Category Archives: Summer Series 2013

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeeeeeeling sad…

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Well.

Here we are.

I wasn’t prepared for this, really. It sort of snuck up on me, if you want to know the truth.

Pure Joy Beach Chair with text

But no matter how you look at it, we ARE here. It’s the last week of the Stringing Pearls with Wendie Summer Series 2013:  PURE JOY!

(Is it just me, or did it zoom by as quickly as those fireflies?!)

I honestly don’t have the words to express how much it has meant to me to spend these last 13 weeks walking it all alongside you!  We’ve learned scripture, partied in joy-filled fellowship with our sister friends, read amazingly fulfilling and enlightening books, listened to some uplifting music, and experienced the mystical and divine connection between gratitude, grace, and joy I’d say that’s something to celebrate!

I think it’s only fitting to go out with a huge prayer of joyous proportions, don’t you?  So in honor of one series ending (and don’t be sad since our fall series begins very soon…#imadeyouglorious…!), allow me to JOYFULLY pray a special prayer over each and every single one of you, using the scriptures we learned together this summer!

Sweet, Heavenly Father,

I come to you today with a heart bursting with happiness for all Your mighty hand has prepared for us, not only this summer, but always.

I thank you for every soul You touched through Pure Joy.  I am at a loss for words to thank you for allowing me the privilege of being Your wing-woman on the ride!

I praise you that Your reach extends far beyond what our human minds could ever fathom!  I thank you for answered prayers; You are so incredibly faithful!  I reverently lift up prayers that remain in waiting for their divine and holy appointment with You, to be answered in Your time, through Your will.

More than anything, Lord, we thank you for teaching us Your Word.  Your Truth.  Your lifeline to us that, without which, we could not begin to truly know You:

Week 1 –   Psalm 118:24

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We praise you that THIS is the day you have made and that we have your amazing blessing to enjoy it in the here and now, without ruminating over yesterday or worrying about tomorrow!

Week 2 –   Nehemiah 8:10

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We will faithfully celebrate each day with You, because we know YOUR JOY makes us strong!

Week 3 – Isaiah 66:14

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How can we ever fathom the support and protection You lavish on us?!  It makes us feel so joyfully blessed and confident!

Week 4 –   Job 8:21

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We are humbled that no matter what our circumstances bring, You always offer us an opportunity to rise above the rubble and feel Your unending Joy in our spirit.  Help us to take it!

Week 5 –  Jude 2

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We experience such peace, knowing that Your promise of “every little thing is going to be alright” stands true today, tomorrow, and for eternity!

Week 6 –  Hebrews 1:9

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We bless You, sweet Lord, for sharing Your very spirit of Joy with us – your faithful hands and feet!

To be continued…

Come back Thursday for the closing of this prayer using the last 6 scriptures of our series, thanking Him for all He’s done to make this summer such a special one (I may even have a special link and info on how you can print your own copy of it in its entirety…)!

Until then, I encourage you to pray these first 6 prayers and scriptures above to Him – you will be blessed in doing so, I promise!

Up Thursday:  “…I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feeeeeeeeel so bad!”

Continued prayers to all moms, dad, and kiddos headed back to school!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

What I Learned From Josh in the Drive-Thru (Lessons from a Diet Coke…)

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beginning of fairies

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”   

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Come ON.  I mean come OOOOOOON.  Do you LOVE that quote or what?!  Can you even imagine the smile on the face of God the moment you first giggled? Can you fathom the reach and strength of the joy you bring into this world with just the simplest of smiles?

As you may know, I have a mighty big obsession with my morning Diet Coke from McDonald’s.  It has the EXACT amount of perfect ice (clear, semi-cubed with a touch of shaved-ness), carbonation that almost burns your throat (in a very good way!) with that first sip, and the awesomeness of the proprietary blend that Coca-Cola ONLY only McD’s to use (well, that might just be an urban legend…)!  Regardless, it’s delish. 

And I mean DELISH with a capital D-E-L-I-S-H.

diet coke

You coffee people don’t know what you are missing.  Just saying.

I’m actually super lucky because I have two great things that go hand in hand with the taste of my morning soda.  One:  my husband gets his sweet-self up early each day to get a coffee from “The ‘Bucks” (for him) AND my deliciousness of Diet Coke from McDonalds.  Every single day that he can.  Without fail.  Love that man.  And for many reasons that go above and beyond those Diet Coke runs!  (Thank you, Bo!)

And, two:  on the rare days that Bo cannot go because he’s out of town, I have the sweet pleasure of going myself and being greeted by my friend, Josh, who works the drive-thru.  Josh is a rock star in my book.  He is the perfect blend of efficiency, cuteness, and PURE JOY.  This guy literally makes my day with a smile!  I honestly will tell you that there are moments I think his smile is going to burst into a million little fairies that bring giggles to everyone around him. I told him that very thing the other day and he grabbed my hand in the drive-thru and gave it a huge squeeze!  I smiled the rest of the day!

I seriously love this kid – as does everyone in my family.  If you are ever in our area, you gotta promise me to stop by and see him, but you better hurry.  I’ve called the corporate office of McDonalds to praise this guy about 10 times.  He’s going places, this Josh!

