Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thankful Thursday - Gratitude Journals

Today is Thankful Thursday!

As I've shared before...John and I are really working with our kids to help them develop a genuine spirit of gratiude and thankfulness. (Have you ever seen a group of whiny, ungrateful kids with the "gimmes"? That's exactly the direction our children were heading! Yuck!) We quickly realized the importance of teaching and modeling gratitude to our kids (and just at Thanksgiving time was not going to be enough!) We needed a plan!

So this summer, we started Gratitude Journals. (I picked up a whole assortment of journals from Party City for 99 Cents. They are working out great. You could also make your own journal by just stapling paper together. We did that when Jake was younger and we still have his!).

Each morning, the kids have listed on their "Morning Things to Do" chart, to write (or draw) in their Gratitude Journal. I originally asked them to write/draw 5 things that they are grateful for (or want to say "thank you" to God for). Most days, each child does have a chance to write in their journals. (but not always). And for my littler ones, usually one or two pictures is what they are able to do. That's ok. Mostly I'm trying to instill a habit of stopping and reflecting on the many blessings they have in their lives and saying thank you to God. It's definitely a process, but it feels good to have started the journey. And wouldn't that be awesome if they continue this habit into their adult years?? Oh, a mom can pray!! :)

Once a week (usually Thursday's), we sit around the table and share with each other some of the things we have listed in our journal. I think it's important for the kids to get comfortable with sharing their feelings aloud, and it's also a blessing for us to hear what we are each grateful for.

Imagine my surprise (and delight!) when I saw one of my little Sarah's drawings. (pictured at the top of this post). She shared she is thankful for a home that is filled with love! Oh, thank You God!! (I've been feeling overwhelmed this week with summer and kids and camps and full her picture brought more joy to my soul than you can imagine!!)

In the book of 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul reminds us to "give thanks in all circumstances". In the midst of a hot, tiring, exhausting week...I'm thankful for Jesus and life in His Name, my husband/best friend John, my four precious kids that bring me so much JOY (even if they wear me out), for our home, my family that all lives so close, for ministry opportunities, the many amazing friends God has blessed me with, and His powerful Word. I could go on and on. Thank You, Lord!! I woke up tired and weary and not ready for another full day, but by stopping and listing a few of my many blessings, it has helped get my focus back Up. I'm off to go draw in my Gratitude Journal!!

Today is Thankful Thursday! What are you thankful for??

Let's pray...Oh Lord, Thank You for the many, many blessings You have provided for us. Help us to give thanks to You in all circumstances! Please fill us afresh with Your Spirit, and use us to draw others to You. For Your purpose. For Your Glory alone. In the Powerful Name of Jesus we pray. Amen!! :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fantastic Friday!!

Wow ~ what a full week it has been! Please accept my apologies for not updating my blog more ~ the truth is we've been out having a blast this week!!

On Saturday, two of our dear friends from Cairo, Egypt flew in to stay with us. Hady is 16 and Farah is 13. Their mom Maha is one of my closest and dearest friends. Maha and I met back in 2003 when she came to Michigan to learn more about our church. Our hearts instantly connected. Maha and I both share a love for the Lord, prayer, our families, and ministry. Maha is like the big sister I didn't have, but have always wanted!!

Over the past 6 years, Maha has come back to the states (with her family), and John and I have had the opportunity to serve at her church in Egypt. What a blessing this year for Maha to trust us with the privilege of caring for Farah and Hady for a week. They've been busy boating and shopping and eating ice cream and Taco Bell and playing and eating more Taco Bell (their absolute favorite!). What a fun, fun time we have shared!!

Today is our last day together ~ so we are off to create more memories! It is a FANTASTIC FRIDAY at our home ~ and we are going to experience LIFE to the FULL (and probably have one more meal at Taco Bell)!!!

May your day be filled with much love, joy, peace, and FUN!! :) Jesus has come that we might have life more abundantly...let's experience ALL that He has for us!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's coming! Magnificent Monday's are back!!! :)

Woo Hoo!! I can hardly wait!! This Monday, June 15th starts a new season of Bible Study with my friends at Sunshine Church. My Monday's are going to be Magnificent this summer!! :) Yippee!!

