Sunday, November 29, 2009

Meet Author Shauna Niequist and GIVEAWAY! :) ~ Part 2

In yesterday's post, I introduced you to Shauna Niequist, author of Cold Tangerines, and a dear friend. I love her first book, Cold Tangerines, and know that you will too! I am excited to have the opportunity to give away an autographed copy to 4 special readers! (More giveaway details at the bottom of this post)

Today I'd like to share a "Q & A" session Shauna and I recently shared together. Enjoy! :)


Shauna, how do you describe Cold Tangerines to someone who hasn't read it?

It's a collection of essays about celebrating everyday life. Each chapter is a snapshot from my life--my family, my street, my high school memories, my confessions-- not because my story is special but because all of our stories are special. I hope when people read it, they find bits of themselves and their own stories in it.

Were you writing to a specific audience? Were you writing to/for yourself? Or for both?

I was writing for people who love language and image and story. I love those things, so it was really a goal for me (whether or not I accomplished it) to write satisfying, high quality prose. And I was writing as a friend. There have been books that have affected me and when I was finished, I felt like I had met a friend. That’s what I wanted. I wanted people to feel less alone, to feel like they’re not crazy for having questions or for being jealous, and that they’re not crazy for wanting to believe that life, and particularly life with God, is extraordinary and rich and worth loving and devoting yourself to.

Describe the turning point for you, when you decided to start appreciating the "cold tangerine" moments in life? How has this perspective changed you?

I feel like I hit this same turning point about three times a week. I catch myself waiting so often-- waiting for things to settle down, waiting to feel more capable, waiting for things to get easy. I know better, but I still do it. So on a very regular basis, I return to the cold tangerines and the pennies and the red tree, literally and figuratively, and I decide once again that today is enough, that God is enough. I decide that what life is offering to me in this exact moment is enough, and is worth celebrating and investing in. I wish there was a before-and-after, but it seems to be more like again-and-once-again, like most of life.

What inspires you when you're writing?

When I’m living well, everything inspires me. What I mean is that if I’m taking care of myself-- reading great books, sleeping enough, spending time with people who restore me and challenge me and make me laugh, then all the world is inspiring….and if I’m running too fast, not connecting well to the people I love, or living for the to-do list, then it all looks flat and gray, and I can stare at the blank screen for what seems like days. It’s a good motivator for me to live well, as if living well was not reward enough in itself.

What do you most enjoy about writing? What do you least enjoy?

What I love about writing is that it forces me to see what’s happening around me, and what’s happening in me, and it forces me to think and feel and notice the world on a deeper level. I’m a multi-tasker: I want to read a magazine while something’s on the stove and something else is in the oven and I’m watching the news and returning a call and folding a little bit of laundry and buying a gift online. That’s my nature.

But I miss a lot that way, and writing ushers me into a much slower, much simpler way of living, and it’s better for me. It’s one of the only spaces in my life that’s very quiet, and very focused, and requires every single speck of attention that I can give it. It feels like very hard work, and is very rewarding to me. I also just love playing with words. There are moments when it feels like play, and I love that. I’ve always always loved playing around with words.

The hardest part is that it requires me to be alone more than I would like, so I have to work intentionally not to get too isolated, and to make sure that I’m getting good time with friends and family, as a balance for all the aloneness. I think good writing comes out of a full life, not from an isolated mind.

Your writing is so honest and transparent. Have you ever struggled with being real with your shortcomings and feelings? What would you say to other women who struggle with this?

On one hand, I always struggle with that—-I would love for people to believe that I’m sailing through life without neuroses and missteps. But on the other hand, what draws me to people is their honesty, the cracks in their armor, the tiny vulnerabilities that we reveal when we tell each other the truth about our lives. I’ve watched my friendships deepen in the moments of ugliness and truth in ways that never happen when we’re all dressed up and on our best behavior.

