Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our favorite New Years Day tradition

Grand Rapids friends, our Monday Night Bible Study begins this Monday, January 3rd! We'd love to have you join us! :) AND

if you're looking for a fun, family-friendly New Year's Day tradition ~ here's my New Years post from last year! We'll be doing the same thing this New Years Day too ~ I can hardly wait! Woo Hoo! Enjoy!!

Happy New Year from our home to yours!!

We hosted a fun, family friendly New Years celebration last night. We had 19 people (kids and adults) enjoying a taco bar, sledding, games, an ice cream sundae bar, tattoo stand and so much more! :) What fun!!

For today, we have a simple family New Years Day tradition.
I'll bring out markers and paper, and then each family member draws two pictures. The first picture is a note reflecting things we want to say "Thank You" to God.
For example, here is my picture from 2002...
That year, I was thankful for John, my two boys (the girls weren't born yet), Harbor Clubs (a ministry at Church), the opportunity to serve in Africa, and growing as a disciple of Jesus.

Here's a fun example from my son Jake (shared with his permission). Jake is now 16, but here's his Thank You for 2002.... :)

Or here is Benj's from last year...

For our New Years Day tradition, after we share our "Thank You" page, we take a new piece of paper. On this paper, we write out/draw specific prayer requests for the coming year. For example, this is Benj's paper for 2009....

It is always so fun to see what the kids come up (side note: school friends, isn't it fun to see how Benj was praying for the new GRCES 2 years ago!!!)
It's also fun for me and John to put our requests on paper, and then watch how God works over the year! When I pulled out John's paper this year (I keep them all in a special New Years tub) ~ I gasped out loud. God answered every single item on his list (and they were big prayers!).

For my New Years Day prayers last year, I had written "opportunities to share Jesus with others". (I just love Him so ~ and want to tell everyone I can!) I had no idea at that time that God would open a door for me to lead a Bible Study of 80 women on Monday nights (and less than a month later, no less)!

God is so faithful, isn't He?! :)

I can't wait for our special tradition to get started today !! I've pulled out the paper and markers, but John just said first I can sneak off to the bookstore for a bit with my Bible, while the kids are still waking up after their late night. Woo Hoo!!

What about for you?? Do you have a special New Years tradition?? Share with us please!! I'd love to hear from you! :)

Happy New Year! May your year be filled with much joy, peace, good health, and God's richest blessings!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Magnificent Monday" Bible Study starting SOON!

If you're looking for family fun Winter Break ideas, check out my Christmas break Family Fun list from A to Z!

I'm taking the week off from blogging while my 4 kids are home on break, but look forward to joining you all again next week with some new RED HOT announcements & giveaways! :)

But for today, I can't wait to fill you in on our new Bible Study that will be starting SOON ~ January 3, 2011!!

This winter we will be going through the Bible study He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear from God by Priscilla Shirer. If you live in West Michigan, I would love to have you join us on Monday nights!!

First, some history about our group....(I love sharing how God works!!)

In 2006, my best friend Julie and I led a Bible study in her home. There were 12 of us that journeyed together that summer. Here's the original gang...

Soon the group began to grow and grow! We moved from Julie's living room to her basement. A dear woman named Mary Swierenga (an amazing prayer warrior and Bible teacher) began to mentor us. The group GREW AND GREW....

Julie sensed we should move to a location where even more women could come and join us! She went to the leaders of her church (Sunshine Church), and they graciously embraced the idea of hosting this gathering of women. I stepped in as the Bible teacher. The first season, winter 2009, the group grew to 40 women. I loved it! I was in my "sweet spot".

(Here's a fun picture from when they surprised me on my birthday....)

Since that time, the group has continued to GROW!! Women bring friends who bring friends who bring friends! All different churches, all different ages, all different stages of life!

Over the years, one thing has stayed the same ~ our commitment to providing a welcoming, safe, and fun place to learn more about Jesus and His great love for us!! It has been such a blast watching women come, regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey, and have fun while digging into God's Word!

What a huge blessing ~ my Monday nights are now truly "magnificent!!"

And beginning Monday, January 3rd ~ our Magnificent Monday Bible Study will be "re-starting" after our Christmas break. If you live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area and are interested in joining a Bible study, this may be the perfect one for you! We would LOVE to have you come ~ bring a friend too!!

Here's more about the study we've selected for this season....

A common question of many Christians is, “How can I know when God is speaking to me?” Priscilla uses the account of God speaking to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3 to show how God speaks to Christians and how we can discern His voice and position ourselves to respond. In this exciting adventure, participants will discover how God spoke to Samuel, Samuel’s response, and how He speaks to believers today; they will be encouraged to listen and respond to God’s voice; and by listening to God’s voice and obeying Him, women will experience spiritual growth, Christian discipline, and the desire to serve.

And here's more from Priscilla about her study....

Awesome, huh??! Boy is Priscilla gifted!!

You can also view a sample chapter of the Bible study guide here

Our Magnificent Monday group meets at Sunshine Community Church at 7:00 PM. (Again, although we meet at Sunshine, women from all different churches, all different backgrounds in the area attend).

