Sunday, December 27, 2015

Encouragement Challenge #44: Choose A Word for the New Year

This year is quickly coming to an end and we will be ringing in the New Year this coming Friday. So, for this week's ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE, I would like for you to think about what your gifts and talents are - the kind of gifts God has given us for the purpose of encouraging others (i.e. teaching, preaching, writing, listening, playing music, sewing, giving, caring, etc.) Then, choose a favorite verse, or just one word, that will help you keep your encouragement goals on track in the coming year. Once you have chosen it, write it out, or print it out. Decorate it. Put it in a place where you will see it every day when you wake up. Then, live it out to the best of your ability in 2016.

Examples of Encouragement Verses: 
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 - And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  

1 Peter 4:8-10 - Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

Examples of One Word:
  • Encourage
  • Listen
  • Care
  • Share
  • Uplift
  • Pray
  • Bless
  • Believe
  • Love
  • Forgive
Go to one of these websites for more information and ideas on choosing your word. The second link even has a page where you can make a poster with your word on it:
My one word for 2016 is:  InspireI hope to keep writing, and to use this blog as a tool to inspire myself and others to love God and remain faithful to Him, to spread the love of Jesus to those around us, and to take time to enjoy this life we have been given. 
    Please share your word or verse for the year. I'd love to see what you have come up with. 

    Sunday, December 20, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #43: Share Your Christmas Goodies

    Over the years, our family has enjoyed making "goodies" to share with our friends and neighbors during the Christmas season. Some of the items we have made and passed out include:
    • Cookies:  Ginger Snaps, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, Cool Whip Cookies
    • Chocolate Caramel Oat Bars 
    • Brown Sugar Shortbread
    • Divinity
    • Fudge
    • Penuche
    • Peppermint Bark
    • Granola
    • Trail Mix
    • Pumpkin Bread
    • Homemade Ornaments
    We do not make all of these every year, but usually choose 2 or 3 to focus on. We start baking early in the month, then freeze the goodies until time to deliver them. It is a fun tradition we have as a family.

    Pass out goodies to your neighbors this week. If you do not bake or do not like to make ornaments, you can pick up a little ornament at a discount store and give it along with a card. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive. Just share the love of Jesus with others. Let them know they are being thought of during this sometimes lonely time of year.

    Sunday, December 13, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #42: Two Christmas Gift Ideas that Share Positive Thoughts About Someone You Love

    This week, I want to share with you two different ways you can encourage someone you love this Christmas by sharing the positive and uplifting thoughts you have about them...

    When I was 13 years old, I received a special, handmade Christmas ornament from my parents. They worked together to draw and cut out a bell shape, type out positive thoughts they had about me, decorate it, and attach a string to put it on our Christmas tree. I kept it all these years because it meant a lot to me. It's the simple things that really touch me the most.

    This is the front of the ornament. It was drawn on plain typing paper, but something heavier, like cardstock, might hold up even better.  They used colored pencils to color it, and glued a  piece of colorful fabric around the edge. The little poem was typed on a separate piece of paper, then cut out and glued to the front.

    This is the inside of the ornament. The words were typed, then cut out and glued to a piece of cardboard. A piece of gold string was used to attach the two pieces of the ornament together and then hung on our tree for me to see on Christmas morning.

    In the Christmas of 1998, I took the example of my parents and typed out 20 different reasons why I love my husband. I decorated the paper, put it into an envelope, and gave it to him as a gift in his stocking that year...

    Use one of these ideas to surprise someone special in your life this Christmas. If you already made a Christmas Tribute for someone last week, choose someone else (a different friend or relative) to encourage with one of these other ideas. Hand deliver them, or stick them in a Christmas card and mail them. Work on these personalized gifts this week and, if you don't celebrate Christmas, do it just because you love them and want to surprise them with a blessing.

    Sunday, December 6, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #41: Write Tributes for Christmas Gifts

    The Christmas season is upon us, so I have an idea I would like to share with you - a gift you can give to someone you love, and it won't cost you anything except a little of your time.

    Ten years ago, I came across a poem. (At the time, I thought the author was "Daddy" Silverwood, but I don't know where I found it. I have since seen the poem online being referenced to Clyde H. Box, so I'm not sure who the real author is). The poem is about how we shouldn't wait until our loved ones have passed away to tell them how much they mean to us. This is the poem:

    Tell Them Now!

