Gingerbread Girls & Grace

Let the Christmas festivities begin! We had a Ladies’ Christmas Tea at our church on Monday night. The theme for the night was, Gingerbread Girls & Grace. The theme for the decorations was obviously, gingerbread  everything! We had gingerbread houses,  gingerbread  girls decorating the table,  gingerbread favors, and of course cookies!

My daughter, Whitney was our speaker.

She used the analogy of making a gingerbread house and the disappointment hers would have been, had she entered our contest we hosted that night. She said hers would’ve…

  1. Not looked like yours.
  2. Not looked like she thought it would have.

The analogy is, neither does

  • My life doesn’t look like yours.
  • My life look like I thought it would.

Each of our lives is a story, written by God. We can never doubt His love for us, no matter. Lamentations 3:22, 23 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is His faithfulness. The end goal is we become Christlike, therefore, we can embrace the struggles gladly.

What great truths these were. I’ll be looking at my Gingerbread attempt with these reminders in my heart!

Here are pictures of our wonderful evening at church…

The Gingerbread contest…

My entry…

Whitney sharing God’s Word with us…

Does your life look differently than you thought? Does your life look different than others’? See God’s Sovereign hand and his sufficient Grace shaping and molding you in your spiritual growth to become like Christ!

Denise

Birthday Reflections

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Birthdays ~ we have one every year, and mine just happened to be yesterday.  To be honest, there are days when I sigh at getting older, but I’m finding that the way to beat the blues is to enter each year (and each day) with a thankful heart.

As I sat and reflected on my birthday, I came up with this list of SOME of the blessings that have fallen to me in this last year.

  • The blessing of getting to share God’s Word and speak to women.  This last year I spoke again at a Pastor’s wives retreat not long after my birthday.  You typically don’t get asked to speak when you’re still “green” in ministry.  But when you’ve weathered the storms and can still smile and love God with all your heart, you have validity in your message. I also had the blessing of flying to Michigan and doing a ladies’ retreat at a great church.  That was so wonderful.  The ladies encouraged my heart.  The time up north was beautiful as we looked out the windows at the drifted snow.  I am so amazed at the blessings and joys God gives me in allowing me to serve Him!
  • Thanksgiving with my parents. I am so blessed to be four hours from my parents and be able to spend time with them.  Family grows dearer with every day.  I realize more and more how precious a gift it is to be with them, to glean from them and show love to them.  This year was the first time it was just my husband and me with my mom and dad.  We put their Christmas tree up after dinner, watched Christmas movies with hot bowls of popcorn in our laps, and took drives in the country.  It sounds like its own kind of Hallmark movie, doesn’t it?  It was.
  • Days of retreat at a lake cabin.  To have dear friends who allow us time at their cabin that we might refresh ourselves is a blessing I cannot even describe.  We didn’t need as many days to rest up when we were younger, but to have a day away gives us new vigor for the ministry and refreshes our weary bodies!
  • Christmas with our grown children.  If you think Christmas with your little kids was fun, wait until they’re all grown and you see their faces with their spouses sitting around your dining room table. My heart was as full as my dining room table as we ate, laughed, reminisced, played games, opened the Scriptures, prayed and shared gifts.  Wow.  How sweet.
  • Enjoying a second trip to Israel.  This would never have happened in my younger days!  First, there was no desire to go.  But also, the demands of parenting wouldn’t have allowed it, nor would our bank account!  But God graciously provided in every way, and this second trip was even better than the first!
  • Special times away with my husband.  As in the prior blessing, our times away years ago were few and far between.  We enjoyed dates near home, and that was great!  But now we can go away for a night or an afternoon and not worry about homeschool, or schedules of children at home.  We went to DreamMore resort in Pigeon Forge for Valentine’s Day and had so much fun!  We’ve enjoyed Pigeon Forge Wyndham Resort a couple of times, as well.  Afternoons at Biltmore are a favorite for both of us as we stroll the gardens, forgetting pressures and concentrating on communication and time together.  We realize that every day we have together is a gift from God.
  • Becoming a (foster) Grandparent.  Though the twin boys my daughter and son-in-law are caring for are not our flesh, they were born in our hearts!  They’ve completely taken over every chamber and we are blessed to be a part of their lives and smother them with love!!  I had no idea how full this time in my life would be! Wow, just wow.
  • Ministering to children, both at home and church.  My weekly Bible club with my neighbor children is such a joy to me. What a gift to get to pour God’s Word into their hearts and minds.  Pioneer Club at church has been another way to get to serve God and minister to first and second graders!
  • Our first family vacation.  I shared about that here on my blog, but I can’t leave that out of my blessings!  It was so much fun!

