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Wednesday, June 29

The Ultimate Encourager

Today's encouragement story is from a very good friend of mine, Tara. Enjoy!

Growing up, I had goals. 

“I’m going to be a veterinarian!” I said to my parents when I was four.

“Okay, Honey, if that’s what you want to do, than do it. You can be anything you want when you grow up.”

They preceded to help me by bringing in a variety of animals into our small home, giving me horseback riding lessons, spending hours with me in the animal barns at the state fair, and introducing me to a friend who was a veterinarian so that I could hear from real-life experience if it was something I wanted to do. When I was 10, I won a scholarship to Iowa State University and decided that was where I was going to go—after all, it was one of the best vet schools in the country. I geared my high school classes and activities around my goal to go to ISU; participating in as many activities as possible so it looked good on my application and taking as many Advanced Placement science classes as I could so I would be prepared for the grueling schedule college life demanded.

Halfway through my freshman year at ISU I decided I no longer wanted to be a veterinarian.

My parents responded: “You can do anything you want to do, as long as it makes you happy. That’s the key to being successful: being happy in your choice of career.”

I graduated college, but decided I no longer wanted to work in my field of study: Animal Ecology (think Crocodile Hunter, but with less dangerous animals) with an English minor (because all of my extra classes were English-related…I like to read!). My parents encouraged me to look into temporary work until I knew more what I wanted to do. I got a job at one of the largest employers in Iowa, transferred from temporary to full-time, and became a high-level Administrative Assistant for one of the Vice-Presidents of Human Resources. I really liked my job, and I especially liked the pay and benefits. In the eyes of the world (and my parents), I was a success.

Then I got married and had a baby.


My husband encouraged me to continue working. After all, I was providing all the benefits for our family. My parents encouraged me to continue working. It would be a waste of my degree to quit and raise a family. Besides, I would be bored staying at home all day with no adult interaction. Keep working and soon I’d be an Executive Assistant, really making the big bucks.

Keep working.

I would come home every day and play with my daughter and feel contentment. When I took her to our friend’s house every morning, I felt as if a part of me was being ripped away. My husband often heard me cry over the fact that I would not be the first to see my baby crawl, walk, talk…all the major milestones. He felt helpless. He knew my heart’s desire was to stay home, but how could we live on his income alone? I made more money than he did and we were barely making it as it was!

I prayed for a way out. And God gave me one.

Shortly after my daughter turned six months old, I got a call at work from the friend that watched her for us during the day. She had just received a new foster child and the stress of keeping up with two infants was wearing on her. She could no longer watch my daughter. I hung up and called my husband. “Honey, if we have to put her in daycare, we’d be spending most of my salary on paying for that, not to mention gas money, eating out, work clothes, etc. I don’t want to pay someone else to do the job that I want to do. Please, can we figure out a way for me to stay at home now?” At his affirmative, I immediately put in my two week’s notice.

For the first time in my life, I did not receive encouragement from my parents.

My dad was uncharacteristically silent on the phone as I gave him the news. He didn’t come out and say I was making a bad choice, but I could hear it in what he wasn’t saying. There was even a tinge of disappointment—he was proud that I was the first college graduate in our family and now I was “wasting” my degree.

My mom wasn’t silent. “You won’t like it! I just don’t want you to be bored like I was. And what happens when the kids grow up? You won’t be able to find a job. I took me years to find the job I have now and I don’t make nearly as much money as you do even after 15 years!”

My husband was on my side, but even he was concerned. “I just don’t know how we will do it, but we’ll make it work.”

I felt guilty.

But in my heart, I knew it was the right decision. There is no higher calling than raising your children in admonition of the Lord. And there is where I found my greatest encourager: God.

As soon as my husband and I made the decision for me to stay at home, I felt overwhelming peace. I would no longer be divided in half every day. I was finally on the path that God had set out before me, and HE would provide. My degree (that I technically wasn’t utilizing) would actually be put to use in teaching my child. I believe in hands-on education and that is exactly what I learned to do with my major. Everything fell into place. How could I possibly be lonely when I had God? And if He determined I should go back to work after raising my children, HE would provide again.

God provided abundantly beyond anything I had ever dreamed. My husband got a steady-paying job and our needs were always met. Whenever money was tight, a check would miraculously come in the mail to cover the exact amount we were short. My parents eventually came fully on board and are now among my biggest supporters. After all, they told me I would be successful in anything that makes me happy. There is nothing that brings me more joy than teaching my children about the Creator of the Universe. I have found my true calling.

