Friday, December 30, 2011

Celebrate Your Victories!

What was the last victory you had? If it takes you too long or you go back too far then I have to challenge you because I bet you've had more than you think.

1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It's easy to focus on failure and hard times. Am I a 'skinny minny' or even completely fit here at the end of 2011? Nope. Have there been hard times? Yeah, my grandpa died and I was sick most of the year...but do I want to look back at 2011 and just think about that?! NO WAY. So I made a list full of victories and positive things from the year. It was hard. I had to look at my facebook pictures just to try to remember.

Victory comes both large and small depending on what you are going through. My largest victory has probably been in my purity. A small one was that all the plants I transplanted across the backyard lived. LOL.

I was reading the little list to my best friend and she had a brilliant idea. She basically said wouldn't it be great to have a Victory Jar that throughout the year you could write down victories and drop them in? Then at the end of 2012 you could pull them out and read them. What a beautiful lady she is!

I really like that idea. I will work on my own Victory/Positive things Jar for that very purpose tomorrow. I'll probably pre-cut the slips of paper to make it easier on myself. I realized that if I make it a clear jar I could see it FILL with my victories. Even that would inspire me since I'm such a visual gal. I'll try to post a picture of mine, & hers if she sends it, once it's done.

I can just see it now...my side table with a Rainy Day jar for spare change on one end and a Victory jar on the other. Priceless.

Below are some of my list from the past year:
- didn't give up on taking the medicine for the full amount of months it was prescribed
- got closer to my grandma
- went to two Hillsong concerts
- had a great birthday staycation with my best friend; yay!
- got to know my neighbor better
- enjoyed time with my coworkers
- adopted Manna (my 3rd cat) and had a great victory with integrating him and my resident cats (sisters Trickle & Sunny)
- changed my work hours to be able to have my Coffee & Cozy times with God in the morning PLUS now I have time to work out consistently
- bought my 1st car all on my own
- didn't spend but saved the $2,000+ escrow money that was sent back to me by accident for a whole year to be used for property taxes
- got off that prescribed medicine when it was time w/no side effects! woo-hoo...and so happy to feel creative again
- successful 2nd Annual Holiday Cookie baking party
- learned to needle felt :)
- paid early bird registration for June 2012 International conference
- grew a small garden with peppers and tomatoes
- finished crocheting a blanket for my coworker
- did a TON of work on the house (painted front door blue, stained all the cabinets, painted the heavy brass fireplace screen, bought an Eco digital thermostat...etc)
- had all the trees successfully trimmed and bad one removed
- got to see my childhood home again
- hiked the lookout 'mountain' in a nearby state park
- found the name my best friend and her husband used for their baby girl...ah, that feels good
- painted two new pictures of Black-eyed Susan's & my first picture using oil (musical rest sign)
- successful in relocating plants across the yard
- survived the Feb ice storm and loved every minute of it - created a new shrimp stew
- purchased a super fun personalized license plate..always wanted to do that
- helped to fund raise ALOT of money at work
- successfully got approval for new donor recognition items in brand new building
- placed on the change management team as and extra project for the new database change
- started a blog to place my book ideas into
- read at least 8 books
- Ilean, the three-legged doggie on deathlow got adopted
- began concrete planning of my birthday/dream list adventure to cross of the list will be to see those Oregon Cheetahs in April;


Psalm 118:15
Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: “The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!

Proverbs 2:7
He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Dare You To Move

As a baby-Christian, I justified continuing to listen to popular pop/rap music stations because I mentored in the teen ministry. At that time, I picked up teens from one city and drove them twice a week 1 hour 30 minutes away to our church building. It was a long drive so it was helpful to know what music was popular and what the teens listened to so that I could monitor the music. Even though none of them wanted to become Christians, I was able to ask them questions about why they liked certain songs or artists and share my faith with them and my past. A few years before becoming a disciple, I had only heard one Christian song that I thought wasn't boring. Remember I grew up in the 80's and heavy metal hair bands were what rock'd the airwaves. This female artist was named Rebecca St. James and she had a song called 'God'. It was fairly heavy rock...especially for those days.

