Category Archives: stringing pearls with wendie

The JOY of Gratitude! (She PERSISTED Week Two!)

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Gratitude Quote

Here’s a little Bible trivia for you. In scripture, how many times to you think God speaks to us about gratitude in the New International Version?  Well, according to a word count website, christianbiblereference.org,  it’s 340 times.

That’s third in frequency only to directives regarding love, which comes in at number one at 551 times, and fear at 366 times (one for every day of the year plus leap year)!

We understand the importance of love, of course. It’s the very fabric of Christianity and woven into our DNA!  And we can also understand the need to reassured about fear and anxiety and to be directed to trust God! But gratitude?  Why would it have such a prominent place in terms of scripture themes?

Dr. Robert Emmons (UC-Davis), has helped to open the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkely to not only scientifically study gratitude and its effects on us, but also to promote the practice of gratitude world-wide.

Emmons and his associates have scientifically studied some of  the positive effects of a regular practice of gratitude (practices range from keeping a written daily gratitude journal, recording gratitude in some other way [like the 365grateful.com project we read about last week in  our Flow Book:  The Book That Takes It’s Time] to simply thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of the day). The first thing they discovered is that you can rewire your brain to be happier by simply recalling three things you are grateful for each day for 21-days.  It all has something to do with neurotransmitters and the chemicals and hormones and stuff!  Basically, gratitude actually rewires the neuro-pathways in the brain to help release more happy chemicals than in the brains of folks who do not practice.

In addition, they identified these seven benefits mind and body benefits to the regular practice of gratitude:

  1. Strengthens relationships and helps to make new ones
  2. Improves your physical health and motivates you to take better care of yourself (less illness, quicker recovery times, exercise more, eat better, see doctors on regular basis)
  3. Improves psychological health (lead to improved memory, happier outlook, and a diminishing of depressive feelings and anxiety)
  4. Increases empathy and decreases aggression behaviors
  5. Improves sleep (one study states that if you spend 15 minutes recalling things that make you thankful at the end of the day will help you sleep better, deeper, and longer that those who do not)
  6. Improves self-esteem and helps you become an encourager of others
  7. Increases your mental strength and fortitude and makes you more resilient in times of hardship

Those are some pretty powerful and peace-inducing changes you can make to your body and your mind, right?  But, spiritually speaking, what’s so special about being grateful, other than the politeness of saying thank you?

Phil 1 3-4 Card

 

Gratitude breaks down the barrier between the mind and the spirit and is a TRIGGER for joyful and worshipful prayer!  How awesome is that?!

When we feel a sense of gratitude for something God has provided, (and let’s face it, it all comes from God!) our spontaneous response is prayer!  We don’t thank God because it’s the polite thing to do.  We thank God because we can’t help ourselves!  It’s our soul’s response to His goodness and our reward is His joy in our hearts.

Ann Voskamp, in her book 1000 Gifts, dives into the spiritual significance of gratitude.  She traces it back to the Greek word, eucharisteo, which, in Greek, encompasses the words:  grace, thanksgiving, and JOY.  Hang onto that for a sec, because we will be circling right back to it.

There is something called cognitive dissonance and that is a psychological term that means you cannot think and believe two polar opposite things at the same time. Like, you can’t be proud of your work while simultaneously being ashamed of it.

So with that in mind, you cannot feel gratitude in the spiritual sense (which we now know means grace, thanksgiving, and joy) and ALSO be sullen, burdened, and angry.

 

I did an informal poll over the weekend and asked people, spiritually speaking, what could they use more of in their lives. Unanimous two responses?

Peace and joy.

Okay.  So let’s do a quick recap of what we already know:

  • Number one thing gratitude does for your mind? Brings you peace.
  • Number one thing gratitude does for you spirit? Brings you joy.

Looking for more peace and joy in your world? The answer is to practice gratitude.

But , this is not something we do quickly, nor should we treat it as a “to do item” on a list of chores! It’s not just:  “QUICK!  Name three things you’re thankful for – GO!” and be done with it. It’s something we do persistently, intentionally, mindfully, prayerfully.  As Ann Voskamp says, “It takes a full twenty minutes after your stomach is full for your brain to register satiation.  How long do you think it takes your soul to realize when your life is full?”

I Belong to Jesus Mug

THIS is where we start getting intentional about mindfulness:  what it is, why it’s important, what it does for you, and how to begin a practice of it.  Our readings this week will be on mindfulness and gratitude and we’ll be stepping into exercises from our books to help nurture it!  Click here to access the homework exercises and click here to access additional resources for this week!

Go enjoy your week, sweet friends!  And get into the gratitude groove! 

I am GRATEFUL for YOU!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  A Special Conversation with some special guests!  😉

 

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Always, We Begin Again. (She Persisted Week 1)

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Is there anything better than opening a beautifully wrapped gift?  And… drum roll PLEASE…here is what was waiting for the girlies inside this semester’s …breathe box…!!!

Breathe Box Contents Collage

Amazing stuff, sisters:  Two books, a journal, twelve power packed scripture cards on an adorable wood slat frame, an Emily Ley de-cluttering guide, a pail in which to store gratitude cards, a custom-blended “Per-SISTER” essential oil roller ball, prayer cards, an awesome “Nevertheless she persisted” desk sign, our song list, and  – what has become a favorite item in our boxes – Sugarfina Bubbly Champange gummie bears!!!   So, SO awesome!

St Benedict Quote

Our “in-person” studies began again this week and we had such a ball reconnecting and setting the stage for this semester.  Our new motto is:  “ministry with a side of moxie”.  We thought it fit well with us AND with this semester’s title of “She PERSISTED”, don’t you agree?

