Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage." Ephesians 5:22-28 (The Message)

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake. Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)

*For my male readers...I apologize if "dancing with God" isn't a great analogy for you...I'm sure my own husband could relate a bit better to God being his "trail guide" out in the wilderness somewhere when he is without a compass of his own...having to trust someone else to lead him in the correct direction.* : )

Many Blessings!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Change Can Be Good

The Final Question that was asked during this week of Q & A was from Jeneil at Autism in a Word.

"I recently had this question on a small group leadership application and I'm curious how you would answer: What is one area in your life in which you would like to see change/growth?"

My non-Spiritual hair. I just got it cut and already can't wait for it to grow another few inches. Somehow throughout this year I have gradually been going shorter and shorter and now I long for my longer locks.

My deeper answer is two-fold.

1) I desire to be a better listener to what God is speaking/revealing to me. My life and household are busy. I've trimmed some things out in the past couple of months in order to make this more of a priority in my life. God has been stirring up some deeper things within my heart (in regard to the curriculum for girls that I am writing) and I need to take the time to listen. I have no desire for it simply to be my ideas or words; it will only be effective in the hearts, minds and lives of others if it is His Words.

For awhile I complained that I just don't have the time; but God has gradually revealed to me that I am not making the time. My priorities are shifting and I am committing to growth and change in the area of being still and listening. (NOT my forte.)

2) Secondly, (but along the same lines) I want to be a better listener to my children. God has been speaking to my heart about this repeatedly throughout this year. The main message: If we (as parents) are not listening to our children; we are setting ourselves up for their pattern of not listening to us. We are their main source to teach them how to communicate with others and with God. Even if what they are trying to tell me is completely irrational or selfish; I need to listen. To let them express it. Then, instead of stating how irrational or selfish it may be; I need to gently be leading them to the conclusion that is NOT a good choice. It is my natural tendency to just "dismiss" them if what they are saying doesn't make sense rather than let them work through it with me. I need growth and change in this area.

Kinda heavy, I know. Rather than ending on a bit of a serious note; I thought I'd add on a few more purposeful ideas as requested by Wendy at Sun-Kissed Savages.

My children also do daily devotionals when they wake up in the morning. I ask that they read one "lesson" from their devotionals before breakfast and we discuss what they have read over breakfast. (My son is doing, "Gotta Have God 2" by Legacy Press & My daughter is currently doing, "God's Little Devotional Book For Girls" by Honor Books.)

One of my daughters close friends was assigned as her "reading partner" at the end of this school year - they had finished all of the "required reading;" so their teacher partnered them up and gave them classic books like, "The Swiss Family Robinson" to read. They were required to read a certain number of chapters each night and then they were to come up with one or two questions to ask of their partner. (Of course, they tried to make them as tricky as possible!) This got me thinking when her friend's birthday party invitation arrived and I decided to buy both my daughter and her reading partner friend the same daily devotional for girls.

Every morning before school, all of the kids met in the gymnasium of the school and then they go to their classes. The kids can play, etc. until it is time to go; so I challenged the girls to read their devotional each morning before school and then discuss it in the morning. It really added that additional drive to my daughter to read well and it got her discussing things of the Lord with her friends - other girls already had the same devotional and it sounded as if a couple of them joined in too.

When my kids were younger; (between the ages of 3-5) one of their favorite devotional books that we read together was: "Five Minute Devotionals for Children by Pamela & Douglas Kennedy." They were great, quick devotionals based on animals. Both educational and Spiritual!

For another wonderful and purposeful thing that you can do for your children, Jeneil posted today about "A Blessing on the Door." She had written a post earlier on about how she had prayed and God had given her a verse for each of her girls. She wrote them out and posted them on her girl's bedroom doors so that they saw the verses every day as they came in and went out...this post is an extension of her previous post and a tribute to her husband for Father's Day.

Thank you for your questions this week! Have a wonderful Father's Day Weekend!!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Purposeful Activites & Garments of Praise

Bethany asked:

What is your favorite purposeful and Biblically-minded and FUN activity to do with your children?

