Category Archives: Peace

Be Mindful (Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter…!)

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One of the most unsettling noises a homeowner can hear is the drip…drip…drip of a leak, especially when that dripping noise isn’t happening in a sink or near a faucet!  On a recent rainy morning, as I was rushing to get out the door, I was suddenly panicked to hear that noise from not just  ONE place in the house, but THREE.

Water was dripping in over the fireplace in our family room, seeping through the floor from the deck into the kitchen, AND managing to find its way down the insides of the windows in the dining room. It was a bit of a mess.

Good times.

The rain eventually stopped and so did the leaks. After some inspection, we were relieved to find out the leaking was due to clogged gutters, NOT some other structural issue.  We called out the Gutter Squad and were very excited, when the next rain storm rolled around, that we were completely dry and leak free.  We learned the valuable lesson on keeping the gutters clear of junk so the water can flow freely through the gutters, keeping the house clean, dry, and well, “healthy”.

Sometimes, we can get our minds all cluttered up with junk, you know?  What we think about is affected by everything we take in: television, radio, internet usage, conversations with others, our senses, our worries, what we read, and so on. If we are not careful to run all that “input” through a filter, our minds can get clogged with things that dampen our spirits and skew our perspective in some pretty negative ways.

So, what’s the spiritual equivalent to a Gutter Squad clean-out?! Check this out:

NTS Week 4

THAT is the “gutter guard” of the mind, sweet friends. I don’t know about you, but THOSE are most definitely the kinds of things I want to be focusing on!!  We know from this scripture from Paul that it pleases God (and therefore good for us!) when we think about things that are:

  • True (reality based – as defined by God/Bible)
  • Noble (worthy of respect by God and those you personally respect)
  • Reputable (lawful and just under the jurisdiction of where you live AND most importantly, by God)
  • Authentic (pure, untainted, natural)
  • Compelling (attractive – morally and ethically speaking!) •
  • Gracious (admirable, you can honestly recommend this idea/thought/concept to others as Godly)
  • Beautiful (it is an exceptionally special thought/idea/place/person/etc. in the eyes of God)
  • Worthy of praise (God will be pleased with this thought/idea/circumstance)

Therefore, when we sense we are taking our thoughts into muddy waters, we can meditate on (…meaning “to be mindful of and think on”) these eight themes to unclog the blockages and replace them with free-flowing water (the kind we talked about last week! ).

This week, to take a few moments out of each day to clear your mind. To unclog the pathways of junk in your soul and fill your spirit with Truth.  Find a quiet place where you can breathe deep, let some things go, and find God.  Be present in the moment, away from to-do lists and tasks that would normally occupy your mind.  Give social media, television, and even radio a break and in their place fill up on healthier mind food – scripture, prayer, and focused time with God!

Following along with our summer series, easy 2016? Click here for the following items:

  • Printable note to self with our mantra and scripture for the week!
  • Printable copy of this week’s EASY recipe! (Kabobs – YUMMY!)
  • Link to amazon.com to find out more about our SUPER FUN book for this month: Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson (I mean SERIOUSLY – how could you NOT want to read a book with a title as awesome as that!)
  • And if you like music, you can click this link which will take you to another great tune from our summer song list! This week, we’re dancing along to” Nobody but You”, by Dara Maclean!

Have a great week! See you back here next Monday for some seriously FUN talk about how to play like a girl… 😉 !!

Peace, love, and JOY!!!

Wendie

I’m easy. How about you?

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It’s almost time…time for our summer 2016 summer series to kick off!  And this year, we’re taking it EASY!

easy strawberry logo 1

 

What’s our focus?  Setting our hearts on God.  Why?  Well, because we’re all about God and, in the summer especially, we’re all about easy:

If you set your heart on God and reach out to him…Your world will be washed in sunshine,
every shadow dispersed by dayspring.  Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again; you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy. 