The thing is, I think Josh knows a secret.  Can you guess what it is?  Don’t you WANT to know what it is?

It’s the power of a positive attitude.

Is there anything more precious and infectious than a really great smile that is backed up with an amazing attitude?  I don’t think so!  And that’s exactly one of the biggest things I’ve wanted so much to impart upon you this summer.

Just keep singing

We haven’t been placed here for “such a time and place as this” (Esther 4:14)  to be miserable, my sweets.  Quite the opposite. There is power in a smile.  Soulful relief in the giggles.  Triumph in optimism.  JOY in contentedness.  LIFE through Jesus.

The moment you CHOOSE joy, you release the power of the Holy Spirit into this world, which is a place that desperately needs it.  It comes from Him, through you, to others.  It’s a gift; it’s a choice; and it’s up to you.

Scripture tells us there is a time and place for all things, including emotions.  Join me (and Josh!) today in spreading a little happiness in this world.  I TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU.  And, as you should know by now, you cannot refuse a Triple Dog Dare.  Somewhere that is written 😉 …

No matter what “choosing joy” might look like in your day today, here are a few ideas from the incredible Ann Voskamp.  Check it out – I bet you LOVE the idea and can find at least one thing to do to spread some joy today!  Click here!

God bless you in incredible ways today, sweet friends!

Up Monday:  Let’s (w)rap it up!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

The Back to School Blues (and reds, greens, yellows, oranges…!)

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104 days of summer vaca

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

I’m not going to write all about the emotions of moms everywhere around the country right now regarding the age-old back to school sadness and drama. There are enough wonderful bloggers already doing that in one way or another, not the least of which include the wonderful Shauna Niequist, Emily Freeman,  our NEW FAVE Holley Gerth, and many other amazing voices.

It’s not that I don’t I struggle with it, too, because I do. I absolutely love having Ella home all summer! I love the relaxed routine it affords our family. I cherish every second that we’re not fighting over homework, searching high and low for a pair of matching uniform socks THREE seconds before we need to be out the door, or trying to unearth gym uniforms that should’ve been washed last week and swim suits that never got washed either and are still damp from swim class the week prior. (Don’t judge me – I’ve never been the house-keeping type.)

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

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

Margarita in a jar

So yes. I’ve got some not-so-happy emotions sitting in the pit of my tummy as we, here in our house, face returning to school on Thursday! But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today.

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

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

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

Romans 8 15 16

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

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

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

god colors

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

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

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

Can you believe we are on our second- to-last week of Pure Joy?! Next week, we close down the summer series! But as I said above, as one thing comes to an end, something amazing always seems to follow! But more on that in two weeks!!!

Until then, what’s on tap for Pure Joy THIS week?!

1. Memorize/rewrite our scripture of the week: Matthew 5:14, The Message.

2. Listen to our song for the week: “More” by Matthew West! (I hope I didn’t already pic this one already! But even if I did, it rocks!)

3. Finish up whatever you are reading and take some time to contemplate all you’ve learned this summer! Good for you!!! Aren’t you glad you did it?!

4. While we don’t have another Pure Joy dinner left to plan for, why not ask some neighbors or friends over for an end of summer recap, enjoying one another’s company?! See if they are interested in our Fall study! Consider running a Bible study of your OWN this fall!!! Email me for more information on how to do it!

5. Keep up with the Joy Dare! Such a great way to bring joy into everyday gifts and experiences!

That’s all for now! Have a great beginning to your week! And God bless you and all the families who head back to the classroom this week! I’m praying for you – will you pray for me?!

Up Thursday:   A little Peter Pan giggles to counteract to your back to school blues!

Peace, love, and JOY!
Wendie

Life Is INDEED Sweet! Amazing! Glorious, even!

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Ah! La Dolce Vita! I can think of no other words to describe our final Pure Joy dinner of the summer! And I once again think I’m the luckiest sister friend ever! Take a look at these amazing snippets and snapshots of our wonderful evening!

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And before you mention it…yes.  I still have a smidgey bit of a black and eye and swollen face.  But it is SOOOOOOO much better!

The weather was so NOT mid-August in Chicago! We had no humidity, great temps (bordering on cool for an August night!), with just a touch of a breeze (I said that just for you, Annie!)! Marcie’s backyard was truly transformed into an Italian al fresco wonderland!

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We shared so many stories about things that we LOVE about being at home, coming home, “creating” home, and celebrating home. The food was phenomenal (I’m still stuffed!), the décor was amazing, and the company, well – the company warmed my heart to its very core!  And we asked for prayers and blessings on our dear sister, Jill, who is headed to Ethiopia this very weekend to bring her daughter, Tinsu, HOME!!!!

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It was perfectly fitting to me that this dinner was held at the very place where Stringing Pearls with Wendie was born just one year ago – Marcie’s house! I took a few quiet moments before the crowd arrived to thank God for all He’s done since last fall. We’ve expanded from a small, core group of women to a healthy group of over 50 ladies (AND GROWING!) who participate in Bible study on a regular basis! This blog has been viewed over 5500 times by people in 20 countries just since January – I think that’s amazing!  Women all over the globe followed our spring study, and then celebrated a summer of Pure Joy with us!