I'm looking for ideas, so please don' feel the need to limit yourself to just one thing :) I just haven't found our niche in this area, but I'm not giving up!! Thanks!!

I think I will begin with a story...I hope you don't mind.

Have you ever gotten into a negative cycle with your children? Where you purpose with everything in you that you will find
something positive to say to them only to be faced with the need to correct their behavior over and over again? Where it seems all that they have to say to one another is negative and critical? (No, you say, your family is perfect? Maybe you should come back tomorrow...:))

Awhile back I found myself and my children stuck in a pattern of negativity and after I dropped the older two off at school I sat in my favorite chair, Bible open, and cried. I felt like such a horrible parent. Try as I might, things just weren't improving. I couldn't bring myself to do the Bible study that I was a part of at the time. Instead, I just flipped through my Bible and read all of the verses that I had highlighted, underlined, or wrote little notes beside. (If you are one of those people who don't write in your Bible, you are truly missing out...and so are your children I might grandfather's Bible is precious to me; notes and all.) I do that sometimes when I am discouraged. When I don't have any specific direction and my heart is just calling out to God to open my eyes and heart to something that He has for me.

I came across the verse,
"and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3

I began to pray that my children would "be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." And I began to cry again wondering if they ever would be. If they are ever going to "get" what I am attempting to instruct and teach them in.

And then it hit me. "a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." My heart was despairing -my own parenting skills and the apparent
lack of teachable spirits within my children. It was as if God lifted my chin and spoke to me. "You need garments of praise."

Now, I am NOT a crafty person (really truly NOT.) But God gave me this idea to create "garments of praise" with my children. I drove to my local craft store and bought t-shirts in the sizes of my children and my husband (because I firmly believe in a mothers ability to help cultivate positive relationships between father and child), bought special fabric markers, and went home. I wrote their names in the center of their shirts in a glow-in-the-dark bubble paint and counted the minutes until I could go pick them up from school.

After they unpacked their things I had them come to the table. I passed out their shirts and told them that we were going to make "garments of praise" for each other. We would focus on one person at a time and they would need to tell me all of the positive things that they could about that person. I was so excited. They were not. Silence. I decided to begin with a neutral party - Dad. I asked them to think up all the positive things that they could think of about their father and I started it off:

"He is a great tickler!" (One of their favorite things to do when he gets home.)

They began to chime in...and I wrote:

"He's a good mower." (He had just mowed the lawn the night before.)
"He makes money so we can live in our house."
"He builds great with Legos!"
"He makes me laugh!"
"He's a good snorer!" (lots of laughing going on now.)
"He's a good eater!"
"He's a great bike rider."
"He loves God."

Then I switched shirts. O.k., what about Beauty? (My daughter)
"She's a good bike rider."
"She's pretty." (My daughter is GLOWING after my son said this...)
"She's a good reader. (Full smile breaking across her face.)

On and on it went until all of the shirts were finished. Praise is such a powerful thing. By the end; the atmosphere in our house had completely changed. They even called out a few of my positives although I hadn't planned to make a shirt for myself. They LOVE their shirts. If one of them is having a tough day; the shirt goes on. Not because I have told them to do it; because it is affirming to them what their family members believe to be true about them. They were also so excited to show my husband his "garment of praise" when he arrived home.

So there is one idea. But the point I hope is not missed is that when we need ideas; we can call out to our Heavenly Father who is the wellspring of everything good. He WILL prompt our hearts into action with our children if we are willing to seek and then to LISTEN. This question and post has reminded me of that truth. (Thanks Bethany!)

Two more quicker ideas:

1. We play something called, "Who Am I?" at the lunch/dinner table (usually when the four of us are still waiting for our two year old to finish eating.) We do both animal and people versions. Basically we take turns giving clues about an animal or person until someone guesses correctly. One clue is given at a time until someone guesses the correct answer. An example or two:
*I was created on the fifth day.
*I am nocturnal.
*I am considered wise.
Who am I? (Any guesses?)

Or for a person:
*I was one of Jesus's Disciples
*I was a passionate person
*I cut off a soldier's ear in the Garden of Gethsemanie
Who am I?

My husband is also a trivia buff so we do a lot of Bible Trivia in our home.