After three years of mentoring teens, I think I was about 4yrs as a Christian, I left that ministry and returned to lead in the singles. A new Christian rock station had just started, or I'd just found it. I was growing very tired of all the sexual or depressing pop/country and violent rap/rock music out there...which didn't help me overcome any of my struggles...and no, just buying the instrumental version of a song you already know the bad lyrics to doesn't work well either if you've already heard the lyrics. I know because I tried that. I decided I'd give the station 3 days and then decide whether or not to completely switch music. I listened to a song by Switchfoot called "I dare you to move" and...

I never went back.

Since then I've searched hard for music that is spiritual and fun. I was shocked at the difference it made in my heart and mind. What?! I don't have to self filter? You know what I mean...when a song is bad and you try not to pay attention to that bad word or subject because you just love that beat & sound so much. Whatever...let's get real. It's amazing to now just have positive songs come to mind! I no longer wake up in the morning just to be tortured by certain dirty songs repeating themselves in my head.

I started listening to artists like Hawk Nelson, rappers like KJ-52 and lecrae (Dallas guy), Switchfoot, TobyMac, Yolanda Adams, Jeremy Camp, Fireflight, Tenth Avenue North, Flame, TripLee & SuperChick or Barlow Girls (both of those are great for teen girls too). Now there are so many! We really have options. Are you still settling or making excuses? There is music out there to inspire you as a Christian and lift your spirits. If you haven't yet...maybe you should take a 3 day challenge?

Below are a few songs to give you a tiny sample...these are some of my favorites. Although there are so many, sometimes music can be hard to find if you only rely on the radio to find them. Most of these are not played on local stations 'cause they are still considered too non-traditional for the bible belt. If you have kids, then maybe it can help you to find options for them too! I've found new artists because they were mentioned on another artist's page.


Click here for KJ-52's song this is for the ladies (he sounds a lot like eminem, try his song Plain White Rapper for a little laugh, & Life after Death for humbling chills)

Click here for the song 'Stronger' from Hillsong (rock worship music, they can be tagged as Hillsong, Hillsong Live, Hillsong Chapel, or Hillsong United)

Click here for the song 'One Girl Revolution' by Superchick (heavy version - love it. You might recognize their song Pure)

Lecrae's - Don't waste your life; quick rap (he uses a ton of scriptures!)

Fireflight: Unbreakable (hard rock-she seriously has an amazing voice, the words are deep)

Lecrae & C-Lite - Background (softer style rap, very chill)

Hillsong United - Yours Forever (worship song) Love this one. Don't let these concert videos fool ya. The pit up front has younger folks but the audience is very diverse in age and culture.

Switchfoot - Dare Your To Move (original video)

SuperChick - Stand Up (mob action remix)

Rebecca St. James - God (just for fun- this video is from the mid 90's but don't hold that against the song - lol. if you close your eyes the lyrics still are beautiful)

Happy hunting :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vision Board: "Write Down This Vision"

Wow, it's been a challenging day! I thought I wouldn't blog again until the new year but a project that I finished about an hour ago has really helped me to get perspective. Today is a day of cleansing in a lot of ways for my body, mind, and soul. This a.m. I pasted scriptures all over the house and committed to spending 10 minutes meditating on each one of them. Even though I know God placed this activity on my heart, I've had to make myself do it...but during and after each time I'm totally happy that I did. All kinds of junk has been coming out of my heart...I don't know why I'm surprised...after all that's what 'cleansing' is meant to do. Thanks God for taking the pruning clippers to me!

Because God is always one step ahead of us, He seems to have put a project on my heart yesterday, probably cause he knew it would lift my spirit up after a day of getting the dirt out. The timing is excellent. I really needed the refreshment.

In Habakkuk 2:2 the Lord says, "Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it." (HCSB)

The Lord isn't talking about doing this project but the words fit well. ha. Since yesterday I've been working to create a Vision Board. I got so excited that I made two! Basically, I wanted something positive that I could glance at to motivate and inspire me. I made one with mostly pictures to have at home and I placed it on my vanity in the master bathroom so I could see it as I get ready for work. The other one, made up mostly of words, I'd like to take to work and hang on the wall above my dual monitors. For some reason, I find inspiring words very uplifting. Just looking at the word happy can make me happier so the one for work tends to be my favorite. ha.