From a writing standpoint, I have worked hard to dance on the line between helpful, sometimes surprising honesty and, say, totally inappropriate over-sharing. I’m not a particularly private person, both by upbringing and by nature, so my housechurch and a few other close friends and family members read through an early version of Cold Tangerines, keeping an eye out for things that might be ‘honest’ among friends but ‘creepy’ in print—-and I did change a few things because of their advice.

I'm really committed to honesty as a writer. When I began, I said that I wanted anything I wrote to be honest, brave, funny, and well-written. I'm attracted to honesty in other writers and other people, and I think humor surprises people, especially when the topic is faith. As I was writing, I wrote the most naked, bold, entirely truthful things I knew how to write, and then my editor and close friends helped me decide what things needed to be taken out or changed a little. That's a really important step, and I did make changes based on their recommendations.

You are a wife, a mom and a writer. How do you juggle all of the demands of life and how did you find time to write a book?

Juggling is a good word for it, I think. It feels like juggling: mostly out of balance, verging on disaster, and occasionally quite fantastic, just for a moment. My friend Denise, a woman, mother, and leader I respect very much, once told me that it’s easy to decide the things you want to do in your life, but the real challenge comes when you have to decide what you’re willing to let go undone. I think there are layers and layers in that statement, especially for women.

There are a lot of things I don’t do, in order to have the time and space to do the things I care most about. My house is not a showpiece. Frankly, it’s as dirty as I can get away with having a three year old, knowing that he’ll eat whatever he finds on the floor. As much as I know it would help me physically and mentally, I don’t spend much time at the gym these days. Let’s be honest: I haven’t been to the gym since 2007. I blow dry my hair only when I have to speak or go somewhere really fancy, and I wear my pajamas in public fairly often.

I actually made a Things I Don’t Do List, and that really helped me get clear on the Things I Do List. Things I Do: I read, write, cook, and spend time with a few close friends and family members, most important among them my husband and my boy. Those are the things that matter most to me these days, so a lot of the other things go undone.

I also think that especially for mothers, it’s important to think about life in terms of seasons. There is a way of living that works for this season, and we’ll figure it out anew when Henry goes to preschool, or if I have another baby. We’re on like a three month plan these days, constantly re-evaluating.

A big theme in Cold Tangerines is celebration. How do you celebrate?

For me, the first part of celebrating is noticing. I find that it's easy for me to get stuck in what's broken or wrong with a situation, instead of seeing the beautiful parts of it, too, or that I move so fast I don't see anything at all. These days I'm trying to notice everything, to live slowly enough to see what's unfolding around me, and especially to look for the tiny, beautiful surprises even in the midst of wreckage and ugliness.

What are you working on now?

I just signed with Zondervan for two more books. The first is a collection of essays called Bittersweet, about change, grace, and learning the hard way. It’s a similar format as Cold Tangerines—short essays—and it centers around seasons of change and glimpses of God’s grace in the midst of them. It will be out in September 2010, along with a Cold Tangerines paperback.

The second book is called Bread and Wine about faith, family, friendship, and food—the spiritual and relational significance of sharing meals together, of gathering at the table together. Bread and wine are two of the most central, common items on out tables, and they’re also the traditional communion elements. I want to explore both those things: what happens around our own tables, and how communion and community unfold in all different ways.

It's about the sacred and strange and wonderful things that happen when we gather together to eat-- celebrations, traditions, memories of life around the table. When I look back at the last two years, so many of the best moments of family or friendships have happened around the table, so I'm thinking and writing about the significance of what, how, and with whom we eat.

How does it feel to be back in Chicago?? What was the hardest part of leaving GR?

It feels fantastic to be back in Chicago. We love our church and are so thankful for old friends and new friends, and the gift of living near family. We love the energy of the city, and try to get downtown as often as we can. And the hardest part of leaving Grand Rapids was leaving people that we had really grown to love. Also the Cuban Eggs and the cookies at Gaia, the grilled ham and cheese sandwich at the Green Well, and Marie Catrib's curried rice and chocolate pudding.

Thanks so much, Shauna!! We miss you in Grand Rapids, but are thrilled to watch God turn your dreams into reality!! Keep up the GREAT work!! :)


And now, a chance for you to win an autographed copy of Cold Tangerines...