Each week, we will post here Wendie’s condensed teaching notes (she’s a wordy girl… 😉 ) for those of your following online!  Each post will have a recap of large group teaching along with links to “homework” you can do to follow along with us!  AND, there will be an additional link to a section of extra resources for you explore  – should you be interested.

If you want to follow along online, all you need to do is to get your hands on copies of the following two books AND something to write on.

Box inside with books only

A Book That Takes It’s Time (Smit, VanderHulst), and 100 Days to Brave (Annie Downs)

 

[Please note that while we LOVE sharing a lot of our “stuff” (and we do it for free), we request that credit be given where credit is due.  In other words, don’t take stuff you find here and pass it off as your own if you didn’t write it or create it.  That’s just not nice.  And we love nice. 😉  Thanks, friends.]

You can also click here for the She PERSISTED homepage for additional info on this study semester!

So here we go – Week One of She PERSISTED (make sure to read ALLLLLLL the way down for information on our big giveaway this week!)…

To be persistent means to pursue with zeal. I love that word, zeal.  It’s strong.  It’s purposeful and full of intent.  It’s sort of intimidating – in a good way – because it gets your attention and makes you perk up a little at what’s coming next.  So what are we looking to persistently pursue here this session?  Grace.  God’s grace.  And living in that grace regardless of our season or circumstance.

But what does that LOOK like?  I think it looks and feels a lot like this:

Galatians 5:22-23; The Message (MSG)

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

 

I want to be relentlessly persistent in my pursuit of this grace-filled way of living as Paul describes in verse 23.  Girls, go back and read that again!!!

That, my friends, is the Message version translation of the characteristics of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, namely: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This session, this series of Bible study, we’ll be actively studying and practicing ways (big and small) in which we can learn, weave, and nurture these Christ-like characteristics into our daily lives.

zech 4-10 card 2

Your breathe boxes were chock-o-block of awesome tools that will help us get from here to there! And your first homework assignment is sort of a spring board off of which all other activities will begin.

If you were with us last semester, you know my love of all things Hygge (pronounced HOO-ga). If you recall, Hygge is the Danish custom of cozy comfort in all things from physical surroundings to clothing to food to relationships.  In the interest of keeping things consistent (and the fact that I can’t seem to un-Hygge my life at the moment), Hygge will once again be woven into this semester.

With that in mind, the very first homework assignment you are tasked with this semester is to create for yourself a Hyggekrog. My “Hygge Bible” (aka – Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge) lists the number one thing you can do for yourself to make your life more Hyggelieg is to create a Hyggekrog, or your own little cozy nook.

And in case you’re wondering, YES.  There is a spiritual connection to this!  Daniel (as in “Daniel and the Lion’s Den” ) gives us a glimpse into the importance of having your own space to retreat and go to for your own quiet time with God (see Daniel 6:10 for proof that I’m not making this stuff up!  😉 )

Your job this week, before you tackle any other homework, is to create your own Daniel-style Hyggekrog! I don’t care how big or how small it is, or even if you have to share it with someone else in your house.  Research tells us that one of the best ways to build the habit of prayer is to create a single spot to go to each day.  Hygge tells us that space should be comfy, cozy, use a level of light that is pleasing to you, etc.

One cool use of you breathe box is, if space is limited, it can be used as a Hyggekrog suitcase for all your BS materials.  You just pop your box of materials by a window, add a candle and a cozy pillow, and VOILA – instant Hyggekrog!  The idea is to create a space for yourself that is for your quiet time for scripture reading, book reading, journaling, etc.  Here’s mine!

Hyggekrog only 1

Now, some of you are going to say there is no space available and no time when you would be able to use said space anyway. I’m going to go back to what I said at the beginning – we are going to be persistent in our daily pursuit of God this semester.   Make it a priority;  and where there’s a will, sister friend, there IS a way.   Let it sink in, pray about it, and see what just might transpire.

hyggekrog night 1

I just had to show you another picture of my hyggekrog!  This one was taken in the evening!  Okay, maybe the salt lamp foot warmer and the pink fuzzy blanket are a little over the top, but come ON – so Hyggelieg!

HERE’S THE SCOOP ON THE GIVEAWAY!!!!! This weekend, I’ll be posting other photos of my “space” on our ministry Facebook Page (click here to access) AND on Instagram (@stringingpearlsministries).  If you post a picture of YOUR Hyggekrog on one of those social media platforms and tag us (@stringingpearlsministries) and use the hash tags:  #shepersistedspm and #hyggekrog, you will be entered to WIN A PRIZE RELATED TO HYGGE!!!  Winners will be announced next week!  (It’s a pretty good prize, girls.  You’ll want to enter!)

Okay. So, homework for this week, please click here.

For extra resources for this week, please click here.

That’s all for this week, sweet friends!  Sorry it’s such a long post!  Subsequent posts WILL be far shorter – just too much “stuff” to get in during the first week! If you’re still reading this, I love you!

Join us on social media this week and then back here NEXT week as we jump into the importance and benefits of gratitude!

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo,

W

 

 

 

Celebrate Good Times – COME ON! (Lessons from “Elf” ;) )

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One week.  GIRLS!!!!  One week til Christmas!  One week!  To quote Buddy the Elf, “SANTA – OMG – I KNOW HIM!!!!”

I’m super giggly about that because Elf is such a silly, silly movie!  The one liners, the Christmas kitsch, the feel good singing at the end.  Oh my goodness, it gets you in the mood, girls!  I love it!