Job 11:13, 17-28 The Message

This week, all local participants (150 ladies this year!) will receive their very own “easy 2016” goodie bag!  Everything you need to know about the summer series will be in the bag!  If you aren’t local, don’t worry!  You’re still included in all the summer silliness!   Everything you need will be accessible and printable by clicking on a link that will go live tomorrow (Thursday, May 19th).  This page will be updated then and you’ll be all set with the instructions you need to get geared up for our kick off on Monday, June 13th!

I’m taking it easy this summer, setting my heart on God and letting him wash my world in sunshine.  Wanna join me?  I hope so!  See you back here tomorrow!  😉

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie  🙂

 

You is kind; you is smart; You IS Important! ;)

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Psalm 116 tammy

Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Psalm 116:2, NLT

Did you ever read the book, The Help? Maybe you even saw the movie?  Even if you didn’t, you might be familiar with the following lines:

you is kind

I just love those lines. That towel hangs in my bathroom as a daily reminder of Truth.  If I get quiet enough, I can imagine God whispering those very words to me; and then adding, “You is loved.”

That’s the thing isn’t it – that “getting quiet enough” bit. This world we live in is a pretty noisy place.  We all need what Oprah calls a “morning oasis”, even if it’s at night!  A time when we can quite literally step away from noise and chatter of life to honestly get centered, talk to God, and let Him get a word in edgewise.  A time when we make the choice to chase away the mental lists that clutter our mind and hit the reset button on the remote that controls them.  A time when we can just be in His presence and soak it in, little by little, like the slow trickle of a hose placed on a newly planted tree, so that when we get up, we no longer dying of thirst in our spirits.

tangle for peace

In our study book for this session, A Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren tells us that if isn’t important when it happens, where it happens, or what it looks like; the important piece is that it just happen.   For our souls to be saturated with Truth, we need to cooperate with God in the filling! My challenge to you this week is to find 20 minutes or so each day to get quiet enough to experience God.  Let Him remind you why you’re here; love on your tired heart; reassurance your anxious mind; heal your rattled body.  Whatever it is you need, He already knows and is waiting for you to sit a spell with Him over it.

Don’t know how to get started? Here are a few of my favorite (paraphrased) suggestions:

  1. Shauna Neiquist: Mediate on one world or one image that reminds you of God. Maybe it’s a heart, the word “love”, or something in nature. (Meditation isn’t simply the emptying of the mind, remember. It’s also the filling of it with Truth. If you know how to worry, you know how to meditate! 😉 )
  2. Oprah Winfrey: Talk a walk outside and focus on your breath. Let God bring images to mind. Nature is one of our greatest spiritual teachers.
  3. Anne Graham Lotz: Read scripture. Respond to God with your own paraphrased version back. He loves to hear you speak His word!

Create your own version of a “morning oasis” or even a bunch of different ones and share them with us here!

If you are following along with us in our on purpose series, make sure you’re up to date from last week’s assigned homework!  Catch up through Week 8 in your inspiration/scripture booklet.  AND enjoy an awesome song by Jordan Felize about filling up on God!  Click here for “Satisfied”!

See you back here next week as we begin to wrap up our Winter/Spring 2016 series!!!

 

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: Get Your House in Order

Why PeaceMAKING is a Better Choice than Peacekeeping

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Are you the peacekeeper in your world? Always trying to make sure the feathers don’t get ruffled, keeping people in respective corners, helping to avoid awkward conversations and situations?

Yeah. Me, too.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

Peacemakers.  Not just peacekeepers. Jesus goes for a far more active descriptor and says we are blessed to be MAKERS of peace!  In order to be a peacemaker, we must preserve peace where it already is while ALSO actively work to restore it where it is not!

Olive Branch

In the 3,400 years of recorded world history, there have only been 268 recorded without a war. Clearly, we need peacemakers.

But remember, the Beatitudes are not necessarily referring to physical states of being. Instead, the Beatitudes are more concerned with the state of our heart, spiritually speaking.