I'm praying that God will help me focus on the good in life, the positive outcomes, and focus on the hope that I have. In my sinful nature, I'm a critic and cynical so I'm continually looking for things to get me directed back toward Jesus and to remember things are great 'cause I'm heaven bound.

Hope you enjoy looking at them too :)

For work
For home

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

P.R.A.(y) E.R. (time for refreshment)

New Year's Eve is coming up and it is my favorite holiday. I love the other holidays we celebrate during the year but I feel something extremely spiritual in my heart when it comes to a new year's celebration. A new start and a fresh beginning seem like a blessing that God cherishes in giving us.

One summer, when life just seemed to be dragging me down, I actually had a similar celebration right in the middle of my time with God. I did the countdown and everything. I counted down from 10 all the way to 1 and shouted, "Happy New Day!" Then I laughed because it was so silly that I just amused myself. Yet I was amazed at how refreshed I felt. If you've never done it, I highly recommend you give it a try on a day you're feeling low. God renews us each second and every breath we take...it's only us who forget this fact.

In the spirit of getting prepared for the New Year, I've set myself up with 5 days of special reflection times. I've called it my time of P.R.A.(y) E.R.

Day One: Is P for Prepare. It'll be a day of fasting, Doxasoma (more of a Christian form of yoga exercise), silence, creative writing about a woman preparing to meet God on New Year's Eve and looking over an article about celebrating 'pauses.'

Day Two: Is R for Reflect. On this day I have a 2 mile walk planned, writing in my journal and reflecting on the past year with the focus being on what worked well instead of focusing on what didn't work well. I'll be studying an article on Humility and working on a 'Victory Jar' that will include positive aspects of the past year. I'll also be doing a review of my relationships...seeing if they are beneficial and seeing if there are some I should be working hard on. I've also thought about painting something that represents what it means to 'reflect.'

Day Three: A for Anticipate. My exercise will be to walk to the local library to have my Coffee & Cozy time. While there I'm going to consider next year's plans and dreams. To be creative, when I get home I'm going to create my own time capsule of these decisions.

Day Four: (cause you know I had to add the 'y' to make it work - lol) E is for Enjoy! I'm going to do some Yoga Stretching and play intensely with my cats. ha. My focus today will be celebrating God, rejoicing in this past year and gaining excitement for the new year. I have an article on Spiritually Literate New Year's Resolutions that I'll be studying and I'm going through an exercise about Enthusiasm.

Day Five: R number two is for Respite. I'm going to do some Doxasoma again and add some hatha yoga. Coffee and Cozy will be practicing an 'Ah' Mantra and prayer breathing. I'm also going to write a poem/psalm to God about newness and fresh beginnings.

I share all these things with you because prayerfully something in it will inspire you to do a new thing or two. Or perhaps just to encourage you about having a conviction that God has great new things in store for you. You have a fresh start and you don't even have to wait for January 1st, 12:00 am. Are you ready? God is always whispering to us from Isaiah 43:19 "See, I (the Lord) am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"

May you enjoy your New Year's celebration with a deep focus on God and freshness in your relationship with Him. I'll start writing again in 2012...but until then...I've got this 5 day vacation with God planned so I'll catch you later. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Red Winter Valentine

Trickle, Sunny, and Manna have a new TV of sorts since I moved their kitty mansion into my master bedroom by one of the windows. They are 'glued' to their new view and ecstatic about all the birds they see. I happened to be looking out the window for a different reason. I bought a new bird house in the summer from an Etsy vendor who specializes in ones that birds will actually use as a nest. It caught my eye when some birds were clinging to the outside of the birdhouse, taking turns poking their little heads in and discussing the real estate.

Since I'd just finished my 'Coffee & Cozy time' with God, I went to the kitchen to warm my coffee and strolled over to the backdoor. As I stood there watching, suddenly I saw him. He was beautiful. A special delivery..a red winter valentine from God...
...a brilliant red cardinal.

Many people already know why red cardinals are a special sign of love from God to me. If not, ask me about it someday because I enjoy sharing those faith building stories.
The red one didn't check out the bird bungalow...he just bounced around in the bare branches of the fig tree for me to watch. In 2 Timothy 4:16-17 Paul says, "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength." This was the last scripture I read during my Coffee & Cozy. I remembered it as I watched the cardinal and God strongly reaffirmed to me that he is standing at my side and giving me strength. Thanks, God!