    If with pleasure you are viewing
    any work a man is doing,
    If you like him or you love him, tell him now;
    Don't withhold your approbation
    'till the parson makes oration
    And he lies with snowy lilies o'er his brow;
    For no matter how you shout it,
    he won't really care about it,
    He won't know how many teardrops you have shed.
    If you think some praise is due him,
    now's the time to sip it to him,
    For he cannot read his tombstone when he's dead.

    On the same year I found that poem, I used the idea and took the opportunity to make homemade cards for some of my family. On the front of the card, I typed:  A CHRISTMAS TRIBUTE, along with the person's name I gave it to.

    This is the front of the card I made for my husband

    On the inside of the card, on the left, I typed the poem above. Then, on the right side, I shared my thoughts about the person the card was intended for. The words I wrote for my David are a bit personal, so I'm not gonna share them with you. Sorry. But, here is what I wrote for my Grandma. She passed away a couple of years ago, and I'm glad I took the chance to tell her my feelings before she left this earth:
    Grandma – You are one of the most amazing people I know, and I look up to you. I admire your inner strength, your faith in God, and your unselfish acts of kindness. You are compassionate and caring, you have a good sense of humor, and you are someone I know I can trust. I am so proud to have you for my Grandma. Thank you for everything you have done for us. You are a very special lady, and I love you very much.
    For this week's ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE, work on making these special tributes for your loved ones. Give them away for Christmas this year. I promise, they will be treasured keepsakes.

    Sunday, November 29, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #40: Send A Care Package

    This week, send a care package to someone on your mind. If you need more information about care packages, or you need some ideas of things to include in one, check out these links:

    Here is a blog post I wrote in January 2012:

    A blog post from Redefined Mom written in September 2014:

    An article from

    You can also find a large collection of ideas for different kinds of care packages on: PINTEREST.

    Sunday, November 22, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #39: Make A Thankful List

     It's Thanksgiving week in the United States of America.

    For this week's ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE, the first thing I want you to do is make a list of 10 different things you are thankful for. Click below for a document you can print out and use for this exercise, or you can just write your list on regular notebook paper:

    After your list is completed, do at least one of the following suggestions with it:
    • Include the list in a Thanksgiving card and mail it to someone this week.
    • Share the list with your family as you eat your Thanksgiving dinner.
    • Post the entire list on Facebook in one specific post.
    • If you don't do Facebook or Twitter, send your list out in an e-mail to several of your friends. 

    Monday, November 16, 2015

    REVIEW: Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook

    I have been hearing so much about the Trim Healthy Mama diet plan by sisters Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. Their first book caught the attention of many mamas who were looking to eat healthier, control blood sugar, lose weight, and keep the weight off. Then, more recently, two new books by the sisters were published through Penguin Random House. One is the new updated THM plan book, Trim Healthy Mama Plan. And, the other is the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook. 

    I haven't read the "plan" book yet, but I did get a copy of the cookbook. I wanted to see what kinds of recipes can be made on this THM plan. As I read it, I found the sisters have a unique sense of humor that gives the book a fun, light tone; and it has some interesting recipes I am sure I will be trying in future months - things like Reuben in a Bowl, Fotato Soup, Taco Meatloaf, and the Pumpkin Pie Sip (a beverage that is meant to be sipped throughout the day to curb hunger). However, if you are wanting to know more about the THM plan, you will need more than the cookbook to really understand it. The cookbook is meant to supplement the "plan" book; and, if you want the recipes to really work for you, it is best to actually KNOW the plan first. Pearl and Serene even mention this in the introduction to the cookbook.

    On its own, the cookbook is colorful, laid out well, and includes more than 350 recipes including one-pot meals, main dishes, sides, breakfasts, sweet treats, and beverages. If you are already doing the THM plan, and are wanting some new recipes to try, I recommend you get this cookbook.

