Tag Archives: Joy

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

 

 

 

 

 

We’re still taking it easy!

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Did you get it yet?  Did you? Oh, I hope so!  For all you local ladies, you should’ve already received in your hot-little-hands our summer series goodie bag full of everything you need to have a faith-filled, fun, and EASY summer!  😉

Goodie Bag

Today, we are going LIVE with our Easy Page that gives you an all-access pass to pretty much everything in the goodie bag, AND tells you even more about our book suggestions, song list, and dates for our summer get-togethers!  ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS CLICK HERE!!!!

And, if you’d like to ask friends or family to join in the fabulousness of easy, just send them right here to the blog and have them click on that link above!  They can print up everything they want, as many copies as they want, until they’re walking easy street alongside us!

Don’t forget:  we start up our summer blogs on Monday, June 13th!  The blog posts will be short and sweet little ditties designed to help you understand the “Notes to Self” mantra and scripture for each week and give thoughts on how to apply God’s word to your life in easy and common sense ways!  How cool is that?!

So, what’s a good Bible study girl to do between now and then?  Well, if you have school-aged littles (or bigs!) at home, breathe deeply and hold on while you enter the end-of-year chaos!  It’s almost over… 😉 !  We’re in the throes of it with you.  The great news is God’s got your back and He’s got all this stuff covered.  If your kids are grown or you live in a kid/chaos-free house, say a prayer for us (!)!  We’ll be back here in three weeks from today with the series KICK OFF!!!

In the meantime, download your playlist, order your books (if you’d like to join us in our summer reading – remember it is totally voluntary), find a great spot for your “Notes to Self” card, and get ready to start taking it easy with us!  Enjoy the day – He created it specially for YOU!

THIS is the day the Lord has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it TODAY!  Psalm 118:24

In other words, don’t wait for tomorrow or vacation or even better weather.  Look around and enjoy God’s goodness – his GREATNESS – today!!

Put that magnet on your car and start waving at all the other easy ladies around town!  😉  hee hee hee!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Best Day Ever!!!

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Psalm 118-24

(In honor of Labor Day – I’m taking this week off!  Enjoy this post from the summer – one of the most read posts of Pure Joy 2014, originally posted June 14, 2014.  ENJOY!  See you next week…)

You all know I LOVE a really good microphone. Always have – always will. Put a “mike” in my hand, or slap one on my lapel, and well, you best be ready to hear my voice for a spell.

I’ve always been this way. Started in grade school when I got my first taste of the joys of being on stage when I sang the theme song of Winnie the Pooh…into a microphone. Yep, I have it BAD for a mike.

In middle school, I was part of a glee club type thing called Up With People, Junior. We sang all sorts of show tunes and traveled around to local places entertaining everyone from senior citizens to country club members. I loved it! Not only for the microphones, but for the upbeat songs and the feel-good vibes they gave off.

My FAVORITE song of all was called “The Best Time of Your Life”. It was written by the Sherman brothers way back in the 1950s and originally was the theme music set to a ride in Tomorrowland at the Disney parks (does anyone do “Happy” better than Disney?!).

The lyrics still run through my head from time to time and they immediately sprang to mind when I was thinking about our scripture this week! Here they are:

Now is the time. Now is the best time.
Now is the best time of your life.
Life is a prize, live every minute.
Open your eyes and watch how you win it!
Yesterday’s memories may sparkle and gleam,
tomorrow is still but a dream.
Right here and now, you’ve got it made.
The world’s forward marching and you’re in the parade!
Now is the time. Now is the best time.
Be it a time of joy or strife.
There’s so much to cheer for, be glad you’re here.
For it’s the best time of your life.

Sweet friends, today IS a good day. See, we can’t “hold” on to time – we can’t store it up in a jar or even lock it up in a vault. We cannot manipulate it with some sort of Orwellian remote control that would allow us to go backward to relive the good old days or catapult us forward through dry valleys today in order to get to the good times we pray still await us.

Celebrate today

I love to imagine that the last couple words of our scripture this week (you know, the part that says, “let us rejoice and be glad today”) are a blatant invitation from the Psalmist to stop and “smell the roses” – TODAY.

Sure, I encourage you to enjoy the big stuff and successes that come your way, but don’t miss those little morsels of joy that are just sitting there waiting for you to notice them.