But do you know what I love the best (besides smiling, of course… 😉 )?

Wendie as buddy the elf

I love how Buddy the Elf can celebrate just about anything.  From the world’s “best” cup of coffee, to ABC gum (Already Been Chewed …in case you didn’t already know that acronym…you’re welcome).  Buddy has the gift of worship.

As we wrap up our Come Closer series of studying 12 spiritual disciplines, I love that we are ending on WORSHIP!!!  Worship is like watching a football game and when your team scores a touchdown; your body cannot help but throw your arms in the air!  It’s spontaneous clapping at the end of a symphony performance.  It’s the tears of awe streaming down your face when you are welcoming a new baby (or even puppy, as the case may be…) into your world. (I’m such a sucker for the puppies – it isn’t even a joke.  I LOVE them!)

Big Boy Pic from Taylir

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA! Love my Fry Guy!

Worship is essentially our response –authentically and organically – to the goodness of God in the moment in which we experience it. How do we react at a gorgeous sunset?  The birth of a baby?  Even the surprise of answered prayer, the awareness of provision we hadn’t noticed before or expected.  It’s WORSHIP!!!

Worship 3

Worship is our soul acknowledging His presence. It’s us reacting to His action and influence around us.

Worship 1

And it’s often one of the hardest disciplines, too, because when your team is down and the game ends and you’re on the losing end, how can you seriously and honestly praise anyone?

I’ve been there, in my own way. If  you are there right now, email me. I’ll pray for you, with you, and into you. Stick with us into the new year, because I promise we will be talking about concrete ways to build God into what you are experiencing.

But today, I’m asking that we all just take a minute or two considering worship as a form of celebration.

worship 5

You guys know I love to put myself in Bible stories, especially ones where Jesus is the leading character. Which is pretty much every story  in the gospels, so yeah.  I have this tendency to play this  supporting, behind the scenes kind of  role in all my versions of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John right next to the main characters.

worship 6

But here’s pretty much one of my faves. It’s Jesus’s very first miracle. It’s the very first story about Jesus as, like, a big boy.  His ministry is just about to launch and somehow, someway, he and his mom and some other people have been invited to this wedding in the town of Cana.  And about half way through the party, they run out of wine.  OUT OF WINE.  AT A WEDDING.  WHAT?!  Poor planners or something.  But yet…

worship 7

But yet. In the midst of the party and the food and the celebration, Mary, our Mother Mary, this brave momma of the Son of God, goes over to Jesus (because, you know it’s a wedding and they’re not at the same table because it just isn’t the way it’s done…), and, in my version, she has  her hands on her hips and she has just a touch of an attitude, and she basically says, “Um. You need to do something about this.   I know you’re trying to humble and behind the scenes and stuff like that right now.  But these people are our friends, our people.  And they are out of wine.  AT A WEDDING. And that isn’t cool.  So.  Can you help us out?”

At first, like any young adult, he gives her an eye roll. Right? “Woman, what business is this of mine?”  (He actually says that. TO HIS MOMMA.  Look it up if you don’t believe me.) But then, like all mature-ish moms, she flippantly turns around, ups His eye roll, and confidently says to the servers, “Yeah.  He’s got this.  Do what he tells you to do and then fill ’em up.”

worship 4

I think they went home that night and had the giggles and stayed up high fiving and hugging. They knew some pretty intense and awful stuff was coming. But that night? I think they celebrated. His very first public miracle was for the FUN of it.  Celebration, girls.  It’s a big, darn big, deal.  And I LOVE it.  Like SUPER LOVE IT!!!!!!!

Worship 2

Girls. We gotta celebrate when the opportunities present themselves.  And here’s the even cooler thing:  He’s present in all of it if we just take the time to look for Him.  And THAT is what we’ve been discovering all semester.  All these disciplines lead to this:  our seeking and acknowledging of Him and His miracles – big and small  – in our lives.  We may not have always gotten them right or practiced them at all.  But you know what?  He saw us.  He sees us.  And He knows our heart.  He knows we love Him, that we’re seeking Him, and that we honestly just want to come closer.  And He’s celebrating with us today as we come closer to celebrating HIM at Christmas!

SO.  I’m CRAZY glad you joined us on this journey.  I am proud of you for reading and trying and questioning and trying again when things were new, uncomfortable, and even hard. And I cannot wait to tell you what’s coming in the New Year.  But that’s a post for January, sweet friends.  (Insert silly grin, giggles, hand clapping, and summersaults – because cartwheels are just too hard for this body…!)

In the meantime, here’s a little glimpse into where we are headed, which is even deeper into the disciplines we’ve been talking about this semester.  You aren’t going to want to miss this, girls.  It’s better than good…it’s GREAT!

She Persisted grace Logo Enlongated

I wish you and yours a very Merry and WONDERFUL Christmas and holiday break.  We’ll be back here the first week of January to let you know what we are up to in 2018. 😉

Thank you, as always, for your trust, prayers, support, and love.  I send all of that AND MORE back you way.

Peace, love, joy, and GRATITUDE!

Wendie

PS – Check out what I got from some gals for Christmas… aren’t they the most clever sisters ever?!

Typewriter from Camille and Amy

 

 

Filling in the empty spaces (how to serve well)

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I like to think that I can relate just about any lesson worth learning to fountain Diet Coke.  I’ve been drinking it since I was 15 and hardly ever drink it unless it is SPECIFICALLY from McDonald’s (no lectures on how bad it is for me – you’re going to ruin the lesson here… 😉 ).  There’s something just so perfect about their magical mixture of ice and the bubbly goodness!  Basically, it’s a glass filled to the brim with the best ice ever, and then all the empty spaces in between the ice are filled up with super carbonated soda!

diet coke

That’s something special right there, I’ll tell you!