    NOTE:  I received this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of this review.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #38: Send Encouraging Words

    Share some golden apples this week by sending a favorite Bible verse, an encouraging quote, or just some words that come from your heart to 5 different people. You can send to one person each day, or do all five at once. The choice is yours.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    REVIEW & GiVEAWAY: Mercy Me It's Christmas CD [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

    I know its not even Thanksgiving yet, but I want to let you know about a new Christmas album you may want to consider this year. Pizza Ranch is helping to promote Mercy Me It's Christmas by the contemporary Christian band, Mercy Me. The album will be available for sale at each of the 200 Pizza Ranch locations throughout the Midwest and Great Plains states for only $5.00 plus tax. Sales begin November 1, 2015 and continue through December 31, 2015.  The CD has 4 exclusive songs that can only be found on the CD version being sold by Pizza Ranch.

    Bard Millard from Mercy Me said, "We are so excited to debut our new Christmas album, MercyMe, It’s Christmas, with Pizza Ranch. [It is] a fantastic restaurant with a great mission to glorify God."

    I love Mercy Me, and I love Christmas music. So, for me, this CD is GREAT! It has upbeat, traditional AND modern music that can be a help in bringing some Christmas cheer to your home  this year. 

    When you enter below, you will have a chance at winning this exclusive CD. The giveaway ends Saturday, November 14, 2015, at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address. If you have won a prize from my sponsor, FlyBy Promotions, in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.

    "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
     Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

    Sunday, November 8, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #37: Appreciate Our Military Personnel

    Veteran's Day is this Wednesday, November 11th.

    For this week's ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE, choose one or more of the following ways to show your appreciation for our military personnel:

    1.  Display the American flag on your home or business.

    2.  When you see a person in military uniform, or know of someone who was previously in a branch of the military, thank them for their service.

    3.  Attend a Veteran's Day ceremony.

    4.  Send a care package to a soldier on your own, or through a local organization.

    5.  Click over to OPERATION WE ARE HERE to find many other ideas for thanking and encouraging Veterans. 

     Thankyou, Veterans, for serving!

    Friday, November 6, 2015

    Update on EL's Seizures

    Last week, I told you that EL's SEIZURES KEEP RETURNING. So, we took a trip to St. Louis on Wednesday to have a sleep-deprived EEG. Her last one was 2 years ago, so they wanted to check for any changes and see if an additional medication would help to control her seizures.

    I had to stay up with her until Midnight on Tuesday night before the test. Then, I had to wake her up again at 5:00 on Wednesday morning, and keep her awake during the car ride to St. Louis. After getting her prepped (which she hated), her testing finally began around 3:00 p.m. and she was able to fall asleep quickly (which worked out great to get the information needed.)

    Today, the doctor's office called with the EEG results. It was considered abnormal, but it didn't have any significant changes compared to her previous EEG. That is good news. With this information, they are not going to add an additional medication. Instead, they have once again increased the dosage of her current meds, and we will see how things go. (Apparently, her bloodwork showed her medication level was still lower than it should be, so hopefully this will be the last increase needed... at least for awhile.)

    We are grateful for the prayers you have said for our sweet girl. Our God is good to listen to our prayers, and to provide the strength we need in difficult times.

    Sunday, November 1, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #36 - GUEST Daneille Snowden - Keep Giving!

    This week's ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE comes from my friend, Daneille Snowden. She has some wonderful suggestions for giving to others, even when you don't think you have anything to give. Thank you, Daneille, for allowing me to share this today...


    Money is most definitely tight these days; and for some the belt is quite snug! [Wink] But, no matter who you are: a child, parent, single mom, single dad, elderly, jobless or your budget is tied up in shoelaces - YOU STILL HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE!  

    Deuteronomy 16:17 - "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you." 

    Tangible gifts are fun, yes? I like to receive them and give them as I am able. Yet, I will share with you that the gifts I treasure the most, are the one's from the heart; that were either words written on a paper from my husband and children, as well as home made crafty gifts from others. They seem to touch the deepest part of my soul and the gifts I truly treasure.

    Allow me to share with you some ideas for you as the giver to give; even when your pockets are empty. 
    1) A Letter / Poem that conveys your heart and care for the particular individual.

    2) Love Tokens: Made of scrap materials such as wood, cloth or paper. On them you can write things like, "This is good for a walk in the park." Another can be for a cup of tea, etc...

    3) Make a homemade card.

    4) Do you have flowers in your yard, like roses and such? Dry them for potpourri; make sachets; or just cut some and give as a gift.

    5) I have plants: I root new growths and start a new plant. Give a plant with a special note.