To Win my Giveaway: Leave a comment in the comment section answering this question:

Why would you like to win a copy of Cold Tangerines??

RULES: Starts Saturday, Nov 28th and ends Friday, December 4th at 9 PM. Winner will be posted on my blog on Saturday, December 5th.

If your email address is not connected to your ID please leave your email address with your comment or email it to me at with the subject "Giveaway". (If you have a hard time leaving a comment, e-mail me and I'll walk you through it.)

BONUS ENTRIES: Become a follower of my blog and leave a second comment for a bonus entry!

For fellow bloggers -blog about this giveaway and include a link back to this post or grab my button and then let me know in the comment section for another bonus entry!

Many Blessings to you!

P.S. Click Here to check out Shauna’s website. You will love her blog! Zondervan is also running a special on her books ~ perfect for Christmas ~ and she has all of the details listed on her website.

Also, if you live in the Grand Rapids area, come by the Woodland Mall Barnes & Noble to meet Shauna on Monday, November 30th at 5:30 PM. I'd be blessed if you told Shauna you saw this on She Sparkles! And who knows...maybe we will even bump into each other! :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Friend & Author Shauna Niequist & GIVEAWAY :)

If you haven't had a chance to sign up for my Kids Book GIVEAWAY, please join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until Tuesday, November 30th to enter. :)

Today I am thrilled to introduce you to my friend and author of Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist. :)

When I first met Shauna in 2003, my life was "full" to say the least! I was 9 months pregnant with Amanda, wife to John and mom to Jake and Benj, as well as overseeing a children's ministry of 2700+ kids and 1000 volunteers. Whew! I'm tired just thinking about life back then!

Shauna's husband joined the church staff where I was serving, and Shauna and I became fast friends. She was going through an emotional season of change (moving from Chicago to Grand Rapids, MI), at the same time I was adjusting to another new baby, while working full time. Shauna and I spent many hours sharing, hoping, crying, and adjusting to our "new normal". Her friendship was a very special gift during an extremely challenging season.

As friends do, Shauna and I would talk out our hopes and plans for the future. We both shared a similar dream of writing a book. For me, I desired sharing my story and God's transformational work in my life with others. And for Shauna, she dreamed of writing a book of essays on life and celebration and so much more.

I can still remember when Shauna e-mailed me her first essay to read. (I still have it!). It was obvious that God had given Shauna a special gift with words and writing. It was no surprise (to us anyway!) when Shauna signed her first book deal. And I cried tears of joy when I held her first book, Cold Tangerines in my hands!! Her dream had become a reality!

Although our paths don't connect like they used to (I stopped working at the church, and Shauna and her family have since moved back to Chicago), I love watching God use Shauna and Cold Tangerines! Shauna is inspiring others all across the nation to celebrate their everyday life. And when I heard she was coming to town for a book signing this month, I couldn't resist...I had to share Cold Tangerines with you, my dear readers and friends!! You will love it!!

Here's how Zondervan describes Cold Tangerines:

Cold Tangerines is a collection of stories that celebrate the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives. It is about God, and about life, and about the thousands of daily ways in which an awareness of God changes and infuses everything. It is about spiritual life, and about all the things that we have called nonspiritual life that might be spiritual after all. It is the snapshots of a young woman making peace with herself and her life, and trying to craft a life that captures the energy and exuberance we long for in the midst of the fear and regret and envy we all carry with us. It is both a voice of challenge and song of comfort, calling us upward to the best possible life, and giving us room To breathe, to rest, to break down and break through. Cold Tangerines offers bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption, in and among the heartbreak And boredom and broken glass.

Sounds like an awesome book, doesn't it?? Trust me ~ it is!!

And guess what?! The amazing group at Zondervan are giving me 4 copies to give away! Woo Hoo!! I'll have Shauna sign them on Monday night while she is in town, and send them out to 4 different winners next week!! What fun!!!

