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Growing up in church, I did a lot of praying.

I learned to bow my head, close my eyes, and say all the right words. I could pray quietly and reverently or passionately and intensely. We prayed before meals. We prayed at bed time. We prayed at church. We even attended prayer meetings--gatherings for the specific purpose of prayer. If there was one thing I knew how to do, it was pray.

But too often, prayer often fell somewhere in the "if I can get to it" category of my to-do list. After all, if I didn't get around to praying today, there was always Sunday. Then my world was shaken.

Suddenly, my only moments of refuge from the storm were my moments in prayer. Connecting with God on a daily basis became my top priority. It's funny how a crisis will quickly put things into perspective. I no longer worried about when I'd get the laundry folded or if my floors were swept. I wasn't concerned about the format or volume of my prayers, or even the words I used. In fact, many times my prayers were reduced to the emotional ramblings of a crumpled mess.

If praying only with others is the extent of our prayer lives, we will be reduced to emergency- or obligation-only prayers. | thereisgrace.com

Jesus--who was somewhat an authority on the subject--had a lot to say about prayer.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5,6)

Jesus isn't saying we should never pray in public. He's saying prayer should be, first and foremost, a personal, private priority. Yes, we should pray with others and for others (see James 5), but if that is the extent of our prayer lives, we will not see much in the way of spiritual growth. We'll be reduced to emergency- or obligation-only prayers.

Think of your closest human friendship. It's probably the result of many private, intimate conversations. Imagine the relationship you'd have with your spouse if your only conversations were in front of others! Just as our human relationships grow through personal conversations, we must #BeIntentional about having consistent, private conversations with God in prayer.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7, 8)

If God knows what you need before you ask, why pray? Here's a hint: It's all about relationship. God wants to have a relationship with us. Prayer isn't about checking the box on a spiritual to-do list or bringing a laundry list of needs to God. Prayer is the point of connection with God through which our relationship with Him grows.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (Matthew 6:10-13

While there's no "magic formula" to prayer, Jesus--in His infinite wisdom--gave us a guide. Personally, I think He knew I would need a little help! Having a plan, or a guideline, helps me to #BeIntentional about prayer. I don't follow a model every time I pray, but for those times when I need a little nudge, it's a great way to give my prayer time some focus. What better guideline than the way Jesus himself taught us to pray?

Our Father...hallowed be your name: Begin by praising God for Who He is and what He's done
Your kingdom come...will be done: Remind yourself that God is Sovereign...over your life and your circumstances.
Give us this day: Lay out what you need from God...in your life and the lives of others
Forgive us our debts: Ask God to search your heart and reveal areas you need to change/grow (this is also where you can ask God to help you forgive those who have wronged you)
Deliver us from evil: Pray for protection over your family and loved ones.

It's ironic that something as simple as prayer--having a conversation with God--can be  quite difficult to accomplish. It's too easy to allow the urgent tasks of my day (children, cooking, laundry, etc.) to crowd out the important things (Bible reading and prayer). That's why I'm determined to #BeIntentional about prayer in 2015!

My biggest concern for this generation is the inability to focus, especially in prayer ~Francis Chan.

BeIntentional-250How do you plan to #BeIntentional about your prayer life in 2015? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Prayer: (Follow the #BeIntentional Pinterest board for these and other resources.) 
The Power and Privilege of God's Children
When Prayer Comes Out of the Closet
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
The Prayer that Changes Everything by Stormie Omartian
Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado?
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

What are your favorite resources on prayer?

 

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I don't remember the issue--I was a teenager, so there were any number of them to choose from. Something, somewhere, contradicted what I had been taught and threatened to shift my entire worldview (or so my 15-year-old mind reasoned).

So, I did what I had always done...I went to my dad for advice. I'll never forget his response: "What does the Bible say about it?"

My deep, adolescent response was something like, "I dunno," when I was really thinking, Huh? I have NO IDEA what the Bible says about it! That's why I'm asking you...THE PASTOR!

I'll never forget what he said: "Why don't you find out and then we'll talk about it."

That one response rocked my 15-year-old world. I had always relied on my dad for answers to deep Biblical questions--I would ask, he would answer, and I would go on with my life. For the record, I was fine continuing that arrangement!