Typically, we will begin with a large group gathering, have some fun, worship (wait until you meet our worship leader ~ she's phenomenal!), break up into small groups, and then come back together and for a 30-40 minute teaching. We end at 9:00 PM.

We'll be meeting every Monday until February 14th (just a quick 7 week study ~ perfect!). In the fall, we had nearly 100 women in attendance. What fun! :)

Oh, and did I mention we serve yummy coffee and treats?! :)

If you would like to pre-register, you may do so here

or if you have any questions about the study, please leave a comment or e-mail me at I'd love to have you join us!!

God's richest blessings to you~

P.S. If you do not live in the Grand Rapids area, I'd love to hear more about your Bible study. Are you going through a study guide? What is your favorite part of your Bible study?? What has God been teaching you??
Share with us please :)

P.S.S. GIVEAWAY ANNOUCEMENT ~ Just for fun....I have an extra copy of the Bible study guide, so I'll randomly pick one blessed woman who has pre-registered by Sunday, January 2nd and give a new copy of He Speaks to Me to you! :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Vacation Family Fun ~ A to Z style

Family photo compliments of the Grand Rapids Press

Hello dear friends! :)

Happy Christmas Vacation to you! I'm so excited to have my gang home for 2 weeks. I hope you'll understand ~ but
I'm going to take some time off from *She Sparkles*. The kids and I have many fun Christmas Vacation adventures planned, and I want to give them my full attention!

(I hope you'll check back (please!), or subscribe to get my next post by e-mail. I'll miss you!)

But in case you've been wondering how you can keep your kids/grandkids/nieces/neighbors occupied for the next few weeks ~ no worries! I've come up with a new Christmas Break "Stay-cation" plan. I believe with some advance planning and creativity, we can make Christmas vacation as much fun as a week at Disneyworld (but for a lot less $$)!! Woo Hoo!!

(A quick disclaimer....I've tried to think of things that you could participate in regardless of the city you live in. For my Grand Rapids friends, many of the ideas have links that will lead you to more specific times and information. For all of the ideas, I tried to think very inexpensively. Also, please remember I live in Michigan ~ and we have snow. I'm sorry for all of my non-snow friends. You can come visit us!).

Here are some Christmas Vacation ideas from A to Z....

A - Art projects! Art in the Snow or make a Snowman snow globe
(so cute!) or just pull out your odds & ends craft supplies, and let your little artists create!

B- Bowling; Baking; BINGO (Did you know we play bingo for every holiday/season? The kids love it ~ and it's a great way to spend quality time with relatives of all ages. You should try it!)

C - Camp-out in the Family Room. Grab your sleeping bags, flashlights, and smores, and get ready for fun! (more camping ideas
here); or Cards (kids card game ideas here); or Children's Museum (Grand Rapids info)

D - Dance Party ~ Find some fun 70's or 80's music, crank it up, and let the fun begin! (We especially enjoy our dance parties while jumping on the bed. But shhhh! ~ don't tell anyone!)

E - Experience Egypt (Grand Rapids friends,
this program sounds like so much fun!); Eat out (the food court at the mall is always a fun experience for kids)

F- Family Fun Night ~ Invite over another family for food, fun, and fellowship; or build an indoor Fort or start a Flash mob! (The kids and I have been trying to learn the Oprah Flash Mob
. So fun!)

G - Game Night ~ Have everyone pick a favorite board game to play. (More Game Night ideas here); or Gingerbread Houses (great ideas here or especially easy to pick up when they all get clearanced after Christmas!)

H - Hockey! Play hockey, watch hockey (Grand Rapids Griffins or my son Jake's team Grand Rapids Christian High Eagles); Hot Chocolate Bar (my kids like to go outside just for an excuse to drink my yummy hot chocolate served out of my ceramic snowman hot chocolate dispenser!)

I - Ice Skating (Rosa Parks info); Indoor picnic (don't forget your plastic ants ~ smile)

J - Juggle! (Do you know how to juggle? Me neither! But we can learn here)

K -
Krispy Kreme doughnuts ~ wait until the Krispy Kreme light is on, and then go in for your free doughnut!

L - Luau ~ Host your own indoor luau! Grab a beach towel, bathing suit, beach ball, and any leis your might have around your house ~ and let the fun begin! fun begin! You can even play
Hawaii Bingo (More Hawaii ideas here)

M - Movie Night ~ Fun Family Movie Night ideas here

N - Nature Time! Build a bird feeder (great idea here) or Neighborhood Light Tour

O - Opposite Day ~ Do everything backwards! Eat breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast; or play Outside (you play too, Mom, not just the kids!)

P - Pizza Party ~ Let the kids make their own pizza ~ more ideas
here! OR Pajama Party (in fact, as I type this....each kid has a friend sleeping over tonight for their first PJ party ~ what fun!)