Before we get to the GIVEAWAY, a couple more GREAT things for you:

Click Here to check out Shauna’s website. You will love her blog! Zondervan is also running a special on her books ~ perfect for Christmas ~ and she has all of the details listed on her website.

Also, if you live in the Grand Rapids area, come by the Woodland Mall Barnes & Noble to meet Shauna on Monday, November 30th at 5:30 PM. You will instantly love her!!

And now, for the GIVEAWAY of a copy of Cold Tangerines...

To Win my Giveaway: Leave a comment in the comment section answering this question:

Why would you like to win a copy of Cold Tangerines??

RULES: Starts today, Saturday, Nov 28th and ends Friday, December 4th at 9 PM. Winner will be posted on my blog on Saturday, December 5th.

If your email address is not connected to your ID please leave your email address with your comment or email it to me at with the subject "Giveaway". (If you have a hard time leaving a comment, e-mail me and I'll walk you through it.)

BONUS ENTRIES: Become a follower of my blog and leave a second comment for a bonus entry!

For fellow bloggers -blog about this giveaway and include a link back to this post or grab my button and then let me know in the comment section for another bonus entry!

And for tomorrow....check back...Shauna and I did a "Q & A" and I can't wait to share her responses and thoughts with you!!

Many Blessings!

Quick Thanksgiving Recap

If you haven't had a chance to sign up for my Kids Book GIVEAWAY, please join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until Tuesday, November 30th to enter. I'd love to hear from you! :)

Happy Day-After Thanksgiving everyone!! Hope you had a wonderful day full of much joy, family fun, and celebration!! We all have much to be thankful for, don't we?!

We had a wonderful, traditional meal at my in-laws at noon. Later in the day, we invited my parents over for Thanksgiving games and dessert. Here are some photo highlights:

We shared Leafs of Gratitude with one another. Manda is thankful for God and the Bible. :)

(Don't you love all of my clean sheets in a heap in my laundry room waiting to be folded!)

Next we played some Thanksgiving Checkers. I think my mom is now the reigning Champion. :)

We also played Thanksgiving BINGO. It was so much fun! We make our own Thanksgiving boards for every holiday...the kids just love it. (Click here for more info) Winners get to pick from the candy dish (leftover Halloween candy they don't know about). Fun, fun, fun!! :)

The night wouldn't have been complete without Thanksgiving Day sundaes!
And yes, don't worry...Rocky enjoyed turkey and other treats throughout the day...
Enjoy your Holiday Weekend! Be sure to stop back tomorrow for an exciting new GIVEAWAY!! Thankful for YOU and the joy of journeying together!! Have a Fantastic Friday!! :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Random Dozen: Thanksgiving Edition

If you haven't had a chance to sign up for my Kids Book GIVEAWAY, please join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until Tuesday, November 30th to enter. I'd love to hear from you! :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you!! Today I thought I'd join in the fun and play along with the Thanksgiving Edition of the "Random Dozen". Enjoy! :)

1. Are you sticking to traditional Thanksgiving foods this year, or are you being culinarily adventurous? We will be heading over to my dear in-laws to enjoy a very yummy and traditional Thanksgiving meal. Nothing too out of the ordinary (which is how I like it).

2. Tell me something concrete that you're thankful for. (Something you can literally touch, see, etc., not a concept like "hope.") I am really thankful for our new home. Although we've lived here for a little over a year now, it is a perfect home for our family, and the neighborhood is fantastic! I am so thankful to the Lord for saving this home for us (and selling our other home in less than 2 months!). What a miracle!

3. You knew the flip side was coming: Share about something intangible that you're thankful for. No doubt about it....grace. I am daily in awe of the grace that God so freely has given to me. What a gift!! And I am THANKFUL!!

4. Share one vivid Thanksgiving memory. It doesn't have to be deep or meaningful, just something that remains etched in your memory. I loved Thanksgiving as a little girl. Mostly I looked forward to traveling to Batesville, Indiana to see my grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins. What special memories ~ too many to share just one!!

5. What is one thing that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt is going to happen this Thanksgiving because it always does, year after year? My mom will make my favorite green jello salad.