Like…the way the wind makes the lilac blossoms bounce on the bushes. The way the water shines on the tanned back of your child as she crashes into the pool with a swan dive. The smell of suntan lotion being sprayed on the kids on the softball fields. The sound of an old song you love being played a few cars up from you at traffic light. The intensity of a lightning bolt at night and the feeling of thunder’s reverberation rattling your storm screens. The scent of the rain on the fresh cut grass outside your window.

We have to take time (MAKE time) to do these things EVERY day, to combat the notion that we think we are all “too busy” to stop to smell anything, let alone roses.

Let’s take this week to remind ourselves to slow down and rejoice in today’s moments – big and small. Let’s also remind ourselves, if something unpleasant or difficult comes our way, to say, “If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I can still count it as a good day, because (insert a blessing here)…”

“This is the day the Lord has made, let’s rejoice and be glad!”, really translates as, “This is a God created day, not me created day. And since everything He creates is good, today is good. So I’m glad to be living it today.”

So when you are tempted to forget to celebrate a “today”, just imagine me, as my 6th grade self, standing right there in front of you, microphone in hand and animatedly singing:

baton girl wendie

Because if nothing else makes you giggle in the moment, I’m quite sure that will! 😉

(What’s that?  Oh, I’m sorry. Had I neglected to mention I also twirl baton???!!!  Hee hee…!)

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

What You Can Gain By Giving Up $10.03

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Okay.  Last week, perhaps I did speak a little too soon when I said there was nothing as cute as a happy puppy.  (Click here to see what THAT was all about!)

I think I may have to eat my words.  Watch this:

Yep.  How cute is he?  My favorite part is when he says, “If every person would just do that, we’d have such a great world!  It’d be awesome!”

I don’t know about you, but when I was 11 years old, I was saving up my money for a big old Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper flavored lip gloss and a Joan Jett album, instead of thinking about how to make an impact on the world!  That boy has the heart of a servant, doesn’t he?!

And the story doesn’t just end with Max’s heartwarming $10.03 gesture!  People around the world have been so moved by his story, hundreds of “$10.03 gifts” are making their way into various charities and all sorts of philanthropic causes!  News reports are flooding in around the United States about donations to police departments, the Red Cross, churches, medical funds for people in need, etc.!  All because one boy chose to listen to his heart’s call to pay forward what he could give and bless the lives of others.

In the interview, you heard Max say, “One day that’s gonna make a difference, maybe not a big difference, but a difference.”  Well, Max, I think you’ll find that God’s glory has shined down on you and your “little difference” has become very big, indeed.

matthew 25 23

Well done, Max.  I can’t wait to see what God has planned next for you because, to quote you, sweet boy, “It’s gonna be awesome,” I just know it! Now go and share in His happiness!

You can click here to read the full story that accompanies the video!  http://www.today.com/news/police-id-mystery-boy-who-donated-savings-10-03-4B11180302

How’s that for a great way to start your day?  I bet you’re smiling by now!  If not, go back and watch Max’s cute face and by the end of that short video, you will be!

Have a glorious Monday!

Up Thursday: #really? (or…What’s Up with The Hashtags?!)

Peace, love, and GLORY!

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

Here’s the story, of a LOVELY lady…!

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Did you ever watch The Brady Bunch? Oh please tell me you did! I mean, come on! Was there ever a better show?!  Everything about that show was spot-on and hilarious, from the groovy lingo and clothing down to the ridiculously unbelievable plots – that we all somehow managed to buy into!

The brady bunch

I loved all the episodes, I think, because there was ALWAYS a moral of the story that I could relate to! My sister and I can still quote all the famous lines from Marcia, Jan, Cindy, and the boys: “Something suddenly came up…!” “Mom always said, ‘Don’t play ball in the house’…”. “I’m not a snitch, I just tell it like it is.”

And I bet if you are anything like us, you can sing – BY HEART – every single song The Silver Platters sang (“When it’s time to change you’ve got to rearrange…” AND “Think I’ll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun’s callin’ my name…”). Go ahead – I’ll pause here a moment while you sing a few bars. You know you want to!!! (It’s making me giggle just thinking about you singing right now!!!)