Just as Carol Burnett would end her show with a tug on her earlobe to let the grandmother who raised her know that everything was alright and that she loved her...God has special and unique ways to speak to each of us. You can't force it...you can only be open to noticing it. My 'inside' things with God have come through 13 years of building a real relationship...you know the kind...with inside jokes, date nights, silences, laughter, tears, serving others, vacations together, arguments, making up, and the like. You are His and He is yours.

When was the last time you laughed with God? Have you planned some type of small get-a-way just you and Him lately? Did you have a fight and need to go make up? Maybe you need to write Him a love note, or ask Him to sit on the couch as you sing Him a song?

May we never forget that God is the master of relationships. He wants to walk with you in the neighborhood as you pray for your neighbors. He wants to whisper words in your ear to share with the woman sweeping at the gas station. And I know He wants you to cuddle up in His arms on the couch or in your favorite chair and tell you He is always at your side and giving you strength. My prayer is that this week you do something out of the ordinary with God or even something mundane...but that you truly see the importance that a relationship with God is actually a relationship.
love you!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some Encouragement Gifts & Ideas


Prayer Flower – Cut five 4-inch long petals, a stem, a circle, and a few leaves out of construction paper. Write an inspiring verse on the cicle which will become the inside of the flower. Use the original 5 petals to cut out 5 more. Using a simple laminate sheet, put the flower together using the first 5 petals, circle, stem and leaves. Take another laminate sheet and place it over the first so that your flower is totally laminated. After that cut the edges around the flower. Give instructions to your SP that they can tape this flower to the wall, write prayer requests on the remaining paper petals, and tape those then to the flower as a reminder of special things they are praying for and that is on their heart. Click here for one post where I created some!


Coffee Mug Surprises – Fill a coffee cup with mints, candies, or specialty teas for a quick surprise. I created these as a thank you gift for some co-workers.




Movie Basket – Find a medium size basket and fill with a gift card for a movie rental. Include microwave popcorn, drinks, and some candy.


Pride and Joy Gift – Buy a disposable camera and take funny pictures of yourself at different places around your city. Give the camera as a gift (include the price of development or a gift card to a local one-hour photo shop) to your SP. They will have the anticipation and surprise of picking them up. This is an especially good gift for grandparents.


Bed and Breakfast Getaway – Clean and decorate your SP’s bedroom and bathroom for a night of relaxation. On the bedroom door, tape a piece of paper that mirrors a hotel room number (consider making a do not disturb sign). Create a personalized name for your B & B and make a little note “Welcoming” them to a night of relaxation.


Man’s Best Friend Gift – Buy their pet a gift. Animal lovers feel special when their pets are given gifts as well. My Jack Russell Terrier named D.O.G. was given this sweet pair of reindeer ears. HA HA.


Birthday/Anniversary/Coworkers/Fellowship  – Have friends of your SP write notes, draw pictures, tell stories, or send well wishes on a different sheet of paper in a spiral notebook.

** Variation: you can place stories and well wishes on slips of paper and placed in a decorative container.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"What grace is given me, let it pass to him."

A few years ago, moved by a line in the song, "O Holy Night" that says..."Chains shall he (Jesus) break, for the slave is our brother...," I began reading a book about Mother Teresa. She had an incredible life for the poor!! Please read about her if you ever get the chance.

That Christmas, I found myself driving home from class in Dallas and I stopped at a red light when a man in his 60's came up to my window asking for change. His voice was kind and his smile happy and gentle. Many of his teeth were gone and he wasn't the kind of dirty that you get in just a few weeks. I dug around for money and gave him all the change I had...he took my hand and blessed me.

Victory!

uhh, but wait...as I left the light and turned to get onto the highway, I felt sick at my stomach. I realized I hadn't even asked him his name. You see, Mother Teresa had stressed to ask the homeless their names. Her belief was, "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." Ah, loving the whole person.

Sad that I couldn't pray for him by name, I cried on the way home. I prayed God would send this man, nameless to me but not to our Lord, my guardian angel and that he would have mercy on his life and grant him salvation.