I just love that image and how it relates to the spiritual discipline of service and the outpouring of lovingkindness into this world. Basically, it’s like this:  We see a “glass” that has empty spaces, and we use what we have fill it up.

This past Sunday, the Gospel reading at Church was Matthew 25:31-46.  Go ahead and click that link and read it for yourself!  Pretty powerful instruction on how we are to SERVE here on Earth, don’t you think?

Jesus is basically saying, when He returns to take us home, we will be called to account for how well we LOVED this side of Heaven – how well we poured out of ourselves and into the lives of those around us in need.  Right there in the middle of the passage, He lists for us the myriad of needs that exist in this world:  hunger and thirst (physical and spiritual),  loneliness and isolation, captivity, needs of all kinds, sickness.  And He makes it pretty clear that we have the power and obligation to serve anyone whose needs sound anything like those named on that list.

Girls, we are called to be traveling, mobile embassies for Christ; we maintain an open door policy to invite His people in – regardless of who they are and what their circumstances – and to pour out His love into and onto everyone He chooses to put in our path.

We fill in all the empty spaces with love. And in turn, He refills us so we can keep the good stuff flowing. That’s the miracle of service!

Here’s the thing I’ve come to know-that I know-that I know about the practice and discipline of service. First of all, it’s closely tied to the concept of calling.  I believe our calling is our chance to marry up our birthright gifts (these are the gifts God gave you when He thought you up!) with our passion.  When we can do that, that’s our “calling”.  For example, I was blessed with the gift of teaching.  I also happen to have a passion for Jesus.  So I soar in my calling when I teach others about Christ!  YAY! 🙂

So, calling =  gifts married up with passion.  And when we operate in that zone, the outpouring of our calling is renewed though God continuing to fill us up so we can keep it going on.  You know what I mean, right?  When we operating in this supernaturally, “spirit led zone”, we do not get depleted.  We get things done.  We excel.  We soar.

Similarly, service (as a discipline) also taps into our birthright gifts and talents. But instead of leaning into our passion, we soar in service when we marry up our gifts with what breaks our hearts.  And that list we just talked about up there in Matthew 25?  That’s chockful of things that break our hearts.  Jesus is just asking us to pick one and serve by filling in the empty spaces of someone’s heartbreaking situation.    That’s a miracle, girls.  And once again, the flip side reward of that miracle is the refilling of ourselves so we can keep pouring out.

And here’s a really cool thing, too. Our calling and our call to service often change throughout our seasons of life and circumstances.  And you know what?  I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be that way.

esther 4-14

 

Marry up your gifts and talents with what inspires you right now-that’s calling.

Marry up your gifts and talents for what currently breaks your heart-that’s service. And your biggest impact will be where your heart opens the widest.

Take some time and talk with God about your gifts, your passions, and what breaks your heart.  See if He doesn’t give you a little insight on how you can weave those things together to make a difference not only in someone else’s life, but YOURS too.

Following along with our Come Closer series?  Would you believe we only have ONE MORE WEEK to go?!  Spend this next week finishing up your Enjoying Jesus book and get ready for a final lesson next week on WORSHIP!  YIPEE!!!  And stay tuned – we’ll announce what’s coming NEXT soon!!! 😉

Enjoy the weekend, sister friends!

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

 

I’m Stuffocating. (a First Tuesday* post!)

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I used to love email.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Those days when you’d open your inbox and it would have super fun and entertaining notes from people you actually knew

These days, though, opening my inbox feels a lot like going to the real, physical mailbox at the end of my driveway:  just one more “box” filled with junk.  Advertisements, bills, political circulars, coupons, and catalogs from stores I’ve never heard of clutter to the point of “stuff-o-cation”.  I almost hate to open it!  Ninety percent of the messages in that box are from people/companies I don’t even know.  Sometimes I delete 100 emails a day.  It all just feels so…impersonal.

stuffocating

Letters, postcards, and once treasured emails from my beloveds have been replaced by text messages and snapchats and social media posts that can be seen by hundreds (if not thousands) of others. Don’t get me wrong, I love scrolling through Facebook and Instagram as much as the average person, but my heart aches a bit for that special feeling I used to get when a letter or email would arrive JUST for me.  That excitement of knowing someone intentionally wanted to get MY attention and share a little love with me made my heart super happy. It was personal, in a good way.

Lately, I’ve been learning a lot about Jesus and the way He communicates. I’m learning that He personally seeks us out and actually cherishes time spent in our presence.  Interestingly (and quite counter-culturally), He’s not in the business of mass mailing His agenda and platform out to the myriad of mailboxes (and inboxes) around the globe, and He isn’t sitting at His laptop waiting for Likes and Loves on social media, YouTube, and blogs.  He’s in the business of dwelling with His people.

pitch that tent

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

John 1:14

I absolutely love the usage here of that word: dwell.  Translated from its original language, it means “pitches a tent”.  Can you even imagine?! JESUS came to camp out with us.

YOU and ME.

Camp out! As in, “Let’s do this together – in person. Face to face.  Life on life.  I’m intentionally pitching my tent with yours.  You’re that special to me.”

We don’t need a mailbox, an inbox, a social media account, or television to connect with Him. But what we DO need is space for His tent and His Word in our heart so we can DO life alongside Him.

“Watch how I do it and learn my methods (…because you seem to make it all so complicated when you try to do it on your own).”  Matthew 11:29 (my personal interpretation in parentheses!)