Probably one of my favorite episodes was the one where Jan is fed up from all the attention Marcia gets and she tells her parents, “Well, all day long at school I hear how great Marcia is at this or how wonderful Marcia did that! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” Of course, Mike and Carol say all the right things and reboot Jan’s confidence in being the person she was created to be. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had our own Mikes and Carols who could, in 22 minutes (30 with commercial breaks, of course), speak Truth into our spirits for a little reboot of our own?!

If you know me, you know I LOVE the book of Esther. It simply rocks my heart and soul for reasons that I could spend the next 10 weeks writing about. I’ll spare you that for now (you’re welcome). But as I was thinking about it the other day, I thought that maybe Esther’s Uncle Mordecai does a little Jan Brady reboot on Esther, himself! I think I’m going to start calling him the Biblical Mike Brady!

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In a beautiful, life-changing moment of a sort of “parental-chiding-but-also-trying-to-boost-your-confidence”, Mordecai reminds Queen Esther of who she is, what’s she’s been given, and what she should be doing with it! And her actions from that “pep talk” result in her single handedly saving the Jews from annihilation and God’s chosen people live on!

We’ve been given gifts, characteristics, positions, and circumstances for a reason. This is our time. This is our place. Right here. Right now. This is where (and WHEN) we are supposed to be! Let’s not slip into Jan Brady mode and wish we were someone else, covet someone else’s position, or lament the gifts we have.

Instead, let’s USE what we’ve been given in order to live out – in Godly confidence and JOY – what we were put here to do. Your purpose and destiny are based first and foremost on your standing with God! Once we are in a deep and loving relationship with Him, following hard after Him, He will bring our strengths into the light (and even use our weaknesses) to see His will done through us here on Earth!

Esther realized she was here for such a time and place as this. You are too.

It’s not about “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” It’s about Jesus and You.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.  Luke 12:48b, NIV.

Like Esther, you’ve been given more than you can imagine, sweet friends. Ann Voskamp recently suggested that we are the Esther Generation. I’d like to take that one step further and say, “Let’s start an Esther REVOLUTION” – changing the world, one palace gate at a time.

Open the gates of your own little world and see what might just happen!

And speaking of opening gates, my very good sister friend, Kim, is doing just that for over 30 women tomorrow night! That’s right! It’s time for our Pure Joy Dinner #2! This time, we’re having a Mexican Fiesta and celebrating “Our Favorite Things”! Here’s a sneak peek into what’s going on:

Every good fiesta deserves a really good margarita, don’t you think?! Our JOY wouldn’t be complete without this Pink Lemonade Margarita found on (where else?!) Pinterest:

pink lemonade margarita

Inspired by the song from “The Sound of Music”, party goers will be bringing packages of their favorite things to give away! I cannot wait to see what everyone else is bringing! Mine, of course, will be in brown paper packages tied up with string! But if you want to just see ONE thing I’m including in my packages, I’ll give you a little look into my latest summer obsession! (EOS Lemon Drop Lip Gloss!)

eos lemon drop

Just like last time, I’ll post pictures from the night here on the blog later this week (Thursday, I think!). You never know – you might be able to see a few of those shots earlier on the Stringing Pearls with Wendie Facebook page by Wednesday if I’m technologically coordinated enough to do that! Wouldn’t that be joyous?!

And speaking of JOY (!), here’s what’s on the docket for this week of our Pure Joy Summer Series:

1. Rewrite/memorize this week’s scripture: Esther 4:14!!

2. Listen to “Gold” by Britt Nicole. Okay, it’s kind of a summertime, tween girly tune (Elle loves it!), but it definitely makes me happy and I LOVE the message!

3. Keep reading! I just started The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan!

4. Come to the Pure Joy Fiesta #2 dinner tomorrow at Kim’s if you are local! Check back here later this week for photos and a recap of the night!

5. Continue with the Joy Dare! I have been recording mine in a journal lately instead of photographing! Shake things up a little to keep it fresh!

Have a beautiful week, sweet friends! And for your viewing pleasure, click here for a Brady Bunch giggle!

Up Thursday: A Photo Montage and Recap of Pure Joy Dinner #2!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Our Joy Dare Round Up, Part DEUX!!!!