    6) Food is a winner! Bake some cookies, zucchini bread, or a pie.

    7) Clean their yard, or house for them.

    8) Offer to babysit their children.

    9) Listen, just listen - don't talk about you; let them just share their heart.

    10) Make a prayer journal for them; and tell them that they are listed in your prayer journal too.

    11) Design on your computer nifty scripture posters. If you can't do that; make them with crafts you have on hand.

    12) Give your person a night off from cooking and prepare the meal.

    13) Make a DVD of pictures of your friendship, or family whatever you know they would treasure.

    14) Give a backrub (preferably if it's someone in your family).

    15) Fix a picnic and go enjoy at a nice park or in the back yard.

    16) Can you draw? My daughter is an artist; she has drawn portraits for people. If not, you can take a picture, print it out and frame it. I always have old frames around the house. Plus, you can make cute frames with just about anything.

    17) Can ya sew? A cute handbag, or a pillow that is uniquely from you is a treasure.

    18) Sing, sing a song! Especially to grandparents, uncles & aunts...etc.

    19) Left-overs? Take a meal to a neighbor or someone you know would not just appreciate but need a thoughtful gesture.

    20) Just think, what makes you as unique as you are. That is who the people in your life love; use that special character trait to share your heart to everyone.

    21) Pray for people, and tell others about God's Love for them. It truly is the best gift of all, and it cost His Son His life!

    I sure hope this helps ya out, and encourages you to give and give some more!

    Lord bless,

    Read more from Daneille over at: SNOWDEN WITH THE FAM'  

    Tuesday, October 27, 2015

    EL's Seizures Keep Returning

    October 2015 - Before her 5th MRI
    It has been awhile since I gave an update on our daughter, EL. Generally, she has been doing well since my last update in February. In fact, her latest MRI checkup was earlier this month and it showed no changes to the size of her pituitary tumor. That was great news to hear, and she won't need to have another MRI until a year from now. However, in March, her seizures began to increase and, since then, we have had to boost her medication at 3 different times.

    Most of the time, she has had mild seizures that consist of her staring and "blanking out" for a short time, not responding to us, and then in a state of confusion for several minutes after. But, occasionally, she will have a full-blown grand mal seizure complete with a red face, drooling, and strong convulsions.  She has always done well for a month or two after each med increase, but the  seizures eventually return.

    Last night, EL had a hard seizure around 8:00 p.m. while watching TV. Then, she had another one this morning around 10:00 a.m. while we were doing some school work. The seizures were only 14 hours apart. After consulting with her Neurologist today, she wants to have labs drawn this week to check the levels of her medication. Then, we are also scheduled for a sleep-deprived EEG next week. Depending on what they find out, she may do well with an additional medication to help control the seizures. I hope so.

    It is so hard to watch my child having a seizure. I have become more used to them in the past two years, but it still bothers me to see them; and, I feel like I don't want to leave her side because we never know when another one will suddenly happen. Her meds will not be increased again until after her EEG next week. So, as you think of her, keep her in your prayers this week - that she will not get hurt in the midst of any more seizures, for my anxiety level during the waiting process, and that the tests will show what needs to be shown.

    Philippians 4:6 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (NASB)

    Sunday, October 25, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #35: A Morning Prayer

    For this week's ENCOURAGEMENT CHALLENGE, I want to spur you to love others by putting a note beside your bed with the following prayer on it (or it can be something similar written in your own words). Say this prayer every morning this week (or continue longer if you like). Then, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to be a blessing to others. Make an effort to follow through with the encouragement you think is best.
    Good morning, Lord. Thank you for this day. I ask that you help me to be a blessing to someone today. Please bring to my mind someone who needs encouragement; and give me the wisdom and ability to know how to bring them a bit of cheer for your glory. Thank you!

    NOTE:  I made a PDF of this prayer that you can print out and use for this challenge. Just click below to be taken to the Google Document:

    Thursday, October 22, 2015

    How to Organize A Coat Closet

    Last year, I took a look in our "in-season" coat closet and noticed it needed some help. (We have two separate coat closets–one in a storage room that stores the out-of-season items, and an in-season closet near the front door). At the bottom of the closet, there were balls and Frisbees, mixed in with tote bags and many other items that didn’t really have a set place; one shelf at the top held hats, gloves and scarves that were piled up into a mixed-up mess; the second shelf held a number of different items that were crammed together; and, all of the jackets and coats were mixed together in a way that made it hard to pull one out without dragging 2 more along with it.  I knew it was time for an organizing job.