Q - Quiet time ~ head to your local library for some quiet reading and/or story time activities. (The link for Kent District Library events ~

R - Roller Skating (GR friends...anyone want to join us at Tarry Hall?) or
Road trip ~ Let the kids help plan a Road Trip! Depending on your financial situation and the ages of your children, you can plan a Road Trip near or far. Do you have a relative or friend you could visit? Maybe it's time for a Road Trip! Remember, part of the fun is in the planning ~ so let everyone look at the maps, write out the itnerary, pack the snacks, bring activities for the car, and more! What fun! :)

S - Sundae Night (our family's Sundae Night ideas
here) OR Skiing OR Sledding OR Snowman building OR Starbucks (sorry, I couldn't resist ~ doesn't a latte sound great?!)

T - Treasure Hunt (My favorite treasure hunt clues are found
here. I use them all the time! My kids love Treasure hunts ~ so do their friends) or try a Snowman Treasure Hunt here or host a Tea Party (ideas here)

U - Underwater activities ~ Find a local indoor swimming pool and swim, swim, swim! Another idea...we sometimes go to to bid on a hotel for the night. In Grand Rapids, you can stay at a nice 3 star hotel for $40. The kids love it ~ they swim for hours and hours!! (Thanks to my Grandma, we'll be spending the night in a hotel this Christmas break. Woo Hoo!)

V - Volunteer. I volunteered to watch my good friend's 3 kids all day tomorrow to provide free child care while she works. This Wednesday we're going with school friends to pass out blankets at a homeless shelter. Or you could walk a neighbor's dog. Shovel a single mom's sidewalk. The ideas are endless...

W - Winter Wonderland Party (Fun ideas here) or W
alk! Walk to the nearest park. Or walk around the block backwards. Enjoy the beautiful crisp winter air :)

X - eXercise. Set up a family exercise experience! (Get started

Y -
YMCA. Go to the YMCA or another local gym. Many will let you try their facility for free for the day.

Zzzzz - Catch some Z's and enjoy a nice nap together! :)

Woo Hoo!! I'm so excited for Christmas vacation!
What a perfect opportunity to enjoy our children and participate in many of the outings and activities we can’t fit into our school-day schedule. Let's make our ordinary Christmas vacation days "extraordinary"!! :)

So, what do you have planned for the next few weeks?? Any fun ideas you'd like to share?? I can't wait to hear more about your Christmas vacation!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your CHRISTmas be filled to the brim with much joy, laughter, and fun, family moments!!

P.S. I should probably mention that yes, I do have lots of Christmas "to-do" lists yet to accomplish. For example, John and I are hosting a family get-together this Thursday for almost 50 of his relatives (can't wait ~ y'all know I love a fun celebration!!). However, I still want to be intentional and enjoy this special time with my kids. The house won't be perfect ~ but we're not either. Thank goodness for grace! :)

P.S.S. A special thanks to Big Binder, Kaboose, Chocolate Cake Moments, Family Fun and Parents Magazine for letting me share some of your fun family ideas!

P.S.S. And....drum roll please....the winners of my Prayer Guide giveaway are....

*Chellie Schmitz

* Lori VanderBaan

* Jenny C.

* Meredith

* Lisa DeLano

(Could you 5 please send me your mailing information??) A huge THANK YOU to all who entered....and especially to Jennifer and Lara from Walking with Him for their amazing generosity! What a blessing!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Things I Love Thursday: My Prayer Guide (& AMAZING Giveaway!)

One of the things I am most passionate about in my life is PRAYER.

(Unfortuanately, this hasn't always been the case. As many of you know, I didn't become a Christian until the age of 26. Finally after years of poor, self destructive choices I gave my life to Jesus in 1996! You can read more about it here.)

My heart for prayer really began to grow in 1999. I was asked to accept a job leading a ministry at my church. I knew that God would have to show up BIG TIME or it would be a huge disaster.

I read every book on prayer I could, studied prayer Bible passages, and most importantly, I began to pray. A lot! I cried out to the Lord, "Teach me how to PRAY!" And you know what?? God answered those prayers (in abundance)...and continues to grow me in my prayer life today!

A powerful tool that has really shaped my prayer life is my Prayer Guide

The Prayer Guide I use was designed by an amazing ministry called
Walking with Him. My favorite part is that my Prayer Guide may be personalized with photos, prayers and mementoes. It has become the story of my walk with God!

For example, there is a section of the Prayer Guide on Thanking God. This part of my journal is filled with things I am grateful for (a picture of me getting baptized in 1999, family & friend pics, etc..). I also fill the pages with answers to prayers.

In the picture below you can see the SOLD sign when our house sold - in less than 2 months! - and lots of post-it notes of answered prayers. It is a perfect visual reminder of how good God is and His faithfulness in answering prayer!

I also have a whole section of my Prayer Guide where I pray for myself and others. The pages are filled with photos of family and friends (this is where I put the pictures I receive at Christmas). I usually sit with a stack of index cards and/or post-it notes, and pray specifically for others (and then slide the index card behind their picture). If a friend sends an e-mail and asks me to pray for something, I print it off, pray, and then slide it behind the picture.