6. Do your pets get any left-overs? Probably yes, but don't tell anyone...our dog Rocky is supposed to be on a diet!!

7. Does your family pray before the big meal? If so, do you join hands while seated, stand, repeat a formal prayer or offer a spontaneous prayer? Who does the praying? Absolutely we will pray before our meal. I will guess that yes, we will hold hands and that my father-in-law will offer the Thanksgiving prayer.

8. Will you be watching football in the afternoon? If not, what will you be doing?
I will not be watching football ~ but I imagine the guys of my house will be. I will probably be reading the newspaper and breaking up fights between my two girls :)

9. There are two distinct camps of people on this issue: How do you feel about oysters in the dressing/stuffing? Yuck.

10. Do you consider yourself informed about the first Thanksgiving? Sure.

11. Which variety of pie will you be enjoying? No pie. Too many WW points. I'll save my points for a latte (is Starbucks even open on Thanksgiving??)

12. Do you feel for the turkey?? Sorry, no. I try not to think about it :)

As I count my many blessings this Thanksgiving, please know, I am so thankful for YOU and the gift of journeying with you through She Sparkles. THANK YOU for stopping by my blog and allowing me the privilege of sharing what God is teaching me these days! It is such a joy!! :) THANK YOU!!

I pray God's richest blessings for you and your family this Thanksgiving Weekend!! Happy Thanksgiving!!

With Much Gratitude~

P.S. For more Random Dozen, visit 2nd cup of coffee. Thanks for passing along the fun, Linda!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

ABC Verse Memorizers ~ Kid-size! :)

If you haven't had a chance to sign up for my Kids Book GIVEAWAY, please join the fun! (Click here for more information). You have until Tuesday, November 30th to enter. I'd love to hear from you! :)

As many of you know, this past January 1, 2009 ~ a large group of men, women, and children all across the United States accepted my challenge to memorize 26 new verses in 2009 ~ ABC style. (For more details on how my ABC Verse idea started, click here)

Monday night I was at church getting ready for Bible Study. I ran into two little friends in the hall who are fellow ABC Memorizers. Of course, they wanted to know when I was going to send out the "U" verse. I tried to explain about my past computer troubles, but I don't think they were buying my excuse! :)

So then I asked, "Are you guys ready for U?". Oh me of little faith! Are they ready?? You betcha!! The two little girls know ALL of the verses A through T by heart.

I couldn't resist having them come to Bible Study with me! After checking with their mom, my two young friends stood before the 70+ ladies of our group. The girls thought it would be fun if we "tested" them by picking a letter of the Alphabet, and then they would say the verse. The first letter picked was "J".

Here are my two friends getting ready to share John 14:6. Jesus answered, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Of course they knew it perfectly!!

So cute! Then I asked them to share their favorite verses with us. The younger sister said her favorite was the letter N verse ~ Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness (Psalm 115:1). Here she is sharing it proudly below...

Her big sister's favorite verse is the "M" verse ~ May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer (Psalm 19:14). Here she is saying it below...word for word...

So precious!!! What an encouragement the two girls were to me (and to our Bible study!!)!! If they can do, so can we, right??!! :)

If you are interested in accepting the ABC Challenge, it's not too late! Start anytime! Just grab some index cards or a little binder and join us!! You can learn more about ABC Challenge here!

And if you've been participating in the Challenge since January, can you believe we are at the "U" and "V" verses already?? Keep up the great work!! You're almost to the finish line. Woo Hoo!!

Here are the two new verses....

U - Until now you have not asked for anything in My Name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. John 16:24

V - Victory rests with the Lord. Proverbs 21:31b

Time spent memorizing God's Word is never wastest time! Whether you choose to follow the ABC plan or another way, may I encourage you to pick one verse before you close this post that you can commit to memory. (Do you have your verse??) Now grab an index card, write it out, carry it with you wherever you go, and say it aloud often!! Let's allow God to transform our minds!! Woo Hoo! :)

Happy Memorizing!!