No doubt, I've got such a long way to go. How about some illustrations of total unselfishness and compassion? These rock me to the core!

In Romans 9:3 Paul writes, "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race," To be cut off from Christ for the sake of someone else? Gee Paul, really?! This still challenges my heart.

And our Lord. Certainly Christ IS in living form of this very sentiment since he choose to be cut off from God to save you...and me. WOW! Let those words sink in.

Now, let's have a little fun, shall we?

How many of you know what movie the title quote is from?

It's a beautiful line from the Elven Princess, Arwen in the Lord of the Rings that she prays as Frodo is dying after being stabbed with the blade of one of the nine Nazquls (Ring-wraiths). She is a very strong woman in the film and here she's giving him her right as an immortal to pass into what they call the 'Blessed Realm' and choosing to remain in Middle Earth as a mortal and suffer death instead.What an unselfish prayer!

It's an inspiring scene worth watching:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpGZnQeGVV8

Compassion and selflessness because the slave is our brother. Jesus, I want to grow. I want to meet other's physical and spiritual needs. AND I want to know them by name! *grin*

My prayer today is for God to keep blessing us by putting us in situations where we can grow. Today may you focus on loving those around you...loving the whole person.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Christmas Love Note From God

A few years ago, I decided to encourage some sisters by creating Christmas love notes to them from God. So I spent some time praying that God would guide me then I went to the bible to write notes based on scriptures. This was an encouraging activity for them and for me. I didn't 'assign' these notes to a specific sister but just trusted that whichever one they happened to pull out of the box was the one God meant for them to have for inspiration. This year, I printed them again so that I could use them this Christmas holiday since I know they will be fresh and exciting. I thought I'd provide two examples for you. So feel free to use this simple little idea as one way to encourage your sisters around you in a very special way.

My Adorable one,
     Do you wonder what lies in store for you? Well, simply…My love! The season is here to remind you about us! You are very precious to Me and I want us to have exclusive time together. I want to refresh you and show you My love. Please enjoy these holidays - stretch, breathe, relax.
                                                                                                                Forever yours,
                                                                                                                    God

Dearest sweetheart,    
     I want to bring us closer together. I wanted to remind you how special you are to My heart. So much goes on in your day and I decided that some “us” time was very much needed. I care about you more than you can imagine. Have peace during this season and enjoy My love…          
                                                                                I love you – never forget!
                                                                                                                God



Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas time with God

I enjoy Christmas music! The holidays can be a challenging time to stay close to God because of our rushing around and changes in schedule. One way I like to protect my relationship with God during the holidays is to come up with a plan of action. Some years I print off a week's worth of my favorite Christmas songs. During my time with God, I'll pull it out and find the scriptures in the bible that the song is based on...I may even sing it! :) What are your favorite songs at Christmas time? Maybe you could use them to keep you focused this holiday season?

Something else I've done is to record 30 minutes of my favorite Christmas or worship music on a CD. I enjoy spending some time just listening to music that focuses me on God. I often add a song in the middle of the 30 minutes that's just instrumental so I can journal or pray. A benefit of this type of time with God is that you don't have to be a 'clock-watcher' because once the CD is finished you know what amount of time has passed. Normally, I can fit two 30 minute sessions of music on one CD. Perhaps you should give these ideas a try?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Get Well Soon Ideas

1. Buy a silk plant inside a pot with flowers and one small get-well balloon on a stick. Place it inside the plant down in the “soil.”

2. The “everything you need” box – Go to a store and buy different types of medicines or items that a person might need if they were sick. Some examples are remedies for headaches, stomachaches, flu or colds, thermometer, soup, heating pad, eye drops, cough tablets and the like. Your special person will be so grateful to not need to drag their weary body to the store when they are not feeling well. (Thanks for this idea, Mom!)


3. Buy a small drawer container (or basket) and fill it with little puzzles and games. In addition, buy a cheap aspirin-like container and fill with bite size candy. Attach a note on the container that says:
“Take a handful once a day and Get Well Soon!”

Home cooked love -  
Fix them something homemade or bring a quick dinner.
Here is a simple recipe.