Since it was the Dark Ages (before Biblegateway.com), Dad gave me some passages to look up, and I went to work. I studied the Scripture, formed my own opinions then, just like he promised, we discussed it. It was a lot more work than our previous arrangement, but it taught me a valuable lesson that followed me into adulthood:

Reading the Bible Intentionally #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

We each have a system of beliefs and values that influence every decision of our life. If we do not intentionally build those beliefs on the foundation of Truth, they will be influenced and shaped by other influences (culture, obligations, family, friendships, etc.). Or worse, we'll end up swept along the path of "least moral resistance."

As Christians, we often end up building those values on what our parents taught us, what our church teaches, or even what we've come to justify in our own minds. Those things may not be wrong, but in the end there's only one Truth on which we should build any belief: What does God say about it? (as in, What does the Bible say about it?)

Here's the catch: In order to do that, we have to read what He has to say. (Revolutionary, I know!)

It sounds so simple, so why does it prove to be so difficult? If we fast-forward about 25 years from the scenario above, you'll find I had allowed the daily demands of life to crowd out my regular discipline of Bible reading. I had rationalized that I could coast on what I had "already stored up" through years of Christian school, Bible college, and working for a Christian publisher.

But when you face a situation that shakes you to your core, you tend to go back to the basics. So over the last year and a half, I've discovered that my spiritual life is strongest when I feed it a steady diet of God's Word.

Honestly, I still struggle with it. I have to #BeIntentional about not allowing other things to crowd out this vital component of my spiritual life. It's not easy, but things of great value rarely are.

That's why I'm committing to #BeIntentional about reading God's Word in 2015 with this simple plan:

When: The time has varied over the years--as a young adult, I would read late at night before bed. When I worked full-time, I would routinely read on my lunch break. Now, with two active kids in the house, I try to get up early and spend at least 15 minutes reading my Bible before the rest of the house stirs. With an early-riser in the house, that doesn't always happen! On those days, I rely on extra grace and plan a specific time later in the day for it.

Where: There is a specific spot in front of our fireplace where I like to settle in to read. I keep my Bible, a devotional, my journal, and a pen within reach. Settling into that spot triggers my brain (even when I'm still half asleep) to focus on what I'm about to do. And since I am NOT a morning person, I need all the help I can get!

What: I need a plan. If I don't have some sort of idea what I'm going to read, I'll spend the entire time flipping through my Bible in search of random passages. I've done all types of plans--chapter by chapter, topical studies, etc. It doesn't matter how simple or complex the plan, but I've found it is helpful to have one! There are hundreds--probably thousands--of reading plans available today in every format and on every topic imaginable. You can find a one-year plan here, or shorter plans here or here .

And for you "non-readers" out there...if the thought of sitting down with a book (of any kind) makes you break out in a cold sweat, no worries! Download the YouVersion app and listen to the Bible while you go for a run, clean the house, or fold the laundry. Or find a devotional on Audible  or Christian Audio and listen on your commute.

"If you feel uncomfortable in the Scriptures, and inadequate in the art of Bible reading, the single most important thing you can do is make a regular practice of reading the Bible for yourself."  ~David Mathis, Bible Reading is an Art

BeIntentional-250How do you plan to #BeIntentional about reading your Bible in 2015? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More Great Reads on Reading the Bible Intentionally:
Bible Reading is an Art
3 Tips for Better Bible Reading
The Bible: Fact or Fiction? 
Don't Just Read the Bible for Yourself
Finding Hope in God's Word
3 Reasons Moms Need to Be in the Word
Thirty for 30: A 30-Day Bible-reading Challenge

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It all happened in the same week. I was officially pronounced "cancer free" then a few, short days later I lost my mind...over a pair of gloves.

We were running late, yet no one was following the simple instruction to "please move more quickly." The whole scenario escalated until it resulted in a wild-eyed mom (who will remain nameless) barking orders at her startled children as she threw backpacks and lunches in their general direction then forced marched them, in a huff, to the waiting vehicle.

Then it happened: A sheepish voice squeaked from the backseat, "I forgot my gloves."

For a moment, I considered foregoing the gloves, but with Missouri winter setting in, and a wind chill of 26, the child had to have gloves. I slammed the door and stomped back into the house to retrieve them. Back in the vehicle--gloves in tow--we were finally off to school.