Jesus wasn’t referring to making peace among nations here (although one can argue that would be a natural and positive consequence to making spiritual peace). Instead, Jesus is talking about making peace between God and man.  After all, that is precisely what He came here to do:

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. Luke 19:10, NLT

On a spiritual level, discord between man and God began in the Garden in Genesis 3. Jesus came to restore the peace between God and man.  The fall of mankind divided (or created discord between) man and God.  What was needed was reconciliation.

In scripture, the Greek word used to describe this reconciliation is eiro – which means to actively intervene to bind together those who are divided.  Jesus uses a derivative of this word in this Beatitude, namely eirenopoieo, which signifies a harmonious relationship between two or more parties, and is not merely the absence of war or uneasy truce. It means that the parties who are holding differences of opinion are willing to turn toward each other and embrace one. The Hebrew word that means the same thing is one we are more familiar with: shalom.

In Jesus, we see the perfect shape of a meek (powerfully under obedience and control), pure of heart (filled with Godly integrity) peacemaker; a person with a major bent on repairing relationships between mankind, of course, but most importantly between mankind and His Father. A living manifestation of shalom.

cross in england

Jesus was not a pacifist and is not encouraging us to be ones either here. Making peace doesn’t mean looking the other way when a wrong has been committed in order to keep the peace.

“The blessing is on the peace-makers, not necessarily on the peace-lovers. It very often happens that if a man loves peace in the wrong way, he succeeds in making trouble and not peace. We may, for instance, allow a threatening and dangerous situation to develop, and our defense is that for peace’s sake we do not want to take any action. There is many a person who thinks that he is loving peace, when in fact he is piling up trouble for the future, because he refuses to face the situation and to take the action which the situation demands. The peace which the Bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them, and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things, and the making of peace, even when the way to peace is through struggle.”  (Barclay’s Commentary on Matthew 5)

The peace Jesus refers to is not peace as the world would describe it – that idea of “an absence of chaos”. Instead, it implies almost an unshakable sense of all being right between you and God so that nothing can knock you off course.

Woven throughout scripture is this vision of God’s kind of peace:

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.                Isaiah 26:3, NIV

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27, NLT

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7, NIV

That is the kind of peace we are working to make!

In this beatitude, the condition is to be a peacemaker. The blessing part is this: when we strive to be makers of peace, we have the ability to call ourselves children of God. Whoa!

angel

In other words, if we are peacemakers, we are the Children of God.  Please note it’s not the same thing as saying, “…if you are a peacemaker, then you can be called My child and so then I will love you.”  It’s more like Jesus saying, “…when you facilitate peace between others, and most importantly between others and Me, you show this world whose you really are – MINE.”  We become the physical manifestation to others of God’s lovingkindness when we not only preserve peace (keep it) but when we work for reconciliation in order to make peace where it currently does not exist.

Frankly, this can be translated as “we resemble our older brother”! (And what an older brother He is…!) 😉

We are not God, of course, or even God-like. But our resemblance to Him would be visible to others through our humility, reliance on God, our hunger for righteousness, our meekness, our integrity, and our striving to reconcile one another to Him.

So, how can we rewrite this beauty of a beatitude with our newfound knowledge on it? What about something like this:

Blessed are those who actively work to restore God’s perfect peace to troubled and fractured hearts, for they are transforming themselves into the likeness of Christ every time they reach out in His name.

I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather resemble, can you?

Following along with us online?  Click here and scroll down to find Week 8’s homework!  Then click here for a great tune to go along with your work!  It’s Third Day singing “Soul on Fire”!  Enjoy!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: Joyful Persecution (the ultimate oxymoron)

Be Blessed

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This summer, I attended a funeral for the mother of a good friend of mine. It was a Catholic funeral, full of all the traditional rites, sounds, and readings that offer a huge dose of comfort and healing to the mourning. As I was kneeling during communion, I was acutely aware of God’s presence in the room. There was a holy stillness, a moment of peace that transcended the lack of noise and chaos. As we all knelt with silent mouths and prayers uttered from honest hearts, I found myself in the midst of the Kingdom of God – no doubt about it. Nothing looked different or sounded different or anything like that. But I could feel it on a soul-filled, spiritual level. And it was beautiful.