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I’m so giddily filled with happiness to bring you a second installment of the Stringing Pearls with Wendie Joy Dare Round Up! Wahooooo!

It’s been such an uplifting and motivating project this summer to see all the different ways God is blessing people! We’ve seen Joy Dare posts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, via email, and even in written letters to us (as in HAND WRITTEN!!!!) Clearly, the Lord is moving hearts to gratitude and JOY through Ann Voskamp’s incredible 1000 Gifts and the Joy Dare. I LOVE it!

Here we go!!! The Top 10 Joy Dare posts, Part Two!

10. A gift small! A sweet new, very tiny, puppy! Submitted by our resident dog lover – Elle Belle! (insert big “awwwwww” here!)

small black puppy

9. A sweet tribute to gifts “full” by our one and only sister friend, Didi!

“1. My heart full of love for my mom 2. My heart full of love for my girls, and I guess the DOG! 3. My cabinets so I don’t have to grocery shop!”

(Oh Didi, I hear ya loud and clear on number 3…!)

8. A gift of “homemade” persistence! The Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup! (Can you tell we are Chicago sports fans around here?!) Creative inspiration and photo creds go to Lauren, Emily, and Elle!

A gift Persistant

7. A beautiful summary of gifts found in the light by the incredible Lyn, as she cares for ailing parents:

“ As my mom and I left the hospital we saw the most amazing sunset ever. The sky was ablaze with light. My Dad’s condition is currently stable. I am so grateful for the blessings!”

Our prayers are with you, Lyn! Keep that light shining, sweet sister friend!

6. A gift of enthusiasm. Um, we think this picture speaks for itself! Photo cred: Elle and Oliva!

a gift of enthusiasm

5. A fun  look at three gifts that are moving from our cool, college coed, Kaitlyn:

“Father’s Day spent at the Warrior Dash, my changing faith, and a car carrying someone I love!”

So sweet, Kait!

4. A Gift of Challenge, Conflict, Change from Tammy! Photo Cred:  Tammy!

a gift of challenge

3. Gift in water – oh my gosh, I could eat this sweet thing up! Photo Cred: proud momma, Kristyn!

Water Baby

2. A foodie gift! This one’s from – SHOCKING – me (I’m currently OBSESSED with these amazing coconut shrimp and crabcakes from a local hot spot!

A gift eaten

1. Gift from Heavenly Father: photo cred: the one and only Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp Gift from your heavenly father

I think it’s only fitting that Ann got the number one spot this go-round, don’t you?! I mean, after all, without her idea of the Joy Dare, this post wouldn’t even be happening, would it?! Click here to connect directly with her superb blog!

Don’t you just feel HAPPIER reading all that and seeing those amazing images?! My goodness, God is surely alive and blessing us in such abundant ways – how can we so often forget that? I hope you carry these thoughts and images with you today as tangible reminders of how very much He loves and cares for you – more than your heart can even stand!

One last thing to be joyous about – NEXT TUESDAY!!! Our Pure Joy Dinner #2 is bursting at the seams with sister friends excited and waiting to celebrate our FAVORITE things! Check back here on the blog Monday morning for a sneak peak at what we’ll be doing, sharing, and talking about! OH MY GOSH – the anticipation is killing me!!!!

Up Monday: Fiesta Preview and a few new thoughts about my Bible sister friend hero, ESTHER!!!

Praying for a gorgeous, glorious, and God-given, gift-filled weekend for each of you!

Peace, love, and JOY!!

Wendie

There goes THAT nap…

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Confession time.  I’m a girl who loves some quality naps. And, let’s be honest here, is there anything better than a weekend nap? Me think-eth not!

So I was just a wee bit annoyed recently when, after only a few minutes of drooly Saturday midday slumber, I awoke with a crazy thought about a piece of scripture I’ve read about 100 times. One that, at first glance, doesn’t necessarily scream JOY!

I bolted up in bed and I scrambled to my Bible so I could read it over and over to myself and let Truth sink in.

So. There it was. Nestled into this chapter of Proverbs that I sometimes finding myself avoiding. The chapter on the “perfect woman”. The beloved/dreaded Proverbs 31; most specifically verse 15.