    The first thing I did was buy an inexpensive 10-shelf shoe organizer at a discount store. Somewhere, I had seen the idea of using a shoe organizer for things like hats, gloves, mittens and scarves. So, I bought an organizer and hung it up in the closet; then, proceeded with the following steps:

    1.  I removed all the hangers, coats and jackets that were not needed for the winter season, and set them aside to be taken to the storage room. At the same time, I went through the coats that had been outgrown and put them into a pile to give away.

    2.  All of the coats left in the closet were hung into one direction. It may not seem like a big deal to do this, but it ends up looking so much nicer this way. For someone who enjoys seeing things neat and tidy and having everything in an easy-to-find manner, it is truly satisfying to see the end result. Just try it and you’ll see what I mean.

    3.  Everything that had been thrown onto the bottom of the closet was removed and sorted. Once again, I decluttered where necessary, placing unwanted items into bags or boxes to give away (or sell). At the same time, I added a storage container to store the items we decided to keep. For us, these are things like balls, Frisbees, and tote bags. Now, instead of searching for a missing item on the floor of a dark, messy closet, we can pull out the storage container and rummage through that instead. Another option:  If you don’t have one of the shoe organizers I mentioned previously, you could keep all of your hats, mittens and scarves in a container like this:
    4.  Next, the top shelves were decluttered by removing unwanted or unneeded items. Then, “like” items were placed with other “like” items, and everything else was tidied up.

    5.  This last step is simple, but important... I threw away the trash, and made sure all of the items that did not belong in the closet were put away into their proper place. Be sure not to wait until later for this step, or it may not get done in a timely manner. Do it right away!

    After accomplishing all these steps, it was so nice to step back and take a look at the final product. I was very pleased with what I saw and decided I wanted to keep it that way! That is one of the biggest challenges of all, isn’t it? But, at least its a good start! 

    Monday, October 19, 2015

    REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Galaxy Buck - Mission to Sector 9 [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

    Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9 is the newest video adventure from Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales. It is a fun, 40-minute video that kids and adults will enjoy, especially Star Trek fans, since the movie has many similarities to the popular TV show.

    The movie is about Buck Denver, a man who dreams about saving the galaxy. He works for the Galactic Mission Board, and desires to carry God's love to every corner of the Milky Way! The problem is that he doesn't have a starship, or a crew, or even a captain's license. But, he is eventually given a chance to lead a mission into deep space. While on the mission, things don't go as planned and Buck is confused. If he's doing what God wants him to do, why is everything going wrong?  He is taught a powerful lesson about trusting God with everything - even our dreams!

    Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9 will be available on DVD beginning October 20th. Fill out the entry form below for a chance to win a copy of this DVD. Contest ends Saturday, October 24, 2015 at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address.

    "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
     Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

    Sunday, October 18, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #34: The Power of Touch

    This week's challenge is based on the love language of Physical Touch...

    You might be amazed at how encouraging a small gesture like a hug, a pat on the back, or a thoughtful touch on the arm can make someone feel. There is just something special about the power of touch. So, be sure to give someone a hug this week. If you are not a huggy type of person, and it actually makes your skin crawl at the thought of hugging someone other than your spouse or kids, then just give a person a gentle touch or a pat on the back. Even if you just lend a listening ear, it can do wonders to help someone feel loved and understood.

    Sunday, October 11, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #33: Spend Quality Time with Someone

    This week's challenge is based on the love language of Quality Time...

    If your love language is Quality Time, you feel loved the most when someone gives you their full, undivided attention. You love it when you can share quality conversation and quality activities without the interruptions of the TV, phone, computer, or someone's unwanted opinions. If someone takes the time to really listen to you and hear your heart, your love tank becomes full.

    Even if Quality Time is NOT your main love language, it is very much appreciated when someone makes time for you out of their busy day. So, this week, make a point to invite a friend (or friends) over for dinner, dessert, a cup of coffee/tea, or just to visit and play a game. Get to know them better. Ask them what their ambitions/goals are in life. Share yours with them. Pray together for God's provisions in these matters.

