Category Archives: stringing pearls with 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.

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Letters, postcards, and once treasured emails from my beloveds have been replaced by text messages and snapchats and social media posts that can be seen by hundreds (if not thousands) of others.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.

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“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?

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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!  😉

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“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.

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(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

 

 

The ONE Thing You Need to Know About Living “Easy”

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Karma.

It’s a Sanskrit word with origins in India and is a key concept in several religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. And according to these wisdom traditions, you can acquire good karma, or bad karma.

Basically, good karma refers to the belief that good intentions and good deeds lead to a good future coming your way. Conversely, bad intentions and bad deeds will attract bad karma and bad things in your future.

In other words, what goes around, comes around.

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Jesus gives us that very same advice in this week’s final scripture selection of our summer series, easy 2016.  And I think he perfectly sums up all our series’ mantras in this one, matter-of-fact verse.

Think about it. When you’re open and loving and compassionate and generous and kind and accepting of people AND in life and it’s circumstances, don’t you find yourself (for the most part) receiving the same in return?  And when you approach people and life and situations with judgement and pessimism and skepticism and haughtiness, you find yourself most often inundated with anxiety, anger, misfortune, disappointment and paranoia.  And that is certainly NOT the abundant life Jesus wants us to live.

Jesus reminds us today that the best way to live an “easy life” is to approach every day with good intentions and lovingkindness to everyone and everything…including ourselves. Approach life with the intent to encourage people, not knock them down.  Make a conscious effort (and I KNOW it will sometimes feel like EFFORT…) to build people up, notice their positive qualities, and focus on their gifts.  The energy you release into the world when you do this is supernaturally and exponentially multiplied.

Couldn’t we all use a little good karma these days? Yeah, I think so, too.

So here’s the scoop. As we wind down this series (and I pray for each of you that God has ministered to you in new and fresh ways this summer), why not spend the next few weeks cultivating good intentions? Why not CHOOSE to see the good in people instead of ruminating on the bad?  Why not CHOOSE to be an encourager instead of a critic?  For some of us, it may be a challenge to change the way we see this world and how we react to it.  But scripture assures us in that doing so will change our lives, and the lives of our people, for the better.

It’s a simple mantra: “Today, I will encourage my people”. Say it to yourself when you get up.  Say it to yourself at breakfast, at the grocery store, at lunch, and in traffic.  Say it in those witching hours of 4pm to 6pm when things start to fall apart (especially if you have kids under 6…).  Say it as your grace-prayer before dinner.  And say it at bedtime before you drift off to sleep.  See what that might do to change the energy around you and in your people.  And then sit back and enjoy it as it comes back around to you.

little more easy

It’s been such a great pleasure to “surf” through these last eight, easy weeks with you.  I hope you’ve found a little wisdom, a great new recipe or two, and some good books and music to enjoy.  As always, I get just a smidge of melancholy as we end a series.  But even more than that, I get SUPER excited to get going on the next study God has inspired us to choose!  (More on that in the coming weeks, but for now, simply mark your calendars for a mid-September start date!  It’s a great one and you won’t want to miss it!)

Here’s the link to our very last week of easy goodies (mantra/scripture card, and a recipe for chicken and waffles!!!)

And here’s the link to our last song for the summer series!  It’s a great way to end, sweet friends:  Matt Maher’s “All the People Said Amen”!  LOVE it!

AND…get excited to read our August book by the incredible Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect!  I AM SO EXCITED TO BE GOING TO HER BOOK RELEASE PARTY TOMORROW NIGHT!!!  EEEEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!! I’ll blog about it next week! I encourage you to order it now – it comes out August 9th!

AND, if you’re local, don’t forget to RSVP for our end of series wrap up party!  We’ll post pictures and a recap from it on August 11th!

Thank you so much for joining us this summer! I pray the rest of your summer is fantastic and that God keeps your precious self in the palm of His precious hand until we meet back here again.

Much love,

Wendie

PS – Be sure to check back here at the toward the end of August for our REVEAL of our Fall 2016 Series!  It’s wonderful… 😉

Five Things You Can Find Today for More JOY!

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“Nature is one of our greatest spiritual teachers.” Oprah Winfrey

Good lord, I LOVE Oprah. She is one wise sister friend!  And that quote right there is one of my favorites because I think she is spot on – all the lessons we need to learn about life can be found by observing the wonders and rhythms of the world around us.

We learn the character of God in these wonders, don’t we? I mean, who else but a loving and creative God could design and make such diversity, resiliency, and beauty and put it on display for all of us to experience?

NTS Week 7

From the gorgeous flowers that bloom each spring, to the powerful weather that races across oceans, we can see and learn the value of appreciating amazing moments AND riding out the storms.

From the wide range of races and languages and dialects across the globe, we can learn that the goodness of God’s love is universal.

From the resiliency of the changing seasons we can experience that, even when things look bleak, a new season of growth is around the corner.

From the gentleness and grace of a sunset, we can plug into a peace that is unlike anything else.