I am now a full-time homeschooling mom of four children and I can honestly say I have never felt more contentment with my life. And when I need encouragement, I seek out my Lord first. When I am seeking His perfect will for my life, He brings me peace. He is always there, and HE is my greatest encourager.





Tara is a homeschooling mom of four children ages 6, 6, 5, and 4. In her free time (which isn’t often), Tara enjoys reading, writing and playing with the animals on her small family farm. You can find more stories about Tara’s life with her small children at Mommy Life




Monday, June 27

Tools For Encouragement

As you read this, Brian and I will be travelling back to the valley after a three day camping trip. We'll be camping with several friends of ours, and I think it will be a lot of fun! I'll let you know how it goes, and probably show you lots of pictures!

Back to the subject of making a difference through encouragement. I would be amiss if I didn't highlight some helpful tools for encouraging others.

1. Cards
Sometimes sending a kind note to someone going through a tough time just to say you're praying for them can make a huge difference. Take it a step further if you can, and let them know that you're willing to listen, or help with whatever they need.

Keep the momentum going from Father's Day and continue to encourage the men in your life with a card especially for them. After all, one of the most common love languages for men is "words of affirmation."


When my dad was deployed overseas, we kept all the cards from friends and family. When we felt alone, we could flip through the heartfelt messages and remember that people were praying for us.

If you know someone going through a loss, sometimes it's hard to find the right words to say. I think in situations like that, it's very important to have the perfect card.


To keep all your cards organized, you'll need one of these!


Several of DaySpring's card organizers are 50% off, including the one above, that comes with 40 cards, all for $20. That's a great way to jump start a card ministry! The card organizers come in a wide variety of colors, to see all of them, go to the "Special Sales" tab on the website.

2. Hospitality
Last Friday, Natalie shared a story about the encouragement hospitality can be. While hospitality is more about being available than it is perfect entertaining and it certainly doesn't require special dishes, DaySpring's "Life to the Full" line of dishes is 50% off this month. These are some of my very favorite DaySpring products!


The "Ever Grateful" collection is also on sale!

Ever Grateful - 4 Piece Taupe Place Setting

3. Gifts
If your summer is anything like mine, you'll have lots of opportunities to encourage through gift giving. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, baby showers, and hostess gifts are just a few occasions to take advantage of!

When looking for a meaningful gift, I like to check out what's on sale at DaySpring. This month, they have several of my favorite products on sale. Check the "Special Sales" page to see all they offer, and also the "Clearance" section.

The selection of tote bags are 65% off right now. Who doesn't need a nice bag for trips to the pool?
 
If anything I've mentioned today catches your eye, use the coupon code for free shipping on orders of $25+. You'll find it over in my right sidebar!

What tools do you use to encourage others? Let us know in the comments!


This post contains affiliate links, meaning that if you click on them and buy something, I will receive a commission on your purchase. Rest assured that it is well spent: my profits will be donated to a compassionate ministry of my choice (currently, Food for the Hungry). I will only recommend products that I like and that I believe you would also enjoy. I am disclosing this in accordance with 16 CFR, Part 255.

Friday, June 24

Encouragement From Hospitality

Today's encouragement story is from Natalie. One of the first things that attracted me to Natalie's blog was the title; she's a fellow scribbler! On her blog, Scribbles n' Things, Natalie held a series last month diving into Biblical hospitality, which you can read here. She'll be having a part 2 to this series in a couple weeks. 

I’m going to be honest that when Emily asked me to share a time when I was encouraged by hospitality I couldn’t make up my mind which story to share. Hospitality is a craft that’s been taught for generations in my mother’s family, and one of the spiritual gifts I’ve been pursuing. So I had a hard time picking just one. But, I thought I could share a bit about a close friend of mine.

Lauren is a single gal in my church who really exemplifies hospitality and has encouraged me to do the same. Lauren makes it a point to pretty much know everybody in her condo complex. Every time I go over she's telling me about how she's reached out to so-and-so lately. She takes her neighbors brownies on their birthdays, invites them to church, stops and chats with them when she walks by, etc. I was also a part on her connect group this past fall. Connect groups are kind of like a pre-community group. They’re mostly just fellowship based (as opposed to in-depth Bible studies), along with dessert. It’s a good mix of people as well. There are church members, church seekers who are new in town, and then there are people who are really just exploring what Christianity is all about. Lauren is super at adjusting her conversations depending on which end of spectrum the person falls on. She’s incredibly gracious and kind with her words and actions towards others, and unlike many women, she rarely gets frazzled over how good the food is or her limited amount of space (and having around twenty five people crowded into your condo is a lot).