This picture below shows my page for John. On the left I have a download of
31 Days of Praying for Your Husband. On the right are pics of me and John, and then post-it notes with specific prayers. (Can you see the top right post-it note?? It has prayers from my little Sarah. She loves to sit with me as I go through my Prayer Guide and help me pray for all of our family and friends! :))

Another example below. These are the pages I pray for my kids. I love being able to look at their precious faces as I pray for them! One resource I use when praying for my kids is 31 Biblical Virtues. You can see more prayers below from Sarah. Praying that her sister would be nice :)

I also have a section where I pray specifically for family/friends/acquaintances who do not know Jesus. What a blessing to watch God work in their lives ~ and then be able to move their picture from the "Far from God" section to the "Thank God" section when they come to know Jesus as their Savior!! Praise the Lord!! :)

I could go on and on...but it is easier to understand when you try the Prayer Guide yourself.

And, wouldn't you know, those AWESOME ladies (Jennifer and Lara) at Walking with Him e-mailed me yesterday and asked if they could donate 5 Prayer Guides for me to give away!!

Can I get a Woo Hoo?!!

*** THANK YOU Jennifer and Lara!! (These women are so amazing...if you are ever in Traverse City, Michigan you must invite them to coffee and listen to how God is using them!)***

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

Why would you like to win a Prayer Guide?

RULES: Starts today, Thursday, December 16th and ends Sunday, December 19th at 9 PM. Winner will be contacted via e-mail.

Extra Entries
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Please be sure to leave me a comment to let me know your extra entries.

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".

I'll close with a quote from one of my favorite authors in the whole world...Corrie TenBoom.

"Prayer is powerful! The devil smiles when we make plans. He laughs when we get too busy. But he trembles when we pray!"

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Have a wonderful, powerful, prayer-filled day!!

P.S. For more Things I Love Thursday ideas, hop on over and visit Jill at the Diaper Diaries.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Keeping LOVE in Christmas

I'm not sure what your week has been like ~ but mine has been filled with baking and wrapping and delivering and mailing and tears (mine, not the kids) and sighs of exhaustion and daily trips to Target and more! Someone stop this treadmill and let me get off!!

So today, in the midst of the craziness, I made myself a latte and re-read one of my favorite Christmas books ~ "Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas ~ Ideas from A to Z" by Sharon Jaynes.

Here's one of my favorite poems that Sharon shares ~ May it bless you as it always does me! :)

Love, 1 Corinthians 13 Style

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime: but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angelsand crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return; but rejoices in giving to those who cannot.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.

~ Sharon Jaynes

Let's Pray...Oh Lord, we need You! Please remind us what really matters this week. Please guard our hearts and quiet our minds and open our eyes and ears to what You have for us. Lord, we release to You our plans, our agendas, our To-Do lists. And Lord, in return, we receive Your peace, Your joy, Your unconditional, perfect love.

THANK YOU Lord, that Your plans are for us, and that You desire for us to walk in Truth and Peace and Joy and Love. Help us live for You, and to celebrate JESUS this week ~ in all that we say and do!! For Your Glory Alone!! Amen.

Merry CHRISTmas!!!!

Originally posted December 2009 ~ but could have been written this morning. I'm so thankful for Truth. You, too?! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Heart Exposed (& a Fun Update!)

A quick may remember when I shared I had the opportunity to sit in Lysa TerKeurst's "Made to Crave" Bible study taping. Although the DVD's aren't out yet ~ the promo trailer is available.

If you have a quick second, check out the 2 minute sneak peek (and see if you can find me! :) )

For today, I'm knee deep in working on my Red Hot Bible study.

(By the way...did I share the fun news that Sunshine Church here in Grand Rapids, Michigan has asked me to speak at a Retreat this February and share some of my Redhot material?? Woo Hoo! I'm so excited! More details to come this week. I'd love for you to join us!)

Anyway (sorry about all my tangents, when I study/write all day, I have the need to get lots of words out!)...

As I was praying/studying about the lukewarm church, and the condition of our hearts...I came across this powerful poem by Steven James from his book "A Heart Exposed: Talking to God with Nothing to Hide".

It ministered to me and made me stop and ponder and reflect on my own heart condition. May it minister to you today as well...

some people hide themselves in religion.
you hide youself in my heart
so that i can finally
stop hiding.

Source of Living Water

is it true that I want you?

Or is it maybe true that

deep down

in the secret place

I don't want you as much as

I want the rewards you offer?

Do I come to you for what you give,

or for who you are?

Are you just an ulterior motive

to get what I really want?

If that's the case,

don't give me what I want.

Give me yourself instead.

Some people honor you, serve you,

so that they can get a crown in heaven.

I would rather spend eternity

conversing with the king

than trying on crowns.

Let knowing you be the only reward

I ever seek.

~ Steven James

Oh dear bloggy friends, may knowing God be the only reward we seek!! And may Jesus alone be our treasure, our hope, our joy, our strength...especially during this CHRISTmas season!!

How about for you?? What is God teaching you these days?? I'd love to hear from you!

