Tag Archives: stringing pearls with wendie

How to #HAGS (Have a Good Summer ;) )

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Happy First Tuesday, sweet sister friends! It’s FINALLY summer break!  I’m so, so happy about this for, like, a million and fifty-seven reasons. But Reason Number One is (drumroll please):  this beautiful family of mine needs a break.

Yours does, too? I thought so.

Don’t worry. We aren’t the only ones.  It’s been an issue for millennia.

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He knew we’d all need a break at times.  Thank you, LORD!

So here’s the practical application and importance of this – at least in my world.  For me, summer break means a break from the “control” of school days because it’s totally structured FOR us, but not necessarily BY us.  The school system decides when the kids will be in school.  The coaches and activity leaders decide when practices and games and recitals are held.  The tutors decide what hours they are available.  The teachers decide what homework is due and when.    The moms at pick up decide who is playing with whom afterschool and where…AHEM.

The order of our days is predetermined by the forces around us and, for the most part, we need to get in line with it in order for there to be order, if you know what I mean.

Graciously, summer dances to a different beat.

And so today, at the start of what is summer break for many of us, I am giving you a little advice on how to have a good summer. It goes something like this:

“GO DO YOU.

AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO ENJOY IT.”

 Peony 1 Talmud

Is that awesome or what?! So often, we think of indulging in things we enjoy as something we will judged for.  But God (don’t you just LOVE Him?!) basically turns that thought on its ear and says, “Girl, if it’s permissible  –  and tons of amazing and fun things in this life are – you might as well enjoy it because I made it just for you.”

I don’t know what it looks like for you because He wired each of us so beautifully different. For me, it’s a big girl glass of wine on a starry night sitting by the outdoor fire.  Or maybe it’s just an extra half hour by myself at the pool with my Bible.  Or hey – it’s even ordering pizza two nights in a row just because I don’t feel like cooking.  But whatever allows you to have some seriously permissible fun this summer, I say GO FOR IT!

Bring Me Wine

(Photo from Pinterest)

Girlies, let’s shake things up for a couple months. Change your schedule and include something new you’ve been wanting to do.  Try taking after dinner walks with your spouse, or maybe early morning coffees on the deck.

Ask your boss if you can shift your work schedule to come in an hour earlier for a week or two so you can earn a little flex time and take a few extra days off to just kick around in your garden or in the city. Get creative with your time.

Let your kids “drive the boat”, so to speak. Have them choose activities that allow exploration of their passions and interests.  Let THEM choose their playmates and embrace their own choices and decisions (within reason 😉 ).  Consider ditching those dreaded “summer skills books” in favor of comic books and silly novels and even Netflix (did I just say that out loud?!). Volunteer at the food bank and make blankets to distribute to those in need when the cold weather returns (because  – SPOILER ALERT – no matter how hot it gets this summer, that Chiberian chill will be back).

Go get lost on a road trip. Swim in a lake. Wear cut-off overalls.  Go to a concert.  Call your college roomie. Hang out with your mom. Show up at your best friend’s house with some flowers and iced tea just because you can.  Talk a walk with Jesus.  Smooch a puppy on the lips (this one might be my favorite!)!

Have your own church service in the park. Eat a humongous cheeseburger, for Heaven’s sake, and wash it down with a cold beer or soda in a glass bottle.  Have a popsicle at breakfast and ride the Ferris wheel…three times in a row!  Eat sweet cherries and spit the pits on the ground.  Embrace simple things that bring mega-doses of joy.

Yeah. These are the things I wish for you AND for me this summer because even the smallest, simplest things reveal God’s great love for us.  And we are blessed to be able to experience them. Be aware of your gifts and use them to better this world.

I guess what I’m saying, love bugs, is that I wish you the happiest summer break ever. Like, EVER.

Stop making your summer bucket lists and just go do all the things you were going to put on them. Sometimes the spontaneous stuff is sooooo much better anyway.

Okay. Enough screen time.  Go on now. Get on out there.  The world is waiting.

What are you still doing here?!?!? I mean it – GO!  Get outta here!  I triple dog dare you.

#HAGS 😉

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

PS – See you back here on July 4th for the next First Tuesday post…!

PPS – If you are local to the Chicagoland area, I encourage you to check out a great resource:  “Glen Ellyn Moms Village”!  They have awesome social media sites for ideas and inspiration for your summer… AND year-round!! Be sure to follow them so you can  keep updated about local happenings and musings regarding Glen Ellyn and the surrounding communities; the sites are run by one of my favorite sister friends!!!

https://www.facebook.com/glenellynmomsvillage/

https://www.instagram.com/glenellynmomsvillage/

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 1:14

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

YOU and ME.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe you do, too?