His Word is alive and well and begging for us to watch how He did it so we can replicate that love, that grace, that MERCY all around us. The problem comes when we stop looking to Him and instead clutter things up with all our own stuff.

This spring, in order to get serious about pursuing an intentional life of dwelling and camping out with Jesus, I’ve made it my mission to quiet down a bit and start the process of decluttering my own “space”, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s an ongoing process, sister friends, and often feels a bit slow-going!  But one thing God has got very serious with me on is the fact that I have become laden down with “stuff”.  On every level.  And in order for Jesus to comfortably pitch that tent with mine, I need to clear Him room.

Maybe you do, too?

create space for Jesus

Take a minute and answer this question for yourself: what’s stuff-o-cating you?  Is it physical clutter that needs clearing?  A preoccupation with emails and social media accounts that needs to be curbed? A habit or way of doing things that just doesn’t serve you anymore?  Is it a relationship that drains you more than energizes? Your physical being that could use to be cleaned up and cleared out a bit?  Start with one thing, just one thing, that you can begin to clear a little space within to make Him a little more room.  If there’s one thing you can be certain of, His deepest desire is to hang out with you.

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”  John 14:23

Home sweet (uncluttered) home.  Doesn’t that sound awesome?

Practical Application:

  • Pick one area (body, physical space, mind, spirit) where you feel stuff-o-cated right now.
  • Pray this prayer (or one of your own): “Lord, I want nothing more than for you to come and pitch your tent next to mine! Right now, though, I’m feeling really overwhelmed and cluttered in the area of _________. I want to relinquish control of this area in my life to you. I want to clear it in such a way that makes more room for YOU! Jesus, help me to clean it up and let go of what doesn’t need to be there. Help me to use what You intended me to have in this area in the ways in which You have always planned. Show me Your way because I know it is better than mine. Forgive me for letting things get out of Your control. Thank you that You love me so much that You get personal! Help me not to feel guilt or condemnation over this clearing out, but instead to deeply know Your delight in my obedience to listening to this call from You. Lord, I am so looking forward to all our camp outs to come! In Your mighty name, Amen!”
  • Get quiet and let God guide your next step. Accept that it’s always one step at a time, girls. And remember that sometimes things gets messy before they can be completely cleaned up. 😉
  • Consider these scriptures as you start to “un-stuff yo-self” (pray them out loud, write them down, read them when you get up and before you go to sleep) to keep your mind focused: John 1:14; Luke 12:16-19; Luke 12:29-31; John 14:23.

Happy De-Stuffocation, sweet friends! I’m praying for you!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

*PS – Today is the launch of a series I’m calling “First Tuesday”! It’s my intention to post here on the FIRST TUESDAY of each month with a fresh look at scripture alongside some practical life applications to make it relevant to YOUR life!  The First Tuesday of the month is a special day around here because our local “emergency sirens” are tested at 10am!  Our Tuesday Bible Babes have come to LOVE those sirens because whenever we are in session, we stop what we are doing and offer prayers of gratitude to God for the privilege and freedom to be worshipping together!  It’s become our habit that (even when we aren’t in Bible study session) as soon as we hear those First Tuesday sirens, we drop to our knees and pray for one another! Check back here on Tuesday, June 6th for a lively post about How to Have a Good Summer, Spiritually Speaking!  You won’t want to miss it!  😉

“I love bread!” (Me too, Oprah ;) !)

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I was so incredibly excited when Oprah signed on with Weight Watchers.   I mean, I’m thrilled that she’s getting healthy and all that.  But honestly, the best part was when she said, – ON NATIONAL TELEVISION –  “I love bread”!

Breakfast toast with red heart jam symbol on a red checkered table cloth.

ME TOO, Sister Oprah! Me too!

My favorite kind of bread is homemade and hot out of the oven, fresh as can be, and with special touches (like organic sundried tomatoes baked right in and homegrown rosemary sprigs on top, and maybe even a little finely shredded artisan cheddar thrown in for good measure) that everyday, store bought brands just cannot produce.

rosemary-bread

(Excuse me while I salivate…)

I’m coming out of the anti-gluten closet and admitting it.  I’m a girl who loves artisan bread.

I ALSO love craft beer and single vineyard wines.

I like small batch iced teas and I love the health benefits and freshness of organic food.

I’m “all-in” on the farm-to-table movement.

I completely support the sustainable food agenda.

I’d much rather each a whole food than one that’s been processed.  And don’t even get me started on stuff that’s been genetically modified or chemically enhanced.

(Let’s ignore my diet coke habit for the moment, shall we? *Ahem.*)

People  who love and care this much about food know ONE THING for sure: the process is just as important as the end product.

For instance, a food artisan knows everything about the ingredients and process of what she’s making, and often uses traditional methods.  Why?  Because she’s learned that tried and true ways of doing things endure; traditions create consistently masterful products.

The craftsman makes his product by hand, using minimal processing and checking each step of that process to ensure it is done to his specifications for a quality product that he’s proud to call his own.

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The small-batch creator believes in taking the time and effort to make each batch just so, just right, to please her consumers and make them feel special in receiving something that got such care in creation.

The food producers, shops, and restaurants who subscribe to the farm-to-table philosophy understand the value of cutting out the middle-man and ensuring the good stuff is coming directly from the maker.

And everyone who buys into the concept of sustainability is 100% on board in making sure that the resources we have will not be used up or destroyed so they can replenish as needed and continue for as long as possible.

The artisans who create these kinds of foods and drinks have two things in common:

  1. They are intentional in what they do (meaning they put thought, care, and time into each part of the process); and,
  2. They are specialized in their trade, not diversified (meaning they don’t have a million different things going on) which allows them to focus on the passion of their particular trade.

That’s pretty amazing stuff right there, don’t you think?!

So, what if we applied these concepts to something spiritual in addition to food? What if we used these ideas to radically affect our prayers and how we spoke them?

I think we’d be equally as nourished spiritually as we are when we eat cleanly!

I’m encouraging each of  us to do one (or more!) of the following things this week as we set some time aside for intentional prayer:

  • Apply the principle of organics: cut out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there!  Don’t be so verbose, adding in all kinds of words that don’t add anything to the purity of your prayers.  Keep it simple, sisters, and just say what you need to say as simply as possible. Then quietly sit back, waiting for Him to speak back to your spirit.

 

  • Use the concept of small batch creations and artisan work: be intentional in how you speak your prayers, carefully thinking about them and making little notes for yourself before you dive in.  Use traditional methods passed down to you from previous generations that honor the sacred process of prayer.  Use time-honored prayers you’ve heard in your own faith tradition to enrich your prayer life instead of saying those prayers as rote and perfunctory obligations.  Rewrite them in your own words in order to make them come alive to you again.

 

  • Subscribe to the main idea behind the farm-to-table “theology” and cut out the middle man! You have a direct line to Jesus!  Don’t “worry your prayers” with friends and hope God was listening while you did it; instead, sit down with God one-on-one and offer him your best instead of worn out and tired thoughts and prayers.  (“Go to the throne, not the phone!” 😉 )

 

  • Focus on sustainability in your prayer life. Try different methods until you can settle in on one or two that make it possible for you to be consistent and create quality, positive interaction between you and your Father.  Tend to the “soil” of your prayer life – if you will – which basically means to get your heart in the right condition to not only offer up gratitude and praise, but also to receive nourishing sacraments like forgiveness and loving correction.

Good soil can take years to cultivate, right? And even a novice gardener like me knows that sometimes the fields you use to grow something great need to be rested every now and again to maintain and regain their efficiency.  So be patient with yourself in this process and remain flexible in trying new things along the way, okay?

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The important thing is that you DO commit to trying to create something artisan with your prayers. Why?  Because it will make the difference between a processed, plastic bag of white bread and a hot-outta-the-oven, multi-grain loaf bejeweled with morsels of deliciousness!

Following along with our Wonder-FULL series?  (You can click here for more info!)  We are reading chapters .005 and .006 in the Wonderstruck main book and completing section 4 in the participant guide!  And check out our song of the week:  “In Your Hands” by Unspoken.  This acoustic version makes me SO happy!  Enjoy!

Peace, love and JOY!!!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  The Wonder of Friendship

 

 

Is God Really Interested in Hanging Out with Me?

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Here’s a seriously strange confession from me: there have been moments in life when I’ve questioned God’s existence. 

Actually, I should more accurately say this: there’ve been moments when I’ve questioned God’s presence in my own little existence.

I know. It sounds odd hearing that from me – a woman who runs a women’s Christian ministry.  But you know what?  I’m human.  And we can be a cynical, disbelieving bunch, we human beings.  I mean, one of our most often used phrases is, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  And if I don’t see it (or FEEL it), does it really exist?

Just because we can’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. A caterpillar inching along a leaf in a large tree may see the leaf itself, but not notice it’s attached to a gorgeous oak tree. Likewise, a person admiring the tree from a short distance away may very well not see that cutie, tiny caterpillar on the leaf.  Regardless of the visibility of the tree (OR the caterpillar) to the observer, both exist.

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The presence of God also exists, regardless of our ability to sense it.   The COOL thing is that we see the pattern of this assurance from Genesis (the very first book of our Holy Bible) all the way to Revelation (the final book).

Experiencing the presence of God is something so intimate that scripture records the following:

  • He planned you from the beginning of time;
  • He was there/orchestrated your conception;
  • He attended your birth;
  • He willed you to take your first breath;
  • He knows every single breath you will ever take;
  • He bends down to listen anytime you ask;
  • He delights in delighting YOU (so cool right?);
  • He gets you out of messes;
  • He protects you even when you don’t know or think you need protecting;
  • He is there when your eyes finally close to this world;
  • and…He meets you the moment your soul takes flight and He welcomes you home for eternity.

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So with all that Truth just begging us to believe that we are ALWAYS in His presence, why aren’t we always living in awe of Him in our lives? It’s because there are things, people, and circumstances that pull us away from experiencing God.

Rob Bell, in his book, How to Be Here, says the disconnect can begin with something as simple as an everyday distraction, and then easily move on to boredom, then cynicism, and finally despair.

So how do we protect ourselves from those things? How do we STAY connected to the wonder of the presence of God in times when we feel so very alone?

We begin by taking each one of those scenarios and turning the tables on them!

For instance, the opposite of distraction is mindfulness and focus, right? Well then, anchor yourself in the present moment, even if you have to create something tangible to do it – like our poppy stickers from our goodie bags this session or even a quick moment or two of mindful meditation on His goodness.

Purposeful activity combats boredom. I place devotional books or inspirational music around so if I start to feel bored of my everyday routines of driving or even tedious work, I can take a few minutes to reconnect to His goodness without getting lost in mindless activity.  Listen to a quick podcast or watch a video of your favorite spiritual teacher for some inspiration.

Surrounding yourself with people, activities, and environments that are life giving (instead of “battery drains”) chases away cynicism and feelings of “why me” and “why NOT me”! I go to the Arboretum to drink in His beautiful creation.   I call a friend who always lifts me up and makes me giggle.  I take a yoga class and breathe deeply.  Anything that moves my mind up and out of the temptation of complaint and self-pity works here!

Despair is a place and experience that we will all find ourselves in at one time or another. Fortunately, most of us don’t stay there long.  But if and when you do find yourself at a loss for purpose and hope (because that IS what despair is), my advice is to seek medical, therapeutic and pastoral assistance. All three can help lessen the depth and length of that you spend in that gulley and place you back into a mindset of experiencing God’s healing presence.

Finally, remember our first week of this series and the one question we asked you? (You know the one:  how do you know that you KNOW that YOU KNOW God is good and is with you?)  Well, if ever you start to feel at a loss for His beautiful presence, I want you to go back to that question and pay attention to your response.  However you answered it, let that be your first line of defense.  Because it’s  your own, personal,  GO TO thing that returns you to the knowledge of God’s presence in your life.  Let it anchor you to the truth that He’s never left you, not even for a nanosecond.

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Following along with our wonder-full series?! This week, you can read chapters .002 and .003 in the black book and complete week two in the participant guide!  Are you a fan of contemporary Christian music?  Then check out this most awesome song, “Eye of the Storm”!

See you back here next week for an eye-opening look at the important of UNFORCED rest…it’s not as easy as you might think! 😉

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

Expecting Miracles

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“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Have you ever been astounded by God? I mean, has he ever just surprised the ba-geezers out of you with something He does and knocked your socks off in awe when it happened?

It can be as personal to you as a Godwink (those moments when you realize God showed up and orchestrated something JUST for you…the person you absolutely needed to see in that moment, a song on the radio that brings you immediate peace, a glimpse of something that reminds you He is near and in control?)…

OR it can be something a bit more grand, say a Godwonder?

A miracle, even?

This summer, as I was reading through our current study (Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg), I decided to take Margaret’s challenge and pray to be reawakened to the wonders of God in my life.

It started simply enough with this five-word prayer:  “God, show me Your Glory”.

I HIGHLY recommend that prayer.  Like, highly.

Little by little, I started to hear and see things around me that I had sort of become oblivious to:  beauty in nature, “coincidences” in relationships, and miracles of all shapes and sizes in the lives of people around me.  It was a beautiful thing.  And my confidence in “Divine Expectation” began to regrow – especially for those around me.

For instance, my friend, Alicia prayed a very similar prayer before she headed out on a family summer vacation this year in Florida.  That trip remains a highlight of their year!  They experienced dolphins and manatees approaching them (in their natural environments, mind you – not contrived swim situations), and even happened upon a sandbar as the tide went out COVERED in a multitude of sand dollars – which they had only seen in souvenir shops and airport gift stores.  I was SO excited for them!

And, if I’m honest, I was also a little envious.

In mid-July, my gorgeous girl and I headed to Florida to spend a little “R&R” on the Gulf Coast with my parents.  We go once or twice a year, but this time, I felt God calling me to do something just a little different:  GO TO THE BEACH!

Beach umbrellas ellas ellas cropped.jpg(copyright Ella Connors, 2016)

I know.  It sounds weird.  We visit that area often so you’d think the beach would be a staple in our vacation “diet”.  But you see, my Ella doesn’t like the beach.  As a matter of fact, she hates it.  It scares her.  And it has scared her since she was little.  Nothing dramatic ever happened to her, she just gets a bit panicked there.  Overwhelmed.  Uncomfortable. And so, for the last 10 years of visiting Florida, we’ve avoided the beach.

But this year?  God was telling me – GO.  And so I planned my trip, with DIVINE EXPECATION of meeting Him there.  I’d go alone so Ella wouldn’t have to experience the anxiety and panic she always gets.  She could stay at home with my parents and I’d spend my day there, waiting for Him to show up and show off for me, like He had for Alicia.  I prayed for my own beach miracle:  I wanted to encounter wild dolphins.

The morning I’d set aside for my beach trip arrived and, sort of last minute, my parents somehow convinced Ella to come along and we all packed up the car and headed to Anna Maria Island.  This, I thought, was sign that God was about to unload a mighty miracle of dolphin family proportions!

We unloaded the car and set up half way between the ocean waves and a beachside restaurant where we planned to have lunch. Ella was determined not to get in the water, just collect shells with my mom.  But me?  Well, I was diving in head first to go find my dolphins.

After about an hour or so (and still no dolphins), I noticed Ella actually IN the water and reaching her hands down into the sand underneath, pulling up treasures to see, touch, and put back in.  I smiled, of course, seeing how God had made sure everything was calm enough as to not disturb my dolphin search.

ella-and-the-shella(Copyright Wendie Connors, 2016)

At lunchtime, we headed up to The Sandbar Restaurant.   After eating, Ella and my parents decided to head back down to the beach for more shell finding and splashing in the Gulf.  I stayed up in the shade to finish my drink, knowing we’d be packing up soon to head back inland for the day.

I thought about my prayer for my own beach miracle.  I had been so sure He’d meet me there. I’d expected the dolphins, and while it had been such a great  day, I have to admit that I was wondering where He was that day.

A nanosecond later, this verse bubbled right up into my brain:

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:13-14(a) NLT

“God”, I wondered, “I’m looking so hardWhere are you?”

I looked up and straight out into the ocean and my heart burst wide open into a million pieces.

Right there, right in front of me, was my beach miracle.

Ella was diving in and out of the waves, her eyes wide with joy and confidence.