For service related projects:

My daughter enjoys making cards for people when I am making meals for them. I don't ever require it of her. She has received enough words of affirmation from those who have received them to keep her going.

We try to serve our neighbors.

One set of our neighbors has physical limitations so my son will often bring their paper to their doorstep.

We also planted a flower bed in the front of their house while they were on vacation last year (My daughter's idea - we took a little bit of a risk; but we know them well by now so we were 99% sure that they would love it.) We planted three flowering bushes - one for each of the kids. (They each planted their own bush.) And my daughter will go over and weed it for them. (Not consistently; but she tries.) They did love it in case you were wondering!

We encourage our kids to take initiative - if they see something that needs to be done (or even could be done to make things better) do it! Around our own house and our neighbors as well. (After checking with us and them.)

Lest you think that they are perfect children and I am a perfect parent at the end of all of this; just re-read that first paragraph. We take one day at a time bathing in the grace and forgiveness that God provides so lavishly.

AND BETHANY & I COULD REALLY BENEFIT FROM HEARING SOME OF THE THINGS YOU ALL DO AS WELL! So, please share generously, even if it is just something you have had an idea about doing and haven't tried yet. We can all learn much from one another!

Many Blessings!


*I do have one question so far that I will be doing my best to answer tomorrow; if you have any additional questions feel free to ask. This (official) Q & A will end tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Questions Answered

Thank you (all three of you!) for your questions! I'm wondering if I really have been that thorough in answering any questions that you might have had along the way, if many of you just didn't have the opportunity to see my Monday post (due to the whole Photobucket plastering...), or if you are all just too polite to ask what you might really be wondering about...I will plan to answer any additional questions that you may leave in the comment section today on Friday.

Because two of you, Bethany from Happyascanbe and Warren from Family Fountain, asked about my involvement with Proverbs 31 Ministries, I will begin there!

The blurb on my "About Me" section comes from having attended the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference. It is a conference specifically designed to train and encourage (female) Christian writers and speakers. You can click here to read more about the conference. It is open to anyone and only happens once a year. (Fri., July 31 - Sun., Aug 2nd) I chose to do a "split track" - both writing and speaking. After you have completed the speaker track; (complete with speaking and being evaluated on your speaking by a Proverbs 31 speaker - twice) you have the privilege of stating that you are a "graduate of She Speaks" on your bio.

I have also had an article published in Proverbs 31 Magazine. And that is it!

Warren also asked about my involvement with MOPS International. "MOPS" stands for "Mothers of Preschoolers" and is an International ministry that is designed for mothers (either birth or adoptive) from birth through grade school. Here is their mission statement:

"MOPS International exists to encourage, equip and develop every mother of preschoolers to realize her potential as a woman, mother and leader in the name of Jesus Christ."

I have been a member of MOPS International for a little over 7 years and have progressed through my own local group as a Discussion Group Leader, the Discussion Group Leader Coordinator, and then I Co-Coordinated my local group for 4 years.

This past year I was asked to step into the role as a Field Leader with MOPS International which basically means that I oversee, train, equip and encourage the leaders of local groups for about 12 churches here in our region. I am their point of contact with MOPS International, communicate updates, happenings, answer questions, etc. I facilitate team building and hold trainings for local leaders. I have also done some writing for MOPS Connections Magazine; but it will not be published until later this year.

Bethany and Crew asked:
"I've got a question for you- what is your favorite purposeful and Biblically-minded and FUN activity to do with your children?

I'm looking for ideas, so please don't feel the need to limit yourself to just one thing :)"

Because my answer for you started to get pretty lengthy; I've decided to make it into a post of it's own. So your question will be answered tomorrow. (I apologize for making you wait when you were the first question!) I'd like to invite my readers to also plan to respond to Bethany's question in the comment section tomorrow! Bring your ideas and lets all share together!

Again, if you have other questions for me, feel free to leave them below and I will plan to answer them on Friday.

Many Blessings!


"Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." I Chronicles 16:11

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Titus 2 Tuesday - Photobucket Wisdom


What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)

Write your own "Titus 2 Post" (linking back here somewhere within the body of your post) and enter your link below!