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I honestly don’t tell you all this to be all braggy (is that a word?!) because it isn’t about me.

All of this is GOD.

Not me, not the ministry team. But God.

Yes, as a team and individually, we’re learning to listen to Him, go where He calls, and trust His voice to guide us to our sweet spot.

When we get into that sweet spot, that place where God has always intended us to be, we soar! And when we soar, we basically get the privilege of riding shotgun next to an amazing Creator who has a big time flight plan for each of us! I keep looking to my left (since He’s the pilot and all…!) and I continue to be amazed at where He’s taking us, which, apparently, is exactly where He planned all along.

Dolce Vita 1

Only God could do such things! We thank and praise You, sweet Lord!

Overall, here’s what I’ve learned over the last year: God doesn’t have a Plan B for you or for me. (It’s the “For such a time and place as this…” Esther 4:14 thing…!) Plan A is where it’s at and it’s always been that way, ever since the moment we chose (or choose…!) to follow Jesus. We can try to avoid Him for a little while, acting like we don’t know He’s waiting patiently for us to acknowledge His beautiful, holy, loving presence and get on board. But sooner or later, His will WILL be done! Don’t you want to be a part of that?!

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Thy will be done, Lord!

Don’t let ANYONE or anything steer you off course. Because I’m learning that “Plan A” is a crazy cool trip with a lot of fun stops (and okay, sometimes challenging ones) along the way. And just when you think you’ve reached your destination, another intriguing leg of the journey unfolds. The world just keeps getting bigger and bigger – along with His mind-blowing love for you!

dolce vita 5

Here’s the bottom line: God created you. Everything God creates is glorious. So. What does that make you?

Yes, sweet friend. It makes you glorious!

Which, OF COURSE, brings me to the announcement I’ve been dying to unveil! The Stringing Pearls with Wendie Fall Bible Study 2013!!!

Glorious Poster

Um, puh-lease. How cool is that?!  A little “back to school” chalkboard mixed in with a little old fashioned “love story” postcard! Because girls, I gotta tell ya, He is head over heels in love with you!

Don’t you just basically YEARN for someone to tell you that you are gloriously amazing? Admit it, you do. And so do I.

And you know what? I personally think you’re pretty amazing!

But better yet, He KNOWS you are because that’s the way He made you.

So with that in mind, let me announce our book for the Fall 2013 series!!!

Already amazing book cover

Holley Gerth wrote this super cool book (You’re Already Amazing) which is all about discovering and accepting the perfect, unique, amazing, and GLORIOUS self that God created you to be, and I am SOOOOOOOO excited to do this study alongside each of you!

Stringing Pearls with Wendie is so excited to announce that we will be leading three local (in Glen Ellyn, Illinois), in-home Bible studies for women this fall! Details on these studies will be emailed out this week to all who have either participated in or requested info on our Bible studies over the last year! Studies begin the week of September 16th and continue through the week of November 18th!

If you are not local, or cannot fit daytime Bible study into your schedule, you can easily follow along with us here on the blog! I am also offering to send information via email to anyone interested in hosting their OWN local study with their OWN sister friends on how to host, how to create all the goodies we give out for study, etc.! Just email me at wendieconnors@gmail.com for more information!

I’ll be doing a more “formal” introduction to the series at the beginning of September! But in the meantime, get your books (click here to order from Amazon.com), and get ready to discover just how amazing you already are – all because He lives in you!!!

This summer, we’ve delved into Joy and discovered so much about the power and strength of joy in all things. This fall, we go full-on GLORIOUS. And I’m beyond giddy about it. Can you even stand it?!

So, with a joyful heart, I thank you for all your support, prayers, fellowship, friendship, giggles, and love this past year since we started this adventure together, and for all the FUN we have had this summer! And in glorious hope, I pray you will keep walking this amazing life journey with God as your pilot and me as your wingman (well, wingwoman…)!

Up Monday: The Back to School Blues (and reds, greens, yellows, oranges…!)

Have a GLORIOUS weekend (yep – that’s our new buzz word…)!!!

Peace, love and JOY!
Wendie

Believe it or not, I’m walking on air (…and you can too!)

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“Believe it or not, I’m walking on air! I never thought I could feel so free-eee-eeee! Flying away on a wing and a prayer…Who could it be?! Believe or not it’s just me.” Chorus from The Greatest American Hero television series (1980-1983).

(Please tell me you’re old enough to remember that one! If not, click here to hear it in its entirety!!!)

Two short months ago, at our very first Pure Joy Summer Series Dinner, one of the things that brought me the biggest giggles was sitting at my small group dinner table and singing (at the top of our lungs, mind you) the theme song from the 80’s television show, The Greatest American Hero! We thought we were so cool that night (ahem…), we actually sang it twice! And you know, once a song gets in your head, it can be kinda hard to get rid of, can’t it?!

Something about that chorus just makes me happy! “I’m walking on air – believe it or not, it’s just me!” As in – “anyone can do it!” As in – “I should try this!” As in – “LOOK AT ME, I’m doing it!” As in – “I actually have it in me! Wow!”  I am doing it and SO CAN YOU!