Then it struck me: I would not have reacted this way a year ago. At this time last year, my mental and emotional energy was focused on one thing: victory over cancer. That meant regular, daily, time in God's Word to hold tightly to His promises and regain control of my thoughts and emotions. It meant "little" things like lost gloves and hurried mornings didn't faze me. There were bigger mountains to climb, bigger giants to slay--I was battling cancer for cryin' out loud. Who cared about forgotten gloves?

Here I was a year later, the words "cancer free" still ringing in my ears, and I was already back to the same ol' me. I had kicked crazy to the curb, and it had bounced back and rolled right over me!

While I was thankful that life was returning to normal, I didn't like that I was falling back into the same habits. In the midst of the battle, I had been intentional about so many things--faith, priorities, commitments, even my attitudes and emotions. As a result, I had grown in many of those areas. Was I seriously going to go back to the same old habits and struggles as before? I sure didn't want to! The trial I had faced brought me closer to God and took me deeper in my faith.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2, 3)

If I was going to hold on to all I had learned over the last year, I would have to Be Intentional about it. Focusing on the important things had been easy when the rest of the world stopped--when others were bringing meals and shuttling our children about. Now that life was returning to "normal," I would have to work at it.

Finding intentionality in things that matter most | thereisgrace.com

Since I'm pretty sure intentionality isn't something I struggle in alone, I'm inviting you on the journey with me. And what better time to do it than at the New Year?

Over the next few weeks, we'll be exploring intentionality in many areas of life--spiritual, physical, and emotional. In addition to my regular posts, I'll  write once or twice a week about an area in which I'm learning to Be Intentional. I'll be honest about how I've failed or where I need improvement (as if you expected anything less) and share things I've discovered along the way. I'll also recommend resources I've found helpful or that come recommended by others I trust.

This isn't a one-sided conversation, though. I want to hear from you, too! I want to know how you've learned to be intentional and what has helped you along the way. Share your favorite tips and resources in the comments or join the conversation on social media (use the hashtag: #BeIntentional)

What areas do you need to Be Intentional in?

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Last year I celebrated Christmas quietly at home with just my husband, my children, and my mother-in-law. My body was weak from six rounds of chemo and I was emotionally drained from the battle we were waging--both physically and spiritually-- for my health. But my spirit remained joyful--hopeful.

I saw Christmas in a new light. Sure, I had a new perspective on what truly matters in life, as often happens when you face a crisis. But more than a revelation on the value of life, I had a new perspective on the whole purpose of Christmas. Suddenly, it was more than a simple story of faith. It was now a glaring declaration of God's love for us...for you, for me, for each of us individually.

Isaiah 9:6

It wasn't long after that weary Christmas Day that I received a Compassion Bag from Compassion That Compels. Since then, I've been privileged to write for their ministry and have grown to love Kristianne and her heart for women battling cancer.

This year, I will gather with all my family and celebrate Christmas CANCER FREE!! I'm talking about it over at Compassion That Compels...won't you join me there? While you're there, consider sponsoring a Compassion Bag for someone battling cancer. She'll appreciate it more than you'll know...trust me. And maybe next year, she'll be sharing her own story of victory!

Read the rest here.

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It happens about this time each year...I begin the slow transformation into Frantic-Crazy-Christmas Mom. Armed with my long list of must-do, have-to-do, and want-to-do items, I hit the ground running on December 1. My transformation escalates as Christmas parties, obligations, shopping excursions, baking, wrapping, and travel fill the calendar. By the time December 25 rolls around, I've gone from Buddy the Elf to Mrs. Scrooge in a mere 3 1/2 weeks.

Last year was the first time in a long time that didn't happen. I was finishing up six rounds of chemotherapy, so I determined to focus on my health and my family and not worry about the rest of it. It was one of the most relaxed, enjoyable Christmases I can remember.

Even though I am recovering from two surgeries this year, every fiber of my hard-core, overachieving self wanted to jump back into the frenzy. I wanted to try every holiday recipe on Pinterest and every DIY wreath project on my FB feed! (Never mind the fact that I have been banned from using a glue gun on more than one occasion!)

But if there's one thing I've learned in our journey over the last 14 months, it's to focus on the truly important things. There's nothing wrong with Christmas parties and homemade gifts, but when my time and energy are consumed with accomplishing my to-do list, there's no time or energy left for what really matters...people. That's when it's time to kick the crazy to the curb!