So often I think we equate hospitality to just food, a clean house, and having people over, but really the heartbeat of biblical hospitality is mission. (Although, I’m not going to lie, good food and a pleasant environment help greatly.) When you start to have a mindset that hospitality is to be seen and practiced as ministry and mission, rather than just meals at your home, in many ways it lessens the stress we feel and erases the boundaries we’ve created in our mind. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus calls us to be like salt:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matt. 5:13 ESV)
What are a couple of attributes of salt? I think about it preserving and causing us to crave for more. When we show others hospitality we are to do just that. Preserve, encourage, and stir on fellow believers, and then bring others outside of our faith by making them thirsty. They should notice something different about us once they’ve spent a couple of hours in our homes. Once they’ve been conversing and sharing with us. My mom has always said that you know when an event/gathering/party is a success when the guests are already looking forward to getting together again.



Natalie from Scribbles n’Things is currently a college student majoring Christian ministry. She drinks her coffee with extra cream, and her tea with extra honey. She's one of those girls who'll always pick a dessert over a salad. Some of her favorite things are chocolate, fresh-cut flowers, candles, new books, sitting on my front porch, and conversing for hours. She like to be straight to the point and blunt about life, faith, and everything else. Most importantly, She's learning to make Jesus Christ her first love and live solely for Him. She likes to think of her blog as her online home, so she invites you in!

Monday, June 20

How Encouragement Overcomes Insecurity

"I believe in you."

Those words have power. 

Why? Because if we were all honest, we'd admit that we feel insecure about ourselves sometimes. We wish our hair was straighter or curlier, that our nose was smaller, or our bosoms bigger. We wish we were more extroverted, or that we stopped to think before speaking. We wish that we had more drive, or we wish we could slow down and relax once in awhile. We wish we were more talented, or that we just had someone else's talents.

But knowing someone believes we are enough just as we are, or that we can accomplish our goal, is profoundly reassuring.

i believe in you  .explore
Photo by SarahWynne on Flikr


Recently, I was trying to remember why I'm not pursuing a degree in teaching. English and art were my twin passions, so in high school I planned to pass on my joy of writing and creating to others. Then I got scared, and I decided that I couldn't speak in front of people and I wouldn't be able to handle class discipline. So, I decided I'd major in journalism and minor in art. That way, I could still write, and art would be a side thing. But I didn't major in journalism. I didn't think I had the go-getter-type-A personality a journalist needed. A teacher encouraged me to re-consider teaching. So I did, thinking maybe I could handle a private school, where I was more likely to be able to teach both English and art. So I entered college with a major in ... English literature. I couldn't commit. I was afraid. 

After two years, I'm majoring in technical communication now. It's basically writing and design for businesses, magazines, web, advertising, legal stuff, editing and publishing jobs, manuals, etc. I like this major because there are a lot of options. I dislike this major because...well, there are a lot of options! I just finished my junior year of college; it's time to think about internships and resumes and finding jobs, and I still don't know what I want to do. I'm afraid to commit to what I want to do, because I'm afraid I don't have what it takes

I'm insecure. And its frustrating, because I wonder what might have been. If I got an English teaching degree, could I have taught English summer classes in China, or had English conversation lessons with the immigrants here in Arizona? If I had pursued journalism, could I have captured the plight of Haitians in the wreckage of the earthquake, or brought attention to the fate of trafficked women and children? Sometimes, I feel like a failure for being afraid of failure. 

In the midst of my self-deprecating pondering, I've been getting emails from Brian while he's at work. He forwarded an article about blogging to me, along with a note: "You should post some of your old poems and stuff on your blog. You may need to see about copyright stuff though 'cause I think a lot of your stuff could be published if the right person reads it." He's brought up a lot of things I haven't thought about much, like buying an URL, branding, and getting published. 

Then Monday after he got home from work, he brought one of his Inc. magazines over to my desk where I was working on schoolwork. 

"Look at the name of the editor of this magazine, and tell me whether it's a guy or a girl."