We'll be studying Priscilla Shirer's newest study "One in a Million". (Priscilla is one of my favorite Bible teachers ~ and this study is hot off the press!) The topic is you know, I am passionate about living the full, free life in Christ ~ and that's exactly what this Bible study is all about!! WooHoo!!

And here's the best part! You are invited!!! If you live in the Grand Rapids area, please join us! We meet at Sunshine Church at 7 PM. This past spring, we had 55 women ~ all different ages, from all different churches, all friendly, amazing and fun! ~ come together to learn, share, and grow in Christ. (For more specific details, shoot me an e-mail and I'll forward a flyer to you).

If you are unable to come on Monday's OR live outside of Michigan ...please, please, please...may I encourage you to have a Bible Study plan this summer?!

So often I hear women say, "I'm just going to take the summer off". NO! Please don't!! The enemy DOES NOT take the summer off...and how he would love to get us away from the Truth of God's Word. Let's continue to fill our mind with TRUTH and live VICTORIOUSLY this summer!

Here are some ideas to stay in the Word over the summer months :)

* Select a good Bible study (I'm always happy to recommend some favorites) and maybe ask some girlfriends to join you. Accountability and community is such a beautiful thing!.

* Follow a Bible reading plan. John Piper has a fabulous resource for us. You can print it out here.

* Beth Moore (another favorite Bible teacher!) is forming an on-line community to study Me, Myself, and Lies by Jennifer Rothschild (which I highly recommend!). You can learn more about Beth's opportunity here.

* Join us on Magnificent Monday's at Sunshine Church!!

What's your Summer Bible reading plan?? I'd love to hear more how you stay "plugged in" to God's Word during the summer months. Share with us please!!

Let's pray...Oh Lord, Thank You for Your Word! Thank You that we can study Your Word openly and freely and that we have so many options and opportunities to choose from! Thank You for the power and the life that comes from time spent in Your Word! Oh Lord, as we head into the "care free" days of summer, would you please protect our time with You? Please remove distractions and obstacles, challenges and circumstances ~ so that we might have time to rest in Your presence. Empower us, O Lord, for Your Kingdom purposes. For Your Glory.

In Jesus' Strong, Powerful, and Mightly Name I pray!! Amen :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thankful Thursday ~ Sharing My Story

Today is Thankful Thursday at our home! One of my hopes (and prayers) is to raise children with hearts of gratitude. Hopefully every day we are finding ways to express thanks to God and to one another ~ but today especially we will pause to acknowledge and thank God for His goodness in our lives!

For me personally, I am grateful for so many things! For my handsome husband, our precious kids, my amazing friends, my family, our health, our home, our neighborhood, summer, VBS...I could go on and on! And for today, I'm particularly mindful and thankful for the new life I have in Christ.

Many of you know my story...I did not come to know Jesus until the age of 26. And not only did I not know Jesus all those years, I experienced way more of the world than necessary. I've wrestled with addiction to food, alcohol, shopping, drugs... You name it, I've tried it. I often joke that my life before Christ is like a bad TV movie. It was empty and defeated living.

But here's the Good News! Not only did Christ come to my rescue and deliver me, He gave me a new place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God (Psalm 40). He gave me a new, clean, pure heart. Jesus has given me hope and a future. He filled my heart with love and joy and peace and satisfaction. And, praise the Lord, Jesus gave me a whole new reputation. Only Jesus can transform an empty, insecure girl into a woman who is able to live a life of freedom and fullness. Only Jesus!

I'm blown away by the opportunities the Lord has provided for me to share my story. Not one time have I ever pursued me "speaking" somewhere, but doors keep opening. Most recently, a woman named Melissa contacted me from West Virginia to be interviewed on her blogtalkradio show. (She interviewed me on the air yesterday. You can listen to it here). Me?? Really?? That God would risk His reputation on me is humbling. It makes me want to serve Him and worship Him all the more!!

Thank You, Jesus, for delivering me from a life of darkness and bringing me into Your Kingdom of light!! Thank You for the beauty of abundant life in You!! Thank You that there is no one too far gone...and thank You for the satisfaction that You alone can bring!!!

How about for you?? What are you thankful for today??

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What's hanging in your closet??

Today I am making a conscious decision to be intentional with every thought I allow in my mind.