All of these life lessons are ours because we have a Father in Heaven who loves us so much he wanted us to be surrounded by a natural world that would remind us of His goodness and care.

Earth from Space

Take an easy hike outside this week and find things that meet the  criteria listed below!  Take pictures of them (you could even record them if you are more auditory than visual) or simply make of note of them in your notes section on your phone or journal.

  • Something beautiful. (Colorful flowers, a blazing sunrise, a hawk in flight, a moving song, etc.)
  • Something unique. (Individual shells along a beach, your child’s smile, the night sky tonight, a bird chirping, etc.)
  • Something resilient. (Ivy growing on a brick wall, a bird rebuilding a nest, WEEDS in your garden ;), cicadas humming their end-of-summer tune, etc.)
  • Something powerful. (Storm clouds, rushing water, a bonfire, thunder claps, etc.)
  • Something peaceful. (Gentle waves, wispy clouds, leaves rustling in a soft breeze, a prayer whispered in the chapel, etc.)

Thank God for all the amazing “miracles” he created for your enjoyment and for the lessons we can learn by simply taking it all in and experiencing the ebb and flow of the seasons and all the wonder they bring. Regardless of the season, let him remind you that he is always good.

If you are following along with our easy 2016 summer series, we have reached our second to last week! Can you even believe it?!  Only one more week to go!  But never fear as we are already cooking up what’s coming next!  We will announce our fall study in a few weeks.  In the meantime…

Click here for the following easy goodies:

  • Link to this week’s mantra and scripture card!
  • Link to this week’s yummy menu and recipe cards!
  • Link to purchase/find out about our July book, Giddy up, Eunice, by Sophie Hudson!
  • And click this link for another great tune this week by MercyMe, “Flawless” – one of my all-time favorites!!!

Have an easy week, sweet friends! See you next week when we wrap up the easy summer series!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

 

Try it, you’ll like it!

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Someone needs this word today.  Maybe it’s me preaching to me, or perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit working his awesomeness right here just for YOU.  Regardless.  Whoever you are, this one is for you. 😉

At the tender age of 23, I was a newlywed bride who somehow found myself on a transatlantic flight to England with no return ticket in my pocket. My husband of six months had been offered the opportunity to transfer to the northeastern region of England for his job.  Never ones to turn down a challenge, we jumped at the chance to take the leap over the “pond”, and it was one of the best decisions we have made as a couple.  It was SO awesome for us individually and as a couple…not to mention it was a totally cool, God-filled, three-year adventure!

Of course, we’re back on American soil and have been for over twenty years. But almost every time people  hear our story, their reaction is generally something like, “Wow!  I could never do that!”

I get their initial reaction. It sounds daunting, scary, new, unfamiliar.  And, sure –  most of the time, we all have a tendency  to want to just “play it safe”.  Take the same route to work, shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants (ordering our “usual”),  wear our favorite sweatshirt, use the same technology (even if newer and better tech exists), etc.

We want to “bloom where we’re planted”. We find comfort in routine and in the “known”, right?

But what would happen if we had the faith and courage to bloom where God took us?

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying He created us to be major adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers who just jump at every opportunity that comes our way! But I do think He  intends for us to step outside our comfort zones in order to to help make this world a wonderfully adventurous place to grow and share Him in it.

I was at my parents’ house in Sarasota this past week and I saw the most curious thing. An orchid “baby” off one of my mom’s many yellow orchid plants had made its way from a pot all the way to the joint of a pigmy palm tree.  Take a look:

orchids in a palm tree

Isn’t that the coolest thing?

Do you know what’s even cooler?  It’s thriving.

That orchid didn’t say, “Well, this isn’t where I thought I’d end up! I wasn’t planted here!  This doesn’t feel very familiar and it’s sort of uncomfortable!  Get me outta here or I’m going to wither on the vine!”  Instead, it took up residence in a brand new place, using its roots as an anchor to thrive and live and add a little beauty and color to an otherwise dull-looking tree trunk.

What if we used our faith as an anchor that allowed us to venture a little bit away from our planted places? What if we trusted in God enough to try on a little courage and muster up the bravery to try something new?

I don’t know what that looks like for you, sweet friend, but I do know something is waiting.  Maybe it’s a new hobby or sport.  Or maybe it’s a new neighbor waiting for someone to knock on her door.  Perhaps a different job opportunity or even a new church has presented itself to you.  Or, yeah, maybe even an across-the-world move beckons that requires you to rely on your faith and trust in God just enough to give you the courage to take the first step to a new adventure and spread the beauty of Jesus wherever you find yourself.

NTW Week 6

What’s tickling the tips of your adventure spirit these days?  This week, I encourage to spend some time with God talking about it, consult scripture and wise counsel.  It may not be easy, but it sure will be worth it if God has brought it to you. As you explore the possibilities, you’ll find God showing up  right next to you, waiting to grab your hand, and take you somewhere you never expected that will be worth every “butterfly” you feel!