I was a little confused, thinking it was a trick question. "Jane Berenston...I'm going to go with the obvious answer here, and say woman." 

"Yep. You know, Inc. is a very popular business magazine. Tons of people read it." He took magazine back and stood, just looking down at me.

"Ok," I said, confused. "So...what's your point?"

"Never sell yourself short."

Just the knowledge that Brian believes in me, even when I don't, is enough to make me want to be the best writer or blogger or entrepreneur or magazine editor ever. It's powerful. I'll never forget it.

It's not just Brian. It's my English teachers who took the time to give me good feedback on my work, it's the music teacher who told me, "Emily, for you, the sky's the limit!" It's the art teacher who encouraged me to bring projects I made at home to school to show her, even if it was a book of pictures made out of paper towels! It's my in-laws, who encouraged me to make my own wedding invitations and programs, and put up with my meltdowns and hours of troubleshooting the printer. It's an email or facebook message from my dad. It's the thrill of raising awareness for Haiti by designing posters and handouts for a fundraiser. 

It's the still, small voice that says, "I made you, just the way you are. And I delight in you."

Psalm 149:4 "For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation."
Psalm 147:11 "the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." 
Just stop and think about that for a minute. Is your fear or insecurity holding you back? 

I don't know yet what I will do after college. I do know that God has given me skills and passions, and I'm not going to let fear hold me back from discovering His plan for me.

Who do you know believes in you? What impact does that have on you? Pass it on today and let someone else know that you believe in them.

P.S. This month we are sharing our stories about the way encouragement has made a difference in our lives. Would you share your story with us?

Wednesday, June 15

I Refuse




We might not be able to do everything, but we can refuse to do nothing.

Monday, June 13

When Life is Full

Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote "When Life is Easy," and described the emptiness I felt from just existing every day, doing the same work/school, eat, sleep routine. Brian and I both felt like we needed to do more. We needed to be serving, giving, something that mattered. We were helping with the youth group, but that just meant that we sat in the back row and listened every week.

Well, even as I was writing that post, God was answering our prayer. Not in the way we expected, or, even would have wanted, however. Our youth pastor resigned suddenly. He had been directing Vacation Bible School (VBS) and the youth group was actively involved with helping teachers, games, and performing a daily drama. VBS was only a few weeks away. Would we still have VBS? Who would take over the youth group?

A few minutes after we learned that the youth pastor resigned, Brian got a phone call from one of the other pastors. He wanted to meet with us the next evening after the youth group practiced for the drama.

Brian led the practice, and afterwards, the pastor explained that VBS was still on, and people had stepped up to take over the preparations. He asked us what we were thinking in regards to leading the youth group. Did we want to do it? 

Brian and I had discussed it already, and honestly, we were nervous about saying yes. Did we know enough? Were we old enough? We didn't go to Bible College or get a seminary degree, were we qualified? But despite our apprehensions, we knew that we really wanted to do it. Although the situation was not what anyone would have wished for, the timing was perfect. We had asked God for a way to minister, and now there was one. We decided that if the pastor asked us to lead it, our answer would be yes.

But we're not all on our own, thankfully. The pastor and his wife have 10 years of experience working with teens, and they assured us they wouldn't try to dominate and make us do things their way, but they would be a resource for ideas, any questions, and help. Brian will be discipled one on one on a regular basis, and I'm thinking about finding a mentor for myself too. I know from experience that it's easier to pour into other people when you're being poured into.

This all happened right before my trip to Iowa, so I missed the first time Brian taught Sunday School and Sunday night youth group. The first Sunday we were back was promotion Sunday, so Brian and I got to stand up in front of the church with the youth group and talk about what we'd done in youth group over the last year and what our future plans were. That was hard! Brian did all the talking, but I was nervous for him, because we hadn't been there very long and didn't know all they'd done over the last year, and we weren't sure what our future plans were yet! Brian did very well, and it helped that two of the teens volunteered to talk about what they'd been learning too.

Last Sunday was the first time we got to sit down with all of them and talk about what they wanted to learn about and what they liked to do for youth group activities. We put together a list of service projects and fun stuff we could do, as well as some topics for Sunday School, youth group, and small group. We still have to decide when we'll do what, but first, we have to get through VBS.

That's this week. Saturday we spent all morning and much of the afternoon at church decorating, practicing the drama, working on costumes, etc. Sunday afternoon and evening was the same story. Today was the first day. Our goal was to get up to 60 kids, and we had that many already! I help with registration, lights and sound for the drama, and wherever people need me.

It was a busy and somewhat chaotic morning, but I can tell the children are LOVING our outer space theme! I hope I can get some pictures of the amazing decorations to post. And I'll post pictures of the teens doing their play over here, on the blog I doing for the youth group!

So yes, life is full to the brim right now. Brian and I are trying to exercise consistently, I'm working every day at VBS, we're making plans for the youth, I'm blogging on two blogs and working on the church website, and trying to get some writing done on the side. This weekend is our first year wedding anniversary, so we have a special weekend away planned!

I know this is a long, picture-less post, but thanks for bearing with me. By the way, for some reason, the "Comment" link isn't showing up at the bottom of my posts anymore, and I've tried unsuccessfully to get it back. But, until then, just click on "Links to This Post" or on the post title to see the comment section.

I know Brian and I would both appreciate your prayers. Please pray that we would have wisdom and skill, that we would manage our stress better, and that we would be good examples to follow. Please pray for the teens as they go through this very sudden transition, and as they help with VBS this week. Pray for our VBS too, our hope is that many kids will be positively impacted.

Thanks again for bearing with me through this long post! I appreciate time and your kind comments so much!

Sunday, June 12

Weekend Reading



Friday, June 10

3 Exercise Tips and Tools To Get Your Motivation Back

Are your New Years Resolutions a distant memory, or is your motivation starting to pick up in anticipation of swimsuit season?

Over the last six months, I've repeatedly fallen off the exercise bandwagon and climbed back on. Honestly, I'm ok with that, because I've learned a lot in the process!

healthylifestyleplus.com
One of my New Year's Resolutions was to fix and eat healthier meals. I didn't actually get around to changing my eating habits until March, when I cleaned out my closet and got rid of lots of processed and junk foods. Since then, we've maintained our habits of buying lots of fresh produce, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for snacks, and whole grain bread. That's an accomplishment I'm proud of. We still need to work on eating out less, but hey, we've got another six months!

Another of my New Year's Resolutions was to exercise three times a week. This is where it got tricky. I don't enjoy exercising. At all. I don't like sweating for one thing, but my biggest issue is that I usually get bored after three weeks. Hence, I didn't stick with the 10 minute Pilates solution DVD I mentioned before, and my success with running was also short lived.

Now my goal is to get back to my natural weight. My dietitian sister-in-law talked about that in her guest post about normal eating back in February. I highly recommend reading that post if you're re-evaluating your healthy eating goals. My natural weight is what I weigh when I am moderately active and eating healthy: it's where I feel best about myself, when I'm not overindulging or over exercising. It's a BMI of 22, 132 lbs. I've climbed to 145 lbs., so it will take a little doing to get back there.

I've tried four different approaches to exercise so far this year. As a result, I've learned a few things. First, here are three great tools to keep your exercise routine fresh and exciting, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Tool #1: Lose It! App
I discovered this app about a week ago, and I've used it every day since. If you have a smartphone, or use Google Chrome as your computer browser, you can download the app, and it's free!

In Lose It! you can set fitness goals and record your weight every day. You can also search for and enter what you eat every day to record your nutrition info. Since losing weight is about taking in fewer calories than you expend, it's got a handy little slider that shows you how many more calories you should have each day, and if you go over. It also subtracts the calories you burn through exercise.

You can also set it up so that it emails you a weekly report. It will generate reports for your food, weight, and exercise trends, chart your progress towards your goals, and allow you to add custom foods and exercises for a really accurate result. Plus, you can add friends who also use the app for some accountability! 

Tool #2: Netflix
These days, it seems like almost everyone has Netflix. It's so convenient and reasonably priced! For $7.99 a month, you get unlimited access to their selection of online DVDs. Did you know that Netflix has a lot of exercise DVDs on Watch Instantly? No need to rent the DVD and wait for it to come in the mail, or pay for the DVD and find out you don't like it. The variety makes it easy to mix it up and try something new, at minimal cost.

Tool #3: Craig's List
You can pretty much find anything on Craig's List. We bought a Wii for $80, gently used, and a Wii Fit Plus with balance board, brand new in the box, for $75. You might have to check back regularily and wait for what you want, but it's worth it! Look up your city and see what people are selling if you're looking for an exercise machine or specific workout stuff, like DVDs or weights.


Beyond discovering these tools, I've also learned a few tips:


It's always better with friends! Image.
Tip #1: Get Accountability
Seriously! It makes such a difference when you have someone to ask you how it's going. Right now, Brian and I are both using the Wii Fit Plus. It charts our progress, so we can both see how each other are doing. Similarly  we've added each other as friends on Lose It, so we can see how well we're doing on eating healthy.

Tip #2: Start Where You Are
I've been lured into exercise routines that promise a fit and toned body in 4 weeks, but I've found that I have a much better chance of sticking with something long term if I don't try to tackle too much, too soon. That Pilates DVD was way above my flexibility level, and it was frustrating not being able to keep up. I should have started with an easier Pilates DVD and worked up to that one.

Tip #3: Embrace Change
When your motivation is flagging, it's probably a sign that it's time to try something else. When walking three times a week got boring, I should have switched right away to running, and when that got boring, switched to something else instead of just quitting exercise when I tired of doing the same thing. If you get sick of DVDs, try switching between two or three workouts during the week, like doing Pilates Mondays, yoga on Wednesdays, and a dance workout on Fridays. Mix it up with a class at the YMCA.

Have you found any of the above to be true for you? What do you do when your motivation fizzles out? Share your tips and tools with us in the comments!


Wednesday, June 8

Take Action Bible Book Review

The Take Action Bible, NKJV: Together We Can Change the World is unlike any Bible I've used before. Thomas Nelson Publishers partnered with World Vision to create this unique Bible. 

This Bible features:
  • 48 full-color pages
  • 15 real-life stories show how to take action with God's Word
  • 52 Take Action ideas
  • Personal Take Action note pages
  • New King James Version® (NKJV) UltraSlim Bible text
  • Translation and text notes
  • Words of Jesus in red
  • Concordance
  • Bible reading plan
The purpose behind this Bible is to encourage believers to put into action what they read. The 15 true stories illustrate how people did just that, from young couples moving to the mission field, to an elderly widow who feeds the homeless, to a nine year old raising money for flood victims with a lemonade stand. Following each set of stories, there are Personal Take Action pages to jot down your thoughts and ideas. In the back of the Bible, you'll find a list of 52 take action ideas, one for each week of the year.

My favorite part about this Bible was the stories. I love that they chose to feature people of all ages, from many different countries, those that God used to do incredible things, both big and small. Well, small by our standards. The stories brought home to me that in God's eyes, our obedience is what matters, not the magnitude of what we do.

I love that this Bible stresses the importance of working with other believers ("Together we can change the world") and showing our faith by our works, laying up treasure in heaven, and demonstrating Christ's love right where we are, and all over the world. 


The 52 action ideas were a great idea, but I don't think it's really realistic to try to do one each week. For instance, if you're on vacation, you can't really invite a displaced person over for a meal (#6). Others, like donating a bag of toys to the children's hospital, aren't really possible for people without kids. HOWEVER, I think the list is a great place to start. I recommend going through the ideas and picking two to do each month, or something a long those lines.

I like that there's a Bible verse given for each action item. For example, #2. Pick up a random piece of trash you see this week and throw it away (Genesis 2:15). By backing each idea with scripture, this Bible really does encourage you to take action on what you read. 


There's also a website, SeeGodsWordinAction.com, where you can share your stories of putting God's Word in action and be inspired and challenged by others. The site features news articles and resources, as well as a weekly challenge. You can also support World Vision by buying a Bible. Now there's an example of a small action that makes a difference.

This Bible would make a great gift for someone interested in ministry, or a great Bible to work through as a family. If you buy it through my link to Amazon.com, I'll earn 4% commission on your purchase. Currently, I'm donating my commissions to Food For the Hungry, another worthy organization that works around the world to care for people's physical and spiritual needs.

On Amazon, the Take Action Bible, NKJV: Together We Can Change the World new costs $11.24.



I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What books have challenged you to "take action"? Where do you find ideas for making a difference? I'd love to know!

Monday, June 6

Who Encourages You?

Maybe it was a hug or a hand on your shoulder, an "I believe in you" glance, or a card sent in the mail. It came at the moment you needed it most, and it encouraged you to stick it out, or to take that risk, or make that next step. And you've never been the same. 



Starting now, I'd like to do a new series of posts that focus on people who make a difference. There are many, many ways to make a difference, and sometimes it's the little things that have the most lasting impact.