White Snow Flowers Up Close

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-2, NIV

What if the kingdom of God isn’t just somewhere up “there”? What if what Jesus is really saying is that it’s also right here, right now? What if we’re already in it – already woven into His presence, day in and day out? What if we could stop worrying about missing God in everyday moments because we begin to see we’re already in His company? What if we began to see the human condition, as flawed and sinful as it can be, as a blessing instead of a curse?

Trees and Sky Elle

The Beatitudes:  the very beginning of the famous “Sermon on the Mount” found in the Gospel book of Matthew  that many believe was His first public message of His earthly ministry. Eight short, but powerful, verses in which Jesus takes a few private moments with his beloved disciples in order to share His vision of the transformation of the human heart into something that looks a bit more like His.

Yes. Jesus sits on Heaven’s throne at God’s right hand. But He also made a home in your heart the moment you believed in Him. He sits at your table, rides in your car, laughs at your jokes, counts your tears and knows the number of times you toss and turn at night. He never leaves you alone and is most concerned about the condition of your spirit. He is relentless in pursuing you and walks with you through the good times and the bad. He wants you. He loves you. And He blesses you in ways you haven’t even considered yet.

White Snow Flowers with Greens

THAT is what this Bible study series of ours is about. Understanding our blessed standing with God, regardless of life situations and circumstances. It’s about turning everything we thought we knew about the Beatitudes kind of on its ear and letting Him transform our hearts into a mirror image of His.

For ten weeks (beginning today!), we’ll be diving deep into Matthew 5:1-12 and learning to change our hearts from the inside in order to change what’s on the outside. In other words, the Beatitudes are concerned with our inner attitudes which, as we will see, enable us to reflect “Kingdom characteristics” in the way we live. Beginning next week, we will take one Beatitude and look at it from different angles in order to really understand it.

Each week, you’ll have the opportunity to follow along with those us of doing the physical studies (meaning those of us attending live and in person!) by clicking on the link above called “be blessed”. That link will contain everything you need to do the study with us! Homework can be accessed by clicking the corresponding week’s link and printing it up to complete. Three levels of homework are included in the pdf link, depending on your time and commitment level to the study! Do what blesses, not what burdens – that’s what we like to say! But whatever you do, do it with a willing heart and an honest desire to learn and grow in your relationship with God.

Elle and Yael Converse

“God meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be.” Larry Crabb

One of the things I LOVE most is really good contemporary Christian music, and I like to make a soundtrack for each series we do here at stringing pearls! You can click on the “be blessed” tab above to see the whole song list. This week, I encourage you to watch this amazing video by Hillsong. The song is called “Touch the Sky” and totally reminds me of this idea that we are already walking in His kingdom! Enjoy – see you next week for our first Beatitude!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: Matthew 5:3 – “blessed are the poor in spirit…”

all photos:  property of Ella Connors, all rights reserved 2015

The Significance of Your Labor(ed) Day

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If you woke up this morning (and since you are reading this, I’m going to assume you did), then you’ve been given a day with a purpose set out before you.

In God’s economy, nothing gets wasted. So while today may seem mundane or even useless in your eyes, it’s an important piece in the vibrancy of someone else’s.

Flower in Crevice

That school lunch you just made for the hundredth time? It’s the fuel to spark creative energy to get your precious child through the school day.

That counter you just wiped? It’s the altar your teenager uses to unwind after a mindboggling day of information overload at class.

That clean shirt you just hung up from the laundry? It’s the confidence booster your spouse was looking for to slay that morning presentation.

That coffee you just made in the office breakroom? It’s the warming, pick-me-up your co-worker needed after a long night rocking a sick child.

That walk you just took your dog on? It’s the breather you needed to clear your mind and reset your patience level to deal with the next task on the to-do list.