5 simple steps to kick crazy to the curb this holiday season (plus resources!)
photo credit: nineminutes via photopin cc

1. Make a plan. We sat down as a family a few weeks ago and made a plan for our holiday season. We asked the kids their favorite traditions--foods, activities, events, etc. Then we scheduled those on the calendar; the rest are optional. We even gained an entire evening in December when we discovered an event we were all OK skipping!

2. Create time for family. We just completed a marathon trip for Thanksgiving--3 destinations and 19 hours in the van over 5 days. Why? Because we saw more family in those five days than we've seen all year. Yes, it was exhausting, but we'd do it all again in a heartbeat. If we wait to find time for family, we never will; we have to be intentional to create time for them.

3. Focus on giving, not getting. We asked our kids, "If you got only one gift from Mom & Dad this year, what would you want it to be?" Don't worry, our kids will not be deprived of Christmas gifts this year, but that question accomplished a couple of things: 1. It helped us hone in on the one thing they really want (as opposed to the 1,463 items they circle in the toy catalog!), and 2. It tapered their expectations (because they will never get all 1,463 things they circle in that catalog!)

I'm confident our kids understand Christmas is about Jesus, not about gifts and stockings. But this year, we wanted to be intentional about giving to and doing for others. We found opportunities through organizations like Operation Christmas Child as well as making special gifts for individuals in our lives.

4. Find silence. My favorite spot in the month of December is in front of the fire place with the Christmas lights on. I'll wake up early and curl up on the couch with a blanket and a cup of coffee. Then I simply sit and bask in the silence. Sometimes it's only 10 minutes before all my creatures start stirring, but those 10 minutes of calm will give me enough sanity to make it through the day!

5. Remember Jesus. That seems so simple, really--almost trite. Of course, we know Christmas is about Baby Jesus in the manger, but too often we stop there. We forget that Baby grew up--then gave up His life for us. Too many times we forget that part until Easter.

But that's what Christmas is really about...it's more than the fact that Jesus came, it's why He came. He came because God loves us so much that He could not leave us where we were. He loves us so much He wants a relationship with us, and that could only happen through Jesus.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:16, The Message)

You don't need more things to do this Christmas. But if you'll take a few minutes each day to focus on God and thank Him for Christmas, it will go a long way in keeping the crazy out!

How do you stay focused and keep the crazy out during the holiday season?

It's not too late to start an Advent reading to help you keep your focus. Here are some great resources to get you started:

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie
Jesus: Light of the World by Candace Crabtree

Free resources
The Dawning Indestructible Joy by John Piper (free download for December 2014)
The Hope of Christmas
Advent: Preparing to Celebrate Christ's Birth by Billy Graham

For kids & families
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift
Truth in the Tinsel
More than Candy
Check these 4 Advent Resources for kids

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I'm so excited to introduce another guest blogger to you. I only met Fawn a couple of years ago, but we quickly realized we share a love for writing, blogging, a good laugh, and a heartfelt, 3-hour conversation over breakfast. Her desire to give back and help others is inspiring, and her organizational and tech-savvy skills know no bounds. Today's post is evidence of that as she shares a simple and easy idea for solving an age-old problem: How to Tame the Polar Gear Vortex!

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Last winter was an especially brutal one, and both the weather forecasters and the persimmon seeds are predicting much of the same this winter. If you're like me, you're probably not looking forward to the cold temps OR the process of bundling and unbundling the entire family every time you leave the house.

Last year I got so tired of piles of wet things at my front door and searching for that one missing mitten, so I decided to do something about it. We don't have a lot of storage space in our entry way, so I wanted to add something that would help corall hats, mittens, and scarves and free up more floor space for boots. The floating basket idea was born.

Tame the Polar Gear Vortex...a simple solution to organize your winter gear.

Supplies for the project:

  • Plastic or other sturdy basket/container (I used three – one for each child and one for my husband and I to share)
  • Level
  • Tape Measure
  • Hammer
  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Pencil
  • Finishing Nails
  • Wall Screws

I found my baskets in the bathroom section at Target. They are Curver Style brand in size small. I chose them because they are made from recyclable plastic, so they would be waterproof and easy to wipe down. They also have an open weave design that makes it easy to hang them on the wall, and they don’t look like a plastic bin (IMO).