A new Bible study that I'm working through by Jennifer Rothschild (Me, Myself, and Lies - it's awesome!) encourages us to think of our thought life like a closet. And our thought closet is designed to host the mind of Christ. We cannot allow it to become cluttered with wrong thoughts or words or ill-fitting labels.

So, what's hanging in your closet??

For many years, my closet was filled with rags and hand-me-downs labeled "Not good enough", "Unloved", "Rejected". And then I met Jesus. He ripped down the old rags (that were never meant for me to wear), and traded them for beautiful, glorious garments designed just for me. "Loved", "Beautiful in His Sight", "More than enough", "Redeemed" now hung in my new and improved thought closet.

Unfortunately, every once in awhile, I pick up an old rag and bring it in. I walk past a magazine with a mom of 8 in a bikini on the cover (although she had a tummy tuck!) and add "not good enough" and "unlovely" to my closet.

When did I start allowing the world's standards to define who I am??

I must not allow that old rag to hang in my closet for even a moment. One smelly lie can start stinkin' up my whole thought closet. It must be removed. Confessed. And replaced with God's Truth.

Today I choose to fill my thought closet only with Truth. I will meditate on Colossians 3:12 and clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. I will live on guard to the enemy and his schemes. I will ask God to help me keep my thought closet clean and orderly and pleasing to Him.

How about for you?? Are there any old rags hanging in your thought closet that need to be tossed out? Is it time for a new garment....or maybe a whole new wardrobe? What's hanging in your closet these days??

Let's pray...Oh Lord, please give us the mind of Christ. Help us to meditate only on Truth...the Truth of Who You are and the Truth of who we are in You. Reveal to us any old rags need to tossed out and fill our closets only with Truth. Protect us from the lies of this world and keep our eyes focused only on You. In Your Strong Name I pray. Amen :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

True Confession

OK, true confession time.

I hate bathing suit season.

Those are strong words (we don't even use the "h" word in our home)...but I'm being painfully honest. Something about being in a bathing suit out in public magnifies every single fear and insecurity that I have.

I'm sorry if I've disappointed you. I just need to get this off of my chest.

I know the Truth. I know that I am loved, accepted, and chosen just the way that I am. I know that my body is just a physical shell, and that what really matters is on the inside. I know that what my kids will remember someday is their mom having fun in the water with them. Splashing alongside of them. Helping them learn to swim. Cheering as they go down the big slide! I know my kids don't know if I wear a size 4 or 14 or 24 (and truth be told, they don't care). And I know my friends don't care either.

I'm really good at encouraging my friends and reminding them how beautiful they are ~ inside and out. And I mean it sincerely.

I also know that I hate bathing suit season.

I hope that by the end of the summer I will share with you how my mind was so renewed by the Truth that I frolicked all day long at the pool with my kids and enjoyed every single minute of it. I hope to tell you that this was the year I finally ripped down all of those lies and embraced the Truth of who God created me to be. I hope this is the year that I celebrate the victory that is mine in Christ!

What does victory look like? For me, it's not even about being a certain size. It's more about not allowing the world's standards to define me...and knowing (and receiving) the love and acceptance that God has for me. Just the way that I am.

But for today I feel led to share that this is a very real struggle. And it is sad for me. I desire to live a full, free life in Christ ~ and this is one area that I have so much work to do.

What about for you?? What is God teaching you this season?
Are there areas in your life where you are allowing lies to hold you back from being all that God has created for you to be??

May Summer 2009 be a season of Truth and Freedom and Victory for each and every one of us!! For His purpose and His Glory alone!!

Let's pray... Dear Lord, Thank You that You are a God of Truth. Thank You for Jesus...and that in Him we can live a full, free, abundant life. Thank You for molding us, shaping us, growing us to be more and more like You. Lord I pray for each one of us...that You would rip down any lies that we have believed for way too long (the lie that says we are not_______ enough) ~ and I pray that You would replace the lie with TRUTH ~ that in You we are MORE than enough. Thank You for hearing our prayer and for the assurance of VICTORY in You. In Jesus' Life Changing Name I pray. Amen.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Whatya lookin' at??