Back to writing and my Book! Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! Have an amazing, Truth-filled, life-giving week!!

P.S. I'm linking up with Finding Heaven and the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood today. Be sure to check out these amazing women. You'll be blessed indeed! :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Marriage Mondays: Praying for Your Husband

Today I am thrilled to once again join my dear friend Julie from Come Have A Peace for Marriage Mondays! After an emotional weekend, I'm going to spend my normal "blogging time" praying for my dear husband John and thanking God for blessing me with such an incredible, understanding husband. Enjoy a Marriage Monday repeat.... I'm off to pray for my man!!

First, I should let you know ~ I am not a marriage expert. I am not a trained therapist or counselor. I've not written any profound marriage books. I am just a simple girl, passionately in love with Jesus and my man, trying to figure out how to enjoy marriage and celebrate life together. Thankfully, by God's grace, we celebrated 10 years together this August! (Can I get a "woo hoo"?!)

I wish I could tell you it's been 10 years of pure bliss ~ but I'd be lying. I now look at marriage like a roller coaster ~ an adventure filled with its ups (and downs), twists and turns, excitement and fun, and unfortunately, sometimes, hang on tight, "why did I say yes to this thing?!" times as well.

Thankfully, John and I are enjoying a "Wow, this is really fun" season! And do you know what's the number one thing I've learned to strengthen our marriage over the past decade of being together? The power of prayer!

Years ago, I read Stormie Omartian's book the The Power of a Praying Wife. (If you haven't read it before, please go here ~ you can read/download the first chapter!) Stormie does an awesome job of reminding us of the power and importance of lifting our husbands in prayer.

After a very difficult season of our marriage a few years ago (one that I wasn't sure we were going to make through) ~ I made a promise that I would pray for John and our marriage every single day.

Unfortunately, at first, I struggled with how to make my promise a reality. You know how it goes ~ life gets busy, right? Kids take up our time, energy, affection. Family members get sick. Life keeps going. We get sidetracked with so many other things to do.

But what I've learned is this....I must make time to pray for John and our marriage. Even if it's while I'm brushing my teeth, washing the dishes, or sick on the couch ~ I've made the predetermined decision, regardless of my circumstances, I will pray for my husband and our marriage every single day.

Like Nike says, "Just do it" :)

If you feel like it or not....

If he was loving this morning or not...

If he's praying for you or not....


One thing that has really helped me make my promise a reality is my Prayer Guide (click here for my Prayer Guide recap).

Using my prayer guide, I can look at John as I pray, record my prayers, and have a list of specific things to pray for him. (See the yellow post-it notes in the pic? My little Sarah used to sit on my lap while I prayed for "Daddy" and write out her prayers too. Aren't her little notes sweet??)

(In the picture on the left is a download called 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband. You can print it off here)

Please know, I do not use my Prayer Guide everyday (I sure wish I did). There are some days that my prayer time is while I walk the dog, or sit at the bus stop waiting for the kids ~ but thankfully, I can see the FRUIT from committing to praying for our marriage and John every single day. Prayer has breathed new, fresh life into a marriage that was fading fast. Prayer works...of this I am sure!

What about for you?? What have you found has been helpful to strengthen your marriage?? I'd love to hear from you! Also, be sure to join Julie at
Marriage Mondays for more great marriage tips!!

Many blessings to you this week!! Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dec. 10 ~ My hardest, saddest day ever...

These words were penned last year on this date, but could have been written early this morning. December 10 continues to be my hardest, saddest day ever....

It happened already this morning.

I came downstairs early while the house was still dark, quietly clicked on the TV, and began watching the news to plan my day. Would they cancel school because of the snow? Would I have hot lunch duty? Could I keep my coffee date with a friend? And then, suddenly on the screen of my TV, they displayed the date, "December 10th".

My stomach formed a deep, painful knot and the tears began to flow.

Today's date, "December 10th" represents to me...



unbearable grief...

I've tried to reframe the day, sleep it away, pretend it doesn't exist. Stuffing doesn't work, nor does numbing. My heart and mind are triggered back to that painful night instantly when I see the date.

December 10th wasn't always such a hard day. In fact, for many weeks, we were looking forward to December 10th.

My fiance David and I were in the midst of planning our upcoming May 1st wedding. I had my dress and bridesmaids and maid of honor. We had the church and reception hall and DJ. David had my ring.

We had so many other wedding details yet to plan. However, I also had a huge licensing review at work to be completed on December 10th. Although I was eagerly anticipating planning my wedding, I needed to focus on my work project first. Once that was finished, I could give the wedding planning my all.

And then everything changed.

I arrived at my parents home after my licensing review on December 10, 1998 to pick up my 4 year old son Jake. Whew! I can start planning my wedding now. Yippee!!

David called to see how it went at work. "Fabulous", I shared! He wanted to hear all about it, but instead I insisted he wrap things up at work so I could tell him in person. It was 5:15 PM. "Great", David replied. "I need to check on one more thing at work, see if your brother Bryan is here, and then I'll be by to pick up you and Jake as quick as I can. Let's go out and celebrate! I should be there in 30 minutes."