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    GUEST Rein Schmidt: Does God Really Love You?

    I am sharing an article from a friend of ours, Rein Schmidt. He writes an e-zine of theological "Ramblings," and this particular one from September 29, 2015, can be helpful to all who are going through a dark valley. 

    Rein says, "It seems like the more we desire to serve the Lord, the more obstacles Satan puts in our paths. Sometimes, it just becomes too much to bear. So here are a few things the Lord reminded me to think about. I know there are many ways the Lord can use to keep us encouraged, and I listed only a few of them. I would love to hear how the Lord has worked in your life regarding this topic that I rambled about." 

    If you would like to share a thought with Rein, please make a comment below, or contact him at THIS E-MAIL ADDRESSYou can use the same e-mail to sign up for his "Ramblings." 

    Thanks for allowing me to share this, Rein!


    Does God Really Love You?
    By:  Rein Schmidt

    Your suffering is a great enticement to Satan. He and his anti-God federation are irresistibly attracted to persistent suffering and pain. Notice how he obsesses over Job’s misery. Notice how he shows up in the wilderness at the height of Jesus’s weakness (Matthew 4:1–11).

    Satan is savvy enough to know that his lies are less effective during prosperity, so he waits until life is hard and we are more vulnerable (though he has plenty of weapons for our good times as well). Then, when he suggests that God does not love us, he suddenly sounds compelling. In other words, we need all our wits about us when suffering comes our way. Does God love me? Am I suffering because I have done something to incur his displeasure? These can drift into questions about God himself. Is he good? Does he hear? Does he care? 

    Over the past several months there have been times when I have asked the same questions. Does God love me? Am I suffering because I have done something to incur his displeasure? Does he hear my prayers? Does he really care?

    Satan has a unique way of bringing discouragement into life and before long discouragement produces disillusionment which produces doubt. Once doubt enters your mind you find yourself asking the questions I mentioned above. As you seek answers to those questions, depression settles in and the answers to those questions seem even farther away.

    At this point there are a few things to remember.

    1. Jesus Suffered, So I Suffer
    In the Old Testament era, there may have been good reason to believe that God was either letting us go or chastising us in our suffering. Everything changes, however, when Jesus comes as the suffering servant, lives in poverty, is rejected by his closest friends, absorbs shame, submits to a gruesome death, and inaugurates the new covenant with God’s people. In this, he is celebrated as the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15), the one who is fully God and fully human, our perfect representative and our King.

    This creates a new story for us. Jesus, who is clearly loved by the Father, goes through the worst of suffering. As believers, we have been united with the Son, so we expect to know both suffering and love. As Jesus goes, so go his people. If the King was not spared the hardships of this present world, we should not expect to be spared. This is why the apostle Paul boasted about his suffering. Those sufferings showed his connection to Jesus and to the Father’s favor (2 Corinthians 11:24-30).

    2. Jesus Was Tested, So I Will Be Tested
    Look more closely at Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). God’s children have always been refined through testing. Even before Adam sinned, he was tested. This is what royal children expect. If we are to ascend to co-regency, our allegiances will be tested too. But as we are led into our wilderness, our suffering, we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit to help us, and with his help we can grow in maturity and wise judgment.

    Two things are important here. One is that we can take joy in being tested (James 1:2). It is evidence that we are beloved children who have been found worthy. The other is that we want to grow in the testing, which means that we aim to trust him, believe him, and seek him in our suffering, rather than turn from him.

    3. God’s Love Is Sophisticated, So I Trust Him
    New covenant love takes on new features. Our Father’s love is now revealed as more developed, “sophisticated,” in a sense. In fact, it is beyond our understanding. All we have to know is this: He displayed irrefutable love when he died for enemies, and his ongoing love includes reworking us into the shape of Jesus, which is the greatest of all gifts (Romans 8:28–29).

    To paraphrase the apostle Paul, this means God will certainly not abandon us now. He will not even get a little stingy with his love. His love is relentless, sacrificial, and generous. The cross of Christ is the evidence. So we trust him, as a young child trusts a good parent (Psalm 131:1–3).