That tenth “tuck me in again, mommy” you just did tonight is the physical embodiment of love that will linger all night in the sweet dreams of your darling kiddo, providing the restorative sleep she needs most.

You get the picture, right? If God gave you another day to be here, He had good reason to do so, whether you see it or not. He doesn’t do anything without purpose; remember that.

Queen Anne's Lace Up Close

So no matter what “today” might look like from your perspective, the view from heaven is pretty significant. Live it and labor it well, sweet friends!

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  Colossians 3:23, NLT

Mossy Crabapple Branch

(Photo creds for this post go to my incredible, budding photographer, Ella.  Go ahead, tell her how beautiful they are!  😉 )

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up next week: THE BEATITUDES BEGIN!!!!! WOO HOOOOOOO!!!

 

The Back to School Blues…and reds, and greens!

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Oh boy.  It’s time to start singing those “back to school blues”. And this momma is feeling it all the way down to her tootsie toes. Are you? If so, sit back with something soothing to drink, and read this – and know you’re not alone!

 

104 days of summer vaca

I love me some of that Phineas and Ferb theme song, don’t you?! 😉

But I’m not going to write all about the emotions of moms everywhere around the country right now regarding the age-old back to school sadness and drama.

It’s not that I don’t I struggle with it, too, because I do. I absolutely love having Ella home all summer! I love the relaxed routine it affords our family. I cherish every second that we’re not fighting over homework, searching high and low for a pair of matching socks THREE seconds before we need to be out the door, or trying to unearth gym uniforms that should’ve been washed last week.  And don’t even get me started on lunches…;)

I crave the hours and hours I get to spend with Elle in the summer, watching her in her “element” – which is truly just hanging out in our neighborhood with kids of all ages and from all different schools, and playing endless hours of games at dusty softball fields.

I love waking up not knowing what’s for breakfast that day, let alone dinner! I love having wine at night on the deck with Tim, popping open an iced cold Diet Coke from the cooler first thing in the morning, and sipping margaritas on the porch with neighbors (on a Tuesday, even!).

Margarita in a jar

So yes. I’ve got some brooding emotions sitting in the pit of my tummy as we face returning to school on tomorrow! But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today.

Instead, I want to focus on the endless possibilities and new beginnings this very thing brings!

I want to assure you that, just like every other back to school season you’ve experienced, this one will be full of chaos (just breathe…), surprises of all kinds, new friends, old reliable ones, and intriguing opportunities. It isn’t a negative, dear friends! Because no matter WHAT may feel like it’s “ending” in your life right now, I promise something else just as great (or even better) is about to begin. And I believe God wants you to embrace it!

Open up a brand-spankin’ new box of sharpened colored pencils and what do you see?! A carton bursting with colors just aching to be pulled out of the box and spilled out with delight onto a bright, white piece of paper! Each one joyfully begging, almost audibly, “Pick me! Pick me!” to the creator.

Romans 8 15 16

What if we saw ourselves as those pencils?! What if, when that new box is opened, we were the first ones to raise our hands, jump onto the paper, and let Him write our new story with complete trust that our colors would show, or even shine?! What if, instead of hiding in the box, we let Him lift us out of our comfortable, supported position next to the ones we’ve been stored with for a long time and let Him make something beautiful with us? Because He can and He will if we let Him!

Sure, we may need a little sharpening. Maybe we’re not as tall or perfect on the outside as we used to be. Maybe we have a couple “bite marks” from past use by someone who didn’t know quite how to take care of us. That’s not what matters because our God-given colors are still as bright and unique and perfect as they always were – and He knows how to coax them out from the dust and even fix any misuse of us in the past.

Every color is beautiful to someone. Never ever forget that.

god colors

We urge our children to put themselves out there each school year. To raise their hands. To volunteer. To make new friends. To take chances. That no question is a dumb one. To notice those who may need help and step in. We tell them it’s okay to make mistakes; to give an incorrect answer; that falls happen and to get back up and try again.