My own personal beach miracle, my very own “dolphin” daughter splashing and laughing and unafraid and begging me with her crazy waving to come swim and dive with her in God’s beautiful ocean.

That day, I swam with my wild dolphin (or turtle, as the case may be… 😉 )!

ella-as-a-turtle-cropped(copyright Wendie Connors, 2016)

Girls, we need to learn to believe God for miracles.

In doing so, we also need to stop praying for what we think they should look like.  Our God is not limited to one kind of miracle.  We tend to sort of box Him in when it comes to divine expectation because we cannot even imagine the wonders of which He is capable.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)

I don’t want to be the kind of  person who boxes Him in. I need to remember He has infinitely more than one miracle up His sleeve, more than ONE miracle with which to bless me.

Yes, sometimes He shows off with glorious ostentatiousness, like Alicia’s entire sandbar full of sand dollars! And yet other times, He quietly blows our minds by loosening anxiety’s grip on the heart of a teenage girl, and sets her free to glide and flip and dive through the water like a dolphin, reminding us that His goodness and grace in granting miracles cannot be contained.

How about you?  Would you be so bold today to pray that five-word prayer:  “God, show me Your Glory”?    He wants to amaze you, girl.  Let Him.

Here’s a link to our favorite song this week: “Anything Is Possible“, by Matthew West!   Also, if you are reading the Wonderstruck book with us, read chapters .000 and .001!  You can also complete Week One in the participant guide if you are working at Level 4!  See you back here next week as we explore the Wonder of His Presence!  So good, right?!?!

Peace, love and WONDERFULL joy!

Wendie

 

 

 

 

 

You are Wonder-FULL. I mean it.

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Oh girls. OH MY GIRLS!  It’s here!  We’re live and in person and it’s WONDER-FULL!

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You know all those times when you somehow get all caught up in the distractions of today and lose sight of what you thought the day would be?  Or maybe you’re the type that starts out with the right mindset, yet somehow finds yourself replaying the mistakes of yesterday? Or…are you like me, and just find yourself obsessing over what “might” happen tomorrow?

Who am I kidding?  I fit all three categories.  Amen?

No matter where you fall on that spectrum, we’re here to remind you that…

GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD.  He isn’t a task master.  He never is scary.  He never yells at you over what you did yesterday.  And He isn’t planning some icky, crazy,and unexpected “surprise” for tomorrow.  He’s on your side.  And He thinks you’re pretty incredible.

And He’s given you a life that’s wonderful...in terms of… FULL of WONDER.

Will you join us today in embarking on a study that helps us rediscover the goodness of God in ALL things and in ALL circumstances? Will you take a chance on the God who created ALL the beauty in this crazy universe and start believing that you are part of that wonder?

Will you anchor yourself to the present moment without letting the past pull you back or the future freak you out so much that you cannot see the wonder that is already filling your world?

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Say YES!  Join us this season for an eye-opening look at our good, good Father and all He has prepared and surrounded us with – even when (maybe ESPECIALLY when) we can’t seem to perceive it?

Sound fabulously wonder-full?!  Yeah.  We think so too.!  Join the all women in our area and the 600 women online following our study with us!  Click here for the full scoop – it’s going to be awesome!  We can’t wait to see you back here next week for our first lesson!

And here’s a question for you:  How do YOU know, that you know, that you KNOW you are experiencing the presence of God?!  Is it in nature?  Is it in music?  How about when you are creating something?  Or maybe when you are immersed in scripture?  In the faces of your kiddos?  The feisty (but-oh-so-cute) faces of your pets?  In the power of the ocean?  No matter HOW you know, we want to hear it!  Comment below for a very cool give-away!  We’ll announce the winner and the prize next week!

Welcome back to Bible study, sweet sisters!  We are super excited about this series and hope you will be too!  He’s always doing something new, isn’t He?!  That’s why it is ALWAYS an adventure to be His.

Annnnnnd…if you know me, you know I’m always going to leave you with a cool link to the coolest new songs.  So here is our song for this week, “Come to the Table” by one of my ALL TIME fave bands, The Sidewalk Prophets ( I LOVE their unplugged version from their “Family Room Sessions” instead of the radio edit version – I’m totally sure you’re going to love it, too!)!  Click here to enjoy!

Peace, love, and WONDER-FULL JOY!!!

Wendie

Up next week:  Magic!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Way to End Things

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The ending of something wonderful is never easy, is it?  I mean, when something sweet has run its course, how do you bring closure to it without feeling a wee bit depressed?

Well, you throw a party, of course!

Last week, we wrapped up our Summer 2016 series, easy, with a super fun, progressive Pop-Up style party!  We send out email invites a few days in advance and announced our secret locations!

We started the night at Camey’s house for drinks, appetizers, and lots of catching up and giggles!  (And Camey’s dog, Dodger, stole all our hearts!)

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An hour or so later, we meandered through a candlelit path to Alicia’s, to find a spot to sit, relax, eat our picnic dinners, visit the popcorn and candy bar, and watch a silly movie from the 1980’s – “Sixteen Candles”!

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We spent out night enjoying each other’s company, eating delish food, and just plain ole’ took it easy!  My thanks go out to everyone who came and especially to our entire pop-up party team for your generous support of the night!  We had a BALL!

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And of all the wonderful things about Alicia, I have to say I was super impressed with her ability to pack my car so expertly at the end of the night!  😉

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I hope you had as much fun walking through this easy summer as we did!  Stay tuned for our announcement next week – RIGHT HERE – for our big unveiling of our Fall 2016 series, “Wonder-FULL”!!!!  It’s going to be GREAT!!!

 

Peace, love and joy!

Wendie