P.S. What verse are you currently memorizing or has been impactful to you (in case someone is looking for a verse to memorize)?? Share with us please!! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Kids Book Review and GIVEAWAY :)

I love books! As a little girl growing up in Indiana, one of my weekly highlights was a visit from the Bookmobile. Even now, there is barely a day that I don't end up in a local bookstore! My girlfriends even stop by the bookstore if they need to find me! :)

I also love kids!! During my life "b4k" (before four kids), I served as the Children's Ministry Director at a megachurch here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had the privilege of overseeing a ministry that served 2700+ kids. I loved it!! One of my favorite parts was hanging out with the kids, as well as thinking of new and creative ways to teach them the foundational Truths of Scripture. It was a dream job!

So, imagine my delight when Zonderkidz asked me to review some kids books on my blog! I was thrilled! What an awesome opportunity to combine 3 of my passions (God + kids + books!) Yippee!! :)

And the best part of all....the two books I am reviewing, God is with Me through the Day, and God is with Me through the Night..are books I would highly recommend. Woo Hoo!!

From the minute I opened the box, I had a feeling these were going to be good books! I barely had the books in my hand, when my two girls were in awe! The cover and pictures are very kid-friendly, and captivated my young audience (Amanda is 6, Sarah is 5). The girls were immediately hooked!

We sat down and read the books, and I'm not kidding, I had tears in my eyes. I won't give away everything (you'll have to read the books yourself), but I love when the monkey says, "I say out loud, I AM LOVED!", and the tiger follows with, "I roar like a tiger, "I AM SAFE!". What awesome Truths I so desire for my kids to know to the depths of their innermost being. I am loved! I am safe! (And a great reminder for me to say aloud too!)

Having read about 1 billion books to my children (ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not much), I love it when a really great kids book comes along. Especially one that I don't mind reading over and over again. God is with Me through the Day and God is with Me through the Night both definitely fit the bill! And good thing, because we've read these books daily for the past 3 weeks!!

I also loved what the author of these two delightful books, Julie Cantrell had to say. Julie shares on her blog....

If there’s one thing I want everyone to know – it’s that they’re loved and that they’re never alone. If these books share that message with even one child a day, then I am very blessed.

Awesome, huh?! :) If you are looking for a book for your little one (ages 4-7, I'd suggest), grandchildren, or need a great Christmas present, I would highly recommend these books. Take it from a girl that knows my books, you won't be disappointed!

The dear folks at Zonderkidz have provided me with a set of these beautiful books to GIVEAWAY. (Don't worry, Manda & Sarah, I'm not giving yours away!) If you have little ones or know any little ones you’d like to share these books with, please leave me comment. I will pick the winner on November 30, 2009. Woo Hoo!! :)

Blessings to you and Happy Reading!!

P.S. You might also enjoy the author Julie’s blogsite: Julie has a fabulous website with tons of fun family ideas and activities. My favorite idea so far has been playing the "Where is Mr. Turkey?" game. Check it out! :)

P.S.S. A huge THANK YOU to Julie and Zonderkidz for the beautiful copies to review. We are grateful! :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Gift

Thursday night I had the opportunity to share my testimony at a beautiful, holiday women's ministry event at Calvary Church called "the Gift".

The church was set up like an authentic fair-trade marketplace. There were beautiful baskets and cards, clothing and pottery, jewelry and so much more...all items supporting artistians from around the world who depend on their craft for survival. It was amazing!

And then I had the chance to tell my story. I shared how God took me from a life of insecurity and defeat, delievered me from addiction and pain, and filled me with purpose and hope and joy.

It was particularly significant and emotional to have the chance to share at Calvary church. This was the church that I began attending right after I became a Christian 13 years ago. This was the church that my fiance David and I attended on our very first date. And this was the church where we held David's funeral, after he was very tragically killed in 1998, five months before our wedding.

I haven't been back to Calvary since 1999. Only God could orchestrate the opportunity for me to return (exactly 10 years later) and share of His faithfulness and unconditional, unfailing love. Only God!! :)

I love how the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!" The Gift of Jesus Christ!!! Yes, thanks be to God!!