    4. I Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
    These realities of God’s love are, of course, spiritual, which makes them difficult to see. To complicate that chronic challenge, suffering can impair our vision even more. It can dominate our perspective and become the only perspective. So our questions keep haunting us. Does God love me? Does he hear? Does he care? To combat these questions, we acknowledge our need to see by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

    This is when we call out for help from the body of Christ. Spiritual battles should not be fought without the aid of other people who can join us in prayer, encourage us with their presence, and offer apt words of truth from God’s Word. We could ask them to pray for us as Elisha prayed for his servant. When surrounded by an army that was sworn to kill the two men, Elisha prayed that his servant would see by faith. “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17).

    Then we keep our faith eyes peeled. We look back and see the pinnacle of love in the person of Jesus. We also look ahead and see that suffering will end someday, and the one we desire to hear with our ears and touch with our hands will be fully present with us. But for now, with our eyes wide open, we walk with him, in suffering, today and believe that he will give us grace again for tomorrow (Matthew 6:33–34). Where mere human sight sees only darkness, faith sees that we partner with Christ in his agenda to show his power in our weakness.

    5. Here Is a Better Question: Do I Love Jesus?
    In keeping with God’s surprising ways, one other response to suffering’s questions is to ask a new question , one Jesus posed to the apostle Peter. Peter had witnessed the life and resurrection of Jesus, so he had no doubt that he was loved. But he was still weighed down by his betrayals and assumed that he had relinquished his usefulness. In response, Jesus asked a question. He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15–17).

    Perfect, isn’t it? We could be passive until now, as if waiting for enlightenment to strike. Now there can be no passivity. Our answer will not change his love (2 Timothy 2:13), but it might suggest that the problem lies within us, rather than in God. At the very least, this surprising question gives us another way to pray and ask for prayer. We want to know the expanse of the love of God and love him in return.

    Suffering does interrogate our souls. But we have the means to wage the spiritual battle. We identify ourselves as united with the suffering servant, we see God’s purpose in testing, we trust him, we walk by faith, and we test ourselves by asking about our love for him. Taken together, these spiritual disciplines can overcome our lingering questions about God’s love and send us in the direction of peace and even joy.

    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    Encouragement Challenge #32: Give A Gift "Just Because"

    This week's challenge is based on the love language of receiving gifts...

    If this is your love language, gifts to you are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly. But, I think everyone enjoys receiving a gift, and knowing they are being thought of, even if that is not their main "love language." Its not really about the kind of gifts that are given. Its about the thoughtfulness and effort put into them.

    This week, give someone a gift to let them know you are thinking of them - "just because." 

    If you know what kind of candy or cookies they like, go buy a package (or make them) and give it to them - "just because."

    If you know they like flowers, go pick a bouquet - "just because."

    If you know what they collect, give them something to add to their collection - "just because."

    If you know what kinds of books or movies interest them, pick one up - "just because."

    If you don't know much about their likes and interests, you can still cheer someone up by making a  BOX OF SUNSHINE. (Note: I found this link on Pinterest awhile back. It gives suggestions on what to put into a box of sunshine, and includes printables you can download.) You can do the same thing with an orange theme and make a card that says, "Orange you glad we are friends?" or "Orange you sweet!"

    Whatever you give, you really can't go wrong. Everyone likes to know they are being thought of, and will be encouraged that you took the time to choose a special gift just for them - "just because."

    Thursday, October 1, 2015

    Favorite Reasons To Drink Coffee

    Do you drink coffee? If you don't, you are in the minority. Coffee is one of the world's most popular drinks, whether it be hot, cold, bold, mild, flavored, full of caffeine, or decaffeinated. Why is it so popular? What is it about this drink that makes so many love to drink it?

    I recently decided to take my own little survey from family and friends to see how many of us drink coffee, and why. I sent out 100 e-mails, and received 45 responses in return. In the e-mail, I asked them to share at least two reasons why they drink coffee (if they do), or share why they don't. Here are the results:

    71%   drink coffee, even if only once in awhile (32 out of 45)
    29%   do not drink it at all

    For those who drink it, here are the main reasons:
    56%   drink it for the caffeine / pick-me-up / energy
    44%   like the taste
    27%   drink it out of habit or routine
    20%   drink it for the warmth
    19%   enjoy coffee with friends (social drinkers)
    13%   love the smell
    13%   say it is comforting, gives them good feelings, coziness
    6%     drink it for health reasons
    3%     say they are addicted to it
    3%     say it is a non caloric warm drink
    3%     say it is more convenient than other hot drinks