Yes! You DO have the power in you! You can walk freely, knowing that you have the powerful gift of a counselor, comforter, guide, companion, and friend who is always with you – the Holy Spirit!

2 Tim 1 7

Oh sisters. We have it in us, and it was given to us through the power and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ after He returned home to reign with Our Father in Heaven! He gifted us with a precious and JOYFUL way to live life on this side of Heaven exactly as He created us to live!

We don’t need to live afraid.

We don’t need to live powerlessly.

We don’t need to live without direction or purpose.

We’ve got Spirit, yes we do! We’ve got Spirit – how ‘bout you?! 🙂

Last week, I spent some wonderful, quality time with Ella and my parents! One of the coolest things Elle and I were lucky enough to do was a rope and zip line course high up in the trees near the home of my parents. Talk about walking on air!

Tree Umphh Suited Up

I watched my 12 year old in awe as she transformed from a tentative girl at the beginning of the day, fumbling with her harness and hooks into this graceful, confident, powerful young woman expertly hooking and unhooking herself to safety wires, zipping way up in the sky from tree to tree, and effortlessly moving along on the thinnest wire I’d ever seen a person traverse some 30 feet in the air. Talk about spirit! That woman child of mine was practically walking on air!

Tree Umphh Elle

How did that transformation take place?! How did she change from a timid child, afraid to try something so bold, into an air-walking, powerful young lady?

She chose to trust the tools that were given to her. They could be relied upon for her every need on the course. They would not let her down. They would provide a powerful “safety net” if she used them as instructed, and give her the freedom to fly.

What a gift for me, as her momma, to witness. Powerful stuff, my friends, to see your child fly. And fly she did. With pure joy in her spirit…and on her face!

THAT is the gift of the Holy Spirit! Our ability to choose Him as the power that gives us courage, strength, and discipline is exhilarating. The same power that helps us to grow the fruit of peace, joy, love, gentleness, kindness, goodness, humility, and faithfulness in our lives.

Do not be timid, sweet friends. TRUST that the powerful, Holy Spirit given to you from God will see you through anything that this side of Heaven can throw at you. The harness is secure, the safety wires are in place, and the zip line is intact. Choose Him. And learn to walk freely “on air”! You’ve never experienced ANYTHING like it – I guarantee it!

(BTW – a special thank you and photo cred goes out to my daddio, Bill, for the pictures today! Thanks, Daddy!)

Pure Joy Summer Series, Week 12 (yes, I said it. Week TWELVE…!)

Speaking of “flying”, can you believe we are in the middle of August?! Just two more weeks left of Stringing Pearls with Wendie Pure Joy Summer Series 2013! And TOMORROW we celebrate with our final Pure Joy Dinner of the summer!

We are so excited to be hosted by our beautiful and hospitable sister friend, Marcie, and be treated to the party planning skills of Leah, Erin, and Nattie Nat Natters (okay, her name is actually Natalie, but I just can’t resist a good nickname with her!)! We’re celebrating all things that remind us of the joys of “home”! I seriously cannot wait!

And, as has become my tradition with these dinners, I’ll be sure to post some silly photos here on the blog this Thursday! Be sure to check back to get a look at all the fun we had!

So what’s a good Bible study girl to do this 12th week of Pure Joy?!

1. Memorize/rewrite our scripture for the week: 2 Timothy 1:7!

2. Listen to our joyful tune for this week: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”!  I’m partial to versions by Jason Castro OR the incomparable Israel Kamakawiwo’ole .  Click here to see “IZ” perform it!  It’s awesome!

3. Keep on reading! You’ve got two weeks of “summer” left, sister friends! Make them count!

4. Attend OR HOST your own Pure Joy dinner this week! We’re going Italian style – La Dolce Vita!

5. Start thinking about how the Joy Dare has changed your perspective this summer! Are you finding it easier to see the intimate relationship between gratitude, joy, and blessings?!

One final thing, my dears! I will be announcing the Fall Series for Stringing Pearls with Wendie at the dinner this Tuesday! I’ll talk a little about it this Thursday on the blog – but as a little teaser, let me leave you today with this: mark your calendars for the Stringing Pearls with Wendie Fall Bible Study Series to begin locally at in-home Bible studies in our area the week of September 16th! If you aren’t in the area or cannot attend a day-time study with us for whatever reason, no worries! You’ll be able to follow along with us here on the blog! It will be ah-mazing and GLORIOUS… (ahem – that’s another little hint…!!!).

Until Thursday – may God bless and keep you safe and JOYFUL!!! Love you!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

My Own Personal Safety Info Card (you should make one, too!)

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On Monday, we started talking about anxiety and how it can eat away at even the most faith-filled of us. It can quickly become a nasty cycle of “fear turns to guilt – guilt  turns into an emotional hurricane – hurricane turns into complete irrationality”  with extreme velocity, if we aren’t mindful to keep it in check.

hurricane

One of my favorite things we talked about on Monday that gives me peace, hope, and JOY is our verse of the week: Matthew 14:32: “After Peter and Jesus were in the boat, the wind stopped.”