As we begin this new school year season, whether you are sending your children to kindergarten (and, oh, may God bless you with plenty of Kleenex for that first day!), back to the same school or home school for a new year, off to a brand new school, or even off to college (and I pray for plenty of Kleenex for you, too!), listen to your own advice.

Be the color that someone else needs to see. Look for complementary colors to walk along side you. Raise your hand. Ask the Teacher to pick you – and then let Him create a beautiful picture for this new season. Don’t stay in the Crayola box, sweet friends. Jump out onto the paper and see what He does with you. Then send me a copy of it! I can’t wait to see it and relish in your beauty.

Peace, love, and JOY to all of you!

Wendie

simpl.if.I: Be HAPPY! (Summer Series Final Week!)

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When I was in high school, I worked at McDonald’s and my favorite shift to work was in the drive-thru on weekend mornings! I loved wearing the headset microphone because it made me feel quite important and fancy! And it always felt like customers were in a really great mood on Saturdays and Sunday, without the impatience that a typical weekday morning might bring with it 😉 !

The BEST part was sending customers off with a smile and a kind word about their day. We were encouraged to say, “Have a great day!” as the customer was exiting the drive-thru. I took my job seriously, sweet friends. I really, really wanted those people to go out and have a great day and think to themselves, “You know what? I really DID have a great day and it’s all thanks to that darling girl in drive-thru!”  🙂

McD's sign Eph 5 15

Thinking on that phrase, I wish I’d have been wise enough back then to use a more active phrase like, “ENJOY your day!”; it just feels like a better way to remind each other that we all have a CHOICE in how we experience our daily reality. I mean, “have a great day” sounds like all you have to do is sit back and receive it, and some days, those “great” days just don’t seems to find you. Whereas “ENJOY your day” implies active participation on your part, doesn’t it? Kind of that “Mary Tyler Moore” attitude of making today a day GREAT regardless of what life throws at you.

Here’s the secret Mary Tyler Moore (aka “Mary Richards”) knows that maybe you don’t: “day changing opportunities” are always within your reach.

Be Happy Ecc 3-12

If there’s ONE thing Mary and I can tell you about having a good day and being happy, it’s this: if all else fails, do something good for someone else. No matter what today has thrown in your path, the moment you reach out and change the day for someone else is the same moment the day changes for YOU. It’s actively choosing and pursing goodness and not sitting back and waiting for it to find you. It’s stepping beyond circumstances and defying Satan’s attempts to bring you down into a bad mood. It’s believing God and taking Him at His word and partnering with Him to make TODAY enjoyable.

BE HAPPY. “Be” is an active word and happy is a delightful thing to be. And most of the time, being happy is simply, and quite frankly, up to you. It begins with your thought process and blooms from there.

Roald Dahl Sunbeams

(Is that the coolest quote ever, or what?!)

So if you are having trouble enjoying today, sweet friends, take a lesson from Eccelsiastes, Roald Dahl, and Mary Richards: go do some good for this world and find yourself BEING HAPPY as a result!

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take today toward HAPPINESS!):

  1. Find/Print our mantra and scripture card for this week. Display it on your easel or somewhere you will see it on a regular basis!
  2. Think of someone in your life for whom you could do a little something “good”. Make a note of how you feel before you do it and what your mood is AFTER. I think you’ll find God “ups” your happiness quotient as a result!
  3. Take a moment each day to read over ALL our scriptures and mantras for this summer series. I pray you find comfort and blessings through them.
  4. Watch this cool video from Building 429, “Impossible”!

If you are reading before amen by Max Lucado, time to finish the book! This week, read the final chapter – Chapter 9 and complete the study guide at the back of the book. Pat yourself on the back for another Bible study – well done!!!