This doesn’t include the times I’ve spent in God’s Word, hearing from Him, and talking to Him in prayer.  I’ve left out all the sweet hours of fellowship with friends and family, in our home, in theirs, at church, in restaurants and other meeting up sites.  Even on my birthday yesterday, we had “fellowship” in the hospital where my poor brother-in-law is recovering from surgery due to fall from a roof and subsequent severe injuries.  We gathered in the waiting area and prayed, read Scripture and waited together.  Those are not the planned kind of gatherings, but they do become sweet blessings because they add to the depth of my life as I reflect on the joy of having a family who can hold hands and run to God’s Throne together.  Years ago I may have regretted spending my birthday at the hospital, but not this year.  It’s a reminder that every day’s outcome is how you view it.  This was all orchestrated by God’s hands, allowing us to have planned a trip home at this particular time.  Only God knew why we needed to be here.

My birthday was filled with blessings and my heart is full.  One last blessing is the growth of my blog.  Thank you to each of you who read my posts regularly.  Thank you to those who have followed me recently. Thanks to those of you who comment and encourage me. I am amazed that others read what I’ve written, but I’m so very grateful!  I trust that as the year progresses, God will grant wisdom and help to make this worth reading each day.

What blessings would you recount on your birthday?  If you haven’t, start making a list in a journal today!

Another year older, but even more blessed,

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This Trial Is Killing Me!

Not long ago I had the blessing of a lovely summer afternoon in the swimming pool. I grabbed a pool noodle, sat on top of it and floated and drifted a couple of hours away. Had I worn a device to track my exercise, it would have only marked my steps into the water. There was little effort or difficulty in my afternoon. It was leisure that I loved, though it had little bodily profit!

A day later I saw a You Tube video of a woman showing how to make the pool a place of exercise. With the guidance of a coach, she did several kinds of swimming strokes, making long, difficult laps the length of the pool. She kicked, bobbed, and pushed her way through a regime that literally took her breath away. She did everything the coach was telling her to do. At one point she said to him, “You’re killing me!” It was hard work but it was truly profitable to her!

The contrast of those two pool adventures reminds me of how life is for the believer. There are times when we float along, enjoying the refreshment of God’s grace, yet we aren’t stretched or changed by those careless hours. It’s in the time of trial when we find ourselves kicking, bobbing and pushing; clinging to God’s instruction and listening to His voice that change really comes. When the bodily movements are not resisting the Lord and what He wants to do, it will truly benefit our Christian life!

Proverbs 12:28 says,

In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.

God knows that we need seasons of difficulty to strengthen our prayer muscles. Our heart muscles of faith in His Word may need to be greater. The very breathing in of our knowledge of His character may require stretching, so He brings resistance and difficulty. We may cry out, “You’re killing me!” because we’re tired. We want the straining and hardship to be over. We would rather be floating on a raft, gazing up at the clear sky, than being splashed in the face of our own weakness. But when we call out to the one in charge, our sovereign God, who loves us and wants us to grow and change, He comforts. He marks out a pathway of life – deep, strong, eternal life that is far better than the weak one we would choose if we might.

If you’re in the midst of the hard laps of trial right now, look beyond the poolside and see the change that will result if you listen to the One who is guiding you. He’ll know when it’s time to allow you to float again. And when you see your reflection shining back at you in the water, you can be sure that it will look so much more like Christ!

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Organizing Your Prayer Journal

The Word of God is my favorite Book.  Oh, how I love it.  My Bible is a treasure to me.  Its worn, marked up pages and loose binding are all precious, and I wouldn’t take  a million dollars for it. I mean it.

Now, let me tell you about my second favorite book.  It’s my prayer Journal.  I began using this almost ten years ago.  It has been to the “hospital” many times.  I’ve had to make new pages and add paper reinforcers.  I’ve had to remove pages to make room for more requests, more answers to prayer, and more notes from my morning Bible reading.

When I look at its pages and see the check marks, which reveal an answer to prayer, my heart leaps with gratitude and joy at my wonderful God.  It’s a reminder to me that God answers prayer!  It keeps me coming back day after day, moment by moment to cry out to the Lord for the burdens and needs in my life and the lives of others I know.

Corrie Ten Boom referred to prayer as our steering wheel.  I’ve likened my prayer journal to a car.  Without the car, the steering wheel wouldn’t have direction or a place to go! Of course you can pray without a journal, but in my experience, before I began a serious prayer journal, I prayed, but I really didn’t have a prayer life. A life is the period of existence, activity, or effectiveness of something inanimate, and without the direction of my journal, my prayer life really wasn’t that effective.

Using the imagery of a car, let me explain how a prayer journal can help your prayer life.

It’s great to have a glove box (pocket) at the front in order to hold verses of Scripture that you can pray.

The radio being on, (you singing a song of praise) is a great way to start your time alone with God.

Every car needs a clean windshield (heart), and it’s helpful to have windshield cleaning fluid (a time of confession of sin) ready to do the job necessary to have a clean heart..