The winds had been wildly whipping the disciples and their boat around. The waves were even too high for Peter – the rock of the church – to continue walking on without fear. So what did Jesus do? He took Peter by the hand and got in the boat with His chosen friends!

Oh sweet things, hear this:  HE GOT IN THE BOAT. He didn’t have to because He is Jesus and He could’ve continued walking those waves if He wanted to! But He didn’t. He CHOSE to be with His friends and to calm their nerves.

And do you want to know something even more reassuring?! There are actually OTHER accounts of similar storms throughout the Gospels…and Jesus reacts just the same!

Basically, every time, He gets in the boat. He lays His head down. He goes to sleep. He trusts God. And God does not disappoint. The storms are calmed and peace reigns.

And He did all that so we would -YES, EVEN TODAY – ask Him into our boats in those moments when we are too scared to get out and walk to Him.

Many people simply focus on the miracle of water walking. Trust me. It’s a miracle – I’m no dumby! I see that. But He, sweet Jesus, cared so much about His disciples that he CHOSE to be in the storm with them. For me, that’s the bigger miracle, the greater gift.

His LOVE for us is so huge that He takes the bullet of anxiety for us. He’s telling us, “I got this. I mean – I REALLY GOT THIS. I’m not surprised by this. I’m not worried about this. Trust me. You can; you honestly can. Walk with me and I promise we will be victorious.”

And if we do, if we HONESTLY trust Him, just like that, the enemy loses and Jesus wins.

ask him into the boat

People sometimes ask me why I write a blog. I have several reasons, of course.  But one of the biggest reasons is that I feel a call on my heart from God to be the encouragement that I often find myself needing from others; to be an audible level of volume for His voice in a time and place such as this (Esther 4:14), when many people turn to social media and technology for comfort because they are too scared to tell people how they really feel. I want them to know they aren’t alone and that God has a plan for even “this”!

We have a collective knot of anxiety in our stomachs that has a million different reasons for its ugly little existence. Today, let us consider it Pure Joy (James 1 – remember that from last week??!!) that we have a Person to whom we can turn to ask for His loving fingers to loosen the bind of anxiety on our souls.

A Person who encourages us to share in and celebrate His victory over anxiety, temptation, sin, and death.

A Person who would (and DID) do anything it takes to deliver us from living eternity apart from Him.

We have Jesus.

So. I’m going to write out this new Safety Information Card for myself to practice BEFORE my storms begin. This will be one I can read in the car (not while driving, of course!), on a plane, a train, walking along the sidewalk, facing a storm head-on, before I even face the day, or even when I get in bed.

There will be the following directives on it:

In case of emergencyASK Jesus into your boat. (Matthew 14:32)

In case of emergency, BELIEVE this: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

In case of emergency, SAY this: “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

In case of emergency, PRACTICE this: “Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

In case of emergency, KNOW this: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

And finally, in case of emergency, REMEMBER this: “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Love you so much, my friends.  Praying for an anxiety free weekend and WEEK for everyone!  I’m off on vacation until Monday, August 12th. (I know – you’re grateful for the break from me – hee hee!) I’ll be back then with a preview of our LAST Pure Joy Summer Series Dinner being held August 13th! (AND we’re announcing our Fall series that night – sooooooo  excited!)  You won’t want to miss it!

Until then, I encourage you to make your OWN “safety info” card!  You can even feel free to steal mine, if you want to! Practice it now and practice it often so that it becomes second nature to you.  That you,  you can confidently rely on whenever you need it.

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

In case of emergency, consult the seat pocket in front of you. Or NOT.

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When my daughter, Ella, was a little thing and didn’t quite know how to read, her favorite thing to do as we taxied down the runway on an airplane was to point out the pictures on the safety information packet while the head flight attendant was reading the instructions (you know the one – “located in the seat back pocket in front of you”, thank you very much).

Airplane Card

To Elle, the colored pictures and cool looking circles with lines through them were uber-fascinating! Seems like some cheap and innocent entertainment, doesn’t it?

BUT…to me, a sister friend who can become overwhelmed with anxiety, each scenario on those crazy fold-outs only depicted a panic attack waiting to happen! There was this undeniable sensation of an actual knot forming in the pit of my stomach that grew tighter with each picture to which Ella would point.

For instance (with my own crazy reactions in italics!):

• “In the event of an air pressure problem: Oxygen masks will drop. (Oh joy.) Pull the mask toward you in order to start the flow of oxygen. Place mask over nose and mouth and breath normally. (NORMALLY?!?!) If traveling with small children, secure your mask first before assisting them.” (Are you NUTS? Clearly you are NOT a momma! Kids always come first!) Bag will not inflate. (WHY NOT? How do I know it’s working?! AND CAN YOU PLEASE pump some inhalable XANAX in there, too?!)

• “In the Event of a Water Landing”: (Seriously? Is this supposed to make me laugh…or cry?) “Your seat cushion can be used as a water flotation device” (I’m officially at a loss for words on this one. Dropping 27,000 feet in the ocean will not be pretty – seat cushion or not...).

• “In the event of a Power Failure: Lighted strips will illuminate and direct you to the nearest safety exit.” (Lord have mercy, I’m honestly going to be paralyzed in fear at that point. Forget a lit pathway, I’m going to need an ejector seat.)