You may have noticed that I had a bit of a "blog issue" yesterday...

I am hoping to have time later today to do a "real" Titus 2 Post; but I will quickly share a bit of wisdom I gleaned yesterday right here in the blog world.

I paid someone to do my blog design because I am just learning all of this HTML code - Photobucket "stuff." What I hadn't realized is that my background colors, column colors, header picture, etc. were all linked to her Photobucket account. She had a billing issue that resulted in hundreds of us bloggers having that lovely Photobucket message plastered across our blog. She is human. Made a simple error. I completely understand and offer grace to her. I'm still in awe that she knows how to do it all in the first place.

So what I have learned from all of this is that IF you have someone else design your blog for you; have them utilize YOUR Photobucket account for all of your design pieces.

There are several awesomely talented people out there who offer blog designs that you can use for may also want to be aware that some of them will be linking the HTML code to personal Photobucket accounts as well.

I also wanted share a website with you that enables you to print your blog into a "book." You can click here to check it out. I was planning to do this on my one year blogging anniversary; but I may do it sooner!

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6 He even cares about our blogs!!

Many Blessings! I look forward to reading your Titus 2 Posts!


*If you didn't have a chance to see my post from yesterday; I am inviting your questions!*

What have you learned from another wise woman? ALL of us can learn something from one another. Join in and then go read these posts!
**Please write your "Titus 2 Post" linking back to this post first and then enter your link below.**

Monday, June 15, 2009

If You Could Ask Me Anything...

What Would It Be?

I have read Q & A posts at several people's blogs in the past; most recently at Billy Coffey's place, What I Learned Today. He did an amazing job answering various questions from what his favorite toe was to his "Come to Jesus Moment."

I realized that although I have posted about a lot of things here on my blog; most of you (probably all of you actually!) have not read every post so you may have questions in the back of your mind that I may have thought I had answered along the way.

One of my friends (Shelley) recently said, "Shanda is an open book; she would tell anyone anything about her life if she thought that it would help them in some way." And honestly, I think I would. In fact, I believe that God has called me to do just that in many ways.

So, if you could ask me anything, what would you ask? I am officially inviting your questions and I will do my best to answer all of them. You can either leave a comment or e-mail me. I just ask one Billy said so eloquently in all of his southern charm, "just mind the manners your momma taught you, please."

I am also guest posting today (for the very first time) over at Belinda's blog, Eddins 4 on "The Faith of A Child." Thank you Belinda for the invitation to guest post!

I will plan to begin answering questions on Wednesday.
Many Blessings!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Masks We Wear

We all wear masks now and then don't we?

*We receive devastating news just before our children are coming home from school; but we manage to hold it together so they don't bear the brunt of our emotions.

*Traveling downtown NYC we pretend that we know exactly where we are going because interviewed criminals have stated that they look for those who appear vulnerable. (Although we may be praying the entire time that we have the directions right.)

*Someone has offended us; but we are trying to act as though they haven't; that everything is perfectly o.k.

*We want to appear like a "good Christian" during difficult times so we hide our real feelings and the deep questions of our hearts. (For a deeper look at this mask, click here.)

You get the idea. Some of these masks are beneficial for a moment in time; possibly even for a season. But others...others allow us to stuff our emotions. To hide out. To disguise our true selves and ultimately cause chasms to grow between our relationships.

Consider a fabulous facial mask made by Arbonne. The "Sea Mud Face and Body Mask" (part of their Detox Spa Line) is said to do the following:

"The detoxifying actions of sea mud and bentonite clay help draw out impurities as they absorb excess oil from the skin. Also suited for oily skin to help prevent clogged pores, blackheads and blemishes. Helps detoxify and condition the skin's surface. It wraps you in comfort and leaves your skin glowing." (Bold emphasis mine.)

I actually use this particular face mask, and can see improvement when I do; but what if I left this fabulous mask on too long? It is recommended for 5-10 minutes. What if I left it on my face for a whole day? What about a week?