What a great 10 weeks it has been simpl.if.I’ing our summers together this year! I am humbled and honored that you took the time to do so and spent it with us. Just like everything in life, all endings just mean a beginning of something new! We are excited to share with you the theme for our Fall 2015 stringing pearls ministries Bible study:

 be blessed logo rustic

Yes!! We will be studying the Beatitudes together beginning the week of September 14th! Details on the series will be posted here on the blog and on our Facebook page in a couple weeks! In the meantime, I hope you’ll swing back next week for our Back To School blog post for all of us sending kids of ALL ages back into the classrooms of the world!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: The Back to School Blues

 

simpl.if.I: Be Nice! (Summer Series Week #8)

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I’m one of “those” moms who cannot wait for the first SECOND of summer break. The thoughts of three blissful months of no arguing over homework, no making of lunches, and POSSIBLY sleeping just a wee bit later fill me with complete glee! And the fact that we are on our very own schedule just makes it even sweeter!

BUT. (There’s always a big but, isn’t there?!)

There ALSO comes a time every summer where I begin to think, “Hmmm…maybe summer break could be a teensy bit shorter”. This thought comes to mind because, to be completely honest, I’m not feeling so “nice” anymore.

The kitchen never seems to be clean. The laundry somehow multiplies. The gas in my car is constantly on empty. Our checking account feels a bit skinny. And my patience feels even skinnier.

Anyone feelin’ me today?

And so, upon waking this morning and realizing my less than stellar attitude about summer vacation (which continues for three more weeks, mind you), I spent a little time with one of my favorite truth tellers, Paul, who reminded me of the importance of being nice to others.

Be Nice Romans 1220

For me, praying God’s word back to Him is like picking up the phone to call a friend. Then sitting quietly and meditating on it is like giving Him the time to answer back. And today, He answered – loud and clear.

In the midst of my complaining to Him about all the things that were annoying me, He gently revealed to me that He wasn’t the only one to whom I had been complaining about it. Apparently (and embarrassingly) I had somehow exchanged my Mary Poppins bag of tricks that was always at the ready for spontaneity and teenage girl FUN, for a sack full of sour puss comments.

Whoops.

And in that moment, I understood that complaining about what I had been looking forward to for so long wasn’t my best plan.  I needed to change my perspective because my current mindset wasn’t helping anything. God showed me a great way of getting back to summer joy mode with my girl: remember the good things.

ephesians 5 15

The thought that I kept hearing in my head was this: “Remind Elle who she really is”. And as I thought about that, I realized this: who on this Earth is closer to her and more able to see the God-given goodness and beauty He placed within her than me? Who (other than her dear daddio) spends more time with her, loves her more, appreciates her, and celebrates her more than me?

God was prompting me to BE NICE and remind her of THOSE things, not the ones that were annoying me (because I’m sure she’s got her own list of what I’m doing that annoys her…)!

So, in between drop off at one camp and pick up an hour later,  I spent a few moments jotting down a list of the amazing things that make her unique to this world and so special to me. It wasn’t a long, multi-paged novella or anything like that! It was actually just a short-but-sweet bullet-pointed list of her beauty – inside and out.

When she got home, I watched as she found the card and read it. She smiled big and gave me a huge hug. She thanked me for the surprise love note and “being so, so nice” (her words, not mine) and reminding her why I loved her so much.

I caught her several times throughout the day opening the envelope to read the card again. She smiled each time. I had indeed surprised her with goodness and it felt so good, so sweet, to be blessed by an obedience to God’s prompting.

Who can you surprise with goodness today? Where can you add a little helping of “nice” to this world? It surely doesn’t need to be big or monumental or even cost a single penny. It simply needs to be authentic and from your heart right to someone else’s. It’ll change someone’s day  (and improve your attitude) I promise!

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take to improve your “niceness quotient” today!)

  1. Print/find this week’s mantra and scripture card. Display it somewhere prominent to remind yourself of the JOY in surprising someone with your goodness every day!
  2. Think of ONE person who could use a little nice in her/his world this week and make it a point to find something special (big or small) to do. The blessing you receive in return will exceed what you can imagine, sweet friends.
  3. Read all of Romans Chapter 12 in the Message Version! It’s honestly one of my favorite chapters of any book in the Bible!
  4. Watch this video from Needtobreathe called “Brother”. You’ll LOVE it!