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Um, are you kidding me?  There are days when I literally scowl at the clock and have to begrudgingly pull my bod outta bed to get the day going. So, this was not exactly “good news” to me, if you hear what I’m saying. I wanted it to say something much more to my liking, say, maybe: “I should be sleeping in and having breakfast served up to me!”

Why would THIS verse wake me up from my nap?!

Then, another thought occurred to me. On a recent webcast for Women of Faith, Holly Wagner, from Oasis Church in LA, actually talked about this very verse, saying (and I’m paraphrasing here), perhaps what it’s really about is rising up out of spiritual darkness – whatever that dark battle is that you find yourself in – as soon as you realize you’ve gotten into it, and helping support the ones around you in the fight.

Now, to be completely frank with you, I’ve been in “battle” with some serious stress lately and I do think it’s a bit of a spiritual battle.  Of course, I was not wanting to acknowledge it, not wanting it to get the better of me.  Because acknowledging it would mean I’d have to do something about it and that just seemed a little hard for a girl who is supposed to be all about JOY right now.

So I did what I’m prone to do in these situations – I pretended it wasn’t there.  And in the ignoring, I let it eat at me, sapping my energy, all the while going around like everything was status quo.   Not asking for help, not telling anyone how I was coping (or NOT coping, as the case was…) until all I was, was low on joy and tired of hiding alone in the dark.  I couldn’t figure out how to get myself back up. 

And so, in the middle of my much loved nap time, I thought perhaps God was asking me to reconsider my disappointment with this particular verse and possibly asking me to consider that maybe it does speak of joy. Maybe God was asking me to have the courage to just stand up to the stress I was fighting, and if I did, I would be rewarded.  Because rising in the dark brings about some amazing things.

Like…the sooner we rise up in the battle, the longer and stronger we learn to stand in faith.

The stronger we stand up in faith, the more courageous warriors we become.

The more courageous warriors we become, the more the power we have over the enemy.

The more power we have over the enemy, the faster he will flee.

The faster he flees, the farther God’s power will reach.

The farther God’s power reaches, the more hearts are apprehended for Christ.

The more hearts that are apprehended for Christ…well…the sooner the WAR will be over.

The sooner the war is over, the sooner we will experience PURE JOY.

So I got  up. In faith and with God by my side, I rose from the stress and stood up to it.  I looked it in the face, and dealt with it; watched it get smaller and smaller until it didn’t have a single leg on which to stand. And now I feel hope, peace, and joy beginning to return to my spirit.

So…let’s ALL get up. When it’s dark – as soon as we realize darkness is approaching – let’s rise up and win the battle together!

I promise you we’ll find we aren’t standing alone.

Rise

 

 

I guess it really is a little piece of joyful Good News, after all, don’t you think?!

I’m getting up early tomorrow…!  🙂

Pure Joy Summer Series 2013 Week Seven Updates:

OMGOSH! I cannot believe we are sitting here at our MID POINT of the Pure Joy Summer Series! Yes! It’s week 7 of 14. It’s going by a little quickly, I’d say! But I am the eternal optimist, so I’m looking at it like our glass is still HALF FULL!!!

Here’s what we’re doing this week:

1. Memorize/rewrite our verse of the week in your favorite format! Our verse this week is none other than the one that wrecked my Saturday nap: Proverbs 31:15! The joy is found in the rising, sweet friends!  We can do it together!

2. Listen to Shawn McDonald’s awesome tune, Rise! It’s not on our list, but I think it is the perfect accompaniment for this week’s verse and posts!

3. Keep reading! Ready for a new book? Check out the list above under the Pure Joy tab. I’m rereading my ALREADY dog-earred copy of Thriving by Nancy Grisham. Ooooo doggy, it rocks my socks! (Click the link to order!)

4. RSVP for next week’s Pure Joy Dinner #2 if you haven’t already done so! The Joyous Mexican Fiesta of our FAVORITE THINGS is just around the corner and we are so excited to see you there! Email me for more information or how to come OR how to create your OWN in your area!

5. Keep up with the Joy Dare! It’s okay to miss a few days – I have; NO BIG THING! But the important thing is to regularly show gratitude to God for all He provides (even when it seems sort of dark…).

Praying for you, sweet friends! Have a great few days.