I stretched out on the couch, exhausted, waiting for David to come.

He never came.

Even though I had slightly dozed off on the couch, I heard the phone ring. And then I heard the whispering. My mom and dad came in the family room and stood over me. "Cindy", my mom shared, "there's been an accident. Your brother Bryan just called from work. David's been in an accident."

An accident??

Shoot! We were supposed to go to the Michael W. Smith concert tomorrow. Did he break his arm? Would we need to give away our tickets? No big deal. I'd spend the weekend in a hospital chair near his bed if needed. Wherever David was is where I wanted to be.

"Where is he?" I asked. Did I need to meet him at the hospital? Could I drive him there myself??
"Cindy, we just need to pray", my mom responded.

Suddenly I realized David just didn't break his arm. I ran upstairs and began calling my friends to pray. I had only been a Christian for 2 years, but I could tell in my mom's voice that we needed prayer. And quickly.

And then, while I was on the other line with a friend, my brother Bryan called.

"How is he, Bry??" I asked.

"Cindy, let me talk to mom."

"No, Bry, first tell me how David is. Do I need to come to work?? Is he already at the hospital?"

"Cindy, let me talk to mom."

"Bry, just tell me..."

And then my brother shared the painful, life changing, gut wrenching words....

"I'm sorry Cindy, he's gone...."

I ran down the stairs weeping and wailing. My parents, unaware that Bryan had called, watched as I threw myself down on the hard wood floor and began pounding my fists in the ground. "No! No! No!" was all I could say....

Before long, their house was filled with people.

My best friend Michele...who just knew to come, even before she heard what happened.
My boss.
My pastor and his wife.
So many others.

At one point, I cleared everyone out of the room, except my pastor friend Rob. We sat on my parents steps while I wept. Through my tears I asked him over and over again, "Why? Why? Why would God allow this?"

David often said he would give his life for just one person to know Jesus. WHY would God take him home??.......

And this painful, long, heart-breaking night is what I remember everytime I see or hear "December 10th".

In an instant, I am back to my parents home. I hear the sounds. I remember the loss. I feel the pain.

Thank you, dear bloggy friends, for allowing me to share this part of my journey with you. Today was the first time I've ever typed out the details of the night. God does not waste our pain ~ of this, I am sure.

And thank you to my husband John for his extra sensitivity and grace on this day. John is God's special gift to me.

May we experience all that He has for us today.

Although we don't know what the future holds, we do know the One who holds the future...and He is faithful and loving and true. It's gonna be ok.

P.S. Remember how I shared that David said he would give his life for just one person to know Jesus. Two days later, at David’s funeral, my Dad (who had been an atheist/agnostic) accepted Jesus as His Savior!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday: Random Dozen Repeat

Hey Friends! Happy Wednesday to you! I'm heading out to the bookstore (next to my home, my favorite place to be!) to dig deep into the Word this morning. Woo Hoo!

Early this morning, I peeked at my blog to see what I was up to one year ago. (Wow ~ last year I still had pilgrims on my porch! I'm not behind this year as I thought!)

Just for fun, I thought I'd repost my randomness from last year ~ and invite YOU to play along! Enjoy! :)

1. Which Wizard of Oz character are you most like?

Oh my goodness, I haven't seen that movie in so long. Didn't the lion need courage?? If so, I think that's me. Truth be told, I get so nervous when I think about getting in front of people. Crazy that the Lord would call me for this season to a speaking and teaching ministry. (Isn't the Lord fun?!) I pray very specifically for an infusion of courage every day. So if I'm remembering right...I would say I'm most like the lion.

2. When you're deciding what you're going to wear each morning, which item do you select first? Why?

Shoes. I decide if it's a tennis shoes day (helping at kids school), bookstore day (I wear heals so I study better ~ crazy I know), slippers day (writing at home) or Uggs day (at the ice rink with my boys). I pick pants from there...

3. What kind of animal do you think the world could live without?

None. If God created it, we must need it.

4. How many Christmas trees are in your home?

None. I still have pilgrims and pumpkins on my porch.

5. Would you prefer to be emotionless if it mean you didn't have to feel a heartbreak?

Never. The times my heart has been broken the most, God has taught me and shaped me more than I could ever imagine. He does not waste our pain.

6. Do you ever experience holiday let-down or depression?

Thankfully, no. I do know others who do experience this, so God is teaching me a lot about how to journey with others who do, and love them well in the midst of their let down. I'm still learning.

7. Do you like Michael Jackson's music?

I used to love Michael Jackson and his music. I listened to it all the time. My dad even took me to the Victory Tour Concert in Detroit in 1984. That was probably about the last time I listened to his music too. :)

8. Why is it that we never judge people who have their teeth fixed for cosmetic reasons, but every other cosmetic procedure has a stigma?

Let's all commit to just worrying about ourselves (don't I sound like a mom?!)

9. Enjoy horseback riding?

No. Wish I did. I'm too scared, I think, or it's a control issue. I haven't decided.