If you are reading before amen by Max Lucado alongside us, this week we are reading Chapter Seven, “They Need Help” that beautifully talks about the power of intercessory prayer (praying for the needs of others). The study guide at the back of the book is great, too, should you have time to sit down to complete it!

Well, my dears, just two little weeks left of our summer series! I can’t believe it is flying by so quickly. But never fear – the ministry team is busily planning our fall 2015 series RIGHT NOW and we will announce it at the close of the summer session! So be sure to stay tuned!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week: simpli.if.I week 9: Thank God!

simpl.if.I: Be Real! (Summer Series Week #6)

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Sometimes you just need to know you aren’t alone.  Sometimes you need reminding that weeping is cleansing and good and painful and hard, regardless of the reason why you’re weeping.

 Be Real Angel Statue

Jesus Wept.  John 11:35

When I read those two words from John 11 above, I honestly didn’t care why he was weeping.   I just needing reminding that Jesus wept and in the midst of it, I realized the healing power of this very short verse.  Jesus wept because he knew what it meant to be broken.  Just like us.  He wept because He knew it isn’t easy being human.  Just like us.  He wept because life is hard and He, Himself, experienced the fact that earthly life deals us blows we aren’t expecting and aren’t even able to deflect.   Just like us.  So He wept.  And therefore, it makes perfect sense to me that we do too.

 

We each weep because of a catalyst – an event.  Maybe because of a diagnosis.  Maybe because the bottom falls out.  Maybe because we can’t cope with the way it is for one second longer.  Maybe because it shatters our heart to see someone we love in shambles.  But honestly, regardless of the reason, we weep because we have been rocked at our very core.  We weep because we cannot have imagined “this” was coming.  We weep because we didn’t want it to be this way.  And we weep because we know change is coming.  But maybe change is just what we need to heal.

 

The beautiful flipside to the sadness is that we also weep when we are happy!  Can you even imagine all the times Jesus must have felt blessed tears on His holy cheeks when He looked around and thought, “My heart could burst with joy in this moment!”?  Even with all the heartache, there were most certainly tears of happiness shared around the table, too!  Just like us.

 

Weeping lets us be real, and being real is a grounding and simple and holy experience.  It puts us on an honest and transparent footing with others and, most importantly, with God.  Being real is a lifelong process that prepares us to intimately share ourselves with Him face-to-face.  To be real means to really know love.

Be Real John 11-35

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

 

So today, go ahead, be real.  Do the “ugly cry” if you need to – regardless the reason.  Because remember, sweet friend, you are infinitely loved and understood.

 

Practical Application:  (simipl.if.I’ed steps you can take to get REAL today!)

 

  1. Find/print our scripture card for this week: Be Real (John 11:35). Put it somewhere you can see it and read it to yourself over the course of this week!
  2. Read the verse in context of what was happening in the life of Jesus when this was recorded. Realize that Jesus experienced everything we do as humans. What a gift we have in watching how he did things.
  3. If there’s something going on in your life right now that is moving you to tears, let yourself be real enough to weep. Write a letter to yourself giving yourself permission to be mad/sad/happy/elated/frustrated. When you’ve written it, read it to God as a prayer. Tuck it into your Bible or a safe place to come back to once the emotion has faded and the situation has either resolved or lessened in intensity. It serves as a reminder that God brings us through to the other side of all things WITH Him.
  4. Check out this audio/video version of Francesca Battistelli’s “Holy Spirit”!

If you are reading before amen, by Max Lucado, this week you can read Chapter 5:  “Heal Me”.  And, if you are so inclined, complete the Chapter 5 study guide at the back of the book!

 

Thanks for joining us in this series!  We are growing together in Christ – it’s such an awesome thing!

 

Peace, love, and Joy!

 

Wendie

 

Up Next Week:  Simpl.if.I week  7:  Let Go!