Steps:

  1. Determine approximate location where you want to hang your first bin. Hold it up to the wall and make sure it is level.bin leveling
  2. Mark where your nails/screws to hold the basket up will go with a pencil. Depending on the style of your basket, you may have to drill holes through the basket for hanging first. bin marking
  3. Take the basket off the wall and hammer the finishing nails into the pencil marks. Then, remove the nails, hold the basket back up to the wall, and push the nails back in so the basket is hanging on the wall. The finishing nails let you make adjustments if needed without making big holes in the wall. bin screw2
  4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 for all of your containers. I used a measuring tape to measure out the spacing so it would be even. bin measuring
  5. Once you have the bins hanging where you want them, screw them into place with wall screws. Try to get a screw that matches the color of your basket, or you can paint the screw head. bin screw
  6. Fill those bins with the cozy gear everyone needs to keep warm!

winter bins1

In the summer time, our floating baskets transition to hold summer gear – one for small outdoor toys, one for sunscreens and bug sprays, and one for first aid and sunglasses.

summer bins

Total cost was less than $35, and the kids no longer have excuses for missing gloves and hats!

fawn (1)Fawn Rechkemmer writes about motherhood, being green, health and fitness, travel, and more on her blog, Instead of the Dishes.  She lives in Southwest Missouri with her husband and two children, where she is a freelance writer, editor, and PR consultant. 

 

 

If you have a child with food allergies, you know the fear that Halloween brings--not fear of the tricks, mind you, but fear of the treats. Any occasion that encourages my allergic child to accumulate a mountain of candy from a variety of sources is enough to strike fear into this Mama's heart.

As a general rule, I tend to reside in the "our children are overly-sugared" camp. Still, I would never dream of depriving a child the ritualistic pleasure of loading up on the goods on Halloween. And that includes my child with food allergies.

I want him to enjoy the gathering, sorting, swapping, and (rationed) consumption of his treasure just as much as his sister does. But since those shiny wrappers also contain a potentially life-threatening reaction, there needs to be an extra "layer" of precaution. No one wants to end Halloween with an Epi injection and a trip to the ER (or worse!).

So, how do you have a happy and safe Halloween with food allergies?

5 Tips for a Successful Halloween with Food Allergies | thereisgrace.com

1. Know the Source
We don't do much door-to-door trick-or-treating. Between events at our church and my husband's workplace, we end up with plenty of candy and most of the porch lights are off by the time we roll back into our neighborhood. Since those establishments only pass out individually-wrapped candy, I know the ingredients can be easily checked and cross-contamination is at a minimum. Stick with houses (or business establishments/organizations) you know and trust.

2. Check the goods
What kid doesn't like to take inventory of their stash as soon as they get home? This is not only fun, it's also necessary for food allergies. My son sorts his candy into three stacks: candy he knows is safe, candy he knows is unsafe, and candy we need to check. If the ingredients are listed on the candy itself (and many are), it makes checking for allergens quick and simple. If they are not listed, a quick visit to the manufacturer's web site will usually do the trick; most list ingredients of their candies there. SnackSafely.com  provides a comprehensive list of peanut- and tree-nut free snacks (and many egg-free snacks). Click here for their special Halloween edition.

3. Make the swap
After the sorting and checking is done,  the swapping can begin. My son's first option is his sister. Since most chocolate is off-limits for him (because most contain soy), this works out well for Sis. :) She's quick to swap him her Skittles and Smarties for his Reese's and Butterfingers. If there are leftovers once bartering is done, he can then swap with me: I keep a supply of "safe" treats on hand that he can swap for his unsafe treats. I recently came across this idea of "buying" Halloween candy from your kids; I'm seriously thinking of using it this year!

4. Think outside the candy wrapper
The Teal Pumpkin Project encourages families to offer alternative, non-food treats as an option for kids with allergies or other dietary needs. Their goal is to raise awareness of food allergies, but I think it's also a great way to provide a little variety. Yes, Halloween becomes mostly about the candy, but it's ultimately about the fun. So, thinking of treats beyond the sugary kind is fair game. If you're worried about competing with those neighbors who offer full-size candy bars, check out this article with a great list of non-food treats that are sure to be a hit!

5. Enjoy!
When you live with food allergies (or have a child who does) any event, holiday, or celebration that includes food prepared by someone else brings with it a level of stress. The key to managing that stress is balance: be informed, be diligent, and be safe. Beyond that, relax and have fun. I want my son to be equipped with the information he needs to be safe. And then I want him to go out there and have some fun!