10. Shoes--practical or stylish?

Depends on the day. See # 2.

11. What was the name of your first pet? Feel free to post a pic.

I think it was a guinea pig named Benji. (Am I missing one Mom??) I'll see if I can find the picture. It's a beauty. I am in the 4th grade with a broken arm and wearing mom jeans.

12. What percentage of your Christmas shopping is done?

None. I do have half of my Christmas cards finished though, so I feel good about that :)

What about for you?? Will you pick a question or two and share your answers with us? Or answer the questions on your blog and link here so we can all read your answers.
Please join the fun ~ I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks so much for stopping by!! Have a BLESSED rest of your week!!

P.S. A note of thanks to Linda at
2nd cup of coffee for hosting the Random Dozen. She always has an interesting mix of questions and everyone is invited to play along. Thanks so much, Linda!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Terrific Tuesday: The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift you can give someone is to tell them the story of Jesus and how He has the power to change lives!!!

This morning I had the chance to share my message "The Gift of Christmas" with a delightful, engaging group of women at Hastings Baptist Church. (It was "ugly Christmas sweater day" ~ what fun!).

I love having the chance to share the transformation Jesus has done in my life...and am always humbled by the opportunity to do so.

I began my time by sharing a "little Cindy" story. Today I thought it’d be fun to share a “Little Cindy” story with you, my dear bloggy friends, as well!

When little Cindy was a little girl she LOVED Christmas. :)

And do you know why little Cindy loved Christmas so much??
Because she loved GIFTS!! To little Cindy, Christmas was all about receiving GIFTS ~ the bigger, the better!

One Christmas, there was a gift that Little Cindy thought she absolutely, positively must have..... the 3 story, Barbie Town House, Deluxe edition, complete with it’s own elevator!!
(Anyone else remember this??)

Little Cindy wrote her letter to Santa, hand delivered it, and felt confident she would receive the gift she wanted!

Imagine Little Cindy’s disappointment, when Santa came to her house, and there was no Barbie Town House left under her family’s tree. Only a watch.

A ha! Little Cindy thought…Santa must have told my grandma & grandpa about the Barbie Town House! Yes! That must be it!!

Imagine Little Cindy’s disbelief when she arrived at her grandma and grandpa’s house, looked under the tree…and found there was no box big enough for a 3 story Barbie Town House with Little Cindy’s name on it.

There was a wrapped gift that had the possibility of being a Barbie Town House...but it was labeled FOR: BRUCE ~ little Cindy’s grandpa.

Towards the end of the night, the only gift left was the big one for Bruce.

Little Cindy’s Grandpa said, “You know Cindy, I’m pretty comfy right here in my chair. Would you mind opening that big gift for me??”

Sad little Cindy said, “OK”

As she began to rip back the paper…all of a sudden, she saw bright patches of hot pink and orange and sky blue…could it be?? Yes!

The Barbie Town house….just for her!! The gift Little Cindy had always wanted!!!

What about for you?? If you were take a stroll down “Christmas memory lane”, is there a favorite gift you have received?? A special gift left under the Christmas tree just for you??

I'd love to hear a special story from you! :)

And for all of we "make our lists" and "check them twice" ~ may we be mindful of Jesus, the Greatest Gift of all!

Only Jesus could transform this shy, insecure redhaired girl into a woman full of peace, joy, hope, and life. Trust me....only Jesus :)

What about for you?? Have you experienced the indescribable Gift of Jesus??

Let's pray, shall we??

Oh Lord, thank You for the Christmas season and the fun memories that it brings to mind. And THANK YOU for Jesus, the True Gift of the Season. Oh Lord, how we ask that You would help us to keep Jesus in the center of our lives during the hustle and bustle that this month brings. Would You remove the distractions, the clutter, the voices...and quiet us with Your love and Your peace and Your gift of rest. How we desire to be ALL that You have for us to be. May we be lights that SHINE BRIGHT for You everywhere that we go! For Your Glory Alone. Amen :)
God's richest blessings to you!!

P.S. A huge note of thanks for "laying down the tracks" through prayer as I shared the Gospel this morning. God was at work in our midst, and I could sense your prayers! I am so grateful for your encouragement, support, and prayers, dear friends! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Marriage Mondays: Let's Celebrate ~ Part 2

Today I am thrilled to once again join my dear friend Julie from Come Have A Peace for Marriage Mondays!

You may remember that last week was my husband John's 40th birthday. Being the celebration-lovin', party girl that I am, I wanted John to have a extra-special, fun-filled birthday!

However, one of the many, many lessons I've learned being married is that what John would desire for his birthday and what I would hope for are very different. (like exact opposite!)

Some years I've missed the mark. For example, I thought a limo ride and a "This is Your Life" themed surprise party (with a huge house full of people) would be tons of fun!

But for, not so much.

Since then, I've worked really hard to understand John's "party language" and plan fun things that would be special for him.

This year, besides our family birthday celebration, John's folks and I came together to plan a fun trip for John to visit his very best friend Tim Leyen and his wife Erin (with me going along, of course!).