• “In the event of an evacuation: Take off heels” (um, again, you must not be a mom; unless we are headed to Milan or Paris, we DON’T travel in heels with kids in tow). “Head to nearest exit” (as previously mentioned, I’m in a state of totally paralyzed panic – ejector seats would be really helpful at this point). “Jump down the inflated slide to safety in an organized manner” (so I’m guessing that means you’re going to frown on me kicking, screaming, pushing, and shoving my way to the front with my baby girl – if I’m able to move, that is?!).

I could go on, but why? We both know you’ll never look at those placards the same again, will you?

Home Alone NOOOOOOO!

Sorry, anxiety can be contagious. I should know. I lived with it in varying degrees for years.

It’s not a glamorous ailment or one in which you get much sympathy (not that you want it, anyway). Most people don’t even know you have it because you become really (and I mean REALLY) good at finding ways to hide it and “cope”, (I use that term a bit loosely) except with those who know you best.

Sometimes you are offered medication from doctors, and other times you’re told to snap out of it. Sometimes you are told you need counseling, and other times you’re told to deal with it yourself. Sometimes you pray for peace, and other times you are completely ashamed that you can’t just “let go and let God”. (BTW – that would be one of my LEAST favorite sayings…please do not ever say that to someone who is in the middle of an anxiety/panic attack – we’ve tried and it ain’t workin’ at the moment and now you’re making us feel like we are “faith failures”.)

Sometimes you are paralyzed with inaction, and other times your wheels are spinning so ferociously that you cannot think straight. It can be a chastising-ly debilitating record that plays over and over again.

But, on the flip side of anxiety, we can have something called practical preparedness. I’ve learned an effective coping strategy that I can employ before the knot of anxiety has a chance to form too tightly. You see, that airplane safety card gave me an idea.

What if you and I had a safety information card for navigating daily life – regardless of whether you’re on a plane or on the ground? Even I, a “Nervous Nelly” of sorts,  can see the practicality of knowing what to do if an emergency (real or perceived) were to strike, right?

So I turned to the one place I know I can go for guidance from the One who is solid as a rock.  And I came across an interesting verse near the end of one of the best known stories in the Gospel:

“Between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus’ followers were still in the boat. Jesus came to them. He was walking on the water. When they saw him walking on the water, it scared them. “It’s a ghost!” they said, screaming in fear.

But Jesus quickly spoke to them. He said, “Don’t worry! It’s me! Don’t be afraid.”

Peter said, “Lord, if that is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come, Peter.”

Then Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. But while Peter was walking on the water, he saw the wind and the waves. He was afraid and began sinking into the water. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”

Then Jesus caught Peter with his hand. He said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?”

After Peter and Jesus were in the boat, the wind stopped. Then the followers in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, “You really are the Son of God.”  Matthew 14:25-33, ERV

Um, did you catch that?  If not, let me say that again:  JESUS GOT IN THE BOAT AND THE WIND STOPPED.

Okay, now THAT brings me joy.  Sometimes He calls us to get out of the boat to walk with Him in FAITH.  Then again, there are other times when He knows we cannot do that due to our own limitations, so HE CHOOSES to get in the boat with us.

he got in the boat

We are NOT in the wind whipped waves alone.  Ask Him INTO the boat when you cannot find the courage to get out.  Peace, love, hope, and JOY ARE IN THE BUILDING (or in the boat, as the case may be!).  And once He’s in the boat, you can work together to calm the storm.

I cannot WAIT to finish this up with you on Thursday! I’m sorry for splitting it into two days, but it was too long of a post to put into one day! I pray you will check back Thursday for the second part!

(If you or someone you know has problems with anxiety, PLEASE READ THIS:  I’ve said this before and I will say it again…if anxiety, or other illness of the mind, impacts your daily life I cannot encourage you enough to seek professional assistance. THERE IS NO SHAME IN IT; IT SHOWS COURAGE AND STRENGTH! Don’t let the LIES that these issues “tell” you keep you from getting the help you deserve. Call your primary care doctor and your pastor/priest/spiritual leader TODAY. They will be able to point you in a direction that will begin a journey of healing. You do not have to live with the lies of anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness any longer.

IF YOU ARE FEELING so overwhelmed that you cannot function, or if are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else please call 911 immediately. I’m praying for you. You are not alone.)

Can you even believe it’s one of the final weeks of Pure Joy, dear friends?! Just a few more to go!  What’s on the docket this week?!

1. Rewrite/memorize the scripture of the week: Matthew 14:32, ERV – your personal reminder to let JESUS in your boat, whatever that boat may be:  “After Peter and Jesus were in the boat, the wind stopped.
2. Listen to Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns! I know, it’s not on our list, but wowsa, it fits today’s post with such perfect beauty! Here’s a peak at the video on Youtube.
3. Read something meaningful! Check out our book list under the Pure Joy tab above for ideas if you are stuck!
4. Mark your calendars for August 13th – our final Pure Joy Dinner of the summer series – La Dolce Vita!!!
5. Keep up with the Joy Dare! I might be back to photographing and posting in August. But  I’m completely loving and enjoying journaling it right now!