Looking for more resources for a Safe (allergy-friendly) Halloween?
4 Halloween Strategies for Accommodating Kids with Food Allergies
Tips to Trick-or-Treat Safely
Food Allergy-friendly Candy and Treats
Yes, Your Kids Can Still Trick-or-Treat with a Food Allergy
The Scariest Part of Halloween Can Be Dealing with Food Allergies

It won't be long before Holiday Parties are here. Find out how we navigate those with food allergies, too!

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I love hearing stories of God's grace in the lives of others. I love it even more when it's someone I've watched walk through the pain and into a deeper understanding of the grace God gives us. I'm honored to have one of those special people sharing here today.

I first met Christy when she was my sister's roommate in college. Years later, I would work alongside her in a ministry office. I had no idea the pain that was hiding behind her beautiful (and consistent) smile every day. Christy's story reveals a pain I know so many have faced, and I'm thankful she's sharing her it here today...

Walking the path of heartache can be full of dark days, but, when offered to God, the beauty born in that darkness has divine purpose | thereisgrace.com

My first marriage was the most painful experience of my life but it’s also where I learned the depths of God’s love and healing. Because of that, I open my heart and let others see where I have traveled.

I married a man I met at Bible College and embarked on what I thought would be my dreams come true. Within the first year, I began to see signs of addiction but I didn’t have the life skills to truly recognize the red flags. So, I just kept thinking things would get back to normal.

By the third year, he was someone I didn’t know – from alcohol to drugs to pornography to gambling to unexplained absences and I had no idea what to do. I hid. I cried. I prayed. I stuffed those emotions that were desperate to get out.

Day after day, I prayed and clung to God in a way I never thought possible. Yet, there was no change and I was stuck relationally. I was a married woman living the life of a very single woman – spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially.

I went through years of heartbreak, disappointment and deception caused by the one man who swore to protect, cherish and love me. He broke every promise he ever made and, in the process, he broke my heart. I didn’t know the damage that was being done at the time because I was just trying to survive.

After seven years of this cycle, something clicked inside me and I decided it was time to leave. So, I moved back home and he went to a program called Teen Challenge.

During that year and a half he was in Teen Challenge, I started dealing with my pain and emotions. While working through the disappointment my life had become, I found that God still had many dreams He wanted to bring to pass. I went back to college to finish my associate’s degree. I began to blossom into me – a stronger me. It was the beginning of my independence and finding the woman God created.

After completing Teen Challenge, he did well for a few months but then relapsed. After ten years of marriage and no real change, I could no longer keep walking this road. I felt a release to move on without him.

I filed for divorce and moved to Missouri to finish my bachelor’s degree. It was really hard to leave my family and friends who had become my comfort and support system, but I knew it was time for the next season of my life.

Today, I stand on the other side of that whole experience a different person. I have met and married my soul mate – a word I could never truly use before. While I have other battles to face, my life is full and my heart is whole. Those years of brokenness not only gave me perspective, but I also learned some key lessons.

The enemy’s plan is to snuff out life, especially when it’s painful, but God’s plan is to grow beauty and purpose from pain. Walking the path of heartache can be full of dark days, but, when offered to God, the beauty born in that darkness has divine purpose. God grew me into a woman that solely depends on Him and has used my story to minister to others in a way it never could have had I not gone through that painful time.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10)

When I was entangled in heartache, it was so easy to stop living, but God didn’t create me to just exist. Living through pain takes courage but it doesn’t have to be in my own strength. On the days I didn’t want to do life, I found that God’s sustaining strength was perfected in me through my weakness.

Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:19)

I could look back on those years and see them as wasted, but God doesn’t waste pain. In fact, He specializes in bringing the spectacular from pain. God has redeemed beyond what I lost in my first marriage and He has used my suffering to bring others to His healing hand.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20)

Christy is a city girl from Oklahoma who has converted to country living in Missouri with her husband, Dave. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, chocolate chip cookies and deep conversation. Christy blogs about her life experiences and how she walks out her faith in every season. Visit her at In the Making.