Items needed:
Package of chicken breast
Tin foil
1 can “Rotel”
1 onion
4 potatoes of choice
spices: such as onion powder, salt, pepper, etc.

Directions: Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Cover an oven pan of your choice with tin foil. Cut 1/4 of an onion and place in bottom of pan. Season the chicken on both sides and place on top on onions. Drain Rotel and add over chicken. Slice the potatoes (with or without skins) and place on top of chicken. Cover with tin fold and back for 30 minutes.
Freezes well.

Other ideas are homemade bread, cookies, or pies

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let Go and Fly!


As I got into my car one morning this week, I noticed a wasp crawling around on my passenger side windshield wiper. Being that it was a wasp and not wanting to get stung, I simply made my windshield wipers do one quick swipe. Regrettably, this stubborn little creature did not budge. “Okay, I guess you are going for a ride with me today,” I thought as I pulled out and began driving to the gas station. Every few seconds I found myself checking on the little bug though and watched as it hunkered down with its wings and antennas back. At the gas station, I noticed that my little insect did not move one bit. It did not shift positions as I pumped gas, or as I paid or even as I got back into my car. “It’s dead,” I said to myself and sadness kind of swept over me. My mind raced, “It must have had a little wasp heart attack…makes sense…going 30 miles per hour on a wiper would be pretty scary! Why didn’t it just let go of the windshield wiper instead of holding on so tight?” Soon after this monologue with myself, I gave a little sigh.

As I began to drive back on my original route, I would sadly glance across to the passenger’s side wiper where the bug clung. I pulled up to the red light and suddenly noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. Its antennas wiggled! My heart leapt at the wasp’s perseverance. The wings began to flicker and I cheered for it to let go of the wiper. “Fly, little wasp, fly!” Yes, I believe I even said it aloud. Finally, my little wasp flew off and I was so happy. It seems I had grown quite attached through the whole ordeal.

And where did my next thoughts travel after this little exchange? I pictured how God watches over us (Isaiah 58:11) and looks out for us. He gives us urgings through the Spirit, like little swipes of the windshield wiper, to protect us from the things that could hurt us. I pictured God sad when we choose things that are not good for us then Him cheering when we pick ourselves up. Sometimes God encourages us to let go of certain things we cling too...because He really wants us to fly!

So on a deeper level; I was encouraged to search for anything in my life that I could be clinging to and shouldn’t be. Do you feel the Spirit of God encouraging you to let go of something and fly too? If so, may this little story inspire that change and fly on, my friend!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Inexpensive Date Ideas

These ideas are collected in book I was writing called "Refreshing Others."
(SP) stands for Special Person:

Roman Date: Set up a small tournament of the traditional Romanian game – Terni Lapilli (Tic-Tac-Toe). I Believe Romans ate mostly vegetables and dined very simply. Table knives and forks were unknown but the Romans had spoons like ours today. Before food was served, it was cut into finger food portions and eaten by using fingers or a spoon. You can make the men togas with just simple white sheets and clever laurel wreaths for their “crowns” and the women can wear a shawl over their shoulders or head. We gave them official invitations saying they were 'hereby challenged to a game of Terni Lapilli!' I made the game board out of a simple square piece of cork board that I sectioned off with lines using a marker. For the pieces, I bought inexpensive rocks. One set white, one set dark stones. I still even have the board today and pull it out sometimes!

Hawaiian Date: 
Make a dish, like fish tacos, for the meal. Set the mood with music from the internet from Hawaii. Decorate the house with palm trees, sunsets, or mountains made out of construction paper. I had a green sheet and threw it over the entertainment center to create a mountain. I placed a sunset and flying birds over it on the wall. As a decoration center piece, I purchased some inexpensive hermit crabs which I later donated to a local school.

Asian Date: A Japanese Gardens is a nice place to set up a date if you have one in your area. If not, then make or order inexpensive Asian style food and make a pallet on the floor. Use only chopsticks or your hands as an extra touch. Ask your SP to leave the shoes at the door and relax. You can also rent/watch a Kung-Fu movie. On this double date, a sister and I painted our faces, put our hair up in fun buns and really tried to look the part.