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

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

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

Practical Application:

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

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

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

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

That Time God Told Me to PIPE DOWN, ALREADY!

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Oh, good Lord.  Did He really just say that?

(Yes, He DID. I can’t EVEN.)

He can’t possibly be talking to me.

(Spoiler Alert: Yep.  He IS.)

Because I’ve foolishly been thinking it’s all about me and my big ideas. (*Ahem*)

Because, you see, without big ideas, I can’t make a plan to execute. (*Sigh*)

I’m a person who loves to execute plans.  Like, LOVES to.  It’s hard for me to “stop”.  Do you know what I mean? I like BIG ideas, BOLD plans, and BEAUTIFUL executions of them!   And God has been SO, SO good in blessing me with a great season of DOING all these things!

But the fact that He and I don’t seem to be “doing” anything like that in my life right now has me like:

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(photo: Pinterest)

(Did you just do the Scooby Doo “huhhhhh?” voice in your head?!  Me too! Me too!)

I’m the girl  (and maybe you are, too?) who likes to immediately take matters into my own hands when I don’t think I’m getting my way. So, in the absence of visions and plans coming my way, I have been a bit busy to try to kick start the process.  And every time I come up with a brilliant idea, it energizes me for about a day or two.

BUT THEN.

THEN  it’s like the fire under the boiling  “BIG IDEA” pot gets turned down to a low simmer and moved to the back burner, clearing lots of space once again on a big ol’ empty stove.

Every. Single. Front. Burner.

Wide. Open.

Like God is saying, “Well.  That looks delicious and all.  But let’s save it for another time, okay?  No need to be cooking up a storm right now. I’ve got reservations for us elsewhere.”

Kind of like a frying pan to the face – in a really good Godly way, I mean.  😉

God isn’t looking for me to DO anything right now except be obedient to the “season of rest” to which He called me last fall.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been so great at being restful.  I love-love-love being an ACTION VERB kind of girl – a doer, a creator, a teacher, a writer, a speaker.  But instead, I think I need to learn how to be a BEING VERB kind of girl (as in – be still, be quiet, be kind, be with others, be with myself, be with GOD…).

I need to pipe down, already.

And I need to be o-BE-dient.  

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As I let that verse right there weave together with the original message I got from God, a more gentle wording came out:

Dear Wendie,

Will you please just be with Me for a bit instead of trying to DO things I haven’t even asked of you yet?  How about we start by taking care of you and your own four walls (literally and figuratively)?  I’ll be right with you every step of the way, but – for the moment – you need to STOP IT with all this other stuff. It’s going to be worth it, trust Me. 

And since you are wondering, YES – I see you. I hear you. I know you.  I adore you. I love you. You matter more than you can fathom.  And you’re Mine -always and forever.

Thanks, sweet one. Carry on being you by being with Me.

Xoxo,

God

Geez.  He writes really good letters, doesn’t He?!

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because I’m wondering if maybe He’s writing a similar love letter to you, asking you to let Him into your “four walls” for a bit.

With Lent starting on Wednesday, I’m asking you to join me in committing these 40 days to honest-to-goodness o-BE-dience to His voice and will.

After all, isn’t that the point of the season?!?

To be, rather than do.  To pray, rather than produce and plan.  To listen, rather than think/talk so much.  To let it “be what it is supposed to be”, rather than expect so much or try so hard to change it. To let “it” change us.

So what is this going to look like?  I’m not sure; it’s going to look different for each of us. We’ll just have to let each other know how it all shakes out in 40-some days.   All I know for now is that I’ve got my own four walls to focus on:  a guest room to clean out (long story…), a body to care for, some great people to love on (including YOU!), and an amazing God to hang out with all the while.

Not too shabby of a season centered on living in o-BE-dience, right?

My yoga teacher ends every class instructing us to take a deep inhale, and then exhale everything out that won’t serve us. I’m taking that seriously this Lent.  I’m breathing in the good stuff He has for me, and letting the rest go. Well, that and being a little more quiet, too! 😉

Love you and miss you girls so, so much.  Smoochies all around!

Peace, love and JESUS-LEVEL JOY!

Wendie

PS: (If you are looking for something different and meaningful  – and QUIET –  to try this Lent, join me in participating in this fantastic idea on praying for others! http://catholickatie.com/writing/my-favorite-thing-to-do-for-lent.html )

PPS: If you like awesome Christian music, click here to take a look at my current playlist!  It’s soooooooo good!  😉

See ya on the flip side, sisters. XOXO

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A Letter to My Favorite Sister Friends Ever (HINT:  if you have ever been a Stringing Pearls Bible Babe in any way, shape, or form…I’m talking to YOU):

You know how there’s that saying, “She’s a woman of few words”?