Up Thursday: Our Second “Joy Dare Round Up”!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Joy is a choice…so why is it such a battle?

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I’m profoundly excited and honored to bring you this wonderful post on choosing JOY from my friend, and fellow blogger, Kirsten Stokes! Kirsten writes a beautiful blog which can be found at http://godschick.net/. I encourage you to click on her link and see all the amazing things she has written!!!  EnJOY!

 

 

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A couple weeks ago my kids went to Vacation Bible School. I walk into the church to greet my kids after their first day of VBS, and I can immediately tell they have had the time of their lives. We go home, but they can’t stop talking about it so they decide to invite some neighborhood friends to come with them for the rest of the week.

The next morning we arrive, friends in tow. My son’s heart is bursting with delight and expectation.

We sign up our little friends, but they get put in a different group than my kids. I knew this would be disappointing, but with over 500 kids in attendance, I had a hunch it would be tough to fit our friends into the same group.

I look at my son. His heart once swollen with joy is now deflated with disappointment. With tears welling up in his eyes and lips quivering he says, “Mom, I want to go home.”

I put my arms around him and whisper in his ear, “I understand how you feel, but sometimes things don’t work out how we plan. You had your hopes up, but don’t worry, it’s going to be okay. The day isn’t ruined. You’re going to have a wonderful time.” I feel his little body shaking to hold back tears.

I lean in to him and pray into his ear that Jesus would be his joy today.

I’m flooded with my own emotions now. I’ve been in his shoes.

I know all too well the struggle raging in his soul this morning. In the last 15 months, my husband and I have faced more disappointment and discouragement than I ever would have imagined. Plans failed, dreams were crushed, faith was tested, and the fight for joy at times has felt like an epic battle raging in my heart.

I also know well that joy is a choice, so why can it be so hard?

I’ve been the exhausted mom at home with three young kids. I’ve had those ugly moments where I’ve erupted in frustration instead of responding joyfully calm. I know the battle–it’s been waged in my own soul. I want joy, but I struggle to grab hold of it.

And I’m not alone. I’ve grieved with parents who have lost a child. I’ve cried with women whose marriages have been lost to infidelity. I’ve stood with brokenhearted mothers as they’ve cried tears of anguish over children that have rebelled beyond recognition.

I can hear the cry of the brokenhearted saying, “What then? How do we choose joy in the middle of THIS?”

We grieve, we cry, and then we fight. We wage the war against our own soul and fight for joy with praise and thanksgiving. Bringing praise in the middle of painful circumstance, in the night season of our lives, can almost feel like a sacrifice beyond the capacity of our soul. When our heart drowns under pain and sorrow, frustration or worry, we bring it to the foot of the cross in surrender, lay it all down at His feet, and offer it as a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15), a sacrifice of joy (Psalm 27:6). We lift our hands and voices and verbally declare the goodness of God over our lives and our circumstance.

When we thank God for all He has done and all He is going to do, we break the power of circumstance to dictate the direction our soul will take and we allow Jesus and His joy to rule and reign over us from the inside out.

He fills us with joy that overflows from the inside and strengthens us. This sacrifice is holy to God, honored by Him. He sees straight to the heart and His joy is our strength. (Neh. 8:10)

This is not the end. God is faithful and He will bless you in the middle of your present circumstance. Joy comes in that place of surrender, that place where we wake up to the blessing that God has poured out over us in the midst of our trial. We offer that sacrifice in the middle of the dark, night season of our lives, and His promise is that joy will come in the morning. We thank Him, we count our blessings, we wait in hopeful expectation for Him. He won the battle for our joy at the Cross. He has triumphed, and so will we.

I pick up my son that day. I ask him how it went. With a full heart he declares, “You were right, Mom. It didn’t start like I had hoped, but it ended better than I planned. I made new friends and I had one of the best days of my life. Thanks for praying for me.”

My heart swells with gratitude. Joy is here.

I pray this today, Psalm 30, over myself, over you, over us, that joy will fill you today in this new day, this morning season of your life and mine.

I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.
3 You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
4 Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
7 Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.
8 I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
9 “What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”
11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Thank you SO much, Kirsten, for inspiring and hope-filled words today!  I pray each of you have a beautiful weekend.

Up Monday:  Rise and Shine!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie