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.