Yeah. Well, whoever “she” is…I’ve never met her. 😉

I mean, that has certainly NEVER been said about me (and this post will prove that, sorry…).

AND it hasn’t been said about any of you either!

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Verbose. Wordy. A little too hyperbolic.  Yeah.  That’s us when we get around this table of ours we lovingly call “BS” (Bible Study, people.  Sheesh, move your mind up! 😉 ).  There is very little that I can think of that makes my heart happier than a lively gaggle of girlies yakking it up around said table together about life, and specifically spiritual life with Jesus!

Because one thing has become abundantly clear to me this session: life around the Bible study table matters.  It defines our people and our relationship to them. It gives us a sense of belonging. It provides a space in time and place to rest our souls with sisters we trust and it blesses us with opportunities to serve each other.  The table, sweet friends, is where it’s at.  And somehow, it’s magic.

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“Woohoo!” (Oh Margaret Feinberg, we DO love you…! 😉 )

We each bring a solid support leg to our table. Without each leg in place, the table doesn’t feel quite right.  It can function, for the most part, but it’s far more stable with all of us holding our unique seat, set by God with a royal place setting meant only for the one seated in that spot.

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My favorite tablescapes are the ones with vintage or super unique table cloths and each setting has a different plate and mismatched flatware. I adore different glasses and mugs.  A vase with wildflowers and sunflowers just makes it all the better.   Every single thing is different and unique in its own right, but gorgeously perfect nonetheless.

Just like you and you and you

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If there’s one thing we can say about doing life around the BS Table, it’s that we are never bored, never at a loss for words, and NEVER at a loss for love. These seven years have been so full of wonder, haven’t they?  Never in a million years could we have put ourselves together as a cohesive, tight-knit group of sister friends without God’s divine intervention.  Sure, some of us were friends beforehand, and many of us attend the same churches and schools. And yet…we couldn’t have all found each other without God.

OH how like our God, right?!  Our amazing and WONDER-FULL GOD.  He did this.  And I, for one, am forever in a stunned state of gratitude and giddy joy because of it.

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He’s got plans for us, doesn’t He? That is the first scripture we learned back in 2009 (and then grew by leaps and bounds in 2012!) when we all took a big ole step of faith and formed this ministry together.  So it seems like we should end this chapter there, as well.

 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, NIV

You guys know how much I love that verse. It always give me hope.  But I’ve suddenly realized that I’m a girl that likes it a bit more spelled out.  Like – “HERE is the plan I have for you – now go and enjoy the prosperity today!”  But that’s not what this verse says, is it?  It’s basically saying, “Girlie, chillax.  I got this.  It may (or may not) be awhile before you get to see it.  But either way, just remember that I got it.  Keep calm and carry on. xoxo, God.”

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The thing is…I want to know NOW.  I’m a little like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  (as in:  “I want a Golden Goose NOW, Daddy!”).  It sorta reminds me of this HGTV show I love.  It’s called “Fixer Upper”; you’ve probably seen it, too, because it’s like, UBER successful. I love it for so many reasons starting with Joanna, and I’ve sort of fallen for Chip, too – he is such a goof!  They’re basically my “reality show crushes”!

But the huge-iest reason  I love the show is the big reveal.  (I know. You are SO going to miss my made-up words and awesome grammar…) If you’ve seen the show, you know what I’m talking about .  It’s that moment when Joanna and Chip are standing in front of this fixed-up renovated place and, in unison, they enthusiastically yell out, “Are you ready to see your fixer upper?”  And every time, my heart screams back, “YES!  YES!  YES, you guys!!!  I’m SO ready for the big reveal!  Show me the finished product of what you have had planned all along!”

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It’s almost as if I’m just begging God to make my life as tidy and easy to wrap up as an episode of Fixer Upper…

*sigh*  🙂

So if you are anything like me, I want to leave you a smidgen of encouragement “in the waiting” as we take this hiatus from BS together because it is something I, myself, am totally struggling with.  Here’s the cool part:  what I’m starting to learn is that there are these perfect blessings hidden in the uncertainty of the “big reveal”.  I’m starting to learn that it’s all about faith IN the uncertainty, not in opposition to it.

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Click here for an amazing piece of poetic comfort on the blessing of the wait and unfolding: Pierre T Peilhard de Chardin’s lovely piece about growing within  uncertainty. I’ll hang here while you read it…

Goodness me, I love that. And I love you.

Thank you for taking the leap of faith to join me and your sisters in this awesome adventure of Bible study.  I am honored, humbled, thrilled, and giggly happy to have been your guide for a season.  We’ll be back together in some fashion or another; I just know it!. And I know that Jesus is so happy with you, so proud of your commitment to growing spiritually and making this a priority in your world.  Keep up the great work, girlies!

