Friday, January 29, 2010

Jumping Ahead of God

As I sit here today furiously writing down scripture on trusting in the Lord, I am wrestling with my heart and with my mind.

Do you ever feel like you are always jumping one step ahead of God?

I tell myself that I will follow His lead, but it seems like at the end of the race I feel this need to jump ahead of HIs plans and take control of the situation.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7



This verse runs through my head. It says to ask and to seek. However, it also says that the door will be opened for me. It does not say that I can open the door.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10



As I start this day, I am going to spend some time being still and listening. I am going to try to wait patiently on the Lord and not jump ahead of Him. I am waiting to see if He will open the door to my heart desires or if He will lead me through another open door.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

God is in the Details


I have been thinking a lot about our future. OK, not just thinking about it, worrying about it. I want to make sure that we are following the path God has planned out for us. I want my children to grow up in Christ. When I come across choices in life, I want to choose the right road.

This morning I opened Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest and this is the verse at the top of the page, "Do not worry about your life. . ." Matthew 6:25

Do you ever feel like you are worrying so much about life that you are missing out on the life that God intends for you?

I am a planner and I like to know what is coming around the corner. I like controlled adventure, as long as I am in the driver's seat.

However it is very clear in scripture that we are not to worry about anything. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 7:34

I go into today trusting God will lead me. I go into today with no worries. I have given my life to Christ and I need to trust that He will take care of the details.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beautiful

I just had the opportunity to read Cindy Martinusen-Coloma's new Young Adult Fiction book titled, Beautiful. Thank you so much Cindy Coloma for the opportunity to review this wonderful book.

I started it this morning and nothing got done in my house until I finished the book. It was an inspiring book I am so glad I had the opportunity to read.

It is a wonderful story of one girl's struggle with perfection and how in a few minutes her perfect life would be forever changed. It is a story that expresses the pressures and struggles that teenagers face. It takes a close look at what true beauty is. It makes me think of my own daughters. Although young now, they are growing up so fast and will be facing these pressures to be perfect all too soon.

It makes me think about not comparing my girls to each other. To find the gifts that each of them have and to help them accomplish their dreams.

This story is so believable for the struggles of a young adult today. It is written for young adults, but would be enjoyed by any woman that remembers the pressures that they faced as a teenager.

If you have a teenager in your life, this is a wonderful book to add to their home library. You can find more information on purchasing this book here.

Here is a description of the book:
Her friends once thought she was perfect. Now she must face the mirror--and herself--to discover what true beauty is.

Ellie Summerfield has everything a girl could want--she's beautiful, she's Senior Class President, has a calendar full of social engagements, volunteer commitments, and church activities. In short, she's perfect, according to most of the students at West Redding High School. But something is bothering Ellie, like a loose string on a dress she can feel but can't see. Does she really love her boyfriend, Ryan? Who are her true friends? And is she really happy in her picture-perfect life?

Then in the course of a few minutes, the loose string in Ellie's life completely unravels. Forever changed, she must face herself as she discovers what it really means to be beautiful.

Unwrapping the Power of Prayer



Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24



I had a restless night of sleep last night. My husband and I prayed and I just could not fall asleep. My heart was heavy for some of the prayer requests we had. I should have gotten out of bed, grabbed my Bible and spent a little more time in prayer; I know that God is listening. I know that He hears me.

I was thinking about this last year and some of the answers to prayer that we have experienced. There are big things and small things. There are happy endings and sad endings. And I know that God had his hand on every detail.

Today there is a little first grade girl that my daughter goes to school with that is having a biopsy on a tumor in her brain. My heart aches for her and her family. A little girl full of smiles and giggles that was supposed to have her seventh birthday party last weekend. The party was cancelled and she is now in the hospital awaiting tests and possible surgery.

I believe in a Mighty God that can heal her.

My heart also aches for someone close to me that has not been able to conceive her first child. She waits every month hoping and anticipating, and every month she has been disappointed in the results.

I believe in a Mighty God that give her the miracle of child.

I watch the news stories of the devastation in Haiti. It is hard for me to even turn on the tv.

I believe in a Mighty God that can bring hope into a place that has none.

Today I am unwrapping the Power of Prayer. I know that God hears me, I know that God hears you. I ask that you join me today. I ask that you take time from your day to pray for those that need God today.

What gifts are you Unwrapping today? Join Emily over at Chatting at the Sky as she unwraps the gift of this day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mamavation Monday - Follow Along Week #1

It is week one of the new Mamavation Campaign and I am starting fresh along with the new Mamavation moms @LisaSamples and @Frugalfemina.

This last week I got a package in the mail from Amazon. It proved to be my nemesis.

I love to cook and bake. I am working on healthy cooking, but I want to be able to do it in a way that I can still occasionally cook from this amazing cookbook.

Luckily, my Amazon package had two more books that will help me out with my getting healthy mission.



I am giving in and starting a food journal. I know it works, I have done it before. I hope it makes me a little more accountable to what I am eating throughout the day.

One huge accomplishment for me this week. NO POP!!! I did get in some good workouts, but I need to be a little more disciplined with that this week, as well. The trainer that I was going to has not been coming to town so I am going to work on a new workout from a friend this week. I hope that it helps with the weight loss.

I actually gained one pound exactly this week. . .but I am not beating myself up about it. I know where it came from and I am lucky it was just one pound.

It has been difficult to get into a schedule since Christmas. My kids are on their 4th Snow Day today. This South Dakota weather makes weight loss difficult in the wintertime. It is all inside workouts for me.

I am excited to chat with everyone on MomTV tonight at the Mamavation Show. Leah has some great giveaways. You should go and check them out here.

Hope you all have a wonderful week! I will come back here next week with a weight loss! It all starts with today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dug Down Deep

I just finished an awesome book. I meant to post some info on this book earlier this week, but I really took my time reading this book. In fact, I will be drawing a lot of information from this book for future books. My pen got a workout in this book, underlining and double underlining sentences. It was very convicting, it made me ask myself a lot of questions and it made me excited to pick up my Bible and dig in.



I really don't even know where to start to talk about this book. There are many different areas that tugged at me. From referring to Christianity as a gas station. We just stop there quickly for a fill-up. He talked about the importance of knowing doctrine and theology and how it helps us to develop a deeper relationship with God. Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris doesn't have all of the answers, but he leaves you craving the answers that you can find yourself in your Bible.

Special Thanks to Elizabeth for this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for my review.

Here is some additional info from Waterbrook.
What will you build your life on?

With startling transparency, Joshua Harris shares how we can rediscover the relevance and power of Christian truth. This is book shows a young man who rose quickly to success in the Christian evangelical world before he realized his spirituality lacked a foundation—it rested more on tradition and morality than on an informed knowledge of God.

For the indifferent or spiritually numb, Harris's humorous and engaging reflections on Christian beliefs show that orthodoxy isn't just for scholars—it is for anyone who longs to know the living Jesus Christ. As Harris writes, "I've come to learn that theology matters. It matters not because we want to impress people, but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. Theology matters because if we get it wrong then our whole life will be wrong."

Whether you are just exploring Christianity or you are a veteran believer finding yourself overly familiar and cold-hearted, Dug Down Deep will help you rediscover the timeless truths of Scripture. As Harris challenges you to root your faith and feelings about God in the person, work, and words of Jesus, he answers questions such as:

What is God like and how does he speak to me?What difference does it make that Jesus was both human and divine?How does Jesus's death on the cross pay for my sins?Who is the Holy Spirit and how does he work in my life?
With grace and wisdom, Harris will inspire you to revel in the truth that has captured his own mind and heart. He will ask you to dig deep into a faith so solid you can build your life on it. He will point you to something to believe in again.