Western Date:
Make or purchase a meal, like chicken fried steak and all the 'fixings’. Set the mood with country music and cowboy outfits. The thrift store is my friend! ha. Decorate the house create a jail, put out some cactus or make them out of construction paper. For the activities, set up some aluminum cans to shoot down with a toy gun that shoot home-friendly arrows or you can use rubber-bands. Also, you can have the group learn a line dance for some laughs.

Balloon Date: Take your SP to the store and purchase two economical helium balloons. Buy the ones with no design, take magic markers, write notes, messages, prayers, or gratitude lists, and send them off.

Camera Date: go purchase a disposable camera, driving around the city, and take pictures of each other. The pictures do not have to all be serious. Drop off the camera for one hour development, go grab a snack or drink and then go back to enjoy them together.
            **Variation(s):
            - use a camera with black and white film
            - have a scavenger hunt with taking photos of specific objects
            - buy a picture frame at the store and give picture to your SP

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Your Thought Life

We often focus on our outward life…areas such a living right, serving, and working hard. However, what about the life we live that no one sees – our thought life. Our mind can truly live a life of its own.

1 Peter 3 Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (nasb) The hidden person of the heart…to me this describes the person inside of us. Our hidden self is captured in the views, thoughts, attitudes, and creations of our mind.

Hebrews
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.” God knows the life we live inside our thoughts. Examine your thoughts over the past few days. What did you think about most? Did you play out situations in you mind that never happened? Did you say things you should not have said in your head?

Psalm 13:2 “How long must I wrestle with my thoughtsOthers before you have had to work to keep their minds on the things of God. Psalm 55:2 “My thoughts trouble me”

Philippians 4:8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Think of other verses from the bible that tell of right things, pure, admirable and praiseworthy.

Journal some of your own positive thoughts. :D

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Search Out My Emotions!

When I was a baby Christian I remember a lesson for the women about how tears don't equal repentance. During the lesson, a sister shared something like, "Women get moved in their emotions but this doesn't always mean they get cut to the heart enough to change...unless you're Amy."

The reason she said this is that I hate to cry. I'm just not a good 'cryer' so there is nothing refreshing about it for me. After crying, I honestly feel like I've been hit by a bus or something. Also, from years of emotionally abusive relationships, I learned to shut off crying. I'll spare you the hurtful details but basically I learned that crying showed weakness and that I lost respect. If I ever began to cry suddenly a huge wall came down and it just shut off. Sadly, I became very good at this kind of shutting down. After years of this, I found that it was hard to know what I was even feeling! One of my best friends that I lived with for 5 years saw this happen one day. I started to cry about something and my wall came down, the tears were gone, and I just let out a deep sigh. She said it was scary to watch. I didn't even have to try because after so many years it's like my body just learned that response.

So since the woman sharing the lesson had been in my studies she knew that if I cried, the Spirit was softening my heart and it was being cut. Over the years, God has been so gracious and helped me to soften. I'm able to get in touch with my emotions much faster but in the beginning I needed help. So I developed a list of questions to ask myself or to have someone go through and ask me. It's the nerdy administrative side in me coming out but it's helped tremendously!!!

I'm not the only one with the Scarlett O'Hara personality of, "I can't think about that right now, I'll go crazy! I'll think about it tomorrow." *emotion stuffed* So below is my worksheet for getting in touch...may it help you or even someone you know that is wanting to reach the deep things in her heart but is still just working to chip away. This is very detailed so if you go through it then write down your answers or use code you understand so that you can use it to go through the prayers at the end. May God bless your time digging in deep.

  1. Pray God will help you to search out your emotions.
  2. Write down what is on your mind and heart or what is bothering you.
  3. Who is the main person it concerns?
  4. Decide what emotions you feel.
  5. What would you like to tell them or have them do?
  6. Is it wise to express this to them? (take a little time to pray)
  7. If yes, when…If no, who can relate to you and pray with you about it?
  8. What quality of God’s character do you need here?
  9. Do you feel God has his hands around the situation?
  10. Tell in what ways He has taken a role in it?
  11. How do you feel toward God?
  12. Write down what you need to surrender.
  13. Write down a promise of God that most covers this situation. (see below for some examples)
  14. Are you mad at yourself in any way? (If yes, answer a-d. If no, answer c & d)
    1. Why? Decide what emotion you feel about yourself?
    2. Is this the way God sees you?
    3. Looking at the Bible, how does God see you?
    4. Is there anything you can change in yourself?
  15. List two decision you’ve made to help get resolved:
  16. Is there anything else that bothers you about this situation or another situation? (If so, then take it back through 2-16)
  17. Pray:
    • Praise God for the time to spend digging into your heart
    • Tell God your emotions and surrender them (#2 & #4)  (#5 & #12)
    • Share with Him your decisions (#7 when/who to pray with & #15)
    • Ask Him for growth in all the areas where you can change (#14d) and for trust in His help & promises (#13)
    • Pray about getting deep convictions about the quality you need to have of His (#8)
    • Reaffirm the way God sees you and the situation (#14c & #10)