It’s time to start the engine (petitioning) when you specifically ask God for the requests before you.  Have a seat for everyone (a different page for each family member).  List their needs for each day of the week.

What a blessing it is to look in your rear view mirror (at the past) and see how God has answered your prayers!  Be sure to make a check mark beside that request and write how God took care of that request.  It will increase your faith and cause you to pray more fervently in the future!

If you have a trunk (back pocket) in your binder, put your prayer bulletin there, missionary prayer cards, or other tools that will help you pray more specifically.

Park the car (sit still and alone) while you pray.  Don’t let the engine idle (don’t have distractions around you).  Be all there so you can pray and then listen to God.

Rosalind Goforth, missionary to China in the late 1800’s wrote a book, How I Know God Answers Prayer.  She had to have a method of recording His answers in order to write a book like this.  Could you write a whole book of how God has been at work while you’ve prayed?  It will only happen as you record it, otherwise you will forget.

I challenge you to get a journal of some model (kind) started.  See how it will change your prayer life!

Do you use a journal when you pray?  What’s keeping you from starting one?

With love,

Why We Must Be Serious About Spiritual Growth

This week I’ve shared posts about spiritual growth – how it happens and how to aid it’s development, but you may be wondering what the big deal is.  Some women have the thought that when they get older then they’ll work on it then.  Life is too busy right now to think about Bible study, prayer and a close walk with God.  After all, their life is going along pretty good, so what’s the fuss about?  Can I share a few reasons why it’s crucial that you’re a growing follower of Christ?

  1. Christ didn’t just die to save you from hell.  He died to have a relationship with you, and you with Him!  John 15:15 –Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. A believer is truly cheating themselves out on so many blessings when they don’t walk with the Lord each day.  He gives direction, guidance, help, conviction when we veer off the path, acceptance, joy the world cannot give, and a purpose for this life we live on the earth. People that get saved and then ignore Christ are missing the whole point and will be saved, “so as by fire.”
  2. Trials don’t come with a warning.  How can you be prepared for a crisis, then?
    When a woman in the public eye learned that her husband was having an affair, how could she wake up in the morning and not be absolutely overcome with so much grief that she wouldn’t be able to function?  How can parents endure the death of their infant?  How do you face a health crisis of your own?  Where do you turn for stability when a teen turns their back on everything they’ve been taught?  The only way we can prepare for any crisis is by filling our hearts and minds with God’s Word and His promises and having them in our heart.  It’s like having a room of ammunition  ready to shoot at the lies that come to our hearts.  Truth is in God’s Word.  If we have waited until “some other day” to grow spiritually, you can bank on it – when a crisis comes, the only way to manage is to find a way out through substance abuse or escape.  What a sad ending.  Rather than having an anchor for our soul, we would be totally unstable.  Now is the time to prepare for a storm.
  3. Your testimony is at stake.  The psalmist said in Psalm 119:74,  They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.  What do others see when they watch your life?  Are you a Christian in name, but you don’t know what God’s Word says?  Can you teach your children about the Bible, or is it a foreign book to you?  Do others question the validity of your life as a follower of Christ because you know more of the world than you do of Christ and His Word?  Our lives and words should match up, and that can only happen when we’re in the Word regularly, reading, studying, memorizing, making notes, and digging until we’ve heard from God.  When we do that, it will change us!  That’s a living testimony.  Here’s how it will look:
    1. You’ll step out in faith because you know you can trust God.
    2. You’ll be a Word-filled person who speaks God’s Word to yourself and others.
    3. You’ll be sharing the Gospel with the lost, conscious of those around you that have not heard the Good news.
    4. You won’t fall apart in storms.
    5. You’ll be consistent  – not perfect, but steady and sure, keeping your eyes on the goal of heaven and eternity.

Growing in Christ is for every one of us. If you struggle with a desire to grow, ask God to give you that longing.  He will, and then watch what happens over a period of time – it will be another act of God’s amazing grace!

Let’s keep growing, friends, it will refresh you like nothing else in this world!

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Sure and Steady Growth

 

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Isn’t it amazing what a little dose of Miracle Gro will do for a plant? This window box is nearly bursting at the seams with pansies, Lobelia, Creeping Jenny and a couple other annuals after a couple waterings with the fertilizer.

On the outside of my box of Miracle Gro it says, “Starts to work instantly – promotes quick, beautiful results.” I must say, it really does work well – if you remember to use it! Sometimes when I’ve neglected adding the plant food to my watering can I’ll be reminded just by the look of the plant. The blooms aren’t multiplying; instead it’s just maintaining its existence in my yard. Then the thought strikes my mind – “Add Miracle Gro!” Bingo! The plants take to it, and they’re off and blooming again.