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There's nothing quite like a girls' weekend, am I right ladies? We all love our families, but there's something about being with people who don't need you to cut their meat or sign another permission slip. And it's all the better when those people are some of your dearest girlfriends...girls who share similar interests and with whom you can just be you... not mom, not homemaker, not chief cook and bottle washer...just a girl in cute shoes and a carefree smile.

I had the chance to do just that a couple of weeks ago. I spent three days with a few girlfriends (over 7,000 girlfriends, to be exact) at the Designed for Life Conference. It was an amazing time of worship, laughter, fun treats, and challenging messages. If you've never experienced a dynamic women's conference, here's why you should consider coming to Designed for Life next year:

7 Reasons You need to attend the Designed for Life conference | thereisgrace.com

Girl time: I promise you won't have to wipe anyone's nose or watch any Nick Jr. You can spend your whole time talking about frivolous things like shoes and handbags or dive into the deep end and discuss the deeper meanings of life.

The Boutique: Seriously, I'm not even a hard-core shopper, and I love the boutique! So much fun stuff...and you can shop as long as you want without having to take someone to the bathroom!

Fun Surprises: Pre-service games and giveaways to special gifts and parting treats. You'll be thrilled and treasured all at the same time. If gifts is your love language, do NOT miss this conference!

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Special thanks to my friends for letting me hijack their cute pic! ;)

Connection: Whether you come with a group or by yourself, you'll find unexpected friendships born and established friendships grow deeper. If you end up coming alone, don't worry, there's The Meeting Place where you can connect with other girls. Who knows, you might just make a lifelong friend!

Amazing worship: From the first note, worship at DFL is full-on. There's no "building up to the final session." The DFL worship team comes to worship from the get-go. If you're not ready to jump in at first, don't worry, you will be soon!

Challenging speakers: Chris Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Charlotte Gambill...these are the powerhouse women who brought God's Word to the conference this year. They are world-renown, quality teachers of the Word. And they did not disappoint. Check out the speakers for next year's conference...you don't want to miss it.

God moments: There's something about getting away from the normal routine of life and setting aside time to focus on God and all that He has for you. Yes, God speaks to us in our everyday moments, but I believe it's in those moments we truly set aside for Him that He can do even greater things in us. That's what DFL is all about.

Each session this year felt like the message was specifically targeted to me, personally, and my situation. And I talked to so many other girls who felt the same way. Only God could do that, and that's ultimately what makes DFL a conference worth coming to...God shows up and meets you where you are.

I realize a big conference isn't everyone's "thing." If that's you, I understand. But I want to encourage you to not let your personal preference keep you from all that God has for you. You will be a better woman, wife, mother, employee, and friend when you go back home. Because no one can encounter God for three days straight and not leave changed.

DFL Recap - 2015 Promo from James River Church on Vimeo.

Check out what's in store for DFL 2015.

Alright, DFL sisters...these were only 7 reasons. What are your favorite reasons for coming to DFL? What was your favorite DFL memory? Let me hear from you!

 

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My love affair with fall flavors is no secret. Each year when the leaves begin to turn and there's a hint of crispness in the air, I get an uncontrollable urge to bake. I don't just stick with tried-and-true recipes, either. I scour Pinterest for the latest concoction of fall delicacies. In fact, I've got an entire Pinterest Board dedicated to it!

I'm not picky, either...if it's got apples, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, or any combination of them, I'll try it. That usually makes my family nervous...especially my husband whose mantra is, "If it's not broke, don't fix it" (meaning, don't mess with what already works). But I like to branch out and try new things. Most of the time it turns out well. Sometimes it doesn't.

Then there are those moments when you find...perfection. One recipe that becomes a staple each season. One that you look forward to making...and sharing...and eating every year. Like this decadent Apple Spice Cake that has served my family well for more than 10 years.

Sure, you could make this cake anytime with your average, store-bought apples. And it will be good. But it won't be the same as making it in the fall with fresh, locally-grown apples...yum!

A nut-free recipe for Apple Spice Cake with options for egg-free/dairy-free. Perfect for Fall!

That's why I'm sharing the recipe for Foodie Friday over at Missouri Women Bloggers. Hop on over to check it out; you won't be disappointed! (Yes, it's got sugar, and for those who know me...no, I didn't eat any this year!) ;)

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Like what you’ve read? Would you like to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox? Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts e-mailed to you as soon as they’re published. Easy-peasy. Or, follow me on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.