Even just after the 10 minutes my face is hardened. Almost immobilized. I can only partially smile. My laughter sounds different. My communication with others is limited because I am uncomfortable talking and earlier today while I had this mask on, my daughter even said, "I'll come back later after you wash it off so you can talk better."

All I can smell is the mask. Although it is a nice fragrance; I would miss the ability to smell other things with clarity. Can you see where I am going with this?

Even beneficial "masks" left on too long will cause damage. What began as a good thing; can now be harming us. Some masks can cause damage to ourselves, our relationships, and to our souls.

We are not meant to hide behind masks. God calls us to "cast our cares upon Him."

Also as the body of Christ, we are commanded to "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

What is Christ's law and how is it fulfilled? "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) If we love our neighbor as ourselves; then we will be willing to bear one another's burdens without judgment and condemnation; but in love.

Would you do something for me today? Would you just take a minute or two and look yourself in the mirror and allow yourself to be real with yourself about the masks that you are wearing? Trust me, it won't take long. If you allow yourself to be open they will flood to your mind.

After you have identified your masks. Ask yourself: "Is this mask beneficial or not?" Even if you answer that it has been beneficial; check to see if it has been left on too long.

Talk to God about the masks that you are wearing. It doesn't matter where you are in your relationship with Him. Even if it feels that you are separated by a thousand miles; call out to Him. Admit to Him what masks you are wearing and ask Him to help you to remove them. Sometimes, He alone will remove them. Other times, (in my case, most times) He will prompt me that I need to take specific action.

Just as when I wash the "Sea Mud Mask" off of my face; it may take some time. Most masks that have been on any length of time will take more than a simple splash. It may take some effort to completely remove it. But I can honestly tell you, it is worth the effort.

Pray that God might bring someone into your life that you could talk to about your masks. Share wisely - making sure that it would be someone who would value your openness and not break your confidence.

There are some times when professional help is needed. I've had two friends this year (acquaintances that have progressed now into real friendships) that I had NO IDEA were struggling with areas of addiction in their lives. Thankfully, their spouses sought professional help with them and they are both able to live without those masks that were destroying them from the inside out. Even Christians struggle.

Satan would like nothing more than to keep us isolated and defeated. He is the father of lies and convinces us NOT to share our struggles. Makes us feel that we couldn't share THAT with others; what would people think? Yet the irony is that it is in sharing some of these deep hurts, fears, and sorrows that freedom is birthed.

I know that this is long. If you have taken the time to read through it all, thank you. It is such a desire of mine to see my brothers and sisters in Christ living in the fullness that God has for His children. You are loved. You are forgiven. You can be free from the masks that seem to be adhered so tightly to you. There is rest for your weary soul.

Be real with yourself. Go to God. Begin to wash yourself in the Word of God and if God prompts you to share with someone you trust; do it. *If someone shares with you - keep it confidential. Prayerfully intercede. Encourage them along the way.*

"Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad." Proverbs 12:25

"Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing." I Thessalonians 5:11

As always, you are welcome to leave comments below or to e-mail me if you would like for me to be praying for you.

Many Blessings as you De-Mask!


*Special thanks to my beautiful friend, Angela, who was willing to be "mud-masked" twice for me as I did this devotional and for her insight into the "smell" portion of wearing the mud mask! You are SO right!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" - Tooth Fairy Version

If the Tooth Fairy comes when your child puts their tooth under the pillow;

The child will write a "thank you" note and ask for a picture of the Tooth Fairy.

If the Tooth Fairy thought the note was adorable and answers said note (after spending hours on the internet sorting through pictures of Tooth Fairies and also finding the perfect "Fairy font.")

The child will be thrilled; show all of their siblings, friends and teachers and write another note to the Tooth Fairy asking what she did with the teeth when their next tooth falls out.

If the Tooth Fairy is COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED and forgets to come the next time;

The child will shed huge crocodile tears wondering if the Tooth Fairy didn't like their tooth.

If the Tooth Fairy manages to convince said child that she must have been on vacation for a night;

The child will go to sleep happy the following night - note and tooth safely secured under their pillow with dreams of shiny coins and Fairy font.