    Those who do NOT drink it give these reasons:
    69%   Don’t like the taste 
    23%   Don’t like the smell
    15%   Say its not their preference, have no interest
    15%   Say they can't drink it due to health issues
    8%     Say it is too addictive and they don't want to get hooked

    Personally, I don't remember the exact time when I started drinking coffee on a regular basis. But, I know it wasn't because I wanted the caffeine, since my coffee is usually decaffeinated. There are days when I am dragging and find I need a boost; so, occasionally, I will make coffee with half caffeine and half decaff - a sufficient amount to get me going without giving me the jitters - but it is not the main reason I began drinking it.

    I also did not start drinking it for the taste (Although, now, I really do enjoy the taste, especially when it is doctored up with flavored creamers or some milk and flavored Stevia drops.)

    As I think back, I realize the biggest reason I STARTED drinking coffee was for the smell (or, the  aroma), as well as it being a comforting beverage for me to start my day with.

    What is it I like about the smell?  To answer that, let me ask you another question first:  What memories do you have of your childhood home? If you really think about it, you will notice that many of your favorite childhood memories are based on a smell - fresh bread being baked in the oven, cookies being made, a favorite meal, flowers in the garden, a lilac bush, wet hay, barn smells, the smell of rain, pine needles from a Christmas tree, a pipe or a cigar, maybe some stinky feet, and on and on. Our sense of smell can cause us to remember things from the past - whether they be good or bad smells - and, for me, one of the smells that reminds me of my childhood is a pot of fresh brewed coffee in the morning. I never liked the taste of coffee when I was growing up, and I didn't understand what was so good about it. But, I always saw my parents enjoying it, and I saw them being hospitable when they offered a cup to our guests. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting me see your example of hospitality.)

    1 Peter 4:9 - Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

    Dad & Mom, 2008
    For many years after I left home, I never made coffee unless my parents came for a visit. My husband didn't drink it either (and still doesn't). But, as the years passed, I think I started missing that smell because, one chilly Saturday morning, I decided to make a pot to help warm me up. I found out I enjoyed it, and it quickly became a Saturday morning ritual for me. Then, it eventually expanded to where I am now drinking it at least 4 or 5 times a week. I like the taste, I like the warmth, I like the smell, and I like the cozy feelings it gives me. It is a nice way to start my day. 

    What about you? What scent-filled memories do you have from your childhood home? 

    What memories are you now making for your own children to look back on one day?


    FYI:  According to Wikepedia, and The International Coffee Organization, TODAY (October 1st), is considered the FIRST OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL COFFEE DAY! It is a day set aside to promote and celebrate coffee as a beverage, with various events now occurring in places across the globe.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2015

    REVIEW: Finding Noah Documentary / GIVEAWAY: Ultralight Travel Hammock [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

    I am not a huge fan of documentaries; it really depends on their content. But, over the weekend, I was able to watch a new documentary "Finding Noah" which is about a team of explorers who spent several years searching for Noah's Ark on top of Mt. Ararat. The evidence they found prior to their search suggested the ark was up there somewhere; so, when they were finally given permission to go search for it, they did.

    I don't want to give away the ending, so I will just say I did feel the documentary was put together well and showed how a common bond was shared among several different faiths. Biblical evidence and scientific methods, such as ground-penetrating radar and satellite aerial photographs, were used and documented in their quest. As mentioned on the official website, the documentary was shot in never-before filmed locations in the harshest of conditions, and shows just how far men are willing to go to discover the truth.  
    "Narrated by Academy Award nominee Gary Sinise, FINDING NOAH is more than a quest for answers, it is a testament of the human spirit, where belief and the need for exploration transcend risk and limitation." 

    If you are interested in documentaries, especially ones that deal with faith, this movie will be playing in select theaters for only ONE night - OCTOBER 8th!

    One more thing... The explorers in this film camped on the mountain for many nights as they searched for the ark. So, with that, I have an exciting GIVEAWAY for one of you! You have a chance to win a Royal Blue Grand Trunk Ultralight Travel Hammock!
    Use the form below to enter the giveaway from now through Saturday, October 3, 2015, at 8:00 p.m. CST.  Valid in USA and Canada only. One entry per mailing address. 

    "Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
    Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”