Have you received "The Gift"? Are you experiencing the freedom and joy that comes from surrendering your life to Jesus and letting Him lead and guide you??

Take it from one who tried to do life "my way". Nothing in this life compares to the peace and joy from journeying with Jesus. He is the best "Gift" of all!!

Let's pray....Oh Lord, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the life, hope, freedom, and peace that we can have in Him. I pray that if anyone reading this post has not received "The Gift" of Jesus, that today would be the day that he/she would turn to You. Thank You for Your love.
In Jesus Powerful Name I pray..... Amen!

P.S. I am so excited for some great GIVEAWAY opportunities I'll have on my blog over the next few weeks! AMAZING!! Perfect right before the holidays!! Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Release and Receive

What a crazy, long week last week turned out to be!

I have two special speaking engagements this week (in addition to Monday night Bible Study), and spent the beginning of last week studying, praying, and preparing. I felt really good about the progress I was making, so I decided to spend last Wednesday cleaning, doing laundry, raking leaves. etc...

I was so full of joy ~ serving my family ~ eagerly anticipating what God has planned for my engagements this week. Everything was perfect ~ my family was healthy, I was healthy, the sun was shining, my house was clean, my deadlines were on was good!!

And then I received a hallmark card through my e-mail. Isn't John sweet, I thought. I proceeded to open the e-mail, only to learn it was a horrible virus that immediately shut down my computer. Ahhh!!

Thursday was spent crying and praying and calling every Geek Squad Mobile out there. I finally found a locally owned company (Nerdswarm), and a very knowledgeable, gracious "computer fixer". Shawn came over late at night to help (I think he could sense my desperation!!) ~ and unfortunately, the virus had really made a huge mess of things. My computer (and all of my projects/work/speaking engagements) needed to leave my house. The stress was almost too much to bear.

To make this long story short, my computer was finally up and completely running on Sunday afternoon. In the mean time, I spent 5 long days anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed. I tried to pray and trust God. I tried not to think about it. I tried to look on the bright side (fortunately I do have paper copies of most of my work). I thought I was going to develop an ulcer.

My daily devotion from Jesus Calling was perfectly timed, as always. It read...

" main work is to clear out debris and clutter, making room for My Spirit to take full possession. Collaborate with Me in this effort be being willing to let go of anything I choose to take away. I know what you need, and I have promised to provide all of that - abundantly!

Your sense of security must not rest in your possessions or in things going your way. I am training you to depend on Me alone, finding fulfillment in My Presence. This entails being satisfied with much or with little, accepting either as My will for the moment. Instead of grasping and controlling, you are learning to release and receive. Cultivate this receptive stance by trusting Me in every situation."

If last week was a test, I don't even want to think about the grade I would have received. However, I do know that God worked out every detail perfectly. I was able to contact everyone I needed before Monday. I was able to finish my hand-outs for Tuesday. And I've been able to use my computer all week for my talk tomorrow night. In the big scheme of things, my computer challenge now seems relatively small.

The lesson I learned though is huge. Those two words release and receive have taken on a whole new meaning to me. I want to live with open hands before God, willing to release anything to Him. My computer. My need for control. My addiction to Diet Coke. My anxiety. My fears.

Once I've released any and all things getting in the way of my perfect, love relationship with Him, I want to have open hands to receive. His wisdom. An abundance of grace. His Spirit without limit. Power for witnessing. I want my hands to be wide open and ready to receive ALL that He has for me!!

What about for you?? Is there anything in your life that you are clinging on to?? Clutter or debris that needs to be cleared out??

May I encourage you to stop, place your hands out before you, palms up, (go ahead and do it now) and ask the Lord to release these burdens from you. Don't close your hands up yet! Keep them open and get ready to receive from Him ~ in abundance!! And may God bless you with His Presence and Peace in ever-increasing measure!!