I wonder if any one’s thought of creating a miracle grow for the Christian life; a neat little package that if applied weekly will guarantee “quick, beautiful results.” “That’s ridiculous!” you say. Of course it is, but I wonder how many would pick up the package and give it a good consideration? Growth in our spiritual life is gradual. It comes slowly, from day by day study of the Word, and that’s hard. We want to see sprouts of new growth overnight.

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Just as I neglect the needed addition to my plants occasionally, we’re prone to neglect what we know will bring growth in our spiritual lives. It takes too much effort. We may be very thirsty and know we need a drink from the Living Fountain of God’s Word, but it’s just easier to go talk to a friend about my issues. We’re content with a little splash of water – a quick prayer, a light reading of Scripture without a real longing to commune with our Savior.

Sometimes our loving “Gardener” will bring a trial that will force growth. We’re pushed to the Word every day because it becomes our very sustenance. We can’t survive without it and we are very aware of need. For weeks, perhaps months our lives sprout under the nourishment of God’s Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.”

After the trial, have you ever found yourself feeling not so needy and falling back into your comfortable routine of neglect? We all have to guard our hearts so that we continue to grow by delighting in the Word. We are preparing for the next trial before it arrives.

Psalm 119:80 – Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed. 

When the next trial comes, we will find that our heart is “sound” or secure in the Word. We have new blooms, so to speak. They’ve come gradually by the meditating of the word (Psalm 119:11) and we won’t be ashamed, in other words, we won’t fall apart and come unglued because we didn’t know how to apply the Scriptures to our situation.

The missionary Amy Carmichael said this about spiritual growth:

“Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they are won through step by step by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps. They only see the accomplishment, but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph to spiritual maturity. That is the work of the moment. “

We’ll never be done with growing until we reach heaven’s shores; it’s a slow yet deliberate process. There’s no Miracle Gro remedy for us as there is for my plants, but growth is certain if we just do what we know we need to do with our gracious Savior’s enabling.

What are you doing today to promote growth in your spiritual life? I’d love to hear about how you study the Word to keep it fresh!

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The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge:
but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
Proverbs 15:14

What parent is there that would want their child to remain an infant all their life? As cute as our babies are, we rejoice at each step of growth as they mature. In the same way, as we continue on this journey of walking with the Lord, we have must first have a relationship with God by receiving Christ as our personal Savior. After that, the natural outflow from our spiritual life should be growth.

We all experience dry spells, but for the most part, we should be making progress spiritually. It is aided by purposeful focus. We will purposefully seek knowledge if it is our desire to grow in the Lord more each day.

In order to go beyond just floating along in our Christian life, we need to dig deeper. The means that one woman, Elizabeth George used was:

  1. She never bought a skirt or pair of pants without pockets in it. At the beginning of the week she would write a new memory verse on a 3×5 card and would take it out all day long and read it and work on hiding that verse in her heart. What verse are you currently working on memorizing?
  2. She had “Five Fat Files.” She purchased five file folders in order to tuck away information on Biblical subject matters. She was to pick five areas in which she wanted to grow in expertise so that she was filling herself up with knowledge in these areas.

    In order for us to follow this advice we need to ask ourselves (and pray about) what we’d like to be known for. Do you want to be known as a woman of prayer? Mentoring? Soul winning? After you’ve chosen your five Biblical topics, seek knowledge in these areas. You’ll then know what subjects to be studying. We can’t read everything, but when we have chosen five areas, we have a better idea of what kind of books we should be looking for. We’ll know which workshops to attend when we go to a ladies’ retreat. We’ll clip articles from magazines on those subjects, or print off information we read on the Internet. We can talk with people who are excelling in those areas and ask them questions.

It really helps to funnel our attention to a much smaller focus, and then to seek knowledge especially in those five areas. How will this aid your spiritual growth? You’ll be anxious to get out of bed in the morning to jump up and get in God’s Word to learn more what He says about those five subjects.

Along with filling your five fat files, Elizabeth encourages us to code our Bibles. If you’re seeking knowledge about prayer, mark a P next to each verse you read about praying, a person who prayed, how to pray, Jesus’ prayers, etc. If you make a study of the Women of the Bible, role of women, older women, place a W beside each passage you find about them. Each day as you read your Bible, read it with a pen in hand; that is an act of faith, revealing that you’re certain the Lord is going to show you a nugget that you need to mark.

This kind of study is the main stream to ministry. As you fill yourself up in these five areas, you’ll be like a teapot jumping on the stove. You’ll be so filled with knowledge from God’s Word that you’ll be pouring out on other people. Like the woman that Elizabeth learned from, women will seek you out to get wisdom from the areas in which you have grown.

So, what kind of ministry will you have from the outflow of your spiritual growth? By His grace, let’s each choose those five areas and start growing!

Because of His grace,