Take for instance, this story about Sarah Edwards, the wife of the well known preacher Jonathan Edwards. In 1741 the Edwards' opened their home to a young discouraged pastor named Samuel Hopkins. In his own words:
I was very gloomy and was most of the time retired in my chamber. After some days, Mrs. Edwards came...and said as I was now become a member of the family for a season, she felt herself interested in my welfare and as she observed that I appeared gloomy and dejected, she hoped I would not think she intruded [by] her desiring to know and asking me what was the occasion of it...I told her...I was in a Christless, graceless state...upon which we entered into a free conversation and...she told me that she had [prayed] respecting me since I had been in the family; that she trusted I should receive light and comfort and doubted not that God intended yet to do great things by me. (pg 26Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God, by Noelle Piper)
Although she had seven children of her own at the time, she took an interest in him reached out with words of encouragement. He never forgot it, and went on to become a pastor in Newport, Rhode Island. The town was entrenched in the slave trade. He spoke out strongly against it, and although his message was unpopular, one young man, William Ellery Channing, was so inspired that he became a pastor himself. William went on to  influence Emerson and Thoreau, and played a major part in the abolitionist movement. (Faithful Women, pg 26)

Have you had a Sarah Edwards in your life, someone who forever changed you with their words of encouragement? I want to hear about it! This month, write a post about someone who encouraged you, or how you encouraged someone, and email it to me! I'll feature them throughout the month so that we can all be inspired and encouraged to do the same!

Has someone already come to mind? Before you start typing, take a look at my guest post guidelines

I CAN'T WAIT to hear your stories!!! In the meantime, do you have any suggestions for the title of the series? "Make a Difference Monday" was already taken, so I came up with "World Change Wednesday." But I'd really like to be able to feature the posts on Fridays. It doesn't have to use alliteration, but I am looking for something catchy. Leave a suggestion in the comments! 


Friday, June 3

I'm Back! Highlights from My Trip

I'm back from my vacation in the Midwest, and consequently, I'm back to blogging! Here's the highlights from my one and a half weeks away.

Phase 1: The Parties

Iowa at last!
This was the second time I've flown alone, and I'm still pretty new to flying even with someone. Thankfully, everything went well, I didn't loose a bag this time, and I survived the turbulence on the little plane that took me from Minneapolis to my home town.

Right away, I had a few graduation parties for kids from my home church, my niece's first birthday party, and my younger sister's graduation party. I guess as a result of my somewhat solitary life in Arizona, my immune system wasn't prepared for the large crowds of people. I came down with a sore throat that weekend, which rapidly progressed to a sinus infection that made me miserable for the rest of my vacation, even though I got antibiotics early on.


This is my niece's first birthday party! As you can see, there's quite a crowd. Around 30 people came. 


They had cookies, cake pops, cupcakes, AND a birthday cake!


I'm not sure what she enjoyed more, the balloon or the wrapping paper from her gifts.


Happy first birthday! I can't believe it's already been a YEAR!

Unfortunately, I was too busy talking to people at my sister's graduation party to take any pictures. I don't have any pictures of the scrapbook I made for her either, but it did turn out well and she really appreciated it. I was very impressed by how well everything came together for her party, and as far as I could tell, people really enjoyed it. 

After all the weekend craziness, I hung out with my BFF for an afternoon. She and I checked out the new bookstore in the mall, went to dinner at Applebees, and scoured the Goodwill. I scored this sheer red and white ruffled top for $3, and a pair of Clarks heels in new condition, also for $3! We also watched Tangled (My verdict- adorable! Go see it if you haven't!). We had a great time catching up, and I'm really glad it worked out with her busy work schedule and summer classes. I miss her already.


This is the shirt, and I'll show you the heels next week. 

I brought this project dress that I found at Goodwill awhile back to work on with my MIL. She was very skeptical about my plan to turn it into something cute. 


But we did! However, I'm saving that for a later post! Stay tuned for the tutorial!

Also during the week, I spent a few hours learning from my brother-in-law how to use the software for my church's website. He was extremely helpful! 

I had lunch with my older sister and helped her find a gift for the upcoming wedding, and I got to spend some one on one time with my younger sister over coffee, followed by shopping. And, we sisters had a girl's night at my older sister's house and watched Ever After and ate popcorn and leftover birthday cake. That was fun!

I went to the promotion ceremony for the Christian school my youngest brother attends. The teachers say something nice about each student and give them character awards. Eric was awarded for humility and excellence in science.  

The boy in the light blue shirt is him. I was too far to get any good pictures.

Overall, I really enjoyed this phase of the trip. I'm grateful that I got to spend quality time with friends and immediate family members, and see my old church family and extended family members too.

Phase 2: The Wedding
After Eric's ceremony on Friday, I rode with my in-laws to Des Moines to the rehearsal dinner for Brian's cousin's wedding. We were quite a bit late, so we missed the boring part and were just in time for the dinner! Brian flew in to Des Moines a few hours earlier, so we were finally reunited! 

After the dinner and talking with the relatives, we arranged to meet Brian's best friend at Village Inn to hang out. We talked until late, which probably wasn't the best thing for my health, because I took a turn for the worse the next day. But, it was totally worth it to see Jay and catch up on each other's lives. 

Saturday was the wedding!

Bride and Groom
The ceremony was beautiful. I'm so glad Brian and I could attend.

I can't believe we've been married almost a year!

Phase 3: The Retirement Ceremony
The morning after the wedding, we began the 13 hour drive to Dayton, Ohio for Brian's uncle's retirement ceremony. His uncle was a colonel and had been in the air force for 30 years after graduating from the Air Force Academy. 

I was excited for this phase of the trip, because I hadn't met many of Brian's relatives on his dad's side. They live all over the place, and I'd only meet some of them the night before our wedding, and didn't have time to really talk to them much then. 

Getting down there was quite the deal. It poured most of the way, and at some point, the van broke down. We had to pull to the side of the interstate, rocked by every passing semi. My FIL proceeded to work on the problem in the driving rain, but a large gust of wind from a semi truck passing by blew the hood off of it's prop and smashed it down, latching it, with his hand inside! Brian jumped over the seat and popped the hood, and dashed out to lift it up. Miraculously, my FIL's hand wasn't broken. It's possible that his wedding ring saved his fingers. 

After that ordeal, with Brian holding up the hood, my FIL fixed the issue. Unfortunately, he'd left the headlights on, and the battery was dead. We figured out where we were, and my MIL called Triple A to jump start us. They arrived in 15 minutes, and we were on our way!

We crashed at the hotel when we made it to Dayton, but the next morning I went over to Brian's uncle's house and got to meet the family. Brian and I and my in-laws spent most of the day at the Air Force Museum. I didn't bring my camera, so you'll have to take my word for it that it's really, REALLY awesome! 

That evening, Brian's uncle had a casual open house, so I got to meet the rest of the family and spend the evening getting to know them. 

The next morning I spent alone in the hotel, writing and recharging. I enjoy people, but it can be really draining for me to meet and talk to so many at once. I enjoyed some alone time after all the busyness. 

Then it was time for the ceremony! We got all dressed up, and got there early. The ceremony was very well done and emotional, but the four star general who spoke and Brian's uncle focused on keeping it light and positive. It was clear that Uncle Lansen was a respected and admired leader. I loved that they took the time to honor his family, especially his wife and his mother. 

This is us, "hob-nobbing with the big shots" as my dad would say

Lansen's medals
Traveling with Brian is so much more enjoyable! We had two uneventful flights and arrived home in good time to get some groceries before sleeping in our own beds.


I read A Cowboy's Touch in it's entirety on just the flights to Iowa; I didn't even read it during the hour of layover I had. Then I read Something Borrowed on the way home and during maybe 2 hours of our layover, with fifteen minutes to spare before we landed! Yeah, romantic fiction doesn't take me too long! Brian was impressed with my reading speed. I tried reading some solid classical literature, but I got about four chapters into Uncle Tom's Cabin and realized I wasn't in the mood. Light, predictable, fun reading was what I craved, and while I don't recommend either of these books if you are a literature snob like me, they fit the bill perfectly this time. 

I miss our family and friends, but while we were in Ohio, I remembered just how miserable summers are in the Midwest. The temperature was in the 90's, but the humidity! Unbelievable! You'd walk outside, instantly start sweating, and it would just stay on your skin. Sticky and miserable! I definitely prefer 100 degrees in Arizona!  Interestingly, I was sick the whole time I was there, but almost right away after getting back, I'm greatly improved. I'm convinced it has to do with our drier air!

So, there you have it! It's good to be back!