P.S. I highly recommend the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (sorry, my links aren't working yet on my computer or I'd link you there). If you don't own a copy yet, put it on your Christmas list. You'll be so grateful you did! :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

At the Rink

This week has been a full hockey week for me ~ and I love it! :) Both of my boys play hockey (Jake just made his school's Varsity team and Benj is a Mite). As I was sitting in the stands today cheering for my Benj, I thought of a post written many months ago called At the Rink. Enjoy the repeat...

I love every part of watching my boys play hockey! I love the thrill of the sport, cheering my boys on (except sometimes my husband says I get too excited - me??!), sharing the stands with my family, keeping warm with a hot latte, and the overall JOY of it all!

Hockey is also a great reminder of how I want to live my life!

I love watching the hockey players keep an ear open to the voice of their coach. While the fans in the stands are yelling and screaming all kinds of directions and instructions (Go! Move your feet! Get on the puck! Hustle!) ~ the hockey players skate with focus and intensity, yet are always listening for the voice of their coach. Always.

The coach has the big picture in mind (winning the game). It's his job to tell the individual players what to do and when to do it. And what do the hockey players do? Whatever the coach says. Even if it doesn't make sense!

And have you ever watched how the hockey players change their line?! Amazing! How do they know when it's their time to get off the ice? Or hop off the bench? The coach isn't yelling their names - he softly calls it, and the players follow his lead.

It's a beautiful's like poetry in motion, watching a well led team listen to their coach, obey his instructions, and follow his lead to victory!!

I want to live my life like an intensely focused hockey player! I want to be in tune with my Coach. I want to follow Him wherever He calls me to go, whatever He calls me to do! No questions asked - just an absolute trust that my Coach knows what He is doing!

But I'll be honest...sometimes the voices of the folks in the stands distract me. Don't get me wrong - the people in the stands are for me too - their plans can just be different than what my Coach has in mind. "Cindy, you should __________, or why don't you _________". And before I know it, I'm so busy looking to the stands for direction that I take my eyes off the puck, and whammo - score one for the other team!

I'm learning that true victory comes only from listening to the voice of my Coach and following His game plan! What a blessing to know that we are on a winning team (we know how this game ends!) ~ and that if we stay focused on Him - we are guaranteed VICTORY! :)

What about for you? Whose voice is loudest in your life these days? Do you have folks in the stands shouting at you? Are you looking to the stands for direction? Is there noise or clutter robbing you of your focus? Or do you hear the gentle, wise voice of your Coach calling your name? Follow His lead ~ He knows what He is doing!! :)

"My sheep listen to My voice: I know them, and they follow Me". John 10:27

O Lord, thank YOU that YOU always lead us to TRIUMPH in Christ! Thank YOU that we are on a VICTORIOUS team! Please give us FOCUS and CONFIDENCE and STRENGTH! And may YOUR VOICE always be LOUDEST in our LIVES! For Your Glory alone! Amen! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tree Test

Happy Tuesday to you!! Sorry I've not posted for awhile. My family is healthy (praise the Lord!), and we've been enjoying sweet family time together. I pray you are enjoying this beautiful Fall season as well!!

I am gearing up for some fun speaking opportunities taking place in the next few weeks. While the kids are in school, I've been hurrying off to pray, study and prepare every spare minute that I have.

After 3 pretty intense hours of studying early this morning, my mind needed a bit of a break. I decided to find out what kind of "tree" I am by taking The Tree Test :)

Here are the results...

You Are Charming and Energetic

You are a cheerful, funny person. You are in love with the whole world.

You are spontaneous and enthusiastic. You're up for anything, especially adventure!

You are outrageous and sometimes even shocking. You can't help it... you're just being yourself.

You are curious about everything and have many interests. If something interests you, you investigate it.

These tests always crack me up! :) Do you think this describes me??

This Tree Test is cute, but my greatest desire is to be like the tree described in Psalm 1 NCV:

Happy are those who don't listen to the wicked, who don't go where sinners go, who don't do what evil people do.

They love the Lord's teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night.

They are strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don't die.

Everything they do will succeed.

What about you?? What kinds of tree are you?? You can find out here (The Tree Test)! I'd love to hear your results!! Have fun! :)

Blessings to you!!

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