Up Thursday: Creating your OWN Safety Information Card!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

I FAILED…but I’m totally proud of myself!

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I failed “Dog Fostering 101”. It’s true; I did; and I’m darn proud of said failure. The first (and only) time we ever signed up to foster a dog, we ended up adopting her. I’m just a sucker for a sweet lab face and a sob story, I guess! Cupcake came to us from a shelter in downstate Illinois. If we had not taken her in, she would have been euthanized at the tender age of 3.

 

Cuppie 1

When she first got here to our house, I think she thought she had just won the doggie Lotto! She was so overwhelmed by all the new things she was seeing for, probably, the first time in her life! She was entranced by stairs, her plush new dog bed, and toys! She was mesmerized by bicycles, her own food bowl, sweet potato treats, and a family that loved on her like crazy cakes! It was all good! But it did make me stop and think how sad her life must have been before us, you know?

If Cuppie could “people” talk, I think she’d tell you that there is nothing better than being found after you’ve been lost. There’s nothing better than someone “seeing” you when you thought you were invisible. There’s pure joy in being loved when you believed you were unlovable. I know that feeling too. It’s the feeling you get when you say YES to Christ and NO to a lifeless way of living! He wants to gift you with that! Won’t you let Him?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28, NASB.

“God WANTS to paint the ugly corners of our lives with His grace, goodness and mercy, even if we have done nothing to deserve it, even when what we DO deserve is quite the opposite of his goodness! THAT, sister friends, is grace with a big ole side of mercy!” Wendie Connors, THE KISS, page 34.

 

(Excerpt taken from Daily Smooches:  Devotions from The K.I.S.S.  Click here for the book!  Copyright Wendie Connors, 2012, all rights reserved.)

Cuppie 2

Can’t you just eat her up?!  Oh I love this dog! 

Have a blessed weekend, sweet things!  See you Monday and Thursday next week for a mini-series on anxiety…

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

 

 

Hit me with your best shot (or “My Experience with a Black Eye”)!

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Never EVER let anyone convince you a softball is actually “soft”. How do I know? Well. I am the proud owner of a right-eye shiner I received from taking a pitch to the face last Friday evening.softballs

And before you ask, the answer is NO. I wasn’t playing. I was spectating at Elle Belle’s game. And an errant pitch somehow evaded the fencing, making a laser-like beeline for my face that any smart bomb would’ve been proud to call a direct hit!

I’ll spare most of you the photos for now (but I honestly appreciate those very special few who have had to endure my daily photo updates – thanks for humoring me!). The faint of heart wouldn’t want to see it, trust me. Let’s just say you can call me “Wendie and the Technicolor Face”. But here is the good news – NO, the GREAT news: I have no permanent damage, no broken bones, and I am getting a LOT of giggles each time I look in the mirror!

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This verse always makes me want to hide (kind of like having a big, fat, bruised face!). I don’t want to consider it PURE JOY when I run into a problem, do you?! I want to complain about it. Pout about it. Feel sorry about it. Lament about it. Maybe even HIDE from it.

But I remembered something Friday evening I’d read once that made me reconsider this thought from our friend, James. She said this:

Reaction determines reach

From the moment that softball hit me, the reactions of others helped determine my level of psychological comfort. My husband quickly got me out of the heat and into the car.  The other parents in the vicinity calmly gave me ice packs, spoke gently, told me in very confident voices that everything was going to be just fine. My own Elle bravely hugged me, told me she was fine to stay and play, and that she’d see me at the hospital later – no tears, even!  My sister-in-law picked me up from the ballpark with just a shrug saying, “No big thing. Just keep the ice on it.” (I hadn’t gotten the courage to look in the mirror at that point.)

The staff at the hospital was equally as calm. No flinching from the triage folks, nurses, or even the doctor. Steady, calm, reassuring. To me, they were each the hands and feet and voice of God, using their reactions to calm mine.

And then.

Well, then, the CT scan tech came to get me and when he saw my face, he gave a grimace that sent me into a little bit of panic. (I still hadn’t looked.) As he wheeled me to imaging, he said, “HOLY COW! What the heck happened to you? Looks like you got hit in the eye by a baseball!”

Ahem. Well, yes. I did get hit by a ball game item. Only it was a softball and I’ve come to find out they are actually harder than baseballs, smart *guy*.

In the imaging room, after his comment, I was shaking so hard that I needed extra blankets and began to have a mini panic attack. All from the reaction of one person.

By the time I got back from the CT scan, Tim and Elle were there waiting for me. Elle took a quick picture and let me see it (Now I understand why there aren’t mirrors in emergency rooms!). Okay, it was bad – but nowhere near as awful as the Tech had led me to imagine.

I was released after we knew there was no bone or retinal damage. God is so good. His protection and healing mercies are beyond what our minds can imagine. I’ve honestly experienced no pain, no visual problems, no structural issues. Just some pretty colors and puffy tissue – and who doesn’t love a little puffy every now and again?! Smoothes out the wrinkles and all…!!!