In January we started the challenging of memorizing Scripture verses from A to Z. This week we are at the "L" verse already! (You can read more about Scripture Memory "ABC Style" here.) Whether you joined us in January, are hearing about this challenge for the first time, or have never memorized a verse in your life, may I encourage you to memorize this "L" verse with us. God's Word is so powerful and effective! And this verse will transform our thinking!!

But first, I must ask the question...whatya been lookin' at this week??

In my own life, it is so easy for me to fix my eyes on all the challenges surrounding me. Endless To-Do lists. Piles of dishes and laundry and school work. Fighting kids. Weeds to be pulled. A dog that won't stop barking. A garage stuffed with boxes. Bills to be paid. Everywhere I look there's a mess than needs cleaning or a pile that needs sorting. And everything in me wants to run for cover (or at least to the nearest Starbucks!).

Thus the reason I love Hebrews 12:2...our "L" verse.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith"

The word "fix" comes from the original Hebrew word aphorao. The word signifies "undivided attention", "looking away from all distratctions in order to fix one's gaze on one object". Aphorao in Hebrews 12:2 is having eyes for nothing but Jesus!

Rather than fixing my eyes on my challenges or my circumstances or my insecurities or my fears...the Word of God is instructing me to FIX MY EYES ON JESUS. As I turn my gaze from the temporary trials that surround me, and look Up to the One who loves me so, I receive His strength and His grace for the task set before me.

Each one of us have a choice. Where will our eyes be fixed?? Will we turn towards all that seeks to distract us?

Or will we look unto Jesus? Receive His grace. Acknowledge our need for His wisdom and His strength. Lean on His goodness. Look to Him alone.

Whatya been lookin' at?? Your relationship challenges. Your husband that just won't change. Tasks you want to accomplish. Your kids' messes. Worries that are weighing you down.

Or is your head tilted back, nose to the ceiling, eyes turned away from all other things and firmly fixed on Jesus the One and Only?!

May I encourage you today to fix your eyes on Jesus alone. Give Him your circumstances and challenges. And watch what He will do!!

Let's pray...Oh Lord, how we desperately need You! There are so many things that seek to distract us from You. Help us to give You our undivided attention! May we turn our eyes from lesser things and look for You in all things. Empower us Lord to live for You! For Your Glory alone! In Jesus powerful Name. Amen!

Monday, June 1, 2009

One Person

In my last post, I shared my Dad's recent choice to model Real Jesus Love to the workers from Mexico. As you can see, my Dad's love for God profoundly shapes not just his "talk", but also his "walk".

This has not always been the case.

Growing up, my Dad professed to be an atheist or agnostic (it just depended on who was at our door with a pamphlet.) He wanted nothing to do with the Christian religion. Nothing.

As many of you know, I grew up living very far from God. Although my mom took me to church every Sunday, I did not embrace Christianity as my own. After many years of poor, self destructive choices ~ I finally gave my life to Jesus at the age of 26. Hallelujah! :)

Soon after I became a Christian, I started inviting my Dad to my new church. His answer was always a strong, "NO". One Sunday I was going to share my testimony at church, and I begged my Dad to come and support me. I assured him the walls would not fall down if he walked into a church building. :) Once again, my Dad refused. He continued to want nothing to do with the Christian religion.

Fast forward a few years, and I met a wonderful, Godly man named David Timmer. After two years of dating, we were engaged to be married. David loved the Lord, and often said he would give his life for just one person to know Jesus. David and I would pray for my Dad ~ praying that his heart would soften and that he would desire to know and walk with Jesus.

And then, two weeks before Christmas, and five months before our wedding...on December 10, 1998 ~ David Timmer, my fiance and best friend, was killed in a freak workplace accident.

How could God take David home??

Two days later, at David’s funeral, my Dad, the atheist/agnostic, accepted Jesus as His Savior!

Remember, David had said he would give his life for just one person to know Jesus. Little did he know.…. it would be MY DAD!!

If you were to meet my Dad today, you’d think he’d been serving God his whole life! Our God is such a God of miracles – I know …because I’m one of them, and so is my Dad!!

Let's pray...Thank You, Lord, for bringing new life out of our deepest pain. Thank You that there is no one too far from Your reach! Thank You for my Dad...and how he models and demonstrates his commitment to Your Kingdom. Lord, please use each one of us to bring hope and healing and love to this lost and hurting world. For Your Glory alone!! Amen! :)

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