Following along with our easy 2016 series? Can you even believe only have TWO MORE WEEKS LEFT?!  Click here for the following goodies:

  • Link to our “Note To Self” mantra/scripture card
  • Link to a printable copy of this week’s easy meal and recipe card
  • Link to find out more about our July book, Giddy Up, Eunice, by the hilarious and insightful Sophie Hudson
  • And click here to listen to this week’s easy, breezy tune by Blanca, “Different Drum”!

Have a great week, sweet friends!

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

Up next week: Take a Hike (what nature teaches us about the rhythms of God’s goodness)

Play Like a GIRL!!!

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I know what you think this post is about.  You’re wrong.

It’s NOT about “Girl Power” in sports or school or the working world, or even about feminism in the gender equality sense.

You need to know I wholeheartedly support those agendas; it’s so important for our voices to be heard, our accomplishments to be recognized, and our contributions to be valued just as much as anyone else’s.

But this post, sweet girls, is about the power of gal pals and our uniquely special friendships.

Last week, I had the amazing and super awesome privilege to have lunch with two of my college roomies. These are girls I love; as in LOVE LOVE LOVE.  I met both of them the very first day on campus at Butler.  And there hasn’t been a holiday, birthday, special event, or heartbreak we haven’t walked through (or belly-level crawled) side-by-side since.  Thirty years, ladies.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Kappa Al-Potatos!

( Junior year…I’m the ADORABLE brunette farthest to the right on the bottom row.  While I love ALL these ladies, my lunch girls (Chappie Sue and Reenie) are the beauties just above my right shoulder.  Blondes.  Yep.   I had to throw the hair color thing in.  Because you NEED to know we all had the SAME amount of fun, regardless of hair color.  Just saying.)

What’s our secret?

We play well together.

We get along famously. We finish each others’ sentences.  We love on each others’ children and reprimand one another’s husbands (and we adore them, too…!).  We show up for milestones with bottles of champagne and heartfelt presents/presence.

And, conversely, we sit quietly, holding hands, in grief or fear.  We’ve shared clothes, pizzas, money, tears, giggles, bedrooms, viruses, recipes, lip gloss, beers, vacations, card games, and even argued a time or two along the way.

I pray you have some “same age-same stage” friendships like ours. I love these girls to the moon and back, infinity times infinity times!  There is such great camaraderie and comfort in these crazy friendships…and a WHOLE LOTTA FUN!

But you know what? I’m equally in love with cross-generational sister friendships.  The ones where we not only are loved on and brought up by ladies a bit more experienced and seasoned than we are, but ALSO the ones in which we are doing the bringing up!

Maybe she’s an aunt, a neighbor, your mom. Or maybe she’s a niece, a younger sister, a daughter, or even a new tennis partner.  It doesn’t matter how you are connected, you know?

It just matters that you connect.

sister friend selfie

Me and She

God places special people in our lives as an extension of His love for us and our innate need for relationship. Regardless of age, stage, circumstance, and standing.

It’s how we are meant to do life.

NTS Week 5

Girls, if you don’t know the story of Naomi and Ruth, I urge you to stop what you are doing and read it right now in the short, but power packed book of Ruth. Click here. No worries; I’ll wait here while you do…!

Where you go, I go. Where you stay, I stay.  Your peeps are mine.

Yep, that’s good stuff.

Sophie Hudson (author of our July book, Giddy Up, Eunice) reacts to that kick butt verse by saying this:

“It’s one of those passages that takes my breath away a little bit, because it’s a level of commitment we don’t see modeled often in our current culture.” (Sophie Hudson, Giddy Up, Eunice)

To play like a girl means to demonstrate that “LEVEL OF COMMITMENT” to our treasured friendships.  Whether through mentoring, discipling, walking alongside, or just plain and simple “gal pal-ing”.

Let’s make that model a bit more mainstream, okay?

WHERE YOU GO, I GO.

That’s how we stick together. That’s how we do LIFE.

My prayer for you this week is that you take the time to appreciate the Ruth’s and Naomi’s in your own life. Call them up.  Tell them how much you love them.  Share a pizza (or some sushi, or whatever your thing is)!  Thank God for their presence in your world and your presence in theirs.  If you are having trouble identifying a true sister friend right now, ask God to open your heart and mind to the possibility of making a new one.  He will not disappoint you, sweet one.

Following along with our easy 2016 series?! Click here for the following goodies:

  • Link to the FABULOUS book, Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson!  It’s what we’re reading this month!
  • Print up/display our scripture and mantra card for this week!
  • Hungry? Print up our menu idea and recipe – veggie sandwiches!  Super yum!
  • And click here for a link to our fun song and video for this week: “Breathe” by Johnny Diaz (it’s a fave for many of our girlies!)!

Come on back next week and read about our ideas on trying something NEW! TRY IT…YOU’LL LIKE IT!  😉

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

P.S.   Thetas rule.  (Mic drop…)

P.P.S.  We love our guys, too.  Thought I better throw that in.  Smoochies, Bo!  😉