If the Tooth Fairy realizes that she is fresh out of shiny coins, she will run out to the grocery store at a crazy hour and then spend another hour or so composing the cutest fairy fonted letter that she can think of.

The child will wake up thrilled; expectations building.

If the Tooth Fairy is wondering how in the world to end this crazy cycle; she will blog about it in hopes that her fabulous bloggy friends can offer wisdom to save her sanity even though she is sure she will look back on this and laugh one day!

The End
(is that even a possibility?)

I know you may come here for some deeper or more Spiritual thought; (I'll do my best to provide something along those lines tomorrow) but if you have any wisdom to offer, I'm all ears!!
This post was inspired by this post by Bethany over at 3SonsPlus1. (And of course, my life.)

And for what may be the most touching Tooth Fairy post ever, straight from the heart of a father, read John's post titled: Of Blood and Fairies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Titus 2 Tuesday -My Name is Pride


What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)

Write your own "Titus 2 Post" (linking back here somewhere within the body of your post) and enter your link below!

Pride has a way of rearing it's ugly head in our lives doesn't it? It affects our marriage, our relationship with our children, friends, just about everyone we come in contact with really. A girlfriend of mine, who I love dearly because we can always be completely real with one another through the good and the bad; shared this poem with me awhile back when we were delving into lessons the Lord is speaking into our lives. I got goosebumps as she read it to me. God had given it to her the week before she shared it with me.

Thanks Julie, I honor your influence upon my life girl!

My Name is Pride
by: Beth Moore

My name is Pride.
I am a cheater.

I cheat you of your God-given destiny,
because you demand your own way.

I cheat you out of contentment,
because you, "deserve better than this."

I cheat you out of knowledge,
because you already know it all.

I cheat you out of healing,
because you are too full of "me" to forgive.

I cheat you out of holiness,
because you refuse to admit when you're wrong.

I cheat you out of vision,
because you'd rather look in the mirror than out a window.

I cheat you out of genuine friendship,
because nobody's going to know the real you.

I cheat you out of love,
because real love demands sacrifice.

I cheat you out of greatness in heaven,
because you refuse to wash another's feet on earth.

I cheat you of God's glory,
because I convince you to seek your own.

My name is pride.
I am a cheater.

You like me because you think I"m always looking out for you...untrue.
I am looking to make a fool of you.

God has so much for you. I admit, but don't worry,
you stick with me, you'll never know.

As Beth Moore often says, "Anyone else?" (while raising my hand...)

Thank you, Julie, for being a friend who helps me to grow and for being an example of someone willing to face the negative aspects in our lives head on.

*This is a repost from a previous Titus 2 Tuesday. As I have been praying about what to share this week; I was prompted to share this post again.

What have you learned from another wise woman? ALL of us can learn something from one another. Join in and then go read these posts!
**Please write your "Titus 2 Post" linking back to this post first and then enter your link below.**

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Marital Moments Issue 34 - The Wedding Gift

I broke a plate this week. Not just any plate; it was a large decorative plate that my husband and I received for a wedding gift. It was hand made and has our wedding date on it. Normally when a dish breaks; I will carefully clean up the pieces and off to the trash it goes. But this one I just couldn't bring myself to throw away. Out of all of our wedding gifts; it was the one that both my husband and I instantly loved and it has been holding fruit (and other food items occasionally) for nearly 11 years now.

It is shattered enough that to glue it back together would be a little obvious. Yet; I left it broken and shattered on the counter just to see if my husband might be able to epoxy it back together. (He's talented like that!)

The household was busy when he arrived home and I didn't have a chance to mention it to him before he saw it. I knew instantly that he had when I heard him sadly say, "Oh no!" It was a tender expression filled with the understanding that we have three relatively small children who could have easily broken it while trying to "help out." After explaining that I was the one who had broken it; we both just stood there staring at these pieces of porcelain that have held such meaning to us both over the years.

The couple that had given it to us as a gift have long since been divorced. The husband had attempted to re-discover his youth with his secretary.

My husband proceeded to tell me that he had heard just that day that a couple that we have known almost our entire married life together was also heading for divorce. I was in shock. This was one of those couples that you automatically said both of their names when you talking about them or planning to do something with them. Apparently the wife has been having an emotional affair for quite some time and has decided that she is no longer "in love" with her husband at all.

It was such a reminder to me that we need to be intentional about pursuing our spouses! There is no place in marriage where you no longer have to invest of yourself. You don't pass the 10 year mark, the 15 year mark, the 20 year mark, or in this couple's case; the 35 year mark, where you no longer have to keep guard over your heart and mind. Where you don't have to be quick to love and willing to forgive.

Those things are easier to do if our hearts and minds are fixed on Christ. But I think it is fair to say that there are also times; seasons if you will, where we ebb and flow in our marriages and Spiritually as well. We are on fire - growing, learning and passionate about living for God; and then gradually find ourselves having to awaken again to the things of God. Begin reading our Bible (either in a fresh meaningful way or at all), praying, and drawing near to God once again. Is is often in those Spiritually drowsy moments when our guard begins to drop and we allow ourselves to entertain temptation.

We are all tempted. But it is when we allow ourselves to entertain temptation that we end up either having to battle our way out mentally (and Spiritually) or we fall.

We decided right then and there to fix the plate. It will probably be obvious that it has been glued; but it is also now symbolic to us both that we are going to fail at points in our marriage. There will be moments when something that I do or say will shatter my husband and vice-versa. But we are committed to picking up the pieces and asking God to epoxy us back together again through His love. Yes, maybe our marriage will be forever changed through those instances. Perhaps that "original beauty" will have been altered; but it is my prayer that our marriage will continue to grow more and more beautiful and meaningful - God epoxy and all.

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." James 4:7-10 (NIV)

the same verses from The Message version:

"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet." James 4:7-10 (The Message)

My heart is passionately crying out to those of you who may need to hear it today:

wake up - draw near to God

and go out of your way to pursue your marriage.

May the epoxy of God's love bind up your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Many Blessings!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

School's Out!! Now what?

Oh, I have been waiting for everything to "end" this year! More than any other year I think. I enjoy being able to stay up late with the kids, letting them do "sleepovers" in each other's rooms, camping out (in our backyard mostly) and just hanging out more as a family in general without so many deadlines and demands.

This first week is normally about transitioning and establishing a bit of new order to our household. We allow them to game/computer/watch movies/generally lay around until their heart's content most of this first weekend. You know, to solidify that "school's out" feeling. (Plus it helps me to recover from all of the chaos too!)

Then Monday morning our "summer chore chart" will roll out. Mer over at Life at 7000 Feet had an awesome post on her chore chart/summer routine that you should really check out if you haven't already. I think my husband might freak out a bit if I wrote ours onto the refrigerator; but hers looks pretty cool on there!

We do the basic:
1. Make bed
2. Get Ready for the Day (clothes, brush teeth & hair) *I let them know each night if we will be going somewhere the next morning so they can be prepared with appropriate clothing - swimsuits, clothes that actually match, etc.*
3. Clean up their bedrooms *I should be able to vacuum without sucking up toys*
4. Laundry must be brought down and sorted on their assigned "laundry day." *I've found that it works best for us to do laundry for the older two on separate days so they can help with the entire laundry process.*
5. Bathroom duty *Counter and sink wiped down, mirror wiped, floor mini-vacuumed, and toilet seat wiped* (We use some eco/kid friendly wipes for the counter & toilet seat. And a white vinegar/water mix for the mirror.)
6. Trash duty *We have two "trash days" so whoever has this job must empty all small trash cans in the household the day/night before our trash pick up days.*
7. Table Setting/Clearing *This is for Lunch and Dinner. Everyone else helps together for breakfast.*
8. Food/Water for Cat

The first 3 are required every day for both of the older two. The other duties rotate weekly between the two of them. (Littlest One is often talked into helping them out as well.)

We do NOT pay them for the household chores. Because they are part of the family; those are their contribution to making our household run smoothly. I do, however, do "spot checks." Twice a week (whenever I choose to keep them on their toes; although I do try to be fair) I will check their areas. If they are clean/jobs done well; I give a 50 cent bonus (for a total of $1 per child a week).

This year I am thinking about allowing them to earn $ for pulling weeds. It has rained, rained, and rained some more here and our weeds throughout our yard are growing like crazy!

I do also ask that all three kids have a "quiet time" in the afternoon for an hour - they can read, write, or play quietly in their own rooms. They will occasionally fall asleep; but not very often. *I try to rotate one day a week when I spend time 1-1 with each child during one of the quiet times*

I'd love to hear what you do in your household!! I have a few specific questions; but feel free to add additional wisdom as well!

*Do you give an allowance? If so, when did you begin that and how much?

*What do you do to keep your kids motivated to do their chores throughout the summer?

*What is your favorite "fun thing" to do with your kids during the summer?

Oh...and if my children come up to me and say, "I'm bored...there's nothing to do..." I can always come up with another chore or two ;).

"Let all things be done decently and in order." 1 Corinthians 14:40 (not perfectly; just decently! ;) I sometimes have to remind myself of that!)

Many Blessings!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Glimpses of Heaven

Life has been crazy these past few weeks, but there is finally a "light at the end of the tunnel" so to speak. Thank you all for hanging in there and continuing to read and comment although I haven't been posting consistently!

My husband and I attended the "Hillsong United" concert in MD on Monday night. It was absolutely amazing. I love the group - for the awesome songs, incredible talent, but even more for the hearts behind it all. As they led worship - and they truly were leading worship; not just performing. They would step back - out of the lights - and just let the crowd (thousands of us - just about every nationality you could imagine) sing. I caught a glimpse of what heaven might just look like at one point when we were all singing "Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest..." It was incredible. I've never had the opportunity to see a group so blended - as if every tribe, every nation, people of all ages, were represented -all coming together worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth.

Because we actually live in VA and had a babysitter; we had to leave before the concert was over. It was difficult to walk away. In a world where we so seldomly see masses of people gathering with such diversity to praise the one true God together - it encouraged my heart. I needed to see "the church" so alive, united, and boldly praising their Savior. God is actively at work in the hearts and lives of His people and drawing many to Him.

"...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2:10-11

Many Blessings!


Titus 2 Tuesday - Fasting and Prayer

What have learned from another woman this week? (or ever)

Write your own "Titus 2 Post" (linking back here somewhere within the body of your post) and enter your link below!

It is hard to believe it has been a full week since I have posted! Sometimes God is more active in the silence than words...

Today I am honoring two women, Traci and Kathryn, that I have gotten to know over the course of this year by praying with them. Our children attend school together and we have been meeting once a week to pray for the school, the administration, faculty, staff and each student by name. We were not able to make it every single week; but it wasn't about whether or not you were there every was about the heart of covering the school and all within it in prayer.

The sweet fellowship of agreeing in prayer with these women has blessed me. The ministry that they run has also resonated within me. You can check it out here.

I first met Traci at the end of year class picnic last year. (Our daughters are in the same class.) At the time, I was considering home schooling my children and she shared with me how she had home schooled in the past. When I asked her what it was that had made her stop homeschooling, she shared that God had called her to begin a ministry. (Kathryn has become a ministry partner with her.)

If you have ever desired to go deeper in your relationship with the Lord, this is such an amazing resource and tool. The heart of it all is getting back to our first love through fasting, prayer, and spending time in the Word of God. Although you are fasting; the emphasis is on feasting on God's Word. For those who are looking for a place to begin, they have written a program called, "EAT" that breaks down Scriptures to focus on for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have done a wonderful job explaining different ways to fast, how to transition out of a fast, etc.

What I have come to respect and love most about these women is that they are genuine and they are bold. They are surrendered to Christ and taking each step as He leads in His authority. It has been deeply inspirational to me in my own walk.

What have you learned from another wise woman? ALL of us can learn something from one another. Join in and then go read these posts!
**Please write your "Titus 2 Post" linking back to this post first and then enter your link below.**

Mr. Linky's free widgets are not available right now; so if you would like to link up; please let us know in your comment that you have joined in. You can also "link" your post to this post by adding a link to my blog in the body of your post or by clicking on "links to this post" below. I apologize for the inconvenience!