PROMISES

Do not fear – Is. 41:10

I am God’s – Hosea 3:19-20

Jesus = peace – John 14:27

Nothing is impossible with God – Luke 1:37

God will wipe away my tears – Rev. 7:17

God loves peace, not disorder – 1 Cor. 14:33

God fights for me – Ex. 14:14

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sick? Hurting? Find encouragement here!

Me - The Olive Tree?
There are times in everyone’s life when the body gives way to illness or exhaustion. It is during those times that spending quality moments in the bible or in prayer are very difficult. There are many faith-building stories in the bible about people being healed yet if we continue to be sick or tired sometimes these verses give us trouble. But now is not the time to give up – now is the time to really fight! In Psalm 52, the author compares himself to an olive tree. The bible refers many times to olive branches and trees. Being a Texas native, I did not understand the reference, since you do not just walk out the door and see an olive tree, but a little research has made this verse one of my favorites!


Psalm 52:8
But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever.


Olive Tree Facts:

  • The olive is an evergreen tree growing up to 50 feet in height with a spread of about 30 feet.
  • Olive trees are long-lived. This tree's life expectancy is about 500 years.
  • The trees are also tenacious, easily sprouting back even when chopped to the ground.

So even when a body may be suffering from disease or fatigue, this scripture reads true. By trusting in God’s unfailing love, we flourish! Our inner selves can be strong and ever growing. Like this tree, we can be determined to grow back even at times when we feel cut down. There is such an importance in holding tight to God’s word. When was the last time you claimed a scripture that compares yourself to something great? Are you strong like a mountain because you have God on your side? With God’s spirit, are you a hawk soaring over life’s temptations? Think of something majestic and get inspired! I’ll even share mine – because I’m like an olive tree.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Brand New & Pure

One amazing thing about God’s mercy is that he makes us brand new and pure. Since no one has kept themselves completely pure… everyone needs to strive for purity and here are a few verses that have helped me.

1 Timothy 4:11-12 Command and teach these things. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”


2 Samuel 22:26-28 & Psalm 18:25-27 To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.”


Psalm 119:9-10 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.”


Philippians 1:9-11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.”


James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;”


1 John 3:3 “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure”


This is a great visual: Take some time and imagine putting these words in bold print on your spirit:

Exodus 28: 34
Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Talking to Jesus

While driving, sometimes I find myself reaching over to the passenger’s seat like I’m taking Jesus’ hand to hold. Sometimes I have had dinner at my 180 year old dining room table and discussed my day with our awesome Triune God. This may sound strange but honestly why wouldn’t I have that personal of a relationship?

John 15:15 "I call you no longer my servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing. Rather, I call you my friends..." I once read of a woman whose best friend would blow kisses to God. Thinking this was odd, one day she asked her friend about it. Her friend stated, “If you are uncomfortable blowing kisses to your God then honestly, how real is He to you?” How comfortable are you showing affection to God?

Psalm 40:5  “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” When was the last time you stopped to think about God thinking about you? The mind of God is filled with thoughts of you: thinking of your welfare, making plans for your life, doing things on your behalf you haven’t even noticed!

Job 29:4 “In my early years, the friendship of God was felt in my home.” Where else can you be more comfortable than at home? Sit in your room and have a conversation with Jesus as a best friend. Think of all the things that happened in the past three days. Catch up with him like a long-time friend. Laugh together, cry if need be….just make it real!


John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Take some time to meditate on the fact that Jesus is your ultimate friend…he has laid down his life for you!