I rested up for a day and was back out at the fields Sunday morning, cheering on Elle and her amazing team. I learned the power of reaction this weekend. I could’ve stayed home, feeling sorry for my not-to-GREAT-looking self, worried that I’d freak someone out with my face. But I realized I could pop on a hat and sunglasses, find and hug the sweet 13-year old girl whose pitch had a fluke altercation with my face and let her know I admire her as much  as I did  before I got hit, and let MY reaction reach the team in a positive way – so I did.

Okay, we didn’t win on Sunday, but we hung in there and it came down to the wire! The girls played hard, played strong, and came off the field with smiles on their faces for a hard fought game with bleachers full of proud parents and fans.

We will all get at least one curve ball thrown right at us at some point in life. What will YOU do with it? Will you cower in fear and panic when people around you point, stare, and tell you there’s no hope? Or will you take James’ advice and live out what we’ve been learning all along this summer about joy: walk hand in hand with Christ – lean in and on Him, knowing our joy comes from His strength? He will not leave you, no matter how hard you get hit, how blurred your vision, or how confused your head gets. I’m living proof of that, my friends!

And get this: sometimes, it’s not even about the actual hit you take. SOMETIMES, it’s about how you react to it. You never know who is watching and how YOUR reaction will draw someone toward Christ (or away from Him). So, consider it pure joy, sweet friends, when you are tried or tested, because THAT is when and where your influence and faith have a chance to flourish.

(I know I said I was going to write about untying the knots of anxiety today, but this softball thing got me a little sidetracked! Next week I’ll post about those pesky anxiety knots! Thanks for your patience!)

So, what’s on tap for this week of Pure Joy (only a few more weeks to go, believe it or not!!!):

1. Rewrite/memorize this week’s cool beans scripture from James!!!
2. Listen to another great song this week: “Learning to be the Light”, by Newworldson
3. Keep reading awesome, joy-inducing books! I just pulled out and re-read a great one NOT on our list from Joel Olsteen – Everyday a Friday! SO fun, so good, so encouraging!
4. Get excited for Pure Joy Dinner #3 on August 13th! Evites go out this week – more info about it next week on the blog!
5. Keep up with The Joy Dare! Saturday’s was a gift in light, in dark, and in shadow! I recorded mine as “MY FACE” with all the lovely colors I’m sporting! I was (and remain!) so grateful for the gift of SIGHT!!!!

Enjoy your week, my sweet friends!

Up Thursday:  A Daily Smooch excerpt!

Peace, love, and JOY!!!

Wendie

I “MUSTACHE” you a most serious question…

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Be honest – do you think I need a lip wax?!

Wendie with Stache at Fiesta

Just kidding! I’ve been dying to say that since Tuesday night’s Stringing Pearls with Wendie Pure Joy Dinner #2! And as you are about to see, it was QUITE the Fiesta!  (Who ever said Bible study was boring?!?!?! NOT me, that’s for sure!)

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It is amazing how some creative minds and a bunch of willing hands can transform what was already a beautiful backyard into a magical Mexican village! The team who worked so hard on this night was truly A DREAM! Kim’s home was welcoming and GORGEOUS! Julie B. and Alicia were stellar in their roles as party leads and head chefs! Diana and Kathy are single handedly the BEST party décor dynamic duo alive! And don’t get me started on the rest of the chefs: Julie S., Nattie Nat Natters, Laura, Lisa, and Lyn! Yeah, it takes a village and all, but it was worth every single second of effort!

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Tuesday night was all about sharing our favorite things! And speaking of favorites, on Monday, I wrote here on the blog about my favorite childhood TV show, The Brady Bunch, and how it relates to my favorite book in the Bible, Esther (yep, the Brady’s meet the Bible!). I won’t bore you here by repeating what I wrote, but let’s just say it had a lot to do with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! (Click here to read it!)

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Today, let’s relive another one of my favorite Brady episodes! It’s the one where Peter has a party and he’s been so busy talking it up and being a little self-centered about it, that at first, nobody shows up. But of course, like all things Brady, it all works out in the end and the house is FULL of teenagers having a groovy time being welcomed into the awesome Brady home (eating some of Alice’s tasty vittles, of course)!

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Peter learned a powerful lesson in that episode that we all should learn about the power of true hospitality.

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Hospitality, Godly hospitality, is really about creating a safe place within the world for someone else – not simply extending the invitation or just opening the door! Opening the door starts the ball rolling, of course, but then asking someone INSIDE (or even stepping OUTSIDE of your door) begins the changing process, one person at a time.

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Sharing yourself, your blessings, and your life with other people creates a bond of encouragement, support, and comfort that nothing else can humanly do!

Like Esther, we have been given much blessing in this life, and we each have a call on us that we were uniquely put here to live out. We need look no further than our own “palace gates” (or front doors, as the case may be!) for opportunities, as Ghandi famously said, to be the change we want to see in this world.

Fiesta Pic 2

So today, as we did on Tuesday night as a group, I want you to consider ways you might be able to share some of your favorite God-given talents and strengths with others.  Change lives, one person at a time.

Because if not you, then who will? You, like Esther, were put HERE for such a time as this!

Have a blessed weekend, my friends! Take some time to relax!

Up Monday: Untie that knot in your stomach!

Peace, love, and JOY!!!

Wendie