So in case you were wondering from my last post (I'm sure my clues of luggage, library, Starbucks, and confetti were very helpful!) where John and I spent the weekend...

We traveled from Grand Rapids, Michigan to...

Charlotte, North Carolina!

Once we arrived in Charlotte and were greeted by our dear friends Tim & Erin, we enjoyed visiting the Billy Graham library....

It was so beautiful! :) And what a blessing to see the impact that one man empowered by God had on an entire world!

A few other trip highlights included celebrating John with lots of confetti (how fun to know I'm not the only person who collects confetti ~ and I learned something new...I never there were confetti sticks ~ woo hoo!)

The guys were so very kind to make a morning Starbucks run for us :)

John and I had the BEST time with Tim and Erin! (Thank you so much, Tim & Erin, for your pampering! You blessed us!) What a GREAT birthday celebration trip! :)
What about for you, dear bloggy friend...what's your "party language"? What have you learned about celebrating your husband/wife? I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*! May your week be filled with much joy, love, and CELEBRATION!!

P.S. I'll be heading out in the morning (Tuesday, December 7th) to share "The True Gift of Christmas" at a local MOPS gathering. My presentation will include a Gospel message, and the coordinator shared there are a number of mom's who do not yet know Jesus. If the Lord brings it to mind, would you please lift this opportunity in prayer? I would be so grateful!! Thank you! :)

P.S.S The winner of my Bittersweet book giveaway is Erica Simpson. Congratulations, Erica! And thank you to all who entered!! (Erica, please send me your mailing address, and I'll get that book right to you).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Where's the line to see Jesus??

If you haven't had a chance to enter my Bittersweet giveaway (an amazing book by my friend/author Shauna Niequist), it's not too late! You have until Sunday, December 5th to enter! Join the fun! :)

Hey Friends!

Happy Weekend to you! My husband John and I have such a GREAT weekend planned! I can't wait to tell you all about it ~ but it'll have to wait until next week. (Sorry, Heather, I know how much you "don't like" my cliff hangers!)

I'll give you some clues is part of John's 40th birthday celebration, and will include confetti, luggage, college friends, perhaps a library and Starbucks.

Any guesses??

In the mean time, I'll leave you with this amazing, powerful song and video...."Where's the Line to See Jesus?".

It is just what my weary, frazzled, "had sick kids for one too many days", worn-out soul needed this evening. I pray it blesses you as well. :)

(If you heard the song/saw the video last year, this is a new, updated version. Enjoy!)

Don't you just love the lyrics...

Where's the line to see Jesus?
Is He here at the store?
If Christmas time is His birthday
Why don't we see Him more?

Where's the line to see Jesus?
He was born for me
Santa Claus brought me presents
But Christ gave His life for me

Amen! :)

I'm do you and your family keep Christ in Christmas??

John and I are very intentional about trying to minimize the focus on "gifts", but instead focus on The Gift (but after seeing our kids' Christmas list ~ made up of TV's, Ipods, & American Girl doll stuff galore) ~ we're re-evaluating! :)

What have you found works to keep your month of December focused on what (and Who) really matters??

Have do you stay "frazzle free" this time of year??

Share with us please! I'd love to hear from you!

And may the Lord empower all of us to say NO to the many distractions (that seek to pull us every way but Up), so that we might experience His peace and His joy in new, fresh, powerful ways this holiday season.

Merry CHRISTmas! Have a wonderful, refreshing, life-giving weekend!

P.S. If you have a minute, visit the Where's the line to see Jesus? website. I think you'll be blessed to hear the story of how this song/video was created. I also loved reading how God is using these lyrics to impact lives all around the country. Isn't God awesome??

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TILT: Shauna Niequist (& Giveaway)

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

When I first met Shauna in 2003, my life was "full" to say the least!

I was 9 months pregnant, 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 working, and Shauna and I became fast friends. She was going through an emotional season of change, and I was adjusting to baby #3 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
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 her amazing gifts to make a difference around the world!
She recently released another new book Bittersweet: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way. It is a powerful, reflective, authentic, amazing book. Here's a brief excerpt...

"...This collection is an ode to all things bittersweet, to life at the edges, a love letter to what change can do in us. This is what I've come to believe about change: it's good in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it's incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that it has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God's hand, which is where you wanted to be all along, except that you were too busy pushing and pulling your life into exactly what you thought it should be.

So this is the work I'm doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow."

Here's Shauna sharing more...

And now, for the GIVEAWAY of a copy of Bittersweet...

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

Why would you like to win a copy of Bittersweet??

RULES: Starts today, Thursday, December 2nd and ends Sunday, December 5th at 9 PM. Winner will be posted on my blog the week of Monday, December 6th.

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Thanks for stopping by *She Sparkles*. Have a wonderful, joy-filled day!!

P.S. For more Things I Love Thursday ideas, hop on over to my real-life neighbor Jill at The Diaper Diaries. She's also a fan of Bittersweet ~ and you can read more of Jill's thoughts about Shauna and her latest book here :)

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