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Thank you for allowing me the time, the space, and the grace to step back and let him work His Fixer Upper magic in my life for a season.  And I can’t wait to see and hear what He does with your spiritual renovations!

I will miss seeing your unbelievably gorgeous grins each week so don’t be strangers, okay?  I won’t be one either.  (Unless you run into me in the grocery store, and well…most of you know what happens then…ha ha ha ha ha!)

To quasi-quote Ruth, “We are each other’s people.  We share the same, amazing God.  Let’s do this thing called life together.”

Until we meet again, here’s my prayer for you, most fittingly from Paul…my Bible boyfriend:

Be assured that from the first day I heard of you, I haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. I pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. I pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.  Colossians 1:9 MSG

Peace, love, and so much JOY and gratitude for your incredible selves,

Wendie

The WONDER of Forgiveness…

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This past summer, I learned an interesting tidbit of American history this about dams. Now, dams themselves have been around for as long civilization.  Dams are structures that help control the flow of water for irrigation, prevent flooding, create reservoirs for times of drought, etc.  But it has only been really within the last century or so that technology and structural engineering techniques have made it possible to create dams powerful enough to generate massive amounts of electricity .  But in order to do so, they change the landscape of the land surrounding them by actually flooding over entire valleys and the towns in them.  The result?  Hundreds of towns across the country have been strategically and intentionally flooded and are underwater.

So there are actual man-made lakes around the world that look beautiful and tranquil on the surface, yet lurking just below the surface (in some cases as little a 5-10 feet below the surface). Lovely to look at, but a little suspect for swimming!

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One of the things we know is important to Jesus is that we are women of integrity. Believers whose outside appearance authentically represent the state of our insides.

How do I know? Well, many of you will recall this verse from our study of the Beatitudes:

 You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matthew 5:8, MSG

When we, as believers in Christ, refuse to forgive someone, we become like those flooded lakes. We may look good on the surface, but anyone digging any deeper into our spirits better watch out for some jagged wreckage in there.

We block God’s mercy – we dam up grace – when we refuse to forgive.  We gotta learn to let that forgiveness FLOW.

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But how? Especially when the issue seems so unforgiveable to us.  But this is where the supernatural power of true reconciliation, when we actually take our unforgiving hearts to God, gets going.  Because for the big stuff, we cannot do it by ourselves.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Mathew 19:26, NLT

When Jesus says everything is possible, he means everything. So how do we do it?  Girls, this has been a bit life altering for me and I’m just getting used to it, but listen to this for a sec:

1 Peter 5:5-7New English Translation (NET Bible)

…all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

CAST. YOUR .CARES. 

That’s where we begin.

Cast your cares, cast your cares, cast your cares! Your cares include issues surrounding forgiveness, girls.  So, in all humility, on your face, cast your cares.  You say to him, “Lord, this issue with forgiveness about __________ is about to crush my spirit.  This is beyond painful and it is splitting me in two.  This is compromising my soul integrity. I cannot do this alone and I need you.  So I’m giving it to you because only YOU can do something positive with it.”

And so the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within us begins. And then we change our mindset. We move our minds up and out of the mucky mire of unforgiveness with purpose and intent, because we KNOW we have a faithful God and we let Him know we fully expect Him to work this out.

Of course, all of that along with the humility of saying we know He will work it out in His time and within His will for it. We know He wants us to live with forgiving, merciful, grace-filled hearts.  That’s how we know we can expect a victory here.

I get it. I’ve lived with stuff that I find it almost impossible to think God could forgive someone for so how in the world am I supposed to do that?  Nowhere is it written that it’s going to be easy.  But because scripture says ALL things are possible with God, I’m going to try.  Regardless of/with whom it is I need to reconcile and regardless the issue – myself, someone else, or even God.  I’m going to try.

Following along with our series, Wonder-FULL?!  This is our LAST week of wonders!  Finish up reading the main book, Wonderstuck, and complete week 6 in your participant guide!  Meet us back here next week for a wrap up of the series and a special announcement of what we’re up to in 2017!

Peace, love, and WONDER!!!

Wendie

 

Is God Really Interested in Hanging Out with Me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

Expecting Miracles

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

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

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

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

A miracle, even?

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

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

I HIGHLY recommend that prayer.  Like, highly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace, love and WONDERFULL joy!

Wendie

 

 

 

 

 

You are Wonder-FULL. I mean it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wendie

Up next week:  Magic!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Way to End Things

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

Well, you throw a party, of course!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Peace, love and joy!

Wendie

 

 

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

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Karma.

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

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

In other words, what goes around, comes around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,

Wendie

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