Here is some info on the author:
Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. A passionate speaker with a gift for making theological truth easy to understand, Joshua is perhaps best known for his runaway bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which he wrote at the age of twenty-one. His later books include Boy Meets Girl, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), and Stop Dating the Church. The founder of the NEXT conferences for young adults, Joshua is committed to seeing the gospel transferred to a new generation of Christians. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.

You can purchase the book here.

Martha Makeover Step #1

Well, it is time to get something done around here. I have been focusing on one area this week from the Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook.

She lists Six Things to Do Every Day:
1. Make the Bed: Tidiness begets tidiness. A crisply made bed makes the whole room seem more orderly, which makes it less likely that you'll get other things--such as clothes and papers--pile up around it. (I really think this is true, I hate walking into my room when the bed isn't made)

2. Manage Clutter: Whenever you leave a room, take a quick look around for anything that isn't where it should be. Pick it up and put it where it belongs. Insist that everyone in the house do the same. (We are working on this one. I think it is super hard with young kids that have toys. The toys seem to multiply in my living room)

3. Sort the Mail: Take a few minutes to open, read, and sort mail as soon as you bring it inside. Keep a trash bin near your sorting area for junk mail. Drop the other mail into one of four in-boxes: personal correspondence, bills, catalogs, and filing. (I still need to set up a mail station, but I am trying to go through the mail right away and throw away any junk that is accumulating)

4. Clean As You Cook: Instead of filling the sink with pots and dishes, wash them or put them in the dishwasher as you prepare a meal. (I do not have a dishwasher so if I do not do my dishes right away they are a huge eyesore. I have been making sure that all of my dishes are done before I go to bed at night. This really helps me start my day off in a good mood)

5. Wipe up Spills While They're Fresh: Whether it's tomato sauce on the cooktop or makeup on the bathroom counter, almost anything is faster and easier to remove if you attend to it immediately. (Now if I could just teach my hubby this one. . .)

6. Sweep the Kitchen Floor: Every evening once you've finished washing up after dinner, sweep the floor. This will keep tough-to-clean dirt and grime from builing up, which will make the weekly mopping much quicker. (It is amazing how much stuff can accumulate on the floor in just one day.)

Here is the checklist I have hanging on the fridge for my reminder.



I can't wait to share with you my newest organization project when it is complete. It started as this. . .



How do you manage to keep your home clean and organized with kids?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Life Giver

I was cleaning around my work area today and I found this piece of paper.

To you I am sure it looks like nonsense. It kind of is nonsense. It actually started out as brainstorming session. I was working on new categories for my blog. I did get the categories out of all of this brainstorming, but I also got a lot more.

Sorry this next photo is a little blurry, but you can see where I was going with my brainstorming.

Here are a few of the phrases on my paper:
*Author and Perfecter of Faith
*Firm Foundation
*Blessed Assurance
*Life Giver
*Chosen

Today my friend Chele's blog The Bonafide Life directed me to an article about Finding your Blogging Voice. I have been thinking about my blogging voice ever since. Then I came across this piece of paper. Then I had my Aha Moment. My blogging voice, my focus is all summed up on this piece of paper.

I write for a lot of reasons. I write to document my journey. I write to encourage all of you in your journey. I write to remind myself how much Jesus loves me and He loves you just as much. My writing gets me to dig deeper into my Bible. My writing gets me to ask questions and seek answers.

As I continue on this journey in 2010 I am going to dig deep into the words that are scribbled on this piece of paper. I can't wait to share with you where it leads me. In the process I hope that the words can lead you, too. May we journey together down the Path of Life with our Savior.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Us

Ever since my husband and I attended our first Family Life Weekend to Remember Conference I have been passionate about marriage ministry. I love to get my hands on marriage ministry resources. Some are okay, some are not even close to real life, some are right on. I would categorize the book Us by Daniel Tocchini in the right on category.

Some of the book is not easy to read because the content is a little too "real", but it is truth. He has real examples of couples and the problems that they face. He compares marriages to consumerism in a way that really makes sense. So many couples go into marriage selfishly, wanting more and giving less.

We need to focus on having "Kingdom Marriages" and Tocchini gives us the resources to build on that. One of my favorite statements in the book is this, "Jesus steps on the scene and says, Where's My kingdom in all of this? Your personal fulfillment and satisfaction are the means to an end. There's nothing temporary about your marriage, and it is not disposable."

This book would be beneficial to all marriages. It will make you think about having a marriage built on Christ.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Us

David C. Cook; New edition (January 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jenningsn of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Daniel L. Tocchini has worked with more than 5,000 couples through personal marriage coaching and the unique and life-changing marriage seminars offered through his organization, the Association for Christian Character Development. An ordained minister, chaplain, author, and highly successful speaker/coach, he lives with his family in California.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (January 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764737
ISBN-13: 978-1434764737

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Consumer vs. the Kingdom

“The level of thinking that created the problem is not sufficient to solve it.”

Albert Einstein


This book is about challenging the marriage assumptions that have prevented you from seeing new possibilities in the unchartered waters of Us. The first assumption that simply must go is that you or your spouse needs to change in order for your marriage to improve.


As difficult as it may seem, I want you to consider the possibility that nothing about you or your spouse needs to change.


Nothing at all.


Beyond this, I ask you to consider the reason that you began thinking that one of you needed to change. Could it be that you have unwittingly embraced the consumerism of our culture and applied it to your precious wife? Your precious husband? Such that you began to think of that person as a commodity? That's exactly where Mark and Rene were at when they came to see me. (I should mention that there are times couples are counseled by me and my wife, Aileen. We do this on an as-needed basis.)


Mark and Rene, a forty-something couple with fifteen years of marriage under their belts, spewed venom back and forth at each other during our marriage coaching session. The verbal onslaught was tough to listen to, even though I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and heard it all.


Mark furrowed his brows, glared at his wife, and then looked at me. “You know Dan, I can’t stand being married to Rene any longer! If I had known this marriage was going to be like this I never would have gotten married. Now we have four children and I feel like I’m trapped!” Mark’s rage bubbled over. It was obvious he was purposely trying to hurt his wife with his words.


Rene looked disgusted. “Married? Really? You really believe we’re married? If that’s true, you don’t act like it at all!” She spoke with contempt in her voice. “For starters, you have a girlfriend in New Mexico. If you think you can continue to carry on with that woman, I want a divorce.”


Mark escalated the attack. “Well, you drove me to her. She pays attention to me when I’m around and actually cares about what I do. All you do is gripe at me for not being enough. Besides, you kicked me out so what am I supposed to do? Just wait around until you feel like inviting me back home?”


I was silent and let them duke it out with their words for a bit. I knew exactly where this conversation was going.


In a soft voice, as tears dripped down her cheeks, Rene turned to me. “Dan, I just got tired of waiting for him to do the things he said he would do.” Then she whipped her head around and faced her husband. “When you were home with us, you would get up early in the morning and go to the office, where you worked all day with women. Then, while I was stuck at home with the kids, you would go out to dinner with them. I got tired of feeling abandoned and so I decided since you were never home and always out with other women, we might as well make it official. That’s why I kicked you out. I hoped that you would soon realize what you had lost and begin to court me again. That never happened. You seemed glad to have left. Anyway, even while you were here, there wasn’t an ounce of romance left in our marriage! How do you think that makes me feel? I want a man who will put me first in his life. Honestly Mark, when we first met twenty years ago, I believed you were that man, but now I don’t even know you.”


Mark bristled and took a deep breath, doing his best to maintain some semblance of composure. “Dan, I’m in the fashion business. Most of the people I work with are either gay men or women. I can’t help that! Why can’t Rene support me? After all, I’m the one who provides a great home and pays for the kids’ private school, the medical care, food, clothing—geez, nobody has had to go without anything. I wasn’t seeing anybody until I realized that I just couldn’t go on like that any longer. I was beginning to feel like a hermit. All Rene was doing was getting back at me for what she felt I owed her. When she kicked me out I got an apartment and, sure, a girlfriend on the side. But I needed a companion, somebody who made me feel like I mattered. I just couldn’t take the nagging and complaining anymore!”


Rene turned away so that Mark couldn’t see her cry. Then she said something I’m sure many of you either say yourself or hear from your spouse.


“But what about me, Mark? What about my needs?”


It was the classic “I-need-I-need-I-need” complaint. Yet each one was only listening to their own needs.


The frustrating part for me was that Mark and Rene had the tools they needed to turn their marriage around. It wasn’t like they didn’t know what they needed to do. Though I had worked with them for about two years, they were not getting anywhere. If there was any chance of this marriage not ending in divorce, one thing needed to happen.


They needed to renew their thinking.


Specifically, Mark and Rene had to come to a transformation of how they viewed their marriage. It had nothing to do with changing their behavior or actions towards themselves and each other. Change in that sense is superficial and many times it is temporary. God has called us to rely on Him, not for changing even what we consider “wrong” with us or bad, but in how we relate to God, ourselves, and each other, as well as what we cannot not change. We don’t need to change, fix, or better the bad stuff about us, we need the kind of change we call transformation—changing how we view ourselves, our spouse, and our marriage. In other words, the way you view your spouse or a particular situation you are in—whether you are fighting again about the same thing you fought about yesterday, or your kids are rebelling in the worst way, or there has been betrayal—is what determines the quality of your life together.


This is what Mark and Renee needed to do. They had to look at their union in a completely new way. If this didn’t happen, all the tools and applications and skills they had learned to save their marriage would be useless. Why? Because they had begun to view one another as products—something they thought needed to be different or better. Therefore, they would use those tools, applications and skills to try and “fix” what they thought needed to change, like a defective product, radically distracting them from what could be new without having to fix anything. In fact, if you pay close attention to the language they use, it is not much different than the language we might use when researching a purchase. It was time for them to stop tallying their expenses and start counting the cost.


Luke writes how Jesus was once followed by a large crowd. Jesus tells these folks something very powerful about what it really means to follow Christ and His Kingdom.

“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple. Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn't finish.’” (Luke 14:25–30 MSG)


Jesus was saying that before we even consider getting into relationship with Him, we need to count the cost. He clarified His statement by specifying that the potential cost could be loss of familial affections and those close to us, as well as the death of the traditions and habits that are a part of these relationships. Jesus pulled no punches. The cost is great.


Marriage is one of God’s tools for building His kingdom, and if we are to pioneer the possibility of a kingdom life together we must prepare to make life-defining sacrifices. We must prepare to change the way we view life or change our purpose for living together.


This call doesn’t make any sense when it comes to our culture. Why? Because we live in a “consumer”-oriented culture. It is a part of who we are because it is what we were born into. Our relationships, in particular, are immersed in consumerism.


A consumer views marriage as if it exists for individual fulfillment. If a spouse isn’t being fulfilled, then that “consumer” looks for another relationship or even falls into an addiction to fulfill their particular needs—whether to look good, feel good, be right, or be in control. Mark and Rene’s marriage is a prime example of a consumer marriage. Remember some of their complaints?


Mark talked about his reason for dating a woman in New Mexico. He said, “I needed a companion, somebody who made me feel like I mattered. I just couldn’t take the nagging, whining, and complaining!” Mark wanted to feel good by being appreciated and not be asked to live up to what he had promised. He also wanted to be right and in control, so he used his interpretation of Rene’s asking him to move out as a way to justify his going out with the other woman.


Rene remarked, “I got tired of feeling abandoned and so I decided since you were never home and always out with other women, we might as well make it official. That’s why I kicked you out. I hoped that you would soon realize what you had lost and begin to court me again.” She also wanted to feel good and be in control. She longed to be romanced, and her way to control that outcome was to kick her husband out.


Notice the price Mark and Rene were willing to pay to manipulate the other to get what they wanted—the looming dissolve of their marriage. Many Christian couples approach marriage this same way, as a consumer, because they don’t know or understand what God intended marriage to be.


And Now for Something Completely Different


Mark and Rene had entered the death spiral of the consumer marriage. For all their talk about their “needs,” they were missing their real need: A new way of understanding what marriage is all about for them as citizens of the kingdom of Jesus.


Jesus steps on the scene and says, “Where's My kingdom in all of this? Your personal fulfillment and satisfaction are the means to the end. There's nothing temporary about your marriage, and it is not disposable. You stick with each other and work diligently to develop your oneness, even if it is deeply dissatisfying and unfulfilling for long periods of time. Abandon your consumer marriage mindset and come and follow me. I will train you in how to stick with something and not be stuck with it!”


I don't have a program to prescribe, or a list of marriage pointers to post on the fridge. I want you to enter something completely new, together. Set the past aside. Don't even look back there, not even as a frame of reference. What I'm offering is total transformation, something truly, completely new. Something unprecedented, unparalleled.


Surrendering Certitude


The question before us is, Will we take Jesus up on His offer or will we allow our precious marriages—our families for generations to come—to go down with the ship of the consumer mindset? Let's focus in and look at the difference between the two types of marriages in greater detail.


The consumer marriage says: “I will be who I ought to be as long as, and to the degree, that you are who you ought to be.” The kingdom marriage says, “I will be who I ought to be whether you are or not.”


If you are anything like me, you're probably asking, “Why would I be who I ought to be if the other person is taking (or may take) advantage of me?” or “Why should I change if my spouse doesn’t (or may not) want to change?” or “Why should I do all the work if my spouse doesn’t (or may not) want to work just as hard as I am?” These questions are all grounded in the fear of the unknown, which is a huge part of consumer thinking.


Here is what I mean: The one thing we as consumers want from products is predictability. We want to know exactly what we will get, how they will work, who will be delivering them, when they will arrive, and how much they will cost. In short we want to have as much control as we can possibly get, with the most efficiency and convenience possible. Anything outside of that is unknown, uncertain, and definitely uncomfortable. Therefore, we strive to maintain control at all costs and eliminate any risks of encountering or dealing with the unknown.


Surely it is no accident that because of our innate need for this type of certitude, God calls those of us who desire to be united with another to be married. This union, in His eyes, depends on submission instead of control. In marriage, when we submit to the unknown we become open to the rewarding depths of its mysteries. One of my favorite passages about this concept is found in Ephesians and is a pictorial example of a kingdom marriage that counters the consumer lifestyle.

Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already “one” in marriage.

No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That's how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” (Eph. 5:21–31 MSG)


What strikes me most when I read this Scripture is the way Christ treats the church—through loving, honoring, respecting, and giving. This illustrates for us the manner that each husband is to treat his wife and how each wife is to honor her husband. Paul’s commission to us powerfully aligns with Jesus’ words in Luke about counting the cost. In both passages we are called to submission. If we want to be Jesus’ disciples, we must submit to Him and follow His example. If our marriage is to be a blessing to us and our community, we must submit to each other.


While our culture has taught us that the highest reward is to be served and be the master of our own destiny, we are told something contrary in the Bible. God reminds us that the greatest value in life is to submit and give ourselves over to God and one another. Becoming a servant will bring forth a greater blessing than this consumer world could ever give us. As it relates to marriage, submission is an opposing force to certitude, our need to be in control, and our beliefs that we know everything. The bottom line is that being a know-it-all is an obstacle to embracing mystery in marriage.


Think about this. Do we know everything about God? Of course not. Actually, the one thing we can be certain about is how inexhaustible the mystery of God is, as Job declared.

Do you think you can explain the mystery of God? Do you think you can diagram God Almighty? God is far higher than you can imagine, far deeper than you can comprehend, stretching farther than earth's horizons, far wider than the endless ocean. If he happens along, throws you in jail then hauls you into court, can you do anything about it? He sees through vain pretensions, spots evil a long way off—no one pulls the wool over his eyes! Hollow men, hollow women, will wise up about the same time mules learn to talk. (Job 11:7 MSG)


The foundation of life is God, and He has revealed Himself as mystery. This characteristic and the way He has invited us to discover and experience who He is reflects the very nature of mystery inherent in marriage. When we abandon our certitude and instead submit to God and then to one another, we open the door to the possibility of continual renewal. We stop pigeonholing ourselves, our spouse, and our marriage into what we think we know about them. And it is only by embracing mystery that we can begin to experience a transformational kingdom marriage.


Possibilities?


One night, Mark showed up at my house with steam pouring out of his ears. It was obvious he was desperate. “Dan, I need to talk to you. I can’t take Rene’s nagging any longer. All she wants to do is try and control me. She is so insecure that I can’t stand being with her! I can’t do this anymore. It’s over.”


Frankly, I was taken back by his certitude about where Rene was coming from, so I asked him how he knew she was insecure. For the next hour, Mark and I talked about that supposed surety. Mark also remarked that there was more bad than good in the marriage.


I reminded him about the “for better or for worse part” he uttered in their marriage vows and asked, “Isn’t that what you promised her? That you would stick around for better or for worse?”


Mark thought for a moment and said, “Sure, but she just won’t submit to me!” (Ah, spoken like a true consumer. I have heard this same thing from so many people of faith.)


After talking with him a bit, I learned that many of Mark’s Christian friends thought Rene was rebellious. I asked him to consider another point of view. I brought up the passage in Ephesians about submission and asked him what level of submission men are called to.


Mark replied confidently, “We are to be the head of the family!”


“Actually,” I pointed out, “it says we are to love our wives as Jesus loves the church and gave Himself as a sacrifice for her. My question to you is, if we are to love our wives as Jesus loves the church, who actually gave themselves first, Jesus or the church?”


“Jesus did.” Mark said in low tones.


“And who was crucified for the church to see her resurrected?”


“Jesus was.”


“The Bible says Jesus’ love was ‘marked by giving not getting,’ yet when we talk about your relationship with Rene,” I said. “You dwell on what you are not getting. I wonder how anybody would tend to feel if they were constantly reminded of their insufficiencies?”


“I get your point,” Mark retorted. “But the bottom line still is that all she does is gripe.”


I probed further, “Are you certain that is all she does?”


“Okay, not all the time. I know it isn’t healthy to use the words “always” and “never,” but she does it most of the time!”


I asked Mark if he was certain what Rene was doing was complaining. Could she, in fact, be doing something else that he was not able to see because he was so blinded by what he was so sure he knew?


Mark thought about what I said for a moment and then looked at me. “I am so tired of this relationship and how hard it is to just connect on anything. I think I just want to be done with it.”


I paused for a minute, weighing my response. “Mark, I do get you are being honest about how it feels for you, but do you think your certainty that the relationship is what you have described has anything to do with your despair? I mean, if Rene is who you are certain she is, and there is no possibility that she could be any other way, then I understand your despair. But what if things were NOT exactly the way you have them set in your head? Would it matter? If there was another possibility, would you like to know about it?”


“Yes, I would want to know if I am missing something.” Mark let out a frustrated sigh. “But it just doesn’t seem worth the time!”


“According to who? You? Rene? Your kids?” I asked with an edge in my voice.


“You’re right. I guess there can’t be much possibility if I am so certain about who she is, how she will respond, what she says, and what she wants.”


(Bingo!)


“Mark, what if the loss of your romance for Rene had little to nothing to do with her?” I inquired.


A sense of surprise came over his face and he inquired, “What do you mean?”


“If you think you know who she is, what she will say and think, as well as how she will react, then there are no new possibilities available. There is no mystery in the relationship and therefore no sense of anticipation for what God may be doing between you. No mystery equals no romance!”


“Perhaps that has something to do with the despair I’m feeling,” Mark mused.


I wondered out loud and asked, “Do you think seeing Jennifer contributes to that sense of despair?”


“Why would you say that?”


“It seems obvious to me that the more you see her, the more you will need to be right about these judgments you have about Rene so you can justify seeing Jennifer. That way you don’t have to be open to who you and Rene can be together. But sooner or later, Mark, you will have to explain this to your children. The prices are huge for the few fleeting moments of self-satisfaction you are gaining with Jennifer. Now that is a real formula for despair.”


Mark sat still for a few moments and then came back strong. “All this wondering about my certitude about Rene seems like a waste of time. I have been with her for fifteen years. I really do feel like I know how she will react.”


“Mark, I am asking you to consider and explore what you are making up about her reaction. When she complains about things, do you investigate her complaint? Have you stopped and wondered what she is trying to communicate by her complaining?”


His answer was immediate. “Yes. She is trying to control me because she is insecure.”


“Are you certain she is insecure? Perhaps part of submitting to another is being open to who your spouse is outside of your prejudice of them. I know you have your historical evidence to validate your judgment of why Rene reacts the way she does, but how much time have you spent questioning that certainty?


Mark still wasn’t fazed. “Dan you don’t understand what it is like to live with her and her nagging. She doesn’t care and I don’t see any good what could come out of this. This is just too much suffering to have to go through.”


I made one last attempt. “Mark, you know the suffering Aileen and I have gone through in our marriage, right?”


He nodded his head in acknowledgment while I reminded him of my story. “My wife and I were discussing divorce and were separated in our own house for a year. We saw no possibility that we would ever care enough for each other to ever be intimate again. But we decided that our son deserved the chance of us trying. We needed to at least try and trust God. We needed to at least try to devote some time to exploring our own judgments of each other. We needed to at least try and understand where the other was coming from outside of the record of wrongs we had built up to bolster our judgments of each other.


“Our hope and prayer was that God would somehow draw us into some new possibilities for each other. We realized we had loved one another once before. We experienced great passion for one another, much like you and Rene have shared in the past. We kept believing that God would open possibility in the suffering if we were willing to love each other as we wanted the other to love us. We were determined to get out of the consumer mindset that had done nothing except ruin our marriage.”


Something hit home. Mark promised to think about it and we ended the conversation.


Mark needed to abandon the what’s-in-it-for-me mentality and discard his certitude about Rene’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. He needed to embrace the possibility that could emerge from exploring the mystery of who she is and who they could be together.


I know this because this is what saved my marriage. I gave mystery a chance. The second I was able to allow mystery to seep into my thought process about my wife … the second I was able to admit that perhaps I didn’t know what she was thinking or the reasons for how she would react to particular things … the second I was able to allow God to intervene and transform my heart to give without expecting … was the second that the possibility opened for transforming our relationship.


Letting Go of Yesterdays


Experiencing this renewal and other possibilities that emerge from embracing the unknown is impossible until we let the past die. We need to let go of yesterday. The record of the past is the foundation upon which we built up a structure of false assumptions. The more we attempt to recapture the past, the more we miss the “new” God is doing now.


In the Bible God tells us, “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun” (Isa. 43:19 NLT). Part of counting the cost and picking up our cross is trusting God in letting the old die so He can begin a “new.” This is what it means to embrace the kind of mystery Jesus talked about of losing your life in order to gain it (see Matt. 16:25).


Embracing mystery and letting go of the old is never a comfortable process. It is ambiguous and uncertain. But this is what prompts us to cling to our faith in God. And this is what demands His intervention.


You may be thinking I don’t know if I can let go of feeling neglected or I’m not sure how to stop thinking about my wife’s infidelity or Can my husband and I really find peace in the middle of this tumultuous marriage with all we’ve been through?


The beauty of a kingdom marriage is that the designer is God Himself. He is the one who is able to renew our marriages by eclipsing the past with new possibilities. Even in the midst of the suffering, pain, and brokenness of a failing marriage, if we submit to God instead of submitting to our selfish, consumer-oriented desires—wanting to be in control, be right, look good, and feel good—He can renew our inner being and, ultimately, our marriage. This only happens, however, if we reinvent our relationship to the past, which will transform the power it has over us and give Him permission to bring about transformation.


When we allow God to get into the middle of our marriages and submit to His will, He not only transforms our character, but He transforms the value of the very things that caused us harm or were unhealthy in the past. God’s intervention in these things creates an opportunity for healing and renewal. Even our failures as spouses can be turned into learning lessons that can bless our marriage and even those around us.


Sure we have to designify our past—the hurts we’ve been caused, the hurts we’ve caused—but there is more to transformation than just that. God has the power to take the bad things, even what we consider our character flaws, our lapses in judgment, our bad decisions, and turn them into blessings in disguise. God transforms us by taking those things we judge as bad or evil that we have thought, said, or done and turning them into strengths or gifts, if we are willing to live in the light. This is what spiritual transformation is all about.


A year or so after counseling Mark and Rene, they shared with my wife and I how God transformed a particular aspect of their marriage that relates exactly to what I’m talking about.


Mark admitted that he finally realized how selfish his need for Renee’s attention had been, especially when it came to their sex life. He said they had a breakthrough in this regard because not only had their sex life increased in quality and quantity, but their intimacy in conversation had been dramatically heightened during this time.


Rene nodded her head in agreement. “When Mark turned that sensitivity from himself on me,” she explained, “I was completely overwhelmed by his love and appreciation. He recognized things about me I didn’t know anybody could see or appreciate. It transformed the way I view him and I began to experience respect where I formerly experienced contempt.”


Mark chimed in. “In the beginning, I couldn’t take Rene’s sharp edge and eye for detail. To me she seemed critical. But as I began to understand her perspective and she made room to investigate her own assumptions, her griping transformed! The ‘edge’ that I viewed as a threat was really a powerful commitment to integrity and congruity. Instead of hearing her as if her intentions were solely to criticize and knock me down, I started considering what she was seeing. This transformation opened up my eyes to other areas that we had been lacking in, like finances and our relationship with our kids. Though our willingness to be so open initially made us uncomfortable and even hurt in some ways, I realized how powerful it is to have a friend who cares for our future more than just living in the status quo. We are truly becoming a family because we can see specific situations we can pray into and discuss that make a real difference in our way of being together!”


Mark and Renee both agreed that this kind of transformation came through their willingness to suffer through being misunderstood, making mistakes, and feeling alone—all the emotions and feelings that are endured when we let go of past and allow God to step into our suffering and bring light to our darkness. Standing in the middle of challenges like these pays spiritual dividends far beyond what we know is possible.


What’s my point? Suffering in a hurting marriage can bring possibility. It can transform your union and yield the passion to bring you closer to your spouse. It can lead us to love as God has ordained it. Here, in the mere shadows of this world, faith hangs on to the possibility that what looks temporally harsh and horrible can be transformed into something that is eternally passionate and life-changing. Faith is the antithesis of the consumer mindset, which says that anything unpleasant should simply be discarded and replaced.


A New Beginning


Before Mark and Rene made the turnaround in their marriage, they had gotten to the point where I was mediating their divorce instead of trying to fix their marriage. Two years of hardcore counseling seemed to be worth nothing as I did my best to wisely help divvy up their assets. It was a gut-wrenching process to orchestrate.


When the subject of the custody of their children came up, the mood transformed from bitterness to sadness. Mark and Rene burst out, almost simultaneously, that they didn’t want to go through with the divorce. It was a surreal moment. It was as if all the things we discussed came alive in one moment for the two of them. They wanted to give their marriage another chance. They wanted to really listen to each other. They wanted to let go of what they thought they knew about the other person. They wanted to allow God to intervene with His love.


Mark and Rene have now been married for twenty-four years. They are very much in love and are enjoying their renewed, God-designed kingdom marriage. As a matter of fact, they recently shared with me that their romance continues to increase as they maintain their trust in God and embrace mystery while working with the other tools we originally practiced in our sessions. They say no to the temptation of being a consumer spouse. They resist asking, “What’s in this for me?” and continue to let go of their addiction to be right and in control. In doing all of these things, they are influencing the kingdom of God in a powerful way.


When will that surreal moment of surrender come for you in your marriage? What will it take for you to realize that God has called you to a mystery not a purchase agreement? That He has invited you into a conversation, not stump speech to promote your personal agenda? Be encouraged that no matter how bad you think your marriage is right now, there is hope. All is not lost.


If your marriage is not ailing in any way, use these lessons like a business person might use the Wall Street Journal or Forbes Magazine to build their foundation, keep an eye on the market or to better get a grasp on the trends that may be coming up. You can use this book to check, strengthen or expand the foundations of a kingdom marriage so you are better prepared when tough times do eventually come. Understanding how to live marriage in a way that expresses the kingdom will help weather future storms.


HIGHLIGHTS


A consumer-oriented marriage teaches us that we are the focal point of our marriage. It’s about our needs getting met. It’s about us.


God commissions us to live a kingdom marriage where the relationship is the highest good. We are called to be who we ought to be, even though our spouse may not be who they ought to be.


The first step to experiencing a renewed and transformational marriage is to look at it and start living it from a kingdom perspective. Otherwise whatever tools you apply will be used to accomplish the purposes of a consumer, not a servant in the kingdom of God.


Being in a kingdom marriage means submitting to God and your spouse. We are called to give of ourselves in a sacrificial way.


When we submit in this fashion, we embrace mystery. God is part mystery and so we, created in His image, are part mystery. When we understand that we don’t know everything about ourselves, our spouse, or our marriage, we open the possibility to experience our marriage and our spouse in new ways.


Letting the past go is critical to moving forward into a kingdom marriage, where God is the focal point. He is the one who can bring transformation, even out of our pains and suffering. He is the one who can turn what we thought were curses into blessings.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Us by Daniel Tocchini. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Path of Life

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11



Most of us are familiar with the above passage of scripture. My hubby and I spend a lot of time talking about our future. Our dreams, our goals and our purpose in life. Sometimes it seems that maybe we have a glimpse at the road ahead, but that is usually when something happens and God sends us in a different direction.

I actually looked up Jeremiah 29:11 in different translations this morning because I have always had a little trouble with this scripture and the word prosper.

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. The Message

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. The Amplified Bible



My husband being in the financial industry prosperity is linked with money and success and I just don't think that is the interpretation that God intended for this verse. I actually love both The Message and The Amplified Bible translations. Plans to take care of you, not abandon you, from The Message and plans for welfare and peace from The Amplified Bible both of these translations bring great comfort to me.

I know it isn't about prosperity like we view prosperity. It is about our final outcome. Our future hope of spending eternity with Him.


Today I am joining Emily at Chatting on the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped. On this Tuesday I am Unwrapping the gift of the Trust. I know that we will continue to talk about our plans and dreams. I know that we will continue to try to catch a glimpse of where God is leading us. However, my prayer today is that the path we choose to follow is His and not ours and I pray that we can always trust God's leading and not try to find our own way.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mamavation Monday - Little Progress

Well, it is another Monday and I am not doing a happy dance after getting off the scale. I only lost .4 pounds, but I was actually relieved to see that. I actually thought that I had gained weight this week.

We had the flu go through our house so I was home with sick kids and we didn't really stick to our healthy eating plan. I am not beating myself up about it though. It is a new week, a new day and I am starting fresh. I still did not get rid of pop completely. But, I had less than I had last week and it is all gone at home. So this week my goal once again is to have no pop.

I did not get in as many workouts as I would have liked with my sick kids, but I did add a new workout to my week. On Tuesday night I played basketball in a women's league in town. It just about killed me. I have been going to the gym for months, but I am still not in basketball playing shape. It was an amazing workout. I can't wait to play again tomorrow night.

I also decided to sign up for a half marathon in June. It is good for me to have a future goal so that I get myself moving and start training for it now.

My goals for the week:
No Pop
Workout every day: alternating Strength and Light Cardio with Intense Interval Cardio
Eat Nutritious Snacks
Drink more Water

Hopefully next week I will get below the 150 mark on the scale and I can do that happy dance.

Don't forget to tune into MomTV tonight for the Mamavation show at 9pm CST with Leah from Bookieboo. The Mamavation Sistahood is so inspirational and it is helping motivate me to make a difference in my life. Thanks Ladies!!

This is also the week for the Mamavation Twitter Party! Check out more information here. There are amazing prizes and Leah will be announcing the next two Mamavation Moms!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Firm Foundation

We have been battling a bought of stomach flu in our house. My oldest and youngest daughters both had rough nights two nights ago. Last night was calm again so for that I am very thankful.

My youngest slept in bed with me the night she was so sick throwing up every hour. After one of our trips to the bathroom we were laying in bed and I was holding her hand. She said in her sweet little voice, "Mommy, will you pray for me?"

This morning I spent my quiet time looking up all of the passages in my NIV Bible with the word foundation. My husband and I really want to raise our girls in Christ. One of the things we think about is that we want it to be their own faith. We don't want them to grow up relying on our faith alone.

They are growing up in the church. They are learning the Bible stories. They are memorizing scripture. They will be able to talk the talk, but will they walk the walk? Will they grow up to follow Christ?

Isaiah 28:16 talks about how the Sovereign Lord laid a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation. My Bible says, The cornerstone is the Messiah, the foundation on whom we build our lives.

We hope that we are building our family on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. I know that it takes more than taking them to church on Sunday mornings and praying with them at bed every night. They can grow up in the church, they can go through the motions of "religion", but still be lost.

As a family, we want our faith to be real. We want to live our faith every single day. I will be honest with you. It is not easy. We struggle with this as adults and we are trying to be examples for our girls. However, I think it makes our faith more real if they see the struggles, too. We don't want them to grow up thinking that being a Christian means being perfect. We just pray that we may provide them a firm foundation and they will build upon it throughout their lives.

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help me Martha Stewart

I am sitting here watching the Martha Stewart Show today. It is her blog show. I love her show and her magazine. I wish I could craft and cook like her. But there is something I need to learn from her more than anything else. I have the book, I have read the book, but I still have not applied the book to my life.


I asked for Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook for Christmas two years ago. I need to give you a little background on why in the world I would ask for a Homekeeping book for Christmas.

I grew up with a mom that did everything. She cleaned, did the dishes, did the laundry. Bottom line, I was spoiled. The problem with this is. . .I don't know how to clean. Honestly, my poor husband didn't know what he was getting himself into. We have been married for almost 10 years and I am still kind of a mess when it comes to cleaning.

When we first got married we discovered that we love to entertain. The only problem was that our house was never really ready for entertaining. We would decide to invite some friends over and then I would clean like a maniac and cook like crazy until our friends walked through the door. I loved to do it, but by the time our friends arrived I had a massive headache from stressing myself out about getting ready for the night. I really don't want to be such a disaster in my house, but I just have not figured it out yet.

Back when I saw the movie Julie and Julia I told my family that I didn't want to cook through a cookbook, I needed to clean through my Homekeeping Handbook. For those of you that know me well, you know this will not be an easy task for me. There is very little I hate more than to clean. But there is not much I love more than entertaining. I do realize that I need to do the first in order to enjoy the second.

I will begin sharing pictures, vlogs and posts on my process. I know that it is important for me to open my home to others. . .but some days I would be horrified to have you stop by. I may never be the Proverbs 31 woman, or Martha Stewart, but I am going to try.

This is my canvas, I hope you enjoy this adventure.

Becoming Lucy

I am a historical fiction book lover. So I was excited to read Becoming Lucy by Martha Rogers. I thought the book was entertaining. I was left wanting a little more of the story. I would have like to have a little more character development of dialogue between some of the characters. I think I let my imagination add more to the story. I knew where the ending was going from early in the book, but I still enjoyed the ending. You can read more about this below.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Becoming Lucy

Realms (January 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to LeAnn Hamby | Publicity Coordinator | Strang Book Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor. She served as a newsletter editor for the writer’s organization, Inspirational Writers Alive! for six years and is the state president. She is also the director for the annual Texas Christian Writer’s Conference and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Her novel, Not on the Menu (May 2007), is a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Rogers has a Master’s Degree in Education, worked for twenty-eight years as a secondary teacher, and has worked as a supervisory teacher at University of Houston Clear Lake and as an instructor of English Composition at Houston Community College. Martha and her husband live in Houston, Texas and have worked with teenagers at First Baptist Church for twenty-four years.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 297 pages
Publisher: Realms (January 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 159979912X
ISBN-13: 978-1599799124

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Oklahoma Territory 1896

Jake Starnes hunkered down in his jacket. He smelled
frost in the air, but the cold in his bones came from fear, not
the temperature. A gust of wind threatened to take his hat. He shoved it down tighter to secure it.

He peered ahead at the barren landscape and the outline of the town of Barton Creek. Naked trees stretched forth to the skies against a backdrop of prairie grass that spread as far as the eye could see toward distant mountains. It bore no resemblance to the beautiful hills of Texas where he grew up. He missed them, but he'd probably never get the chance to see them again. He sighed in resignation to the life that lay ahead. A life he hadn't chosen. It had chosen him the day he chose to wear a gun.

Mrs. Haynes sat beside him and nudged his arm. "How much longer will we be? Dear little Lucinda. I pray she doesn't have to wait too long for us. I thought Ben would be done with the stock, but since he wasn't, I'm thankful you were available."

"Happy to oblige, ma'am. Won't be long now." Mrs. Haynes had talked about her sister's "poor orphan child" for the past two months. He could sympathize with the child because he lost both his parents just after he turned fifteen. She must be grieving terribly.

The pressure of Mrs. Haynes's hand on his arm brought him to the present. "Jake Starnes, you're not paying one bit of attention to me. If your mind is on the work you left at the ranch, don't worry about it. Ben and the others can take care of your chores."

"I know they will." Gray clouds covered the late October sky. "It's getting darker. Hope we get back home 'fore night sets in. That wind's coming straight down across the prairie with nothing to stop it."

"Dear me, I do pray Lucinda is dressed warmly." Mrs. Haynes pulled her shawl more tightly about her shoulders.

"You said she's coming from Boston, so she knows about cold weather." He peered at the horizon. The few buildings of Barton Creek drew closer. Another ten minutes and they'd be in town.

Jake's stomach began churning like those blue-black clouds rolling across the sky. Were it not for the little girl waiting for them, he'd have turned back home now. If the sheriff in Barton Creek recognized him or had questions about him being a stranger in these parts, he'd be in a heap of trouble.

He'd avoided going into the settlement ever since he came to Oklahoma six months ago. His wanderings ended at the Haynes's spread, where he'd stopped to ask for work. His first intention to stay only a month or so then move on changed when the Haynes showed him a kindness and love he sorely missed. They had become the family he had lost years ago.

Now the thought of entering the town caused fear to rise like bile. What would happen if the lawman in town recognized him and Ben Haynes learned about Jake's past, a past he wanted to forget?



Lucinda stared down at the dusty ground beneath the worn wooden bench of the Wells Fargo depot and twisted her black-gloved hands in her lap. She searched the area for a familiar face. Where were Aunt Amelia and Uncle Ben? Her escort had fallen ill in the last town, but Lucinda had been determined to come on alone despite protests, and now she sat here with no one to meet her. Doubt clouded her mind over the decisions of the past month.

With no one else to call family, she'd had no choice but to come west. Aunt Mellie and Uncle Ben could never replace Mama and Papa, but being a part of the Haynes family would help take away the loneliness haunting her days.

She swiped at something as it brushed her cheek. An insect of some kind flew away, and she shuddered. What other strange things would she see this day? Her gaze swept across the scene before her. Several buildings across from the depot included a general store. She stood and made her way across the uneven ruts crisscrossing the street, if the hard-packed ground could be considered a street. A sign advertising Anderson's General Store squeaked on its chains. Welcome warmth greeted her when she pushed her way through the double doors.

A woman behind the counter peered at her. "May I help you, dear?"

The aroma of lamp oil and peppermint mingled in the air. "I stepped in to get out of the wind. I'm waiting for my Uncle Ben and Aunt Amelia to pick me up."

The gray-haired woman wiped her hands on her white apron. "Are you talking about Amelia Haynes?"

"Yes, ma'am. I've come to live with them."

The lady beamed. "Welcome to Barton Creek. I'm Bea Anderson, and that's my husband Carl over there." A slightly bald man helping a customer grinned and nodded in her direction.

Mrs. Anderson pulled up a stool beside the wood stove. "Sit a spell and get warm. Ben and Amelia should be here soon."

A young man by the shelf of canned goods turned and smiled. Lucinda offered a small one in return. Heat rose in her cheeks as he continued to stare.

She broke her gaze and pointed to glass jars filled with a rainbow of colors. "Thank you, but I must go back over to the depot. I'll take a few of those peppermints if you don't mind."

Mrs. Anderson filled a small bag with the candy. "It's a mite colder out now. Sure you don't want to stay here until they arrive?"

Lucinda handed the woman a few coins and grasped the bag. "Thank you for your concern, but I don't want them to have to hunt for me. Maybe I'll see you again."

"If you come to church on Sunday, you surely will." The bell over the door jingled, and another customer entered. Mrs. Anderson turned her attention to the new patron. The young man smiled and nodded as Lucinda turned from the counter. She didn't smile in return. Mrs. Anderson should have introduced him. Were proper manners of no importance here on the frontier?

Lucinda crossed back to the depot that was down from the town's answer for a hotel. The only fully brick building in sight, it had grand windows, and cut glass adorned the wooden doors, but it couldn't compare to the ones in Boston. Of course, nothing in these buildings resembled the beauty of the masonry of her hometown.

She returned to the bench and popped a peppermint into her mouth. The sharp sweetness teased her taste buds as she savored her favorite candy. It brought back memories of Papa bringing a bag of treats home to her every week.

She'd be eighteen in less than six months and old enough to take care of her own affairs. Until then, however, she had to comply with the lawyer's recommendations. At least her aunt and uncle were family, and she longed to be a part of a family once again. She missed having someone concerned about her welfare. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson had been kind, but they had their own affairs to tend to. Her only fear now lay in losing her own identity so far away from everything she knew and loved.

With no idea what lay ahead, one thing was sure: she would have to learn to do without the amenities enjoyed as the only child of a wealthy family. But if Aunt Amelia could come out here and live and be entirely happy, Lucinda had to at least give it a try.

A gust of wind whipped open her dark blue cloak and stirred a small whirlwind of dirt. She coughed from the dust and wrapped the thick wool tighter around her body to ward off the cold. If Aunt Amelia and Uncle Ben didn't arrive soon, she'd have to go back inside to escape the weather.



Mellie Haynes shivered in the frigid air. In a few minutes she'd be with her young niece. Dear Lucinda. How would she fare in this country? Amelia missed her sister and the wonderful letters they exchanged, but that couldn't begin to compare to the grief Lucinda must bear.

The Haynes ranch house may not be as elegant as Lucinda's home in Boston, but it was warm, comfortable, and large enough to accommodate her own son and daughter as well as Lucinda.

She pictured her young niece and Becky together. Surely Lucinda's upbringing would have a positive effect on her
daughter's hoydenish behavior. Of course, Becky was only twelve, but the time had come for her to learn more ladylike ways.

Mellie considered the young man beside her. Jake couldn't be much more than a few years older than Lucinda. Such a handsome face, but so full of sadness, it had drawn her to him like a moth to light when he arrived at the ranch all those months ago. He'd become more like a second son. She wanted to erase that haunted look in his eye and believed she'd succeeded until today.

When they reached the main street, her heart beat a little faster. Her precious niece huddled on the bench, staring at the ground. She would offer Lucinda plenty of comfort and love to help her adjust to all the changes in the days ahead.



Lucinda sat with head bowed against the wind as it blasted around the corner. She yanked on her bonnet to keep it from flying off into the street. She hadn't felt this lonely since the day after the funeral.

Wagon wheels creaked and broke the silence. Her name echoed across the street, and she glanced up. Aunt Amelia waved and called to her again. Relief flooded Lucinda's soul. She bolted from the bench and ran into her aunt's welcoming arms.

Aunt Amelia hugged her tightly. "Oh, my dear, I'm so sorry we're late. Your uncle Ben couldn't leave the ranch, so I had Jake bring me."

A young man in dusty boots and a brown hat stood waiting by the wagon. Hair the color of the wheat fields she'd passed in Kansas escaped from under his hat and brushed his shoulders. He tipped the brim back with a forefinger, and his eyebrows arched as though surprised to see her.

Aunt Amelia hugged her again before stepping back. "Oh, let me look at you. You've grown even more beautiful since we saw you at the funeral." She turned to the cowboy. "Jake, come and meet Lucinda."

The young man sauntered across the unpaved street and removed his hat. Steel blue eyes met Lucinda's gaze and sliced through her with razor sharpness. She gulped. No one had ever looked at her like that.

Aunt Amelia introduced him as Jake Starnes. A muscle twitched in his well-tanned jaw, and a gust of wind blew a few strands of hair across his face. Still, he stared. Curiosity swelled from within, but she averted her eyes. The handsome young man in dirty boots and a blue jacket was like no other young man Lucinda had ever met.

She lifted her chin into the air and turned her gaze toward the station. "My bags are over there."

He stepped behind Lucinda to survey two trunks and a mound of other pieces. He emitted a low whistle. "All that stuff yours?"

At Lucinda's nod, he shook his head, then hefted the smaller trunk onto his shoulder. With his free hand he grasped the handle of her largest bag. "I reckon it'll fit, but we'll all three have to ride on the bench." He strode across the way to a wagon hitched to a pair of horses.

Lucinda scurried to keep up. Dismay swelled in her chest as she surveyed the wooden contraption. No carriage? How far would she have to ride up on that narrow seat? "How far is it?" she asked.

"It's about an hour's drive out to the ranch. Mrs. Haynes, maybe we should have brought the bigger buckboard."

Aunt Amelia covered her mouth with her hand. "I'm sorry. I should have thought of that, but this will have to do for today."

Jake pushed his load into the back of the wagon. He turned to Aunt Amelia and offered his assistance to lift her onto the wooden plank bench. After she settled herself, he nodded toward a step on the side and reached for Lucinda's elbow.

Lucinda tensed at his touch but accepted his help. She perched next to her aunt. Not even a cushion on the boards to soften the impact, but the thickness of her petticoats and coat would ease the bumps a bit.

As soon as she was situated, Jake turned back to the station. "I'll get the rest of your things."

Jake's dark jacket strained across his broad shoulders as he lifted the final two boxes and almost staggered under their weight.

Aunt Amelia leaned against her arm. "Jake's a strong young man and a big help on the ranch."

Lucinda's cheeks again filled with heat. Ashamed to think her aunt caught her observing the cowboy, she let her gaze wander back to the street and the buildings. How different from what she expected, but then she had no way of knowing what awaited her in Barton Creek.

Before she could take time for further inspection, Jake returned to heave the last small trunk onto the wagon.

Jake frowned up at her. "'Tain't Boston, but it's growing."

His words echoed her thoughts and unnerved her even more. She clasped her hands to keep them from shaking.

He unhitched the horses and climbed up beside her aunt, then reached behind him for a heavy wool coat. Jake pushed his long arms into the sleeves and buttoned it around his chest. A flick of the reins and the team moved forward.

Wide-open range and grasslands spread across the scene with distant hills giving character to an otherwise dull landscape with its brown and pale greens. Leafless trees sent crooked fingers into the overcast sky. The land looked as though God had created it and then forgotten it. Lucinda shivered as the wind sent chilling gusts through her cloak.

Aunt Amelia grasped Lucinda's hand. "Our house isn't a big one by any means, but we have plenty of room for you, and Becky is excited to have another girl around the ranch. You'll share a room with her."

Share a room? Lucinda hadn't counted on that either. What other surprises lay waiting for her? The view of bleak land sowed more seeds of doubt in her mind. She should have insisted on staying in Boston. How would she ever fit into life on a ranch in such a lonely place?

If only Mama and Papa hadn't been so protective, she might not be as ill at ease as she was now. The sound of her name broke into her reverie. "What was that, Aunt Amelia?"

"I said Lucinda is rather a formal name for the west. How about Lucy? It's short and easy to say."

Change her name? What next? She rolled the name on her tongue but didn't care for the feel of it. If she changed her name, then she'd be giving up one more part of herself. Manners restrained her tongue from a sharp answer. "I'll have to think about the name for a while if you don't mind, Aunt Amelia."

Her aunt pursed her lips. "Of course, dear, but you can call me Aunt Mellie. Everyone at the ranch and in town does except for this young'un here." She nudged Jake in the arm. "Don't you think she looks like a Lucy?"

Jake shot her a quick look. "Sounds fine to me, ma'am," he said politely.

"Yes, Lucy is a good name." Mrs. Haynes grinned at Jake but spoke to Lucinda. "His name is Jacob, but we all call him Jake. Even your cousins have shortened names."

Love emanated from her aunt, but Lucinda would wait awhile before agreeing to change her name. She leaned forward a bit to observe Jake just as he cut his gaze to hers. A strange feeling of excitement engulfed her, but the unknown sent an icicle of fear through her heart.



Jake matched Lucinda's stare until she turned her head. Was that fear he saw in her eyes? What had he said or done to frighten her?

He observed Lucinda's ramrod straight back, her hands clutching a dark blue cloak around her. Raven black hair peeked from beneath a bonnet. He didn't know her age, but she had to still be in her teen years. What had led him to think Lucinda was a child? Of course Mrs. Haynes always referred to her as a little girl. Nothing prepared him for the young lady seated on the other end of the wagon bench.

Mrs. Haynes eyed Lucinda's traveling clothes. "We'll have to get you some more comfortable things for life on the ranch."

Jake swallowed a chuckle as Lucinda protested. "No need for that. Mr. Sutton thought I needed a proper traveling gown, but most of the things his wife helped me with are much more practical." More practical? Jake doubted it. A refined lady from Boston like her wouldn't know the first thing about what to wear at a ranch. A twinge of sympathy ran through him. She looked as out of place as a pig at a cattle auction.

"Here we are," said Mrs. Haynes. "Welcome to your new home, dear."

Before them the Rocking H ranch spread out across the horizon. The roof outlines of the house, bunkhouse, and barns drew near. Jake urged the horses forward, eager to deliver his unusual charge and return to his work. Lucinda's troubles were none of his business. Besides, he had enough troubles of his own to carry.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blog Journey

Well, I have been blogging for almost a year. It took me awhile to figure out how it all works and I am still learning something new everyday. Along with the blog redesign I am going to try to organize my thoughts in my blog a little better. I have been praying about the ministry of this blog. Around Christmas when my daughter was in the hospital the blog got set aside. The projects I was working on didn't get finished (i.e. our Jesse Tree & Our Advent Wreath Celebration). I am hoping to reorganize my thoughts in the new year. Get more organized and plan ahead.

I wanted to share with you some of the things you can look for in the upcoming year. If you haven't noticed the new design added categories along the right side bar. These categories are where I am headed in 2010. I have included the scriptures I am focusing on for each category as well.

My Journey: I will continue to share with you my faith journey. It is my prayer that we will all find the road that leads to life.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7:13-14



The Gathering Place: One thing that I love to do is entertain. And I think that God intends for us to open our homes to people. The Gathering Place is all things Home. From trying to be the Proverbs 31 wife to a new recipe that I can share with you my friends.

But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15



Family Room: This is a place to share the devotions we do as a family. We are currently working on the ABC's of Scriptures. I will share the faith journey we take as a family.

Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deutoronomy 11:19



Agape Love: Agape is the greek word translated as love in some New Testament scripture. Agape love stands for self-sacrifice. Agape love is the unconditional love that we receive from Christ. I decided that Agape Love was a great category for my posts on marriage. Christ's love is the model of love in our marriage.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34



Daughters of the King: As sisters in Christ we are all Daughters of the King. We can laugh together, cry together, and encourage each other as we celebrate our royalty.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12



Random Reflections: A place for me to share the many random, miscellaneous thoughts I have on life.

Photo Album: I love to take pictures. I love to share these pictures with you. This is my place to record our journey through the lens of my camera.

On The Shelf: Some of you may wonder why and how I read all of these books for my blog. First of all, I love to read. Second of all, I feel it is part of my ministry. When I was first saved I didn't know how to share my faith with others. Instead I used books. I would share books with my family and friends. They could read for themselves what I was feeling. The words that I couldn't find in my head were shared through books. There are so many books that can help share the gospel of Christ in non-threatening ways.

Mamavation: This is my journey to healthy living. Not only do I need to daily focus on my spiritual health, but also my physical health. Mamavation is a wonderful support system that is helping me accomplish my goals.

I hope you enjoy where I am headed in 2010, I don't know the plans that God has in store for me this year, but I am excited to be still and listen to His leading.